Lost in the Twilight Zone Marathon | S2 Ep 2 | The Patient and the Talking Doll

Seasonal depression. Dr. Sims always gets a bump in clients this time of year, and although she admits she’s had strange cases, never has a woman brought her husband in for…

“What was it that you did again?” she asks as she hits Record on the tape player. Most therapists don’t record sessions these days, but Dr. Sims is old-fashioned, even down to the vintage tape player she paid a fortune for on Amazon. She likes to feel closer to her patients. After each session, she replays the tapes and listens for audible cues she might have missed when she was paying more attention to patients’ physical mannerisms.

This man scratches the crown of his balding head, fidgets on the sofa, and repeatedly glances over his shoulder as if fearful that someone or something has followed him.

“Your wife is waiting outside in the lobby.” Dr. Sims leans forward and lightly touches his bouncing knee. “She won’t hear what we talk about today,” she assures him.

This seems to relax him but only temporarily, as he quickly tenses and resumes the shakes when he confesses to what has his wife so concerned for his mental sanity.

“I tried to murder a doll.”

a man holds his head while sitting on a sofa
Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

“You tried to murder a doll,” Dr. Sims repeats. She inhales and holds it in as she tries to decipher what this could possibly mean.

“You don’t understand. She spoke to me.”

“Well, some toys do have speakers inside of them that allows them to—”

“I know that, but she said things no doll should say.”

“Like what?” Dr. Sims sits back, crosses one leg over the other, and scribbles “mental breakdown?” in her notepad.

He waits until she’s finished writing before he answers, “She said she was going to kill me.”

“So you thought you’d kill her first?” Dr. Sims checks her notes. Yes, that was the reason for Mrs. Streator’s frantic voicemail in the middle of the night—the wails of a child heard in the background. Mr. Streator had taken a blowtorch to the doll’s head.

“But she didn’t die!” he continues. “I’ve tried everything!”

“These days, they try not to make children’s toys flammable.” Dr. Sims says flatly.

He shakes his head and looks at her desk behind her. Next to her nameplate is a framed family portrait of Dr. Sims, her wife Brenda, and their daughter Grace from their trip to the state fair last fall.

“How do you think this has affected your relationship with your daughter?” Dr. Sims asks.

“She’s not my kid. I inherited a child when I married her mother.”

Hmm, she’s struck a nerve. Dr. Sims writes “stepdad syndrome” next to “mental breakdown?” and crosses out “possibly work-related?” It’s not often that she gets to the root of the problem so quickly in the first session, especially with the oddness of this case, but Dr. Sims has been doing this for a long time. Now as she watches his nervous ticks, his tendency to avoid eye contact whenever she asks a direct question about his wife and daughter, he shows all the signs of a man looking for an escape.

“So you would say you never wanted kids?”

“That your family?” he asks.

Dr. Sims glances behind her at the photo. “Yes,” she answers.

“Your kid?”



Dr. Sims hesitates at this question. She doesn’t make it a habit of inviting patients into her home life. Having too close of a relationship with a patient can backfire when the patient puts the burden of them getting well solely on the therapist and the future of their personal relationship. Dr. Sims has colleagues who have lost patients because of this. She only turned the picture to face where the patient sits to appeal to the family man inside him. Now she fears it may have become a distraction.

“For all intents and purposes, she is mine,” Dr. Sims finally answers. “Just as your daughter is yours.”

“She has a dad, and I shouldn’t be made responsible for her.”

“She’s in your custody the majority of the time, is she not?”

Beginning to sweat, he drags his hand down the length of his face, stopping at his chin and stretching out his jaw. “Look,” he says, “I thought we were here to talk about the doll.”

“Actually,” Dr. Sims starts, “we’re here to get to the bottom of how it is possible that you were able to hear a doll—which I can most assuredly tell you cannot speak on its own—not only speak on its own but say such troubling things to you, such as ‘I’m going to kill you.’ A doll, by the way, that your daughter cherishes and was devastated when you ripped it out of her arms and tried to destroy it!”

Dr. Sims can feel her voice rising. She knows she’s taking this too personally, which is the first thing they drill out of you in Psychiatry 101—the importance of ethics, recognizing when you are showing bias, recognizing how your responses can be triggering based on the patient’s mental state, presenting issues, gender, potential diagnosis…

His hesitation to respond allows her the time to cool off using the breathing technique she prescribed to her anger management patient this morning, and in a calmer voice, she says, “Did you by chance bring the doll with you? I’d like to see it.”

He nods and then reaches into the duffle bag by his feet.

The doll looks nothing like the menacing plastic psychopathic killer he described. She wears a pink sundress with white lace embroidered along the hem and a white collar that lies flat across her shoulders. Her white socks are pulled halfway up her shins and folded back down to her ankles and neatly pressed. Her shoes are made of a rubbery black material and are secured by a thin strap across the tops of her feet. Her brown hair is tied in two ponytails with matching pink bows at the nape of her neck. The ends of her hair are curled up to her chin. Her face is spotted with freckles, and she has bright blue eyes and lids, weighed down by long lashes, that close when the doll is in the prone position. Her lips are curved into a thin and playfully inviting smile that’s painted the same faint shade of pink as her dress and hair ribbons.

Dr. Sims flips her over and twists the winder. On command, the soft, innocent voice says, “My name is Talky Tina, and I love you very much,” as her head turns side to side and her arms swing up and down.

He winces and twists his body away from the doll. “That’s not what it said before. It only threatens me when no one else is in the room.”

“Have you thought about why that is?”

He grunts. “It’s some sort of walkie-talkie.”

Dr. Sims lifts the doll’s dress to examine the back. The patch that the winder is attached to is screwed shut. “I don’t see how that’s possible,” she says.

“So you’re saying it’s all in my head?”

“I’m saying that it could be a projection of an underlying issue that you’re not willing to admit to yourself.”

“You mean my relationship with Christie?”

Dr. Sims nods. “Possibly. A strong bond between a father and daughter is essential, especially in these formative years. It molds them into the women they will become. It’s the driving force behind all of their relationships.”

“That why you’re gay?”

Dr. Sims’ throat tightens. Again this man has found a way to weasel himself under her skin. If this is a preview of how the next 40 minutes will play out she may, need to cancel the rest of her appointments for the day just to recuperate from the blood beginning to boil within her.

“My father loved me very much,” she says defiantly, mimicking the words of the doll. “And I show that same love and adoration to my own daughter.”

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

Dr. Sims prescribed Mr. Streator with playing with his daughter tonight and every night until their next session in two weeks. He protested at first, but when she said she would keep the doll, he was much more receptive, even relieved. Dr. Sims suspects if Christie asks about Talky Tina’s whereabouts, he’ll put all the blame on the evil doctor. Fine. She’ll assume the role of the bad guy if it means a neglected child finally gets the attention she needs to grow and develop.

Eventually, she’ll ask for Mrs. Streator and Christie to join the sessions. But not too soon. She needs to make sure that she’s getting through to Mr. Streator first and, second, that his abrasive personality is not getting to her.

“I’m calling it a night, Dr. Sims,” her assistant, Frieda, says, poking her head into the office.

“Alright. I’m right behind you.” From the papers scattered across her desk, they both know it’s a lie.

“Don’t work too late,” Frieda says, chuckling. She turns the lobby lights off as she exists, leaving Dr. Sims alone with only the glow of the lamp on her desk lighting the room.

Although she told herself she was done with Eric Streator for the day as soon as their session ended, she feels terrible for letting one man’s closed-minded bigotry affect her the way it did, especially when she’s had to endure worse comments in far more inappropriate settings. Who she chooses to love has nothing to do with her qualifications as a therapist, and she didn’t build a fifteen-year practice from the ground up just to have it all come crumbling down over a loveless man who can hear a doll that absolutely cannot talk, talk.

She owes it to little Christie to solve this riddle, especially if her mother is going to stay married to that idiot. She decides to play the tape from their session, hoping that she will catch something that her gradual internal rage rendered her deaf to.

She slides on her headphones and hits play. In the beginning, everything sounds just as she remembers—him recounting how the doll threatened to kill him, the condescension in his tone at the mention of her family—but fifteen minutes into the tape, she hears something strange yet almost familiar. She thinks it may be static at first—the price she has to pay for refusing to embrace the digital age—but then she wonders if a fly might have been buzzing around the microphone. When she turns up the volume for a clearer listen, she realizes the sound is mechanical, and just as she’s about to identify what it reminds her of, the phone rings and nearly sends her through the ceiling.

“Hello?” she answers sharply.

“Hey, hon. You working late again tonight?” comes the soothing voice of her wife of fourteen years.

Dr. Sims exhales a sigh of relief. “No, I think I’m done for the day,” she says, hitting the stop button on the tape player.

“That’s what I like to hear.”

Dr. Sims can only smile. Brenda doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to reminding her how much she works.

“I’ll be home soon, love.”

“Wonderful. Oh, by the way, I found this adorable little baby doll I thought Grace would love for Christmas. It’s a bit retro. Looks a lot like the kinds of dolls I played with as a kid. It’s called Talky Tina.”

Dr. Sims stiffens. “You’re joking.”

“What? What’s wrong with it?”

She can’t say anything without risking doctor–patient confidentiality, so she brushes her hair off her forehead and says, “Nothing. It’s just this case. It’s really thrown me for a loop.”

“All the more reason for you to come home and relax,” Brenda coos. “It’ll still be there in the morning.”

“You’re right. I’ll see you soon.”

Dr. Sims hangs up and begins packing her things—returning papers to their appropriate folders and then to the patient files in the metal filing cabinet behind her desk. When she’s about to cut the light, she hears the sound again. She glances down at the tape player. None of the buttons are pushed down, and she distinctly remembers turning it off when Brenda called. No, the tape is not where the sound is coming from now. She listens closely to the squeaky noises, following them like a bloodhound around her office. She stops at her six-foot bookcase, which houses books written by her and her colleagues, as well as Talky Tina, who is moving.

“What the f—”

She picks up the doll and recognizes the sound of the animatronic arms and head immediately. Was the doll running like this while still in Mr. Streator’s duffle bag? Is that was she was hearing over the tape? Did she forget to turn it off during the session? How is it still going? She turns it over. The winder isn’t winding down. In fact, it isn’t moving at all. She tries to turn it, but it stays in place, and the doll continues to twist and turn.

“How is this possible?” Dr. Sims searches the shelf for anything—a hook, a limb from an achievement trophy—that could have gotten caught in the winder to set the doll off. There’s nothing.

Suddenly the doll’s head spins 180 degrees to face her. The wide eyes and slight smirk are much more haunting than they were just a few hours ago. And then it speaks.

“My name is Talky Tina, and you can’t keep me away from him forever,” she taunts.

Dr. Sims drops the doll in horror, but her feet are frozen in place as the doll swivels about the throw rug, laughing maniacally.

© 2022 Nortina Simmons

Before there was Chucky or Anabelle or Megan, there was Talky Tina, courtesy of The Twilight Zone episode “Living Doll.” She walked so the others could run…and, you know…kill! 


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