No one ever went into the doll’s hospital. It had been there for years, perched grotesquely on Main Street between the post office and the ice cream shop.
Children hurried past, casting grim, curious glances at the dismembered doll heads and little bodies, the same morbid collection as ever. One of them even seemed to wave at passersby as they hurried along.
Once when Jefferson Hinchcliffe-Jones was seven years old and eager to prove his bravery, he waved back at the doll, creaking back and forth on its string. It was the scariest moment of his life. All the dolls stared back at him.
The owner of the hospital was a delightful little man. Mr. Whitaker was a favorite at the local bar and was always full of laughter and stories, always willing to help his neighbor.
“Shame about the shop,” his friends would murmur to each other in secret. “He’s such a nice man otherwise.”
No one doubted Whitaker’s dedication or his craftsmanship. The few pieces he was known to have repaired, mostly antiques, were restored, even transformed under his touch. As good as new or better. But neither could it be denied that there was something creepy about them afterwards.
Dolls that went into Whitaker’s hospital seldom returned, and if they did, then they were never the same again. Well-known companions became strangers, watching from behind familiar, glass eyes. They could never quite put their finger on what had changed, and no one dared ask Whitaker.
And so, slowly, year by year, people stopped bringing their dolls to the hospital. But the storefront never changed; the door was always open; Whitaker was always waiting.
And the dolls were always watching.