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Doll in the Shop

by darty

Chapter 1

The rain continues for the fifth day in a row. Perhaps the groundhog had not seen it’s shadow and so spring had come early. Or vice-versa. But it was not cold as it should have been, so early in the year. In fact, it almost felt as if it could be an breezy twilight-morning in New England, the kind where fog dampened any kind of heat before completely dissipating into the clear air that allowed the ultraviolet rays to cause cancer in your skin. Or however that works. I am not a scientist—I am just a humble merchant and part-time narrator between classes.

You can only see my shop if you seek it. If you look for it, you will only be aware of an LA Fitness across from a tailoring shop around from the Starbucks and fancy-schmancy new restaurant. But if you seek it, you will see the old wooden boards that are still holding strong after all these years; the window so dusty that it begs you to cup your hands around your eyes to peer through; the never-locked door that, even if it were locked, could be probably be blown off its hinges in a gust too strong. And you will find what you really want.

You are leaving that place you just came from, upset and swearing up a storm inside your mind. You don’t have your umbrella and the downpour is approaching torrential levels. Such is Atlanta’s rain. You aren’t aware, but you are muttering under your breath. You want to get back at that person who made you so irate. You clench your hands in such fury and your eyes with such malice that the little man in your peripheral vision makes you flinch so badly that you stumble into the sign advertising cheaper alterations than the laundry mat several yards down.

You’re too mad to pick it up, but you do focus on the source of your fright.

Not a man so much as man-like, the small cloth doll lies featureless and crude, soaked from its potato-sack exterior to its straw (you guess based on the tufts sticking out) interior. You feel like you’ve seen something like it elsewhere, and then you think back. It’s a Voodoo doll. But what would it be doing here of all places? As you go down to pick it up, you feel a slight shift in the world. Nothing you can pinpoint, but it’s as if the earth grew just a smidge and you were on the side where it budged just to the right.

And then you are in front of my shop. The door opens and I welcome you in.

Not one to decline an invitation out of the rain, you walk in. You get a better look at me as I go back to handling the ledger with the implication that you have free reign to browse around. I am a dark man with a pewter talisman circle with an etched bird around my neck and an open gray buttondown shirt with sweat running from my neck and down my front. You can see that I am barefoot as I am sitting at a very old style workbench that you might think of as a skeletal picnic table—nothing like the contemporary countertops seen in malls. Now that you have acclimated to the indoors again, you realize that it is somewhat musty inside with bunches of conflicting smells all made more potent by the muggy heat.

As you take a moment to realize where you are, you see oddities and curios that, for some strange reason, you feel are more than mere knickknacks and bric-a-brac. And you would be right.

“You are upset,” I say, not looking up from the book.

“What makes you say that?” you ask, until you realize that you are speaking to me through a clenched set of teeth and the doll in your hand is dripping in a constant stream because you are essentially wringing it out.

“What is it that you want?”

“What are you talking ab—”

“You cannot find this place unless you seek it. You can only seek it if what you want is inside. If what you want is inside and you are also inside, you cannot leave until you have it. Now please make it quick. I am almost done and my economics course will begin soon,” I tell you. I don’t mean to be cold, but you are being rather dense.

But I suppose this is unexpected to you. I myself knew we would be meeting several years ago. But that is only because I am the narrator part time. I cut you slack and stand up to my full height, which is noticeably taller than you. You gulp and I don’t speak. Standing before you, I exude a musk that you do not regard as “stink,” per se. Your balls tingle, but I am not going to address them. I could care less about you, but you’re so conceited you think I am coming onto you when I reach out my hand to retrieve the doll in yours. You acquiesce submissively, and I fight the urge to roll my eyes. You are standing eye to eye with the my pendant that had a bird etched into it, but now read ‘free.’

“I want to be free,” you say.

“Don’t we all?” I ask as I turn to the crowded table at my immediate left. You look at me as I place the doll on an empty space and fetch a needle and thread from next to the ledger. When I come back, I pluck a few hairs from the top of your head. You cry out in pain and I ignore you. I turn on the desk lamp and shove the hair into the hold in the back of the doll with my finger. I begin to sew the hole and am almost done when you make a squeaking sound that, in all honesty, I was not expecting.

In complete surprise (I swear), I fling the doll into a few glass jars at the other end of the shop. You suddenly feel a tug and you jerk sharply sideways into the wall. Thank goodness it is an empty one. I blink in confusion. That’s not how Voodoo works. You have to be some kind of Western media fool to believe manipulating a doll physically manipulates a person. And then I remember that I’m only the part time narrator. What I was writing in the ledger—that is, your fate—is being (or was, or will be—it’s very confusing being only half-omniscient) rewritten by the other narrator at this point.

I go to pick up the doll at the base of the jars and you shiver as you feel my giant phantom fingers grab you around the waist. I decide to skip my class and I squeeze a little harder, punishing you for the demerit in attendance I will receive. I see you squirm. I see you being lifted to your feet as I raise the doll.

I readjust my grip and keep the doll’s arms constrained, watching your arms snap to your sides and you clench your eyes in frustration. I squeeze a tad harder and you let out a moan. I know it doesn’t hurt (actually, I am only assuming at this point, seeing as I am off the clock) and I move the doll around as if I were flying an airplane through the air. I watch your feet drag along the floor as I navigate the doll through the open space.

You, however, are far less fortunate, given the obstacles in your path. You hit the table, and then the wall, and then the window, and then you flip with a stomach-lurching tumble through the air before laying face first on the floor.

As you go through the involuntary motions, you feel less pain the more you allow the world to happen to you. The less you resist that which you cannot possibly fight against, the more you get what you really want. The more you become… free.

But then a foolish idea pops into your head (I suppose) and you decide you can influence your own fate. Do you attempt to break free of the spell, or do I continue to do with you what I want with you until I can re-write your fate myself in, hopefully for you, a manner that gives you what you want?


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