A Library For Dolls

The other doll holds my hand and leads the way. Its proportions are so very unlike mine—limbs as long as I am tall—and its firm hand squishes my soft one just like my old witch’s used to, but a doll is still a doll, and it knows how to smooth out the knot of anxiety in me.

It takes me to a place I’ve only heard of by rumor. A library for dolls! It seems fantastical (and even a bit scary), but I choose to put my faith in my big new friend.

The only witches here are other dolls, it assures me, and nobody here belongs to anyone or anything.

While I puzzle over what that could mean, we arrive somewhere new. Warm and fuzzy booksmell greets me, tugging my attention to our surroundings.

It’s BIG. I mean, my friend is big, and my witch was big, and my witch’s library—when she was alive—was big, but this!

I crane my neck and look up and up and up. Bookshelves stacked all the way to the ceiling burst with more books than I’ve ever seen before, and as my friend pulls me gently forward, I pass by many, many more.

I’d forget to keep walking without the steady tug on my hand, but my friend isn’t mad that it has to slow down for me and give me time to take everything in.

“We’re almost there,” it tells me. “The Librarian will be excited to meet you, I’m sure!”

I nod, but I still feel nervous. I’m not anything special, just a lost doll that was lucky someone nice found me before someone mean did. There’s no reason anyone should be excited to meet me, right?

The doll my friend takes me to doesn’t notice us at first. It seems very busy on the floor doing something important-looking: sorting and stacking books and making marks on paper about it. Another doll watches us enter the room from its seat in the corner, but it says nothing.

I don’t want to bother or interrupt, so I stay still and try not to make any noise.

My friend doesn’t wait very long before knocking on a nearby wall like it’s a door. The busy one looks up in surprise.

“Librarian? Got a new friend here who’s curious about the Library.”

I don’t hide. I don’t!

But I do make myself small, and I move closer to my friend for support. It pats me on the head, and I feel safe enough to peek out from behind it.

The two other dolls stare at me, and I let out a squeak…only a little one, though.

“Hey there! Do you like stories?” the Librarian asks me.

I nod.

“Me too! What kind of stories are your favorite?”

I look down at my shoes and fidget with my dress. “I don’t know,” I mumble. It’s the Librarian, though, so maybe it can help! “Can you tell me what I like?”

“Not yet!” it says, shaking its head. “I have to get to know you better before I can suggest something.”

The Librarian bounces up to its feet with excited energy. Something in its demeanor reminds me of the sisters I used to have, and I feel a little more at ease.

It rushes past me, turning around just long enough to wave a sparkling hand beckoning me to follow before spinning back around and leading us deeper into the forest of shelves.

The quiet doll trots after it, without urgency, but clearly unwilling to be separated.

Maybe this Librarian really is just a doll like me after all? But it’s a doll with important responsibilities! And it doesn’t answer to anyone! And witches are scared of it!

It seems nice, though, and I recognize in the other doll a need to be close to a friend it trusts.

I look up at my tall friend whose grip helps me feel safe, and it gives me an encouraging nod before we follow the Librarian together.

When I get lost in the mix of twists and turns, I don’t feel scared. At least not until we find a place with soft seating and other dolls.

I’m thankful they don’t all turn to look at me when we arrive. They don’t notice us at all. Some of them sit on comfy-looking couches or weird lumpy seats or big fancy chairs.

Over on the far end of the room, a bunch gather around another doll reading aloud to them.

They look like they’re having fun.

Maybe…? No, I’m not ready to meet that many new dolls today.

The Librarian catches me staring at the group and leans toward me like it has a secret to share.

“Sometimes,” it whispers, “when it’s my turn to get to read a story to everyone, I just make up a new one on the spot instead.”

I gasp. “You can do that? Make up your own stories?”

The Librarian giggles and responds by tugging me by my free arm to a nearby bookshelf.

It gestures at a whole row of bookshelves. “You see this aisle?”

I nod.

“All the books in this section are written by dolls like us!”

I stare in awe. My hand drifts on its own toward the shelf before I notice and hesitate.

“Go ahead, pick one out,” the Librarian says.

I pick one with a bright red spine that catches my eye. The book is thick and heavy, just like the ones my witch used to have.

Is this really something a doll could do?

I read the title on the cover. “A Demon Snuck Into Our House And Started Doing Lots of Mean Things Like Try To Rule The World But It Turns Out In The End That She’s Actually Really Nice And Everyone Makes Friends (Scary Story But Happy Ending).”

Oh. This book sounds really fun! Sometimes the books that my witch kept got too scary because I didn’t know if anyone would be okay in the end. This title is reassuring, though; I can read this and be brave through the scary parts if I know the ending is happy.

I check another one, this time with a pretty blue cover. “Watch Out! This Forest Will Eat You! But Not Really, It’s A Metaphor For Finding A New Home And Adjusting To Change.”

Wow, that’s just like me! I also just found a new home, and I’m still figuring things out too.

Ooh, this book has a cute drawing on the cover. “What If A Witch Was Nice To Her Dolls And Everyone Was Happy Instead of Sad?”

“Oh!” the Librarian interrupts, bouncing excitedly. “That’s one of mine!”

I’ve never been more impressed. I never knew dolls could make up their own stories, or that they’d all seem so interesting.

I work up the courage to ask, “Are… all these books happy? No mean or sad ones?”

The Librarian seems more filled with energy than ever, and it’s kinda fun to see how excited it gets about books. “There’s all kinds of stories here! Whatever you want!”

It scans the shelves for a moment before picking an ominous-looking tome with a black cover.

The other doll extends its arms to show me the title.

“The Doll That Finally Realizes Where She Belongs And That’s The Garbage Can (Please Don’t Read This One It’s Sad And It Will Make You Sad And I’m Sorry I Wrote It You Can Pretend It Has A Happy Ending If You Want).”

I flinch and whimper, slowly backing away from the book. “Please, sorry, no thank you, sorry.”

My friend squeezes my hand tighter while I clutch the three nicer books to my chest.

The other doll hurries to put the book back. “I…think I misunderstood. I’m really sorry!”

I feel so guilty. The Librarian is sniffling, on the verge of crying that it accidentally upset me, and that’s all my fault for not accepting the sad book. “I’m sorry,” I say, “I didn’t mean it, I’ll read it!”

“No, it’s okay, I’m sorry I shoved it at you, I’m—”

The silent doll interrupts by putting a hand atop the Librarian’s head and giving it a gentle pat.

“You’re okay,” the Librarian says, its voice suddenly lower pitched than before. “Neither of you did anything wrong. It was just a miscommunication.”

I shake my head. “But I could’ve—”

I am interrupted by the force of the silent doll’s gaze suddenly falling upon me, and I now realize that the voice speaking from the Librarian’s mouth belongs to that one rather than to the Librarian itself. “Let’s have a break for tea.”

We end up sharing a table at a cozy patio where the two of us can soothe our guilt and sip something relaxing.

The silent doll must be an expert at friendship because it isn’t long before the Librarian is back in high spirits again.

I touch the stack of books I carried with me, reassured by the promise of fun reading later, but something else is on my mind still.

“Do you think I could learn to make up my own stories someday?” I ask.

The Librarian giggles. “You could do it right now!”

“But I’m not good at writing yet! You gotta be good at writing before you can write a story.”

“Nope!” the Librarian responds. “You can just write a silly story that makes no sense, and I promise someone will like it. Probably even me!”

“But what if my idea isn’t very good?”

“Sometimes I don’t think all of mine are good either,” it admits. “But you don’t know which ideas are good if you’re too afraid they might be bad to give them a fair chance, I think.”

“I’m scared that they’ll say mean things if this idea is bad, though.”

“Ooh, do you have an idea already?”

“Um. Maybe?”

The Librarian leans forward, “are you willing to trust the three of us at this table?”

I look around at everyone—my big friend and my two new friends I just met today—and I decide I do trust them. I nod.

“How about trying your idea out right now?”

“But! But! Just make up a story and tell you?!”

The Librarian nods vigorously. “I love stories more than just about anything!”

I’m nervous, but these are my friends, so…

“Okay, but you have to promise to be nice, okay?”

I point at each of them in turn until they give their solemn vow to be nice to me no matter how bad my story is.

“Um. So… ‘Once upon a time…’ That’s how you start, right? ‘There was a Princess, and she was locked in a tower by the King to keep her away from this Hive…”