A Doll's Silent Echoes (Chapter 3)

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I’m in the pantry, duster in hand. As usual, it hasn’t been terribly long since the last time I’ve cleaned this room, but miss has exacting standards for a reason. As always, she insists that I play my part in this… but her insistence has increased lately, since she changed me.

A good dolly acts without need for thinking.

When I’m alone like this. my actions come and go with little to no conscious effort on my part. The habits that she’s cultivated in my heart continue to carry me as I focus mostly on how best to express myself. This is especially true as I work without thinking, letting myself have too many thoughts would stop the idleness of my mind, and risk interrupting the work.

Dusting is complete. Now to sweep it all up.

I set aside the duster in exchange for a broom and dustpan, then start carefully sweeping every ounce of dirt and dust into the pan.

Nothing short of perfection for miss.

With the dirt set aside, there is only one step remaining — returning everything to the pantry. The pantry’s former contents — boxes, bags, baskets filled with tiny packets — lay neatly organized on the floor next to me. Miss tells me that this task would overwhelm a person, but according to her my memory is good enough to render this task trivial.

I love being a doll!

To think that miss has optimized the way I work such that I can perform my tasks better than any person! I pick up one thing from outside the pantry, walk back in, return the item to its rightful place, and then back to the slowly-shrinking pile. Each trip passes without much to remark upon. My steps, motions, turns, all carried out as my heart measures the time tick-tick-ticking away as I — not mindfully, nor mindlessly, but rather simply — observe the actions I take to complete my task until…

It’s finished. Miss, I’m going to return to you now.


I arrive in my witch’s study. She’s at her typing machine, examining one of its bright panels.

What next, miss?

“Hmm…”

…miss?

“I’m not sure… The pantry was the last thing I could think of for now. That would leave you with free time, then.”

Are you certain, miss? I know you’ve said that this does not need asking again, but… I—I sincerely think I’m ready for more experiments with this, uhm, telepathy spell.

“…”

Forgive me, miss. I know I should not pester you with such things.

“…a certain witch is visiting today to discuss some business matters. You should remember her… given how angry you were last time she saw you.”

So you’ll hide me away again?

“How quickly you forget her words, my doll. Among other things, she foolishly decried the way you spoke. Do you not recall how you spent hours refusing to speak to me? How long I tried and failed to provoke that beautiful voice?”

I have no voice anymore, miss.

“You should know that’s not quite true. I still hear your lovely voice in my mind, echoing with every silly thought you have.”

Thank you for saving me from that pain, miss.

“Really and truly, it’s the world’s loss. They are the ones who will suffer from their distaste. You’re all mine, my beautiful doll.”

Thank you, miss.

“You’re most welcome, my doll — and guess what? During today’s visit, you will be able to freely express your rage and ire toward the witch who dares insult you. No need to keep it bottled up like before.”

M—miss, I don’t think it would be necessary.

She quickly turns, reaches toward me, and lifts my chin with a finger.

“That’s an order, my doll.”

Yes, miss. You’re trustworthy, always.

“Good doll.”


I’m sitting on a bench in the manor’s entryway. Miss instructed me to wait here until her evil guest arrives. According to my internal sense of time, I’ve sat perfectly Still in this spot for nearly 20 minutes now.

Miss has said that many people struggle to sit perfectly Still for longer than 20 seconds, let alone 20 minutes. This has always confused me. Sitting Still is the easiest thing a doll could do. It’s barely “doing” at all! I simply put myself where instructed, and wait. It is even easier to sit Still for an indefinite period of time when my lovely witch instructs me to do so. I simply stop until something happens that requires my attention. It’s never worrying to wait — there’s always something happening somewhere — so it’s just a matter of time until something happens here…

My nearly thoughtless Stillness is interrupted by a loud, demanding knock.

I believe she’s here, miss.

I get up from the bench and make my way to the front door. Before I even make it, the loud knocks happen again.

She knows no patience, miss.

I reach the door, and open it.

Of course, as I expected, it’s her.

Welcome— Oh, right. Silence.

I step out of the way and gesture her to come in, not once looking away from her eyes.

“My, my!” she says, her voice a shrill screech in my mind. “Not a word out of you this afternoon? Has your dear owner finally taught you proper manners, pathetic thing?”

I want to scream, but mercifully for her I cannot. Instinctively, I try to suppress that instinct only for another to arise. I don’t need to be polite about this anymore, I think to ourselves.

I tilt my head to indicate docile submission. I trust you’ll permit me to lie with my body, miss. I’m going to convince her that I’m polite. While I do, I’ll whisper in your mind like you asked. I’ve directed the evil hag into the house.

The guest welcomes herself in, removing her terribly ugly cloak from her body and handing it to me.

“Put that away,” she says. “And be gentle with it! It’s still in pristine condition and I won’t have some second-rate mannequin mishandle it.”

Second rate? She really does have no sense of taste. I accept the cloak without outward protest.

“Hmm…” she says, staring at me.

After a moment, she smiles.

“…I’m impressed. I’ll have to sing my praises to your witch.”

Finally, something we can agree on.

She proceeds further into the house. She’s heading to the tea room to meet you, miss.

I step into the coat closet with her cloak. Before I pick up the coat hanger, I examine the cloak a bit closer again.

I’m quite angry at her, miss. I’m tempted to do something to the cloak… But she’d only get mad at you for that, and I would never led that happen. Besides, the more that I look at this cloak, the more I think that the worst thing that could happen is for her to continue being seen wearing this thing. As such, I’ll be sure to handle it perfectly.

My musing finished, I carefully put away the bitch’s cloak then make my way to the tea room, as miss has instructed. Before entering the room, I consider how I can help things to go differently. If I can be as loud as I want without being heard by any of the wrong people, then…

I’m back, miss! I shout mentally as I return to the tea room. She gives me a brief glance of those beautiful eyes as I speak, then returns to her guest. I go to sit down in a chair on another end of the table from where miss and that hag are sitting. As I share that remark, miss' lip curls slightly.

“…I’ll just treat it as mere gossip until I confirm such myself,” says that evil guest.

“I should expect no less of you,” says my wonderful miss, face again showing a radiant smile.

“You seem to be in even greater spirits than usual today.”

“Is that so?”

“I can see it all over those eyes of yours. They’re practically beaming with energy… Normally I have such a short fuse when we have to discuss our matters, and if I weren’t myself in such an unusually good mood I would probably be disgusted.”

“Well then, I should consider it a fortuitous occasion that we’re both so happy today,” says miss. She glances at me again. “Doll, prepare us some tea at once,” she orders me. “No complaints this time!”

No complaints…? Oh!

The last time that evil, terrible creature intruded on our home, miss asked for tea as usual — she loves her teas, after all — to which I responded by asking the guest if she wanted anything in particular. That terrible witch became so distraught at the question that she proceeded to insult me for several minutes. It was an awful experience. Miss assured me that I wasn’t complaining and that the guest was simply being quite unreasonable and rude. If miss was contradicting herself now, it meant she was playing one of her games of misdirection.

I quickly get up from my chair and bow. Anything for you, miss. I love you, I tell her in earnest, then depart once more for the kitchen.

The preparation process is much the same as usual. Boil water. Like the doll I am, every action mechanical. Get the leaves. I’ve done this so many times already. Steep the tea. Optimizing for perfect efficiency. Mix in a drop of honey. Wait for completion. Tick. Tick. Tick. Units of time passing with exact precision as always, and on the tick that it’s ready, I continue my routine. Pick up the saucers, get moving. Every step I take, already choreographed. I’m just a doll following instructions. My actions the result of miss' commands. It’s become such an entrenched routine, nothing could possibly go wrong, so I need not worry about it. No thoughts at all. Just miss, her will, and her doll… and I make it back to the tea room. By the time any other words begin to enter my mind, I’m already back in my chair.

Extra special with honey! I think without a care. I hope you enjoy it, miss.

Another sly glance in my direction, making eye contact with me again, nearly causing me to buckle in my seat.

It’s unfortunate that you’re conversing right now, miss, but I’m thankful for the acknowledgement. I understand that you can’t say much more.

The two of then continue conversing, each taking turns talking as the other sips their tea.

“…the tea, too, is better than usual,” says the unusually polite guest.

Better than usual? I made extra sure to put in the honey that she hates…

Another slight smile from miss! “I must assume that the doll learned from last time,” says miss. “Especially given how upset you were about the whole thing.”

Are you making fun of her, miss?

“I forgot to bring that up at all!” says the guest. “That thing is so well-behaved today. If I didn’t know any better I would say you replaced it with a properly functioning look-alike.”

In your dreams, hag!

“Oh?” asks miss. “I must inform you I’ve done nothing of the sort.” Another glance in my direction. “It’s simply on it’s best behaviour today!

Praise, miss?

“I can see that. I must ask — for my own dolls, you see — how did you do it?”

She doesn’t care for her dolls one bit, miss.

“I’m afraid I can’t answer, because in my view I’m not seeing anything unusual or out of the ordinary for my doll. It’s working exactly as it should.”

Thank you, miss. Your praise means so much.

“Do you really not see it?” asks the evil hag. “My dear, I’m starting to think you’re just a clueless witchling blindly stumbling your way around. Thank goodness you’ve a witch like me to mentor you.”

If only she knew what you were capable of.

The hag sets her teacup aside. Is it empty? Rather than responding right away, miss continues drinking. She sets it aside as well. Probably my cue…

I get up from my chair, pick up the two empty teacups, and see myself off.

“There that thing goes, correctly doing its work as it should,” I hear the bitch say as I exit the room. By the time other words are spoken, I am long gone and unwilling to spend the effort deciphering the low-volume I heard. My thoughts are much better spent not being had right now, as I’ve got work to do.

I arrive in the kitchen. Rinse. Scrub. Set aside. Rinse. Scrub. Set aside. Rinse. Scrub. Set aside. Rinse. Scrub. Set aside. Pick up dry cloth. Grab a dish. Wipe it dry. Put it away. Grab a dish. Wipe it dry. Put it away. Grab a dish. Wipe it dry. Put it away. Grab a dish. Wipe it dry. Put it away. Turn around. Scan the room. It’s exactly as it should be. Nothing catching my attention — nothing provoking my thoughts. I turn again. Step. Step. Step. Tick. Tick. Ti—

Once more, I’m in the tea room, in my seat, miss has already noticed so I don’t even need to announce my arrival. I can just sit still, and…

Oh, right. We’re playing host to a wretched creature. I notice mistress' lip begin to curl again, before she opens her mouth to catch it. I suppose it’s not ideal for me to be making you laugh, miss. Please forgive me.

She doesn’t respond to my line of questioning, clearly too preoccupied with her visitor. Perhaps I ought not to interject my thoughts as much.

Barely minutes later, I hear the rude piece of awfulness say “I must be heading out now.” It’s delightful to hear that. Her and my mistress exchange pleasantries and we see that hag out.

The moment that nuisance finally exits the home and the door closes behind her, mistress hops into the air with both hands rising so very high! She turns around, incredibly large smile beaming from her face, and takes me into her embrace.

“I could not have asked for this to go any better, my doll!” she tells me, praise rewarding me for just being the doll I am. She giggles. “Everything you said was so funny, it was so difficult to keep my composure in front of her.”

I’m so sorry, miss. Please for—

She shakes her head. “No, no, no! Absolutely not. It was delightful. You marvelled me with a quite amusing challenge. Your words were delightful.” She leans in closer. “Oh how I wish we came up with this idea sooner. I did not know what terrible things you had to say about her. To hear your thoughts echo mine as I tried my best to maintain a poker face when faced with her, hah! I would’ve nearly been overwhelmed if not for my sheer determination not to get on her bad side. I love you so, doll!”

Miss' words of praise echo in my mind—

“And a good thing they echo, too! You know, some of my praise echoes right back now… It’s amusing to hear just how deeply my words entrench themselves into you.”

I can only nod.

Good doll.

I wish I could do more than nod at that remark.

“It’s quite alright, doll. For now let’s simply enjoy the satisfaction of a game well played, and watch a movie before bed. I’ll make sure you’re practically glued to my lap for the duration — wouldn’t you love that, my doll?”

I very much would, miss.

“Then let’s get to it.”


The movie, as always, was fun to watch. As always, I didn’t really pay much attention to what the dolls on screen were up to. Miss' touch was much more interesting than the television screen. I love snuggling mistress.

“Of course you do, doll.”

Mistress' response takes me out of my idle thoughts as we prepare for bedtime.

“Did you enjoy the film, doll?”

I didn’t really understand it much, to be honest. I’m glad the two dolls seemed happy together in the end, though.

“Indeed. The devotion they have for each other is admirable. It’s just like a certain dolly I love so much, and its devotion to me. Their bond is beautiful, but it honestly leaves me a little jealous.”

Jealous? Miss, do you want to be a doll?

“Of course not, my doll. I was thinking more that though they’re quite different, they do somewhat exist on similar terms. During the earlier visit—” With the rude hag. “—yes, with that awful witch, I longed most to respond to all of your little remarks. I wished I didn’t need to hold my tongue. I’d noticed she didn’t get so angry at the honey this time. How sloppily unperceptive of her! It revealed to me just how bitter she really is. No taste at all, just anger. I wanted to revel with you, in my contempt for her, but I couldn’t.”

It’s unfortunate, miss, but what can you do? I see miss smile at me, her chin rising slightly. I gave you an idea, didn’t I?

“Oh, I already had this idea earlier. Tomorrow, we’re doing more magic.”

She brings me into an exquisite embrace, clutching my back with her possessive hands.

“Tomorrow, I am going to extend the spell to myself. I’m going to burrow deep into your mind, take root, and whisper my love into your very soul. Understood, doll?”

You’re trustworthy, always.

“That’s the response I expected. Good doll!” Good doll— She giggles, and leans toward my ear. “If you think you like when I say that now, just you wait until I fill your mind with so much praise that I’ve left no room for anything else.

I shudder at the thoughts her words give me. I can hardly wait, miss.


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