A Doll For Darling: Episode 13
Standing in front of each white door was a doll.
Funny things happen in the dark. When the light goes, sometimes the mind goes with it and so this was true for Charlotte. Time doesn’t like to reveal itself except by the slowness of its movements, like a second hand drawing out every tick and tocking a knock against the heart. It was the silence that scared her more than anything, maybe more than the darkness which her eyes could adjust to, given enough time. Still, she wondered, if Darling had her way once her eyes were changed, would she see the same? Maybe she wouldn’t see, at all. People often said that the scariest things were the things you didn’t know about. They were the things that seemed perfectly normal, like a neighbor who helped haul in groceries but was really making notes on your movements like a psychopath. Charlotte disagreed. She always wondered how a thing could scare you if you didn’t know anything about it. Her biggest fears lie somewhere in the purgatory of knowing and not knowing, of having pieces of knowledge that made her mind spin. Being with Darling was like that.
Before she had stood on the stand that held her upright, Charlotte had pressed her fingertips to the back and the sides of the wardrobe. They were swift butterfly touches not meant to arouse suspicion, only meant to confirm the thing she knew in her right mind was true — there was only room in the wardrobe for herself. The noises she thought she heard that first night, well, she’d come up with a dozen different scenarios why she might have heard them. None of them were scary and they were all perfectly practical. She told herself this over and over. She tried to focus on her body and how it felt, but that was an effort wasted. The truth of it was, she didn’t want to think about how her legs felt rubbery, but cemented into the torturous stand. She didn’t want to think about how the apex of her sex, tucked back neatly as if had never been touched, still throbbed from Darling’s ministrations. And most of all, she definitely did not want to think about the moments of surrender, the moments of ecstasy and the moments that she’d given Darling something she could never have back.
In fact, if Charlotte thought about that tiny piece of her soul, if she thought about how it had been ripped from her like the piece of a wailer’s garment and flung right into Darling’s open mouth…
Well if she thought about that, she might tumble right down the rabbit hole into despair and she wasn’t sure she could ever come out of that. Instead she traced the edge of her metal collar with her fingertips. She searched for weakness, there in the dark. Nothing was perfect. There had to be a way out. The cool metal was impossibly smooth, even in the front where there should have been some kind of joining she could find none. She tried to picture it in her mind, before she had stepped in and turned around. The two crescents of metal about an inch and a half wide had spread apart like wings. When they closed in front of her it was a near perfect fit with no adjustment necessary. Had Darling measured her somehow and installed it without her knowing or was she so much like the others? Charlotte thought of the evening news, the stories she read in discarded papers of girls and women stolen by a killer who liked a certain type of girl. She wondered if it was her hair or her eyes or maybe her height and the delicate nature of her bones that had damned her to be noticed. Not that it mattered in these moments.
Charlotte reached out in front of her and pushed her fingers along the inside of the wardrobe door. It was sturdy without any give to it, but she felt some kind of indentations. She squinted knowing it wouldn’t do any good. No matter how adjusted she was it would still be too dark. She pushed a fingertip into one of the grooves and tried to make it out, sliding it down and up and over. It felt like a letter. Or maybe she was making things up in her head, just like the other things she had made up before.
The whisper shot past her ear and floated against her hair, a breath suddenly and irrevocably shrouding Charlotte’s cheek.
“Stop it.” Charlotte whispered to herself. “Just stop.”
“Hey!” the voice lifted from a whisper and echoed a bit as if it were synthesized somehow.
Goose pimples pricked the surface of her skin, running from the back of her arms all the way to her wrists.
“STOP! That’s not REAL!” Charlotte shook.
“But we are. We are. All of us. We are.” One voice was joined by a collection until it became a clamoring that bounced into her ear canal and filled the space with sound. “Help us!”
“You’re scaring me! Stop!”
Tears rolled down Charlotte’s cheeks. Her knees locked tight enough to make her feel dizzy and she was certain that if the stand wasn’t holding her up, she would have fainted already. She squeezed her eyes shut tight and felt the sickness of saliva collect inside of her cheeks, pooled against her gums.
“Shh!” One loud voice commanded. “We said I would speak, now stop it!”
Charlotte swallowed hard. Maybe she was sleeping, maybe this was just a nightmare. There were a hand full of murmurs before the voices all died down and the sound of rustling clothing and restless feet.
“Who are you? What do you want?”
“Who am I?” The voice answered softly and let out a little chuckle. “That’s a very good question. I used to be someone else, but I don’t remember her. I only remember that there was a ‘her’. My name is Adele. This is the only name I remember now, the one that Darling gave me. We’ve been waiting for her to put you in here, just like we knew she would.”
“We?” Charlotte choked on the word.
“Oh yes.” Adele replied moving close so that she stood between Charlotte and the closed doors. “There are six of us, seven including you.”
“You’re all dolls?” Charlotte frowned.
Adele laughed loud then, her breath pushing close to Charlotte’s lips.
“Is that how you think of yourself? As a doll?” She asked.
“Well, no.” Charlotte snapped. “But it’s what she calls me, isn’t it?”
“Oh that’s true, but just because Darling says it doesn’t make it so. I suppose you’re wondering why there are so many of us, what we’re doing here?”
“If you’ve got something to tell me then just do it.” Charlotte spit the words out of her mouth like venom.
Adele reached out and grasped one of Charlotte’s hands. She struggled and tried to pull it back, it was bad enough to be trapped in the dark, but being touched again against her will was too much.
“Stop it!” Adele commanded. “I’m going to show you something.”
Charlotte softened a bit and let Adele lift her hand. Adele held her gently by the wrist and guided her fingertips until they found the girl’s chin.
“When Darling found me, I was sad. I’d run away from my jerk of a boyfriend and was crashing on a friend’s couch. I lost my job and fell deeper into depression, I couldn’t afford my medication.” Adele began. “Darling’s husband found me in a library, my only solace and escape from the depressing reality of my fucked up life. He talked to me, he told me about his wife, told me she was a writer. He said they had a collection of rare books and invited me to come and see them. What did I have to lose?”
“Her husband found me, too.” Charlotte murmured.
“Charming, isn’t he?” Adele sighed. “Anyway. That was the hook, the lure for me. They always take advantage of weakness. Predators.”
Charlotte nodded and Adele pressed the girl’s fingers to the bottom of her lower lip and slid them along a curved up path until they bumped into something hard and spongy. Like a cheekbone, but softer.
“You’re smiling?” Charlotte asked.
“I told you I was sad. That never really went away.” Adele said. “Darling tried to fix me in her workshop. It turns out the smile is permanent now, just like the depression.”
Charlotte shivered and closed her eyes trying to banish visions of the workshop and the straps on the table. She shook her head. It was bad enough what was happening to her, but to have her worst fears confirmed, that this had been happening over and over to others was almost worse. This wasn’t some strange first experiment, this was a sickness.
“I don’t understand though, why are you here? Do you spend time with Darling?”
“Time with Darling? What a laugh!” Adele spat out. “She’s like a child, truthfully. I know you don’t see that now. To you she’s this all powerful monster and in some ways, she’ll always be a monster to us. Trust me when I tell you that the best thing that could happen to you is that she tries a failed experiment on you. Once she does that, it won’t matter how much she needs you, she’ll cast you in here and you’ll never come out.”
“I don’t want that. I don’t want to be here either way. I have to escape.”
“We saw you, through the keyhole. We were watching when you danced away from Darling.”
“You’re the strongest one we’ve ever seen and we think you could escape. We just don’t want to be left behind. Will you take us with you?” Adele asked.
The dolls murmured and whispered behind her and Charlotte tried to crane her neck to see but there was no way to turn around.
“I don’t know, I don’t know if I can help you. I don’t understand any of this, I don’t even know how you all fit in here! It’s all so confusing!”
Adele placed her hand calmly on Charlotte’s shoulder. In the darkness she felt a small comforting squeeze.
“Don’t be scared,” Adele began. “I’m going to show you something. Nothing is what you think it is here.”
Charlotte breathed slowly and felt Adele move forward and in the semi darkness she could see a hand gesture to the dolls behind her. A light clicked on then and Adele’s face was partially illuminated. Her cheeks bulged and puckered in places. She looked like she had two small balls shoved under the ends of her cheeks. The skin stretched so thin it looked like it might tear. Her lips pulled in a tight wide smile. Charlotte looked into the girl’s blue eyes, wet with unshed tears. A blond swathe of hair swept across her forehead and tucked behind an ear. She wore a black jumper dress with a plain cotton tee underneath. Nothing fancy or special for this forgotten doll. Charlotte tried not to wince.
“It’s ok.” Adele said. “It’s hideous, I know. But, look here.”
Adele held up a mirror so that Charlotte could see the room behind her doll stand. And it was a room, stretched out and back as if there was no end to the wardrobe at all. Charlotte blinked. A row of white doors with black trim, evenly spaced filled this extra room. Standing in front of each white door was a doll. Each of them were mangled in their own specific way. One with a mouth sewn shut, one with an empty eye socket, two abnormally short with long arms and yet another that couldn’t seem to hold her head up straight. Then of course, there was Adele. Charlotte whimpered.
“You’ll end up just like us. That’s almost a guarantee. Most of us made it long enough to have a map of Darling’s apartment. We can lead you to her locked chamber.”
“I don’t know.” Charlotte stiffened, not wanting to make a promise she couldn’t keep. “I don’t know if I can!”
Adele put down the mirror and gripped Charlotte by the arms, shaking her a little inside the stand.
“You. Have. To.” Adele said slowly.
“And if I don’t?” Darling held back the sob in her throat.
Adele released her and picked up the mirror.
“Look close, Charlotte. Look very close. Count the doors.” Adele whispered. “There are seven. That last one will be yours.”
Author’s Note: Welcome to A Doll for Darling! This story will be told in mini episodes of 1,000-ish words. I’d love to read your comments about this as the story evolves and grows. Have burning questions about what you read? Did I do something silly like change a characters eyes or hair color midway through (it happens!)? Want to know more about something in particular? Comment, and you may find it in future episodes! Click the link below to follow me on Twitter, so you’ll always know when the latest episode is posted!