** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Please check back on Monday, May 7th, for my Final Reflections. Thank you.
Epilogue: Zephyr, A Caress
The Abysmal Dollhouse
Grief lasts as long as it will last. There is no timetable when it should end, no scale for how deep it should be. Nothing to say grief won’t return. It is its own living thing, and it either eats away at you or strengthen your resolve to go on, to mourn, to let go.
The Shopkeeper embraced hers as an inner sore: on the outside, she presented herself as was her norm. A freshly starched white buttoned blouse, the top button fastened, her fingers assuring her of this fact. She smoothed down the black fabric of her ankle-length skirt. Putting on her apron, she winced, tying it a touch too tight. She left it as it was, as she had done every time since…
In the many weeks since the incident, the Shopkeeper took her time getting to know all the new dollhouses. They appeared, without ceremony, taking residence in the places of the ones that had been destroyed. Malcanisen remained by her side as she ambled about. She still found some of the debris scattered in the most unlikely of places around the shoppe; but, once found, they simply faded away once she wasn’t looking.
This new crop of minature replicas had wants and needs, just as the previous tenants of her shoppe had. When the opportunities presented themselves, they murmured the same “mine, mine, mine” as the ones now absent. But, things were not status quo as before. Far away enough that it brought something new to the Shopkeeper: worry.
There was a balance shift with the new: more unhappiness, more anger, more depravity. These dollhouses outnumbered those that exuded more peaceful memories and needs. The Shopkeeper did not like this new shift at all. Yet, there was little she could do about the denizens about her. Only another upheaval could, hopefully, tip the balance in the other direction, creating a more harmonious setting.
What she could do, she did. Once she had the feel of the new she began to rearrange the placement of the houses. The darker abodes were situated near lighter natured dollhouses; when she could cluster them, she did. There was a stabilizing effect for a short while, but distinct grumblings permeated the shoppe after the first reshuffling. Twice more she shifted locations around the shoppe; on this third try, the houses seemed to accept their lots. The Shopkeeper was pleased, but not entirely happy.
The window display took on a whole new life. A magnificent replica of the Castle of Goeie Hoop stood there, majestic in scope, taking the whole of the display space. Many called out for their due when the new door chimes tinkled; sometimes many hushes from the Shopkeeper was needed to silence them. Occasionally, when she was at her counter, waiting, sounds of gunfire could be heard. The Shopkeeper would look over with a scowl; the noise ceased. Always.
She had begun to avoid the Conservatoire d’épouvante Maison De Poupée best she could. The Wall of Skulls underwent a thorough cleansing of what had been displayed before. All forty-two specimens were new, with new nameplate labels. She had glanced at them early on, missing a few, especially Sigurd. She felt them all yearning to tell their stories, their need overwhelming. It disturbed her deeply; she kept it locked, a drastic change in her dusting duties.
It was one skull in particular that had her in knots. While she was privy to some ghastly knowledge from many in her care, there was that one: she wasn’t ready for it, wasn’t sure if she would ever be ready to hear the telling of this one’s tale.
The label only read “Child.”
Duster in hand, she busied herself around the shoppe, doing her best not to glance towards the empty far corner.
*** *** ***
The soldier only vaguely remembered the incident. He had a new scar that was painful if he placed any real weight on it. He had no concrete awareness of how he got this scar or even the when or the where. All he knew was it ached at times, and was only one of many scars all over his body. He carried it like the others.
There was a stiffness in his right hand, the outer two digits especially. His EMT buddy said it was probably a bad case of Trigger Finger since they sometimes get locked into a bent position. He was able to release them, so he didn’t bother checking out a doctor for it.
“Look, Tom. A Zayat ahead. I could use a rest stop.” His companion, Mary, tired easily, but he was more than fine with that. Her recovery from her stabbings was labeled a miracle by the nurses that tended her. His EMT buddy thought so too, having read Mary’s charts, even though he wasn’t supposed to.
Tom had awakened one day at the hospital, sitting by Mary’s side, no idea how he had gotten there. He remembered tracking Mary’s assailant, and that was it. The next thing, he’s by her side, an aching scar, stiff right hand, and an awake Mary staring at him. Her smile filled her face when she saw he was awake.
The nurses had told her all about the guy who had brought her in, most likely saving her life. They said he sat by her side more days than they kept count, talking to her comatose form, keeping on eye on her while she was out. He disappeared for a bit, and they all thought he had given up hope, but-surprise-he was back, and just after she, also, was back.
They talked for a long time, first about her attack and the aftermath. Mary was upset that her assailant had not been found, but was also relieved that there had been no further sightings or attacks. Tom was a reassuring presence for her, and she wound up being the same for him.
After her discharge, they got closer. Close enough to the point that he easily asked her to come with him: he needed to travel, come to some peace in his being with the loss of his brothers, and the guilt he still felt for falling asleep while on sentry. She agreed, without a second’s thought.
The Zayat was simple but more than sufficient, as all the others they had stumbled upon. They rested, found fresh food and water, and stayed for a few of the religious occasions that happened around them. Mary had an idea that Tom readily agreed to: they were given permission to stay and help tend this particular Zayat, for the time being, keeping it clean, helping with any chores that needed doing, and welcoming other travelers seeking shelter.
Their lives, for the time being, was enriched by this Zayat, the Jivitandana Sangha, and they enriched it, finding peace and love.
The Shopkeeper was resting in her back room, fresh scone devoured, a second cup of tea steaming by her side on the table. She had closed her eyes, leaning into her padded chair. Malcanisen was at her feet; on her feet, more accurately, snoring away. Cleaning around the shoppe, tending to those who entered, the houses that wanted: it all still left a hole in the whole affair.
She had thought with the death of the murderer, the vengeance sought and achieved, that she would be released from her binding. As the Unfolding Doll seemed to have been. There had been nothing left of it from the fire that consumed Muirhouse and its woodshed. There had been no shimmering from the far corner, now less shadow filled than it had ever been. She was left, and it was gone, and the pain in her heart was so severe at times, the grief that subsided but rose again, and again.
Something prevented her from moving on. She racked her memory of everything that happened after that night at the Carousel, her then grief turning into a burning pledge of hatred and revenge. Promises made, from her and…promises made, but not kept, it seems, for her.
Collecting herself, she began to breathe in deeply, hold the breath, and let it out slowly. She continued this, calming herself into a single path of breath. It eased through her, a wind of her own making. It carried out a host of inner turmoil, a monsoon of sadness. She rested for a long time.
She came awake instantly. The Shopkeeper wasn’t sure if she had dreamed it, or…but, no, there it was, slight but there. A tap, tap, tapping…and it was near, so near.
Malcanisen bounded out of the back room. The Shopkeeper jumped out of her chair and ran through the threshold into the shoppe. Stopping suddenly by her counter, she looked around the entire area, looking under, behind, around; no one was there. Malcanisen sat down, eyes on her. Tears that she thought she had been finished shedding started to well up once again as her heart shattered once again.
She glanced down. On the top of her counter was a knife. Long and sharp looking, it had a sheen that caught the light in the shoppe and sent spiraling of colors into the air, a prism of steel. She took hold of the hilt of the blade and brought it up, level with her heart, and held it there.
Looking in the far corner, it was again clouded in the deepest, darkest shadow.
And it was unfolding.
Here we are: the end of this year’s AtoZ Blog Challenge. During the month of April 2018, the challenge required that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. On Monday, May 7th, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers. If you travel back to the main page of the AtoZ Blog Challenge, you’ll find other blogs that participated. Many, I’m sure, will pique your interest, as many did mine.
On May 7th, all of the participants of the AtoZ Challenge are asked to post a reflection on the month’s process: afterthoughts, explanations, frustrations/elations, and whatever else may come to mind.
****After you read the Z post on Monday, April 30th, I will be asking YOU for questions, ponderings, or suggestions you might still have. I found a number of editorial mistakes when I copied and pasted the stories into a Word file (thank you, Grammarly) and already did some (minor) editing. So, if you’ve been with me all along, or just finding your way into The Abysmal Dollhouse, April 30th will be a good time to pose what’s on your mind. I will do my best to answer/address all on the reflection (mentioned above).
Any queries must be posted by Friday, March 4th.
As to what happens next with Tale Spinning &/or The Abysmal Dollhouse…time will tell.
Thanks for reading along.
Thank you for the entertainment this month. It has been a fright but so much fun. I really enjoyed being drawn into the world of abysmal dollhouses and the shopkeeper.
You’re welcome. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed this.
It’s been an incredible journey, and I feel privileged to have watched it unfold(!). I think I need to find the time to sit down and re-read the month – I feel that there might be things that I missed.
An impression: these last few posts, together with one or two others, have all interlinked and revealed more than has been the case in other stories. Over the month it has felt that the visitors to the shoppe get the dollhouse they deserve, but it hasn’t always felt obvious what has led to this, e.g Roger back in B.
A question: You’ve mentioned leaking water once or twice, but does this have any particular significance? Are the dollhouses drooling? Is it a rebalancing of energy and mass? Have I just missed a detail and/or am overthinking all of this?
A suggestion: If you are drawing all these together – and perhaps others? – it might make sense either to rewrite the continuing narratives into one longer story, or to disperse the individual elements amongst the other stories.
If I can find the time to manage that re-read before the 4th I will come back and add some further thoughts.
David, I’ve felt that many of the individual pieces lay the foundation of the entire idea of the Abysmal Dollhouse; we pick up a bit, here and there, about the Shopkeeper and the Unfolding Doll, but in those stories, they are more the “hosts” for those tales. Kind of like The X-Files: there was the Monster of the Week episodes mixed in with the larger Alien Mystery/Smoking Man stories. Maybe I’m overshooting myself, looking back.
But, yes, If I am to do anything with all of this, it would need a solid second draft. This was all written day by day, led by the letter of the day. I dropped hints along the way but hadn’t pieced the end together until the end, even though all things flittered around in this empty noggin of mine.
Thanks for all the support.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Everybody comes to it in their own way – I would have been far too anxious to go the ‘pantser’ route, but you’ve shown what you can do under that sort of pressure. It is a brilliant first draft, when viewed in that light – and I could see the final version topping the charts when you’ve revised it. Let me know if you are looking for betas when you’ve played with it.
I think you know the answer to that question. 🙂
I am very glad to have found your blog during this A to Z challenge. I am sad to come to the end of The Abysmal Dollhouse series, and I wonder will there be more?
I look forward to seeing your posts in my Reader. Thanks again for a great A to Z.
Thanks, Shari. The feeling is mutual.
If I felt that this was the end, I’d be absolutely gutted. I’m so pleased about the soldier and Mary, thank you – I needed them to balance the overwhelming sadness of the Shopkeeper, even though she is back … This has been far & away my favourite bit of A-Z this year.
I do hope that you go on to develop this and I hold my hand up – as did David – for beta reading or any other useful function.
A-Zing this year at:
Normally found at:
I knew you would appreciate what I did with Tom (soldier) and Mary. My only question: did he really leave with her, or is he in a Zayat dollhouse? Hmmm?
Thank you for the compliments. “Favourite AtoZ”…that is humbling, esp coming from you.
I would love Beta readers. Honestly, I need a few honest critiques before I do any real re-writes. I have no clue what really worked, what went over people’s heads, etc. I thought I was being witty in a number of places, and it seemed like they fell flat for the readers. I’ll be talking with you two soon, anyways.
LikeLiked by 1 person
A great ending that leaves that hint of something more to come in a sequel. I think the concept is incredibly strong, the kind of original idea that would stand out amongst the genre writing that dominates today. I do hope you will take it on and create a fully formed novel from the idea. Good luck with it in the future, and I hope to read more on your blog. All the best, Iain
LikeLiked by 1 person
Iain, I really appreciate this. I crafted Z specifically to give me a way into a sequel, with new houses, new Wall of Death. It opens up a lot of possibilities.
Thanks for all your support and comments.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Congrats on your final story. What a task! I can’t believe how much writing you did–and creative writing. I am in awe. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you and your voice.
Thank you, Jacqui. I actually fell short of my word goal, but overall I”m happy with what came out. I enjoyed your blog as well. Thanks for the wonderful comments
Quite the ending. I’m definitely wondering what she does next. 🙂
Thanks, Raimey. Well, what happens next is what I’m pondering right now. I tried to end this part of the story and set up an almost new playing ground for me to work in. I need a little bit of down time: thanks for reading.