“I didn’t want to tell you this, Dollface, but you can’t go out.”
“No, you really can’t.”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“Because of the rain.”
“I can’t go out because of the rain?”
“And what will happen if I do it anyway?”
“You don’t get it, Dollface?”
“No, I don’t get it.”
“You’ll become a doll again.”
I don’t know what to say. I just turn towards the window. It is raining. Today and every day, it seems. I don’t remember it ever being sunny. Not truly. Not long enough so that you could be sure that it wouldn’t start raining while you were out walking. Not the kind of sunny that you could feel totally free from the rain. It is never sunny like that.
“You understand, don’t you?” I turn towards him. He is standing in the doorway. Does he look worried? I think so. He has that frown on his face. Looks older. His hair has gotten greyer this year. I’ve noticed. I sigh, but don’t answer him. Just look towards the window again. It just rains. It rains too much. Outside. It is just so different outside than inside. Right? I at least think so, even if I’ve never really been out there. It just looks so much greener. I really can’t explain it. Fresh. It looks fresh. Looks like the taste of green apples or something, at least that is how I imagine it.
“We’ve talked about this before, haven’t we?” Of course we have, many times. I know that. He knows that, but I still don’t answer. “How things are different for those who used to be dolls.” He is right. I know, but we hadn’t talked about the rain. I didn’t know about the rain. Didn’t know that it was because of the rain that I couldn’t go out. Somehow it makes it worse.
I pretend like I can’t hear him. Don’t want to talk about it. Don’t know why, but I just really don’t want to. You would think that I would be used to being inside by now. After all I have been inside all my life. That should be enough time to get used to something. I just don’t go outside. That is just the way it is.
“I just need to hear you say that you understand,” even his voice sounds tired. I turn towards him. He really does look older than he used to, and now the tiredness. Is he sick?
“Are you okay?” I say instead.
“I’m okay. You don’t need to worry about me,” he hesitates, “but I still need to hear you say it.”
“Are you sure about the rain?”
I can hear it drumming hard against the windows. Almost like a threat, any moment it could break through the glass and find me, and I would be a doll again. Just like that. I have always wondered how the rain would feel against my skin. I have always imagined that it would feel soft, but maybe I have been wrong about that. The rain that is hitting the windows doesn’t really sound like it would be soft at all. It sounds exactly like he said, sounds like something that would hit me so hard that my skin would turn into porcelain again. Like a mould I never could break free of again.
I have been looking at it for a while. Big, blue eyes. Long, black lashes. The little, red mouth and the small nose placed in the middle of its porcelain face. Do I look like it? If someone saw us together would they think that it looked like me? I don’t like it. It is meant to be mine, I got it for a birthday or something, but I have never really liked it. It reminds me of a dead thing. It is a toy. I know. Dolls are toys. Stupid toys. I would never play with one.
There are too many of them in this house. They are everywhere. Sitting on the floor with their backs against the wall. Sitting on all of the chairs, so if you want to sit somewhere you have to move one of them first. Some are sitting on the tables, some are sitting under the tables. They are always in the way. You really can’t get away from them in this house. They are even sitting in the windowsills looking out, just like me. Sitting there with their stupid faces staring into nothing. Also probably just like me. I hate them.
I don’t mean to knock it down, but I do. I just wanted to adjust its dress or something, but then it falls. Hits the floor. Makes a loud sound when the porcelain face shatters. The face breaks into so many pieces that I can’t even count them. Stupid doll that just fell like that, for no reason at all. I just wanted to fix its dress, I didn’t want to hurt it. Not really.
He has gotten up from his chair on the other side of the room, is looking at me and then at the broken doll. Looks so surprised as if he didn’t expect this of me, as if what he is looking at is something impossible. Not something that I could have done.
“Go to your room,” he says the words very calmly. Walks slowly towards the broken doll as if he is afraid to see how bad it is. I don’t move. Just sit there staring at all the porcelain pieces around me. He sits down next to the broken doll. Picks up one of the pieces of her face. “Just go to your room, right now.” He still doesn’t raise his voice, but somehow that makes it worse. Is he crying? He is. I can see it, as he picks up another piece of what used to be that perfect doll face. He is crying. Crying for that stupid doll, that was just sitting there staring into nothing with her big, dead-looking doll eyes.
“It is just a doll,” I say as I get up.
“You shouldn’t say that,” he still doesn’t raise his voice. I wish he would, it would feel better. This feels much worse. He just picks up one of her big, blue eyes, some of the lashes has gotten stuck on it. Looks creepy. “If you just would have given her time,” he hesitates, “she might have been just like you.” He looks at me, says the worse thing he could say, “Like a little sister.”
I don’t say anything. Just walk slowly towards the door. Looking down on my feet. Walk all the way to the other side of the house, to my room. Shut the door behind me. Trying to make as little noise as possible. The house is too big. I want to live in a smaller house without any dolls. A smaller house that I could get out of. Go outside. Even if it did rain. I sit on my bed. Wait. It is so quiet, and I can’t stop thinking about what I have done. I have killed my little sister. That is what has happened. I realise it. So I wait. What kind of punishment do you get for killing your little sister? I don’t know, but it must be something bad.
He doesn’t come into the room, but I can hear him standing outside. Probably wanting to say something to me, but he doesn’t. Just turn the key in the door. Nothing different from just any night. The room is dark. The door is locked. Nothing new, no punishment yet. The key will turn in the lock tomorrow and I can go out again. I think so. I hope so. He will forgive me. I know he will. So I’ve killed my little sister, I know, it sounds bad, but everyone can make a mistake. Right?
I’m not gonna be the one that you want me to be
They have woken me up. Like they always do. Can you hear them too? The voices. It isn’t easy. You have to really listen to hear them. They are very quiet as if they come from a place far away, but I can hear them. I really can, I’m not making it up. I have asked him about the voices. He has said that it’s the dolls. That they sing at night. I don’t know if I believe him. The dolls in the house don’t look like they would be able to sing. Not like that. Their porcelain mouths are frozen in their faces. If they’re singing they must be like me. Live dolls that have gotten out of their porcelain skin.
I have asked him about that too. He doesn’t really want to talk about it. One time he said something about dolls that shouldn’t be allowed to come alive. Something about not trusting them. Apparently some can be dangerous. Not like me. He has said it to me, that I’m not dangerous. Many times. Said stuff like he’s proud of me. Probably every day for as long as I can remember. Until today when I broke the doll, and I got that feeling that he wasn’t anymore. Got the feeling that I might be one of those other dolls. Those who can’t be trusted. Those who should go back to being just normal porcelain dolls again.
Sometimes at night dolls can come alive for a while by accident. That is why I need to be in my room. I think he is telling the truth about that. It makes sense. Particularly with all the singing. They know that he is sleeping, so they sing. Sing to lure me out of my room, and I admit that if the door wasn’t locked I would go. Find out who was singing. Who the voices belonged to.
It is always the same song. I have heard it since I was a little kid. It is kind of beautiful. It really is. Like a quiet humming through the house. I know all the words. Sometimes I sing it with them. It is like the voices are seeping through the walls.
Not gonna tell you how I feel when I’m alone
It is like I can see them. Sitting with their backs against the wall, opening their little doll mouths as they start to sing when nobody can see them. Stretching their doll arms out into the air, as if they are aching after having been sitting still for so long. I shouldn’t have killed her. I know. Last night she might have been sitting there singing the same song with the dolls, but now she has no mouth anymore. No face even. I really shouldn’t have killed my little sister, even if she was just a doll.
Oh I’m not gonna try to be somebody else
To be a doll, isn’t so great when you think about it, and I have. Too much, believe me. You wouldn’t be able to choose anything. Not your clothes. Not where you would sit. Not where you would look. Nothing. I used to be a doll, but I’m not anymore. I choose my own clothes, sit wherever I want and look exactly where I want to look. So I just don’t want to become one again.
Just gonna be the only self I’ve ever known
I open my mouth and sing the last part very quietly with them.
And I know that I’m not the one that you love, but I don’t really care
“I have fixed her,” he is smiling.
He has put the little sister doll on the table in front of me. She looks awful. Her face is glued together, but she still looks broken. Like she got scars. Bad ones. “So everything is okay,” he hesitates, “and I think that she still can become your little sister one day.” I nod, but I don’t say anything. She looks like the worst little sister in the world. Nobody would want her. Not unless they were blind, and it is all my fault. She was a sweet, little doll. Looked like me. Her porcelain skin was perfect. Until I broke her. Until I made her into the monster she is now.
“You will never break one of them again, will you?” he looks at me over his round glasses. Doesn’t look angry after all, because he thinks he fixed her. He just doesn’t see her the way I do. If she ever becomes alive like me she will hate us both.
“No, I’m sorry, dad,” I hesitate, “I just didn’t think.”
I can’t continue to look at her broken face. One of her eyes is kind of pointing in the wrong direction. Everything about her looks disturbing.
“I get it,” he still sounds so tired, “Sometimes things are difficult,” I look at him, “But there is really nothing wrong with having been a doll.” His eyes never used to look this sad before, almost like I broke him too when I broke that doll. “We all need to come from somewhere.” He gets up. Leaves me there with her. The chosen one. One day she will become my little sister. Walk around in this house with her face filled with scars. Eyes not even pointing in the same direction. Her arms look like they’ve been bent into some uncomfortable position. Her feet have the same strange look. Maybe she won’t even be able to walk. She will just sit there like a cripple in some corner. She will most likely be in pain, even if he did fix her the best he could. She will hate me. I’m sure of that. Probably more than I can imagine.
I pick her up. Carefully this time. She makes a strange sound. A metallic sound. Something is hidden behind her dress and one of her little porcelain hands seems to grab on to a metal ring. The metal ring seems stuck in her hand, I can’t get it out. Very carefully I lift the ring so that what has been hidden under her dress comes forward. The keys. All the keys stuck on the metal ring. The metal ring is stuck in her hand. 17 small, golden keys. His keys. She has stolen them. I gasp. How could she.
I put her down on the table again. Take a step backwards.
“Where did you get those keys?”
She doesn’t answer. Her scarred face seems indifferent. She apparently is the sort of little sister who would steal.
The keys. How I have watched those keys, every time he has opened or closed a door to somewhere that I’m not allowed to go. I can even recognize the most important one. The one for the front door. The one that could get me out of here. I can finally go outside. I can go outside and breathe. The freshest air. Run in the grass. Maybe barefoot. Run really fast, and not have any walls stopping me. I swallow. Lean forward and try to untangle the metal ring that holds the keys from her hand, but I can’t. She seems to be stuck to it. Damn little sister. Typical right? I have heard about little sisters and how they always want to come along for all the things their older sisters do.
“Fine, you can come,” I pick her up. Try not to walk too fast. I don’t know how much time I have before he will notice that his keys are gone. I walk straight through the hallway. It is still raining. It is. Not just a little bit either. Really raining. I stop right in front of it. Just stand there for a moment looking at the door. Even put the key in the lock. Turn it. The door isn’t locked anymore, but I just can’t push it open. I can’t. It is just raining too much. The raindrops would fall hard on my skin, and it would become porcelain again. It would. I would fall over in the grass, and be a doll again. Not being able to choose my own clothes. Not being able to choose where to sit. Not being able to choose where I should look even. Just a stupid dead-looking doll. I just can’t become that again. The rain just have to stop first before I can go outside.
“We need to hide, you know, until the rain has passed.”
I don’t really say it to her, but I look at her when I am saying it anyway. Look into the eye that is looking at me, the other eye is looking somewhere else. She is never going to look normal again, but it doesn’t matter. I turn to look at what the other eye is looking at. A door. Just a stupid door. Typical dumb thing a doll would look at.
“It is just the door to the cellar,” I say. I don’t like that door, never wanted to go there. It feels like the opposite of going outside, like going to something even more inside. “I don’t want to go there.” I hesitate. Look at here. Little sister doll that managed to steal the keys. She gets stuff. Stuff that I don’t get. “You want to go there to hide?” She doesn’t answer, but it does make perfect sense. Dad wouldn’t look for me there. Why would he? It is the opposite of where I want to go. “Okay fine, we’ll go there,” I bite my lip, “wait for the stupid rain to be over.”
It is darker than I thought it would be. Dark and cold. I don’t dare to go far down into the cellar. Creepy place, even worse than I thought it would be. I just sit down next to the wall clutching my little sister doll. Waiting. He hasn’t noticed that I’m gone yet, but he will soon. It is getting darker, soon I have to be in my bed. Soon it will be night.
I didn’t lock the door again, so he will find it open. He will think that I have already left. Maybe he will go outside looking for me. Looking for a doll lying in the green grass while the rain is pouring down. I feel a sting in my chest thinking about it, he will be worried. He will. Now that he has started to look old and sick I’m not sure that it is what he needs. I know this. Know it all too well. I just can’t be inside anymore, I need to go outside. I think I have to.
I’m not gonna be the one that you want me to be
The song has started. The first words. It is just so much louder down here. It was never like that up in my room. There is somebody down here. Strong voices that are singing from underneath the house. I never thought about it. Never thought that the voices could come from down here. I can feel my heart beating faster, but I get up and walk slowly down the stairs further down into the cellar. Clutching my little sister doll so hard that it is almost like I can hear her squeak.
Not gonna tell you how I feel when I’m alone
I have never heard the words so clearly. Never heard them this loud. I can see a light where the singing is coming from.
“Is somebody down here?” I whisper, and I don’t think I say it loud enough to be heard, but the singing stops. Right away. Dead quiet. I walk slowly towards the light. I shouldn’t be here. It isn’t safe. Every night I am locked in my room and no dolls are allowed in there. Only me. I know this. We have talked about it so many times, me and dad, and every time I have said that I understand.
There is a room down here. Bigger than I thought it would be. Iron bars keeping whoever is in the room from getting out. They turn towards me. Look surprised.
“It is you,” the female says, as if we have met before. The male just stands there staring at me.
“What are you doing down here?” I struggle to get the words out. “Why are you singing?”
She smiles. Smiles such a big, beautiful smile I can’t help but almost like her. Smiles while tears are streaming down her face. It looks strange, the big smile and all the tears. Doesn’t fit.
“Finally,” she whispers, “my sweetest, Dollface, you have heard us and come.”
“How do you know my name?”, I take two steps backwards. Fight the urge to run away from them.
“No, no, don’t go,” the male says. He comes forward to the iron bars. “She gave you that name, it is just a silly nickname, but she gave it to you.” She nods. Still crying and smiling at the same time.
“It is true, I did,” she hesitates, “you just looked so much like a doll the first time I saw you, but of course I knew that we eventually would have to give you a real name.”
“A real name?”
He is standing next to the iron bars. Too close it feels like.
“Well nobody is called Dollface obviously.”
I don’t get it. Nobody is called Dollface, what is that supposed to mean? That is my name.
“Listen,” the male says, “You need to go get help,” he is talking very quietly, as if he thinks somebody is listening, “You need to find someone that can get us out of here.”
“You are dolls, aren’t you?” I take another step backwards, can feel my back press against the wall, “Dangerous ones.” They don’t say anything, but she isn’t smiling anymore. She just looks sad for a moment, even more sad than dad looked when I killed my little sister. She might not want to admit it, but she is a doll. I would know. Her dress looks exactly like something a doll would wear. A typical stupid doll dress. All pink and fluffy. Her face is also such a typical doll face. Tiny red mouth, big, blue eyes. Beautiful, just like a doll should be. She even looks kind of like me.
“I’m not a doll,” she says, but she sighs.
He used to be a doll as well, obviously. Wears some kind of uniform. Pretty typical for a male doll. Blond hair, and blue eyes on him as well. “Listen, we’re not dolls. We’re people,” he whispers, “and you need to go get help or we will never get out of here.”
“You tried to go out when it rained, didn’t you?” it feels like that would be the reason, “So he locked you in here.”
They are silent for a while, looking at each other as if they don’t know what to say. Then she talks again.
“You don’t remember anything, Dollface?” she says. Tear still rolling down her face.
I can see that there are more rooms down here in the cellar, almost as if he has built them some kind of underground dollhouse.
“When we used to live upstairs?”
I don’t say anything. “I used to play with you every day,” she hesitates, “and you always seemed so happy when you were with me.” She turns towards the male doll again. Seems insecure before she says it. “You know, like a little girl feels when she is with her mum.” I don’t get what she is trying to pull, but I’m not that stupid at least.
“Dolls don’t have mums, not real ones” I say quickly, “everyone knows that.”
I know it at least. Dolls don’t have parents, even my dad is not my real dad. That is just the way it is.
“But you’re not a doll,” she seems insecure again, searching for what to say, “and you never have been.”
“What do you mean?”
The male is staring from me to her, probably doesn’t know how this will go.
“You’re a girl. Just a normal girl,” she comes all the way forward to the iron bars. “The Dollface name was just meant as a cute nickname.”
We just stand there looking at each other. Big, blue eyes looking into mine.
“He has tried to change you,” she whispers, “but we have been singing that song every night, hoping that you would stay true to yourself.” She smiles again, but just barely. Still looks so sad in her big, pink dress behind those iron bars.
“Go get help,” she says, but it doesn’t sound like a command, sound like a plea. Sounds exactly as desperate as it probably is.
“I can’t go out,” for a moment my mind feels blank “because it is raining.” Like I can’t find the right thoughts. I hold so hard around the little sister doll. “The rain will get me and I will be all porcelain again.”
She just looks at me for a long time, as if she is struggling to find the right words.
“You were never a doll, I promise you,” she finally says, “once you were a little baby, and you were mine, so I would know.”
I need to get out. I have to get out of this cellar. Can’t have those blue eyes looking at me anymore. So I turn and then I run. Run through all the darkness that lives down here. Almost fall when I try to get up the stairs. It feels like the darkness is going to suffocate me. The keys make so much noise when I’m running, but I don’t care anymore. I don’t breathe before I’m in the hallway upstairs. Go straight for the front door, and give it a shove so it opens. All the way. It is still raining.
“Dollface,” the voice is so quiet.
He is just sitting there on a chair in the hallway, next to the wall as if he was one of the dolls. I stop. Turn towards him. “So you’ve met them,” he says, as if they are nothing special.
“Why would you keep them down there?”
He laughs for a moment. A tired laugh.
“Oh believe me they are hard to handle,” he shakes his head, “once Theodore threw himself out of a window.”
“So you put them down there?”
“No,” he looks down, “I didn’t. Not before…”
“She took you once, you know,” he says it like it is something I would know, but I don’t remember anything. “Took you and tried to run with you out into the rain.”
He looks up again.
“You know I’m proud of you, right?”
I can feel a tension leave me, something I didn’t know was there until he said those words again. He has gotten sick. I guess I have known for a while. He has. I don’t know what has gotten him, but something has. First he got thinner, then more grey hairs, always tired.
“They want me to get help,” I say almost defiantly.
“Yeah but you won’t,” he sighs, in some ways he reminds me so much of the female doll in the cellar.
“No, they wouldn’t survive a day,” he hesitates, “they would be dolls again before the end of the night, and I don’t think they want that. Not even now,” he drags one of his hands through his grey hair. “At least they have each other down there, and some kind of home, even if it is in the cellar.” I am still holding the little sister doll. Holding her so hard in my hands. My little sister who stole the keys. Stole them even if it is impossible. He has always kept such a close watch over those keys, and then a tiny porcelain doll would be able to steal them. Doesn’t make any sense at all.
“You gave her the keys, didn’t you?”
He looks up at me. Nods.
“It was time, wasn’t it?” he draws his breath as if it takes a large amount of effort.
“I want to go out.”
I am clutching the doll, can almost feel her wriggle in my hands. The silence behind me. I know what it means. It has stopped raining. “You just have to be careful,” he says, “it can start raining at any time, so you always have to have a place where you can hide.” His eyes looks watery. Big, blue eyes.
“You’ll promise me, Dollface, won’t you?”
I nod, but it is weird isn’t it. Now that the door is open and the rain has stopped it feels harder than I thought to leave, to go outside, even if I have always wanted to.
“You won’t come with me?”
He shakes his head, and for some reason I knew that he wouldn’t. Knew that I would have to go alone.
“That one will grow into a good one,” he nods towards the little sister doll, “she really will. I know enough about dolls to tell you that.”
“Will it take a long time?”
I look down on her.
“It will take some time. You just keep her safe until she is ready.”
“So I will be alone?”
He coughs, the same cough he has had for a while. Pale skin. Dead-looking. Worse than porcelain.
“You’ll be fine, Dollface. I know you will be,” he leans his head against the wall. Closes his eyes, “You understand about the rain. You know what you are,” he nods, “You won’t do something stupid.”
I turn towards the door. Take a few steps. Stop for a moment and then I cross the threshold.
I hope you have enjoyed “Dollface”, the story as well as the song, and I really hope that you would like to hear more songs and read more stories
About the song: Vocals/music composition/lyrics/mixing: Therese J (Me)
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If you like the that have been used to illustrate this short story, they are all from morguefile.com. All the photos have been edited, but the first photo is by bobby, the second photo (the soundcloud photo) is by dieraecherin, the third photo is by clarita, the fourth photo is by bullboy, the fifth photo is by chugbot, the sixth photo is by davidpwhelan and the last photo is by gustavobelemmi.
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