I had eyes for her doll the moment I saw Alice walking through the iron gate to our “house”.
That was several years ago, when I was but a little girl at the convent. Just like me, she was a child unwanted by her parents, a child unaccepted by any place but here. The only difference was that my arrival was much earlier than hers. So, when the old, gentle nun told me that I would be in charge of helping Alice to get accustomed to this new life, we became sisters. Sisters bound not by love but rather by circumstance.
It was strange that at the present, I could not remember a single trait of hers: the shape of her face, the color of her hair, the way she walked… all were like a puff of smoke in my memory. Yet for her doll, her precious doll she always held in her arms as if it was her baby, I could recall even to the tiniest detail. All I needed was to close my eyes and visualized and it would appear right in front me, whole and perfect.
Perhaps it was because I had never looked at Alice carefully that my unconscious mind rejected her image. Perhaps it was because my attention was solely focused on her doll that I never actually “saw” her.
If I were to ask myself a thousand times what was special about that doll, I still could not come up with a satisfied answer. It was only a porcelain doll, the kind normally used for decoration. Fragile and worn, it held no value and thus, was not wanted by anyone. Anyone except the two of us. Unwanted doll wanted for unwanted children, a perfect combination.
I might not remember how Alice looked like, yet her behavior during her short period at the convent had not faded in my head. Alice was a girl as silent and immobile as her doll. All day I saw her sitting by the window, her posture stiff and her eyes distant. The doll laid on her lap like a baby sleeping peacefully in its mother’s womb. Sometimes I happened to look into her unmoving eyes and was shot with a chill. To be honest, I was afraid of her and thus, tried to avoid her as best as I could. As her “sister”, I knew I shouldn’t; still, I could not help it.
Despite the irrational fear I had for her, a pale, frail-looking little girl, I wanted her doll so much. I longed to touch it cool porcelain skin, to hold it the way Alice did. My obsession I kept as my own secret, never to tell anyone yet somehow, Alice was aware of it. Once I asked to borrow it for a little while, all I got was a violent shake of her head and a seething glare of her eyes.
The thought of stealing her doll had plagued me since then. That night, when everyone in the convent was well asleep, I crept to her bed. Knowing that Alice would hold her doll even in bed, I carefully pulled up her blanket and tried to remove her tight grip on the doll. My own fingers shook with anxiety, my forehead sweated.
Alice shot her eyes open when I was about to take it away from her. In the darkness I witnessed her eyes glow with an ominous light, casting an invisible pressure on my being.
Alice did not shout; she was as mute as usual. I felt the strength of her nimble fingers on my wrists. Cold as iron and just as hard, her fingers gave me pain so intense that tears rolled down my cheeks. Still, I did not wanted to let it go; at the moment all I wanted was to seize it from her.
Sound of broken porcelain echoed, together with a shriek as faint as my imagination. I was certain I had heard it very clearly, as if it was saved only for my ears. I did not look at the shards scattered around my feet; I was looking at Alice. To my horror, cracks started to engulf Alice’s body. Words stuck at the back of my throat as I watched Alice got broken into dozens pieces, the same way her doll did.
If my footsteps had not woken all the convent, my screams surely did. By the time I dragged the nuns from their beds to my room, what I had expected to see, Alice’s broken pieces, had already vanished. On the floor only the shards of the doll remained scattered. It seemed as if the horrifying scene I had watched was nothing but a nightmare.
Perhaps it was indeed a nightmare. After that night, nobody in the convent remembered a girl named Alice who was always seen holding a porcelain doll. Like Alice never came here. Like Alice never actually existed. But I knew Alice had been here. I had seen her. I had talked to her. I had tried to steal her doll. Most importantly, I had caused her death.
The door to my room opened to allow a young woman in. She was my current nurse here. The day I claimed I had killed Alice, the nuns sent me to this stark white building. They told me I was having a sickness which needed treatment. Though I did not feel anything wrong with my body, I listened to them because I trusted them, as I always did. But being confined in this room for years had taught me at least what this place was. In the end, nobody believed I had watched Alice’s body shattering with my own eyes.
The young nurse faked a smile, called me by a name I had so many times rejected and gave me a handful of pills.
“Time for your medicine, Alice!”
End of “Doll”
(to be continued in Part 2: “Alice”)