Free Spirit

by Brad Poe

Penelope was always considered by her friends to be rather, well, spacey. It was her ability to daydream...she got lost in thought much more deeply than any of her friends in school, even as a young child. Indeed, on some days, even her own mother worried about whether or not Penny was still "on Earth", or in her own body.

And as time passed, and Penelope became a rather tall, gawky, ordinary teenager, she began to play around with her talent a bit, to see if she actually went anywhere when she spaced out.

It turned out she did. Everything she had read about out-of-body experiences had turned out to be true for her. With only a little practice, she found it easy to project her mind outside her body for a few minutes, watch herself, messy skin and all, and then leave to roam around outside with the birds...

And at first that was all she did. She went places. But as her skill grew, she began to dread going back to her plain, awkward body. Not being able to flit about on a whim was bad enough, but she was stuck with a body that was determined to gross her out or mess her up at every possible opportunity...if only she could be someone else...

Penny was bored one Saturday, right before Easter...spring was bringing the sun out, and everyone else had their eyes on somebody, getting all love-struck. But nobody noticed her. Not at all.

So she left her body...she was tired of all the name calling (ladder-legs, pizza-face), and all the gooey messiness, and all of the lonliness she faced from not having any friends. She was determined not to come back.

She left, and stayed out for what felt like two hours before she got tired...really tired. Penny needed a place to rest, just for a little while.

There was this antique shop she liked to visit, both bodily and otherwise...she loved looking at the dolls, even though they were all far too expensive for her to even think about buying. And without much thought, she found herself there, in the shop, standing next to the biggest, prettiest doll there. It must have been a good three feet tall, and looked like a little girl, dressed in the frothiest pink dress, with the silliest blonde curls Penny had ever seen...she didn't recall seeing the doll here before, but at the rate things were going...she had to rest somewhere, like now.

She was too tired to even notice the pull string at the doll's back, or that the battery case in the back had fresh batteries. Penny just needed to rest...

Penelope felt strange after she had passed out. She had remembered leaving her body...but not the coming back. Instead there was this odd dream about her being at the old shop, and of her drifting into this doll's body...

And then the lights just came on. No eyes opened, no fog lifted, she could just see all of a sudden. And it was odd, because although she could see in a very wide field just fine, she couldn't move her eyes at all. She couldn't blink either....And then she noticed that she wasn't breathing, couldn't breathe, in fact. She tried to breathe in and scream, but nothing happened.

Penelope looked around wildly (as wildly as she could, mind you). She was still in the shop, that much she could tell...and then her eyes glanced on a mirror.

She was inside the doll.

Somehow, her mind was still intact and alive inside this blonde, cutesy-pie baby doll. Penny used her mind to feel around inside the doll...there were motors, joints, and batteries. So maybe she could move. And there was a string...leading to a player box. So maybe she could talk.But her mind couldn't reach the controls somehow. She would have to wait until someone started her up...or she could just leave. Except that before, when she left her body, she could breathe to calm herself, and close her eyes to concentrate. And now she couldn't do either...

Just then people came into the shop. The woman looked to her husband, and cooed, "Awww, isn't she the cutest thing??"

And the man muttered about money when the old woman owner came by."She isn't for sale, not yet..." the owner said. "I just got her in, and I need to see if she works, if I want to keep her..."

At this news, Penelope was quite frightened, and confused. The old woman picked her up (she was very light!) and took her behind the counter..."I know what you did last night, young lady." the old woman whispered. "I know it's not your fault, but you need to learn a lesson about this the meantime, you should know you're stuck inside a toddler doll's body. You can walk a little, talk a little,...but no one else knows what's going on, and I want to keep it that way. Go along with it, I won't hurt you, I promise..."

And then Penelope remembered that the old woman had a habit of talking to her dolls, but only certain ones...and then the woman set her down on the floor, flipping a switch at her back. And she was a lurching exaggeration of a baby's walk, and she had no control over it...And the woman deftly pulled the string, without upsetting Penny's if she had done this before.

Penelope tried to say, "Hello, my name is Penelope..." but her voice came out in baby talk..."Heewwwooo, Myyeee Nayeeem eees Peh-neh-woh-peee...." and ended in a chirpy giggle that would have upset her stomach, if she still had one...

"Awww, she's such a charmer...and everything works too," the old woman said, sweeping up the doll and turning everything off. "Now I'm so in love with her...I can't possibly sell her now..." and she sneaked a sly wink at Penny as she put the doll back.

Then the couple left...and the door closed. The woman turned back to Penny. "I knew you would do the right can't control the walk yet, but you have some control over the talk...if you had messed up, I would have had no choice but to sell you," she laughed, after pausing long enough for what would have been Penelope's gasp, if she could still have done it. "I know what's going on, dear doll, because I set it up this way.

I am what some folks would still call a witch...and as you may know, I am not getting any younger. I have been looking for a student to pass on my wisdom to, but...not every girl that can drift from her body wants to come back and study with me. But you look like you have potential...""But first we have to try you...we have to see what you're made of."

And so it went...for a week, people would come by the shop, Penelope would be the center of attention, walk a little walk, squeal something cute, and Deborah, the owner, would say she "couldn't possibly part with her now."

In all honesty, Penelope was starting to like this. Her body was so smooth and perfect, her face always had a smile. And with a little practice she found she could tweak the voice down a bit, from cloying to merely really cute. And she learned how to control the arms and legs, so she could dance a bit, not just walk...

So it was with a little dread that Penelope was led to the back of the Deborah began to ask questions, pulling the string sharply each time..."Do you like being a doll?"

"Ooo, Iee feeels wealllly good..."

"Do you like being pretty?"


"Do you love being plastic?" <this with waning patience>

"ooooh, feeels sooo, smooo-ooof...<giggle>"

At this point, Deborah was worried...she knew part of the test was to see how the mind held up to the magic, but...she could have made the experience less pleasant, to be fair to the girls. But she loved her dolls was a perversion of hers, it couldn't be helped. Then an answer came to her..."Do you love your voice, that sugar-coated, babified, wretchedly cute voice of yours...?"

She pulled the string once...and it ran back with no answer...then answer...then the third time..."NO!! I HATE MYEEE #$@#%^%%$..." And Deborah laughed as Penelope's attempt at swearing degenerated into incoherent baby babble, and then suddenly cut off.

"I thought that would get a better answer...but I understand what you went through...I've seen your true flesh, and you are at a rough time in your life. But you do understand that it is your life we're talking about here, right?" she murmured to the doll, cradling her because she knew Penelope was crying inside...

"Yess..." Penny choked out as the string pulled again..."send meee baaack....ugweee ohld body..."

"Good," Deborah said.

Penny woke up in a hospital bed, after being in a coma for a week. But things were different. She was blonde now, with curly hair...and her skin was flawless.And Deborah was at her side, as her folks watched from the door...

"See, it wasn't that bad." she whispered, "being a wise one does have its perks. But take it easy on the voice for a will always squeak a bit, but it will only be baby-talking if you let it."

Deborah left Penny's bedside...and after her folks left -- they thought she had always been like this, voice and all -- she lay in the bed, round blue eyes wide open, as she pondered..."I've done it. I'm a pretty doll and alive. Now this is cool."

And so her new life begins...

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