‘Alice’

 

Second part of Doll

I saw her face wrinkle at the sight of numerous pills being handed to her and silently heaved a sigh. “Please, Alice!” I pled to her in the same manner I did every day. It was one of my duties to make sure she took her daily pills and fortunate for me, she was a rather cooperative patient. After a minute or two, she took the pills to her mouth and swallowed them, albeit grudgingly. Relieved, I said goodnight to her and left her room.

I knew she never slept at night, despite all the sleeping pills we gave her. Her insomnia was hopeless and all we could do was our best.

I took over as her nurse two years ago. “She was a curious case, that Alice.”, the senior nurse warned me in my first day at this mental health center. She who was the one in charge of ‘Alice’ since the day ‘Alice’ came and knew a lot about this strange patient. To be fair, no patients here could be considered ‘normal’; yet there was something in this ‘Alice’ which attracted out curiosity and we all agreed that she was very… particular.

Her story was rather patchy since I could only get that much information from the retired nurse and from the nuns who sometimes paid ‘Alice’ a visit. But if you would like to hear, I would be very pleased to share with you my knowledge about ‘Alice’.

‘Alice’ was the name we called her, also the name with which she had been registered. However, ‘Alice’ herself believed ‘Alice’ was another person. She protested every time she heard one of us refer to her as ‘Alice’, whom she insisted to be her “sister”. The truth? No one knew. Even the nuns who had taken her in had no idea who ‘Alice’ was or why she kept refusing the name clearly written in her birth certificate. I tried to inquire her true identity a few times; the reply was one and the same: she was ‘Alice’ ’s sister. Not very informative, eh?

The first time I was introduced to ‘Alice’, I was struck by her silence and immobility. She possessed a porcelain doll which she lovingly laid on her lap like her precious baby. If not asked to move, she could sit all day by the window, her posture stiff, her back straight and her eyes distant, a fellow nurse told me. At first, I was glad my patient was such a quiet one. I was too fed up with those who shouted and ran around all day long, exhausting me with even the simplest task of giving them their daily treatment. Yet, as I spent time with ‘Alice’, my intuition told me there was something bizarre in her unmoving eyes as she gazed at the scenery outside. Once I happened to look into her eyes and was greeted with a fathomless Abyss. Nevertheless, I was trained to be a professional nurse and I would not cower away simply because a patient’s look gave me chills. Moreover, aside from her eyes and her blatant aversion to medical treatment, ‘Alice’ was pretty obedient.

I took notice of her doll and could not help but wonder whether it held a significant meaning to her. Most fellow nurses did not know why ‘Alice’ possessed such doll; its origin was only revealed to me when I met an old nun who came to the center one afternoon to visit ‘Alice’. She was the one who had discovered ‘Alice’ and taken her to the convent. “She was found holding the doll in her arms as she was laying in a deserted corner and since then, nobody has ever seen her without it.” The answer was not really satisfying but it did confirm my belief that the doll had to hold an extremely important meaning to ‘Alice’.

Once I casually asked ‘Alice’ about the doll, not really expecting a reply from her usually tight lips. Yet she spoke to me, to my surprise, that ‘Alice’ had left the doll to her; thus, she had to protect and take care of it. In curiosity I inquired her about ‘Alice’ ’s current whereabouts, to which she answered with a bone-chilling truth: she had caused ‘Alice’ ’s death.

I did not dare to ask her more about ‘Alice’; my intuition told me I would open the Pandora box if I did. It was also due to that ‘Alice’ ’s existence that ‘Alice’ had become a resident of this center. Her doctor theorized that ‘Alice’ could be a person whom she had known before her stay at the convent or it could be a figment of her imagination, created to help her avoid something she did not want to face. But what was that ‘something’, none of us could be certain.

‘Alice’ was relentlessly complaining about her new medicine these days, which, according to her, pained her head and made her want to vomit. I tried to convince her that her body needed some time to adjust and soon, everything would be fine, as her doctor had assured. Still, no matter how I begged her, my pleas went deaf on her ears. I also noticed that she was getting more agitated with each passing day. In contrast with her immobile and quiet usual self, she spoke more and she moved around more. The room which she had been content to sit in seemed to become so suffocating that she often sneaked out and wandered around for hours whenever she found a chance. Finding her was not easy; trying to lead her back to her room was even more challenging. This ‘Alice’ who did not protest us calling her by her name appeared an entirely different being from the ‘Alice’ I knew, which I considered to be an ominous sign. As I reported her state to her doctor, he only shook his head. This, too, was a case he had yet to encounter.

If there was one thing unchanged about ‘Alice’, it was her never parting with her precious doll, even for only a second.

If I had never taken the pot of flower in her room out, I probably would never discover her little secret: all the pills given to her had been thrown into the soil. Anger overwhelmed me when I was confronting her and I snatched the doll from her grasp.

‘Alice’ ’s eyes seethed as she looked at the hands which had robbed away her child. Fright struck me but I decided not to allow my weakness exposed to her.

“You’ll take your medicine or I’ll take your doll!”

Tension raised as ‘Alice’ held her mouth tight shut. For a moment I was afraid that she would spring up from her chair and claw at me. ‘Alice’ did not. After a while, she grabbed the pills and forcefully gulped them down. Feeling guilty at my previous act, I returned the doll to her and silently walked out, trying my best to ignore the chill lingering at my back.

What I had done was unacceptable for a profession nurse and thus, I was disciplined for a month. Since that incident, ‘Alice’ ’s behaviors toward me changed drastically. As if afraid that I would steal her doll again, she held it against her bosom so tightly it seemed she would rather crush it than allow ‘the evil witch’ that was me to take it away from her. No matter how I tried to apologize to her, her attitude toward me only worsened.

I considered resigning from being ‘Alice’ ’s nurse. Another incident helped me make up my decision.

I woke up that night to an odd feeling in the back of my head. The room was dark and I could barely make out the outline of the furniture. Since my roommate was on her night shift, I was all by myself to be exposed to the bizarre sensation that made my hair stand on end. I put my hand on my left chest, trying to remain calm when suddenly an odd gleam caught my attention. I squinted my eyes to see what it was and when I did, I had to cover my mouth to suppress my scream.

Her pale face caught the dim moonlight, seemingly glowing itself, her long hair let loose; in the dark ‘Alice’ resembled a vengeful spirit from a horror movie I had watched recently. Only this ‘ghost’ was real and much more dangerous.

“What’re you doing in my room, Alice? Get back or I’ll call the guards!”

Her eyes were glowing like two dying embers, which I was not entirely certain whether it was my imagination or something else. Before I had a chance to shout for help, her hands were on me, strangling me with such alien strength that I thought my neck might snap in two. I caught my own reflection in her eyes before blackness clotted my vision as my life quickly fled from my body. My arms hovered in the air, feebly fighting back the approaching Death, or merely slowing him down for a few minutes.

In the midst of desperate struggle, my fingertips felt a foreign coolness. My remaining instinct urged me to grab it, and so I did with all my strength.

The precious doll she kept in her breast pocket fell to the hard floor. Sound of its brutal death resounded in the small room.

An acute shriek I knew to be ‘Alice’ ’s was the last thing stayed in my mind before my consciousness drifted away.

I had not expected myself to be alive. Yet the next time my eyes greeted the light was four months later. Though part of my brain was permanently damaged due to oxygen deprivation, I had been very fortunate to escape death. Had ‘Alice’ delayed only a single minute, I would not have survived. God had saved me, my doctor exclaimed but I knew better. Had I not destroyed her doll, had I not destroyed ‘Alice’, I would have been killed by her hands.

After my recovery, I resigned my job at that mental health center and moved to a small hospital in the suburb. I never saw ‘Alice’ again, never wanted to. But my curiosity on her did not cease it seemed. Once I was visited by a former colleague from the center, I asked her about ‘Alice’. After the incident, ‘Alice’ was put to confinement in the restricted room, where she would receive her new treatment and therapy. She still spoke of ‘Alice’ as if that was another person other than herself but she no longer carried a doll around. Her doll had been broken and she would not ask for a replacement; in fact, she never touched another doll again, even if it was brought to her by the nuns at the convent. Moreover, she talked and acted as if she was a child living at the convent. Perhaps the old ‘Alice’s we used to know, the immobile and silent one as well as the agitated and dangerous, had really disappeared that night, my colleague concluded.

Had them?

Though I no longer had to fear that she would come to me again in the depth of the night, there were many times I woke up from my sleep, my body soaked with cold sweats, to imagine her pale face and her glowing eyes gluing on me.

Plus, the finger-shaped bruises on my neck never faded.

Note: Really got a headache with this part.

If you’re still confused about these chapters, please wait for the explaination.

2 thoughts on “‘Alice’

  1. Explanation please!!! I half-expected the nurse being called “Alice” after that incident tho ><. Did the "Alice" in the previous chapter die when her doll was broken and then the "I" turned into her? Then where did the second doll come from? Or the "I" never existed? I'm standing in a morass of fantasy and reality *sweat*

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  2. The ‘I” in the 1st story and the ‘Alice’ (the mental patient) in the 2nd story are one person. The 1st and the 2nd are actually one, too, just told in different povs. The 2nd one is told through the nurse’s pov and it’s the reality: ‘Alice’ is a mental patient who has a doll and she tries to kill the nurse when she thinks the nurse wants her doll. After her doll is broken, ‘Alice’ changes into another identity.

    The 1st story is ‘Alice”s pov and this ‘Alice’ is the ‘Alice’ after the doll was destroyed by the nurse in the 2nd story (“she talked and acted as if she was a child living at the convent.”). She sort of took the nurse’s role and told the story through her warped perspective.

    In short, “Alice” is the reality and “Doll” is the imagination/ fantasy …

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