"Honey, are you awake?"
Slowly, but surely my consciousness is coming back to me. I hear a voice, a female voice, but I don't know what she's saying. Then I feel something cold and wet on my forehead.
"Where am I?" I manage to croak out. Carefully I open one eye and see an elderly lady. She's sitting next to me, so apparently I'm lying on a bed. She's whipping my forehead with a washcloth.
"Don't you remember, honey?" she says, looking into the one eye I have opened. "Last night you came knocking at my door. You said you drove your car into a tree. I let you into the living room, then you collapsed. I managed to get you on the spare bed."
My mind is racing. Drove my car into a tree? Why can't I remember that? Maybe I hit my head. I carefully move my hand towards my forehead. Oh yeah, there's a bump the size of Mount Everest there. I'm beginning to think I didn't hit my head on the windscreen, but went right through it and made a close encounter with the tree. How the hell did I get out of the car? I even managed to walk over to this lady's house. Suddenly a black blur appears in my eye sight.
"Don't be alarmed, dear," the old lady says. "It's only Miss Noir." She picks the black blur up and when I look closer I see it's a cat. "She's very curious," the old lady tells me. "Every time I get a visitor, she comes to see if they have a sweet for her."
"What's wrong with my eye?" I ask her. "I can't get it open."
"It's all swollen, love," she answers. "That whole side of your face is swollen. Don't try and force it open, it'll only hurt more. Would you like a cup of tea?"
"Yes, please." Normally I detest tea, but somehow I seem to have a longing for tea right now. "I would like to get out of bed, if you don't mind," I say. "My muscles are getting stiff. Probably a result of the crash." She gets up from the bed and I see the black cat disappear to whatever lies behind the door. I carefully sit up straight in the bed and put my feet on the ground. The floor feels nice and soft and woolly and I realize I'm barefooted. The old lady takes my arm and gently helps me stand up. I ache all over. I even have muscle ache in places I didn't even know had muscles. She guides me through the door, which leads to a hallway and then through another door, into the living room. I have never before seen a living room that has been stuffed that much. Every empty space has been filled. There are shelves on three walls. One is filled with little ceramic cats. The next one is filled with souvenirs from all over the planet, so it seems. And the last one is stuffed full with dolls. Dolls in every form, color and size.
"What a lovely room," I hear myself saying. Actually, I think it's grotesque, but I don't have the nerve to tell her that. Not after everything she's done for me.
"Why thank you, dear," she says and she smiles happily. "Why don't you sit down over here and I'll go make us some tea." Immediately I hear the kettle whistling. She probably anticipated me wanting tea. She leaves for the kitchen and I look around me. I see, in front of the window, some tables with even more dolls on them. She must really love dolls. Suddenly I get the weird feeling all the dolls are staring at me. I shake my head at that ridiculous thought. Of course they are all looking at me. Doll eyes are painted in a way that makes it like they always look straight at you.
"Here you go dear." The old lady puts down my tea and sits down in a chair opposite mine. She looks at me with an intense look in her eyes. "So, tell me, what is your name?"
"My name is Alex," I tell her.
"I'm called Gretta," she says. "My parents were German," she adds matter-of-factly, like I hadn't guessed that already. Another cat jumps on my lap. He has a nasty scar on his nose, has only one ear and misses the tip of his tale. "That's Greebo," miss Gretta says. "He loves attention. When I start petting him behind his ear, he starts purring, folds himself into his most comfortable position and closes his eyes.
"I have the feeling, he's not going to leave for quite a while," I say, smiling. Miss Gretta smiles back. "Oh no. Now he's comfy on your lap, you won't get him down easy," miss Gretta answers. "You'll have to wait 'till he gets hungry."
"He really looks like Greebo," I say, looking at the cat again. "Is that why you named him that?"
"No, actually the vet named him. You see, I found him in the woods, here behind my house. He was still a kitten and had been attacked by a wild dog. At first I thought he wasn't gonna make it, but I still brought him to the vet. He patched him up, as good as he could and gave him back to me to nurse him back to health. The vet came every once in a while, to check up on him. One day he said he didn't have a name yet. I couldn't think of one, so the vet said he thought he looked like Greebo. I liked that named, even though I still don't know what he meant with that."
"I know what he meant," I tell her. "There's this fantasy writer, who wrote the Discworld novels. One of the characters, a witch called Nanny Ogg, has a cat called Greebo. That cat also had scars all over his body." I see an understanding daze in miss Gretta's eyes.
"Oh, I see. Doctor Burns probably read that book, too. And he thought Greebo resembled the cat from the book." She starts sipping her tea, while pondering this thought.
I, too reach out for my tea and can just reach it, without shoving Greebo on the ground. I look around, while sipping my tea. There must be at least a hundred different dolls in the room. There are dolls with the American flag on their shirts, Barbie's in evening dresses, a large brown doll dressed up like the Dalai Lama, German dolls in lederhosen and even a pair dressed in Dutch clothes. I put down my empty cup and look at the little table besides my chair. And I just stare... I could have sworn that doll was standing on the shelf I was just exploring. I look at the shelf and there, right in the middle, is an empty place, which wasn't there before. I look at the doll on the table again... and it looks back at me...
"Something wrong, Alex dear?" miss Gretta asks.
I point at the doll on the table. "I could've sworn this doll was standing on that shelf just a minute ago." I look at the shelf again.
"Nonsense, love," miss Gretta says. "That doll has always been on that table. I placed it so, that she's looking at me when I sit here." I look at the doll again and now the face is turned towards miss Gretta. "I think your brain has suffered more damage from the crash, than I first thought. I think I'd better call doctor Burns."
"Doctor Burns?" I repeat. "Wasn't he the vet?"
"Oh no, dear. That's Alfred Burns. His twin brother, William is the physician." Miss Gretta leaves the room to make the call. I don't stop her. Maybe I did get my brains scrambled more than I realised. After all, I did hit my head full-on on the wind screen. From the corner of my eye, I see a movement. I turn my head and see the doll staring at me again. Only this time it's smiling. And it's not a friendly smile. No, this smile, it's pure diabolical. Okay, Alex, get a grip. You're spooked because some doll has an evil grin painted on it's face. You must be really losing it, you've never been afraid of anything before in your life. Another movement makes me turn my head in the direction of the shelf again. There are more empty spots now. I'm afraid to look and see where they've gone. But involuntarily, my head turns towards the table... Three dolls have joined the one, which was already there. They are all smiling diabolically. I can't stop staring at them and with each time I blink my eyes, they seem to move closer to the edge of the table. Suddenly, one of the dolls opens it's mouth and shows a pair of shining teeth. Sharp, pointy teeth.
"You are evil," another dolls says. Or at least. I think the doll said it. I didn't see it's mouth moving, but rather heard the voice in my head.
"You're a murderer," yet another doll says. "Murderer," it repeats and a second one starts as well. Soon, all four of them are calling at me "Murderer." I put my hands over my ears, but it doesn't help. "Murderer. Murderer." I stand up, but too quickly and feel dizzy. I fall on the ground. Something heavy on my chest. I look... the dolls are standing on my chest. "Murderer. Murderer."
"Stop it!" I yell.
"Murderer. Murderer. MURDERER." They all bare their teeth. Shiny, sharp, pointy teeth.
"Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!!!!!!"
"Alex, honey? Wake up, Alex. You're dreaming. Can you hear me? Alex? Alex? ALEX!"
I open my eye and stare into a pair of shiny blue eyes.
"Th... the d...do... dolls," I stutter.
"The dolls? What's wrong with the dolls?" a voice, belonging with the blue eyes asks.
I look around. I'm still lying on the ground. Down on my chest, Greebo looks at me with eyes big with surprise. So Greebo had been standing on my chest and not the dolls. I look at the shelf and see the three dolls who called me murderer standing on their places.
"Alex?" It's miss Gretta. "This is doctor Burns. He will examine you." She picks Greebo up from my chest and Doctor Burns helps me up and back in the chair. "What happened?" miss Gretta asks.
"I... " I start. But what do I tell her? That four of her dolls called me a murderer and tried to kill me. Better to tell a lie. "I wanted to take a closer look at your dolls. But I got up too quickly and got dizzy, so I fell," I finish.
"We'll just have a look at you, then," Doctor Burns suggests and goes to get his bag. I turn my head to look at the doll on the table.
And I could swear he grinned at me...