1439 Words; Needle & Thread
TW for implied gore and mild body horror
Cole followed behind the Dollmaker, curious what today’s project would be.
The Dollmaker had taught him so much about how to fix things. How to fix people so they were perfect. From cutting apart practice dummies to see all the wrong in people to crafting things to put in them to make them right—Cole had learned so much under his master’s tutelage.
Everything that was wrong with the human body, and how to fix it.
No new dolls had been added to the Doll House, though, and for all that Cole adored the Dollmaker for all that it had done for him, he was starting to get lonely.
Cole followed the Dollmaker into the workshop, immediately heading towards the cot.
There was a new practice dummy today.
This one was leaner than the last one, small and thin with freckles all over. The face—which was stunningly pretty, a constellation of freckles around sky blue eyes—was round, framed with auburn curls that were soft to the touch.
Cole carded his hand through the dummy’s hair, marvelling at the feel of it—
This test dummy wasn’t acting like other test dummies did. Its eyes were glazed over, distant.
Why wasn’t it struggling? Why wasn’t it crying?
Was it sick?
Cole frowned. No, Dollmaker wouldn’t bother with a sick dummy.
The more Cole thought about it, the more familiar the dummy’s behavior seemed.
Cole whirled around to face the Dollmaker, hand going towards the charm on his collar.
The Dollmaker seemed to anticipate his question, though, as before Cole could even grasp the charm it spoke.
“This one’s not a throwaway dummy,” It started, still organizing its tools. “This is your… exam, let’s call it.”
Cole turned back to the cot. If the person laying on it wasn’t a dummy, then…
Was it a doll?
They certainly seemed pretty enough. Even the notched eyebrow added charm, rather than looking like an imperfection to fix.
The Dollmaker scuttled over, laying out its chosen tools on a little tray near the cot.
Cole grasped the doll-to-be’s face in his hands, lifting their head to get a closer look at them.
Recognition glazed over with a heavy coat of confusion lit their eyes. “...Cole?”
Cole promptly dropped their head, giving the Dollmaker a startled look.
“He’ll need to know the name of his maker, won’t he?” The Dollmaker asked, handing Cole the scissors.
The Dollmaker did say this was an exam.
Cole’s eyes widened with a soft whirr, a smile slowly spreading on his face until he was beaming.
Carefully, he undid the straps on the subject’s left arm, scissors ready to cut through flesh.
Cole’d be careful, of course—he was being tested.
He couldn’t wait until his new friend was finished.
Jay remembered now.
Jay remembered now, and the knowledge left him terrified.
He’d come to in what might have been a dark pit—it was too gloomy to tell, really, and Jay couldn’t exactly walk around and investigate—and he’d been pinned to a wall with his arms either side of him by virtue of his wrists being sewed to metal rings half-buried in the wall. His ankles were similarly sewn to the wall, keeping them together while Jay half-stood half-hung on the wall.
Whatever this place was, it was far too drafty, cold air nipping at Jay’s skin.
What hurt the most, though, was knowing that he wasn’t supposed to be here.
Jay was supposed to be with the others, trying and failing to find Cole. Was supposed to be with Nya, safe in her arms and not…
Not this. Not sewn to a wall like some weird crucifixion. Not scared shitless by the vague memories of scissors cutting his limbs open and everything in them being pulled out.
And oh, if those memories weren’t foreboding. Whatever it was that Jay couldn’t fully remember, it had left his arms and legs feeling heavy and disconnected like dead weight.
The ribbon around his neck extending off into parts unknown wasn’t helping much, either. But it wasn’t choking him, so Jay focused more on the inherent terror of being trapped in an unfamiliar place with full awareness of what was happening.
He didn’t have to wait very long, though, before the sound of footsteps on stone rang out from… somewhere.
A figure started to emerge from the gloom.
Jay froze—not that he was really moving before—watching as the person started to take on a definite shape.
Jay’s eyes widened. He’d know that silhouette anywhere!
Miracle of miracles, Cole emerged from the gloom, looking miraculously unharmed and dressed to the nines. Black shirt under a shiny pink cropped jacket, pants leading down into combat boots.
Jay could have cried as Cole approached, alive and well.
Actually, no, Jay was crying, face damp with tears.
Cole stopped a small distance away, but still close enough that Jay could see the eyeshadow.
Damn, Cole was really going all out with this look, wasn’t he?
The collar was probably important, though, the polygonal ring on it a potential clue as to why Cole had been missing this whole time.
But still! Cole was here! He was alive! He was looking hot as hell!
Which might not be entirely Cole’s choice, if the kidnapping theory was correct, but it at least meant he was being treated fairly well!
“Cole,” Jay sobbed out, too happy to see his best buddy alive to care about the stitching, “buddy. Oh thank the First Master you’re alive.”
Cole tilted his head quizzically, confusion thick in his eyes.
Which really didn’t look right, now that Jay was looking closely. The colors were right, but they looked glassy. Crystalline, almost.
And then Cole rose a hand to grab at the charm on his collar, hooking a finger through the ring and pulling on it—
“Wh—” Jay gasped as the charm came off the collar, a long gold string following it. Where was the string coming from?
Cole held the charm out, the string taut, and opened his mouth. “Hello, I’m Cole. It’s nice to meet you.”
Jay’s heart plummeted.
Cole smiled blithely, lips slightly parted. “What’s your name?” His mouth was open, but his lips weren’t moving to match the words why weren’t they moving—
Jay started to sob again in earnest. Oh god. Oh god.
Cole didn’t know him. Didn’t remember him. Was talking without talking like some creepy robot.
Cole frowned at Jay’s response, still holding the charm at a distance from his throat. “I asked you a question.”
Jay blinked through the tears. Right. Positive thinking. He could fix this. He could help Cole.
Jay took a moment to gather himself, then spoke. “Jay. My name is Jay.” He fixed Cole with a pleading look. “C’mon, Cole, buddy, you gotta remember me, right? Your best friend?”
“I don’t really remember a whole lot of my wrong life.” Cole said softly, letting the charm wind a little closer to his throat. He brightened almost immediately. “But if we were close, then—then I’ll make sure you’re extra pretty and perfect when I’m done dollmaking you!”
Of course, now that Jay was actually paying attention, he could see golden thread down the middle of Cole’s throat, like a closed seam. The seam disappeared under the collar of Cole’s shirt, but Jay could guess at how far down it went.
“Oh god,” Jay sobbed, chest heaving as everything hit him all at once, “Cole, please. You gotta—” He sob-gasped, “You gotta snap out of this, buddy. Whatever’s been done to you—” another shuddered gasp, chest heaving, face sticky, throat tight, “We’ll fix it, okay?”
Cole frowned. “I’ve already been fixed.” He stated, letting go of the charm, which began to slowly wind back towards the collar. “And I guess you need fixing, too.”
With that Cole turned around, walking away into the gloom.
“Wait!” Jay called out, trying to struggle against his restraints. Dammit, why did his limbs have to be so heavy? “Cole! Please!”
Cole turned around, putting a hand to his lips in a shhh gesture. He reached up and pulled on the charm one last time.
“You should quiet down.” Cole all but whispered, “Good dolls don’t talk when their voice box is all wrong.”
Cole’s expression softened. “Trust me,” he said, voice even quieter than before. Jay strained to hear it.
“It’s no fun having your mouth sewn shut.”
And then Cole was gone, too far into the gloom to see, his footfalls fading as he left.
Jay didn’t just remember, now.
Now, he knew.
And that knowledge left him terrified.