This was originally published on my blog on October 5, 2018
“Mama!” Lily yelled. “Mama!”
All Lily wanted was to go camping for her 10th birthday. Her family usually went camping in the summer, but seeing as it was an unusually warm fall, they agreed.
“I know it’s your birthday, and you’re in the double digits now, but don’t wander off alone.” Her mother’s words echoed in her head. But she hadn’t wandered off alone. She met a girl. Lily had been in the campground’s general store with her mom when she saw another little girl standing near.
“Hi, my name is Rosie.” The girl said.
“Hi. I’m Lily.”
“Do you want to see my doll collection?”
“You bring your dolls camping?” Lily asked.
“I have a lot of them. Do you want to see?”
“How far away is your campsite?”
“Not too far.” Rosie answered.
Lily looked to her mom who was chatting with an employee.
“I’ll be right back!” Lily yelled. Her mom seemed too engrossed in her conversation to notice, so Lily left with Rosie.
“So, why do you bring your dolls camping?”
“They’re my friends.” Rosie took Lily past all the campsites, deeper into the woods.
“I should go back.” Lily said. But Rosie didn’t answer. Instead, she grabbed hold of Lily’s wrist, and ran. Eventually, Lily lost track of how long, and how far they had been running. They just kept going deeper into the dense green woods. They stopped at a light blue tent. Lily looked around and didn’t see any other campers.
“Where are your parents?” Lily asked.
“My dolls are in this tent.” Rosie said, and unzipped the door, and sure enough the tent was full of beautiful dolls. There were porcelain ones, fabric ones, big ones, small ones. Lily couldn’t count them all.
“Let’s have a tea party.” Rosie said, and sat in the middle of the tent, surrounded by dolls, at what looked to be a plastic tea set.
“I should really be going.” Lily said. “I told my mom I’d be right back.” But when Rosie handed Lily a steaming cup of tea, she couldn’t resist. The tea smelled sweet and warm, but when Lily drank it, she became sleepy.
“You’re going to be my friend forever.” Rosie said, clipping a small white bow into Lily’s hair.
“I have to go.” Lily said. She left the tent and started running in what she thought was the way they came. Eventually though, her legs couldn’t carry her. She felt as though her bones were turning to plastic. She fell onto the forest floor, stiff and unable to move.
“Mama!” She said.
Back at the campsite, Lily’s mom paced, wrapped in a blanket, damp with the new rain.
“Mrs. Cartwright?” An officer said, walking over to her.
“Have you found my daughter?” She asked.
“No. I’m sorry. We did find this though, was this your daughter’s?” The officer handed her a doll – it was wet and dirty. Mrs. Cartwright adjusted the little white bow.
“She’s pretty.” Mrs. Cartwright said. “But she’s not my daughter’s.” She pulled the string on the back of the doll.
“Mama!” It said. Mrs. Cartwright handed it back to the officer.
“Mama!” It said again, this time on its own.
“Well, it seems to be broken. What a shame.” The officer said. “We’re sending another team out to look for your daughter. We’ll keep you updated.” the officer walked toward a group of officers, tossing the doll in a dumpster on the way.