The Bones of Little DollsA Story by errihu
An obnoxious little girl discovers why it is better to sit quietly and endure the boring goings-on of adults.
Christabel sat in the large armchair in her stuffy Sunday finery, her little legs dangling from the edge of the chair, and tried not to fidget. It was hard, because the armchair was not that comfortable. It was a stiff, old fashioned chair, covered in a taut white fabric heavily brocaded with large, magenta and green roses. It smelled like dust and old flowers, just like everything else in Miss Ellis’s house.
She didn’t want to be at Miss Ellis’s house. Miss Ellis was tall, pinch-faced, and wore such old fashioned, high necked dresses all the time. Her iron gray hair was always pulled in a tight bun at the top of her head. Christabel thought she was an old hag. But Mother liked Miss Ellis. Mother wanted to be Miss Ellis’s friend. Miss Ellis was rich, filthy rich, and she lived all alone up here in this stuffy old mansion, filled full of ancient, ugly, and expensive bric-a-brac. Miss Ellis had no children, and she was old.
The girl pulled at the hem of her dress. She liked dresses, but this one was uncomfortable. It was old fashioned too, with a petticoat that made the skirt billow out from her legs like a pile of clouds. A pile of itchy clouds. Her white-stockinged feet were encased in little shiny black patent leather mary janes. There were poufy piles of fabric gathered at her shoulders, and the sleeves were long. There were barrettes in her hair, and her buttery long locks were curled into loopy spirals Mother had called “ringlets”. The clothes were stiff and itchy, and she felt like a doll on display.
Mother and Miss Ellis sat nearby, drinking tea and chatting about some grown-up nonsense. They weren’t paying attention to her at all. She kicked her legs sulkily. They didn’t so much as glance over. A flash of white caught her attention. It was a cat, pure white with blue, blue eyes, its fur long and silky. It had the fluffiest tail she had ever seen on a cat. Briefly, she wondered what it would be like to pull that tail, to give it a good hard yank, if it would come off and leave her with a fluffy plaything. She smiled at the thought. The cat turned its head towards her and sniffed contemptuously, then wandered towards Miss Ellis with its tail in the air, flicking. Well, it was just a stupid cat anyway.
The two women continued to ignore her. Finally, Christabel decided to go do something. They probably wouldn’t notice anyway. She slipped off the chair as quietly as she could, then looked to see if anyone had noticed. They were still talking away. Only the cat, curled in Miss Ellis’s lap, looked her way, with its inscrutable blue-eyed cat-gaze. She ignored it.
Sneaking behind the chair, she gazed about, looking for something to do. There was a hallway; she would not be seen in there. The little girl made her way to it, taking a few moments to touch some ugly porcelain figurines with curious fingers before continuing into the hall. She glanced back, the adults and that hateful cat were out of sight.
The hallway had thick cream-coloured carpet, and was lined with closed doors. There were pictures on the wall, too high up for her to really see what was on them. By some of the doors were little tables with scrolled legs, meticulously polished and topped with lace doilies and vases of dried flowers. At the end of the hall was a door with a mirror. She wandered down the hall, leaving little-girl-shoe-shaped imprints in the plush carpet.
She stopped at the end of the hall, in front of the door with the mirror. Her hand came up, touching the old fashioned cut-crystal doorknob. It turned, the door opening inward. It was dark, and she pawed beside the doorjamb, the experience of her short life indicating this was where a switch would be. She found one and clicked it on, and gasped.
The room was filled with dolls.
Dolls, porcelain dolls, with bright glass eyes, the kind that can close and open. Dolls, sitting, standing, perched on shelves, encased behind glass cabinet doors, on tables. Dolls, with shining, perfect hair and perfect outfits, little Asian dolls, Black dolls, Native dolls, Caucasian dolls, dolls of every race and colour, with dresses and garb from all over the world and from many different time periods. She took a few steps into the room, pudgy child hands outstretched for the closest one. The door slammed shut behind her with a thump. She jumped, startled, and whirled. After a few tense heartbeats, she turned to the door and tried the knob. It was stuck, or locked. She gave it another tug, then froze as she heard a voice.
“Well look what the cat dragged in,” it sneered, with the voice of another little girl. Christabel whirled, looking for the source of the voice. She saw only dolls.
“What an ugly little girl!” came another girl’s snide voice.
“Who said that?” Christabel snapped, little brows puckered in anger. She had never been called ugly before. And she knew the tones in those voices; she’d used them before on other little girls at school, the ones who weren’t as special or as pretty as she was. “You take that back.”
“Oh, did we hurt its little feelings? Oh no, whatever shall we do?” the high pitched voice was sarcastic, dripping with mockery.
“We don’t need to do anything. Its stupid, and stupid things deserve their fate,” another voice hissed maliciously.
“Shut up!” squeaked Christabel, glancing around desperately to identify her tormenters. Her eyes fixed on the dolls with a new sense of horror as realization swept through her. “Shut up, you’re nothing but stupid dolls!” she said, hiding her fear in contempt.
“Foolish little girl, you’re going to get it…” another taunted. “You’re going to get it, you’re going to get it!” a chorus of voices sang, joining in.
“I’ll show you, you’re just dolls.” The child sneered, and reached out, swiping a hand at a pretty, black haired thing sitting on the edge of a table. It flew a short distance before colliding with the mahogany leg of an upholstered chair. There was a cracking noise. Christabel heard the sound of a collectively indrawn breath.
Eyes wide with fear, the girl gazed in horror as the doll rolled back, broken porcelain shattered away to reveal white bone skull, spider-webbed with desiccated veins and arteries, dark brown and long dried. There was silence. Then, pandemonium.
“You killed LeAnn! Look, the little b***h killed LeAnn!” the dolls hissed. Christabel could no longer make out individual voices, instead, it sounded like the dolls were speaking as one. She whirled in horror, grabbing the crystal doorknob violently. It would not give.
“Now you have to take her place…Take her place! Take her place! Take her place!” the dolls chanted, their voices like thunder in Christabel’s ears.
“No!” cried the girl, tugging desperately on the door, to no avail. The crystal knob suddenly gave, coming loose from the door, the other side’s knob and spindle falling to the ground with a muffled thud. Christabel started to fall backwards. As she fell, the world seemed to enlarge and take on a strange clarity. She landed on her bottom, legs outstretched, arms at her side.
She heard laughter, echoing in her ears. “One of us now,” hissed a voice. She tried to get up, and found she couldn’t. She couldn’t move, couldn’t even blink, couldn’t move her lips. In her field of vision she saw her legs, looking pudgy and short, and realized with horror that they were porcelain.
“Ooo, here comes Mr. Clancey, everybody be quiet now,” said one of the dolls, and the chorus of jeers of laughter cut off. The door in front of her opened, the knob on the floor flying back up to mate with its partner and turn the deadlatch in one smooth, silent motion. The white cat from before entered the room.
“What’s all this, ladies? I heard a ruckus coming from the room.” A male voice sounded in her mind. Christabel realized it was the cat. He looked around the room, spotted the broken doll, and the new addition. “So. The gold-digger’s daughter found the doll room, I see. I shall have to tell Miss Ellis. She will be pleased at the new addition to her collection.”
“And she hasn’t learned to talk back yet either,” crowed one of the other dolls. Torn between rage and despair, all Christabel could do was seethe silently.
“Indeed. Well, I wish you fun of her while it lasts.” Mr. Clancey, the cat, took one long look around the room and then exited with a flirt of his fluffy white tail, the door closing behind him.
The light went out. As the darkness enveloped her, the jeering of the dolls resumed.
© 2010 errihu