“Until the day I die, I’ll never forget those glassy, unblinking eyes.” Her last words. She has been in a catatonic state since that day.

Elizabeth Grace had been a promising designer, and her sudden decline had been most disturbing to friends and colleagues.

After graduation, she had taken a position at Albrecht’s Department Store, as an assistant window dresser. She fared well under the tutelage of Miss Bethany, and advanced to first assistant in just months. Feathers had been ruffled.

It was just after Albrecht’s shipment of new mannequins arrived that it began. Elizabeth started talking to the old ones. People noticed. She had not done that before.

Hammered by younger hipper stores and internet shopping, Albrecht’s Department Store had been in decline for years, something had to be done. When Oswalt Albrecht III came on board, all department heads had been instructed to find new ways to bring in shoppers, or look elsewhere for employment. In Display, it was Elizabeth who suggested that changing to more stylish models would certainly bring in younger shoppers. “After all”, she said “they have been here since my grandmother was a child. Besides, they’re falling apart. I had to use one of the men’s hands on a lady, to hold her purse.” Oswalt III thought that was a great idea and authorized a sizable expenditure. Miss Bethany was pleased she would keep her job, and put Elizabeth in charge of all floor displays.

Oswalt III loved the look of the new mannequins, with their sleek unstaring faces, but could not bear to part with the old ones. “Save the old ones. I feel I know each one personally, and could not bear to see them go.” Oswalt II had grown up with them too, but was more pragmatic, since storage space was limited. “Save two dummies and all the heads.” So, the display heads were lined up on top shelves around the workroom, and the two old mannequins set in a nostalgic display.  A different set of feathers had been ruffled.

Elizabeth took her new position seriously, and could be found working late most nights. Displays were constantly being changed and mannequins dressed and redressed. No one could remember when the voices had started, but sometimes it seemed a violent argument could be heard coming from the display office. When one peeked their head in the door, only Elizabeth would be found, deep in concentration at some task. Miss Bethany was thrilled that Elizabeth had taken charge, it had made her life so much easier. When the voices started, she became concerned. The girls had always named the dummies, and she could only imagine how many different names those old mannequins must have had over the years. Even old Oswalt had his favorites, and called some of them by name. But Elizabeth had taken the relationship to a new level. Miss Bethany knew she talked to them, and swore she had heard them being asked for their advice. But try as hard as she might, she could not catch her. When she asked point-blank, Elizabeth smiled and said “Of course not, Silly!” Miss Bethany had never been called silly, but was not going to press the point, since she had been given a raise and was smart enough to know how she got it.  She also was not going to criticize the condition of the work room, which had gotten seemingly messier.

Suzanne in Children’s was the first to notice. Little things at first. A sweater here or skirt there askew on a dummy. Made right, it would be back that way the next day, exactly the same way. Then the switching started. Suzanne asked Mr. Silverleaf, in Men’s, if he had noticed anything strange, he said “Well I wasn’t going to say anything, but if you have seen it too.” They went over to Teen’s and checked with Jessica. Jessica suggested they talk to security, as it had to be happening at night. Mr. Kumar was not aware of any strange goings on, but agreed to have the night guy keep an eye on the displays.

When the mannequins in the windows started losing their clothes the whole store was on alert.  And then, the positions of the dummies started changing.

It was Eric who found her. The workroom was in shambles with heads strewn everywhere, their eyes pried out. Elizabeth was in the center staring down, her body shaking, calling their names.


The Challenge is by Editor Suzanne at Apoplectic Apostrophes: “This week’s sentence prompt, provided by last week’s winner, Bethany, must be used as the FIRST line in your piece.  Reference must also be made to the media prompt, a painting by Albrecht Dürer… Portrait of Oswalt Krel, who was a merchant for the Ravensburg House in Nuremberg from 1495 to 1503.”


To read other stories on this week’s prompt, go to… THE SPEAKEASY


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38 responses

  1. Most disturbing. Poor Elizabeth Grace! Reminds me a bit of the first episode of the revived Doctor Who series when all the shop dummies came to life. It was very scary. I have often thought about how I might get a mannequin to use in a photobooth series but don’t know who to ask. They are horribly expensive to buy, the old ones. I would like to have a room where “the display heads were lined up on top shelves”. I think it would look amazing!

  2. This was a difficult task for Elizabeth but she handled it well. And you did a good job with the prompts, Ali.

  3. Ted I’m sorry I wrote Ali instead of Ted.

  4. I think Elizabeth stepped into the Twilight Zone! Good story Ted.

  5. I once made a mannequin doll and put a key into her back to wind her up so she could accommodate her boyfriend, a clown in the same department store. So, I can really relate to your story.

  6. This was disturbing! (Mannequins already creeped me out before reading this!) The vision of the eyeless heads…. yikes….

  7. Yummy! Your writing is deliciously creepy and delightfully unsettling. Love it!

  8. Creative Brevity | Reply

    Really creepy and disturbing. Really unsettling 😮

  9. Having worked in Display and the bowels of dept stores, this was so real. Substituting hands of one with fresh nail polish for one with a broken finger. (but never a man’s hand..size and coloring would be an issue – someone would notice and make your life difficult…mittens/stuffed gloves could work in winter)
    It was a bit creepy as the new mannequins stepped into prized positions…we sold off some so they wouldn’t be staring staring staring.
    Well done

  10. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. You nailed it Ted. Oh Yeah.

  11. God when mannequins decide they want to rule! So scary. I’d hate to spend a single night in a store full of them, or even with their heads it’s so eerie. Great story, gave me the chills!

  12. Creepy and entertaining! And I love that you used so many recognizable names. Wonderfully creative take on the prompts, Ted! 🙂

  13. Spooky! I knew there was a reason mannequins creep me out. Love how you dealt with the Oswalt prompt. Great read.

  14. Yikes!That was a chillingly terrifying end!Enjoyed where you took it Ted 🙂

  15. That was chilling reading about the eyeless heads. Great take on the prompt! ♥

  16. Disturbingly funny, Ted! I liked how you snuck in all the names. Nice job!

  17. Oy! That’s a case of getting too deep into the work. This is actually chilling to me to see someone slowly losing their mind this way. An excellent character study!

  18. Awesome use of the prompts. I love that this story centers around mannequins – quirky and very creative. Karen

  19. […] first place we have Ted‘s story of an unfortunate young lady surrounded by mannequins. Ted does an excellent job of […]

  20. Congrats Ted first place wow! You certainly deserve it.

  21. […] favorites: #1 Ted Strutz for Of Course Not, Silly; #2 MamaMickTerry for Grow Shit, Write Shit; #3 Susan for Dead Dolly; and #4 James Bulls for […]

  22. […] use your tools wisely, right? This week’s sentence prompt, provided by last week’s winner, Ted, must be used as the LAST line in your piece. And the video prompt is a short film by Claude Sadik, […]

  23. […] use your tools wisely, right? This week’s sentence prompt, provided by last week’s winner,Ted, must be used as the LAST line in your […]

  24. […] am especially proud of two stories I have written recently… What’s in a Name? and Don’t be Silly… please read them and let me know what you think.  I think I’ll stick with […]

  25. I enjoyed this – nicely done

      1. Hey ted! I really like the mannequin image. Could I have your permission to use it? It may sound funny but I was thinking about printing it on my pants, I’m really into art and clothing.

      2. Okay by me, Jared… or I could say “Of course, Silly.”

  26. Reblogged this on TedBook and commented:

    Here’s a story I always liked…

  27. Great story I was left wanting more and the answer to that would be

  28. Good one, Ted. As usual. I remember this writing prompt! http://theabjectmuse.me/2016/11/27/dead-dolly/

  29. A truly awesome write, Ted. Still… 🙂

    1. Thank you, Susan. Where did Dead Dolly go?

      1. Dead Dolly is on the “featured” list. It’s on the home page of my blog.

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