The Novelist and the Doll, Part 2

Desperate to avoid a repeat of their recent tragedy, Oscar turned to the finest physicians from across the land. They moved from one great hospital to the next. Oscar implored each doctor they met, and through his appeals learned of a new, experimental treatment. The decision seemed an easy one.

Yet every herb has its demons. The girl clamored with each swallow, a sight which ate away at her doting father as the days of treatment stretched on.

The new treatment seemed to have no effect on her symptoms. Having no further recourse, the doctors declared it a lost cause and withdrew from the fight.

Oscar became plagued with the absurd notion that his lonely wife was beckoning to their daughter from the world beyond. He wailed at her grave, “Don’t take her from me!” But the dead speak no words.

Oscar was teetering on the edge. Perhaps unexpectedly, it was his wife’s friend who broke first. Exhausted by endless fretting as the girl hung in limbo, she appeared less and less often at the hospital, then finally stopped coming altogether. Oscar and his daughter were now truly alone. The girl's extensive medication had left her emaciated. Her once-milky skin was a sickly yellow and her once-rosy cheeks pallid.

Her honeyed hair, too, was now falling out.

Oscar could no longer bear to look at her.

After endlessly pushing fruitless questions upon the doctors, he finally relented. The girl would continue on analgesics alone. All other treatment would stop. Oscar resolved that if nothing else, his daughter’s short life would not end in suffering.

The next while was peaceful. They spent happy days together. He saw his daughter smile for the first time in months. So continued their last few days of light.

It was glorious autumn outside on the day that she died. Color was slipping from the world drip by drip, but the sky was bright blue and cloudless. From the window, one caught candid glimpses of trees dressed in reds and yellows. A fountain stood in the hospital grounds, offering respite to the weary. Fallen leaves floated soundlessly across its pool.

Each leaf there had fallen to the water’s surface and drifted there until finally pulled into a clump of comrades. Now they floated aimlessly together. New leaves were always pulled in, almost as if by magnet. Thus, even in their wreckage, lives lost to the season, they emerged in beautiful synchronization.

On seeing them, the girl spoke. “How pretty.

“The way the water’s blue and the color of the leaves mix together. It’s so pretty. Father, if a person stepped on those leaves, do you think they’d walk across the pond without falling in?”

Ah, the innocence of a child. Surely gravity and weight would conspire to bring one’s body plunging in, but Oscar could deny his daughter no more.

“And if you held an umbrella, my sweet, you could use the wind and perhaps even float just above it.”

His tone was playful. He longed so badly to dote on his helpless daughter just a little more. And as she listened to his words, her eyes sparkled. “Yes. Yes, that’s just what I’ll do. I’ll dance across the water for you.”

Someday I’ll dance for you. On the lake, by our home now far away. When the leaves drift across the water in autumn.

Shortly after, she fell into a coughing fit. One cough, two, then several more. And then, as if stolen away, she was gone.

She had been but nine years old.

When Oscar brought his arms under the husk she had left behind, it felt dreadfully light. Too light, even for a body now short a soul.

Had she ever even been alive? Had it just been one long dream? Tears came to his eyes.

The girl was buried alongside her mother. Oscar returned to the house built for three, and there he began his life of silence.

Oscar had financial means enough to live on without working. A royalty system brought in money each time his widely-used scripts were employed. He would never scrape the bottom of his savings, and he would never go hungry.

After several years of mourning for his wife and daughter, a long-lost work acquaintance reached out to Oscar. Wouldn’t he try his hand at one more script?

It was at the behest of an elite performing troupe, one which any actor would clamor to be a part of. For Oscar, whose past work was known but who had all but vanished from the industry, it was an honor simply to be asked.

He’d spent so many days languishing in sloth, wallowing in sadness, indulging in self-pity.

Man is a thing that tires. Whether happiness or sadness, he cannot bear to live always with that alone. That is how he is built.

Oscar agreed to the job in his second reply, determined to lift his pen once more.

But here the trouble began. In desperation to escape his harsh reality, Oscar had turned to–no, embraced–the bottle. And with it came a smattering of drugs to ensure happy thoughts at least in dreams. With the help of his doctor he had somehow managed to conquer the drink and drugs themselves, yet in their wake, his hands were left forever trembling.

Whether words laid on paper or struck with keys, his efforts to push forward seemed hopeless.

His breast was full with words; he merely needed to find the way to bring them forth.

He turned once more to his acquaintance to ask for advice.

“I’ve just the thing.

“We need to get you an Auto Memories Doll.”

“What’s that?”

“Ah, my friend, you’ve been away from the world too long… I’m worried about you. Auto Memories Dolls. Everybody knows about them. You can even rent them out. Hardly costs a thing anymore. Yes, that’s what we’ll do. I’ll have one sent over for you to try out.”

“I’m going to get help from a… doll?”

“Hah! A special kind of doll, to be sure.”

And that was how Oscar came to use a new kind of tool, one whose name he’d only just learned. Oscar and the “Auto Memories Doll.” This was the beginning of their fates entwined.