A few years back, meaning over 30 years, my father, Anthony, wrote a short story about a creepy old woman who collects her new, young neighbor as part of her doll collection. It was a Twilight Zone-like tale that was inspired by an actual woman in my mother’s apartment complex way back when.
Then, just a short time ago (meaning 2007), my father, recently retired, finally published the story, titled “Making Friends”, in an online literary e-zine called Midnight Times. The e-zine issue was the Fall 2007 collection, and you can find it here.
Since that time, as an exercise I tried my hand at adapting my father’s story as a short film script. I don’t think there’s enough there to make an entire feature, and the only other medium in which the story might work would be as a comic book, a one-off issue in a form of media that I’m currently excited to be a part of and further exploring.
In the meantime, I’ve managed to successfully film a short film based on my father’s story. Currently entering post-production, I’ll be taking you through the steps of this film making process, and soft collaboration with my father, that will hopefully bloom into further exciting projects in the near future. There’s nothing like the feeling of creating something in film format for audiences to experience stories as I have experienced them.
Below is the original story in its’ entirety:
Everything seemed to be going well for Sharon, so why did she have this feeling in the pit of her stomach? She felt like someone was watching them unpack the rental truck, not with a curious eye, but an evaluating one. Although she could not readily see anyone eyeballing them, she had no doubt from the creepy feeling overcoming her that someone was.
It was just the kind of apartment she was looking for. Small, cozy, second floor, sparsely furnished, but furnished. The kitchen was tiny, enough room for a table but little else. The living-room/bedroom was a little bigger than the kitchen, and the bathroom was a closet with plumbing. But it was hers alone, her place.
She was finally all on her own and couldn’t have been happier. Bob was helping her move in, and he seemed as happy as she was. She had a pretty good job; she had Bob, and now her own place. She had lived with her single mother for all her life in a small town. Her mother had a tough life, trying to raise two kids on her own after her husband passed away, but without a lot of resources to do so. They lived on the poorer side of town, and it wasn’t long before her mother found comfort and solace at the local bar, spending more time there than at home. Sharon couldn’t wait to escape that atmosphere, her sister left shortly after graduating high school, and Sharon followed in her footsteps. She managed to get a job as a secretary in a large law firm, but still had to live home until she could afford a place of her own. Now she was finally able to make her move.
“Well, how do you like it?” Sharon asked.
Bob looked around briefly and said, “It’s a nice closet, but where’s the apartment?” She pounded him with a pillow she was carrying. He pulled it from her and pounded back. After a brief wrestling match, they wound up on the floor in an embrace. This time the wrestling was rather passionate, which both surprised and excited her, since she knew they had left the door open. The threat of being caught was always a turn-on for her.
Before she even saw her, Sharon felt a presence at the open door. The chill on the back of her neck made her jump, and she pushed Bob away at the same time. As she was getting up, she glanced at the woman in the doorway, and the look on the woman’s face gave her another chill. It was a cold, evaluating expression, as if she were checking over a chair she was thinking of buying. By the time they got to their feet, the expression was gone, and before them was a sweet looking old lady, smartly dressed, strongly perfumed, with a big friendly smile. She was holding a cake.
“I’m sorry to intrude,” she said rather awkwardly, “I just wanted to welcome you to the building.”
“Why thank you” Sharon said while trying to control her blushing. “I’m Sharon Netro and this if my friend Bob Kelsey.” Bob just nodded, too embarrassed to say anything.
“I’m Millie Daven, pleased to meet you. I guess I should have waited ‘til you were settled, but I’m just too nosy and had to get a look at you.” Sharon thought she noticed that cold expression reappear again as she said those last few words, but just as quickly it disappeared.
“Don’t be silly,” Sharon said. “I’m glad to meet you, and I hope to meet the rest of the tenants soon.”
“Well they’re not all worth meeting, but anyway here’s a little something to welcome you with.”
“Why thank you very much” Sharon said as she took the cake.
“It’s not much. Now that I’ve met you, I can see you deserve more, so I’d like to have you come for dinner tomorrow night. I’m in the apartment directly upstairs from you. You can bring your friend too!”
“Oh, we couldn’t impose,” said Sharon as she tried to think of a way to get out of it politely. She didn’t like this lady, although she didn’t know exactly why.
“Now I insist,” said Mrs. Daven with a wave of her hand. “I’m a very good cook, Bob, and I’d like to know both of you better. Ever since my dear husband died I don’t get a chance to really whip something up too often. Please say you’ll come.”
“Of course we will,” said Bob despite the dirty look Sharon was giving him “and we appreciate the invitation.”
“Good” said Mrs. Daven, “shall we say around 7:00 then?”
At 6:45 Sharon was putting on her makeup, getting ready. She and Bob had a pretty heated argument the night before about going, although now she didn’t know why she had made such a big thing of it. She guessed there was just something about the old lady that made her feel creepy. Bob had said she was silly, and now she was pretty much feeling that way. She had a great day, having fun fixing up the apartment and getting to know the neighborhood. The new feeling of independence gave her a kind of high and put her in a great mood so that she was almost looking forward to the dinner. Bob showed up at ten of, and they went right up.
“I’m so glad you could make it,” said Mrs. Daven as she answered their knock. “I’ve had so much fun preparing this meal. Come in and make yourselves comfortable.”
As they walked in, both their mouths fell open. The place looked like an antique shop. Little knickknacks, tiffany lamps, old clocks, and much more filled her living room. Sharon couldn’t decide whether it was beautiful or gaudy. That strong perfume filled the air, giving Sharon the feeling she was in a museum. Bob gave her a glance and she had to struggle to control her giggles. The place wasn’t beautiful, she’d decided, it was gaudy, almost comically so.
Some shelves in the corner caught her eye, and she walked over toward them as Mrs. Daven was getting some “refreshments.” On the shelves were perhaps twenty or so figurines, like Hummel’s, but much more realistic, almost lifelike. They were all dressed in miniature clothes that fit perfectly. There were about as many men as women, all dressed differently. There were woman figures dressed in gowns and dresses from various cultures; kimonos, peasant dresses, even pant suits. The men were also dressed in wide varieties, from suits to shorts.
“Oh, I see you’ve noticed my pride and joy” said Mrs. Daven returning with drinks, some special recipe punch she made “non-alcoholic, of course.”
“Yes” said Sharon, “these are really fantastic. I can’t get over how lifelike they are.”
“My husband and I spent many years collecting those. I’m a bit of a collector as you can see, but these are my favorite. They’re from all around the world, and there are a lot of memories and a lot of fun connected with each and every one of them.”
As she was saying this, a far off look came over her, and a smile began on her lips such as Sharon had never seen before. It made her very uncomfortable. Sharon had to look away, and her eye fell on one of the figures, a handsome sailor, smartly dressed in an attractive blue uniform. Sharon reached for him. “May I?” she asked, and picked the figurine up without waiting for an answer.
The feel of it surprised her. It wasn’t porcelain or ceramic. It had a feel she couldn’t really place. Hard, yet it had a softness about it, not quite vinyl, something else. Also, it felt rather warm. She looked around for a radiator or register by the shelves, but could see none. She was fascinated with the sailor and couldn’t take her eyes off it.
“You like him don’t you?” said Mrs. Daven as, for a second, the smile had become almost maniacal but quickly disappeared.
“Yes” said Sharon, surprised to find she couldn’t seem to take her eyes off the sailor.
“Hey, what’s the big attraction over here” said Bob who unknowing to both of them had moved right behind them. His voice startled them both, Sharon almost dropping the sailor, and Mrs. Daven splashing her punch on the light jacket Sharon was wearing.
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry,” said Mrs. Daven. “Here, take that off and let me have it. I have something that will take those stains out.”
“It’s all right,” said Sharon a little annoyed, “it’s nothing.”
“I insist,” said Mrs. Daven as she removed the jacket, folded it and placed it neatly across a chair.
“It’s my fault,” said Bob, “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“Now don’t you worry Bob, it’s fine. C’mon, lets eat this marvelous meal I’ve enjoyed cooking, and you can enjoy eating.” She took them both by the arm and led them to the table.
Sharon had to admit the dinner was excellent and despite her initial feelings, she found herself enjoying the old lady’s company. She was an interesting woman with many fascinating stories about her and her late husband’s travels. Both Sharon and Bob began to feel more comfortable with her and relaxed. They left fairly early, and Sharon even sent Bob home shortly after they got to her apartment. It was only 9:30, but Sharon found herself in bed ready to sleep, very unusual for a Saturday night. It wasn’t long before she was, in fact, deeply asleep.
During the night she felt something touch her cheek. She didn’t jump, but merely opened her eyes dreamily. Standing above her next to her bed was the sailor from Mrs. Daven’s apartment. He was now, however, about six feet tall but had the same uniform on and looked exactly the same as the figurine, extremely handsome and seductive. His hair was jet black and he had dark piercing eyes. His expression was the same as the figurine and didn’t change when Sharon looked at him and smiled. He sat on the bed, took her in his arms and kissed her long and passionately. Sharon did not resist at all and, in fact, responded, as she never had before with anyone, even Bob. His touch was unusual, lukewarm and rubbery, but it turned her on anyway. They made love for what seemed like hours.
She woke up early the following morning with a chill. The window was open, a slight breeze blowing in. “Funny,” she thought “I don’t remember opening the window.” She got up, closed the window and stretched. She felt so relaxed and content, then with a start remembered the night before. “Wow, what a dream that was, so real ummmm…” she purred.
Later, she told Bob about her dream, leaving out some details, but conveying her general feelings. “You’re just like a little school girl,” he said, “dreaming about make believe heroes, a doll, Sharon, c’mon! If you hadn’t sent me home so early, you could’ve had the real thing…me.”
“Don’t you feel a little silly being jealous of a doll?” said Sharon.
“Don’t you feel silly dreaming about a doll?” Bob retorted. He waited for her next parry, but none came. Instead she just sat staring, not changing expression.
“Whatsamatter Shar, no comeback?” he teased. But there was still no reaction. “SHARON” Bob began to shout. He lightly slapped her face, which felt a little clammy, but she continued to just stare, as if in a trance. By now Bob was on the verge of panicking. He went and got a glass of water and splashed some on her face. At first nothing happened, then Sharon suddenly twitched.
“What did you do that for?” she said. “Where did you get that anyway? I didn’t see you with that glass in your hand.” Bob was astonished. She was acting as if the conversation had continued without interruption.
“Sharon” he shouted, “you’ve been in a trance or something for a couple of minutes. I couldn’t bring you out of it.”
“You’re crazy.” she said.
“I’m serious, how do you think you got wet? Think, do you remember me splashing you with water, remember seeing me doing it?”
She thought a minute. “Well, actually no” she said slightly alarmed. “How did it happen Bob, what does it mean?”
“Maybe you’re just overtired,” he said “don’t forget you’ve gone through a lot the past few weeks, looking for this apartment and now with the excitement of moving, your system probably just needs rest.”
“Yes, maybe that’s it,” said Sharon. Neither of them really believed it though.
That night the sailor visited again. This time he stayed longer, their lovemaking more passionate. Again Sharon gave in willingly, stimulated even more than the night before.
The next day at work she couldn’t get the dreams, or the sailor, out of her mind. She was trying to keep busy, however, at her desk, when the next thing she knew she was in the nurse’s office.
“How did I get here?” she said.
“You just blacked out at your desk,” the nurse said reassuringly. “You’re ok. You’re friends brought you in here because they couldn’t revive you.”
“Only about ten minutes” said the nurse, “but you should think about seeing a doctor, your body is trying to tell you something. Here, take these and go home and get some rest.”
Sharon was very upset now; she didn’t know what was happening to her, and something else, her skin felt cold and rubbery.
That night Sharon thought she must have blacked out again. She sat down to watch TV around eight, and the next thing she knew it was 10:30. Also, her skin still felt funny, and her joints were a little stiff. She made up her mind to call her doctor in the morning. She had never been so afraid in her life, and yet there was a calmness about her that even she couldn’t understand.
She went to bed at 11:00 and it wasn’t long before she was asleep. Around midnight the sailor appeared at her bedside. This time he spoke. “Come” he said passionately, yet somehow without feeling. He extended his hand toward her. “Come” he repeated. Sharon got out of bed, took his hand and allowed herself to be led by him. He took her out of her apartment and up the stairs to Mrs. Daven’s apartment.
Despite her now trance-like state, Sharon couldn’t help but flinch when the sailor opened the apartment door to reveal a room full of people. “What a strange dream this is,” Sharon thought although with the thought came a doubt that it was a dream at all. Stranger yet was the fact that although the room was full, it was silent. Everyone was standing around with a glass in hand, staring at Sharon.
“Come join us,” said Mrs. Daven rushing towards the door, arms outstretched. She took Sharon’s hand from the sailor and led her into the apartment, closing the door behind them. We’re all so glad to have you join us aren’t we?” Everyone in the room nodded three times, not changing expression, and no one saying a word. Sharon looked around at the people in the room, some stared at her, others stared at each other, but they all had a blankness in their eyes “like the sailor” thought Sharon. Her eye then caught sight of the shelves in the corner; they were empty!
“Where’s her figurine collection?” Sharon thought. “Am I dreaming that they’ve come to life?”
“You’re not dreaming,” said Mrs. Daven, Sharon’s eyes widened in amazement. “Now don’t be alarmed,” Mrs. Daven continued, “I can just sort of tell what you’re thinking. Let me explain a little. You see my husband and I were very lonely people. Sure we had each other, but sometimes that’s not enough. We could never have kids, and neither one of us had a family. For some reason we were the type who just couldn’t make friends. Oh we had acquaintances, but not really good friends, you know the kind you ‘get together’ with all the time, the kind you can do things with, go places, the kind you can impose upon and they upon you. We always felt rather alone.”
“As I told you the other night, we did travel extensively and that helped some, but our yearning for real friends or company became an obsession. On one of our trips we came across a book, an old book, maybe ancient, that contained formulas and instructions to do wonderful things that would allow us to have friends. Well at first we took it kind of lightly, although we were excited. We felt like children who discover a way to make their imaginary friends real.”
“We decided to give it a try, just for the heck of it. You can imagine our amazement and pleasure to discover it worked. Your sailor friend there was the first we tried it on. We were so enchanted with him we thought it would be wonderful to have his company whenever we wanted it. It’s the same with all those you see here; they’re all attractive young people with engaging personalities, all very nice people. I love having them around, although the process takes a bit out of them.”
All Sharon could do throughout this was to sit and stare with her mouth opening wider and wider in disbelief. Still wondering if she was dreaming, she thought, “You’re crazy lady.”
“I’m not crazy Sharon, just lonely. When I first saw you, I knew you were nice, just the type I like to have around to add to my collection. You should be honored, I don’t take to many people these days, but I like you. I like Bob too.”
“Bob,” Sharon thought as she struggled to move, to run to the door. Now she really felt as though she were in a dream, her legs moved in slow motion, hardly moving at all, and she wound up flat on her face.
“It’s too late Sharon, it’s done.”
“How?” Sharon thought.
“A combination of things, a piece of your clothing, a potion, even making love. Oh we used to have such a good time with that part of it. Of course now I pretty much let my friends here do that. But the details aren’t important now. You’re one of us. Welcome”
Sharon tried to scream, but nothing came out, to move, but nothing would work. Then she lost consciousness.
About a week later Bob showed up at Mrs. Daven’s apartment. “Still no word?” Mrs. Daven said to him as she let him in.
“No” said Bob, “the police have started looking a little more seriously now, and have sent a description all over the place.”
“Here, take your coat off and sit down,” said Mrs. Daven, “I’ll bring you a nice cup of hot chocolate” she said as she took his coat, gloves and scarf.
Bob was too nervous to sit. He couldn’t understand it. He had gone to Sharon’s apartment; the door was wide open, but no sign of Sharon, no note, nothing. Even her clothes were still in the closet.
Because nothing was upset, no sign of struggle, the cops theorized she just took off for a new life. They didn’t understand she wasn’t that type and besides, she loved him. He reasoned and pleaded with them, and they said they understood his concern, but he could tell they were not convinced.
Bob wandered near the shelves in the corner, and his eyes fell on the figures. “There’s that damn sailor I kidded her about” he reminisced. Then he saw a figure on the shelf below and bent down for a better look. As he looked closer, he could see a shocking resemblance to Sharon. The figure was dressed in a Scarlet O’Hara type gown, and the more he stared at it a feeling grew in him that he should take the figure and leave. This thought of stealing both shocked and repulsed him, but he continued to entertain it.
“I see you’ve discovered my newest acquisition” said Mrs. Daven returning with two cups of hot chocolate.
“Yes,” said Bob, “where did you get it?”
“Oh a little shop I came across. It reminded me so of our Sharon, I just couldn’t resist it.”
“Yes, it does look like her,” said Bob despondently as he drank from his cup.
“Oh now don’t you worry, you’ll be seeing her again soon, I guarantee it. I just know she hasn’t left you.”
“I sure hope you’re right,” said Bob.
Bob had driven halfway across town when he realized he left his scarf at Mrs. Daven’s. “Oh well” he thought, “I’ll get it next time I go over there.”
That night he dreamed Sharon came to him in his room, dressed in a Scarlet O’Hara dress, and they made passionate love.