SPOTLIGHT: We Are All Either Dolls or Seeds by Eady H

I have lived many different lives and been known by many different names. I know a great many things, like don’t take candy from strangers. All those warnings seem so distant as I reach out my six-year-old hand and take red licorice from a nice lady I just met. It’s been a while since I’ve had candy.

“I’ve got a real live doll at home,” she says. “Would you like to meet her?”

I nod my head and climb into the back seat of her large black sedan. I like dolls. Most of mine were made from cornstalks. I’d been playing with them next to the road when the lady had stopped. Mother had told me not to. But I was so bored inside. And it was so nice outside. The birds were chirping, and the sun was shining. I was only ever allowed out after dark. And even then, very rarely.

Mother never really let me play outside unless we were with the recycled. But they had become what she called radical. At that time, I didn’t understand what that meant. And so, she’d moved us to a quiet town and started a job. I wasn’t allowed to attend school, but by that time, school had become meaningless because there were almost no children anymore.

“Is there more candy?” I asked from the backseat.

The nice lady handed me a whole bag of red licorice and I munched happily while I stared out the window at the passing scenery. By the time the bag was empty, the lady was pulling into a long drive. She pulled the car into a garage and shut it off.

“The doll is inside. Come on sweetie,” the lady said.

Mother had never let me see a real doll before and I was curious. So, I followed the lady inside her house and up the stairs to a room on the left. She ushered me inside and gestured at the doll staring out the window.

“Jane,” the lady said to the doll. “Meet our guest.”

The doll turned and looked at me. It’s eyes cold and lifeless. There was no soul looking back at me. Even as a child I recognized how wrong that was.

“You girls, get acquainted. I’m going to work on dinner.”

“Um, my mom’s going to be back from work soon. I should probably get back.”

“You live here now honey.”

The lady left me alone with the doll. I was a bit confused by her words, but I was still enthralled with the doll, despite how creepy it was.

“Hi, I’m Cleo. Do you want to play?”

The doll ignored me and went back to looking out the window. I sat down and played with the toys in the room. I had heard dolls were bland. Some even labeled them as creepy. Having met this one, I found it boring. Several times I tried to get it to play with me, but it just stared out the window.

Its mother came to fetch us when dinner was ready, and it followed her prompts to leave the room. Silently it ate dinner. After all the candy I had eaten I found I wasn’t hungry.

“You’ll have to tell me some of your favorites dear so I can cook for you,” the nice lady said.

“What do I call you?” I asked abruptly. She had never introduced herself to me and I was suddenly struck by the issue that I didn’t know her.


“But I have one of those.”

“I’m your mother now dear. And while we’re discussing such things, I have some rules I’d like you to follow. No going outside. I don’t want anyone to know you’re here.”


“Some horrible person might run off with you.”

I was not happy with the issuance of rules. My own mother had had the same rule. Look how that had turned out. That night I was given a bed with my own room. It was painted light purple and had fairies on the wall. It was more than I had had in a long time. Nights spent in the camp of the recycled were spent smashed into a large common room on sleeping bags while the rest of the camp was being built. Nights with my mother had been spent in the same bed as her. She was so scared someone would steal me in my sleep and she wouldn’t hear it.

And so, my days went like this for several weeks. Every day I asked about my mother. Every day that was greeted with this lady was now my mother. I was cautioned to never leave the house and urged to play with the doll. The more it stared, the more I found it creepy. It wasn’t like a hard plastic doll. It looked real. Until one day I was fed up with that house. And I left. I had no idea where I was going or how to return to my mother, but I started walking down the drive. I didn’t get very far when I heard the car racing after me. It screeched to a halt beside me, and the lady jumped from it, her eyes blazing and her chest heaving. I could tell she wanted to hit me for acting out. But she didn’t.

“Get in the car,” she said.

“No. I’m going home.”

“You are home.”

I turned and fled from her. I could hear her running after me as I turned into the trees that lined the drive. I was soon lost and stumbling, and she sounded like she was right behind me.

“Please come back. Please.”

She sounded worried. And I thought maybe she was trying to keep me safe. My mouth had become dry, and I was panting so I stopped. Less than a minute later I felt her hand clamp down on my shoulder. I let her lead me back to the house without a word.

From then on, my bedroom was moved to the basement behind a locked door. She came down three times a day with meals. I was given all the toys I could ask for, but I was denied tv. Sometimes she sat on the other side of the door and read to me. I never saw the doll again.

While I was trapped in that makeshift dungeon, I entertained myself by remembering my past lives. Finding them was easy once I began to retreat into my own head. The toys became boring after a while and my memories were all I had.

I remember two lives ago when I was eighty-three, they announced they had created a serum that could stop death. At first only the rich could afford it. By the time I’d been reborn again, the serum was being offered to more and more people. Luckily, I was born to parents who didn’t believe in the serum. They were religious of a sort and believed death was natural and the only way to eventually be with their god in paradise. As I grew older, more and more people turned their backs on their religions in favor of the serum. It was concrete, while God they believed might just be an illusion.

Unfortunately, my parents fell to those thoughts. They got the serum. I didn’t. Eventually nearly all the world had taken the serum. Death was virtually no more. But there were those of us who remembered our past lives. We knew souls were recycled. We were ostracized until the dolls began to be born. Bodies without souls. They were empty shells, with no creativity, no personality, nothing.

It was then the recycled moved into camps, hidden in the forests. Those who had given birth to dolls longed for a child with a soul. And they’d do anything to get one. With this memory, I knew what the lady upstairs was trying to do. She wanted my soul to pick her house when it returned to this plane. But my soul would never choose to return here, to her.

I spent years in that basement. No natural light, no shower other than sponge baths. No entertainment. By the time I turned sixteen or so, I was incredibly depressed. I saw no reason to live if my life was going to consist of those four walls. As I’d aged, the woman who called herself my mother had taken away the toys and replaced them with makeup and a vanity along with other various objects she thought a teenage girl would want. One night, after I was sure she’d gone to sleep, I used the stool that sat in front of the vanity to shatter the glass.

I had no fear of death because I knew from previous lives that the soul is eternal. And so, I selected a piece of glass from the floor and slid it across my skin. I was ready to embrace my next life, but this one was not done with me. I remember the pain of the glass against my skin, and the warm rush of blood to the cut. I remember a chill creeping down my arm and then my vision fading to black. When I woke, I expected to be in the place between lives where the soul chooses the next adventure. But I woke to the smell of fresh rain. Something I hadn’t smelled in years.

“Petrichor,” a male voice said as I inhaled deep.

I opened my eyes to bright natural light, and I blinked rapidly until my eyes adjusted. My arm was wrapped in a white bandage and there was a guy sitting next to me reading a book.

“No, my name is Cleo.”

He laughed; the sound pleasant after so long with only the lady for company. I looked around the room. It was a far cry from the small room I had spent the last several years of my life in. Every wall had windows in it and the door stood open into the next room.

“Petrichor is the name for the smell after rain,” he said.

“Where am I?”

“Where you belong.”

He still had not looked up from his book, but I scooted across the bed away from him. I had heard words like that before. The lady had been full of similar sayings.

He finally placed a bookmark between the pages and set the book aside to look at me. “We’re all recycled here Cleo.”

I looked at him confused. “How did I get here?” The lady would have never given me up willingly.

“The undying who was keeping you prisoner called for a doctor when she found you bleeding. The only people who ever need doctors are us recycled and an undying would never call a doctor out of the goodness of their heart. We’ve actually gotten several of our lost children back that way.”

I wasn’t following everything he was saying. But he seemed more sincere than the lady had. He continued to talk about the recycled saving kidnapped children and how they knew I was one.

“What’s your name?” I asked suddenly.


“Can I go?”

He smiled. “If you’ve got somewhere to go, we won’t stop you. If not, you’re safe here.”

“Forgive me if I don’t believe a word coming out of your mouth. The last person I trusted locked me in a basement because she wanted my soul.”

“I already have one of those,” he said with another smile.

His smile set me at ease, and I was angry with myself over it. I wanted not to trust him after the way I’d spent the last years of my life. But I appeared to be free of the lady, and I wanted to trust him for that alone.


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