The shape obscuring the stars becomes more visible as I adjust to the silhouette. The tired yet piercing eyes of a stranger, all-observing and all-watching, move subtly, and he takes in my whole form. Scanning, as if he’s searching for something within me. A heartbeat, electrical impulses, blood cells. And yet, I still refrain from moving. I am as limp as a doll, as sturdy as a rock. I am part of the earth, and I stare back with my own star-speckled eyes while he looks into my being. I would ask him what he is searching for within me, though there is no pressure for me to do that now. Plus, revealing my life at this moment would be disadvantageous. How would this perfect stranger react? I remain silent, mute. Deadly and cunning as a snake, silent as grass.
He moves. And yet, each movement is muffled, and his grace is akin to a ballet dancer’s. His legs, seemingly more of a strange addition to his body than a permanent fixture, carry him. He is a king atop them, making no effort himself. His arms are lost within a dark garment of some nature, too swamped by night to make out, his hands lodged in the pockets. The night is cold enough for that.
Once he’s satisfied, having looked me over from other angles, while I remain corpse-like on the ground, he retreats a few steps and rummages inside his coat. His hands, silver light illuminating them, are merely shaking slivers against the darkness of his chest. He mutters to himself, shushing out white mists into the air. Before long, he is drawing in the fug of a cigar, letting down sparks and dead matches into the grass below. Instead of white mist, he breathes out grey smoke, trading purity for impurity. By the fat glow of the cigar’s end, I can make out his beard, overgrown and uncared for. Nicotine-stained moustache, and deep blue craters around his eyes. It seems as if sleep is an alien concept to this gentleman.
He crouches in front of me, before lurching to one side, leaning on his elbow. His eyes are back locked on me, that orange light connecting us.
He breathes out his fumes onto me, “Your skin is canvas, your flesh is stuffing, but yet you live,” his voice is familiar, gravelly, ravaged by tobacco. “I can tell you’re alive. Don’t try to avoid me.”
For the first time tonight, I move. I shift my head. Sideways, to look at him, to let my large eyes meet his once again. And he cannot tell where I am looking exactly. When I move, when I turn my head, I hear the creaking of my wooden skeleton, the shifting of the stuffing inside my cloth skull, the needles I have stuck in my head dig in closer and my eyes, the two differently-sized buttons, shifting the light between them.
I am alive.
In my head, my conscious shifts like a young tree. Firmly rooted, but still new and discovering. I will withstand the winds that threaten to snap me, though I am still vulnerable to them. I will continue to grow, nurtured only by myself and my experiences. I needn’t move but I can spread myself, spreading pieces of myself around. Leaves, fabrics. Seeds, string. I repair myself, I spread myself and I am stronger than I seem. And I am conscious. A living doll, a moving cloth child. And yet, older than any child.
The stranger speaks again, knowing he has my attention, knowing he is able to pull my strings, control me at his every whim, because he knows I live. No one else has known. All they have seen is a soft statue, resting demurely on the ground, happy with himself.
But the stranger, his cigar between his teeth, knows more than the rest of this world does about me. Two beings in a field, the only two who know who and what I am. The rest of the world is blind. And yet this man, with the familiar voice and the constant stare, a shadow of any other human, is wise enough to realize, or to remember, that I am myself an anomaly.
I listen to his every word, “What were you before? A spirit, a poltergeist, a restless demon? Finding itself comfortable inside the soft body of a child’s plaything. Such an atrocity. It is below you,” he shifts, and grunts as he pulls himself to his feet. “Rise. Let me hear your body work.”