I’d been working maintenance for a few years by the time I got done with college, mostly just garbage pick-up and stuff like that at apartment complexes my dad was in charge of in central Arizona. Pay was okay and I got my own little place where I was living with my girlfriend. It was all pretty good in its own right, but I wasn’t making too terribly much and we’d never been able to take a vacation or anything on our own.
Me: Sounds good but I'm guessing something goes very wrong.
It was on a Wednesday when I saw an ad in my city newspaper for a pool boy in a little place a few miles out of town for almost twice what I was making doing all the other maintenance work I already was. I almost immediately called the number the paper mentioned and was greeted by a calm sounding man, probably in his mid-forties. When I inquired about the job he seemed to become even happier and we set up a meeting time.
Me: Must be nice to be rich. Can I be rich please? I'm so over being poor. If you let me be rich I'll try to stop being such a bitch.
That Saturday we met at his place, a big, open house with lots of windows and all the latest appliances. He seemed to be a pretty nice guy, rich too, obviously. When I asked why he was offering so much just to monitor his pool, he replied that he had just let his last guy go and his pool always needed surveillance because he had a young daughter and she had a lot of friends, that sort of thing.
Me: Sounds good so far but I'm guessing things start getting strange soon. I'm good at guessing.
I accepted the job almost instantly and was gladly up at his place right after my two week notice passed at my dad’s. Work was pretty smooth for the first few weeks, my new employer being much more understanding of circumstances than my old man was allowed to be, due to rules and regulations every employee had to follow at his complex - I could go in and cool off when it seemed too hot outside, he always kept his fridge stocked with water, it all seemed exceedingly comfortable.
Me: Don't be so judgey. All boob jobs are not the same. Did it ever occur to you that someone needs to get that surgery after losing the real ones to cancer?
I would occasionally make small talk with the maid. She couldn’t speak English very well, but one day when I asked her, she told me the boss was a cosmetic surgeon, obviously a very wealthy one at that. As a personal rule, I’m generally against that kind of stuff and admittedly grimaced at the prospect of working for someone whose money came from boob jobs. Still, he seemed like a nice, settled in family man, and the pay was good, so I let it be.
Me: Oh please we all snoop. Admit it. Embrace it. Just don't get caught doing anything too bizarre and you'll be fine.
About two months in I was clearing some sand and other sorts of residue out of the bottom of the pool, faintly hearing the sound of a piano inside. The doc’s window was wide open and he was overseeing his daughter practicing. I try not to snoop, but work was taking longer than expected and the music was pleasant until it suddenly stopped. I could hear the doc calmly explaining to the daughter what she did wrong, but in an instant she was screaming at him that she wanted to stop.
Me: Hey I'm big Barbie.
It hadn’t occurred to me until then that she had been playing the entire morning. This in mind, I couldn’t help but listen in just a little over the sound of my pool vacuum. He started shouting and threatening to ground her, to take her dolls away. I caught something that I didn’t quite understand, something about her “big Barbie” or something like that. When I began to hear the music again I went back to cleaning out the pool, trying to forget what I had just heard.
Though I tried to make good on this attempt, I decided I’d be on the watch for this kind of thing in the future. I know parents snap at their children and all, but if this turned into abuse, someone was going to hear about it.
Sometime thereafter, I was inside getting a drink when I got a good look at a photo on the refrigerator I had never noticed before, showing the doctor, his daughter and two other women, one in her forties or fifties and the other a teenager. Judging by the doc’s youngest daughter, it looked fairly recent. I asked the maid about it, and in the best broken English she could give me, she said the older woman was the doctor’s wife, the younger, his older daughter.
Me: Dead or divorced. Do you not have a brain?
I hated to keep asking questions, given her difficulty speaking to me, but I pressed on just a little more to ask why I never saw them around. Now with difficulty not only speaking but recalling, she told me the doctor’s daughter was killed in a car crash a year ago, his wife killed herself shortly thereafter. This shocked and horrified me, and suddenly I couldn’t help but feel a new sense of compassion for the doctor and his daughter.
Me: I could use some hydrating. Why does water have to be so bad?
Soon as I was hydrated, I went right back to work, wondering if I’d ever seen much sign of grief from the two. Maybe that’s why the doctor was so uptight about some things with his daughter, maybe that’s why she clung to her toys the way she did (I cleaned out bits of Barbie toys from the pool on what seemed like a weekly basis). It was a lot to take in.
Time went on and my work continued. I had never imagined doing what I did as a year around job. I used to live in the Midwest, pools usually closed around Labor Day, but down here they were open all the time and the doc’s kid and her friends just kept coming over.
Me: Where would you keep it? In the kitchen?
One day, doing my usual work, I noticed a large splotch at the bottom of the pool for what must have been the third time. I was irritated and reluctantly accepted normal chlorine wasn’t going to do the trick, I had to shock the thing (use a form of “super choline”, several times stronger than the average stuff). I checked the doc’s notes and they did indeed confirm that he had some of the stuff I needed, it was kept in the basement. Seemed like an odd place for it but I digress, maybe it was to keep it out of his daughter’s hands.
Me: Maybe big Barbie is responsible for the weird splotch in the pool.
Speaking of the doc’s daughter, my eye caught her and a couple of her friends about to jump in the water. I had to shout at them to stop and she threw a fit at me for doing so. I just figured the splotch in the pool would be a bacterial breeding ground, I was not letting little kids in it.
Me: Why are you asking where the basement is? Aren't they usually downstairs? Am I missing something?
I found my maid friend again and, now frantic to make the pool clean for the boss’s daughter, asked her where the basement was. She responded with a confused look. I tried several other phrases, my high school Spanish long lost, until she recognized the word “Cellar”. She led me outside after I mentioned it and pointed me to a dingy little trapdoor in the ground connected to the house right next to the hose. I had never noticed it there before, and it was tightly bound with what appeared to be shiny new chains, very little dirt on them.
Me: This isn't the least bit strange.
I tried to ask her how I was supposed to open it, but we both lacked the vocabulary to communicate properly. I was about to bitterly accept defeat, leave the doc a note and tell him to not worry about paying me that day until his daughter walked up to me. She said she had a key to the cellar. I was confused by this right from the get go, and even more so when she mentioned I couldn’t tell her dad that she did, but I wanted to get back to work, so I agreed to her conditions.
Me: Why are your toys down here? Oh maybe she has the key so she can get her toys when Daddy takes them away. Maybe you'll meet big Barbie.
I was in the dimly lit cellar a few minutes later as she shouted at me to not play with any of her toys.
Why did she have toys down here? Was this where the doc kept her stuff when she was in trouble? Was that why she wasn’t supposed to have a key?
I fumbled around in the dark for a while, the light from outside only helping me so much, desperately looking for a light switch. As I continued to wander around, I ultimately felt myself pushing up against something. It felt like a wall, but there was no weight behind it. Not entirely sure what I was doing, I pushed against it and suddenly toppled into another passage.
Confused, disoriented and growing increasingly frightened, I felt around for a switch again and quickly found one on the wall. Despite the short time I had spent in the cellar, I was briefly blinded when I switched the thing on.
But more so when I got a good look at the room.
Me: The land of Barbie. I think I have more claim to the color pink than Lisa Vanderpump after all I have the same name as Barbie.
That was not just some dingy cellar I had walked into, the thing extended beneath the house and was filled, to my shock and slight disturbance, with oversized pink and while furniture. My jaw was agape as I searched around, finding a fully functioning bathroom, den, everything. The rooms were much smaller than they had been upstairs, but they were still comparable to a decent hotel’s.
Me: Does it really matter why?
Why on earth did the doctor have all this down here?
Me: Where big Barbie lives I presume.
I wandered through just a little more, too shocked by what I had seen to turn back, when I came upon a bedroom. Of course everything was still pink and huge and this room even included a closet full of clothes, but the most notable feature present was what appeared to be a giant cardboard box sitting in the room’s center. In sloppy handwriting the box read, “My favorite Barbie.”
Me: Just get the chlorine and go.
I didn’t want to open the box. I swore at myself for dropping down and grabbing the bottom of the cardboard cube, my conscious screaming to put the damn thing down and find whatever I had come for, I couldn’t even remember anymore. But I just had to know what all this was for.
I wish I’d never taken that job. I wish I’d never gone into that cellar. I wish I’d never opened that fucking box.
Me: Say hello to big Barbie.
I screamed and scrambled away the instant I saw what I did. Standing before me, at almost my exact height was a Barbie doll.
I struggled to catch my breath as I stared at the thing. I was full of doubt Mattel had made anything like this, but the likeness was nearly perfect to the dolls I’d been seeing around the house. Her eyes were wide open and green, she had long blonde hair and bright pink lips smiling. Still trying to take it in, I noticed the doll was naked. It had oversized breasts without any nipples, and that seemingly impossible figure that led down to a solid patch of skin where the genitals would be.
Heart pounding, I noticed something along the doll’s back. I slowly went behind it to take a look, seeing a large, bulbous thing sticking out of its back, almost like a button. Letting curiosity defeat me once again, I gently pressed it.
Me: Are you going to run or hang out with the creepy doll until she kills you?
The doll screamed in a shrill voice. I ran from it towards the door, not even so much shocked by the scream as what I had felt.
I had touched flesh.
No, I thought, that was impossible! This thing appeared to gleam like plastic a moment ago! That wasn’t real!
Me: Don't just stand there you idiot.
But as I continued to back away, my fears were confirmed. I could see the doll’s chest expanding and contracting.
The doll was breathing.
The doll was real.
My jaw was dropped, tears starting to well up in my eyes. This was not happening. What the fuck was I even looking at?!
Me; I'm thinking the syringe is for you not for Barbie.
Struggling to accept all that was before me, I darted around the moment I could hear footsteps over my pounding heart. There was the doctor, just a few feet behind me, holding a syringe.
Me: I bet you have fun down here Doc.
“Well then,” he muttered, “I guess you found our playroom.”
I gently slid a hand into my pocket as I screamed that he tell me what was going on. Ensuring he couldn’t see, I managed to worm my cell phone out of my pocket.
Without a hint of sadness or remorse in his voice, the doctor told his tale, chilling me to the bone as I managed to trigger the video camera on my phone.
The doctor told me that he desired the same thing any other parent does, to have the perfect child. He told me how though it all seemed to be going well with his older daughter, she started to rebel in her teenage years. Her grades started to slip in high school and he caught her having sex on the living room couch. He was so overwhelmed by her misbehavior he was ready to give up on her entirely.
He told me he was convinced if he pampered his younger daughter, surely she would behave right. A Christmas before last he asked her what she wanted. She said she wanted a big Barbie doll that could do anything she told it to and that would play with her all the time.
Me: So you turned your older daughter into a life size Barbie because she dared to have the sex like many other teens do?
The doctor told me how he spent a month and a half planning what he’d do, planning how to pamper his younger and punish his older.
“My wife found out at one point… All for the best though. I was planning on just bringing some fat and collagen home from work, but I think she worked out much more smoothly.”
Me: Dude you are seriously fucked up. What happened to the other pool guy? Did you turn him into big Ken?
He told how he staged the disappearance of his daughter while he sedated and put her under the knife. He spent over a week getting everything just right before he surprised his younger daughter with the playmate she always wanted.
“In exchange for just being my perfect little angel.”
My jaw was slack, too horrified of it all to move.
Why was he going on and on? Was he bragging about this disgusting accomplishment? He talked and talked, about how she’d been living off juices and purees he made, how her eyes were glass and hand painted, how he’d tried to just leave in the originals but she cried too much and her younger pointed out her toy didn’t blink, and how she had little chips throughout her body that would give her a brutal shock if she used her vocal chords and you didn’t press the button first.
“You’re going to fry you sick son of a bitch!” I shouted. “You… What the fuck is wrong with you?!”
Me: Uh oh.
“Well of course I wouldn’t tell you all this if I was going to let you leave,” he said with a smile. “I’ve needed a matching Ken doll you know.”
I tried to swallow, but my mouth was too dry.
Me: Oh sure he's going to cooperate and allow himself to be turned into freaking Ken.
“Now, come here and take your medicine!”
He was unexpectedly strong and managed to tackle me quickly, knocking the phone out of my hand. The needle came deathly close, but despite the momentary advantage, I had the weight edge to force him off of me and grab my phone.
Much as I wanted to help the poor, mutilated girl, I had to save myself first, running fast as I could out of the basement and to my car. Fast as I’ve ever driven in my life I pulled out of the doctor’s driveway and slammed the gas the moment I shifted into drive. About a minute later I could hear the sound of a shotgun firing in the distance. I managed to make it back into town, cars everywhere, long before I saw anything of the doctor in my rearview.
Me: Tone down the crazy and just report abuse.
I pulled into the police station and flipped open my phone, searching out the evidence to incarcerate the insane bastard, only to find my SD card had been destroyed when he tackled me. I had nothing to give the police but my testimony, and even in my head I knew it was too mad to be true.
I drove to my parent’s place that night, the house empty, I assuming they were gone on a date or something, searched around in my dad’s room and found his revolver.
I don’t remember much more of the night, but my girlfriend tells me I was extremely on edge, constantly looking out the window.
Three days after my horrifying discovery, I drove back to the house, armed, ready to pay the doctor back for his crime against humanity. When I arrived however the house was entirely abandoned. No sign of anyone anywhere, and when I checked the horrors of the cellar, the “doll” and its box were gone.
I found one of the doctor’s business cards while snooping and made a call to his office that night. The receptionist said he had left on a very short notice with no real explanation.
That was about a year ago. I’ve spent I don’t know how many nights sleepless with what I had experienced in this basement.
Me: Will you ever look or think about a Barbie the same way after reading this?
I am only mentioning this now because on a Yahoo.com’s newsfeed, I found an article about a pool boy in southern Florida mysteriously disappearing. In the video attached, there were tearful testimonies from his family and his employer, speaking all the while with his daughter within audible range, bragging to her friends that she was getting a Ken doll for her favorite Barbie.
Me: Barbara Desmond