He knocked on the door three times, then waited. There was no answer. He knocked again, then checked his watch to make sure he wasn’t late. He was on time, as always. A moment later the door opened, a middle aged woman stood on the other side, she looked tired, dishevelled.
“Doctor, thank you for coming on such short notice.”
“Well, you said it was urgent on the phone.”
She nodded, then gestured for him to come inside. The doctor ignored the child sized porcelain doll the woman carried, the dolls eyes were closed, she was carrying it as you would a child. Perhaps she was getting it for her niece when he rang the bell. The woman closed the door and without further comment, began to walk. She went directly to the sitting room where she carefully put the doll down on the sofa. She turned to the doctor and he waited expectantly.
“You must understand this will all be strange. You’re only here because you have the clearance.” The doctor frowned, he had been a medic high up in the military, but that was years ago, his clearance had been revoked since then, he felt a thin thread of unease begin to stir. “I wouldn’t have called at all only there was no other choice. It’s bad.”
“If it’s so terrible, why didn’t you bring you’re niece to the hospital?”
“She isn’t my niece, she’s my daughter.”
“Nancy, I’ve known you since you were a child. I know you don’t have a daughter.”
She smiled, “there were complications with the pregnancy all the way through. I went to a specialist. Unfortunately, he passed away recently, there was no one else I could think of to call.”
“Ok, so where is the patient? Upstairs?” The woman shook her head then gestured to the doll. The doctor looked at the doll, then at the woman.
“I know this seems impossible, but it is true. This is my daughter.” The doctor nodded faintly, the woman was obviously delusional. He opened his mouth to speak, “I know what you are thinking, I know what you are going to say. That I’m crazy, that it’s impossible, just please, listen to her chest. You’ll hear a heartbeat. She hasn’t woken up yet, but once she does, you’ll see. Just, please.” He nodded once. The woman was delusion, but perhaps it was better to play along, keep her calm, he could do an evaluation while he was here, see how deep the psychosis went.
He placed his bag on the ground and fished out his stethoscope, then he placed it gently onto the dolls chest. To his surprise, there was a heartbeat. Strong and steady. He tried not to smile, toys were getting so complex these days, obviously there was some sort of metronome inside to give the illusion of life. He listened for a moment, nodding. “Her heart beat is there and it’s fine.” “I told you she was alive.” The doctor nodded, then placed the stethoscope into his bag. When he looked at the doll, it’s eyes were open, probably on some sort of internal timer too. Then, the doll spoke. “I don’t feel very well.” It must be one of those new ones, the ones that you were supposed to nurse back to health. “I know honey, I know, it’ll all be better soon, just let the doctor do his work.” The doll nodded, “Ok mommy.” The doll turned its head and smiled shyly at him. The doctor froze. The dolls mouth had moved, actually moved. That shouldn’t have been possible, the dolls’ face was made of porcelain. He felt faint. This wasn’t possible. It must be some sort of mask. He looked at Nancy, “she isn’t fake. she isn’t a doll and she isn’t wearing a mask. This is Molly and she was born like this.” The doctor placed his hand on her wrist, trying to find a pulse, she was warm, after a second he located it. Strong and steady. He looked into his bag and brought out a thermometer, he gently placed it into her ear.
“She has a bit of a fever. How long has she been sick?”
“Three days. That’s why I’m worried, she sometimes gets tummy aches, but they never last long. She doesn’t really get sick.” The doll -girl- had closed her eyes again. He stood shakily. “I think we need to have a little chat.” Nancy nodded and together they went into the kitchen, before she left, Nancy carefully put a blanket over Molly.
“They noticed something was wrong during the first ultrasound, but they couldn’t tell me what. That’s when the company took me in. They paid my medical bills, made sure I was getting enough nutrition. They made sure that I knew they didn’t want to take my daughter, they just wanted to observe. I believed them, after all she was my daughter, people knew I existed. We were safe. She was born like a little porcelain doll, I couldn’t believe it. No one had prepared me for it, not really. I knew something was wrong, but they were always vague about it. She was born with full hair, she was even wearing clothes. I don’t know how it happened, or why, just that it did. I was always careful of her while she was growing up, I’m still careful now. She is just like any child, she cries, she laughs, she plays. You’ll notice she has a small scar across her nose. She fell when she was younger, shattered part of her face. Not knowing what else to do, it was suggested that I glue her together again. I did and the cracks started to heal. You would think that would be horrific, blood everywhere, but there wasn’t. It was just an empty hole. There was nothing inside. I tried not to panic. I guess you just become used to odd things in situations like this. I didn’t tell anyone that. I wouldn’t be telling you except it might be important.” The doctor nodded, allowing her to ramble on. He got the impression she hadn’t spoke about her daughter to anyone in a long time.
“What does she eat?”
“She eats what any other child eats, cereal, toast, sandwiches, spaghetti. She hasn’t eaten anything strange or new recently.”
“Has she being going to the bathroom regularly? Or has she had diarrhoea?” Nancy shook her head, “She doesn’t go to the bathroom. She eats, but that’s it.” The doctor opened his mouth, prepared to say that was a biological impossibility, then he stopped, was there such a thing in this situation.
“What are her other symptoms?”
“She complained of a tummy ache and her temperature is up. That’s really it. She’s been tired and listless since this began, but other than that she is normal.” “Have you made sure she’s been drinking plenty of fluids?”
“Yes, she’s been drinking plenty, she isn’t eating as much as she usually would, but she’s eating enough that it isn’t concerning me.”
“Well, then I think that it will pass, I don’t see anything that we should be too concerned about, even if it is a virus or a stomach bug she’s retaining fluid as far as we can tell. I think it should pass in a day or two, if not then call me again. If her temperature climbs higher, give her some paracetamol and maybe a tepid bath. I’m a bit out of my element here, but she should be fine.” Nancy nodded, “Thank you doctor. Please though, I must ask that you do not mention this to anyone, it would be dangerous both for myself and Molly.”
The doctor nodded, “I understand. I will keep it a secret.”
The doctor drove away from the house, still trying to process what happened, it was a medical impossibility, but he had seen her moving and speaking, like a normal child. It couldn’t have been scripted, it would have required knowledge of what he was going to say. He shook his head. It was astounding. He would love to be able to have Molly take an MRI, it could teach them a lot about her physiology, perhaps she truly was hollow, but her waste had to be going somewhere, she couldn’t be using it all. He shook his head, he would keep his word and wouldn’t tell anyone. Still, perhaps he could convince Nancy that it was for Molly’s own good.
Nancy stood at the phone, she felt bad for what was about to happen, but it needed to be done. Molly walked into the kitchen, “Are you ok honey?” “Yes mommy, I’m thirsty.” “I’ll get you some juice now, ok?” Nancy picked Molly up and brought her back into the sitting room, there she turned on the TV, putting on cartoons, then she went to get the juice. The company were too busy to send out their own doctors, something was happening somewhere else, they had to focus on it. They allowed her to bring in an outside doctor. He would be given a chance, he could join the company, sign their contracts, or he would be eliminated. Nancy hoped he would take the job. They paid well, and he would be on the forefront of medicine. He would have top of the line equipment to treat his patients with. She couldn’t think of anyone else that was more deserving. She filled a cup with juice and brought it into the sitting room, feeling slightly better. Molly took the cup and drank. Nancy waited until she was done, then she kissed her daughter on the forehead.