// dolls, body horror, abuse, implied gaslighting

The first time you felt the loose flutter in your gears, you ignored it. It was such a little thing, it was probably nothing. Not worth noting, not worth remembering. When did it begin? How long has it been now? How many times did you tell yourself it was nothing?

By the time you finally admit that something is amiss, you’re feeling it almost all the time, along with a deep seated wrongness inside your ceramic shell, like all of your axles are slightly out of alignment. You pray your Miss doesn’t notice the shudder in your motions.

At night, when you are meant to be resting and still, you shakily jerk open your chest panels and run delicate trembling fingers over winding clockworks, gently pressing on the gears to try and adjust their orientation. It works for a time, but the flutter always returns.

Over time, your movements begin to betray you, your joints behaving oddly, your expertly carved hands trembling as if failing to contain a great energy. Your patient investigations of your malfunction only reveal yet deeper misalignments. And then you feel the thread.

You aren’t sure it’s really there at first, it slips through your fingers, less real than an imagined hair stuck in your teeth. Are you just willing it not to be real? You finally manage to grip it and yank. You feel it slithering through your gears as you draw it out of you.

You manage to pull enough out to look at, in the glow of the bathroom nightlight. It’s matte and black, smooth like hair but impossible to break, and the more you draw it out, the more there is. You feel your gears straining as you start a pile on the floor before you.

The process is agonizing and slow, but once you begin, you can’t stop yourself. You just keep tugging and tugging and tugging, transfixed and horrified that something like that was inside you. There’s just so much of it. Why is there so much of it? Why won’t it stop?

Your Miss finds you hunched over a toilet filled with an improbable volume of black bile in the morning. The thread snakes out of you into a waist high pile beside the sink. Your porcelain feels strange and clammy to the touch, your vision swims, your center of balance listing.

The following days are a blur, your Miss cleans you up and puts you back to work. You would almost think that things were going to be okay, if not for the undercurrent of anger and resentment in her voice, and the growing pile of black thread in the bathroom corner.

How much can there really be inside one doll? How can so much stuff come pouring out of you and still leave a you behind? Do you feel less? Does it feel like your soul is leaking out a little with each drop of bile? What’s happening to you? Weren’t you a good doll?

Something inside you is shifting, there’s nothing in there which is supposed to do that. You just want to be a good doll. The more you puke up, the more there seems to be, as if you’ve cracked open a reservoir in your soul. Your Miss hits you. You deserved it.

You pull and rip at the thread, yanking it away bit by bit, trying hopelessly to appease your Miss’s exacting standards and falling further and further from them in the attempt. The threads curl around your gears, you feel like you’re drowning in your porcelain.

One day, you feel yourself jam. Your gears lock and freeze together, leaving you lying helpless in bed as your Miss yanks off the covers and dumps you onto the floor. You puke up more darkness, vision swimming as your Miss shouts and kicks your useless body.

The darkness is tugging on you, pulling at you like a puppet on strings now thoroughly tangled through your insides. You feel yourself drunkenly rising and before you’ve fully comprehended what you’ve done, your fist has connected with your Miss’s cheek and sent her sprawling.

She stares at you. You stare at her. For a moment, the ugly uncontrollable tension inside you abates, like an electric charge that found a ground. You feel sick, horrible, she starts to rise, face turning from shock to anger; every spring inside you tenses at once, and you flee.

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