The Novelist and the Doll, Part 8
Let me die. Let me die. Let me die. If you would leave me to live alone, rather I would die and be together. Not once had prayer alone brought blessings to him. Not even once!
From the other side, from that shut out world, he heard a voice. It came from someone living in the same time as him. The voice was out of breath and drawing nearer.
I’m… alive. I’m still alive. And with that life, I’m fighting to preserve, in some form, the ones I’ve loved and lost.
Nothing is granted for prayer alone, but for Oscar, confronted by darkness which no light could pierce, to prayer was where he turned.
“…O, God, please.”
If I may not die now, then please, at least in the pages of my story, let that girl be happy. Let her be delighted by my tale. And let her be by my side. Let her be by my side for eternity. Even if only in that story. Even if as but an imaginary daughter. Please, let her be by my side.
These things he had to beg.
For in the meantime, his own life continued to stretch on.
Oscar bawled in a manner unbecoming of his age. Before him appeared Violet, drenched head to toe after having dragged herself out of the lake. Water streamed off from her, and her carefully chosen outfit hung limp and ruined.
But Violet herself seemed to be having more fun than she’d ever had before. One might have even thought the expression on her face worthy of being called a smile.
“Were you able to see it? I believe it was three whole steps.”
I couldn’t see anything for all the tears, Oscar couldn’t bring himself to say.
So instead, while trying to sniff away his running nose, he answered, “Yes.”
“Yes, I saw you. Thank you, Violet Evergarden.”
He uttered the words with heartfelt respect and gratitude.
“Thank you for making my dream come true. Thank you. I feel as though I’ve witnessed a miracle. I do not believe there is a God, but if there is, surely it must be you.”
Violet looked at him.
“I am an Auto Memories Doll, sir.”
She answered duly, neither denying nor affirming the existence of God.
After that, Oscar drew a bath for Violet, who was completely drenched.
She refused to show herself during meals. But every day she took a bath, and almost certainly she used the bedroom he was providing her to rest herself at night.
She seemed very much human for being an automaton.
Modern civilization is quite truly a wonder. And the advances of science are quite remarkable.
It just wasn’t proper to let a girl sit around in wet clothes, even if she were mechanical. Having figured she’d need something to change into, Oscar picked up one of his own bathrobes, which he thought reasonably clean, and headed toward the bathroom. It had been so long since he’d had anyone else in the house using the bath that to knock on the door completely slipped his mind. He walked right in to find her not yet changed.
“A… ah, s… so… rr… y? Huh?”
Oscar was so overwhelmed he could hardly find words.
“…What on earth?!”
The image of the naked woman coursed through Oscar’s eyes. She was far more captivating, far more beautiful than any of the Renaissance nudes.
Drips fell anew from her golden locks, these of bathwater. Her eyes sparkled that perfect blue which no brush would ever capture.
Below them, her full lips, her delicate neck, her prominent collarbone, her round breasts, the feminine curves of her figure… In contrast, the artificial arms that extended from sho
ulder to fingertip on both sides of her body seemed alien, as if they’d just been stuck on.
But everything else.
Though covered in scars, every inch aside from those arms was clearly of flesh and blood.
Every soft swell of her body told the story. This was no automaton, no doll–this was a human being. In the utter shock of his shattered beliefs, Oscar found his eyes scanning her naked form again and again.
Violet’s tone was harsh. Oscar, who had until now stood frozen in surprise with those eyes locked on her form, finally seemed to grasp the entirety of the situation he’d put himself in.
“Ahhh! Aaaaaaaaahhhh! AaaaaaaaaaAaaaaaaahhh!!!”
Ironically, after all this, the only scream to be heard came from Oscar himself.
After all but emptying his lungs with the scream, Oscar, both red in the face and seemingly half to tears, demanded of Violet, “You were human all along?”
Violet was wrapping a towel around herself as she answered. “Sir, you are really quite impossible.”
As she uttered these words softly, with a slightly lowered gaze, there appeared the slightest touch of rose in her cheeks.
“The Auto Memories Doll.”
Some time had passed since that term was all the rage. The first one was created by Dr. Orlando, the world’s authority on automatons. It all began when his wife Molly, a novelist, complained of her clouding vision. Molly, having devoted most of her life to her words, was crestfallen as they faded away from her. Once reduced to blindness, it seemed as if her strength also was wasting away.
Dr. Orlando could not bear to see his dear wife this way, and as such he devised the Auto Memories Doll. It was a contraption capable of recording a person’s spoken words: a “borrowed pen,” as it were.
Some of Molly’s following works would even go on to win prestigious literary awards of worldwide renown. Dr. Holland’s invention was praised as an absolute necessity to the course of history. Though at the time he’d meant it merely as a creation for his dearest, his model quickly spread, and soon such dolls were acting to support myriad other people. Thus, Auto Memories Dolls became widely known, even available for rental at a modest price.
…Add to that one more thing.
People–living, breathing people–also worked as scribes, just like the Auto Memories Dolls. In fact, they even shared the same name:
“Auto Memories Dolls.”
Oscar first heard about it from his friend, after Violet’s departure. Apparently Violet was quite well-known across the industry.
When Oscar revealed how he’d mistaken the woman for an automaton, his friend had had a great laugh. When the man finally contained himself, he looked at Oscar with an exasperated look on his face and said, “You really have been away from the world too long.”
“Hah! A machine looking like that. Can you even imagine?”
“How was I supposed to know? You all kept saying, ‘Automaton this, automaton that!’”
“Our technology isn’t that far advanced. It’s just that we have ones that are actual automatons, too. They’re a bit more… quaint than Violet. Figured that wasn’t quite what an isolated shut-in like you needed. She doesn’t talk much, but she’s got some talent for fixing people up. Did a pretty good job with you, eh?”
She was quiet, but yes. She was a very good girl.
“Tell you what. I’ll send along another scribe to help you with your writing for the time being. The non-human kind this time. Just don’t expect anything on par with Violet Evergarden.”
And, before long, a small package arrived at the lakeside house. Inside was a small doll, absolutely nothing like Violet Evergarden.
It wore an adorable little dress and sat quietly on top of Oscar’s desk. It was a little typewriting automaton that recorded all of his words and put them down onto paper. Certainly a remarkable device.
“Nothing like her, though.”
Oscar smiled wryly. Staring blankly at his room, he felt as though he could just make out the face of the scribe now gone.
“I miss you.” Had he said it aloud, he was sure her reply would come.
“Simply impossible, sir.”
In that clear, ringing voice.
Her lips revealing the slightest trace of a smile on her otherwise straight face.
Even without her at his side, he felt quite certain he could hear that voice.