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The Legend of the Singing Doll

A spooky short story, critical feedback needed! . Submitted by Jess (Award 67), age 18

“Oh God what is up with this place? It stinks,” I mumble to myself. Oops she’s staring, did she hear that? Not only has she got evil eyes but elephant ears? She’s too spooky. Oh well it’s not, as if I’m ever going to see her again, but I had better try and apologise.

“Oh erm sorry, I was just erm *ahem* I’m having a party in a couple of days and I want to buy something to impress this girl well you don’t need to know that sorry but so yeah I want to impress her by having something that looks like it costs a fortune but doesn’t actually cost a fortune because she only goes out with like millionaires and stuff, so, yeah erm, basically I need something that looks expensive, but is dead cheap and I thought this might be the place to come seen as it’s an antique shop, do you have anything you know maybe like that?” I ask the old Chinese shop keeper my voice trailing off at the end as I see the unimpressed look in her eyes. Well who said I had to impress her as well? She points to a shelf just behind me and mumbles something under her breath. I turn to examine the contents of the old, wooden shelf that is creaking under the weight of the merchandise piled on top of it. There are a couple of huge books and a china set. My eyes wonder to the very end of the shelf and I see instantly what she was pointing to. It’s an ancient looking china doll decorated like the Russian dolls that stack inside each other. Oh you know what I mean the ones that have a face on them and eyes that seem to look into your very soul but the face doesn’t quite look real. It looks scary and haunting but you can’t quite pin point why. Okay maybe you don’t but it looked like it could be a family heirloom or something like that so I checked the price tag. A tenner. A tenner?!

“A tenner for that old piece of junk? What the –,” I stop and curse under my breath. I realize it’s not worth arguing when I see the you-buy-the-doll-or-you-leave-my-shop-NOW look on her face. I keep my thoughts to myself and get out my wallet. Once I’ve bought it I leave the shop as quickly as possible but she shouts after me.

“Here we go,” I think to myself.

“You don’t know the story do you?” she calls to my back.

I turn on my heel so that she can see the confused and irritated look on my face. She mutters something that sounds like, “On your head be it,” and walks back into the shop. But then just as she goes to close the door behind herself my natural inquisitiveness kicks in and I ask, “What story?”

After settling down into a sofa that sinks down almost to the ground with a cup of herbal tea that must be at least a year past it’s sell by date in the back of the shop the glary eyed shop keeper finally starts to tell me the story that she calls the Legend of the Singing Doll.

“Many moons ago at the time of the Ming Dynasty when the Great Emperor still ruled over all of Asia there was a little village called-” she began before I so rudely interrupted her.

“Ok ok just cut to the chase, I do have a doctor’s appointment in a week you know!” I say, my voice filled with sarcasm.

“If you want to live long enough for that then I suggest you listen to me!” she barks before continuing, “a little village called Lo Weng. There was a shop called, translated literally into English, the shop that sells wood. People came from the tops of mountains and the bottoms of the valleys just to own a Singing Doll from that shop. These dolls were named so because they were famed for their song. Each one sang a traditional nursery rhyme but here’s the twist- they never sang the last line. Or at least you hoped they didn’t for if in your home one of these dolls sang the last line of its song then you were sure to die a quick painful death within a minute of the last word.”

“That’s a load of rubbish,” I say standing up and exiting the shop, quickening my pace the further away I get from it. By the time I have crossed the road I find myself breaking into a run and then sprinting down my road as if my life depends on it. When I get inside I slam the door behind me and press my back against it, breathing heavily. It is only then that I realise I am still carrying the brown paper bag with the doll inside it.

“Damn! I meant to chuck it into the bin on the way home!” I think to myself, “no it’s fine. Why should I get rid of it? It cost a tenner for Pete’s sake! And she’s a loony why should I believe anything she tells me! Anyone who actually believes that a doll made of solid wood can sing has to be put in a mental home!” I reassure myself. And at that moment I believe it. Almost.

I awake in a cold sweat. I must have been dreaming about that doll.

“For God’s sake Mark! You are 27 years of age! That doll is nothing out of the ordinary!” I scold myself. And then, without listening to the rational sense of my brain, my legs swing themselves out of my bed and my feet pull my body weight onto them until I am standing. Against my will my body is taking me to the room. The room where the doll is. I know really that it is not my body hijacking me, some unknown part of my brain has to see that doll just so I am convinced. I stop. Half asleep I turn round and peep back into my bedroom. Nothing. I tell myself that the sound I am hearing must be in my own head. It is not the doll singing. In a zombie-like fashion I plod to the spare room but as I approach the door the song becomes louder.

“Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree...”a rasp sounds.

No! Come on, I’m dreaming most probably! I’ll go back to my room and to my bed yes that’s what I’ll do. In my mind I turn and head back to the warm embrace of my duvet but as I look down my arm is turning the handle and I have no choice but to let it. I am too tired to resist. Again my natural curiosity has got the better of me and before I realise it I am inside the room. I scan its circular shape. Old wardrobe, pile of unwanted Christmas and birthday presents, some armchairs, that giant teddy bear I won at the fair and the oversized window ledge. The window ledge. The window ledge with the doll on it. The doll. The doll with the slight yet malicious smile on its face.

“Wait I could have sworn -,” I stop mid sentence and forget the thought that is forming in my mind. My eyes are playing tricks on me. None of this is real. I turn yet again to go back to bed. I need to sleep.

“Merry merry king of the bush is he.....” again the raspy whisper chokes out the words to the well known nursery rhyme. I turn swiftly on my heel and see the doll. Realisation hits me. I run. I hear its cold heartless song follow me.

“Laugh kookaburra laugh.....”

“No, no!” I scream as I bolt across the landing.

It’s been over a minute now and no more sound has come from the room. The doll must be content with scaring me to that extent and has spared me this time. I know that when I bought that thing it had a mouth as straight as a ruler. I know because that is what haunted me the most. Its mouth was poker straight yet it was the malicious grin in its eyes that told me how easily it could strike without a soul realising until it is too late. I sleep.

I awake this morning with a throbbing headache.

“Urgh,” I let out the long moan and pull the duvet over my head only to remember that the party is today. I need to get up to make preparations and it’s already....I check my alarm clock.

“12:45!” I exclaim, “the party’s at nine and I haven’t even got the food yet let alone the decorations.” No. Oh noooo. Sarah’s coming tonight and I have nothing to impress her except that damned ‘singing’ doll. I have to give it back. No, I’m not freaked by it but I don’t want to scare Sarah because if I wasn’t imagining what happened last night then who knows what she would make of it if it happened again. I throw on some clothes, grab the doll from its room without looking at it and leg it to the antique shop.

Panting, I cross the street to see the old Chinese shopkeeper opening the store. I dash to the door and shout at her to, “hurry the hell up.” She stops a worried look on her face, withdraws the key and turns her back to me.

“Hey come on open up! Come on!” I say banging on the door. She turns sharply on her heel and looks me straight in the eye.

“You give me that doll back then my shop will be cursed. Once it has starting singing it must stay in the place it began. If you don’t put that doll back right away then you will be in deep trouble, ok?” she warns me. I swallow my retort because I am silenced by the look in her eyes. I have never seen that much fear in someone. It’s almost as if she knows what will happen from experience. She knows. She definitely knows. She knows what will happen to me. For the second time I bolt from the shop as fast as my legs will carry me.

After I am safely around the corner I go into the Tesco Extra, the one useful shop in this stupid little village, and buy some snacks and decorations. I am in and out in five minutes. I have to get that doll home. I run.

Once the doll is back on its perch in the spare room I lock the door and go downstairs to start preparations. Sarah’s coming tonight. This has to be perfect. Wait. I realise that there is no longer the eerie silence that usually fills my apartment. There is a faint whisper. There is almost no sound. Almost. I curse my inquisitiveness as I slowly advance up the creaking stairs.

“Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree....” the thing croaks.

I am outside now.

“Merry, merry king of the bush is he....” it comes again.

I cannot go in. I cannot look that thing in the eyes another time.


I open the door.

“Kookaburra laugh.”

I brace myself. I know what it will do. I should at least look it in the eyes if it is going to kill me. I’m one of those people who will look death in the face. As my thoughts drift off to what I want my last thought to be I realise that the doll hasn’t uttered another word. Has it spared me yet again? Yes.

Once I am safely behind the living room door I let the thought come. I knew it was done. I knew it was done because of the smile. When I looked at that thing it had an even bigger grin on its evil face. I know that it wasn’t just the light playing tricks on me last night. But I know that whilst it has stopped for now it will not be patient must longer. That doll knows what it wants. And that doll will get what it wants.

Tired and hungry I make my way up to bed after the party. There were a few more people here than I had expected so I did my fair share of cleaning up. After all that Sarah didn’t even turn up. Ian told me she met this guy a couple of days ago and it was his birthday so she wanted to be with him. My eyes heavy I go into the spare room to see the damage done.

“Aw damn some people came up here too,” I groan as I move to stand the chairs back up and put the contents of the wardrobe back inside it. Then I see it. The doll. The doll is smashed in pieces on the floor. But slowly before my eyes the pieces start to move towards each other.

“Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree.”

My eyes are glued to the doll and I cannot get them away however hard I try.

“Merry, merry king of the bush is he.”

The doll is coming together in front of me.

“Laugh kookaburra laugh.”

I tear my eyes away. I know what is coming. And this time I know. The doll is fully together now. It is only the mouth that is slowly slotting itself into place. Its grin is as large as a Cheshire cat’s.

“Kookaburra gave your life....”

“Aaaargh!” The pain hits me like a bullet. Water is coming out of my mouth and suddenly I can’t breathe. I feel like I am underwater. No, I feel like I am being held under water.


I am drowning. From the inside.


The last thing I hear.

“Ha. Ha. Ha.”

Comments (6)

user comment Israel says: Amazing Jess :D
Sent on Thu 27th Jun 13

user comment Josh says: It is an amazing peice of writing
Sent on Wed 19th Jun 13

user comment Rebecca says: wow! another amazing story. I am your biggest fan!
(ha ha)
Sent on Thu 13th Jun 13

user comment Jess says: Thank you for your feedback I'll try and work on that, thank you!
Sent on Sun 19th May 13

user comment Candice says: I think that's it's atmospheric and you've created a real spooky tale that will stick in my mind. To improve, i would add more description and talk about what he feels and the incorporate the five sense. But a very good short story.
Sent on Sat 4th May 13

user comment Matilda says: Very good. If you described your surroundings a bit more it would be a lot more effective, though. I love the idea. Freaky!
Sent on Sun 28th Apr 13

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