Deep within the halls of the Doll Mistress lies a special room. Within it sleeps the memory of a person that lies within what you might call the heart of a rag doll.
The doll sits on a chair, floppy as you please, with stringy red hair, a patchwork dress seeming to just barely hold her body together. Her arms are long and sit limply, idly, on either side of her. It’s a rag doll for cuddling in quieter moments.
And if you sit in the room, just so, drowning out the sound of your mind telling you about your busy life, about how this all isn’t possible, you will definitely hear a small, delicate and happy voice ring out in the silence.
“My name is Grace and i love you!”
Will you believe her?
My name is Grace Morrison. Once upon a time, I was a woman just like you. With some differences.
I’m not sure what was going through my head the day I met Her. I know it started with a conversation. I may or may not have initiated it; I can’t even remember that far back anymore. I just remember Her asking me the question.
“Do you like dolls, Grace?” She asked me.
“Um... what kinds? Like... Barbie dolls? Or stuffed dolls?”
“Any kind,” She said.
I thought about it. Wasn’t I far too grown-up for such things? I was going to college, learning to be a nurse, so I could help people. What would a girl like me need with a doll?
“Yes, I do,” I said, anyway.
“Me too,” She said softly, Her voice turning a different shade of red. “I love all kinds of dolls. I am a collector. Perhaps someday, I will show you my collection.”
“I’d like that,” I said.
“You know, they say, if you listen closely, dolls can talk,” She went on. “Perhaps you might try listening; perhaps you’ll be able to hear them too.”
“That’s silly.” I giggled despite myself. If I had known, I might not have been so cheeky. The idea at the time was so beyond belief. I couldn’t believe in life that didn’t have a heartbeat. It wasn’t scientific. It wasn’t something that everyone could observe, so it couldn’t be true.
But She smiled at my laughter.
We kept talking, but I can’t remember anything about that either. That part of the conversation, I remember clearly, like it was a movie, but nothing of the beginning or the end. None of that matters.
Should it matter?
I remember the dreams.
Even then, I knew what my destiny would be. I watched other dolls, as they performed for others. They served. They danced. They soothed. I knew that in my heart, no matter what they appeared to be doing, in their heart, there was joy. There was no shadow of a doubt. My role was to observe. I watched. I felt for them. And I saw their joy.
But there was emptiness in my own heart, and I longed for the joy they felt.
They found satisfaction in their existence, something I did not have. I lay where I lay, a children’s toy, forgotten amidst adult joys and adult games. I was merely put aside, as a child puts away their childhood things, and forced to stare through a mirror darkly. There were no children here.
I would always wake up, my face soaking wet in my own tears, and I had no idea why. The dreams didn’t feel like nightmares, but I’d wake up with a feeling of dread. Like the joy I saw would never be mine.
Back then, I rationalized it away. Now, I wish I hadn’t used up so much time... but none of that is important now.
I had another conversation with Her one day. I was having problems with college. Tests that drove me nuts, knowledge that wouldn’t stay in my brain. I knew how important it was to know everything they were teaching me. One single mistake could cost a future patient dearly. She understood my distress. She showed me how to relax.
She said to imagine that my body was like a doll. She would say: “Hang your arms limply on your side, like a rag doll. Imagine all the tension flowing out your fingertips. You are a rag doll. Say it, dear Grace.”
“I am a rag doll.”
“You are a rag doll.”
“I am a rag doll.”
“You are not dressed in that prim and proper suit. Good rag dolls wear rag skirts. You are in a rag skirt. Say it, dear Grace.”
“I am in a rag skirt.”
“You are in a rag skirt.”
“I am in a rag skirt.”
“Feel your face smile, corners twitching, face lit up with an inner joy. Good rag dolls are always smiling, you know.”
I tried to smile. I really did. I could do everything She asked, but that... it was almost like I didn’t know how. I started crying instead.
“I’m sorry...” I whispered. “I can’t smile. I’m a bad doll.”
But She didn’t get angry. Instead, She held me. All the while, She continued to whisper to me how I was a rag doll. And I felt good. I was able to be a rag doll then, when She hugged me to Her chest. She didn’t have to see my tears. I imagined Her younger, playing with Her toys, and I was Her most treasured possession.
I felt happy. So why couldn’t I smile?
The day I found out, the dreams stopped.
Cancer. Malignant. Nothing they could do. I had been having headaches, nothing worth complaining about until one day I just collapsed in class. Came to in the hospital. They ran tests. Told me the news. I was going to die.
Everything felt so cold.
I knew I had to survive, I had to fight it, but my heart wasn’t in it. I went through the motions, but I felt it wasn’t my destiny. At one point, I realized that I wasn’t having that dream anymore. I cried. It was like I was dead already. No... it was like something I gave birth to died. My dream had died, and I was just me, alone, for ever and ever.
When I came out of the hospital, I went to the only place I thought I could find joy anymore. I went to Her.
When I came calling in the middle of the night, She opened Her doors to me, almost as if She were expecting me. I still remember Her smile, because I remember how quickly it turned into a face of utter sadness when I told Her the news.
I was dying, I told Her, and I knew I should be fighting for my life, but I was just sad. I didn’t want to live anymore—not this way. Not without dreams. If I had to give up my dreams, I didn’t want to live. Then I explained to Her the dreams. She listened. I thought I saw a tear almost fall from Her eye, but it turned into a crystal shine.
“Grace,” She said. “My dear Grace. I can help you... but it will not be easy.”
“What do you mean? You can help?”
“Do you want to dream again?”
I looked at Her for a moment, not believing what I was hearing. Then I remembered, in the past, what She had said about dolls—how they have voices. I closed my eyes, and tried to listen.
I heard them. But I didn’t understand their words. I heard, in the depths of the silence of Her house, an echo of joy, of peace and of happiness. Happiness that could never be taken away by anyone in the world. I opened my eyes slowly, and looked in Hers, and I understood what She was calling me to do.
“Hang your arms limply on your side... like a rag doll. You are a rag doll.”
“I am a rag doll.”
“Feel your body become a rag skirt. Just relax. Your hair is becoming string. Your legs flop.”
“My legs flop.”
“And you are ready for anyone to hug you and hold you, at any time, because you’re a good rag doll.”
“I’m a good rag doll.”
“Yes, you are. You’re a good rag doll... right? You know what you have to do?”
I closed my eyes again, and I listened for the voices. I felt a little fear, and looked to the voices for comfort. But I couldn’t hear the voices this time. I couldn’t even hear the beat of my own heart, or the sound of my own breathing. There was a deep, complete silence, a well of infinite black that seemed to call to me. Wrapping me deep within it. I surrendered to its embrace.
And i smiled.
And so it is that, on the days when the hustle and bustle of the exchange of comforts and goods quiets down, i receive the affection of my Mistress. She feels very badly that She can’t give me all the love that She believes i deserve. And that someday, if someone is to be found, looking for a perfect little rag doll of their very own, that i would have a new, better home. I’ll always keep Her in my heart, but i need someone to hold me precious.
My name is Grace and i love you.
Take me home?