Television screens

Without her fully realising it, her life had become a strange dream-land where things didn’t really happen. Or at least they didn’t really happen to her. She often felt like she was standing outside the window of an electronic goods store, watching the many televisions displayed there. Even her thoughts and memories were on show. She wondered if anyone could come up and watch her life like she was now. The thought terrified her: her life was like melodramatic day-time television.

She wondered if maybe the out-of-body problem she was having might be depression. She worried that because she couldn’t work out how to climb back into the television set – or even which set to try first – she was missing out on some rather nice things. Each day she would wake up and watch herself stumble to the bathroom in the dark; use the toilet; have a shower; poke contact lenses in her tired eyes; catch the bus and walk to work; stare mindlessly at a computer screen for nine hours; take a similar route back home again; pull together some ingredients for dinner; stare mindlessly at a different screen for an hour or so; and then crawl into a borrowed bed.

She wondered if maybe her real life was happening while she was asleep. As a child she had often worried that, if one’s dreams and real life got mixed up, one might never know. And how could she know what kind of person she was in her real life if she forgot it like a dream the instant she woke up? Her childhood concern had a little more weight now.

The thing that had broken her all those months ago had done a very good job: she wasn’t sure if she would ever heal.

The Doll

She is just a little bit broken, the forgotten doll on the shelf whose arm is starting to tear off at the seam. Just a few stitches have broken now but, with time, it could easily be the whole arm. She still smiles, mostly blankly, but underneath all the intricate face paint she is terrified of losing her limb. After all, she thinks, it always starts with the arm, and who knows which body part might come next?

Things started to go awry the day she was put on the shelf and left behind. The day was otherwise just like any other; the sun rose, the birds cheeped, some clouds passed over, games were played, imaginary tea was drunk from tiny plastic teacups, dinner was eaten, baths were had, bedtime stories were told. But instead of her usual place on the pillow, the doll was placed carefully on the shelf high above the floor.

That first night she hardly slept at all. She missed the child’s warm breath brushing lightly across the top of her wooden cheek. She could hear the breathing in the dark but it was so faint. For the first time, a tear came to her wooden eye.

For years she sat on the shelf, made stationary and silent by the fear of losing her limbs. After many years no more of the stitches have broken but the doll’s surroundings have changed and her wooden face has aged.

No longer does she sit, lump in her throat, in a child’s bright bedroom. Instead of colourful posters on the walls there is dull mould and damp rot. The floorboards have mostly disappeared to reveal a dark pond of uncertain space. No longer does a door hang in the frame. Curtains still hang about the large windows but they are littered with holes from visits by moths; the light that comes through is mottled and gives the room the appearance of a shadowy underwater cavern. Through the cavern, like the rise and fall of the ocean, echoes the faint memory of the child’s sleeping breath.

The paint on her face is faded and patchy, her hair has mostly rotted away, and what is left is covered in a crown of furry mould. She is the only toy in the cavern and she still sits high above the floor; the sad, reluctant queen of the forgotten room.