Black Friday Special

//dolls, capitalism, good end

As usual you’re two hours into forever. Feet aching, employee vest itching, ears ringing, life receding to an infinity of grocery aisles and home goods and unruly customers and bitchy managers and frozen dinners in a windowless breakroom. Just the usual.

The fluorescents blaze migraine auras like burning frost across your vision and the store radio blares pop hits left mouldering for long enough that the rot has bloomed into hellish screams. It’s always like this, but you have to pay for the bed you barely remember beyond the numb longing you constantly feel for it somehow right?

Sometimes you wonder if the outside really exists at all, or if you’ve just hallucinated the nearly empty flat and the sitcom reruns which have blurred together over time into an eldritch amalgam of laughtracks and conveniently resolved conflicts. You wonder that more and more these days. Maybe you’ve died and become trapped in some sort of retail purgatory. The only measure of time is the relentless march of the in store sales and seasonal specials, and that hardly keeps you tethered to the world. 

But this is normal, everyone hates their jobs, you’ve just gotta put up with it, right? At least the dolls are keeping you entertained, whatever game they’re playing, you know it won’t last and the corporate pitcher plant will go back to dissolving what’s left of your soul, but for now at least, it’s fun to watch them cause trouble for your bosses. It’s Black Friday and the Doll Issue is expected to come to a head today, everyone is alert.

You started hearing about them around Halloween and so of course at first they just seemed like a prank, but when you saw one of the dolls yourself for the first time in early November, you realized something strange was happening. The delicate looking girl seemed oddly fragile but normal enough at first, until you realized that her skin wasn’t flesh but some sort of dark hardwood, marbled in knots and whorls, with ball jointed fingers and seams running up her neck.

Maybe you should have said something to a manager at that point? But she seemed harmless enough, she was nicer to you than most other customers. She kept you chatting and laughing about the absurdity of the world for what ended up being a good portion of your shift. She, it, whatever, was kind and friendly to you, and so you didn’t have any reason to say anything to anyone, even if she left after all that time without buying anything but a single candy bar.

There were more dolls after that. They came alone at first, but later in pairs and then trios, their appearances varied extensively, they came in every shade that wood came in, and quite a few that it certainly did not. You can vividly recall a particularly spirited doll painted entirely in dayglo orange and green hazard striping. Some were large and some were small, some diminutive and some hulking. They were friendly and kind and extremely talkative. They hardly bought anything but they loved to inspect products carefully. Many of your coworkers knew they were stealing somehow and they were “definitely gonna catch em this time” but they never did. 

The number of dolls slowly crept upwards. They were beginning to crowd out your customers and block the aisles. They spent as much time conversing with each other as they did attempting to converse with staff and patrons, so they were rapidly becoming an unreasonable navigation hazard. It was around that point that your store manager and security attempted to start removing the dolls. They were all so nice, so it shouldn’t be too hard to ask them not to linger, right?

The confrontation was extremely amusing, and drew quite the crowd.

“Excuse me miss,” he said to the doll, trying to be polite at first, “we’ve noticed that you’ve been spending a lot of time browsing this shelf, and we’re going to need to ask you to please make a purchase and stop blocking the aisle.”

The doll rotated towards him on one heel, still holding a package of cookies which it had been reading the ingredients list off of. It cocks its head curiously, inhumanly, and then says, “Awawawawawawawawawawawawawawawawawa?”

Of course dolls can talk, they had been talking to you for quite a while by this point, they were veritable chatterboxes, but whenever they were asked to leave, or when anyone attempted to remove one from the store, they would just start making that nonsense sound. It should have been annoying, but you honestly found it cute and would sometimes do it under your breath, or would tease your coworkers by awawawawawaing at them.

The dolls were good fun, they kept your managers running around like madmen, and their slow escalation as the holiday season rolled closer had everyone not secretly cheering for them in a near panic. Where were they coming from? They seemed to just be popping out of nowhere and then vanishing again. Was this some sort of elaborate prank? What even were the dolls? How were you going to handle Black Friday with them around?

Well, Black Friday is here, and the dolls are…gone? The store is oddly empty without them, even with the Black Friday rush. You had supposed their game couldn’t last forever, but the anticlimax did have you feeling seriously disheartened. 

And then, at the stroke of noon exactly, they arrive. It isn’t a small group this time, it’s a vast army, enough to fill up every bit of usable floorspace in the store, they flood out of doors that should have been locked and led to nowhere, they walk out of bathroom stalls and broom closets and the office the manager had just left locked behind him. It doesn’t take long for the panic to set in. The dolls are rowdier today, they knock over display cases to create space for dance circles, they recite poetry on top of a bakery table, they invade the kitchens and begin making cookies on every surface, there’s a group smoking in the breakroom and attempting to bust open the vending machine. It’s sheer chaos, and you can’t help but find the entire mess hysterical.

The police are called, but the dolls keep coming and the police never seem to arrive. They never actually make anyone leave, but the sheer chaos of their presence has most of the humans fleeing the building. You wonder what they’d see on the outside, something tells you that the normal form of the big box store has started to become something far stranger. One of the dolls offers you a cigarette, and you accept, it was almost time for your next break anyway. 

You stroll the aisles as the dolls joyfully demolish the store’s interior, there seem to be less of them now. The store radio has fallen silent and there’s not another person in sight, it feels pleasantly apocalyptic and definitely worth the slow build of hype. You watch the dolls haul your manager out of the store and toss him out through the automatic doors into a thick and roiling mist. 

He doesn’t return, and you finish your smoke fully expecting a swat team to bust in at any moment and start shooting. The dolls leave you alone, but each seems to look at you with a knowing grin, and they never throw you outside on your butt. You’re perched on top of a checkout belt when She strolls in through the front doors. Behind Her, the swirling mists part to reveal an endless expanse of ocean and sky, as if the store has been thrown far out to sea.

She walks directly to you, and as you watch, you can see that all the dolls seem to act strangely in sync with Her. You know She’s the leader of them right away, even if She is another doll Herself. She would be on the short side, but an oversized Witch’s Hat makes Her taller than you are, it seems to almost float along, as if She’s hanging from it.

Something about her evokes a desperate and wild longing within you, like the stirring of something long thought dead. The store has fallen entirely silent aside from your racing heart and the click of Her heels on the dull floor tiles. She and Her dolls are like a technicolor anomaly bleeding into your desaturated world, more real and important than anything you’ve ever known in your bleak and hopeless existence. You suddenly know you want to join them, you want to be one of those happy playful dolls, you want it more than you have ever wanted anything else in your entire life. 

She stops in front of you. You’re staring at your gross fat human hands, feeling like you’re going to start crying any moment. You can’t even look at her, She’s too wonderful, you don’t want this dream to end. Oddly soft wooden fingers cup your chin and gently tilt your head up to meet Her eyes. She’s smiling at you, and She wipes a tear off your cheek. 

Then, with a very goofy grin, She bows nearly in half, holds out a pamphlet to you, and says loudly, “Please join our union!”

When you reach out to take the pamphlet from Her, you notice your hands have already turned to polished wood.

Numb

// abandonment, abuse, implied rape, bad end

Your fingers are going numb. Three hours since your shift ended and another three before the showers in the Y open. After that, maybe you can catch a few hours of sleep in the library. You resist the urge the glance at your phone, the battery is already low. The night is quiet.

You shrink into your coat and take another drag of your cigarette, trying to warm your frozen fingertips with the glowing cherry. It’s snowing again, blowing and drifting, fat wet flakes settling in your matted hair. It’s beautiful, silent, desolate. It’s killing you.

Your skin aches with a painful numbness that makes your movements slow and stiff. Your eyes focus and defocus, the cheerful Christmas decorations locked behind plate glass in the shop across the street blur in and out of focus. Take another drag, tell yourself it’ll be over soon.

You see the car as it turns the corner, the light and motion catching your attention as it slowly rolls down the snowy street. It doesn’t register to your that it’s stopping until someone is climbing out of the driver’s seat. You take another drag, he makes eye contact with you.

He’s older, balding, trying to keep a gut tucked into an ill fitting suit. The silver sports car idling behind him drips with power and status. you know what he is, you’ve seen his type before, his eyes give him away. He’s a predator, and that must make you his prey.

Every warning bell in your head is screaming to run away as he looks at you. Maybe on another night you would have, or maybe you just tell yourself that. Tonight your frost deadened muscles don’t so much as twitch. Take another drag of your smoke.

He’s going to ask you to go home with him, and you’re going to say yes. You don’t want to go with him, you don’t want to let him touch you, you’re going to agree to it anyway. You curdle with self loathing as you realize the idea excites you. What a disgusting thing you are.

He smiles lecherously, leaning casually against his car, “Evening miss, it’s a bit rough out tonight, can I ask what you’re doing out here?” 

Perfectly polite. You almost don’t notice the contempt in his words. Almost. 

“Smoking.” You hold up the nearly depleted filter.

“It’s very cold tonight,” he says, “Do you have somewhere warm to go?” 

Lie and say yes, lie and say yes, lie and say ye–You shake your head defeatedly.

“Why don’t you come stay the night with me?” he proposes, “I’m sure you’d like a warm place to sleep.”

You want to scream, you want to run, you want to burst into flame.

“That sounds nice,” you mumble, trying to hold back a sob. You know you’re going to regret this, you feel sick and disgusted with yourself. So why is it turning you on? Are you really that much of a freak?

He helps you to your feet and brushes you off while you try to ignore the way he’s examining you like a cut of meat. He opens the passenger door, but you make him wait while you finish your smoke. 

The snow swirls around you.

Take another drag, tell yourself it’ll be over soon.

Subtle Distinctions

// dehumanization, disposability, dolls

How many times? How many times were you ordered to do your homework or eat your dinner or shut up and stop complaining, because you didn’t want to end up like those dolls you saw on the street, did you? You were a good kid. You didn’t want to end up like those things, right?

You saw them all the time, with their improvised dollhouses, their baggy salvaged clothes, their tired eyes, and hand rolled cigarettes. They did their best to survive, but you still saw plenty of dead dolls around the city. They were trash. You didn’t want to be trash right?

You weren’t like them of course, you were a person! Dolls weren’t people, obviously. No one could possibly be that cruel to people. You were a good girl, you did what your parents asked, you followed the rules, no, you were nothing like them. No one would do that to you.

Were you overconfident? Or maybe just too afraid to confront the truth. You could have seen the warning signs as your grades began slipping, as your parents and peers became more hostile, as the world and your own mind seemed to rebel against you. Or maybe you couldn’t have.

You were a person! A good person! You kept telling yourself that, you used it to force yourself to try harder, to work more. They continued demanding more and more, and even though it was draining, you did your best. You just wanted to be good after all.

Slowly, despite your best efforts, you fell further and further behind what was expected of you. Bills, assignments, rent, everything was piling up. You were getting scary letters demanding money you didn’t have, and that was after barely eating. You’d reached your limits.

The letter giving you a deadline to pay rent or vacate your roach infested apartment was the final straw. You still weren’t worried of course, you were a person. You could always just ask for help, and you did. What you didn’t expect was what happened next.

“People don’t struggle with this stuff, you’re just being lazy.”

“People can take care of themselves, you’re a person aren’t you?”

“What kind of failure of a person can’t even hold down a basic job?”

“You must not really be a person then.”

No one could possibly be as cruel to a person as they were to you, but of course, you aren’t a person, you’re just another useless doll, you know that now. No one cares about being kind to dolls, no one cares what happens to dolls, dolls are just things, they don’t matter.

You finally understand now, don’t you? No one would ever consider it an act of evil to deny a doll of human rights, so if you just define someone as a doll, then any oppression, persecution, or atrocity you might inflict upon it would never be regarded as cruel or inhumane.

What’s the difference between a doll and a human? It’s simple really, a doll isn’t a person. What makes a doll not a person? If a doll was a person, people might feel bad about what they did to it. That would be very unfortunate, you don’t want people to feel sad do you?

Impermanence

// dolls, death, loss

You always tried to be better. Maybe that was the problem. You weren’t like them, you were different, you were really trying to be better. Yeah, just like every other witch. You knew you shouldn’t have done this, but you just loved them so much, how could you help yourself?

You always joked about not being able to resist taking in lost and abandoned dolls. You always tried so hard to take care of us. You treated us with such kindness, and we loved you. That should have been enough, why wasn’t that enough? Why did you have to be so greedy?

Whenever one of us breaks beyond repair, there is a custom amongst witches. There is a tree whose flowers are always in bloom, whose petals of soft flame gently rain down beneath its branches. The witch would take us there, and let the flames take us.

You said that was a cruelty that you wouldn’t subject us to, you loved us too much for that. And yet, still we broke all the same. Dolls are fragile, temporary things, passing through this world, unlike the fixed point that is a witch, always saying goodbye, it must be lonely.

I understand, I really do, I still love you, but you should have let us go, you need to let us go. You can’t just keep piling our broken forms in this dollhouse, don’t you hear us? How can you sleep at night? Can’t you feel how much its hurting us to be trapped like this?

You love us, so why are you hurting us like this? All those dolls, they were supposed to die. 

“But I…” you stumble for words, “I’ve always been a pacifist.”

The dollhouse is so full of broken dolls there’s barely space to move. A charnel house of misery. A thread breaks.

It takes all night, carrying us one by one to the tree. You could have asked your dolls to do it, you could have used magic, you could have ordered us to limp there with our broken forms. You’re always trying so hard to be better.

You treat us so delicately, kissing us on the forehead before laying us down amidst the coals one by one. You don’t shed a tear, you smile and gently squeeze our small bodies. Once the last of us has been moved, you sit beneath the tree and watch us burn away.

The fire is warm after the cold decay of the dollhouse, the petals fall around us like snow, and slowly, our embers rise back up on the updrafts. Its not until we’ve burnt down to coals and the sky has been kissed by the first light of dawn that you let yourself sit down and sob.

We had fun though, didn’t we? It was good. What we had was good. We loved you. Maybe that didn’t mean anything, but we felt it. Isn’t that enough? 

We’re going on ahead now. Maybe we’ll meet again someday. I hope so. 

I love you.

Farewell.

Wet

//abandonment, abuse, bad end

You smile and wave, soaking wet, as you watch the SUV pull out of the event venue. You’re not going to cry, it won’t help. You try to look casual, ignoring your shaking hands and chattering teeth as you take the second to last smoke from its pack. You’re not going to cry again.

Its not until after the dull twinkle of the taillights fade from view that you let yourself collapse to the wet pavement like a marionette whose strings have been cut. Goosebumps crawl across your chilled skin as you carefully cradle your cigarette to get it lit in the wind.

The night is cold, and desolate. The only illumination comes from the halogen glow of the warehouses across the street. You take a long drag of your smoke, letting the rush of nicotine momentarily banish the world. You hug your legs to your chest and scream into your knees.

Once you start sobbing, it’s impossible to stop, and reality collapses into a point of pure despair. You beat your head against the asphalt, tears blurring your vision as your scream yourself hoarse. A voice in your mind begs for death. The world spins with the nicotine headrush.

“So you really thought you could be like them?” The words startle you out of your episode, nearly making you drop your cigarette. Blinking back tears, scuffed black boots swim into view. You don’t look up, you already know who the voice belongs to, you’ll always recognize her.

Ash from her cigarette gentle snows down on you. She’s drunk. You can smell the whiskey on her. You hate that it’s comforting. You want to tell her to leave you alone, but you can’t, not now. “Or were you stupid enough to believe they would actually accept you for what you are?”

You say nothing, tasting filter as you take another drag of your smoke. She’s right, but you don’t want to admit it. She kicks you. You don’t have any fight left in you. She kicks you again, forcing you to look at her, “Don’t ignore me whore.”

You see the loathing and disdain in her eyes as she looks down at you. It shouldn’t be comfortable, you hate that it is. You hate that she can see it. She smiles lecherously at you, she knows she won. You’re too tired to care anymore.

“What do you want?” You finally ask her, the words escaping your lips like a deflating tire.

“I just want to take you home out of the rain,” she says, feigning innocence, “isn’t that what you wanted your little friends to do for you?”

Your mouth opens and closes, the words catch in your throat as your cheeks grow hot. “Don’t feel bad,” she says, “it’s pretty funny. Did you actually think you could just offer yourself to them like a slab of meat and not make them uncomfortable?” She laughs, it’s a nice sound.

She plucks the filter you’d been sucking from your fingertips. “No offense, but you just don’t have the charisma to get a good deal for your body,” she says, handing you a fresh cigarette, “You’re a used condom with dried cum for brains, all anyone sees in you is desperation.”

She’s right, she’s always right of course, you hate that about her, but you don’t have the energy to talk back. You nod mutely and take a drag of your smoke. “Good hoes make themselves fun to sleep with. You’re not fun, you’re just needy. Desperation is a huge turn off you know.”

“But you’re different, right?” You say finally, knowing where the conversation is going.

She smiles toothily, “Oh, I’m still going to ditch you once I’m bored, but that won’t deter you right? Maybe you can change my mind before I kick you out again.”

She holds out an immaculately manicured hand to you. You don’t want to take it. You know she’s going to hurt you again. You know she’s trying to break you. You don’t want to go back to her. You don’t want to. You don’t want to. You have nowhere else to go.

You take her hand.

She Never Promised You Anything

// rape, abandonment, bad end

She promised you the world. She never promised you anything.

When she found you, you were just a hint of embers trapped between an oppressive layer of cultural ash. Notebooks filled with furious psychotic scribbles aside, maybe you could have continued like that forever.

“Is this really what you want for yourself?”

Those are the words that had cracked your whole reality apart. They were innocent, curious, she really did want to know the answer. You told her, and she smiled. You liked her smile. That was the mistake, you let her make you hope.

When she stole you away, it was the best thing that had ever happened to you. You felt alive for the first time. You revelled in the feeling of speed and motion as she hit eighty on the westbound interstate. You smiled and laughed and sang along with the radio. It was good.

A thousand miles and six months later and you’re lying awake on a bedbug infested couch while the sound of her fucking her latest hookup softly reverberates through the wall. You bury your head in the blanket to drown the sound out. Is this really what you want for yourself?

Lazy days in the passenger seat seem to blur together. Rest stop dinners and crowded house shows. You can’t tell if it’s wearing you down or not, this is, in a sense, the only life you’ve ever had. You’re running out of money. She tells you money can’t buy happiness.

A pair of backpacks represent the sum total of your worldly possessions. You’d left most of your old life behind. There wasn’t that much to leave behind. There were some additions too: a secondhand sundress she gave you, a new notebook, a pair of already cracked sunglasses. Life.

You’re sitting on the hood of the car outside a venue and she tells you she spent the last of your money on ketamine. It’s fine though, because she knows how to make a lot of money fast and will explain how later. Also she’s bringing another girl along.

You’re demoted to the backseat. It’s okay at first, the three of you make a striking trio, and the car rides become entertaining in a whole new way. You try not to let things get to you, even if you haven’t eaten in two days. She still hasn’t explained her plans to you.

She never actually bothers to explain, not until after she’s led you into “Matt’s” apartment. It’s only then that she whispers in your ear that if you show him a good time, he’ll make your little money problem go away. You do it, he never gives you a chance to say no anyway.

She tells you that you did good while you smoke a cigarette outside. You’re never going to feel clean again. It’s a good thing she bought that ketamine. You spend the next twelve hours staring up at the car’s interior as she races down unknown highways at twenty over the limit.

“I think this is a good place for us to part ways.”

The festival is upbeat, relaxed, the music from the stage filters through the trees with the warm sun. You close your eyes, and feel as all the light and warmth drains away from the world. She loves you and wishes you the best.

She said she wanted to build a life with you, she never said that you would have a place in that life after it was built. She promised that it would all work out. She promised that it would be okay. She promised you the world. She never promised you anything.

Eight thousand miles zig-zagged across the country, in a festival surrounded by people, you find yourself completely and utterly alone. You wander the trails, eyes and mind lost somewhere a thousand miles back in Matt’s apartment. You have nowhere to go.

Thread

// 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.

Distance

// abandonment, disposability, othering

“I want to move out soon.”

She says it gently, matter-of-factly, her words freezing your insides and making every hair on your head stand on end. Your breath catches in your throat as you stumble to respond, to stammer out a nod even as your heart frosts over with fear.

Of course she doesn’t mean anything by it. She’s always only ever been kind to you. She’s always tried to understand you, to put in the effort to help you where she could, it’s just that she belongs to another, slightly happier, safer feeling species. She just doesn’t understand.

“Where will you go?” You ask her, your voice cracking slightly, entire body trembling. You try to come off as casual, everything’s fine, right? You wonder if she notices.

“My girlfriend just got a new place. Its nice and spacious, it has gardens,” She smiles contentedly.

“What about you?” She asks you innocently, the question staking through you like the sword of Damocles. Her family loves her; collapsing into the safety of her parent’s home is the worst thing that could happen to her. She doesn’t understand.

You shake your head, trying to keep the bitterness out of your voice as you shrug, “Well…you know I can’t really afford a place on my own…” Your words trail off. There’s nothing else to be said, there’s nothing else you can say.

“What about that porn gig you tried to do? Wasn’t that going to be a bunch more money?” She asks, she’s trying to problem solve, she doesn’t notice that she’s just making you feel bad by pointing out how privileged she is by barely understanding your world. You envy her so much.

“They kept violating my boundaries and hurting me,” you say after a long silence. It feels bad to admit you let it get to you. You wish you could have just forced yourself to be okay with what they did to you. You had tried so hard to make it work. She keeps trying to help.

“I know you don’t get along, but could you ask your parents for help?” The innocence of the question is all that stops you from seeing red. Instead it just fills you with a profound sadness that has you collapsed on the floor sobbing before you realize what happened.

Of course you can’t ask them for help, they already threw you away, smiling and telling you they loved you even as they hauled your possessions to the curb to be thrown in the trash. They knew you didn’t have anywhere to put them, they were just doing you a favor. That was love.

You cradle the beat up stuffie that you managed to salvage from the garbage outside your parent’s house, letting your silent tears run into its matted fur as you fight down the dissociation long enough to answer her question. “They can’t do anything.”

She shakes her head sadly, “Well, I’m sure it’ll work out fine,” she smiles at you, trying to be encouraging.

You shrug, eyes a thousand miles away, “Will it?” You ask her, feeling the hopelessness seep into your words, “I might just end up on the street again.”

She sighs, “I can’t stay here forever just to keep helping you, that would violate my boundaries.” She gets to politely assert her boundaries and the worst that will happen is she goes to live with her parents. Her boundaries, your ability to be housed. It makes you cry again.

“Please don’t try and make me feel bad about this,” she pouts, “I’ve been your roommate for a while now, I want to move on with my life. You’re cute and smart, I’m sure you’ll figure out a way to support yourself, you’ve just gotta apply yourself and put in the work.” Stupid.

You nod, clinging to your stuffie, staring blankly at her while ruminating. You realize she’s gone quiet and is watching you watch her. Something tries to pass between you but the gulf is too vast; all that makes it across the gap is the lonely sense of overwhelming distance.

Once, there was a girl here

// identity death, trauma, loss, psychosis, mindfuck

“This is as far as you can go.”

The words sink from your lips like lead weights, like concrete shrapnel, like murder. You take a breath, stumbling and pausing. You feel her bump into you, you feel her softness against your skin. You squeeze your eyes shut and let yourself cry.

You turn back to face her, blinking back your tears. The juxtaposition between the two of you couldn’t be more stark. Your BDUs and her nightgown, mirrored over the face you both share. Wide, curious, fearful, eyes meet eyes filled with pain and weariness. The mirror is breaking.

You wanted to protect her. You shouldn’t have needed to. You both deserved so much better. The mirror is breaking. You wanted to give her a better life than this. You tried so hard to keep her safe. She deserved so much better than this. You deserved so much better than this. None of that changes anything.

“You’re the best parts of me,” you tell her through clouded eyes, smiling sadly, “You’re everything I wanted to keep safe. All our hopes and dreams, everything about us that was happy and bright and shining. I’m so sorry, I failed. This is as far as I can take you.”

“What will you do without me?” She asks, “Who will you be without me?”

“I won’t be anyone,” you say, quietly drawing your firearm, “You’re the person, I’m just what we have to be to survive. I won’t be anyone without you. I’m just another ghost.” The mirror is breaking.

“Will you remember me?” She asks, tears in her eyes, hiding her face behind her stuffie. You nod softly, drawing the slide back and chambering a round on your pistol.

“I could never forget you,” you whisper reverently, “I’m so sorry, I wanted so much more for you than this.”

The mirror is breaking. She’s crying now. You’re both crying. There’s nothing either of you can do, there’s no other way to survive. It hurts so much. She whispers goodbye. The supersymmetry of the moment arrives at its singularity as hope finally runs out. You pull the trigger.

The mirror shatters under your fist with a crunch of glass and blood. You collapse to the floor with a tortured sob, scarcely able to understand the magnitude of pain and loss you feel. She’s gone. It’s your fault. You killed her. She’s gone. She’s gone.

You hug your stuffie, but it doesn’t feel the same anymore. Nothing feels right anymore. She’s really gone. Oh fuck she’s really gone. You did what you had to do to survive. She’s dead because of you. You tried to protect her. You killed her. You killed her. What even are you?

Oceans

// trauma, dehumanization, disposability

“I don’t understand,” you sob, your voice cracking with despair, “I thought you loved me! I thought we had something special.” The doll tilts its head, inquisitive. Does it understand? Can it understand? And, for that matter, can you really ever hope to understand it?

You force yourself to look, to really look at it, maybe for the first time. Not the imaginary girl you want to see, what’s really there. A clever, alien intelligence peers out at you from behind its eyes. Curious, cold, calculating. Eyes that hid maelstroms behind a serene gaze.

“Of course I loved you,” it says softly, matter of factly. “I love all my things, and you were a very good, useful thing for a long time.” Your gaze meets those desperate, calculating eyes, “So I’m just a tool to you?” you ask it harshly, “Just something to use to survive?”

“Well, yeah,” it says, confused, “What else would we be to each other?” It watches you curiously as it speaks. The blackness in its pupils hold horrors unknown, and its storm-steel irises are the ocean dividing you.