Ingrid

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic


Charles Maddox is an investigative reporter called out to a lonely mansion for a possible story only to find the place haunted by something so terrifying, he wants to abandon his job and simply
escape with his life.

Submitted: March 27, 2018

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Submitted: March 27, 2018

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Ingrid

Blythe, California

October 30th, 2002


 

Charles Maddox was an investigative reporter who specialized in stories of paranormal activity and supernatural phenomenon. He was used to going out of his way, being inconvenienced and making sacrifices to get a good story. It was all part of the job.

Maddox had driven two hours to the desert town of Blythe chasing a possible lead. He had no idea what the story was, only that it was fantastic enough that his Editor in Chief of The Probe, Sparky Quinn, had woke Maddox up in the middle of night and told him to be in Blythe first thing in the morning. She gave him an address and a name very little else to go on. When Maddox asked Sparky why she was being so evasive, she answered, “Because I don't want to spoil anything for you. I want you to get the story right from the horse's mouth and let you judge it for yourself, untainted by my opinion.”

The story was already getting interesting.

As Maddox pulled into the driveway of the three story mansion off a very private but well-maintained dirt road, he was intrigued. The house looked like it was built for the set of a scary movie. With its elaborately Gothic dormers, dark gray tile roof, steep ridges, odd shaped windows and a reaching front porch, the house seemed almost alive, like a crawling, gripping wounded animal trying to drag itself out of a large hole.

It was only seven o'clock in the morning and it was already getting hot. Even in October, it was in the nineties during the day in Blythe. Maddox got out of his air-conditioned black Nissan Maxima and stepped into the dry heat of California, the only thing separating him from Arizona desert was the Colorado River.

Upon closer inspection of the mansion, Maddox's initial opinion changed drastically. From a distance the building seemed almost regal, a fancy gem with a peculiar attractiveness. Now that he approached the home, Maddox could see that the olive green paint was peeling in places. The charcoal gray shutters that had, only minutes before, impressed him as professional were revealed to be fading, some of them even drooping. One of the large windows at the very front of the house was cracked. Dusty cobwebs clung under the eaves, the front wooden steps were split and creaked as though they were crying out in agony as Maddox stepped on them. The white paint around the frame of the windows was also cracking, the bleached dust from the deteriorating paint looked like snow, clinging to the sills.

Maddox saw that there was no welcome mat set out in front of the door and the wrap around porch was devoid of furniture and plants. No friendly signs hung out on the stoop. The glass panels on the front door had been blacked out either by paint or paper, Maddox couldn't tell which, and he couldn't see the foyer inside.

Maddox was about to knock but the door opened slightly before his knuckles made contact. At first Maddox thought the door had sprung open on its own but slowly, the door continued to swing inward revealing who Maddox assumed was the homeowner, Milo Thoroughgood Penny.

Penny wasn't smiling, in fact, he appeared to be scared out of his mind. His floppy dark hair was damp with sweat and his face glistened with perspiration. Penny stared at him in disbelief as though Maddox had just dragged himself from the grave to knock upon Penny's door and ask for spare change.

Penny was a little man, not only in height but also in weight. He couldn't have weighed more than one hundred pounds soaking wet. At six feet tall, Maddox towered over him, Penny was lucky to be five foot five or less. Penny was wearing gray corduroys, a thin long sleeved dress shirt. If he had been wearing a red bow tie, Penny would have been a good candidate for a Pee Wee Herman lookalike.

“What took you so fucking long to get here?” Penny asked angrily.

Maddox frowned at him, “Take it easy. I drove straight here with only a few hours of sleep. I'm irritable because I haven't had my coffee yet and I don't know you from Adam. Plus, I gotta take a piss so bad, my back teeth are floating. So do me a favor and--”

“I haven't slept a wink in days,” Penny said miserably, as though he hadn't hear a word of what Maddox had just said, “I can't believe what the hell is happening to me, in my own house.”

I guess we can just skip introductions, asshole.

Maddox said, “First things first, where's your restroom?”

Penny had one hand holding the door and the other laid on his forehead. He looked at Maddox and seemed jolted back into reality, “Oh my God! I am so sorry. Come in, please, come in. How rude of me to leave you standing on the porch.”

Maddox gave Penny an appreciative nod and stepped into the home. The interior was well air conditioned, nice and cool. Maddox wondered why Penny was sweating so much. The inside of the mansion was a hell of a lot nicer than the outside. Glossy dark wood floors dominated the first floor, accentuated by teal runners and stylish green rugs. The walls of the entry and living room were an eggshell white with metal gray fixtures.

Penny ushered Maddox into the living room with a hand on his upper back and pointed toward the back of the mansion, “The restroom is that way, down the hall, second door on the right. Please make yourself at home.”

“Thanks.”

As he began to walk toward the hall, Maddox heard light foot falls overhead, like a small child in hard soled shoes, stomping their feet. He turned toward Penny to gauge his reaction but the smaller man had gone into the living room and sat down on one of the couches, completely oblivious to the noticeable noise.

Maddox was going to say something to Penny but decided against it in favor of relieving his bladder. The footsteps on the floor above him seemed to follow him down the long hall and into the bathroom. As Maddox took aim and urinated into the toilet, the stomping overhead reached a crescendo. Whoever the kid was making all the racket, was throwing a full blown tantrum, kicking and hitting the floor overhead with a vengeance.

What the hell is wrong with this guy's kid?

Maddox flushed, washed his hands and headed back into the living room. He had brought his digital recorder, his digital camera and compact video recorder, he wanted to begin interviewing Penny as quickly as possible so that he could go home to Arizona back to his wife and son.

The footsteps above Maddox followed him out of the restroom, all the way down the hall and into the living room. Again, Penny showed little reaction to the loud stomping above Maddox's head, “Do you hear that?” Maddox asked him.

Penny nodded, “Yeah, but don't worry about it right now.”

“Whatever you say.”

Maddox seated himself across from Penny, worrying that all the stomping was going to ruin his recorded session. As he clicked the record button, the footfalls overhead drifted off into eventual silence.

Penny still looked shaken, he was kneaded his hands together as if they were dirty and he was rinsing them off under running water. Penny said, “Let me ask you a question, Mr. Maddox. I want you to give me an honest answer.”

Maddox said, as politely as he could, “The way interviews usually work, Mr. Penny, is that I ask you questions and then you do your best to answer them truthfully, not the other way around.”

“Please. Indulge me.”

Maddox leaned back on the couch and tried to get comfortable. The couches were modern with green patterns and looked a lot more comfortable than they were, “Shoot.”

“Do you believe in demonic possession?”

The story just took a serious turn into possible supernatural occurrence, which was Maddox's specialty. He was very intrigued now and he answered, “Absolutely.”

Penny looked stunned, “Seriously?”

Maddox nodded, “Yeah. I've actually witnessed two exorcisms. I never really believed in anything spiritual but watching that shit sure as hell convinced me.”

Penny smiled at him, looking relieved, “Then, do you believe that a demonic spirit could reside within a non-living thing, say, a toy?”

Maddox tried not to look disappointed but judging by the crestfallen look on Penny's face, he failed. To go from actual demon possession to possessed toys was quite a large jump. Maddox had never heard anything so ridiculous. He said, “You mean like the killer toy clown in the movie Poltergeist?”

Penny made a sound of frustration. He stood up and began pacing, rapidly explaining his situation, “I moved into this house a year ago and began the slow, expensive process of renovating it. From the beginning, I could tell I had bitten off a lot more than I could chew. There was so much damage to the floors, it was going to cost me a fortune to--”

Maddox interrupted him, “Mr. Penny, I'd appreciate it if you'd get right to the point for me.”

Penny looked flustered but he nodded and agreed, “You're right, I'm sorry. To make a long story short, I began to notice paranormal activity around the house especially on the second floor.”

“What sort of activity are we talking about here?” Maddox asked him.

“Strange scratching sounds, stomping on the floor, odd knocking noises, things moving on their own, disembodied voices, items vanishing practically before my eyes, shadowy entities moving from one room to the next, lights turning off and on by themselves, doors opening and closing by themselves things like that,” Penny said, matter of factually.

Maddox should have been thanking his lucky stars at such a jackpot opportunity for a great story but he couldn't celebrate yet. First, he needed to cover the basics. Maddox asked him, “Are you married?”

“No.”

Single father, Maddox thought to himself, impressed. He asked, “What are the names and ages of your children?”

Penny shook his head, “I have no children.”

Maddox frowned at him, “Then who the hell was it making all that noise? Who was stomping so loudly?”

Penny returned his frown, “I thought you journalists were supposed to have good listening skills. Have you been ignoring everything I've been telling you, Mr. Maddox? That racket is coming from the second floor.”

Maddox found himself doubting at first, but then, very slowly, like water first coming to a boil, he realized the totality of what Penny was saying. The way the stomping had followed him down the hall and into the restroom, the way Penny seemed completely oblivious to the racket and why the noise had suddenly stopped as Maddox switched on the digital recorder, all made sense. Without realizing it, Maddox had collaborated much of the claims Penny had made by witnessing them firsthand.

Could there be an accomplice involved? He found himself doubting it. Penny was miserable. Maddox had seen the same worn out, exhausted and haggard look on other victims' faces, who were also suffering from paranormal activity, before. Also, the stomping had been loud but also light, which was why Maddox had suspected a child. A grown man couldn't duplicate those sounds. His footfalls would be too heavy.

The Mansion on the first floor was at least four thousand square feet. Standing up, Maddox peeked at the second floor, around the double set of winding stairs on opposite sides of the area, including a bridge that connected the stairs, which overlooked most of the living room. From what Maddox could see, there were large strategically placed windows and skylights on the second floor which kept it well lit with minimal amounts of sunlight required to do so. He saw the entrance to a deep hallway which probably led to the bedrooms and bathrooms beyond.

At the other end of the bridge, Maddox saw a set of stainless steel doors to what looked like a personal elevator. “Does that elevator lead to the third floor?” Maddox asked.

“Yes,” Penny said, nodding, “Its the only access to the third floor study. Will you please take a seat, Mr. Maddox? I have so much to show you.”

Maddox walked back over and sat on the couch. Penny produced a laptop with wires running from it to a large flat screen TV and sat next to him. Maddox had no idea that the large dark screen before him on the wall was a television until Penny switched it on. It must be an early model of flat screen technology. Maddox was fascinated by its huge size, at least fifty inches.

When the screen came to life, Maddox realized that Penny had put the laptop's desktop menu up on the large television screen so that it was more easily visible. Penny double clicked on a file which opened to a movie file, “In the last bedroom upstairs, I had set up a tripod-mounted CCTV camera which constantly provided me with a live feed recording,” Penny explained, “The camera and every other recording device I have tried to set up in the last room since, have all been destroyed.”

“That had to get expensive rather quickly,” Maddox said.

Penny nodded, “Yes. I was only able to record ten minutes of footage before the very first camera was smashed. Here it is.”

Maddox saw a barren large closet with folding twin doors, both opened wide, exposing nearly the entire interior. In the center of the closet, hanging from the garment rod by its strings, was the large ugly wooden marionette. It was wearing a cloth blue and white checkered dress, similar to what Dorothy was wearing in the Wizard of Oz, but the hair of the dummy was bleached platinum blonde, its wooden feet were bare and the face was distorted into a comical goofy expression of a dimwitted caricature. Large, bucktoothed incisors sprung forth from beneath the over-sized upper lip. The eyes were beady and vacant with the innocence of ignorance and naivety.

Maddox stared at the marionette with increasing interest particularly the bare wooden feet that would make the exact sound of hard soled shoes stomping on the floor. Maddox licked his dry lips but his mouth had also gone dry, so it was a wasted effort, “Are you telling me that this doll was making all that noise and destroyed your recording equipment?”

Penny nodded, “This is Ingrid. She was the partner of the famous ventriloquist who built this estate. His name was Ringo Mansfield. He committed suicide twenty years ago on the second floor of this mansion.”

“My God.”

“Through my research,” Penny continued, “I discovered that Ringo had been heavily involved in the occult. I believe that Ringo used dark rituals to somehow bring Ingrid to life in order to strengthen his ventriloquist fame. After Ringo died, he willed the entire mansion to Ingrid, which has since been, of course, overturned by the banks and the mansion was placed back onto the market. I purchased it without any prior knowledge that the damn dummy came with the deal.”

“Why not just get rid of the dummy?” Maddox asked him.

Penny gave him a rueful smile, “It's not that simple, Mr. Maddox.”

“Is Ingrid dangerous or something?”

“So far, no, but I am still terrified to go anywhere near it,” Penny said, “Now that you have been staring at the footage for a bit, have you noticed anything odd?”

Maddox blinked a few times. He had been staring at the image of Ingrid so hard that he had forgotten to blink and his eyes had gone dry, “Not yet.”

Penny stopped the recording suddenly and moved the recording slider forward by a few minutes on the movie player, then he clicked on the play button again.

Maddox looked back at Ingrid and didn't notice anything different at first. Wait. Wasn't the dummy facing completely forward before? It looked as if the head may have turned slightly to the left. Maybe Maddox was just imagining it.

Penny said, “Notice anything now, Mr. Maddox?”

“I think its head has turned slightly but I could be mistaken.”

“You're not mistaken,” Penny said, “Let me show you the entire ten minute recording, sped up by eight times.”

The sped up recording showed Ingrid was now moving so dramatically that Maddox almost jumped off the couch in fear. The head, the arms, the legs moved independently as if something under the clothing was slithering to and fro. It appeared as if the marionette was writhing in pain, “My God!”

Penny said, “The doll moves so slowly under observation, that it is nearly imperceptible to the naked eye. When sped up, its actions are easy to see. Do you understand now, Mr. Maddox? The doll never stops moving. It never sleeps, it never relaxes. It is constantly tormenting me!” Penny's voice rose to a shout, “Ingrid keeps me awake at night, causing commotions, scratching at my bedroom door, giggling horribly, stomping up and down the hallways and slamming doors!”

Maddox gaped at the little man. He was at a loss for any words of comfort.

“Ingrid is terrorizing me, Mr. Maddox! Do you understand now? Do you see why I called you here?”

“Definitely!” Maddox said, trying to suppress a grin, “This story will be an absolute sensation!”

Penny shook his head, “I'm afraid that's not possible, Mr. Maddox.”

Maddox was despondent, “What? Why?”

“Ingrid won't allow it.”

Maddox felt a cold shiver of fear race down his spine, “What do you mean?”

Penny sighed miserably, “Don't you think I've tried to expose this phenomenon? Do you take me for an idiot? Every time I try to send out photographs or video proof, they arrive at their destination destroyed. There is never anything to see, no proof of what I have discovered here.”

Maddox tried to suppress his anger. What the hell was the point of his visit then? He could write a story about Ingrid, sure. But without any photographic evidence, no audio recordings, no video footage of Ingrid's paranormal behavior, the story would be largely overlooked and ignored. Maddox was wasting his time.

“Before you think I called you out here for nothing,” Penny said in a reassuring tone, seemingly reading Maddox's mind, “I would like to perform another experiment.”

“Okay.” Maddox was watching the footage of Ingrid again. The head had now swiveled all the way around so that now Maddox was staring at the back of it, no part of the face was showing, the platinum blonde hair was the only thing visible.

“Do you have a way to send photographic emails to your editorial department?”

Maddox nodded, “Yeah. I've got a Pocket PC 2000.”

“Perfect,” Penny said, “I would like for you to try to send photos of Ingrid to your Editor.”

Maddox thought about it. He really didn't want to go upstairs and take photos of the dummy. Instead he decided to stall, “Sure, but what will that prove?” Maddox said, “Photos aren't going to show anything. We could easily fake Ingrid's movements using photos.”

“Just send them,” Penny insisted, “Please.”

Maddox shrugged, “All right.” He snapped a few photos of Ingrid on the big flat screen, uploaded them from the camera to the PC 2000, “Cross your fingers.” Maddox sent the photos with an accompanying short email to Emery, 'This doll is alive. Its moving!'

After a few minutes of waiting, Emery responded via email, 'What doll? The photos you sent are blacked out. Resend them.'

Maddox stared at the screen on his Pocket PC. The photos were all blacked out?

“You see, Mr. Maddox,” Penny said without having to look at the email response, “Ingrid will not allow you to send anything from this property pertaining to her. Any footage is reduced to useless static, any photos are ruined. Now do you understand?”

Maddox nodded, “Yeah. That's a real kick in the beanbag.”

Penny watched him closely, “The reason I brought you here was under selfish pretenses, I'm afraid.”

Maddox was confused, “What are you talking about?”

“Forgive me, Mr. Maddox, but I had to be sure.”

Maddox was intrigued, “What did you have in mind?”

“I am going to perform another experiment using you as my subject,” Penny told him solemnly, “Hopefully, you'll succeed and nothing will happen to you.”

“Thanks for your concern over my safety.”

Penny smiled at his sarcasm, “I want to go to the third floor study and see if you can write a short version of this story and send it away from here! I want to see if and how Ingrid will try to ruin your effort! Aren't you curious as well? Don't you want to know if you can succeed? Don't you want to know what Ingrid's response will be?”

Maddox scratched his chin nervously. So far, the doll had only frightened Penny, not harmed him. It would be a fantastic experience to see a marionette moving all on its own but it was also skin crawling. The idea was as exciting as it was frightening. If he actually saw Ingrid running around, Maddox would probably pass out.

Maddox heard footfalls stomping from above.

He was gripped by such a powerful fear that it took his breath away. As tempting as the opportunity was, Maddox was too scared to try. Just looking up at the second story landing, half-expecting an animate dummy moving around on its own, was the scaring hell out of him. Maddox knew there was no way he could take the elevator to the third floor study with Ingrid on the prowl. No way.

Maddox shook his head, “Sorry, Mr. Penny, but no thanks. I'm not risking my life or my sanity for a story that might not even survive to be printed.” He began to gather his things, the digital recorder, his camera, the Pocket PC 2000 and his notepad, until Maddox heard the safety of a gun click behind him.

“You're not going anywhere, Mr. Maddox,” Penny said. His tone was cold. Penny had produced a snub nose .38 caliber revolver and was aiming it at him.

Maddox glared at him, “Have you lost your mind?”

Penny said, “I want you to try to write a story as it would appear in your tabloid. I want you to write it here and try to mail it to your office. I have never tried sending correspondence through the mail because I knew no one would ever believe me. Anyone receiving such outlandish claims from me would simply tear up any letters I sent and laugh at me. But you, Mr. Maddox? You are a respected journalist. Surely, your office personnel wouldn't ignore a story from you. Surely, they wouldn't laugh and throw your letter away.”

“You're right, they wouldn't,” Maddox admitted, “But how does that help with your experiment?”

Penny smiled, his eyes were wide and feverish as a madman's, “How? You don't seem to understand. Are you daft, Mr. Maddox, or are you playing dumb to stall for time? Ingrid won't allow any information about her to leave this mansion. Can she black out your letter? I think not. Will she destroy the mail? Steal it from you? Prevent you from writing it in the first place? Aren't you curious to see how Ingrid will react, Mr. Maddox?”

A door suddenly slammed violently upstairs followed by more stomping noises. Ingrid was acting up. Maddox felt butterflies of fear in his stomach. His legs itched to run away, to escape back home, “I already told you, Penny, no. It's not worth the risk.”

Penny was still grinning like a jack o lantern, “I'm afraid you don't have a choice in the matter.”

You mother fucker!” Maddox exploded, “What if she tries to kill me? You're willing to put my life in jeopardy to sate your morbid curiosity? Asshole!”

Penny guffawed like a man twice his size, “Insane? Hardly. Mr. Maddox, sacrifices have always been required for the sake of scientific proof.”

“Then risk your own ass! Not mine!”

Penny shook his head, “I already explained that, Mr. Maddox. I don't believe Ingrid will care if I write any letters and wouldn't care who I sent them to because no one would believe me. It has to be you!”

For fuck's sake!

Maddox looked up at the bridge that overlooked the living room, half expecting to see that demonic goofy-looking doll to be staring down at him, holding a butcher knife or something crazy like that. Despite a bunch of audible disturbances, Ingrid the dummy was no where in sight.

With the handgun was still trained on Maddox, Penny said, “There is a pen and paper waiting for you on the third floor. Simply operate the elevator up and begin writing your letter. Make it good, make it genuine so that we can accurately capture Ingrid's reaction.”

Maddox shook his head, “You want me to go up to the third floor by myself? You're out of your fucking mind!”

“Mr. Maddox, I know you!” Penny said, his eyes were so wide, they were threatening to pop out of his skull, “I know you live for this sort of thing! This is your area of expertise! You've risked your life for much less of a story than this one. Why is this so different?”

Maddox turned toward the front door.

Penny cocked back the hammer on the revolver.

“Wait!” Maddox yelled. He put his hands up in surrender, “Be careful with that thing, Goddammit!”

Penny motioned with the gun toward the stairs, “Destiny awaits you, Mr. Maddox.”

Maddox had never felt such fear. It was practically pouring out of him in the form of perspiration. His knees felt weak and his mouth was dry. Even with a loaded gun being aimed at him, Maddox would almost rather risk getting shot than to risk going up the stairs where Ingrid was waiting for him. Now he understood why Penny was sweating so much. Ingrid's activity, although not threatening, was extremely unnerving, “Be reasonable, Penny! What if the damn dummy attacks me?”

“Mr. Maddox please!” Penny was exasperated, “I'll be right here to help you if anything goes wrong! Ingrid's not dangerous and this is the greatest opportunity of your career! You're going to squander it all away because you can't control your fear? You're going to pass this up because you don't like dummies? Really now, Mr. Maddox. I expected much more from you.”

Maddox knew he had to go, not because he was afraid Penny would shoot him, but because this was indeed, a rare opportunity. What if Penny could capture some footage of the dummy, moving on its own, that wasn't destroyed? The footage would be worth millions. Without any proof, no one would ever believe him or Penny.

Maddox approached the stairs. The racket above stopped. There was only silence.

Was Ingrid the dummy waiting for him? Had the doll hidden itself, waiting for the perfect time to pounce?

Maddox shivered from head to toe. He couldn't believe how frightened he was. His stomach was twisting itself into painful knots and his heart was hammering in his chest. His legs were shaky as he took the first step on the bottom flight.

Sunlight was still streaming in from numerous windows and other sources, yet the upstairs seemed darker now, solemn, almost as if the air was heavier and hungrily absorbing some of the light.

Maddox climbed the staircase slowly, carefully, watching for any signs of the demonic dummy. His entire body was tensed, ready to flee at a moment's notice. He got to the top of the stairs and looked across the bridge. The elevator doors seemed a mile away. Maddox wiped his brow on his sleeve, he was sweating like a pig, he was short of breath and he felt nauseous.

“That's it, Mr. Maddox!” Penny cheered him on from below, “Get to the elevator! Write the letter!”

There was still no sign of the dummy.

Since there were two staircases leading to the second floor, Maddox could have picked the far staircase and arrived just outside the elevator, avoiding the rest of the second floor. He had chosen the closer stairs on purpose, wanting to see down the second floor hallway, giving himself a chance to look for the doll. Using the other stairway would have left Maddox guessing as to where Ingrid was and given him no time to retreat.

Maddox began to cross over the living room, crossing the bridge, his eyes darted back and forth desperately searching for a spot that the dummy could attack him from. He was halfway across. No stomping. No doors slamming.

Maddox's mind was racing with terrifying images of the dummy suddenly attacking him out of nowhere, as fast as a predatory cat, gnawing at him with its blunt buck teeth, pummeling him with its wooden arms, its body fueled by a demonic force so powerful, that it easily overpowered him.

“You see anything?” Maddox yelled shakily down to Penny.

Penny shook his head, his eyes wide with excitement. Unbelievably, Penny was still aiming the damn gun at Maddox! “No, she's nowhere in sight.” The small man shouted to him, “Keep going!”

After a few gut wrenching, nerve wracking more steps, Maddox finally reached the elevator door and breathed a sigh of relief, hitting the call button feverishly. He watched behind him, expecting the dummy to appear at any moment, dangling limbs suddenly solid, legs supporting its weight, arms strong enough to strike him down, the goofy smile plastered on its face as it attacked him.

No dummy appeared.

The elevator car arrived, the bell tolled and the doors slid open.

Ingrid was sitting on the floor of the elevator.

Every muscle in Maddox's body locked up as if he was hit by a stun gun. There was a brief period where time seemed to freeze.

Every hair on Maddox's head felt as though it were standing on end like a frightened cartoon character.

The bright lights within the elevator illuminated the blue checkered dress, the goofy, beady emotionless eyes staring blankly ahead and the silly bucktoothed grin. Ingrid's legs were splayed out in front of the body, the arms hung loose at its sides.

As Maddox stared at the dummy with horrified disbelief, Ingrid's face suddenly turned towards Maddox's in a jerking motion. They locked eyes.

Sweet Jesus!

Maddox cried out in fear and ran for the stairs. Something tripped him up, something hard and solid struck his ankle as he ran. His legs entwined and Maddox hit the carpet face first.

God, no!

Maddox heard a horrible sound, a maniacal giggle, the laugh of a woman who was fully deranged, coming from the dummy. He rolled onto his back, looked down and saw Ingrid's arms locked around his ankles! The wooden mouth was moving on its own, open and closed in perfect harmony with the blood chilling laughter.

Maddox's mind reeled in horror, cascading him down into a large whirlpool of bright colors, muffled noises and slow motion movement, as if experiencing a nightmare. Maddox couldn't hear himself letting loose his shrill screams of terror, he could no longer see anything else except Ingrid the dummy, as she crawled up his legs and he fought to escape. His awareness of reality was narrowed to a small space, to just everything directly before him, the whole world ceased to exist, so that only Maddox and Ingrid remained alone within the bazaar kaleidoscope of colors, locked in a death struggle.

Ingrid's arms were powerful and hard like a hydraulic machine, squeezing his legs to a point of nearly breaking his bones. Maddox thought wildly, that it was impossible to escape something so diabolically strong. He was wheezing, couldn't breathe, as if his lungs had curled up into a ball of fear within his chest. Despite his crushing terror, the need to survive overtook him.

Maddox wasn't going down without a fight.

Ingrid's face came into focus, the rest of the world was still a blur of wild colors. Maddox could see the bucktoothed grin, the beady eyes that were slightly cantered downward at the outer edges, the puffy cheeks that exaggerated a permanent smile and over-sized upper lip granting the dummy a goofy innocence. Those glossy, normally carefree eyes of the dummy were locked onto Maddox's with emotionless but wicked intent. Ingrid's maniacal laughter penetrated his ears, drowning out all other sound.

Maddox punched the doll in the face with all the strength he could gather while lying flat on his back. Ingrid's head comically spun around in a complete circle from the blow, as if it were a target at an old fashioned shooting gallery. The force of the strike loosened the dummy's grip on his legs. Maddox got one leg free, curled it up to his chest and kicked Ingrid straight in the chest as hard as he could.

The dummy's grip gave way and Ingrid was thrown clear of Maddox's prone form. He scrambled to his feet as around him, the world crept back into focus, reality was setting in, providing him with the awareness of his surroundings once again.

Ingrid's loose, gangling body tumbled across the carpet and lie still but only for a second. Then, invisible hands seemed to pull the strings on the marionette, dragging it from the floor up into an unstable stance and it began to bob up and down mechanically toward him in pursuit, legs and arms flailing. That same maniacal giggling was still escaping from the doll, sending shivers of revulsion down Maddox's spine.

Horrified, Maddox realized the marionette was nearly man-sized, at least five feet tall.

Howling in terror, Maddox barreled down the stairs, three at a time, praying he wouldn't trip. Fuck the story, forget the recorded interview and to hell with any hopes of evidence! Maddox was going to get to his car and drive away as fast as he could. He didn't care about anything anymore except escaping this mad house.

Maddox was using the wooden banister for balance, he risked a glance over his shoulder. Incredibly, Ingrid was floating down the stairs, still chasing him, her feet were a few inches above the flights and the mouth still snapped open and closed, giggling with a loud, awful glee. The wooden arms reached out for him.

Jesus Christ!

Maddox was near the bottom of the stairs when suddenly, Penny came into view aiming past Maddox with the revolver. He fired at the dummy, screaming something unintelligible. The gun roared with a carefully timed and aimed shot, sounded as loud as a cannon indoors.

Maddox wasted no time, sprinting through the living room as fast as his legs would carry him. Another gunshot boomed behind him. Maddox burst out the front door, scrambled to get his car keys out of his pocket, dropped them, scooped them up and unlocked the doors to the Maxima.

A third gunshot boomed in the mansion's interior. He could still hear the demonic laughter! Was she attacking Penny? Maddox wasn't sure and didn't wait to find out. With his luck, Ingrid was completely ignoring Penny's attack and was still bobbing along in pursuit of him!

As Maddox ran toward the black Maxima, it seemed to glow in the bright sunlight with a warming aura of safety. Maddox wouldn't have been surprised to see rays of light shining down from the heavens, basking his car in a blessed luminescence and the promise of asylum.

Maddox threw himself inside the cab, starting the engine, didn't bother with the seat belt, put the car in drive and hauled ass down the private road, kicking up dirt and rocks, speeding away from the mansion, away from Penny and as far away as possible from the demonic wooden marionette, Ingrid.


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