In a small town like Woodsburrow, a mall opening up is a big thing. The whole town generally gets in on the whole ordeal and rumors of all kinds begin to spread about the building both good and bad and the new owner is usually the main target of these rumors more often than none. This time was no exception especially when the owner was a tall crooked kind of man with greying skin that hung loosely from a boney frame. The most striking feature however, were the man’s yellow eyes that seemed to gleam in greedy luster whenever anyone made a purchase. Many of the neighborhood boys took to calling him a monster man, and Jerry Tanner was one such kid.
He knew something was up with that old geezer, and he was determined to figure out exactly what and prove it to the rest of the town. Armed with only his mother’s expensive Kodak he strolled lively through the large glass doors as if he were simply another patron longing for a simple look over the wares this new placed possessed. The boy seemed to pull it off well too, because not one person seemed too curious as to why he was there. In Jerry’s eyes that was a good and sneaky feet worthy of some recommendation from his peers. He would have to be sure to include his feet when he told his story to the public. Coming to a sports store Jerry paused to shut down the camera he had been holding up at the ready. He let the clunky object slide from his fingers and bounce, on the lanyard hanging around his neck. There in the large window stood a purely white, faceless mannequin.
The mannequin stood in a batters pose holding the newest name brand bat and wearing the newest version of the small town’s baseball uniform. As he gazed up at it a shiver traveled up his spine. The chalky, empty face seemed to be staring him down as if it knew what the slender brunette was planning on doing later when the mall would close. It knew what this naughty boy was going to unravel. It knew how bad this would be for the mall. Somehow that thing knew all of this, Jerry decided, silently backing away. He had always been creeped out by these things in every other store but, this time it was more than the simple creepy feeling and for a moment he contemplated not going through with his plan.
“Damn creepy things aren’t they?” Spoke an unknown and unseen voice. It was a tad gruff and filthy with age much like the kind of voice you would think your grandfather having. It held a snicker and a cracking cackle that made the boy think of something dusty and ancient. He swallowed hard as he turned slowly to greet the voices owner. “Something wrong, lad?” The grey brow of the mall’s owner was raised above his lid showing a confused look but a crooked grin as he peered down at the young boy before him.
“Nothing, sir,” Jerry answered quickly straightening up. “I was just looking around, that’s all.” He put on the best show of innocence he could muster and smiled sweetly. This display was convincing enough, he was sure of it. He watched as the old gaze traveled over him as if this old crone of a man was studying him like he was some sort of merchandise he was going to buy. It was making Jerry more than just uncomfortable now and he was longing to scream at the old geezer to back off but, his throat closed up tightly preventing even a little squeak of desperation from escaping.
“Are yawl into baseball sunny?” The owner asked breaking the silence. He smiled another crooked grin and crossed his withered old arms over his chest. Jerry merely nodded still unable to speak a word. He also forced himself to muster up a small grin of his own to show the old man. “You plan on buying something at my new mall? Or are ya just browsing ‘round there?” He cocked his head to one side studying the boy further.
“I may buy something,” the young lad finally replied. His voice was high and cracking in his nervousness and Jerry wondered if he sounded believable enough anymore. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the old guy took him by the arm and tossed him out. In fact it was partly to be expected. Not very many eleven year old kids could have gotten as far as he did without a parent by his side in this town. Even if he didn’t succeed tonight he could always return tomorrow night and try again.
“Is that so,” the old male cackled lively. “Golly gee sonny boy lighten up a lil would ya. I ain’t gonna do you no harm. Just getting ta know my guest’s lil bit, that’s all.” He laughed again and Jerry found his tense muscles begin to loosen bit. “You’re a pretty up tight lil fellow,” the man continued. “Let‘s get your name there lad.”
“Wallis,” Jerry lied. “My friends call me Wally for short…because I am sorta short.” He gave a small nervous laugh and took another step back.
“Yawl can call me Richard,” the old gentleman exclaimed eagerly and reached out to put a wrinkly hand on top of the boys head. Jerry flinched a little but stood perfectly still even though his pounding heart was telling him to run away. “You know of them young wipper snappers that have been messing around outside my store?” Richard’s voice suddenly became much darker. “I know it wasn’t a good lil boy like you but, perhaps ya can point out who did it? I have a nice reward for the fellow that can turn ‘em in.”
Jerry knew the group of kids he was talking about. In fact, Jerry knew them quite well. They were his class mates and good buddies. Now Jerry himself never took part in there subtle little attacks on this new building but he was there when they happened. It was mostly stuff like rock throwing, garbage dumping, and even a little graffiti on the far wall close to the dumpster but, nothing really major enough to get anybody hurt. “Sorry sir,” he replied with a shrug. “I don’t know who it was but, I’ll be sure to keep both my eyes open and I’ll let you know.” He nodded to seal the lie.
“Good lad,” Richard chimed and ruffled the boy’s hair a bit before removing his hand. His eyes drew downwards then to land on Jerry’s sneakers. “Don’t believe I sell those in here,” he proclaimed strongly changing the subject. “Those look like something from a big bad ol’ city.” Jerry nodded.
“They are sir,” He exclaimed gazing down at his own feet. “They’re the new Cross Trainer Deluxe with a spring heal for extra bounce when you make a jump.” Jerry had begun to grow excited just then. He was the type of kid that truly enjoyed showing off to others but this was no time for that. The thin boy stopped talking almost immediately and looked up at the mall owner with a blank expression. “They are my favorite thing sir.” Richard gave one final chuckle before turning his back to the boy. Without another word he slumped away.
The rest of the day went by without a hitch. Jerry was very careful not to let the owner catch him again. The man was as creepy as they come and he didn’t want any part of him for the rest of his life. He slipped in and out of stores looking for the right place to hide until closing time. No place seemed good enough until Jerry came to an unmarked door. It wasn’t shiny and new like all the others he had seen. This door seemed to be ages old and possessed an old fashioned handle and lock. Giving a quick look around to make sure nobody was looking he stretched out his hand and gripped the rust handle. It almost felt as though it would fall apart in his hand. Taking a deep breath he turned and pulled. To Jerry’s surprise it creaked open slowly. It looks like the old man forgot to lock it, the boy thought and hurried inside shutting the heavy old door behind him.
Inside, all was dark. Pitch black with not a single hint of light. Jerry could smell a heavy damp smell much like old dirt that had been soaked in still water for weeks and never cleaned up. He coughed once before holding a hand over his nose and mouth. He was even more certain now that he wouldn’t be found here. It smelled like no one had come into this room since the place was built. Running his hand along the wall, Jerry began to feel along the filthy wall for a light switch. He cringed as his fingers hit something gooey. “Nasty,” he declared out loud before finding and flipping the light switch.
Blank, white faces stared at him from every angle. Hands, arms, legs, and torso’s sat in boxes piled high on shelves and out of the way. Dust and mold covered the corners of the walls and floors and a single chair and desk could be seen amongst the clutter. Newspapers lay about everywhere carpeting the floor and the desk top. Jerry swallowed hard as he took a step back against the door. This was the last place he expected to be. Still, it would make a good hiding place. There were plenty of small spots to squeeze into if someone came in. Giving a sigh, he stepped forward to the desk, and then something caught his eye.
“Three Missing in Wellington County,” read the headline. Jerry swallowed as he read another headline. “Five Go Missing!” He turned his body around slowly catching several more headlines. “New Mall Opens in Pennington, Two Children Missing, Six Folks Vanish, Old Mall Owner Suspected, No Leads in Case, New Mall to be Demolished.” He swallowed again and turned back to the desk. Lots of missing people, and the Mall tied into it all. This was the kind of scoop Jerry had been waiting for. He was sure the people of his small town would be a tad suspicious about these. He gathered up several papers, rolled them up and shoved them into his pockets. He just needed a bit more evidence now.
The rest of the day passed on slowly. Jerry read through more papers to pass the time and found a nice little hiding spot behind a stack of boxes when old man Richard came to check on the storeroom before flipping the lights out and closing up the mall. The hidden boy let out a sigh of frustration as he crept through the blackness toward the door. He stumbled several times over boxes and such before reaching his desired destination. Flipping the lock, he pushed open the old door.
Dim lights from emergency lights lit the empty mall. Jerry could see all the pale mannequins lining the darkened store windows looking inward to their empty stores as if somebody had turned them all before the placed closed. Taking a deep breath Jerry stepped out of the room and let the door close loudly behind him. He knew from previous stakeouts that the old mall owner never had a night guard posted. This was a peculiar thing indeed and told Jerry that this man definitely had something to hide.
Creeping across the slick floor, the young lad made his way down to the first level. He would start his search there. It seemed to be the most logical place to start and it would appear the easiest since most of the stores on that level were smaller less known then those of the upper levels. Jerry gave an exhale as he ran down the stopped escalator and to the main entrance then he spun around, his back to the door and started to walk forward ever so slowly. He kept is eyes sharp and his head composed as he held up his camera at the ready. The empty structure seemed to grow in size now that all the parishioners were safely at home in bed.
A sudden crash made Jerry jump. He spun around in a circle looking for the source of the noise but, all that greeted him was silence. He swallowed again and his brave hands began to shake. Perhaps the old man hadn’t gone home after all. Or worse yet, perhaps there finally was a guard posted. The boy tried to regain his composure as he searched for a much more pleasant explanation for the crashing sound. “Ah!” he said finally a smirk coming to his lips. “Probably a fellow classmate who has the same intentions as I.” He chuckled at the thought and began to walk around once more.
The eery silence seemed to grow around him now and Jerry started to wonder if his efforts were in vain. Everything was normal so far, aside from the loud crash that had taken place and Jerry was still nervous about that. He continued to tell himself that he would soon run into one of his buddies and they would have a big laugh but, the truth was that whole experience had really unnerved him and he was trying his hardest to rationalize it and be as brave as he thought he was.
Jerry had only been on the move for no more then a mere second when he heard another disturbing noise. This one sounded like a low scratching sound at first but quickly escalated to a high, obnoxious one. The boy stopped in his tracks and covered his ears until he noise broke. He looked back up and surveyed his surroundings once more. Again it all looked normal and again he continued on his way.
Jerry searched the rest of the floor then moved on to the next. This one had stores that were indeed much more exciting then the first but, still nothing to really grab a young boys attention. Nonetheless, he began to look around as he had been. The only thing that really peeked his curiosity even a little were the mannequins. The pale, faceless objects were all turned inward staring into the dark stores. This struck him as more then odd. Had the old man turned them all before he left? And if so, why had he gone through all that trouble if he was going to have them all turned the correct way in the morning? It made little to no sense at all and rightly confused him entirely. Still, he guessed it was a relief not to see them looking out at him faces, or no faces.
Giving a sigh, Jerry drug his feet as he walked. All this searching was making him tired, and hungry. He turned the corner just in time to see the food court come into view. It was darker then the rest of the mall had been and seemed way more creepy. Keeping his wits about him the young boy quickly ran through court and hopped over the counter of a pizza place. He made his way to the back where a large freezer stood. He then pulled from it a couple slices of cold pizza. They had already been cooked and weren’t yet frozen. Jerry didn’t mind at all, since he wouldn’t be able to even consider using the monstrous oven to heat it up. Making his way back out, pizza, in hand he glanced over to the corner as he was about to hop over the counter when he saw it. A faceless, human form of a mannequin.
He gasped in shock dropping the pizza on the floor. It hadn’t been there before, had it? No, he was sure of it. Not a human shaped anything had been behind the counter with him. Jerry could feel his heart pounding in his chest like an old drum. He wanted to move. He wanted to run from it but, his feet were frozen to the floor. They refused to move. His eyes were locked on it. On that place where a face should have been. It seemed to be looking right through him. It wanted him. It wanted to hurt him, he knew it. Regaining his composure, Jerry moved quickly. He jumped over the counter and took off in a small sprint out of the food court and did not stop until he had made it to the other side of the mall.
Falling against the wall he panted, gripping his chest. Everything had gone blurry and now he needed support to stand. Jerry closed his eyes and tried to breath in slowly. After a few short minutes he opened them again and stood up straight. He was surrounded by trinket shops, and some hip clothing stores. All of which had mannequins in their windows facing inward. Jerry held his breath and looked down. It was then that he noticed his untied shoelace. Quickly he bent down to tie it. He had had enough. This place was more than creepy and a young boy had know business in such a place. He wanted to hit himself on the head for even wanted to do this. It was a stupid idea that hadn’t ever had hopes of succeeding. Finishing the bow he stood up again and gasped in horror. Every mannequin he could see was turned to look outwards. There empty faces staring right at him.
“N..No,” he stuttered backing up against the wall. “They can’t be.” He wanted to run again. He wanted to get the hell out of there but, the sheer disbelief of what was happening and the facts that were presenting themselves had caused him to go into a panic. He began to choke on his breath and his body began to shake as his muscles weighed themselves down. “Not alive. They can’t be alive.” He watched in fearful anguish as the humanesque forms stepped down from their stands. He began to sob as they moved out the stores, and he sank to his knees as they moved towards him. “Please NO!” he cried out loud and grabbed hold of his backpack flinging it back and fourth around him in hopes of pushing back the approaching mob. “Stay away! Don’t come near me!” This couldn’t be real. It had to be a nightmare, it just had to be. Mannequins didn’t move on their own.
Closing his eyes for a moment, the boy tried to picture himself at home in bed but, when he opened them again he found to his dismay that he was still there. Screaming wildly he charged with his back pack swinging in hopes of making a small hole in the mob. They were only mannequins after all and therefore only hollow plastic. They were light and easy to lift, making them good for quick transportation. That’s what he had noticed this morning. Knocking into one he was surely expecting to send it flying but, was shocked to find it as hard as stone. It swung an arm at him but, Jerry launched himself away just in time. That’s it, there was nowhere else to go. The way was cut off. Crying out to the crowd of menacing mannequins Jerry backed up to the wall, begging an pleading, swinging his backpack for dear life.
The pale, plastic figures stepped closer and outstretched their arms. They reached far ahead with wide open hands ready to grab the malls intruder. Good little boys stayed home in bed. Good little boys respected their elders, and good little boys didn’t steal from the hard working citizens. Bad little boys did punishable things. Bad little boys threatened to expose secrets that were meant to be kept hidden, and it was bad little boys that never minded their own business. Within seconds, Jerry’s backpack was grabbed and torn away from his sweaty hands and the defenseless boy was set upon by the faceless brigade.
A young woman stepped lively into the mall. She hadn’t been able to come and see it yet because of a bad stomach bug. Feeling well today however, she decided it would be as good a time as any to visit the new building. Her pocket armed with cash she strolled up to a clothing store. A new outfit was just the thing she had been wanting. Entering through the sleek, glass door she observed a fiercely old gentleman fixing a blank faced head onto a small, child-like mannequin. He turned briefly to smile and nod a hello to her before standing.
“Having a sale on children’s clothing miss,” he said in a leathery tone and picked up something wrapped in cloth. “Just head on that way.”
“I’m not really looking for children’s clothes,” the woman admitted. “But, thank you anyway.” She offered a sweet smile as the man nodded once more and turned to leave.
“Well have a good day then,” he replied and pushed open the glass door. With a single step he stumbled sending the object in his hands falling to the floor. It spun around in the cloth before rolling out to reveal the plastic head of a young boy, his face curved into a horrific scream.