The wind blew coldly through the city streets, the glassless windows lending a low whistle to the symphony of rustling papers and dripping water from countless broken pipes as Glenda scurried around the long-since mummified remains of a rush hour traffic jam. It was always the hardest part of her journey. The cars were literary bumper to bumper in their owner’s rush to escape the city and so she had to climb over the bonnets and boots of automobile husks now mostly rust liable to fall apart at the wrong touch. She had to be careful; tetanus shots were a long time gone.
After the cars came the monolithic structure, standing as it always had like an eternal sentinel at the end of the street. Like most of the towers looming around most of the windows were missing and what had once been a gleaming front visage had long since tarnished. Above the main entrance the letters S, T, and E were still attached to their mountings but the rest had vanished, further victims of the world’s entropic decay. Glenda walked underneath them and inside.
There were shelves still stacked with rotten fabrics, between crippled mannequins and wooden floors starting to warp in protest of exposure to the elements, Glenda ignored them and gingerly stepped up a flight of stairs towards her goal.
It was probably the most open space in the whole building, largely since many of the shelves had collapsed over the years. Across the linoleum of the floor was strewn a fallen army of soldiers, superheroes and assorted trucks, planes and animals. Again; Glenda past them and on towards the far side of the space.
There; between two rows of miniature houses was a table stacked with hundreds baby dolls. Glenda’s eyes darted across the table, stopping for brief fractions of a second on each one. A few she picked up, turning them over in her hands only to reject them and place them back on the table. It was the sixth that she held, a smallish baby with slightly darker skin, like her own, and green eyes, that transfixed her attention.
Holding the doll close to her chest, Glenda walked to another table that had been swept clean of tattered stuffed toys and removed a knapsack from her back. Keeping one hand around the doll she deftly opened the sack and first removed a small bundle of cloth. Still with the one hand; Glenda placed the cloth on the table and opened it up to reveal a set baby clothes.
She carefully placed the doll on the cloth and delicately dressed it in the clothes then, keeping an eye on the doll, as if expecting it to start crying, she again took the knapsack by one strap and stepped over to a large box left in a dark corner.
Inside the box was a collection of doll parts, head, arms torsos, all showing signs of considerable wear. Glenda found it hard to look at them and instead concentrated on her knapsack. She placed her hands in and removed another bundle, this one of the paper. Nervous hands opened the bundle to reveal another doll, almost identical to the one left on the table, except to brown eyes, like hers. There was a long crack in the hard plastic of the doll’s body and one of the arms looked like it was about to come loose.
Glenda held the doll gently in her arms, looking into its brown eyes and smiling. She gave it a light kiss on the head and carefully placed it in the box amongst all the other dolls. She stepped back and stood for a second, unwilling to say or do anything, just looking.
Then as if she heard something from the table, Glenda snatched her knapsack from her side and shuffled over to the table and the other doll. Using the cloth the clothes had came in she fashioned a sling that held the doll close to her chest were she could whisper to it or kiss its head.
She walked back and forward and backwards a few paces to ensure that the doll was secure then she grabbed her knapsack, looped it around her arms and walked back towards the stairs and out into the world. She paused for a second at the landing, turning her head for a final glance at the box, instinctively clutching the bundle at her breast, then marched down the staircase, back out into the world.
Image copyright Jakub Krechowicz
Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press mutant 750 challenge number 55.