Everybody had something to say about a thirty two year old woman who lived alone but was not lonely. They speculated and they discussed, and then they assumed something had to be wrong with her. What reason did a grown woman have, to want to live by herself, they asked and answered. Maybe she was divorced, or disgraced, and some said those were in fact the same things.

This was Sathya, the thirty two year old woman about whom Many Things were said. She showed up to work in her low maintenance salwar kameez everyday, the ones you didn’t have to iron. She typed away on word documents and she maintained that was what every job came down to if you looked closely enough. She took two tea breaks (late morning and early evening), ate her lunch from a stainless steel box that sometimes leaked. She was ordinary, or not, depending on which group you belonged to. She received few phone calls, presumably from family members in far-off places. It was better that no one knew exactly who she was talking to, they made it their thought exercise on days they didn’t feel like working.

Every night, before she went to bed, Sathya made a little more progress on the doll she was sewing. It (he?) was her fourth, and the project was coming along rather well, after three lacklustre attempts. She gave him glossy, curly hair, bright eyes, and long eyelashes. She gave him a look that she felt was intelligent. She was getting some satisfaction from this new hobby, and she was quite pleased when her friend said she could even sell these dolls eventually. She didn’t work for longer than an hour at a time, her eyes grew tired and she started to nod off. She put away the doll in her wardrobe, in a shoe box that she repurposed.

Sathya didn’t know this, but the doll was slowly growing. Just a tiny bit, a centimetre a day, so she wouldn’t notice. The doll was watching her, from its place in the shoe box. Soon the doll didn’t fit into the box, and she didn’t think much of it. She placed it on a shelf in her wardrobe, upright. She gave it fingers and toes, a torso and limbs. She imagined for it behaviours and quirks like what her child would have, should such an event come to pass, though she doubted it.

Sathya persisted, working hard, now sewing clothes until sleep caught up with her. Trousers, a checked shirt with a chest pocket. The doll was life-like at this point, with eyes that never missed anything, but she continued to think it looked the way it always had. It noted when her breaths slowed, it knew when she slept with her mouth open and made her pillow damp, it observed her as she fought away unpleasant dreams and talked to characters her mind conjured.

One night, Sathya set the doll down, next to her on the bed, because she was too exhausted to walk three steps to the wardrobe. It arose when her eyelids ceased to move, and strangled her till she lay still, and took its place on the shelf.

After three working days, her colleagues had suspicions, and salacious predictions. Calls were made, people were informed, the apartment was broken into. There were rumours of asphyxia, and gossip about what kind of men Sathya possibly let into her apartment. No commitments, no responsibilities, they pronounced. She lived by herself, didn’t she? All alone, and not even vaguely disappointed about that, carrying on as though a woman like her was perfectly normal, leaving behind nothing of note, except some dolls in a wardrobe.

Prompt: Wardrobe
Genre: Horror
750 word limit

Top Three on the fiction|poetry grid this week! Thank you for the votes.


20 thoughts on “Life-like

    1. Thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚
      I wanted it to sound like a story we tell a friend. Also I was very nervous about uploading this to the grid, but I figured I can’t get better without first acknowledging and getting out of the way the awful bits.


  1. I really enjoyed the narration in this piece — it felt like a campfire tale, or a late night ghost story. I also liked the way you worked in all the judgements about an unmarried woman, and how they obscured the real reason for her death. It was a nice way to leave the story open ended with the potential for the doll/s to strike again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my I loved your opening paragraph. Hell I AM your opening paragraph! LOL

    At the risk of sounding like an echo, the narrative voice here is awesome. I particularly liked the way you gave details about the doll without slowing the tale down.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This absolutely felt like the kind of thing we would tell around the fire at summer camp. I think it was partially because of the voice, but also because it was simple and linear and the repetitions built. I knew what was going to happen, just the moment or the details.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love how this pulls offf two levels of horror: the doll that comes to life and the psychological factor of being a single woman in an uncaring society. The detached tone of the narration worked really well.


  5. The POV you chose was perfect. No dialogue but the whole piece was speaking. That added to that quiet creepiness and the ever present doll. I loved the little details of the leaky lunch box and the speculations like this: What reason did a grown woman have, to want to live by herself, they asked and answered.

    People do that don’t they? Answer their own questions because they aren’t really interested in the truth.

    This read so smooth and that quiet type of horror. So well done.

    BTW is should it be quirks? you had quriks

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I would love to see you work this up into a story about 4x as long so that you can dig into the ramp-up of the doll coming slowly alive at a better pace, and then submit it to a horror mag. There are so many fantastic details to unpack that the spots where you had to summarize the action stuck out a little bit, and I think without a tight word limit this story could really come into its own.

    Liked by 1 person

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