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Warning

The dolls appeared one by one.
Like little critters, they made random appearances in different rooms. They left traces of their presence when they disappeared. An antique lace ruffle, a tiny glove, a small shoe.
When I found the photo, it was a dark and stormy night.
The power had gone out and I went to the attic with a flashlight to find an oil lamp. Under the base, I found the picture.
A turn-of-the-century couple stood around five dolls -- two the size of nine- and ten-year-olds, three the size of toddlers. Four looked non-descript and placid, like dolls should.
One peeked over the shoulder of a woman facing away from the camera. The woman wore a full length, sequenced gown and showed only the profile of a haughty face.
The doll's evil look gave me chills -- her pretty face contorted into a sadistic grin. The white dress seemed out of place, given her devilish demeanor.
She'd given me that look before.
I jumped at a crack of thunder, but remained transfixed by the picture. It's odd contents created a running string of possibilities in my head.
The man in the picture, dressed in a tuxedo, kept a hand on the shoulder of the largest doll, as if to say, "Don't move now." This doll seemed to sit patiently with a lacey bib, prim posture and a thoughtful smile.
The old home I'd moved into was built in the 1800s. The owner was renovating it, restoring its former glory.
And disturbing its ghosts in the process.
As I stared at the photograph, rain began to pour outside and a creak startled me.
I turned to find little Sylvia glaring at me from the doorway. She was not sitting like usual. She stood. I swear her head moved down as she glared harder.
As I fled the house into the storm, I left the photograph with a single caption -- "Warning."

This photo was the inspiration for "Warning."
Creepy, right? Yikes. Still gives me the chills. 

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