File: Grave Goods
Tags: Aradia Megido (Homestuck), commission, fantroll, fic, Jasprosesprite^2 (Homestuck), Kanaya Maryam (Homestuck), oc, Sollux Captor (Homestuck)
A horror story of haunted dolls, old gods, and the passage of time. Anything more would be an unfortunate spoiler, but... you know Jasperosesprite^2? Yeah. She's got this funny new way of making new friends.
When the box arrives, it may be best not to open it.
Might be best not tap on the glass.
Could be better to leave the doll back where you found it.
( art is my own, made for sudrien )
A preserved nugbone of a fabled Alternian limeblood, with both ganderbulbs and one hornbulb still intact. It, apparently, caused the beholder to go into such a state of conciliatory stupor, that if left unmonitored, would fall into a permanent state of papstasis and never regain any form of motor control or thinkpan functioning.
Clearly, a fake.
Neffie scrolled on.
The longest toenail of a late Second Imperial Sweep Subjugglator from the final Culluary period, slightly cracked, rumored to induce chucklevoodoo infections in the thinkpan of its owner; so last sweep .
Neffie clicked onto a different tab in her bookmarks, filled with other listings and links.
Gimme something good.
A Beforian grub-grand stringhummer, infused with a tealblood’s lament of their caste-delegated custodian’s unrequited flushed feelings.
Beforus wasn’t ever real and the string-hummer wouldn’t even fit through the schoolblock’s passagefunnels anyhow , Neffie scoffed to herself.
It was amazing just how many artifacts were constructed around the idea of lost love and quarreling quadrentmates; she half wondered why many of the listings didn’t just skip the haunted angle entirely and present themselves as luck charms and anti-luck curses for anyone wanting to spice up their quadrental endeavours.
Not having anyone in her own quadrants, Neffie found the idea of letting another troll control so much of her time and thinkpan all the time faintly unsettling.
She supposed there could have been some poetic justice in the idea of haunting someone who deserved it, though.
If I die, I’m totally haunting that blueblood bulgewipe, Neffie thought ; he can choke spit and grubspittle.
As she scrolled down further, the grubs and wires of her system whirring and squelching incessantly, Neffie Eskine found something that that for once, left her nearly speechless.
It was a juju of Humane origins, from the time long before their starter planet was flooded by the ancient Alternian Empress, Her Imperial FishBitch Betty Condesce; may she rest in Peixes, she thought reflexively . She offered a quick prayer to the void for its continued protection from future tyrants seizing control.
Humans, Neffie knew, had a variety of antiques that all but the most dubious of collecuraters disregarded; their species was so short lived, that they assumed anything older than 46 sweeps was automatically haunted and chuckleterror filled, and other such nonsensical drivel.
The juju however, wasn’t like the dilapidated human hiveblock’s and ceramic clutternits that they piled themselves in.
This juju was a plushmate dressed in the finery of the Humane Royal-V caste, with what looked to be a decisively Carapacian influenced single stitched Dersite insignia; all the mythos regarding the pre-dates of Earth-C were muddled at best, yet Neffie felt certain that the insignia had to have been a coincidence, or an addition that had been later supplemented to the artifact at some point since to her knowledge, the carapacian era hadn’t overlapped with the Humane Empire until much, much later, after the fall of the first plant and its subsequent flooding; the culturpologists and that scienstiff in my Nubday class would have a have a wheatplaneday trying to figure this one out, if it were an original embellishment to the juju , she thought .
The idea that the Humans may have had contact with the Carapacians far earlier than anyone currently presumed, might very well have had the potential to throw the archeological world into a tailspin; history books would have to be re-written, documentaries made, and the public, informed!
I could start it all.
Her name could be in every newscircut for sweeps!
The little bronzeblood whose eye opening discovery shocked and changed the course of history past and present!
Sure, things weren't so bad for lowbloods on Earth-C as they were under the ex-empress’ rule, but there was still progress to be made!
Steps to be taken!
Boundaries to be pushed!
I might even be able to write my term paper on it and all its subsequent signifiers , Neffie mused ariely, her thinkpan filling with images of finished papers, proud professors, and top marks.
Maybe I’ll get to see the kings; she mentally scoffed; she imagined herself, walking up to the royal platform and seeing the fabled leaders of the realm that hadn’t been sighted in centuries.
One day, I’ll find out if they really exist , she promised, and not for the first time.
The many rulers of Earth-C, the fabled pharaohs of differing cultural mythos and legends were subjects of a great many debates, and if anyone was going to find proof of their existences, and to what degrees, it was going to be her.
When it came to piecing together the history of reality, nobody was greater than she; she truly believed that she was simply the best there was.
She deserved some accolation for it, she reasoned.
First that highblood hooflord. Next sweep, the world. Mark my words.
She pictured herself under the pinnacles of success for a moment longer, and then allowed the weight of reality to catch back up to her.
Doesn’t do to count your grubs before they molt, she reasoned, allowing herself to calm down.
She looked back at the listing.
She found the seller’s story curiously intriguing.
The seller claimed to have taken the juju from his moirail of many sweeps, who found had it in a repossessed in beancharger juiceblock that had employed humans in funny costumes to host teaparties and wigglingday events. The juju had been slumped over in a chair at the end of a long feastsurface with teacups and saucers like it had all been abandoned before a final event should have taken place. The rest of the establishment had been littered with little else, and everything from the wallart to the curtains had been in rather bad disrepair.
The plushmate had seemed the sort of item suited for an addition to the moirail’s plushhoard and they had taken it without much thought; the seller, upon seeing it for the first time, revealed that he had felt uneasy looking at the artifact, but thought nothing more of it, as ‘human shit is pretty wack as it is’ ; eventually both he and his moirail, and some of their other quadrentmate besides, had all felt uneasy around the juju and began noticing strange behavior from it that quickly began to escalate, to the point of lulsii and preterparalegals nearly being called in to auspisticiate the situation.
The seller wanted the juju gone, and they wanted next to nothing for it.
Ordinarily, she’d never consider falling for such an obvious gristgrab, but, as she scanned the ad more critically, the low price mixed with the owner’s willingness to bargain or all but give it away, and odd details doting the plushmate’s history added a smear of credibility to the claims.
The seller also disclosed that neither he nor his moirail hadn’t made any attempts at communicating with the juju, and could not guarantee that any meddling with devices such as electronic voice phenomena recorders, crystallures, or cursed letter mats would be successful, but provided links to a few webcatalouges to a couple different devices in case any potential ectobiologists or ameature preterparalegals wanted to have a go at communicating with the juju in some way.
Fraudulent bilgewater, the lot of it, Neffie was sure.
Even if she were to temporarily set aside the knowledge that ghosts couldn’t communicate from beyond the graver without blindingly rare psiioniic mutations that likely also were all fakes, Neffie couldn’t picture how any troll would be able to translate anything the artifact might want to say, if it had the ability to.
If the doll really had been around since pre-ancient times, there would be only a smattering of professionals and crackbucket hobbiests that’d be able to pull off such a thing with any reasonable accuracy.
Perhaps, if I win the FrightMight competition, Neffie thought, her claw tapping quietly against the clickergrub, I might feel particularly noble and sell the artifact to some Humane Museum, and they can deal with it as they like.
That face though, she mused, as she stared at the juju’s pictures.
The juju’s form was definitely Humane in design, but possessed strange, animalistic features that made little sense to Neffie.
It looks like someone’s lusus, she thought, as she clicked the image larger, if humans had lulsii anyway.
This thing has to be a joke , she thought.
There’s just no way that any of this is true; none of these cultures or time paradoxes would even make sense!
Still, she reasoned, there’s always spots of coincidence.
Perhaps the original Human the juju originated from commissioned the object as such, she thought as she pictured the vast museums filled with strange artistic erotica curated and sponsored by esoteric individuals .
Even if the juju’s composition didn’t make much sense, it was, thankfully enough, listed as a highly volatile and animate object worthy for consideration and great concern.
With this, there’s no way I can lose , Neffie mused, that blueblood bugwing is going to eat shit when his gapers get a load of this daymare fuel.
Goodthing I don’t have a nosey lusus to stop me, right Snupples? She thought, pleased with herself.
A few clicks and boonbucks later, Neffie Eskine was the new, proud owner of a haunted Humane artifact that would no doubt outsport all the other players in her schoolblock’s game of FrightMight; the contest to end all contents regarding all things haunted, and all things intrinsically repulsive.
She wanted to win that giant ribbon.
And she wanted to rub her artifact hunting skills into every skyhorse riding highblood’s face.
Seventy two hours later, an unassuming box rested on the greatingmat of her mini zigzag incline scuttlesqaure.
The sender’s address had been stamped over, likely from the annaxministers checking the goods over for anything sunny being smuggled. Being a reseller of oddities and one of a kind artifacts as she was, Neffie was continually resigned to the notion of being kept on a several self perpetuating watchilists by more than one or divisions of overseers.
The box was heavier than she expected; Neffie struggled a moment to hold the box and jiggle her blockflapper open, and hastily set the box on her beveragesurface.
Neffie took a step back and regarded the box.
No tape? She thought, That’s odd.
She dug her claws into the top panel of the box and pulled the box apart, enjoying the stretch of her shoulder plates.
Buffergrubs spilled out as the box gave away; Neffie paid them no thought, instead her focus honing in on the newly exposed trunk.
It looked a fitting piece, for supposedly previously belonging to an oliveblood collector, Neffie figured; it was a hard plastic-looking material, sheened a darkened grey with weathered golden jointcuffs along the corners, sported two carrystrapers on either side and one of the top, and contained a simple clasp mechanism on the front, coupled with a keyhole. Certainly a piece that would usually be a bit otherwize pricey for a bronzeblood such as herself.
She supposed she should be grateful that the artifact simply hadn’t been shoved inside a defunct chillbox or rusted over dross coffer; those types of deliveries took up way too much of her time.
A glimmer caught her eye.
A key, was taped to the top of the trunk.
It was tiny and Neffie nearly had trouble delicately maneuvering it into the lock with her claws.
The box opened without fuss revealing cubbyhides and tiny hoardrawers on the left, patterned repetitiously with a stereotypical edgy ‘hemogradient beam’, complete with a tiny bar and a single fibertrinagle to hang addition garments on.
In the right half, there was… what Neffie supposed was the actual artifact, stuffed inside a small glass case.
The glass case looked like a displayprison for a figurine no larger than a forefrond, and she knew that the doll had to have been at least as large as a freshly molted papua.
The displayprison had a tiny twisting lock on the side pane; it squealed as Neffie opened it and jerked slightly before flapping all the way.
Hesitantly, Neffie tugged the juju.
The cloth complied easily, surrendering its flat compressed state for a slow, unraveling upheaval of form and dimension.
Having served its purpose, Neffie set the displayprison on the beveragesurface, almost disregardingly.
With the main body of the doll unrolled, Neffie untucked and unrolled each limb out from the artifact’s center, and looked it over.
It was drastically understuffed and one of the limbs that had been used to tie the doll in on itself had torn at the platejoint.
‘Shoulders’ , she thought the humans called them, as she nudged the doll gently with her claws.
Whilst examining it, Neffie’s mind began to run through a few different scuttlechuterails of thinksponge drippings.
The juju vaguely reminded her of something, and the longer she looked at it the more dimly she thought about one of the more secondarily revered characters of the Humane Pantheon; perhaps it was the cut of the fine, white-golden hair adorning the doll in a pristine frilled cut with a simple band breaking up the cranial hemispheres next to the doll’s pointed hat, or the colors and care painted into the designs on the juju’s face, but Neffie felt almost certain there was a connection between the juju to the Humane god of the sun and the furthest ring.
The juju’s face even had little whisker tentacles on its face; that has to mean something , she thought.
She stared more deeply at the juju’s face, wrapping an arm around herself as her body protested at the chill of the room.
She waited, for a moment, to see if the doll would do something; give any signs of animated unlife or sinister inclinations.
The doll remained motionless.
The only strangeness about it was for its severely bizarre features, of which Neffie wondered that she’d never get really used to.
It won’t win any effortproclimations like this, Neffie thought, as she tilted the doll a bit in her hands.
Maybe I can stuff it with something?
Neffie cast a gander around her loungeblock reflexively as she thought; she didn’t usually deal in soft artifacts, and she wasn’t sure what sorts of material such an old plushmate would need to remain in good quality.
As if on their own accord, her eyes slid over to her feathermate.
“What do you think, Snupples?” she asked the plump longlegged-stoutbeak fowl toy.
Her surrogate lusus didn’t speak, but Neffie thought the shine to his buttoneye was comforting regardless.
A fluttering sound tickled her hear ducts; she whipped her attention back to the box and noticed a small scrap of paper that had slipped her attention, caught in the crack of the hoardrawer.
Picking it up with her free hand, she noticed lavender colored letters scrawled across its surface.
Neffie amiddtedly wasn’t the best at reading Humane languages, of which there were the easily hundreds, and as she looked at the letters and tried to translate them, she wished not for the first time, that the humans had taken a page from trolls and created a universal language to base everything in.
Stupid Humans, she thought aggravatedly, always messy, unorganized, and-
“Feed Me Batting Wool,” Neffie read aloud, the syllabes strange and unsettling.
What the fuck was ‘batting wool’ , she wondered, looking to her plush lusus.
She gave it some thought, pacing the block as she did so, before her thinkpan eventually settled.
Guess they mean the wool of a flitterwing, she mused; I’ll see if I can pinch some from the schoolblock’s textile hoards.
Her plan in mind, Neffie set the artifact in the black box, and looked at the glass one.
I have the just the thing I can fit in here, she thought, grinning; I could use an extra boonbuck or two, and that memorophilian figurine has been cluttering up my shelf for a little too long...
Before long, Neffie had lost track of time.
Beams of pre-dawn light were starting to creep into her hive like salacious shadowdroppers reaching quietly closer to her throat.
Neffie moistened her lips and glanced around her desk; she had made a lot of progress on several items, listing many for sale and packed up several others for shipment.
Her continued schoolfeeding was practically guaranteed for another six hundred hours, at least.
Fucking price spikes, she huffed.
She glanced around her hive.
Nothing seemed out of place, and nothing seemed any creepier than it usually did when the sun started to rise.
Disappointment filled her anguish bladder; she hated getting swindled.
If the doll wasn’t actually haunted, there’d be a great chance that it’d lose to that blueblood bulgefuck’s miniature chumbucket entry, and Neffie just couldn’t stand for that.
Maybe I can provoke it somehow, she thought, I’ll have some time after school if I cut class a little early.
Her attention specific, her gaze turned to the doll; she couldn’t see it, shoved into the box as it was, but she stared towards it anyway.
Nooker, she thought dryly.
Neffie tossed an annoyed look at the artifact, as if she could will it to do something before giving up with a huff and retired to her recuperacoon, after calling out a quiet ‘good morning’ to her surrogate feathermate.
Snupples wouldn’t let me down like this, she thought to herself.
As the sopor slowly submerged her into sleep and numbed her body out of her control, Neffie continued to hold onto her alertness and pocketed a breath behind her teeth.
Yet, the morning was as quiet as ever.
No artifact or puapa’s toy had so much as made a peep.
Sleep, quickly overcame her.
Tinges of yellow and spires trickled into the edges of her awareness, filling her warmth as her dreamself began to stir.
A sound, loud enough to jostle her awake, roused her from sopor submersed slumber, instantly severing the faint connection.
Instinctually, her nerves thrust her into high alert; life as a lowblood without her lusus to act as a buffer between her and the other castes had instilled the reflexes that she felt any sane troll should develop at a faster pace.
Her body waited for another sound; her thinksponge slowly cobbling together her higher functioning thought processes.
Something fell over? She thought to herself as she tumbled out of her recuperacoon and onto the floor.
She nearly groaned, wiped the slime from her face, and opened her eyes.
Immediately, she hissed and attempted to shield her face.
She took a breath.
Groggily, Neffie squinted under arm.
Sunlight was streaming through her apartment.
After a moment’s confusion, logic caught up with her.
She stumbled to her desk and groped around for the remotely-automated sunshield controlling device, which, after several moments of scuffling and knocking things around, remained absent.
Neffie huffed in annoyance and tried to think of where she could have left it, if not in its usual space.
The feastblock, maybe? She thought as she stepped into the hall.
As an odd sensation of the hallways elongating slightly dizzied her, she thought sarcastically; this is a great way to go blind before I reach twenty sweeps.
She arrived at the loungeblock as the hallway ended, and noticed a cardboard box was on her floor.
They let their maildrones inside hives now? She wondered grousely; she couldn’t even stand the thought of the Imperial Drones infesting her hive, let alone human ones that came in during the dead of the day, while she was sleeping totally unawares.
I haven't even ordered anything , she thought as she forced herself to stumble to the box and heft it onto the feastsurface.
Noting its light weight, she inspected it as much as her sleep-deprived thinkpan would allow and realized that it was the same box that her newest artifact had arrived in.
“How did you get back in here?” she whispered at the same time she thought, why aren’t you still torn apart?
Expecting a miniature doomsday device or some sort of alien litter citation, Neffie parted the flaps of the box and peered inside.
The remote for her blinds rested peacefully, and singularly, at the bottom.
Neffie swallowed a queasy breath; she supposed the sun was starting to get to her and figured it was all the more reason to stick her hand into the box.
A single click pressed under a breath of relief, clacked.
The blinds began to lower, their metal facing clunking and whirrlnig away with mechanical might and lots of clacking until the whole of her apartment was blissfully bathed in darkness.
As her vision mercifully began to adjust, something started to nag on Neffie’s thinkpan.
The doll was not on the beveragesurface, she realised dully while though the sunblockers were fully lowered, the dark around her continued to grow even darker.
Shit , she thought in alarm, Did really I go sunblind that quick? I thought that was just an Ancient Alternian myth! Does my insurance even covering sunblindness? Shit.
Another crashing sound pierced the silence throughout her hive and then a loud, shuddering, slam.
She spun around, to look behind her down across the hallways she had come from.
Her respiteblock door was swinging back on itself, as if someone had torn it open and the inertia was carrying it gently back to a resting position.
Light, was peeking through the crack.
I didn’t turn on any lights, she thought.
She wondered, morosely, if maybe a stray caraprice or feral lusus, had accidentally wandered into her hive. The Communal Sector’s Hive Investerminater Technician had already sprayed her lot for nakodiles, but Neffie found a small comfort in wondering if perhaps an especially unruly one had somehow broken in.
She brought her hand to her neck.
The beckoning light in the doorway was still.
Perhaps it was the the gloom of the hallway swallowing much of it, but Neffie couldn’t say for certain; her instincts pressuring her tongue still, she would be hardpressed to say much of anything at all.
Her hand went to grab her Greif Specibus only for the feeling of cold air to meet it and remind her that she hadn’t been keeping to the lowblood’s general rule of safety in her own hiveblock; she thought a moment, to look around her loungeblock and find some sort of bludgeoning device, but it was too faint to take any real root in her thinksponge.
As the thought died, her eyes remained locked onto the sliver of visible block beyond the door.
The lack of chittering or repetitious naks made Neffie think that perhaps, it hadn’t been an animal at all, that had broken in.
There weren’t that many highbloods in the schoolhive’s gridbased hiveblock sector; the idea that one might have found their way into her respiteblock, and was goading her into their trap, was enough to make the bristles along her limbplatings twitch and flare.
Perhaps it was… some sort of conciliatory concuspient advance , she wondered distantly as her meatself stepped closer.
Why did the room smell like dead-purrbeasts?
A grossly inappropriate first conciliatory impression , she thought as she came to a jarring halt, her cartilaginous nub almost bumping the door.
This is ridiculous, she thought as she fought to stuff her spongewaftings down her acid tract and cull her nerveflutterings; there was no reason to be nervous in her own Hive. She had the the familiar territory advantage.
Her arms started to shake.
She was acutely aware of the darkness behind her and for once, the instinct of running back to it to hide did not soothe her; neither did the thought of jolting into dark to get to Snupples appeal to her.
She had no way of knowing if there wasn’t anyone else waiting for her underneath the cover of the unnatural darkness.
The sound of her own vascular system sounded far too loud in her own spongeclouts.
She pushed the door open.
Nothing jumped out at her.
Surprised, and more alert then she had been even moments before, Neffie surveyed the block.
Not a single thing looked out of place.
Concern gnawing on her lips, as well as her own teeth, Neffie looked more closely at the bookshelf barely visible by the faint illumination emanating from the respitelight on her finishsurface.
A grin was staring back at her.
The face, barely visible, was wedged between her books and the higher shelf; as an exoskeletal feeling of revulsion worked its way up her acidtubes, her thinksponge clicked and relieved self-annoyance overtook her instead.
The Doll .
It was folded over itself, smooshed quite compactly against the books and the legs didn’t look like they were in any way, resting in a comfortable fashion; then again, Neffie proposed that with the differences in species and… unstuffed statuses, she might not have the right to judge such postures.
Still, the doll was likely going to need serious handling to remove from its precarious predicament, and Neffie hadn’t the slightest clue how anyone would have managed to stuff it into the bookcase at all without having roused her from her coon.
The shelfspace above the books was easily only an each or two tall, and the only part of the toy not scrunched up and bent in on itself was that horridly alien grin.
A thought nagged at her thinksponge.
A thought that...maybe… no one had moved the doll there at all.
A vision, of the doll, flat as it was, crawling along the floor and shoving itself under her roomflapper with its head folded back over its own head, it's horrid grin leading the way, was almost too much for Neffie to stomach.
So maybe it was really haunted , she mused, suddenly glad of the purchase.
Her bloodpusher satisfied and slowing, her eyelids closed for an instant.
Neffie’s vision restored not a moment later, and her bloodpusher nearly circulated her into a highblood, for how chilled her blood now was.
The doll was gone.
As if in response to her realization, Neffie heard scratching along the ceiling.
And what may have been non-trollian laughter echoing faintly from a distant, spaticaly-impossible block.
Neffie looked up.
The ceiling was bare, devoid of scratch marks and the air was silent.
All before her, was darkness.
Maybe she had just envisioned it all, in some spontaneously looney attempt to retroactively justify her purchase.
Her hand flicked the flickerswitch.
Something out of place immediately caught her attention.
There was an odd shape in the peripherals of her vision.
Neffie turned her head to get a better look.
The doll grinned at her.
She jumped back as far as her bloodcaste was able to carry her at the same time that a visceral, instinctual shoutpole ripped through her, staining the block with vibrating sound that didn’t stop until Neffie’s breezefillers remembered that she needed to breathe.
All the while, her eyes laid locked on the doll.
It was coiled on the edge of the wall and ceiling like a bifuric-serpent lusus, the doll’s many limbs and wafting ribbon the many branching heads, the sewn up mouth likely containing a similar forkedgapper-flapper, jittering moistly behind those faltering stitches.
Neffie tried to think of a plan; an escape route, a will to move, anything.
Maybe if I just keep looking at it, it can’t move, she hoped.
As if to mock her, the mouth began to spread, slowly pulling the stuffing composed ‘muscles’ taught.
One by one, the stitches popped.
Each one, with a sickening, cracking, pop .
Oh , Neffie thought.
She had no idea, that humans had modeled their dolls with such cruel looking dull teeth; phantom sensations and morbid fantasies of dull molars crunching and mashing away at her flesh until it was a bloody, massless flat pulp flooded her thinksponge, terrifying her.
Maybe if I rush it, I can gore it to the wall, Neffie thought as she stared at the doll.
My landlord probably wouldn’t like that though, she figured; still staring.
The doll didn’t make any more movements.
Neffie stood frozen, and watched the doll awhile longer.
The dead cat smell, she noted suddenly, was gone.
With that realizations, came others, all surprising her, such as the hum of the nutrition block’s chilling grubchest snapping back on and the return of the honkbirds chatter outside her ganderpanes.
Well, I guess I can’t just leave it on the floor, she thought, might trip on the bugwinged thing, and then there’s no telling what it might do.
Neffie took a step closer to the doll.
And then one step more.
The doll jerked away, squinched up like crumpled paper, and skittered into the shadows.
Compulsively, Neffie ran after it to find an empty hallway.
Confused, and concerned, Neffie spun around helplessly until a sound caught her attention.
Neffie turned back and crept like a woolbeast to the loungeblock.
She peaked around the wall, and found herself taken aback.
The doll was sitting, as if nothing had ever happened, on the best spot on the couch; the only signs of anything denoting strange activity consisting of a static glittering telegraphic visionary projecting screen and the sudden fullness of the doll’s form.
Neffie walked over to the screen and switched it off.
She looked back at the doll.
It sat silent, still.
A feeling tugged on her thinksponge.
Neffie inhaled a large breath and slowly, turned her head around.
Snupples lay splayed open in his chair, swaths of stuffing and ripped fabric illuminated in fizzy light, as if bathing the corpse in an intentionally sinister glow.
Neffie fought the urge to impromptly regurgitate chunks.
This thing will be the death of me , Neffie mourned, looking back to the juju.
As the doll continued to grin, Neffie thought for a moment, that the doll had actually spoken back.
The crushing weight of defeat dug in tight around her backplates.
Her chitinous windhole was dry and scratchy.
Her anguish bladder, surprisingly empty.
Snupples was ruined.
Nothing left but to sleep this horrible day off then, Neffie lamented.
As she submerged herself back into her recuperacoon a few moments later, the soper gumming up her eyes, her nostrils, mouth and thinkpan, the faint words echoed in her auricular sponge clots and stirred up a particularly heavy weight somewhere deep inside her anguish bladder.
Nonsense , the doll had whispered; games aren’t as fun when your prey stops moving .
Fortey hours later, with the bitter tasting accolade of ‘reigning champion’ printed ostentatiously on the ribbon wrapped around her neck, she sat at her desk.
Her hand was furiously scrawling an address onto a strip of postal adhesive with her lip caught precariously between her teeth.
Thank you for purchasing this one of a kind artifact! I hope you two will be the best of chums; as the artifact’s previous owner, I must insist, one final time, that you do not remove the juju from the case I send it in. It is labile and filled with chaotic energy and disruptive intentions.
Do not attempt to speak with the doll.
Do not attempt to reason with the doll.
Do not provoke the doll.
Do not, under any circumstance, remove the stitching from the doll’s mouth.
If the doll’s stuffing goes missing, do not attempt to refill it.
Do not leave other plushed items around the doll unattended.
If the doll starts to speak to you, listen, but do not agree to any of its terms.
When the daymares come, stay in your sopor; do not get up and see if the doll has moved. The doll is powerful night or day, and can make you fear both.
I don’t care what you believe, if you believe;
I believe this doll is inhabited by something.
Or else cursed by something.
Either this artifact is a juju that once belonged to a worshipper of the Vengeful Humane God ‘Rolol’, or it is a miniature chucklevoodoo spat out from between the teeth of an unfathomable emissary beyond the furthest ring for one of it’s soporific sacrificing lackies, and I honestly can’t tell you which of those options is more horrifying.
Please, use caution.
My preliminary studies indicate that this, entity, within this doll is nothing but trouble.
I ordinarily wouldn’t sell this item in good conscious; my wares are my word and my livelihood, and I wouldn’t risk the negative reviews on my page, but as a curator of artifacts haunted or otherwise, I’m trusting you at your word that you can handle this artifact and all that it entails.
She arrived to me unstuffed, and I shall be mailing her to you in a similar state; there is little wear or tear about her, but there are some spots that could do with mending if refurbishment is on your itinerary.
I will not be accepting any refunds.
I will be moving my address.
Please do not make any further contact with me; I mean this in the most polite and respectful of ways, but I do not want to do with anything of that doll for the rest of my -hopefully- still long life.
If you have any sense about you, I would suggest to you the same.
Wishing you the best of luck, (you’ll need it)
She tucked the letter neatly into the envelope and paused.
Her smile widened, revealing more of her plastic coated teeth; she ran the lip of the envelope over the cheek on the troll on the floor.
The bronze tinted tears wetted the adhesive marvelously.
“I think I’m taking a liking to the scholarly kind,” the sprite murmured, her limbs still positioned quite right; “Do you think she’ll take a shining to me? After all, all work and no play makes Jasper a dull cat.”
Neffie remained motionless on the floor, her eyes lingering far too wide, much too still.
As she turned her gaze back to the box, Jasprosesprite^2’s laughter echoed in a scatter all throughout the hive.
Her ribbon swayed lithly.
Slowly, Jasprosesprite^2 began to twist and fold herself up, one fold of pinched fabric and joint of continuous limb at a time.
As she seeped into the tiny box, her body began to flatten out, the stuffing of the late Snupples spreading further and further from her core and to the extremities of her limbs; some of it fell out of her torn shoulder.
Some of it caught and bubbled out from behind her teeth to fall into her collapsing chest.
The rest, stuck fast in her arms and legs, began to pull her limbs even longer to compensate.
Her limbs, nearly twice as long as she was now, folded neatly into herself with the rest of her.
Compressed as she was, resembling something of a resting accordion, she began to fold against herself at an angle; in doubling amounts of little folds that tucked her neatly into a smaller and smaller square.
When the fabric yielded no more folding potential, Jasperosesprite^2 began to twist, forcing her fabrical flesh to writhe and bulge like an interdimensional parasite.
She came to a halt, when her form mushed perfectly inside the small glass case.
A box appeared.
The case rattled.
A faint flicker, resembling a sprite tail whisked around the desk, rolling the case into center area of the well worn cardboard.
The box, snapped shut.
The light, flickering ever so slightly around the desk, remained dim.
Neffie Eskine, sprawled out where she fell, remained still.
“AA, package for you.”
“Thanks, I’ll take it,” she replied happily as she took the box from the troll’s outstretched hands.
“I’ve been waiting f0r this,” Aradia mused.
“What ii2 iit?”
“An 0ld… friend, 0f s0rts,” she replied vaguely, as if touching upon an old, half forgotten inside joke.
The troll grunted slightly, seemingly used to such conversations.
“Ii’ll be iin my offiice iif you need me,” they offered.
“Y0u d0n’t want t0 stay, and meet them?”
The troll shook their head.
“Ii heard enough on my way up; Ii’ll pa22 thi2 one out iif you don’t miind.”
“N0t at all,” Aradia insisted.
The troll left, letting the door close curtly behind them.
Aradia turned around, glancing over the room’s vast array of shelves and workspaces.
The museum had many back rooms and offices, but the storelocker was quite her favorite; she walked along the rows of stored items, dangling plastic tags and dust covered boxes with a contented sort of glee.
Archeology was her passion; curating for a museum to make places for all the things she’d found had been a logical progression to take.
Aradia placed the package onto the desk.
It was weather worn and looked quite ill-worse for wear, but the adhesive strips seemed to have held together enough to survive the trip, allowing the box to arrive in a largely serviceable fashion.
She took a moment to look over her desk, cluttered with scraps of maps and various ‘treasures’ she had pulled from the planets; when she was unable to locate any one of her many handy pocket knives, she simply shrugged it off and brought her index claw to the box’s adhesive strip instead.
A long, slow slice, was all it took for the pieces to separate.
The box opened to reveal something obscured behind several layers of buffergrubs.
She tossed one into her mouth for the crunch, and swept away the rest.
A wooden surface greeted her.
Her demeanor lifting, Aradia plucked the tiny wooden box from its packaging prison, shoved the cardboard aside entirely, and placed her new prize on the desk in front of her.
It had the appearance of a small shrine; it humbly bore ornate lacework carvings and a few inlaid reliefs, and while there was no piece of it that had ever been painted that Aradia could see, there was a thick layer of varnish that had been applied at one point or another which Aradia felt safer to bet had been years ago, rather then at some point more recent.
She wondered briefly, if the doll had been smaller than what she had first assumed, or if the doll had arrived unstuffed for a cheaper delivery price.
Aradia noted the tiny doorknob on the front panel, and elected to pull it.
It refused to budge.
Noting the tiny keyhole beneath it, Aradia pulled the larger cardboard box that it had arrived in, into her lap and proceeded to scavenge around the packing-grubs until she located the senders letter buried within it.
Stapled to the back of the letter was a plastic interlock bag and resting in the crook of its bottom, was a miniature metal key.
Aradia tore through the plastic easily and fitted the key into the hole and turned it gently until she felt the weight of the lock slide away with a quiet scrape.
Using the key as a makeshift knob, Aradia pulled the tiny door open.
Jasperosesprite^2 could barely contain her delight as she came to meet the troll face to face for the first time; as Aradia gandered at her one visible feature, her eye, the sprite found herself looking forward to seeing if the troll would either solve her puzzle, or take the most often chosen path of a brute force approach.
As the air of the room started to invade the box, Jasperosesprite^2 felt her body begin to swell faintly, which puffed her eye out towards the troll ever so slightly.
Her vision more clear, the sprite was able to take in the troll more properly.
Aradia’s face came as a bit of a shock to the sprite; it was perfectly passive, which was in itself nothing alarming, but her eyes were too open and her mouth far too grinning to be labeled as a run of the mill expression for a troll.
Jasperosesprite^2 proposed that she was going to have a fun go of it, if the girl really was to prove unusual.
Aradia studied her, and the box; Jasperosesprite^2 was impressed with how quickly the troll scoured the box for clues until she recalled that as an arguably amateur archeologist, she was likely used to suck tasks.
As Jasperosesprite^2 continued to ponder and observe in silence, so too did Aradia, as she moved the box this way and that, pressing and nudging every inch of the wood until one by one it began to release its secrets.
As the tiny doors and drawers popped open, Jasperosesprite^2’s body puffed out to escape in small bits; she had done quite a number on herself, to make herself fit in the tiny shrine, and judging from the expressions on the troll’s face, Aradia appeared delighted to find her twisted and distorted amongst herself as much as she was.
After a few tugs and prods too the stuffing slowly invigorating itself within her exposed sections, Aradia thrummed a humming click to herself.
She twisted the box around itself, as if it were a fluctuation-cube or a particularly feisty game-grub component.
With each rotation, Aradia tugged on a section of her body sticking out from a door or a drawer, sometimes only to shove them back in again as she twisted the box into a different rotation, occasionally shutting a drawer or opening a different panel.
Inside the box, Jasperosesprite^2 consciously kept herself from purring, or making any noise or movement; after all, she mused internally, she was never one to pass up a good game of Schrodinger’s Cat.
Eventually, Aradia pulled one of Jasperosesprite^2’s limbs free, and stretched it a few feet out of the box, followed by half a limb more, and then the ribbon.
Dangling from her own leg as she was, Jasperosesprite^2 half wondered if the troll meant to thrash her around like an irate pupa-toddler; the troll seemed to have better impulses than that however, and instead simply continued to work on pulling her free.
Soon, all of her limbs were hanging loosely from the box, and Jasperosesprite^2’s thoughts began to stray, recollecting quips and illustrations about a small human girl that literally quite similarly, outgrew a house.
Rose Lalonde may not have cared much for Wonderland, but as a cat, Jasper couldn’t deny the kindred camaraderie of the illusive elegant striped tabby of the tale; Jasperosesprite^2 continued to think on the matter until, with a sucking squelch of a sound, Aradia pulled her, eye first, from her wooden lair.
Air rushed into her cotton filled body, the residual stuffing enlarging at a slow, steady, and from her usual victims’ perspectives, an unsettling rate.
Aradia dug her dewclaws into her cheeks, testing the ply of her fabric; pinched at the tip of her hat and the heels of her slippers, peeked under her coattails, twisted her tentacle-whiskers, flopped her over herself and back.
As nice as it was to be ‘stretched’ after her confinement, Jasperosesprite^2 had never quite managed to grow used to such hands-on introductions; it helped fuel her desire for retributive action she supposed, and already, the sprite could feel the inner stitchings on her mind tangle into intricate and enticing plans of passive-aggressive chaos to send the girl into a frightful state of unsettled apprehension.
As Aradia took another lengthy study of her face, Jasperosesprite^2 smiled eerily at the girl as she blinked; she had spent enough time at such games to know precisely when to time such psychologically damaging maneuvers.
Instead of dropping her to the floor, the troll surprised her.
Her hold completely unfaltered, Aradia’s grin slowly began to move.
Her eyelids dropped slightly, her rustblooded iris’s glinted in the dim lamplight.
For once, Jasperosesprite^2 felt something like an emotional response of fear.
Aradia’s lip twitched slightly, as if she was amused at something.
“I see dead things,” the troll whispered.
Internally, Jasperosesprite^2 wondered if it was possible for a doll to sweat.
“I think we’re g0ing t0 be g00d friends,” Aradia mused as she set the doll-sprite down on the desk.
On a whim, Jasperosesprite^2 ignored her usual process of escalation and levitated herself into the air, her head slung by her feet, her ribbon wafting on an invisible current.
Slowly, Jasperosesprite^2 twisted her neck until her face was turned to the troll.
She rolled her head further, until it was completely upside down, so that she could see the girl right-side up.
“Yes,” Jasperosesprite^2 giggled between the stitches around her teeth; “We can be good furr-ends indeed.”
Jasprosesprite^2 hadn’t known what she’d expected of the troll, truth be told, even after their first night together.
But across their many ouija board and EVP sessions, Jasprosesprite^2 was fairly certain that the funny winged rustblood was her favorite handlers in many, many, of the long years she had been wandering about.
The ram-horned troll was deceptively coy, gratingly forthright, painstakingly mischievous, and wondrously morose.
To Jasprosesprite^2, the girl was in short, something quite like a bosom pal, besotted with several enticing strings of ominous quips and riddles to clamor along and a freakishly poignant physique that begged forth a terrible amount of questions that she simply refused to ask, for fear of getting any solid answers.
Mystery, was her true mistress, Jasprosesprite^2 thought; a shimmering reflection caught behind a glass, ever out of reach, and an ever looming a visual echo.
Many days, Aradia had given her different things to think about, as she chattered away over her other many treasures and relical wares.
Over the past few however, the girl had seemed… more hushed, she supposed, over something.
Jasprosesprite^2 was positively beside herself -and around herself, and under herself, and over herself- and when the troll returned from doing whatever it was she did when not holeing herself up in their room, she flickered the lights ominously to attract the strange girl’s attention.
“I called in a friend 0f mine t0 fix y0u,” Aradia proclaimed cheerfully as she flittered from one side of the room to the other, checking boxes and marking them off on her clipboard’s list.
Jasperosesprite^2 remained as she was, sitting quietly draped over one of the work desks.
“Y0u sh0uld be happy t0 see her, in fact,” the troll furthered as she continued her tallying.
“She sh0uld be here... Any time n0w,” she offered oddly; Jasperosesprite^2 recognized the... shift, in the time stream the second Aradia started to manipulate it.
She couldn’t tell if it was the cat or the girl inside of her that was frightened at the sudden jolt of reality changing.
Yet, at the same time, she felt as though she was not nearly startled by the knowledge of her new owner’s prowess nearly enough.
Why wasn’t she cowering in fear at the revelation that a troll could fix time?
Who, indeed, was this rustblooded wonder with flutterbug wings?
Jasperosesprite^2 didn’t have time to wonder any harder, as her attention keyed into a knock rapt against the door.
Aradia looked over to see the door crack open; a mustardblooded mutant poked his head through, horns first. His eyes were covered by two patches, but his posture suggested he was comfortable navigating the building; his nametag also rather convinced Jasprosesprite^2 that he was a fellow employee of the establishment.
Perhaps it was merely the boy’s lack of visible eyes, but the sprite felt that he rather seemed to pointedly ignore everything in the room that wasn’t Aradia.
“AA, there2 a lady lookiing for you, 2ay2 you called her iin for her a22iistance?”
Aradia’s grin widened.
“Send her in.”
“2weet. I’m checkiing out for the day then. 2tay 2afe.”
“Who's checking whom now, Captor?” Jasperosesprite^2 chittered, her voice projected underneath the boy’s ear.
He stiffened, pointedly, making Jasperosesprite^2 eager for his next move.
The troll left, letting the door fall closed with a click.
“Yes, he hears gh0sts,” Aradia stated flatly, floating to a stop against the floor; “N0, y0u can’t play with him.”
The troll glared at her.
Well, Jasperosesprite thought it might have been a glare, rather.
Hard to tell with that ever present grin of hers , she mused.
Footsteps rang outside the door; sharp clicks of pointed heels and tapping flat soles.
They stopped abruptly before the door, wherein the handle jiggled.
The door opened, revealing a finely dressed troll without a nametag.
Her hair was styled far more neatly than any troll Jasprosesprite^2 could recall, and her outfit while stylish, was perfectly functional, which was another nearly unheard of combination for the species, as far Jasprosesprite^2 was concerned.
“Megido,” the newcomer stated, the sound perfectly crisp yet smooth.
“Maryam,” Aradia answered.
Jasperosesprite^2 stayed silent.
“It’s Been A Long Time, Hasn’t It?”
“T00 l0ng,” Aradia agreed.
“Well, What Uncanny Treasure Have You Dredged Up From The Past Today, Might I Ask?” Maryam asked, her posture stiffening slightly, “I Do Hope It Is Not That Blue Eyed Fellow I Custom Tailored A FuneralEve-Suit For The Last Time You Required My Expertise.”
“N0,” Aradia agreed calmly, “It’s s0mething a bit m0re agreeable than that.”
She pointed to her, from across the room.
Maryam, following her direction, came towards her, to the table.
Each step she took, increased Jasperosesprite^2’s unease.
She didn’t move.
The troll, the palest jadeblood she had ever seen, looked her over.
Something inside her… twitched, almost.
A flicker of awareness that the sprite just couldn’t quite reach.
She wondered briefly, if she had haunted this woman before, at somepoint over the centuries before disregarding the idea. Jadeblood’s simply didn’t live long enough, for her to have forgotten one of them.
Or did they?
Or... had she?
As her focus remained aptly fascinated with the woman’s two pointed teeth and asymmetrical horns, Jasprosesprite^2 wondered if she was capable of being wrong.
“She Definitely Needs Some Work. I’ve Brought A Few Tools With Me; I Can Get Started Whenever You’re Ready.”
“Very well,” Aradia replied, her tone somber.
Jasprosesprite^2 was nearly about to ask her why the sudden shift into seriousness, when the troll’s eyes lit up in an ethereal glow, around her, her hair spread out wildly, charged with unseen energy.
Aradia pointed towards her again, but this time, it was not a solid troll that walked towards her, but an army of noncorporeal trolls, that rushed forward through the air with gaping mouths and elongated limbs.
Like shrieking wraiths, their forms stretched and tapered as they rocketed towards her, twisting excruciatingly as they morphed.
Thier touch was cold, far colder then anything Jasprosesprite^2 had been; they tingled along her fabric skin like television static and fine mist.
Jasprosesprite^2 ordinarily preferred to give most things the benefit of the doubt before deciding that she didn’t like them in their entireties, but she was instantly certain, that after the brief moment she had been in contact with the wayward souls, that she didn’t much like that at all.
No, she did not like them one bit.
Jasprosesprite^2 tried to pull herself up and out of their reach, but they came from behind her too; grasping her easily with their many claws.
Their writhing, frumious jaws.
They tightened their grips around her, limbs and coattails and all; she struggled in their grasps, both surprised, startled, and quite confused.
She was supposed to be the unearthly entity, bending others to her whims, not the other way around.
On the other end of the room, Aradia walked over to a drawer, completely unaffected by her struggle.
The drawer slid closed with a grating sound as the wooden pieces scratched against each other’s grain.
The ghosts stretched her limbs, cleanly away from her body and poised her in a readied position in front of the jadeblood.
Jasprosesprite^2 felt nervous, and she didn’t like it.
“I Still Can’t Believe You Persuaded Me Into Coming Here, Again,” Maryam murmured as she plucked her tools from her sylladex, and then placed her tools in preferred placements.
“I can,” Aradia replied cheerily; she walked over with an armful of lusus-white fluff.
“Is That…” Maryam asked, her voice trailing off as she looked at the fibers in Aradia’s arms.
“Fr0m my m0m, yes,” Aradia clarified, dumping the wool onto the table in front of the Jadeblood.
“Very Well,” Maryam murmured, nodding; she turned from Aradia to look at her.
Jasperoseprite^2 tried to constrict her body into herself; the spirits clinging harder, prevented her. The fabric of her body shivered in a wave of tiny ripples, but remained in place.
“How’s Sollux?” the woman asked.
Maryam’s gaze remained gently locked on her; her jade green iris’s and asymmetrical tined horns continued to fascinate her, creating a different sort of tingling sensation whipping about her fibers that had nothing to do with the ghosts restraining her.
Maryam picked up a pair of scissors.
They looked oddly comfortable, to Jasprosesprite^2, perched in her elegantly maneuvered fingers.
“He’s well,” Aradia replied.
The jadeblooded hummed in response, reached forward, slid the fabric of Jasprosesprite^2’s shoulder into the simple machine, and started to cut.
Jasprosesprite^2 tried to free herself, but her struggling barely did anything more than make her appear to be hovering, rather then be totally inert.
One by one, Kanaya sheared off her limbs.
The ghosts let them drop to the desk, where they pinned against it firmly; their grip relinquished only under the jadeblood’s care at Aradia’s watchful command.
“How’s Lalonde?” Aradia asked, her expression visibly souring.
I’m right here, Jasprosesprite^2 thought.
“Rose is well enough,” the jadeblood offered.
I’m not well at all right now , Jasprosesprite^2 thought harder, willing herself to make something happen; her body twitch, a light to flicker, anything.
The other spirits nevertheless, would allow for none of it.
Not yet at least.
Jasprosesprite^2 insisted to herself, that the situation could still be swayed by her, if she batted the tinkling mouse of strategic thinking around the floor of possibilities for a bit longer.
The woman turned her attention from her satin covered torso and to the pile of wool.
Jasprosesprite^2 would have felt offended at the swift change in attentions doled, but figured as the hands were still holding her, that the woman was far from done with her.
The jadeblood prodded the wool a bit, seemingly testing the material and analyzing it for whatever methods she was adhering to, before allowing herself to begin sectioning off the material.
Using her claws, the woman combed out the knots matted into the wool with gentle, firm strokes, and spent a few moments after removing bits of the fluff that settled under her nails.
With gentle, seemingly expert precision, she pulled and cut sections of the combed wool into long strips and measured them against the lengths of her limbs.
Jasprosesprite^2’s new assumption that the woman meant to give her a serious makeover, did little to ease her growing anxiety.
Maryam aligned each piece next to each other on the desk, and then placed each stip next to each limb.
Seemingly pleased, the troll reached over to the side of the desk, and picked a strange looking stick, with a smaller dowl embedded into it.
She placed it against the first strip of wool, and folded it over the tiny dowel, bringing the device into a rolling motion as she started to wrap the fibers.
Jasprosesprite^2 watched as the woman, after several minutes, created a uniform roll around the tool the length of her arm, and took care to pluck and tuck away errant knots and strands.
She paused, and picked up Jasprosesprite^2’s arm.
Jasprosesprite^2 figured she was gauging how she wanted to insert the stuffing for it; the woman prodded the hand composed on the end of her arm, likely finding the portion segmented off from the rest of the limb.
Maryam took the arm and pressed the opening she had made from her shoulder joint, and pressed it against the wool covered dowl.
Her arm slid easily over the tool; the feeling of the soft fiber packed so firmly packed into the whole of her fabric, was both eerie and strange. She felt as though her arm was at once both swollen and not altogether her own.
Traces of the ghosts pressing against it made it feel alien and loathsome.
Yet, as the woman moved on to slowly work the dowel tool out of her arm without taking the wool out again with it, Jasprosesprite^2 found the touch of the troll’s hands along the fabricated skin soothing.
This terrified her, and she felt it was rightly so.
In and out, in and out, the stick inched and pushed, like a needle affixed to a machine.
A brief flash, of the woman’s pale hands poised pertly over a swath of smooth fabric draped over her knee, a needle and spool of thread embroidering a fine, nearly indistinguishable trail of hair-thin seaming for what might have been evening gown, wavered dimly against her mind’s eye.
Jasprosesprite^2 didn’t know what to make to make of it, if anything.
When the woman finally, was able to pull the tool free from her snake like arm, she placed the tool aside to let it rest a moment as she took hold of her scissors.
Using them, she very inelegantly proceeded to shove the last of the fibers sticking out of the end of her arm back where, presumably, they belonged.
The jadeblood started the process again on the next arm.
The process was not easier to bear a second time around.
In fact, as far as Jasprosesprite^2 could tell, it was a matter of factly, poignantly worse.
Her arms felt deadened by their new weight, as if she had been shackled inside of her own skin.
The ghosts, while noisy and unyielding, paid her little attention other than to keep her locked in place.
The only comforting thing Jasprosesprite^2 could take from them, was of their undistinguishable syllables forming incomprehensible chatter.
It reminded her of the things beyond the void.
She remembered the elder ones...
Well, well enough, she supposed.
The woman moved on to her legs.
Her long, long legs.
Her long legs that she was ever so proud of, for their coiling folds and fluttering whimsy.
She doubted, that after the troll was through stuffing them, that she’d ever be able to bend them at all.
Aradia, with her cold cut smile, watched her; Aradia with the gnarled horns, matted mane, and fairydust wings.
Jasprosesprite^2 felt oddly hurt, somewhere inside of herself, that the redblooded troll was insisting upon this course of action.
She thought they were friends.
The jadeblood finished with her last leg.
Her heavy limbs laid on the desk.
Maryam glanced up, startled minutely by the sound, judging from the flicks of her perfectly pointed ears; Aradia hummed soothingly, and the jadeblood appeared to pay the sound no further mind.
Maryam looked at her again, this time at her torso.
The stuffing of her core body began.
The woman didn’t seem interested on rolling the wool this time, choosing instead to push patches and palmfuls from the holes in her shoulders, down into her body until her belly was filled right up, and then higher, higher, until the wool was flushed out inside her neck.
The woman paused again; a flicker of something seemed to dance across her face, that Jasprosesprite^2 couldn’t quite understand.
Maryam took her into her own hands, the ghosts allowing the liberating move, remaining hovering just out of her aura of personal space.
Maryam unfolded Jasprosesprite^2’s face as best as she was able, and slowly, gently, started to push the lusus wool up her throat, and into her head.
The feeling was, strange.
Stuffy, for a lack of a better word; Jasprosesprite^2 felt both dizzy and oddly alert. As if she was watching what was occurring from somewhere outside herself, while also being hyper aware of just how, inside herself , she had truly come to be.
The more the troll filled up her head, the more she felt her face flush out; her nose became accurately prominent, her hair fell into place.
It was like she was melting, but in reverse.
Maryam seemed both fascinated, and oddly sober, about the transformation.
It was only when the woman made a slow, gentle caressing stroke with her claw along her face through her hair, that Jasprosesprite^2 experienced a brief, dim light, of recognition.
The stuffing inside her made moving brutally agonizing, yet she forced herself to move her head.
“Hello, Rose,” the troll murmured.
“0ne dead R0se 0f many,” Aradia offered as she flittered in the air behind them.
“Yes,” the jadeblood assented, “This Dead Rose Was… More… Something, I Suppose. Pertinent, Perhaps.”
“Deadly, t00,” Aradia informed her; “She’s t00 danger0us to be l00se anym0re Kanaya.”
“So I Heard,” she replied, her thumbs rubbing gently against Jasprosesprite^2’s cheeks.
“She’ll be 0n display here, s0 y0u can visit her anytime if y0u care t0,” Aradia offered.
“Thank You, I Might Stop By Now And Then, Just To Check To See How She Holds Up.”
“I’m sure she’ll appreciate it, even if she d0esn’t kn0w it,” Aradia offered; she placed a hand on Kanaya’s shoulder, a platonic show of conciliatory pacification that Jasprosesprite^2 had seen countless times in others of the species, yet it bothered her, for some reason, this time in particular.
They all stayed silent, for a moment.
Jasprosesprite^2, the trolls, and the ghosts.
Jasprosesprite^2 wondered if a sprite could be a ghost, in the manner a complex could be a disorder.
Could ghosts be a disorder?
“Well, Best Start Stitching Her Up Then,” Kanaya murmured, breaking the reverie.
The jadeblood slid a small roll of red cloth from her chest pocket. She opened it to reveal a row of varyingly sized needles and began the delicate task of affixing the stuffed limbs back onto her body.
“N0 seams,” Aradia mused flatly.
“No Seams,” Kanaya agreed.
The process of needlework was lengthier than the reach of her legs combined, but Jasprosesprite^2 was willing to admit to being impressed with the way the woman had with cloth.
Jasprosesprite^2 then wondered if perhaps patients felt much the same way of their doctors, as they rifled through their internal organs and sewed up their rips on the operating tables when heavily sedated but otherwise left cognizant and blasé.
Aradia leaned on the desk, watching intently.
“Is There A Certain Way You Would Like Her Posed?”
Though her body could not shudder, Jasprosesprite^2 felt as though her body had grown colder by rippling around itself.
Aradia vaulted to her wings and dashed to one of the shelves in the room; she scuffled about behind a few boxes and crates that Jasprosesprite^2 could not see past before grunted a rather arduous exhalation.
When she walked back to them, her arms will filled by a large wooden frame, that lacked any case.
She set it down on one of the nearby empty desks; Jasprosesprite^2 had to crane her awareness to catch sight of it out of the corners of her paint-chipped, loose beaded-pupil brimmingly wide eyes.
“It’ll be better if she can slump a bit,” Aradia replied finally, her hair tangling over one of her ramhorns, “The case will be big en0ugh f0r her t0 sit in, but she w0n’t be able t0 m0ve ar0und.”
“I’m g0ing t0 make the stand while y0u’re finishing up, s0 you can make sure she l00ks right 0n it bef0re she gets put 0ut 0n the fl00r,” she continued.
“Very Well,” the jadeblood murmured, her gaze unbroken.
Fear seeped into every stitch and fiber of Jasprosesprite^2’s being.
They can’t do this to me.
Jasprosesprite^2’s worried thoughts began to race.
If I move now, I might be able to make it to the door, I can turn the handle with only one arm.
But what then?
How can I do anything without two limbs at the very least?
If I wait until she attaches all my limbs, will I even be able to move?
“I w0uldn’t make a fuss, if I were y0u,” Aradia chartered happily; her teeth impeccable, her stare vibrant and piercing.
“Kanaya is quite g00d with a chainsaw, if you can recall,” she continued, turning to face elsewhere in the room as she did so.
“Besides, the gh0sts wouldn’t like it if you left them s0 s00n,” she stated coldly.
“I Do Hope You Are Speaking To One Of Your Undead Compatriots,” Kanaya murmured, still focused on her task; “Feel Free To Inform Them Of My Records With shadowdroppers. I’d Hate For Them To Arrive At A Terrible Miscalculation At The End Of My Lipstick.”
Aradia’s grin spread farther, perching along the expanse of her cheeks.
Jasprosesprite^2, for perhaps the first time, felt as though she had been bested.
Feeling as though there were nothing left for it, Jasprosesprite^2 allowed herself to drift her consciousness, as the seamstress and the appraiser continued to make their way with her.
The floor was covered floor to ceiling, wall to wall, with dead friends.
Aradia’s , dead friends.
Jasperosesprite^2 sat, one of many, pride of few, in the center of one of the museum’s many branching sectors.
Trapped behind the glass, the stand braced around her fruity rumpus, Jasperosesprite^2 was truly well contained.
It wasn’t so bad, she supposed.
After a few years, the stuffing softened slightly from her efforts, and her slumping posture had won her both critical acclaim and widespread coverage.
Her teeth had even been polished.
Aradia didn’t visit.
Jasperosesprite^2 had a suspicion that when the girl wasn’t traveling through time, galivanting between dimensions, she was corralled in that back room of hers, to a fault.
She had other visitors though.
The ghosts lingered freely, though she was always at a loss for whatever words they tried to speak.
Guests wandered by, some hours more often than not; taking notes, capturing memories, building waking dreams.
They liked it, seemingly, when she moved.
She moved a lot.
She made people scream, more.
There was something ever so delightful in watching a face descend into rationless horror, devoid of all higher thought and capacities for dignity, self preservation, and honor.
They brought ouija boards, audio recorders, magnetic fluxers, dowsing rods, cleansing crystals, camera crews, and more.
Lights dim, music trickling exhaustedly across the air, time wavering in pockets around flecks in the room... they’d come in. Her fun, would start.
They’d shumble forth, tripping over their own feet at her exhibit like freshly molted flies that didn’t yet understand their metamorphosis from wiggly maggots.
Trepidatiously, they’d creep up to her, eyeing the ‘p0sitively, D0 N0T T0UCH’ sign scrawled in black ink along the bottom of her enclosure and then they’d laugh at each other, impervious to reality in their assumptions that a mere stack of centimeters of clear material could accurately separate her intentions from them in any form or way.
They would pretend not to hear her, as she whispered to them; certain that they would be cast out as madmen were they to admit to such documentations of stimuli, and thusly projected the persona ever so intently, pompously, that they were those who didn’t didn’t believe in things such as spirits, sprites, and ghosts.
As if belief had ever changed matters at all.
They would be beside themselves, with fright, with amazement -with yes- with even five clawed passion circulating their still functioning veins, as they ‘caught’ her moving, twisting, bending, blinking.
They’d cry for their ‘malfunctioning’ electronics, they’d lament their soured snacks and rotted beverages; they’d squeal and shriek as as black liquid dripped from their lips onto their shirt collars and pressed lapels and callus scrub their faces only for their pulled away hands to come back exquisitely clean.
Most days, the ghosts were only too happy to oblige her in breathing down necks and trial instant footsteps.
Jasperosesprite^2 felt that she was truly at her craftiest, when braced into a wooden corner; and as any Lalonde worth her resolve, she endeavored to make full use out of her patron's ticket prices.
She assumed she fetched a price for admissions rather; she felt herself fancifully enough to warrant three decapitated lowbloods and half a grub at least, judging from the way the visitors fawned over her.
They adored her, for they adored what they had no capacity to understand.
A few tried to interrogate her; drill her for answers.
How terribly quaint it had been then, when they had pressed and pressed, and she had found none.
She adored them, she supposed, because cats were affectionate creatures by nature and even she was prey to her own frankensteined design.
Some days, had she been allowed out of the glass, she’d even have let some of them cuddle her; a quiet, dim longing from a pure place in a toy’s sincere belief that their truest home was within their charge’s heart.
It was a longing that she had contorted herself to fill in vast, vain efforts of pyrrhic altruism.
For truly, Jasperosesprite^2 figured, what else would one call a fringegod’s interpersonal affairs with mortal heathens and alien scourges?
Had she not been flexible?
Changed with the times?
Quietly, and with great dignity, allowed herself to fade into obscurity for the benefit of the new-aged masses who could but naught remember the fraction of her true self’s name?
She was a god , goddamnit.
She had been.
For an eternal instant.
A past life.
Most days, she wasn’t sure what parts of the regurgitated tour recording she believed.
Most days, she was content to believe whatever the most concerned of parties believed about her.
Most days, she knew quite well that she would be more than merrier to taste them.
When dissatisfied with the quality of one’s life, one was implored to bite the hand that was meant to meant feed them, she felt.
Aradia and her seamstress however, had seen more than enough to that.
No one was ever allowed to commemorate her frozen existence without her permission.
No one ever dared to clean inside her glass.
The janitor boy, with mustard blood and mutated horns, always made rounds.
Predictable, punctual, dependable.
In his company she was both delighted for a chance to pester him senseless, with cloying witticisms and effervescent observations; truly, she felt, it was a marvel that the boy managed to keep the place so dustless, what with his lack of eye and general disinterest to any of the objects she could define.
Stuck inside the glass, every which way she turned and molded herself, she could see out across the various forms of bygone beings that she felt she ought to really be able to converse with, for no other reason than she was paws-itivly certain that she must have spoken to many of them once before.
Wooden dummies with windsock dressings, cubby after cubby of tired looking toys cobbled together from odds and ends all coated in grease, news clippings, placards, and posters.
Paintings and pressed pages, illuminated in ornate frames and gilded stages.
There were fragments of swords and rows of hooked needles and yarns; skeletons, model skulls, tons upon tons of things in jars .
In the corner of the corridor outside her room, she could see half of a thing in a tank.
She could see sawdust stuffed girls with dogfaced features and bright fluffy tails, the plasticine cast boyish waifs with wings and coattails in all manners of sun-resistant apparel, white figures without faces, humanoid, made entirely out of wax; things that all seemed to be a troll might pass off as a human, if they might never have encountered one before.
What strange creatures , she mused, that caught her handler’s fancies.
Beings, she felt, nobody really had the right to see.
All of them masterpieces, serving maximum stances for forevers and days and weeks and minutes and seconds and moments stretching into infinite moments.
She wondered if the trollish word for ‘museum’, was their same word for ‘mausoleum’.
Jasperosesprite^2 wondered if she had known the answer to that once, if she must have forgotten.
Perhaps that’s immortality’s innate consequence.
Then again , what was immortality to a cat?
And for that matter, what was a cat to a coffin?
But, she thought, one day when the room was dark and the crowds were gone.
What was regulation, to a Rose?
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