I’ll share a little excerpt from one of my ebooks, Porcelain Society, that deals with that subject. It takes place in a world of living dolls. Instead of girls having dolls, in their world the dolls have girls. In their society death is discovered by children at a considerably later age. This is what happens when the story’s central character, a girl named Caylee, not only learns about death, she realizes that she has been close to it.
It wasn’t until well after it had ended, well after it was safe for Valerie to lead Caylee away, well after the drive home, that Caylee brought up the subject Valerie was waiting for. “I don’t understand what happened to Evelyn.”
Evelyn was one of the two protagonists of the play, a tragic figure based on two different pieces of folklore. Near the end of the play was the end of the character and Valerie knew Caylee had no concept of it. “She died.”
Caylee gave just a little look to imply that she did not understand. Valerie would have been hard pressed to conceal a smile if her features were capable of movement. It was the best way for her to introduce the idea to the young girl. It was something removed from the minds of all children. There were deep manipulations which formed a conceptual barrier. The capacity for the concept was impossible to remove, but the inherent knowledge of mortality was excised from their natural awareness. Death was something children did not know. There were people that would leave, but the concept of a life ending was unfamiliar. Valerie repeated, “She died. In the story, Evelyn dies. She comes to an end.”
“I still don’t understand.” Caylee already felt this was something she did not want to hear.
“When you read a story, what happens when the last page is finished? What happens to the story?”
“… It’s over.”
“Life has a last page too. When you reach the end, your story is over. You die. There is no more. It will happen to everyone. One day there will not be a Valerie. I will be over. One day, there will not be a Caylee.”
Caylee’s mind rebelled, not at what Valerie was saying or that she understood so completely. She was filled with confusion because, on some level she knew it to be true. There was no questioning it. Now that it had been placed in front of her, she just knew. “Is it…” Caylee fumbled. She did not know what to ask next. Then, just as Valerie was about to clarify unnecessarily, Caylee knew what she still did not grasp. “How does it happen though?”
Practical. How characteristic of her. Valerie wasn’t certain what her immediate impression was of the way Caylee simply needed technical data rather than emotional need filled. “There are many different ways.”
“You can get hurt bad enough.”
“Yes. Or you can become sick, though dolls do not become sick. You can simply live long enough that you can live no longer.”
Caylee sat and looked at Valerie in that way that implied casual fearlessness. It was the look that both terrified and exhilarated the plastic doll. There was a long silence as Valerie waited for her child to form the words. What would it be? It surprised even Valerie. This child still had the ability to astonish with her amazing leaps of logic. It was not even a question. It was stated as a simple fact. “That’s what would have happened to me. If you hadn’t brought me here.”
“The dolls would have made me die.”