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‘To New Friends’ by Michael Whitehouse

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I once found a small child’s toy sitting in the middle of a road. It was a doll; that of an infant only a few months old. The eyes were open, the lashes pronounced, and the pink paint, which vaguely resembled human skin, peeled from the plastic features of its face. I can’t say what drew me to it, but I found it odd that such a thing should be sitting upright, its dress dishevelled and dirtied, left behind only to be crushed by passing cars. A toy that at one time would have meant a great deal to a child.

Picking it up, its limbs dangled like a puppet without a master, held together loosely by thread sewn into a cotton body. It was then that I heard a rattle, something inside the doll. Quickly, I realised that the noise was coming from the head, from behind the eyes, as something moved around tapping against the plastic which surrounded it. I saw no one on the street, and so, without thinking, I tore the doll open, breaking the head off, ripping it from its cotton shoulders. Peering into the now decapitated head, I could see what had been making the noise. A tooth, human or otherwise, slipped into my hand from the open neck.

She used to be my friend’, a voice said.

Looking up, a young girl stood before me, pointing to the broken doll in my hand.

She won’t be happy with you now’, she said nervously.

And why is that?’, I asked.

Would you be happy if someone tore off your head?’

She’s just a doll’, I said, pushing the head and body together. ‘I can fix her for you if you’d like?’

No, I don’t like playing with her’. The girl then walked past me, continuing down the street.

Looking at the broken doll in my hands, the eyes vacant, I began to feel strangely nervous.

Why don’t you like her?’, I shouted after the girl.

In response, the child stopped and turned around to look at me from afar before replying: ‘She steals things’. It was then that she smiled, revealing a toothless grin. ‘She’s your friend now’. And with that, the little girl disappeared into a garden nearby.

 

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