The UnFolding Doll
Nina Leigh spoke in soliloquies, monologues, rants and raves; her life was a One Woman Play. It opened and closed daily, and normally unfolded before an audience of one, one who paid such close attention that she mesmerized herself. Nina lived her life as a Tour de Force, but she never got the applause she sought for. Not until the Dollhouse called out for her.
There was an unquiet in her life that led her down the darkened avenue, past her own apartment building. She thought Miles was THE one, but…he was the one who got inside her panties, and left just as quickly. “It’s all his fault,” she thought, tearing at her clothes and hair as she stumbled down the road.
Out loud, Nina said: “It’s always their fault. Damn them for not understanding me!” Rip.
“I hate what they do to me!” Rend.
“I hate THEM ALL!”, and blood seeped down from the self inflicted wound she lanced across her brow. The blood tangled in her eyelashes, and caused her to see red. Stumbling, she righted herself while wiping away the caul of blood from her eyes. Squinting, she saw a flash of light come from inside the darkened store in front of her.
“The Abysmal Dollhouse? What a fucking name for a store!” She leaned against the glass, nose pressed to the side, as she peered inside, looking for the source of the quick burst that illuminated the inside for that brief second. Standing there only a moment, the light flicked on again, then off. Nina noticed it came from a dollhouse, set far back in the store.
It was in shadows, but the light flicked on and off again, and each time it did, Nina noticed more and more how…dark the dollhouse was. There was liquid on her lip, and she wiped it away, realizing as she did that it was drool, not blood. This alone shook her out of the daze she was in, and she was just about to turn away and go home.
The door to the shop unlocked and opened up.
Nina was frozen where she stood. The light from the dollhouse flashed in her eyes. On. Off. On. Off. On. On. On.
The light in the dollhouse lit up, and stayed lit. Nina walked into the shop, moving towards the dollhouse. She did not notice the door to the emporium close and lock behind her. She did not notice all the other dollhouses in the store vying for her attention as she was drawn to the one in the back.
As she passed by, sighs would have been heard, if she was listening. “Next One“, too, was ignored, as Nina walked by the large Tudor Dollhouse to her left.
“No, Mine!” whispered the Victorian.
“Mine!” echoed the hundred others on their perches.
Reaching the back dollhouse, Nina finally noticed the display sign: “Hall Manor, 1929. Three Murders, One Unsolved. Twenty Rooms, and a Theater in the Grand Ballroom.” The light from the dollhouse came from the bottom floor, and Nina had to bend down only slightly to peer inside, looking into the Grand Ballroom itself.
The walls of the dollhouse opened. The theater was lit, the curtains drawn, and a performer doll was center stage. Dressed in a long white dress of eyelets and lace, the face was harsh in it’s makeup. Severe black lines accented its jawlines, it’s cheeks, the eyes and mouth. The long black hair framed this all in darkness. Black laced gloved hand dripped red liquid.
Nina started to scream as the doll looked up at her. She tried to turn and run, but instead found herself on the stage itself, being held by the doll whose story was to unfold at this very moment.
The doll said: “It’s all his fault!“ as it tore at Nina’s clothes and hair.
“It’s always their fault. Damn them for not understanding me!” It screamed as it ripped into Nina.
“I hate what they do to me!” As blood ruptured from Nina’s mouth as the doll choked her with those red dripping hands.
“I hate THEM all!”, and the doll took an axe and chopped into Nina’s brow, and through, and down down down down…
…applause drifted through The Abysmal Dollhouse. The unfolding doll dropped the axe and took a bow. She then pointed to what was Nina Leigh, whose death was a true Tour de Force.
“Bravo, Nina Leigh. Bravo!”
Light’s down. Curtain closed.
The walls of Hall Manor slowly shut tight. The sign now read: “Hall Manor, 1929. Four Murders, Two Unsolved. Twenty Rooms, and a Theater in the Grand Ballroom.”
Time was immutable in her hands. The Shopkeeper had always been there, or so it seemed. Just off the threshold of The Abysmal Dollhouse, to the left. See? There! More often out of the corner of your eye, yet when you did see her straight on…you wish you had not.
The Shopkeeper tended to the many, many dollhouses that were carefully strewn around the store. On counters, behind glass, on pedestals, on the floor, way up high, hidden, seen…she kept track of them all, even when they had other ideas.
Dollhouse Borley Rectory was one of those, not wishing to remain where it had been placed. For a long time it lay desolate, behind a curtain of dust and ashes.The screams of the murdered monk and his would be bride were heard again when it appeared one dreary morning in the display window.
The Abysmal Dollhouse’s displays were often changing at their own whim. One night there was the bhoot bungalow, House No W-3, in its ancient squalor. The Shopkeeper had paid it mind, for the Grandparents always had the best tea. In the morning, the Rectory resided, and this did not please The Shopkeeper.
“You brought this upon yourself,” she said to the house, picking it up from its less than welcome spot. The Dollhouse reacted as best it could, its side opening up, trying to draw her in. The Shopkeeper would have none of it. The seconds halted mid tick, and she phased the replica into the air, the screaming pair howling mad now. She had fallen, once, to the absolute terror in the house when she was new. Long ago. She was not new now, and there would be no unfolding for her. That doll had its own place in the shop, and it was not for her…ever.
Quieted, the Borley Rectory found itself again in dust and ashes. In the rear of the shoppe, towards the far wall, it lay among the bramble of the other unruly ones. It spoke to the others, and planned, and plotted, and hated The Shopkeeper to death.
Sipping tea with the Grandparents of House No W-3, The Shopkeeper glanced in all directions. She kept an eye on her wards, her function to keep them. Safe, or not, was not for her to say. She held the Dollhouses in check, when she could, and fed them when it was a necessity.
“This is good tea, Grandparents,” she said, lifting her cup to them in appreciation.
Dollhouse walls slid open and closed around her. The shopkeeper drank her tea.
The Movie House (the third reel)
The marquee of The Movie House changed often, rarely repeating. The Abysmal Dollhouse shopkeeper glanced often, amused at some of the titles that flashed, dreading days when double features were shows. She kept a stone in front of the theater to prevent it from opening when she was near. The movies played endlessly, and she only had so much patience with bad, horrible movies.
The teenage girl entered, the bell on the door announcing her arrival. This was her fourth time in The Abysmal Dollhouse in as many days. Wandering around the dollhouses, none called to her, so the shopkeeper left her alone. Today, the youth made it past The Halloween House, The Bottom House, The Borley Rectory, and the many others. She stopped at The Wall of Heads House, but moved on. The shopkeeper was glad. That was not for one like the teen.
Bending over in front of The Movie House, the girl pushed back her long brunette hair and pushed her glasses up her nose. She read out loud “The Unbearable Lightness of Being? I hated that one.” The wall of the theater tried to open, but it was blocked. The girl noticed the movement and started to reach for the rock.
“Wait,” the shopkeeper moved over to her side, moving the girl’s hand away. “I wouldn’t, Beth.”
Looking at the shopkeeper, really noticing her for the first time, the teenager, all awkward angles and full of growth spurts, went from curious to attitude. “How did you know my name? Why shouldn’t I? It’s just a stupid dollhouse.”
The clamor from the other dollhouses took even the shopkeeper by surprise. “MINE!” rang out around the store.
Distracted, she did not notice Beth grab the colored stone and pick it up. It was Beth’s gasp that captured her attention. The front of the house opened up, showing first an ornate lobby of gilded gold furnishings and red velvet draperies. This was swept away to show the inside of the theater. It was too late for Beth, and the shopkeeper sidled over, returning to her place behind the counter. She placed her hand on her hourglass and stared out the front window.
Beth was unaware that the marquee had changed before the wall opened. The Haunting (1999) shared top billing with Spice World (1997). Her eyes were drawn to the screen as image after image played. The tiny figures in the seats were writhing, mouths open, but any sound they made was obscured by the sound from the screen. Beth found herself in one of the chairs, unable to move, unable to do anything but watch the very bad movie. The Unfolding Doll, dressed as an usher, moved spasmodically up the aisle with a bag of burnt popcorn in its hand. Beth tried to scream.
The Movie House wall slid shut. The shopkeeper walked over and replaced the stone, noticing three new titles on the Marquee: Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, Spiderman 3 and Batman and Robin.
The Wall of Death
There are many ways to die. The Wall of Death, a wall of skulls, in the Conservatoire d’épouvante Maison De Poupée glorified in naming them. Death by suicide. Death by bullets. Death by strangulation. Death by drowning. Hanging. Electrocution. Diseases. Decapitation (or, as one caption read, De-heading). Stupidity.
Every skull has a death story to tell.
The Conservatoire was only one of the many dollhouses that peppered the inside of The Abysmal Dollhouse emporium.The Shopkeeper was puttering around dusting, making contact with the houses, comforting them, controlling them. She was aware that The Unfolding Doll was working itself up to a state, moving from house to house. The last time that happened, there was hell to pay. She would be very careful and extra cautious during this cycle.
As The Shopkeeper cleaned, the wall of the Conservatoire d’épouvante Maison De Poupée opened. Putting down her duster, she bent over, noting that there was a new prize on The Wall: Death by Large Umbrella. The note under the skull-definitely a woman-was hand written, as were the others. As she concentrated, the skull spoke:
An art installation! An art installation! Of giant umbrellas. in yellow and blue, my lover and I went to see something new. So many lined the mountain side, it was for this we went on our ride. But, no where did it say, or did it portend, that an errant umbrella would soon be my end. A gust of wind took me by surprise, which led to my demise. So fierce was this wind that it snapped the pole in two, and sent the umbrella flying, not yellow but blue. It whistled and twirled like a ballerina in flight, and to be honest it truly was quite an interesting sight. Then it hurtled to me like lost love found, and drove into me completely, impaling me on the ground. I didn’t die fast, oh no, not at all; the sculpture cradled around me like a caul. My lover, he held my hand, yelling and weeping, as my blood pooled out, around me seeping. With a final blast a new wind arose, and sent the umbrella quivering in, which I felt in my toes. The I died, I know I did, feeling my self go away, I slid; up into the air way above the installation site, seeing that it was only that one thing that had taken flight. Now you know my story, of how an installation of art, was so moving…it tore me apart.
“Thank you,” The Shopkeeper said, once the skull related it’s poetic tale.
As she stood up straight, she turned around and reached for the duster. This action saved her. The Unfolding Doll was behind her, knife poised to bring it down onto The Shopkeeper’s back. The Shopkeeper locked her eyes with The Unfolding Doll’s beady plastic orbs. It stood stock still, discovered.
“No, you horrible thing. My head will not grace the wall. I will not have a hand written note that says ‘Death By Doll.’ GO!”
The Unfolding Doll stared at The Shopkeeper, then took two jerky steps back. Its face was unchanging, being of paint and threads, but there was enough menace radiating off of the unemotional display. Dropping the arm holding the knife, The Unfolding Doll folded away. The Shopkeeper was alone in The Abysmal Dollhouse again, alone with her charges.
Many of the houses gave the sense of exhaling, as if holding their breaths, if they had any. The store was quiet, as it should be. The Shopkeeper closed the wall of the Conservatoire d’épouvante Maison De Poupée, and went about the rest of her cleaning duty.
“The confrontation with The Unfolding Doll will have to come sooner, rather than later,” she thought as she sighed out loud. This wouldn’t be the last time. Hell knows, it wasn’t the first.
The Candy Stripe Ward
The Shopkeeper could smell the customer’s cancer as he walked into the store. He had entered The Abysmal Dollhouse with a face that held no emotions, but they were laying deep underneath, and she could feel them. Putting on a smile, The Shopkeeper glided over to the man. She asked if he needed any assistance.
“If it’s OK with you, I’ll just look around. Yes?” he asked. She nodded. “Good. Thank you. This is a very…interesting shop you have.”
“Thank you. Our dollhouses are all unique. Interesting, in many ways. Let me know if you need any information or help,” she offered one more time, and one more time he refused.
The Shopkeeper went to stand behind the main glass encased counter. She had to shush a few of the Dollhouse’s pleas of “Mine!,” excusing their desperate cries as just noise from outside when she noticed her customer looking around for what made that noise. He looked out the window and saw that the street had been like it was when he approached the store: it was empty. He smiled, shrugged, and continued to look around.
The Shopkeeper studied him. Short for a man, standing a few inches under her own five foot six, he was gaunt, with sunken eyes and cheeks. Salt and pepper stubble covered his face and neck, and he was mostly bald. The smile he had was gone now, replaced with that dead look he had when he first entered.
He examined many of the Dollhouses, reading the legends neatly hand written on their display placards. He made a few small grunts if he bent over too far on some, wheezing a few other times. The Shopkeeper noticed when he closed his eyes and then his face screwed up, wincing, as he stood in front of the Conservatoire d’épouvante Maison De Poupée. She hurried over to his side.
Just in time, as the Unfolding Doll was approaching him from behind, out of the shadows of some of the deadliest Dollhouses. Exerting her will, unflinching in her stare and challenge, The Shopkeeper spoke a few warding words under her breath, forcing The Unfolding Doll to retreat. There was a hiss of a threat thrown back at her, but The Shopkeeper won this slight skirmish. The Unfolding Doll oragamied itself away. All this happened in the few seconds it took for the man to get his composure back.
“I would like to show you a special Dollhouse. I think this is one that would be of interest to you,” she offered to the man. This time, he allowed her help and followed her to the opposite wall, nearer to the front windows. It was a replica of the Orange County Hospice, a double floored straight line design. The man choked and took a step back, but The Shopkeeper went to the Dollhouse and opened the side wall.
He stared; just…stood there and stared. The beds held little figures of cancer: he could just tell. The wards sectioned off with other terminal cases. It was all apparent, to him. It was like the one he had just visited, before he walked aimlessly around, winding up here. It was sterile clean, bright and open. He hadn’t been ready-not yet-to surrender when he had left the hospice with such heaviness. This…this was different.
He, Charles, noticed a doll standing off to the side of one bed, holding a closed book in her hands: a candy striper. It was odd to see one in this setting, the candy cane look of the red and white-striped pinafore just so not right. Yet, Charles was comforted by seeing a volunteer there, someone to help, to assist, to care. The candy striper moved. He passed one hand over his eyes, rubbing them, but when he opened them again the doll had the book open. It was sitting down, and he was looking up at it, as he was laying down in a bed.
The candy striper was reading to him. “Peter Pan,” his favorite book since he was a child, so long ago. Charles got lost in the telling of the tale, of Peter and Wendy Lady, of Michael and John, of Nana and Tinkerbell. He relished the reading, the escape into a world he loved, and in this… he forgot how much pain he had been in before.
The candy striper stopped at the end of the chapter, closed the book and rose. In her hands she now held a tray of baked goods, and all of them were ones Charles loved: Chocolate Eclairs, Napoleons, Black & White Cookies, Charlotte Russe, and those trio-colored cookie/cakes that he and his father had loved. “Take as much as you’d like, Charles,” the doll said. There was no mistaking the candy striper for a real woman, but he just didn’t care. He sampled and ate, and was more than sated. It had been a long time.
“Mr. Roman in the next bed says he could beat you in a wheel chair race. Are you up for the challenge?” she asked, her doll face not moving, but the excitement in her voice was evident, as it was also so nurturing and caring sounding.
Charles smiled the first real smile he’s felt in a very long time. He nodded, got into the wheelchair at the foot of his bed (it hadn’t been there before this, but Charles just didn’t care), and said “Ready!”
As the candy stripper helped get a beaming Charles into position, The Shopkeeper smiled as well. She got up from the kneeling position she had been in for so long, enjoying the feelings. Closing the wall of the ward, she heard laughter and friendly shouting noises. “Good,” she said out loud, looking for The Unfolding Doll. “Good. This one will never be yours.”
The Unfolding Doll was folded into the far shadows of the shop. The knife in its hand glinted of it’s own accord. It could wait, as its wielder could wait as well. Both thirsted for The Shopkeeper, but knew this was not the day. The Unfolding Doll crept from the far shadow into The Serpent House, to play.
At this moment, I have about six other ideas for stories set in this series (it is endless) as well as the confrontation between The Shopkeeper and The Unfolding Doll AND their quasi-origns, and why they are where they are. If you read the Kitsune-Mochi collection of a few days ago you will find something there that ties into this. I’m not telling,but I did it on purpose way back when.
I do think I need to work on these stories for an eBook collection, and/or “real book” submission. What do you think? Do you want an eBook of this? I most likely will move onto other things here.
Please don’t forget I do have some books available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Kindle Nook versions that you can read on a PC, MAC or other portable device. Click here for my Amazon Author’s Page, or click on the book cover for Flash Over.