Flash Fiction: Baby Doll Heads, Dead Horse Bay

Baby Doll Heads Beached by Matt Crowley

I’m standing on Dead Horse Bay beach to see off the hurricane, to get a good look at its inconceivable proportions before it moves on to do its marauding elsewhere. And here I make an uncommon discovery: a group of simulated-ceramic baby doll heads enmeshed in a slummy cloud of soggy refuse, pitched onto the sands by the fury of the storm.

The detail of the facial features indicate fine craftsmanship: the furrows carved into the forehead and their direct configuration with the curvature of the lips, the flaring of the nostrils, the wrinkling of the eyes, and fluctuation of the cheeks, to indicate expressions of happiness, sadness, confusion, anger: each head seems to be equipped with its own custom-built emotion. Some dolls blush to accompany their smiling or crying, their smiles revealing different numbers and shapes of teeth, their crying different numbers and shapes of tears. The painted eyes are alive with color: blue, brown, green, and . . . yellow? This head’s got blue irises around dark orange pupils. I also notice that while there are freckles on one cheek, there are none on the other. If I had looked at another doll carefully enough I would have noticed that while the its eyes were crying and looking quite gloomy, its mouth was smiling, even laughing. Is this an expression that’s even humanly possible? Each head, in fact, shows some sort of slightly inhuman characteristic. What were they, some failed, mad experiment? Evidently they were part of a trial run whose prototypes were rejected, judged not worthy of bodies.

This whole grotesque tableaux, I envision, was the result of a rescue effort gone awry:

A stealthy group of artists who favor recycling found objects had spirited the heads away in a pickup truck before they were properly disposed of by their manufacturer, a doll-making factory upriver (as to which river, the Hudson or the East, this might be determined by a careful examination of debris caught among the dolls’ nylon hair fibers, each river’s filth being quite distinctive). During the artists’ getaway on a dark, curvy road running close along the riverbank, their driver swerved suddenly to avoid a doll which he mistook for a human child. The truck overturned, emptying its cargo straight down into the water . . .

Or maybe the fugitive artists’ trip was without incident and the truck reached its destination, a pier on the river. There the heads were loaded onto a small boat to be ferried across to the opposite side. On its way the boat capsized in the wake of a monster container ship, the heads tumbling out to be carried away in the current and lost, the sailor artists too troubled about their own survival to make any effort to retrieve them. And here the heads finally rest, as though they could be mistaken for an art installation of the kind their artist abductors had intended to use them.

Of Dreams and Dolls by Nate Worrell

One man fills another head full of powder. He wonders what sort sad story will hollow out the doll’s head for the sake of hollowing out their own. He can’t give it much thought though because several boxes of heads are waiting to be stuffed with snowy dreams.

Another man carries a doll in a garbage bag. He awoke this morning gazing into the empty eyes of the doll head. It reminded him of the daughter he once pushed on the swings. He’s on his way to give the doll to her now, the first gift he’s given her since she was stumbling through her first steps. He hopes she still plays with dolls.

A young woman sits in the sand and wipes a lonely tear from her eyes. Tossing the doll into the bay was hard, but she needed to let go. She’d lied to herself for too long, he wasn’t coming back.

Baby Doll Heads by Hailey Briggs

Samantha had listened as long as she could.  With catlike reflexes, she slinked away from her school group.  There was only so much history and intrigue to Dead Horse Bay.  She longed to swim in the waters, but even she could not come up with a likely tale as to all her wet clothes.

She searched every crevice in the land, hoping for some sort of washed up treasure.  Mostly she found cans, trash, and ugly rocks.  She stared the way she had come.  She was determined to not let this day be for nothing.

Her steps hurried.  In minutes she was running.

Something red broke up the monotony and directed her path.  She chased the crimson.

The closer she neared, the deeper the sense of dread.  The dirt, the rocks, the sparse grass, they all were painted with blood.  In a center of trampled earth was a duffle bag.  Samantha hesitated only a second before she carefully unzipped.  As soon as it was open, she stumbled back, expecting snakes or something to rush out at her.  When nothing happened, she inched the bag opened and stared inside.  Over twenty baby doll heads stared up at her.  All had different hair and eye colors.  On their foreheads they had a name inked on them.

A manila folder was stuffed in the midst of the heads.  Samantha retrieved it.  Inside she found numerous newspaper clippings about missing women and girls.  After skimming through a few of them, she focused on the heads.  The names on the dolls matched with the missing females.

As soon as she realized this, Samantha dropped the papers and rose to her feet.  She turned away from the bag, but nearly fell when she collided with something.  Steadying big hands grabbed her arms.  She stared up at the man who balanced her.  His mirrored sunglasses prevented any way to know what he was thinking.

He smiled.  “You lost, sweetheart?”

“Um, no.  My class is just right over there.”  She pointed with the shift of her eyes.

He, however, did not follow her movement.  “I have something for you.”

He dug in his pocket.  She tried to back away, but his one hand still attached to her was iron strong and unyielding.  His pocketed hand ceased moving.  His smile widened, revealing dirty brown teeth and pungent breath.  He slowly pulled out a doll’s head, with the same hair and eye color as hers.  On the forehead, her name was written.  Samantha screamed, or tried to, before everything went black.

Never Alone by Cynthia D. Witherspoon

If I was going to die, I refused to do it alone. Call me a romantic. Or insane. Whichever fits your fancy. Either way, I’d made up my mind. Just walk into the water. Never look back.

But not alone. Never alone.

Momma said only criminals and heretics died alone. I was neither, though I did leave my bible at home. Maybe that’s why I was doing this. Because I couldn’t believe.

God had abandoned me as quick as I abandoned him.

I made it to the beach of Dead Horse Bay and held on tight to my companion. The poor dear had no idea what was coming to her. As I approached the water, I remembered when she first joined me. I named her Suzy. Loved her. It was only fitting she would find her end in mine.

The water blended well with the night here. I felt the waves lapping at my toes and smiled. If I was going to do this, I would do it right. No blades. No tears. Just give up. Make it look like an accident so Momma would attend my funeral.

Wouldn’t she? I stopped when my first fear hit. What if no one attended my funeral? What if they couldn’t bury Suzy with me?

I decided to leave Suzy on the beach. I placed her just out of reach of the water with a pat on her plastic head. She deserved a funeral more than I did. The doll was my only friend. Especially after everyone left me.

Momma shunned me for being crazy.

My sisters left me for their own lives.

I shook off the sand coating my feet before I stepped into the water. It was warm tonight. I started to turn back. Grab Suzy so she could enjoy it too. But no. She had to be buried with me. So I wouldn’t be alone.

I took another step. Then another, stopping only when the water came up to my waist. The night was silent. I was grateful for that.

Just as I was about to go further, a rough wave erupted and knocked me off my feet. The salt water stung my eyes. My clothes became heavy. But it was no matter. What made my heart stop was when I caught sight of the shore.

Suzy was gone.

My beloved doll had disappeared.

“No!” I cried out, struggling against the water. I had to get back. I had to find her. I couldn’t be buried without her.

Unless I was never found.

I screamed this time. Not because of the water, but by the fear of being lost forever.

Of my only friend abandoning me.

I struggled to get back to land, all considerations of suicide gone. But it was too late. I was too far out. As I began to sink beneath the waves, I saw something that filled my heart with joy.

Suzy was floating above me.

She wouldn’t let me die alone.

Never alone.