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Rick Hudson
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Restless Dolls

 

Rick Hudson

 

He was a collector.

He was found at the foot of the stairs.

Dead.

He lived alone in the old house.

When the cleaner found him she was disturbed most of all by the look of abject terror frozen on his face.

 

He was wealthy.

He had made his money in an unremarkable but lucrative profession.

He lived alone in the old house.

He collected dolls.

 

He kept them safe and clean.

Never opening the packaging.

Kept them pure and intact.

Kept them stacked and recorded . . .

Index cards—in a neat plastic box—documented their designer; their manufacturer; their date of issue. Supplementary information was often recorded on the reverse.

He kept them safe and clean.

He never opened the boxes.

He never played with them.

. . . and the dolls were bored.

. . . the dolls were very bored.

 

When he reviewed his collection (this was not an investment – he truly loved the dolls) he never noticed their silent, wide-eyed desperation. Until one day . . .

Until one day . . .

A slow, tiny tentative hand moved to paw the polythene.

 

. . . the dolls were very bored.

 

 

 

 

Red Frog

 

Rick Hudson

 

 

“Now then, Stephen,” my father said to me, “something bad has happened to Luke from down the road.” He paused, unsure how to go on. “There’s a man . . . he does bad things to boys. He hurts them. The police are going to get him, but don’t go playing in the woods ’til we say it’s OK. OK?”

 

I said it was OK. But didn’t get what was going on. I didn’t like Luke much anyway.

 

“Will Luke be coming back to school?”

 

“No.  No I don’t think so.”

 

Good. 

 

“Oh.”    

 

School was a bit weird from then. There were stories about a thing in the woods. It did bad things. It had hurt Luke somehow, but he had got away. He was at a special school now. Someone whose sister knew Luke’s brother said that he had been attacked by something that looked like a red frog. That’s all he said now:

 

“Red frog.  Red frog.”

 

People seemed to forget the red frog after a while. Least, they didn’t talk about him much. No one ever said the police caught him. I think, after a while, I was the only person to think about him. I guess I thought about him a lot. 

 

Wouldn’t it be good, I thought, if I captured the Red Frog. People would like me, then.

 

I know I wasn’t meant to go into the woods, but I thought if I was careful I would be all right. I would see if I could find the red frog’s hiding place and then I could come back later with some grown-ups and we could kill him. It was daytime, so I thought I’d be all right. 

I had been in the woods for about half an hour and hadn’t found him. I’d taken my compass, penknife and water bottle from my adventure kit. These would be good if I got lost. I thought I’d check down the secret path that only I knew about, and then, if I hadn’t found him I’d go home. It would only take about five minutes. I was getting bored now. But I would check the secret path.

 

Half way down the secret path I heard a noise. Something moved in the bushes. I watched for a little while, was this him? There was another noise, and then something came out. . . .

 

It was only a man.

 

He wasn’t very tall. He had copper-colored hair and his face was all red, like he was blushing all the time. His mouth was very wide and he had thick glasses that made his eyes look really big.

 

        “Hey, kid . . . c’mere. Wanna see something special?”

 

And then . . .

 

And then . . .

 

I never told anyone about it.

 

I should never have been in the woods.

 

I was told not to go into the woods.

 

If I hadn’t gone to the woods . . .

 

If I hadn’t . . .

 

If I . . .

 

I never went into the woods.

 

I wasn’t in the woods.

 

If anyone says I was in the woods then they are a liar.

 

Sometimes I dream of croaking laughter.

 

 

Rick Hudson is one of the UK's leading contemporary writers of short horror fiction; his work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies as well as having been broadcast by BBC Radio.

 

In addition to his writing career he is a university lecturer in English Literature, specialising in the study of horror and fantastic fiction.

In Association with Fossil Publications