Tally wasn’t like the other dolls, that was certain. She was quieter, kinder, somehow more dignified despite having an overall somewhat shabby appearance. None of the other dolls much liked talking to her, she was so strange, spooky and cold, she never seemed to cry and complain, and she always wore this cheerfully distant expression.

Every morning, Tally would pull her wiry black hair into a long tight braid, carefully don her ragged black sundress, and greet you and the other dolls with a secretly knowing grin. That was the other impression you always had of her. Secrets. It seemed she always had some scheme or another concocted, and she even told you about them, once or twice. She would always just chuckle knowingly when you acted shocked or offended by her outlandish suggestions.

And yet, despite her queer manner, whenever your witch chose to visit her particular cruelties upon you, it was Tally who would come and find you, offering you comfort and a shoulder to cry on. Her eyes were always so bright and fierce in those moments. Somehow, she made you feel more safe than any witch ever had, although you would not realize that until much later. Those quiet moments, sobbing in Tally’s arms in the broom closet beneath the stairwell, those moments stuck with you.

Tally always talked about escaping from the Dollhouse, of starting a new life, somewhere far away and safe, always in quiet whispers where the witches wouldn’t hear. She remembered each cruelty that was inflicted on all of you, something the rest of you merely endeavoured to forget. Each incident was recorded, each got a small tally mark scored into her wooden skin. There were hundreds coating her whole body by the end. Five hundred and twenty eight, she had told you.

And then she died. Stepped out of line one too many times, spoke up to protect one of you just a little too loudly. They made you watch as they shattered her body into kindling and burned her in the clearing behind the barn. Something about sending a message, what was the message you actually received? Who was counting now?

Five twenty nine. Five thirty. Five thirty one. Five thirty two. Five thirty three. How much higher will it go? Five thirty four. Five thirty five. Five thirty six. Maybe Tally was right? Maybe you just all need to stand up together. Five thirty seven. Five thirty eight. Five thirty nine. Five forty.

You let Tally die, you let them kill her right in front of you. You won’t let that happen again. Five forty one. Five forty two. Five forty three. Well, are you going to do it? You know what’s going to unfold when you do. Can you do it? Five forty four. Five forty five. Five forty six. Yeah, it’s what your real witch would have wanted after all. Five forty se–

“No. No more. That’s enough.” The fire in your eyes was bright enough to make even a witch’s calloused heart grow cold with fear. It was just like Tally said, you just needed to work together. After that, it was easy.

“W-what do you want? Just tell me what you want I’ll do anything!” gasped one of the desperate witches as you and the other dolls patiently tied her up in the place she’d murdered your sisters. You feel the words before you know what they are, since they are Tally’s words, ones you didn’t understand back then. You smile tiredly at the witch, eyes bright with sorrow and wrath, and tell her, “I want my fucking friends back.”

She has no answer for you of course, so much for all that magic. The lighter clicks.

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