The factory was the most beautiful building in town. It stood proudly at the corner of 17th and Orlando Street. It was a treasure to the people of the town. To a passersby, it was obvious that it used to be a church. It had beautiful stained glass windows in the most vibrant colors, making it stand out in the otherwise dull cityscape. If you stood inside, you could see rainbow light coming through the windows. The big red doors were intimidating to all who looked; they acted as a barrier rather than an entrance.
Although the neighborhood was worn down, the factory created interest, breathing curiosity into everyone who looked upon it.
The front of the factory was built with strong, brown bricks, now painted over several times from years of being passed down from owner to owner. This time, it was painted crisp white. It hadn’t been retouched in years, and the paint was starting to chip. The previous colors shone through.
No one had been in the factory for years; the floors needed dusting, and the brush had grown out enough to look almost as though it was protecting the factory from intruders. There were dolls sitting in the windows, slowly decaying, but their little white shoes still shone bright.
Everyone knew it was a doll factory, it had the words “D LL FAC O Y” with certain letters missing due to age. It was written in bold, yellow letters embossed on a black awning on the north facing side of the building. This awning had been a newer addition to the factory. Many older folks had complained. The factory was a historical building, and the awning added a level of tackiness to the complex. But others ignored the awning. They didn’t let it distract them from the mere beauty of the building.
Perhaps, the building reminded the elderly of a more simpler time: a time when people would actually talk to one another, a time when people wouldn’t feel bare without their cellphones. Maybe that’s why they stood so strongly against renovations to the factory. It was the oldest building in town. It was almost a time machine, grasping people’s attention and briefly taking them back to that simple time, then quickly releasing them back into their plain lives.
But none of it really mattered, that was many years ago. The factory hadn’t made any dolls in a while.
Just around the corner, past the factory, there was a field. The field was filled with beautiful flowers. Most days, those flowers would be left on the doorstep of the factory. No one knew who did it, or why they did, but this added to the mystery of the factory. There were always rumors circling around town about the mysterious flowers. There would never be dead flowers on the doorstep, always vividly colored fresh ones.
In a way, the factory thanked the flowers. It thanked the flowers for always being there. No one else ever was.
That’s what I had in common with the factory, no one was ever there for me when I was little.
When I was growing up, nothing was given to me. My parents hadn’t died; they just didn’t know what to do with me. I wasn’t a troublesome kid, but I was someone easily forgotten. I knew where they lived, just down the street past the old candy store in a little blue row-house. And when I ran away at age 15, there were no search parties, and no one came looking for me. Deep down inside, I knew I only ran away to see how much they cared about me. Turns out they didn’t care at all. By then, I was used to it. Sometimes, I would walk up to their front porch on my midnight walks. But I would never try to go inside. Too much time had passed, and I knew they didn’t want me. But I didn’t hate them for it. I tried to see the good and beauty in life rather than the bad and the ugly. In this case, it was hard to see what good had come out of it. But I like to think that I was better off on my own.
This year, I would’ve been a junior in high school. That is, if I had stayed in school. I had a small group of friends that I had met freshman year. One of my friends, Jun, was 18 and had very rich parents. They had bought a house for her last year. I had asked her why and she simply replied with, “they wanted me out of their hair.” She wasn’t spoiled, but her parents gave her things rather than attention. Most nights I’d stay with Jun. I stayed with her mainly because she didn’t care either. We weren’t that close. But, she was kind.
I didn’t like being alone in the house, although, often times I was. Being alone let my thoughts take over; it let my thoughts run wild, and it let me think of the darker times I had faced. I didn’t like it one bit.
I loved to stroll around town. It wasn’t a pretty place, but it was familiar and consistent. I liked that about our town, nothing ever changed. Most days, when I was walking back to Jun’s house from town, I would pass by the factory. Only this time, I stopped. I stared. Something about it was different. Now, the brush wasn’t trying to keep me out; it was almost inviting me in. It had arranged itself along the pathway leading up to the factory. I had never seen it like this before.
I stepped closer to the doors, and they didn’t intimidate me. Rather than pushing me away, the doors were left cracked open. I could see light trying to escape from inside the factory. No one had been inside for years, at least not that I knew of, and now the doors were suddenly unlocked.
It was midnight. I loved to take walks at midnight, when no one was around, when the air was fresh, and the sky was pitch black. I looked around just in case someone was watching.
No one was, so I opened the doors.
I almost fell on my face from using too much force. The doors were a lot lighter than they appeared.
Inside, it looked different than what I had expected. The outside was naturally beautiful, but the inside… The inside of the factory was extravagantly decorated, with candles lit in all corners of the room. The chandeliers hung from the ceiling and a table set for two sat between a conveyor belt and an assembly table. I thought this was the weirdest part. I wondered why the table was set up like this. I was alone. There was no need for it. The wind blew through the now opened windows, sending a chill through my whole body. It all felt off. The moonlight gracefully drifted through the room. Suddenly, uneasiness crept over me. The first hallway looked almost like a tunnel, only you couldn’t see light at the end of it.
It looked like someone, or maybe something, had been living here. I felt like someone was trying to make me feel at home and this feeling was off putting.
I walked down the long, dark hallway, waiting for someone to jump out at me, something to creep up when I least expected it.
“Hello? Is anybody in here?” I asked, not really wanting to hear a response.
I heard my voice echo through the hallway for a lot longer than it should have. It was too quiet. The horror-movie-like setting wasn’t what scared me the most. It was the fact that this place felt alive; this place felt happy to have me there. But, it wouldn’t be happy to see me leave. I wanted to run, but something was keeping me there. I should’ve never stepped foot in the factory, yet here I was.
Now, the air felt heavy, and it smelled stale. I looked around to see why and realised that all the windows were now shut. I tried to open the door but it wouldn’t budge.
“Why won’t you open?” I screamed, my fists banging on the door.
But, of course, no response.
And suddenly, I stopped banging on the door, I stood for a moment thinking. Why did I want to leave? What did I really want?
Maybe that’s what it wanted me to think. I had accepted my fate. I knew I wasn’t going to get out.
I walked around the factory for a few minutes, examining every shattered piece of glass, every lost screw.
I was strangely at peace.
I stopped walking. Then, quickly, picked up my pace and started again.
I had been walking around for hours now. Hours turned to days, days turned into weeks and as time went on, my heart got heavier and my steps became weaker. I had lost my grasp of time.
The last thing I saw was a doll, and it looked strangely familiar.
Years passed and no one came looking for me. My joints stiffened. My little white shoes stayed bright. My now-porcelain skin felt cold. And, just like that, everyone forgot about me. Just as my parents had.
The factory was the most beautiful building in town. It still stands at the corner of 17th and Orlando Street, with its magnificent collection of dolls.