One of the great joys of being fully vaccinated is that I can now babysit my infant nephew. In my quest to be a fun aunt, I picked up a small selection of toys to have on hand. Unfortunately, I accidentally brought home a toy that could have played a staring roll in “Ghostbusters.” That’s right, I’m talking about a toy that’s haunted.
All of the toys I bought are innocuous except for one. The stacking cups? Totally fine. The rattle ball? Completely normal. The fabric book? It squeaks when it’s supposed to squeak. But then there’s the battery-operated ball, and that thing is scary.
I should have known not to buy it when it came to life, unprompted, at the store. It started barking at me as I walked to the register. “What the heck?” I double-checked the box.
“Can you press the dog?” it asked.
I didn’t press the dog, but I did read the instructions, which said that it was for ages 6-36 months. “Perfect,” I thought. Plus, the price was right since it was on sale. “I can handle some barking,” I thought to myself. I placed the ball on the counter.
“Keep your eyes on us,” it said. “You’ll never know where we’ll roll.”
“Let’s turn this off,” said the store clerk, reaching for it quickly. She rang up my purchase and sent me away in a hurry.
I came home and washed all of the toys. “Meow meow,” said the ball. “I’m a red cat.”
“Did I accidentally hit the button?” I asked.
“Catch me, catch me if you can,” it answered.
“I better turn this off.” I put down the rag. But by then it was quiet again, so I didn’t bother.
A few moments later, music played and lights flashed. “Here I go, watch me roll,” it announced, followed by maniacal clown laughter.
“Off! Off! Off!” This time I didn’t mess around and made sure I clicked the button. But still, I looked at it warily. Sometimes with possessed toys, the off button doesn’t work.
I learned that lesson 16 years ago from my sister-in-law when she gave my son a hand-me-down fire engine from his cousin. “I need to warn you,” she had told me. “This toy is possessed.”
“I’m sure it will be fine,” I had said, showing my naivety as a new parent. Boy, was I wrong.
The fire engine would come alive in the middle of the night when everyone was sound asleep. Sirens, lights, fire fighters blaring instructions — that thing had a mind of its own.
“How’s the fire engine working out for you?” my sister-in-law asked, the next time she saw me.
“Great,” I told her. “I gave it to Grandma and Grandpa to keep at their house.”
Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.