by J.C. Martin
In The Doll, worst parent ever Joyce Parker takes her 6 year-old daughter Taylor to the Island of the Dolls in Mexico. For those of you not familiar with the Island of the Dolls, look at some of the pictures below and you'll see why Child Protective Services should have been called as soon as the kid began telling friends and family how she spent her summer vacation. The Island of the Dolls is, in fact, a real island in Mexico that is covered with hundred if not thousands of dolls and doll parts, and it has become quite the tourist hot spot in recent years. Even ignoring the folklore that the island is haunted, it surely has to be one of the creepiest places on the planet. If you are interesting in seeing more of this truly bizarre locale, Josh Gates of Syfy's Destination Truth visited the island in 2009 (Season 3: Episode 2). As far as I know, the show is still on Netflix.
Back to this short story/novelette. I think Martin did a great job with The Doll. The whole thing is just so damned strange, and it was high time someone did something creative with it. Martin handled it very well. As stated earlier, the story begins with the Parkers taking a guided tour of the island. Whilst exploring its creepiness, they enter a hut inside which is a black altar. Readers are later informed that this is an unholy sanctuary for the black magic religion of Palo Mayombe, a dark derivative of Latin American Santeria. The number one rule when touring the Island of the Dolls is to never ever touch the dolls, and of course Taylor sneaks one home (in case we needed more evidence not to bring a 6 year-old here). Unexplainable phenomena begin happening not long after the Parkers return home, and I will leave it to the reader to uncover the rest.
The Doll was a delightfully creepy and unsettling story. Martin did a great job in capturing that old fashioned ghost story vibe to where, as I was reading at about 1 in the morning, I fervently hoped I wouldn't hear a noise through my daughter's baby monitor. I also need to commend Martin on her research. I knew a little about the Island of the Dolls from watching Destination Truth and some online reading, and what I read in this story seemed spot on. She also gave some background about Santeria and Palo Mayombe (without being tedious about it) that I found very informative. The one area I somewhat question is the opening premise of the story. I had trouble suspending my disbelief that someone would ever take such a young child to such a traumatizing place and then consistently display such an inability to tell that child no, and I don't mean no as in "No, you can't have candy before bed"; I mean no as in "No, don't touch that decrepit doll that's been sitting outside on a trouble island for years and is surrounded by black candles." I know, I know, this is a story about black magic and ghosts, and bad parenting is the thing I take issue with as unbelievable? Yep. However, this is not enough to seriously affect the story. Overall this is a fantastic read.