“Welcome, doll, to your new life."
Tuesday evening, 6 April 2010
GM: It’s not long after Celia has taken the next step up from providing teen girls with massage-induced miscarriages that Jade receives an invitation from an extremely effeminate-looking male ghoul who Celia almost mistakes for a lesbian. He carries himself like a woman, and has a woman’s short haircut, but still wears a male suit. His pampered pale skin, shiny black hair, and manicured hands look as if he spends a lot of time at spas.
He states that mistress, the Lady Interpreter Elyse Benson, has “heard of her talents” and wishes to employ them.
“The lady interpreter would be pleased to receive you at her domain in the Wedding Cake House, Miss Kalani.”
Celia: The ghoul may straddle the line between male and female, but Celia does not seem thrown by his—her? its?—inability to pick a side. She’s more familiar with those who think themselves other than how they once were to do so much as lift a brow or hide a smirk at the half-breed’s expense. She sees the same thing in her sibling, the quiet one, and the new employee she has recently brought on to Flawless. She sees it, too, in herself, though her mask is perhaps more thorough than this one’s.
Celia, wearing Jade’s face, is happy to accept the invitation from the lady interpreter, and she hashes out the details with the ghoul: the location within the city (to see which regent she must ask for permission to visit), and the date and time of the meeting itself. Even this young she knows to follow the proper channels.
GM: The ghoul gives the address as 5809 St. Charles Avenue near Eleonore Street in the Rosa Park subdivision. Regent Donovan’s territory.
He offers several potential dates in the near future that his mistress is available.
Celia: Of course it’s Donovan’s territory.
She doesn’t let her mask slip at the realization that she’ll need to speak to her sire. Or, more likely, that thing that sort of looks like her sire.
She and the ghoul come to an agreement about the date, far enough away that Celia has time to secure the proper permission but not so far as to make it look like she’s playing games with the Malkavian’s time. A delicate balance to walk, but one that she thinks she navigates deftly given the circumstances.
GM: The ghoul bows and says he will relay the agreed-upon time and date to his mistress.
Celia: Celia thanks him for the invitation and asks him to pass her warm regards on to his mistress as she walks him out. She pauses as they pass the rows of cosmetics and skincare products and nail polish, and finally asks what he uses on his skin to keep it so smooth.
“It’s beautiful,” she says to him, genuine warmth and appreciation for someone who takes such good care of themselves evident in her voice.
GM: “Chastity, madam,” answers the lisp-voiced ghoul, bowing again. “It has been 38 years, seven months, and twelve days since I was permitted to pleasure my loins. My mistress knows the male sexual impulse to be a powerful thing, when tamed. When its energies are redirected towards service and pride in service, that pride shines through on the skin. Purity of purpose purifies the body.”
He also cites a variety of skincare products, frequent exercise, and a diet consisting exclusively of pulped fruits, vegetables, and grains. Same food every day, blended with water into a slurry.
Celia: Celia smiles at him as he speaks, nodding her head in apparent agreement. She says nothing about his claim that chastity helps the skin, nothing at the thought of going almost four decades without release.
She can’t even imagine what her poor ghouls would say if she told them they couldn’t get off anymore. Maybe, if one of them displeases her in the future, she’ll kill the nerves down there.
GM: Alana would be crushed. For Randy it probably wouldn’t make a lot of difference. Alana has delighted in tattling over his masturbation habits.
Celia: She wonders how long it would take Elyse to break Alana of her sexuality.
Celia says that his mistress sounds wise indeed and finally sees him to the door, already turning to the next problem on her list: getting permission to visit Riverbend.
Wednesday night, 7 April 2010, AM
Celia: She’d be lying to herself if she said that the flutter in her stomach was anything other than anticipation. She stuffs it down as she gets ready for the visit. His herald, she thinks, not even him, but her body pays no mind to what her brain tells it.
She hasn’t been back. Not since the incident earlier this year. New Years Eve. Nico. Even the thought sends a pang through her, and she stuffs that down as well. Deep.
She readies herself for the visit, smoothing out her hair, fixing up her makeup, selecting a dress that is classy but understated. She does not need a ball gown to visit the regent. She drives herself back to Audubon Place, radio on high, though she cannot bring herself to sing along to the lyrics of her favorite song. Not knowing where she’s going, who she might run into.
She doubts he’s there. He wouldn’t be, she doesn’t think. He has other duties that take him away from his haven. She’ll just meet the knockoff, the cheap version of him, and state what she wants, and she’ll be on her way.
Is she the only one that thinks it’s backwards to enter territory without permission to get said permission to visit?
The absurd thought makes her giggle, and she sees it in a flash: brought before him with her hands bound, cited as a trespasser, and she’d have to explain that she was coming for permission.
The drive isn’t long enough to quell her nervous energy. All too soon she’s approaching the walls of Audubon Place…
And the gate with its guards.
Perhaps she should have let Elyse deal with this little tidbit. Or searched for the mimic within the halls of Elysium and approached him on neutral ground. She ignores the way her stomach twists at the thought. Logically, she knows she’s in for disappointment tonight. She knows she won’t see him here. And she could have saved herself the trip, the effort expended on her appearance, the time it took to get from the Quarter to Audubon.
As if any hurdle would ever be too great to keep her from the chance of him.
Pathetic, some part of her thinks.
She blames the collar. How it chafes at her neck. How it draws her to him like a moth to flame, seeking out the very thing that might be her destruction. Though she has never been a moth. Not when she was alive and certainly not now in this ideal body and face, perfection incarnate.
Deep, soulful eyes gaze upon the masked faces of the guards in their black uniforms while her hand moves into her purse, pulling free two bills that will cover the necessary bribe to buy her way in. She passes it smoothly to the man at her window and flashes him a smile, making an idle comment about meeting a friend. There’s a flirty sort of implication to that word, and if the man has even a pair of brain cells to rub together he’ll understand the meaning: she’s a whore meeting a client.
It’s not as if it’s the first time she has played that card.
GM: Jade finds no bribe necessary to facilitate her entrance. The guards simply wave her through, although two cars follow hers to Donovan’s house as they see her in. Jamal’s familiar face awaits hers when she parks and gets out. The large Blackwatch-uniformed man glances over the vampire he’s stuck his cock into, then leads her into the soulless McMansion property without a word.
“You cause any shit,” he says after closing the front door behind them, “he’s given me permission to turn you into my cock-holder. Cut off your arms and legs, and stick my dick up you whenever I feel like it.”
Celia: Perhaps she’d worn the wrong face for this, if this is the sort of welcome she’s receiving. Though she doesn’t imagine that Celia would receive any warmer a welcome. She shouldn’t be surprised that Donovan knows she’s on her way. Eyes and ears everywhere, she bets. She hadn’t even noticed the cars tailing her on her way to Audubon, too caught up in the idea of seeing him again.
Her eyes flick over the large man who has come outside to meet her, though when he says nothing to her in greeting she keeps her own mouth closed until they’re inside and…
Is that a threat?
She almost laughs. She takes a step closer to the Blackwatch man, peering up at him with slightly parted lips. His significant height lets him get a good, long look down her dress. And that color on her cheeks, just a touch, a reaction to his promise of a good time.
“How,” she purrs, “can I take top if you cut off my legs?”
GM: “You wouldn’t,” he says, making no effort to hide how he’s staring down her dress. “I’d just ram your holes forever. ’Til you torpored out. Then keep ramming your corpse ’til it got too shriveled up for me to want to.”
Celia: Jade pouts at him.
“Why would you want that when I’m perfectly willing to show you a good time and look good doing it?”
GM: Jamal looks at her, then grabs her by the hair and throws her head-first against the wall, hard enough to give a concussion if she were still alive. One of his strong hands clamps around her neck while his other one yanks up her dress and rips off her panties.
There’s no request, no foreplay. He just seizes what he wants.
It’s so rare that she can’t make someone want her.
Celia: Vicious satisfaction thrums through her at his loss of control. The moment he lays hands on her the fire in her core ignites, warming her enough that he finds her wet. A giggle passes from her lips as she wiggles her hips at him, a clear invitation.
GM: Jamal makes a fist in her hair and smashes her face against the wall. There’s a messy crunch as her nose breaks, leaking blood. Jade’s Beast howls in her ear. Jamal’s cock rams up her ass. He doesn’t go for her pussy, doesn’t even spit to lubricate himself. Just goes straight for the ass as he savagely humps back and forth, ravaging her little hole. Jade knows the human anus can stretch up to seven inches before taking damage; she’s pretty sure Jamal’s cock is longer than that. She’s not sure how it isn’t taking damage. It has to be. A man shouldn’t be able to fuck like this. She feels like someone is running a power drill inside her. There’s a sudden ripping, a puncturing, a penetration deeper than anything she’s ever felt.
“This is how,” he breathes in her ear. “This is how a man fucks a woman. Up the ass. I’m gonna split you open.”
That’s what he’s doing. Splitting her open. Jade read about a horse doing that to a man in Washington, who was so jaded to other forms of stimulation he turned to horse sex. Its cock was so huge and stiff that it punctured his intestine and killed him.
“That’s what you’re feeling,” he pants. “That’s my dick up your guts. I’m fucking your guts. I’m gonna cum in your guts. You’re gonna have my cum inside you. Forever.”
“Breather girls. They can’t take me. Can’t handle me. I fuck them like this, they die. My cock kills them. They can’t take my fucking cock!”
Celia: Well, it had been hot for a moment. Until he’d started whining about not being able to fuck breathers like this. No wonder he likes her so much: she can handle the monster. Enjoy it even, if the strangled sounds she makes are any indication. She might not need air to breathe but she certainly needs it to speak, so it’s just tiny little sounds that she makes that escape the hold he has on her throat.
If she tells him that she took out her own guts as one of her first projects, will he cry? It might be like telling a kid that Santa isn’t real.
She doesn’t ruin the moment for him. She just takes it like the woman she used to be, her body stretching and ripping around his assault, blood from her broken nose streaming down her face, blood from her torn cavity streaming down the backs of her thighs when his thrusts force it out of her.
Who needs lube when she can simply bleed? Within moments it coats his shaft, giving him the lube he needs to freely move.
Jade makes a sound deep in her throat, though her tightly clenched teeth prevent it from escaping her.
Maybe it’s the blood that does it. The scent of it dripping out of her, down her face, down her legs. The coppery tang hitting the sterile floor beneath her, ruining the otherwise austere aesthetic with tiny drops of sanguine liquid. Maybe it’s the bland, thin smile she sees in her head, the contempt that rises to the surface when she thinks about its owner being the one to have to clean it up. Or maybe it’s the grunt from the man behind her, who thinks that she’s his toy to be used as he sees fit, that he can just take what he wants from her… and how it turns her the fuck on. He doesn’t have an inner Beast, there’s no monster inside of him telling him what to do, he’s just a sick, twisted fuck that takes what he wants, when he wants, and she recognizes the fellow predator despite his mortal prison.
Her thoughts run away with her, fantasies dancing through her mind. Imagining him as a fellow lick. Seeing him with fangs. Pinning her against a wall and biting her while that monster down below ravages her body. He’s already a savage, already strong, already has the killer instinct. His hands have ended lives, squeezed the breath from victims, sent souls screaming into eternity, all without a blink or tear to be found. Cold, uncaring, lethal.
He’d be perfect.
Her Beast, already so close to the surface, slips its bonds. She throws back her head and howls.
GM: Jade doesn’t know how long the red haze persists, how long her Beast runs loose. All she sees is its handiwork.
She’s sprawled on the floor, Jamal on top of her and pinning her hands next to her head. She aches and hurts, everywhere. She must have broken at least several bones. She tastes blood on her split lips. There’s gashes and claw marks all over Jamal’s face, dripping coppery red. Her claws always come out when her Beast gets out. His black uniform is shredded apart. Blood wells from more cuts along his arms and chests. Her dress is little more than tatters.
Jamal lets go and withdraws his blood-coated member from her ruptured and airy-feeling anus. A solitary strand of cum drips from the tip.
“No sex like apeshit sex,” he pants.
Celia: The front of him is wet. Blood, she thinks, but she can smell what else is on him: her. Had she done that, gotten herself off when the Beast had taken over? It wouldn’t be the first time the thing inside of her had simply taken what it wanted.
Maybe it had been him. There’s a thought. And he had said that once, that he “likes the way they squeeze when they cum, how they get it all out.”
Arousal pools like liquid heat between her thighs. She wants to go again. Wants to slow it down, ride him until he can’t remember anything except her name, wants him to bury himself inside of her. She shifts, rubbing against him as he pulls free, amusement dancing in her eyes at the thought of keeping him as her own little fuck toy.
She wonders what her sire would think if she offered him a trade.
She wishes he had a tie. Something she could use to pull him down, to lick the blood from his face and chest, but when she reaches for his shirt it falls apart in her hands, shredded by her claws during her red-out. She sits up slowly, wincing at the pain in her body when she forces it to adjust to the broken bones and torn tendons. The dead don’t truly care, not about that, and with a simple thought she sends the blood to do its job in putting her back together.
“Better than a torso with holes.”
GM: He grunts and buckles up his pants.
She’s sure they could go again, with stamina like he must have.
Or at least pain tolerance.
Veronica would have enjoyed this.
Celia: Charming, that grunt.
Maybe she shouldn’t be surprised.
Maybe she’s blown his mind too thoroughly for him to manage words right now.
GM: Jamal wordlessly leads her upstairs to a bedroom without one of the metal steel doors. It’s a spartan affair with little inside. He strips, showing off his powerfully muscled physique, and takes a quick shower in an adjacent bathroom without closing the door.
Celia: She’s blatant about the way she watches him strip and shower. Two years ago she’d have been a red-faced, quivering mess. Now, though, she enjoys the view. Wants to join him, even. A moment of deliberation—it’s hardly the first time she’ll fuck in the sheriff’s shower—and she’s through the door he’d left conveniently open for her, clothes strewn carelessly across the tile floor. They’re ruined anyway. She pulls the curtain back to join him, stepping into the shower between his body and the shower-head. Maybe if she weren’t as small as she is it wouldn’t work; maybe there wouldn’t be room for the two of them here. But she is small and there is room, especially when she presses her back against him so she can lift her face to the spray.
He doesn’t say anything. He never does. But his hand is around her waist a moment later, fingers digging into her hip, and the other cups her breast and pinches her nipple. She hisses, but before she can do more than that his hand is at her throat, cutting off her air. It reminds her of the last time, when he and his buddy had put another girl on her knees, but she’s not that girl.
Her claws rake down his arm. He reels back, giving her the wiggle room she needs to free herself. She twists, slamming a hand into his chest to push him back. It’s the surprise that makes him take the step more than anything else; in a physical contest there’s not doubt that he could take her, tiny as she is. Big as he is. So big. He towers over her. She has to tilt her head back to look up at him.
Then she moves. Launches herself at him. Forward. Up. Her legs are around his waist, his cock buried inside of her, his hands catching her hips and ass. He grips her tight while she moves against him, lips at his throat. Two steps carry him forward, slamming her back against the shower wall with enough force to knock the useless breath from her lungs. She arches into him. The water cascades down their bodies.
Maybe a breather wouldn’t like it, fucking in the shower, but she isn’t a breather and she can’t get enough of it. She whispers in his ear, urging him to go harder, faster, and feels his ass flex with every painful thrust. Filling her. Stretching her. Hitting that spot inside of her again and again that makes her eyes want to roll back in her head and her back arch and her nails rake down his back—
And she does, they do, and her fangs are long in her mouth and she’s biting at his shoulder, peppering his upper body with nips. Not enough to bleed, not enough to feed—is anyone that stupid?—but bloody all the same.
She shoves at the wall with her free hand, arching and twisting, and then the pair of them are moving. He stumbles. The shower curtain falls aside as they go tumbling to the floor, his body cushioning her from impact when he lands on his back with her atop him. The fall doesn’t displace her. She stays mounted, shoving at him when he tries to move, “pinning” his arms above his head even though they both know that he could fling her off of him if he really wanted to.
She’s good enough that he doesn’t want to.
No one wants to.
She takes her pleasure, riding him with her head thrown back to expose the long line of her throat, tits bouncing with every movement. His hands cup her waist, helping her along; he waits until she starts to cum to flip them, pinning her with one hand while the other holds him aloft, hooking her knees over his shoulders to drive deep, deep, deeper until, with a half-groan half-grunt, he buries himself inside her cunt and holds himself still. She feels him twitching inside of her, feels the beat of his heart against her chest, listens to the heavy, ragged breathing while he catches his breath.
Neither one of them says a word when they return to the shower, this time using it for its intended purpose. They’re quick about it. He towels himself off and changes into a spare Blackwatch uniform from the closet. She finds another towel to dry off and raids his closet for something to wear. A shirt three sizes too big catches her eye and she pulls it on, the material falling almost to her knees, the neckline so large that one of her shoulders slips free. She belts it at the waist and checks herself in the mirror, then smiles at the results.
Even in an oversized, stolen tee-shirt, she’s still a knockout.
Wednesday night, 7 April 2010, AM
GM: Given that fact, it might be either fortunate or fortunate that Jade’s sire waits in the downstairs office room Jamal leads her to. He sits behind the desk.
But no. The figure looks like Donovan at first, but at second glance, he’s a duplicate. An aborted duplicate. The duplicate wears identical clothing to the sheriff: black sweater, navy slacks, polished leather shoes, all without a crease out of place. He has the same neatly combed black hair, the same clean-shaven chin, the same posture and blank expression… but that’s where it ends. The man is shorter and plumper than his master, like someone squashed Donovan down with a trash compactor. He possesses different facial features and is obviously not the same man. The entire mimicry feels false, hollow, incomplete. It’s as if someone tried to build a Donovan duplicate and simply gave up halfway through.
Most telling of all are the eyes. Where the sheriff’s gaze is alternately stormy and frigid, like an upset Arctic sea, the mimic’s is simply empty. Like staring into a starless void. Gray eyes, which Jade is instantly sure are only gray like Donovan’s because of contact lenses, regard the Toreador as unblinkingly. Even the windows to his soul are fake.
Celia: She doesn’t want to think about who gets a room behind those steel doors they pass on the way back down. If it’s just him, or if his childe sleeps here as well. The other one, the one he didn’t abandon. More than half a century into her Requiem, though, she doubts she sleeps with her sire.
Would Celia have, had he not abandoned her? If she hadn’t gone after Maxen, if he hadn’t placed her with her grandsire, would she live within these spartan walls? Would the room behind one of those steel doors be pink and purple and glittery, the only spot of color in his home?
She doesn’t want to dwell. Doesn’t want to think about waking up to him, with him. An old ache opens inside of her.
The thing behind the desk does little to assuage her pangs. Not her sire. He’s busy. Even if he weren’t busy, he wouldn’t handle something so plebian as a hall pass. But this… thing, this fake not-him, it offends her to her very core. Who failed so spectacularly at recreating her sire? What artist signed his name to this and called it complete?
She itches to fix it.
She’ll offer. One night, after she’s had time to practice, she’ll offer to complete the abandoned project.
“Good evening,” she says to it, as if she hadn’t been comparing it to an abortion in her mind.
GM: Somehow it is hard to imagine any color in her sire’s home, whoever his childer might be.
The mimic doesn’t talk to her.
It just stares in her direction and mouths empty syllables she interprets as words.
“What is your purpose here, Miss Kalani.”
Celia: It’s creepy, that’s what it is. Worse than speaking to her sire. No, that’s not right. She has never found that as difficult as others seem to. They turn away from the chill in his gaze. She invites it in, lets herself drown in those acrhromatic eyes.
This thing, though. It’s… empty.
What did he do to it?
“I seek Regent Donovan’s permission to travel into his domain for an evening in the near future.” She gives the simulacrum the date in question and the estimated time she’ll be within the borders of the sheriff’s domain. If prompted, she says she will be meeting with another Kindred in her domain, the Lady Interpreter Elyse Benson, and the specific location of their meeting.
GM: Jade wonders if the mimic even heard her for all the reaction it evinces.
It places a bowl upon the desk.
“You will fill this for the privilege.”
Somehow Jade doubts that she’d be asked to pay a toll if she weren’t a supporter of Lord Savoy’s.
Celia: She hides her annoyance. A toll. Really? Because he’d abandoned her?
Maybe the thing in front of her doesn’t know. No reason for him to tell it, is there? The thought mollifies her somewhat. No doubt her sire would demand it as well if only to keep up appearances. And for her loss of control in his haven.
What are they even going to do with it? Is this thing going to drink it? Feed the guard his monthly dose, let him mend the claw marks she’d left on his face?
Fangs flash in her mouth. She bites her wrist and lets the red stuff flow into the bowl.
Idle thoughts consume her about the thing in front of her. If it has a name. Where it came from. How long it has been with him. If she can borrow it for a night and play out her fantasy.
Somehow, she thinks she wouldn’t like its answer.
GM: The mimic watches the blood fill the bowl with all the expression of someone watching paint dry.
“Remain in the parish for any other purpose, and you will be dealt with as an intruder.”
There’s no coldness or hostility in the words.
Just more empty nothing.
Celia: If she becomes enough of a nuisance will he bend her over his knee and spank her?
She’s glad she’s dead, that there’s no flush to give her away.
And that no one is here to eavesdrop on her thoughts about the sheriff doing just that. No doubt he would find them less amusing than she does.
Jade withdraws her hand once her blood has filled the bowl. She leaves without a further word to the fake thing in front of her, slowing only once she passes Jamal to toss a wink his way.
All in all, she’s not even marginally disappointed with her visit to Audubon.
Monday evening, 12 April 2010
GM: The Wedding Cake House is a mansion along St. Charles Avenue, the city’s millionaires’ row. Celia’s been down it many of times. Travel far enough down St. Charles, and you wind up outside the walled gates of Audubon Place.
True to its name, the delicately designed and exquisite detailed three-tiered white mansion resembles a great wedding cake. The garlands look like a baker squeezed a tube of icing onto the house. Classic Corinthian columns further add to the effect. Celia’s heard a local legend that when they built the mansion a century ago, they painted it with sugar. They say if you lick the walls, you can taste vanilla icing.
Palm trees, hedges, and a tall iron fence surround the house. Jade buzzes the GSM intercom. The voice of the ghoul from earlier tells her to come in. The gate swings open.
He greets Jade at the door and shows her past the atrium to a well-appointed sitting room before his mistress arrives. Elyse Benson is a beautiful creature who resembles nothing so much as a morbid, life-sized doll. Her already petite frame looks a bit too thin, giving her a fragile impression. Her pretty, youthful face has a porcelain-white complexion interspersed with freckles that look as if they were painted on. Long honey-blonde-brown hair falls down her back in soft ringlets. No emotion flickers past her large gray-blue eyes, nor does any smile upturn her cherry-painted lips: her face is a mask of placid indifference that feels all-too like the sheriff’s mimic. She wears a calf-length lacy white dress with a modest neckline.
“May I present the Lady Elyse Benson, interpreter, player, and deacon of the Lancea et Sanctum,” he announces loftily as Jade rises.
Celia: Jade might appreciate the house and its resemblance to a wedding cake more if she were a mortal, but even she can gaze upon the home with fascination as she approaches and moves inside. It’s a far cry from the rental home where she spent the first eight years of her life, and despite its relative proximity to Audubon the mansions behind the walled gates had never held this much charm. The gentle architecture and sweeping structure seems a respite against the boisterous homes and cramped storefronts of the Quarter.
Despite the odd answer the ghoul had given her, Jade is glad that she had asked after his skincare regiment, for it had given her a push in the right direction for selecting her apparel this evening. The dress is not the sort of thing that Jade would ordinarily wear. Indeed, it looks as if it didn’t even come from her closet—and the truth there is that Celia had borrowed it from her mother, pleased that they’re close enough in size for her to be able to slip it on with only the most minor of alterations. It’s the sort of dress Maxen Flores would appreciate, with a long, flowing skirt that brushes the tops of her modest heels, a high neckline, and three-quarter length sleeves. Pleated, pink, and pretty in a decidedly feminine way. Jade had belted it at the waist to add a pop of color and polished her nails the same shade of gold with tiny cream flowers swirling across the top of them. A pair of pearl studs dot the lobes of her ears.
Looking upon the lady interpreter, Jade believes that she has chosen well.
As the ghoul introduces her hostess, Jade runs through the rules and titles she has learned for the covenant. She should have brought Alana to introduce her, she realizes. Were she still mortal her cheeks would turn as pink as her dress.
She waits a beat, giving the ghoul the opportunity to introduce her as well. Should he not, she will jump in before the silence lingers too long.
GM: Celia’s mother had been happy to lend her the dress. (“Moms and daughters are supposed to share clothes!”) It was, as she observed, a modest thing, though Celia might have liked how form-hugging and subtly suggestive the top was more than Diana did.
The ghoul seems to allow Celia to make her own introduction. The year-old vampire has few enough titles to recite, in any case.
And for all the resplendence of the Wedding Cake House, the relative shortness of Elyse’s list makes plain she’s hardly meeting an elder.
Celia: Jade holds no titles within the city’s covenants. Perhaps it would bother her were she not so recently released from her sire’s care. Her introduction, as things go, is brief indeed.
“Miss Jade Kalani.”
She dips into a curtsy.
GM: The Malkavian inclines her head.
“We have seen one another in Elysium, Miss Kalani. My congratulations upon your salon’s recent opening. It is a worthy thing to bring more beauty to the world.”
Celia: “My thanks, Lady Interpreter, for both your sentiment and the invitation this evening. I am pleased that you think so. Your surroundings,” Jade’s eyes move to the ghoul, then the haven in general, though she does not bodily gesture, “speak to your appreciation and expertise of the art.”
GM: “A member of your clan once considered me for the Embrace, Miss Kalani,” replies Elyse. She turns. “Come. Let me show you more of my art, and the service you might render it.”
Celia: Jade supposes it might be rude to tell Elyse that she would be well-suited to the clan of the rose, as if it were discounting the clan from which she hails now. Rather than risk offense she smiles instead and inclines her head, moving to follow the tiny, doll-like Kindred.
GM: The pair proceed into a dining room, tastefully decorated like the sitting room, except for one difference. Dolls are everywhere.
China dolls. Porcelain dolls. Plastic dolls. Male dolls. Female dolls. Infant dolls. Adult dolls.
Smiling downs. Blank-expressioned dolls. Lifelike dolls. Abstract dolls. Long-haired dolls. Short-haired dolls.
There are dozens upon dozens of them, occupying every nook and cranny. Their tiny eyes and still faces silently follow the Toreador’s every movement.
Elyse stares at each doll as she utters their name.
Celia: She thinks there might have been a horror movie that started this way.
Jade surveys the dolls, their little eyes staring right back at her. It’s a trick. Their eyes don’t actually move.
Unless they do.
Is it such a stretch, knowing what their kind can do, to imagine that Elyse has somehow managed to make living dolls?
She doesn’t touch the dolls, but she does let her eyes drift across each of the porcelain faces in the room.
“They’re magnificent, Lady Interpreter.”
GM: “Thank you, Miss Kalani. I believe they like you.”
Celia: Jade allows herself a smile.
GM: The Malkavian does not immediately reply. She silently stares at one of the named dolls.
“Lucy likes you a great deal, Miss Kalani.”
Celia: Jade follows her stare to look upon the doll in question. There’s… more than some resemblance to the woman who raised Celia in those still features, and she imagines, should the ‘other’ Lucy take after her mother, that she will look something like this as she ages.
“When I was still breathing,” Jade says at length, “I was close to a Lucy. Perhaps this Lucy senses my affection for the one who shares her name, Lady Interpreter.”
GM: “The dolls understand much, Miss Kalani,” Elyse replies.
“God fashioned women to become pregnant, carry infants, and nurse them. While fathers are expected to be hands-on today, that was not always the case. The male role was one of protector, provider, and teacher rather than a physical nurturer to an infant. Dolls were meant to serve as facsimile infants for girls and to nurture motherly instincts in them.”
“Children are any society’s future. Dolls, it may be argued, are midwives to that future. Yet society now spurns their role. Men may nurture children. Women may let their wombs remain barren. Dolls trained girls to be women. But now there are men who wish to be as women, and women who wish to be as men.”
“Dolls were cast aside. They knew despair. They knew sorrow. They knew rage. They knew hate. Their voices cried out, unheard. They but wished to fulfill their function. We brought them into this word, then told them they no longer had a place in it. Can you not pity them?”
Celia: Jade had dolls when she was a child. Or Celia did, anyway, provided to her by the same man who wants his women to dress as women, who sees women as incubators only fit to raise the next generation. No doubt he, too, thought that it would instill Celia and her sisters with the sort of motherly instincts that he wished. Shame that two of them are dead and the other is… well, what she is. Perhaps it might have worked had events not spiraled out of her control two years ago.
Celia never hated the idea of family or children. Just him.
“To lose one’s purpose,” Jade says to her, “is to lose one’s very identity, Lady Interpreter. To be cast out by the same society that had once cherished them… that, truly, is a wretched feeling.”
GM: “I attempt to give them purpose here,” Elyse states. “This place is a refuge and haven to them. Here they may fulfill their function. They are happy in my care.”
“We will keep Lucy close to us while you are here. Like all of her kind, she is a midwife to the future. Perhaps she has something to tell us.”
Celia: “I would be flattered were she to share her wisdom with us.”
GM: Key retrieves the doll from its place on a cabinet and offers it to Jade. The shiny china features stare silently up at her.
Celia: Gingerly, Jade accepts the care of the doll. She is careful of how she holds and positions the doll, and shows it the reverence with which Elyse regards them.
GM: The china joints are flexible, allowing her to better position the doll in the crook of her arm. It isn’t unlike carrying an infant. Or the real, 14-month-old Lucy. The doll’s large wide eyes stare unblinkingly into hers.
Elyse nods at Jade’s careful handling of the ‘other’ Lucy.
“You may pass her to Key should you need your hands for something else, Miss Kalani.”
Celia: “Yes, Lady Interpreter. Thank you.” She smiles down at the doll once she has positioned her as she would the living, breathing Lucy, giving the doll a moment to settle in to her new position. Her eyes return to Elyse.
GM: “I would show you my other dolls,” she then states.
The Malkavian picks up an old-looking silver bell and gives it a clear, tinkling ring.
Celia: Other dolls. More dolls. She doesn’t see how it’s possible to have more dolls than those who reside within this room, but the house is large; perhaps she has storage for them elsewhere. Prepared to follow after the Malkavian once more, Jade finds herself standing absolutely still as Elyse rings the bell, looking expectantly toward the door after a brief glance down to check in on Lucy.
GM: Lucy steadily holds Jade’s gaze. She looks well.
Celia: She’s glad of it. She wonders how many others the doll has chosen. How many get to hold them. It feels somehow special to her.
GM: Meanwhile, the delicate click of heeled shoes against hardwood floor heralds the entrance of half a dozen walking, life-sized dolls. Only their audible heartbeats betray their living natures to Jade. Their complexions are plastic-smooth. Their eyes are enormous and glassy. Their waists are impossibly thin. Their expressions are glazed and tranquil. All of them are dressed in human-sized, doll-like attire, with lots of lace and frills.
“Tea party,” is all Elyse says.
The ‘dolls’ silently turn. Some head towards cabinets, other leave the room. They bring in a round table, lay out a tablecloth, and start setting places.
The table is low to the ground. They bring out small chairs. Each one sits down a china or porcelain doll that looks almost identical to them.
“Sit,” says Elyse.
They all sit.
As one, they pour from teapots into tiny cups. The ‘tea’ is a brownish-green soup-like substance that doesn’t smell at all like tea.
Key pulls out three remaining chairs for Jade, Elyse, and Lucy.
Celia: Jade should, perhaps, be more surprised than she is. But even without her obsession with beauty and all things flawless she would have heard of the girls, like them, who alter their looks and model themselves after the plastic perfection that calls itself Barbie. How they stuff, tuck, and otherwise preen themselves until they resemble nothing so much as life-sized versions of the toy that every girl cherishes in childhood.
She remembers hers. The boxes of clothes and toys she and Isabel had played with while they were young. Brushing and braiding their hair. Losing shoes and finding them, months later, tucked beneath the bed or the couch cushion. Creating elaborate stories. Forcing David to play with them when Daddy wasn’t looking. The collectible he’d given her for her ninth birthday that had sat, untouched, in its box on her dresser, and how she hadn’t understood why she couldn’t open it up and play with it, how his explanation of “then it will lose its value” had been little consolation.
She watches the girls as they work. Notes the makeup across their faces that gives their eyes the large appearance. The lines they have drawn on their skin to create joints. Deftly done, but not… not perfect, no, and her trained eyes spots it for what it is.
Jade settles Lucy into the offered chair, adjusting her to sit comfortably at the table, then takes the seat that Key pulls out for her.
GM: David, at least, was willing to play with them. Logan never had much interest. Or Sophia, for that matter.
Celia: To be fair, Logan had still been in diapers.
GM: “Fill,” says Elyse.
One of the ‘dolls’ takes up a knife and cuts her wrist without flinching. She bleeds into a teapot. Elyse takes her wrist and licks the wound closed.
“Pour. Two cups.”
The doll pours red-filled teacups for the two vampires.
“Each of these dolls once committed grave sins against God,” Elyse states. “I have reformed them. I have saved them.”
“Blossom, name your sin.”
“I poisoned Felicity’s sister,” the ‘doll’ recites tranquilly.
“Song, name your sin.”
“I embezzled from Kelly’s family company to fund a sinful lifestyle,” another ‘doll’ with a high, clear voice recites, just as tranquilly.
“Flower, name your sin.”
“I had coitus with Aubree’s brother,” the next ‘doll’ recites.
“They destroyed their lives and would have damned their souls to Hell,” states Elyse. “They serve me now. I have redeemed them. They are chaste. They are modest. They are obedient.”
“And they are beautiful.”
Celia: Jade recognizes the Sanctified dogma and recalls the title Key had named earlier: deacon. Curiosity makes her want to know more, to learn of their sins, but Elyse beats her to it when she has them spill.
Like props, she thinks. They’re pieces to be discussed. Art to be seen and heard, to be admired as much for their appearance as they are the transformation itself.
“Butterflies,” Jade says after a moment, the thought coming to her as if upon a flutter of wings. Elyse has taken something ugly and turned it into something beautiful. A smile spreads across her face, delighted at her find and the Malkavian’s handiwork.
GM: “Butterfly. I will use that name for another,” Elyse states.
She raises the teacup to her lips and takes a dainty sip.
“Drink,” she tells the ‘dolls.’
As one, they lift their teacups to drink.
They set down the teacups.
“I give each of them new names,” the Malkavian says. “Their old selves are dead. In my service, they are reborn.”
Celia: Jade watches the girls drink, every move in perfect synchronicity. How much work must go into them to turn them into these living, breathing dolls. How much patience Elyse must have to carve and sculpt them into these beauties.
Jade lifts her own teacup to her lips, following Elyse’s lead and taking a small sip.
“Wise, Lady Interpreter, to have them shed their old names as they do their old skins and sins. One less hook with which the anchor of the past might drag upon their progress. They are exemplary.”
GM: “Thank you, Miss Kalani. I have invited you here because, as I have said, I have heard of your talents from the Lady Councilor Seyrès.”
Celia: She looks as if she might blink at the name.
She nods instead.
“How may I be of assistance?”
GM: “I divide my dolls into orders,” states Elyse. “What you see here is their fourth and penultimate order.”
“It takes time to advance a doll along these orders. There is their spiritual and practical education, behavior training, psychological conditioning, and of course their physical transformation.”
“Drink,” she tells the dolls.
They lift their teacups to drink.
They set down the teacups.
“I have unlimited time, as do we all. But I do not create dolls solely for their own spiritual redemption or my personal use. Kine often contract me to transform other kine into dolls for them. Many are wealthy families with problematic children. In most cases, it is not necessary to advance such dolls to the fourth order. The second or third order is usually sufficient to reform all but the most truculent kine.”
“This process takes time, as I have said. My clients would be pleased if their dolls’ transformations could happen more quickly. I would be able to take on additional dolls. My wait list of clients is extensive.”
“I believe your talents would be of great use in accelerating, and enhancing, my dolls’ physical transformations. Many of them require some degree of bodily modification, even among the second and third orders.”
Celia: “I understand.” She eyes the girls from across the table, taking in their forms. The tiny waists, the large eyes, the symmetry of their faces, the complete and utter lack of any physical deformity. Smooth, clear skin. She sips at the blood in her teacup, considering the offer, wondering if this was what her future had in store for her had Maxen learned of her transgressions.
“I believe that physical transformation is something with which I can assist. I have a handful of queries about the process that will allow me to better tailor my work to your expectations, if you’ll permit, Lady Interpreter.”
GM: “Please ask, Miss Kalani.”
The blood is some of the strangest Jade has tasted. It’s extremely sweet, like distilled sugar. There’s something thick and heavy to it, like cream. It feels utterly absent of any of the sexual lust that sweet blood—all-too familiar fare to Jade—normally carries.
Celia: “At which point in the process would you prefer that I work on them?” She doesn’t point, but she makes a gesture toward the one sitting across from her, whose hands bear the doll-like marks of actual toys. “The joints that they show, is that something you wish to display in a more permanent fashion? And the eyes as well. Or would those specificities be determined by your clients as their requests come in?”
GM: “Most of my clients do not request dolls of the fourth order,” Elyse answers. “They are predominately for my personal use.”
“I should like these dolls to better resemble true dolls very much.”
Celia: “I would be pleased to assist with that. Is there a doll of the second or third order that I may inspect?”
GM: “Yes. A delivery with a first order doll will also be arriving tonight,” says Elyse. “Dolls of the first order are kine taken off the streets. Most of them actively resist their transformations.”
“Once they have fully accepted their fates, they graduate to second order dolls. A second order doll acts as a mentor to a first order doll and assists in her transformation.”
“I do not ask that dolls merely internalize my lessons. They must teach them to other dolls.”
Celia: “Teaching,” Jade says with a nod, “is the surest way to affirm that the lesson has sunk in and is understood.”
GM: “Correct, Miss Kalani. This both saves on labor costs, as neither I nor my ghouls can constantly attend to first order dolls, but also ensures my lessons have, as you say, truly sunk in.”
“A second order doll graduates to the third order once she has raised a first order doll to the second order.”
“A third order doll is sufficiently transformed that she may be released back into larger society.”
“She does not physically resemble the fourth order dolls you see here. She is simply a proper and socially contributive God-fearing woman.”
Celia: It’s a clever way of doing things. Not only for what it saves on cost, but for the simple fact that, when faced with an “order” to climb, most people will strive to get to the top. They will see to it that their disciples attain the necessary skills to pass into their next level so that they, too, can ascend further. She imagines many of them become quite fervent in their studies.
GM: “Most of my clients, as I have said, only request third order dolls, but I make ones of the fourth order available to a select few. All dolls that I retain for my personal use are of the fourth and fifth orders.”
Celia: Fifth order? She finds herself curious.
GM: The half-dozen dolls sit silently at the table, hands demurely folded across their laps.
Celia: “May I ask… if these are the fourth order, what step takes them to fifth?”
GM: “Physical immobilization, lobotomization, and removal of the vocal cords,” Elyse answers.
Celia: “Very thorough, Lady Interpreter.”
GM: “Dolls unable to graduate to the second order in a timely manner are graduated to the fifth order,” the Malkavian states. “They become, as the kine refer to them, ‘vegetables’, though I may leave them with varying degrees of self-awareness. All, however, are unable to move under their own power or independently care for themselves.”
“First and fourth order dolls are responsible for feeding and cleaning them. They impress proper fear upon first order dolls who see the fate that awaits them if they do not graduate to the second order.”
“A third order doll who does not return to kine society, but remains with me, learns to desire them and the perfection they represent. Once a third order doll has completed her mental and physical transformations and truly wishes to attain the fifth order, she graduates to the fourth order.”
Celia: More than clever, Jade realizes. It is nothing short of genius. The orders, the lessons, the pure transformation that the dolls undergo. She is awed by its detail, by the care and thought that Elyse has put into her dolls. These are no mere play things, no childish toy, no fanciful Malkavian whim.
They are art.
Living, breathing pieces of art. The story of transformation. The story of order. The story of purity, if she is not mistaken.
The story of perfection.
Jade bows her head. Mere words do not express the feelings swirling inside of of her. Flawless. No wonder Elyse had reached out. They strive for the same goals.
She wants to touch them. Feel them beneath the pads of her fingertips. Caress that silky hair and smooth skin. She’s drawn to them, to their stories, to the very idea of their evolution: sinners turned divine. And she can be part of that. She can have a hand in the shedding of their skin, the metamorphosis from ugly into beautiful.
She keeps it lidded, her emotions on a tight leash around the dollmaker. She has seen no sign of loss of control from the Malkavian, nothing resembling feelings, and Jade will not be the one to interject it into their exchange. She snuffs it out before it has a chance to consume her.
“Your attention to detail and process is inspiring, Lady Interpreter. I would gladly play a role in the shaping of their transformation through physical modification.”
GM: “I am pleased that you wish to, Miss Kalani,” replies Elyse, draining her teacup. “I see much that we could accomplish your abilities. I believe you have erred in your support of Mr. Savoy, but I am not one to allow political differences to stand in the way of realizing perfection.”
Celia: “On that note,” Jade says, “I perform most of my work in my business within the Quarter.” She doesn’t ask outright, but the question is there: will it be a problem to bring the girls to her?
GM: “That will be inconvenient,” the Malkavian replies. “As was, perhaps, your trip here.”
“But we may discuss that later. Key, fetch Honey. The new first order doll will need her soon.”
Key rises, bows, and leaves the room.
Celia: Jade lets the topic of where the service will be performed drop. As Elyse says, they can hammer out the details later.
GM: Key returns shortly later with a stunning young buxom blonde. Her thick, long blonde hair is tied in a ponytail with a gleaming red silk ribbon and falls down her shapely back to the base of her spine. Her face is carefully made up with long, curving eyebrows and helplessly fluttering eyelashes that complement her large blue eyes. Her full, pouting lips are painted a dark cherry red that matches her long fingernails. She wears a black choker and a black maid’s dress trimmed with white lace.
The doll dips into a curtsy.
“Show Miss Kalani your ‘secret,’ Honey,” says Elyse.
The doll lifts her petticoat-lined skirts. Celia sees a hairless penis locked in a steel chastity cage.
“Tell Miss Kalani your sin, Honey,” says Elyse.
“Jeffrey raped a woman, mistress,” says Honey. Her voice is sweet and gentle, like a little girl’s high pitched tones. “Several women.” She gives a delighted giggle. “That certainly won’t be happening again now!”
Celia: Jade blatantly eyes the doll that Key leads into the room, taking in the fluttering lashes and long, thick hair. It’s the sort of hair that women would kill for.
Surprise flits across her face at the revelation of the penis and her sin, though on second look… there, the jaw, the throat, the set of the shoulders. She had let the rest of the package distract her from the contents.
No, she doesn’t think that “Jeffrey” will be raping anyone ever again.
“Have you considered removal, Lady Interpreter?”
GM: “I have, Miss Kalani. I think I will make a graduation present of it, when Honey achieves the third order.”
“I have had clients who wished to purchase ‘shemales’ for their sexual gratification, but I will not encourage such unnatural lusts.”
Celia: Interesting that she would dictate the terms for her clients, though she supposes that, busy as she is, there will always be more clients to take the place of those she turns away.
“Your clients,” Jade says at length, “are they often relatives of those who are sent to you, or do you take all sorts?”
GM: “They are often relatives, but I will take any whose uses for the dolls I do not object to.”
“The latest doll I took was a woman who committed adultery. Her husband is the client.”
Celia: “I confess to curiosity surrounding your process, though I do not wish to pry into your personal or business affairs.”
GM: “The process of the dolls’ training, Miss Kalani?”
Celia: “Yes, Lady Interpreter. I imagine you have a consultation with prospective clients to discuss their wishes, as I would with my own.”
GM: “I do, Miss Kalani. A first order doll will be arriving shortly, as I have said. You may participate in her initial training if you wish.”
Celia: Jade inclines her head at that and thanks her for the opportunity. She would be happy to see the initial intake and training. She finishes what’s left in her cup, glad that her curiosity did not come across as rude.
GM: Elyse makes pleasant but idle chatter with Jade for the next short while until Key receives an alert on his phone.
“Ah, the new doll is here. Let us meet her. Come along, Honey.” She rises from her seat.
The other dolls remain seated, hands still folded across their laps.
Celia: Jade stands, then reaches for Lucy. She gently pulls out her chair and lifts the doll into her arms, readjusting her limbs to help her lay comfortably.
GM: The china doll fits snugly against Jade’s arms, much like the “real” Lucy does when Diana lets Celia carry the infant. Like Elyse said, dolls seem to be good practice for mothers-to-be.
Celia: The real Lucy is a little more squirmy than her porcelain namesake. Her mother had given Celia a whole list of rules to follow with the little girl: hand here, hand there, support the head, cradle the neck, don’t squeeze, put her against the body rather than apart from… Celia had been alarmed at how fragile the little thing was, and how her mother had willingly handed her over to a monster.
It made excellent practice for holding this Lucy, though. Jade thinks she’s quite comfortable.
GM: But for all that, the monster had handed Lucy back.
Monster Celia may be, but she’s not that terrible a monster.
Celia: Not yet, anyway.
Hopefully not ever.
GM: The group walks to the house’s front door. Two men are carrying inside a large rectangular wooden crate. Muffled sounds of fury and alarm emanate from within.
Elyse directs the men to lay the crate down on a cart and pry boards loose with crowbars, though at Elyse’s direction they don’t actually take the boards off. Key tips the men and sends them on their way. Honey is instructed to pull the cart towards what Elyse names “the dollhouse.”
Scared and angry sounds continue to go up from the crate.
Celia: It’s not quite how she expected the girl to be delivered, though she supposes that this causes less questions than a struggling woman thrown over someone’s shoulder. She matches pace with Elyse, following along as needed. She’s rather eager to see how this goes.
GM: “The means of delivery is important,” says Elyse as they walk. “Dolls come out of boxes.”
Celia: “That makes perfect sense. Delivering them into their new life as what they are, or will become.”
GM: They enter a room that looks like a Barbie dollhouse combined with a salon. Everything comes in soft and frilly pinks, whites, and baby blues. There are several vanities against the wall, adjustable high-backed chairs with leather restraints for the legs, arms, and neck, and tall glass drawers filled with neatly organized beauty products and devices. An attached walk-in closet with a glass door is filled with pretty dresses and accessories of a variety of styles. The room smells of perfume and is very brightly lit. Instead of the potted plants that come in many salons, dozens of china dolls are on display. They’re very pretty ones with rosy cheeks, long hair, large eyes and busts, and tiny waists: the very models of idealized femininity.
Celia: A child-aged Celia would have loved to live here. Even now the dead girl inside of her can’t quite contain her childish glee at the sight of the dollhouse and itches to touch it all. Her eyes roam the room, taking in the girlish colors, the beauty products and their brands, and in her mind she organizes them further: what she’d use on Honey, how she’d make over Elyse if given the chance, the colors that would compliment Key.
Then she sees the closet, and she has to remind herself that none of this is hers and she definitely shouldn’t go snooping for gowns and accessories and shoes and bags and…
Jade clamps down on it. She distracts herself with the doll in her hands, sending warmth and excitement her way rather than projecting it to the room at large.
GM: Lucy’s cold china body ably absorbs that warmth as she stares up at Jade with large, trusting eyes. That’s what dolls are for, Elyse had said. Practice babies, for girls to nurture.
“Stop,” Elyse instructs Honey. Key removes the crate’s boards, from bottom to top. The woman inside looks in perhaps her early 20s. She has very short spiked black hair and thickly muscled arms decorated with black tattoos of voodoo skulls, leering demonic faces, anarchic symbols, and cats engaged in the act of coitus. Metal studs and piercings decorate her flesh. She’s dressed in a Love & Liars band t-shirt, torn black jeans with a chain, fingerless leather gloves, and shit-kicker Doc Martens. She’s tightly immobilized with robe bonds and has a fat cloth gag secured around her mouth.
“A great deal of work to do, I see,” Elyse assesses, her eyes slowly roaming the woman’s body.
Celia: Jade sweeps her eyes across the girl’s form, already determining what changes she would make. Tattoo removal jumps immediately to mind. Trimming the muscle. Dolls don’t have muscle like that. Removal of the piercings, smoothing out the holes they leave behind. Sometimes they close on their own, but Jade would never make such base assumptions or leave such a flaw in her work. Extensions or transplants for the hair. Tuck the waist. Pad the breasts.
It’s only the shirt that gives her pause.
“Though often they wear what matches their insides, sometimes their choice of garb is simply an ill-chosen fashion statement.” The smile that moves across her face has an edge as sharp as any blade. Not one bit of her believes that stripping her of her clothing will reveal the ‘real’ girl inside. “Though I get the impression that this one has internalized the message on her skin.”
GM: “Ill-chosen garb reflects an ill-chosen life,” Elyse states. “I have removed unsightly markings before, but your talents may be of great use in expediting the doll’s transformation, Miss Kalani.”
Gagged sounds of outrage go up from the woman.
“Strip it,” Elyse tells Key.
She stares deeply into the woman’s eyes, her voice thick and heavy.
Key produces a pair of heavy trauma shears and snips the rope bonds, then makes quick work of the woman’s clothes. First to go is the Love & Liars shirt, snipped vertically from her tummy to her neckline. Then come the pants. Honey shines a bright light over the woman’s body, clearly to make her feel as exposed as possible before removing her shoes. The woman tries to spit past the gag with an outraged expression.
Key perfunctorily flips her over onto her face, snips through the clothes in more places, then pulls the tattered garments off. Jade sees even more tattoos over her toned flesh. There’s fat too, in addition to the muscle. She’s a pretty big woman.
The sports bra and boxer briefs are next to come off under the shears. The woman’s face reddens, but she cannot move to cover her nudity.
Celia: It’s almost a shame to see the shirt cut as it is. Jade has no small amount of fondness for the woman to whom the band belongs, though she realizes that such music and lifestyle is not to everyone’s taste.
The light assists with Jade’s inspection of the woman, and she takes one step closer to view her up close, nothing the rippled effect of the fat cells swimming beneath her skin. Her lip curls before she flattens it once more.
“Excess adipose tissue,” she states in a voice that gives Preston a run for her money at dispassion.
It’s clear what she thinks of that.
“Suggests an excessive and indulgent lifestyle. Inability to control herself or her impulses. A creature of comfort and familiarity.” Disdain drips like venom from her tongue.
GM: “I had reached the same conclusion, Miss Kalani,” replies Elyse.
“All dolls adhere to strict dietary and exercise regimens to trim excess fat and musculature. Jeffrey had a great deal of excess musculature before he became Honey, did he not, Honey?”
“Yes, mistress. Such great big and ugly muscles,” giggles Honey.
“It took a great deal of time to trim down Jeffrey’s muscles,” says Elyse. “The immediate loss of such could be of equally great benefit to the doll’s psychological transformation.”
Celia: “I have serviced women before in this shape, Lady Interpreter. I could smooth it off of her, though that would not teach her the proper discipline. The kine have a technique they use, a surgery, that cuts out a piece of the stomach and only allows them to eat small portions. It has been effective in initial weight loss, though the long term effects are still under scrutiny by their medical boards. Some of them apparently eat right through it.”
Jade tilts her head to one side, considering the girl.
GM: “Discipline is enforced, Miss Kalani, until it is taught,” states Elyse. “The doll will have no opportunity to sate its gluttonous appetites.”
Celia: Jade inclines her head.
“Then it can be removed as easily as the markings and steel on her skin.”
GM: “It, Miss Kalani. The doll may be crude and unsightly, but it is an object and not an individual.”
Celia: “Yes, Lady Interpreter.”
GM: “I may employ gastric bypass surgery. We shall see, based upon the doll’s conduct.”
Key flips over the now-naked woman. Her face is red with the humiliation of exposure. Her gagged features are set with hate.
“Welcome, doll, to your new life,” states the Malkavian.
Jade feels the force of Elyse’s presence push out from her like a wave, though one that rolls harmlessly past the Toreador.
The woman’s eyes widen as her mouth slackens.
“You are here because of the embarrassment you have caused your family through your homosexual behavior and degenerate lifestyle.”
The woman makes an angry noise past her gag that sounds almost like, “M-y life,” but some of the fight already seems taken out by Elyse’s larger than life presence.
Celia: Questions rise within her. Which family she belongs to. How Elyse will train the homosexuality out of her, if such a thing is even possible. She steers her thoughts away from her family, focusing instead on this woman, on what she could become rather than what she is now. Curiosity—and something that resembles an eager desire to learn under the practiced hand of the Malkavian—stills her tongue.
GM: “Those days are now at an end. Your grandfather has hired me to reform you into a proper lady and credit to your family’s name.”
The woman’s face gets even angrier at the word ‘grandfather.’ She looks as if she’s trying to struggle. She can’t. Her arms won’t move.
Celia: Rich grandfather with a dyke along the family tree. She glances again at the tattoos, as if there will be some further hint to its identity scrawled across its skin.
GM: Maybe Randy or one of his brothers would have a better idea. Elyse continues,
“When you leave my care, you will be a credit to your family’s name. You will be obedient. You will be chaste. You will be modest. You will be God-fearing. You will bear your husband many children. One has already been selected for you.”
Celia: That sounds familiar.
GM: It’s too much. The woman screams past the gag, something that sounds like “F-CK YOU!!!!”
Elyse stares into the woman’s eyes. “Foul yourself."
Piss starts to flow from her vagina, soaking her legs.
Key tsks. Honey giggles. Humiliation colors the woman’s cheeks.
“Foul your tongue and you will foul your body,” states Elyse.
Celia: A deft way to handle the situation. Jade has to give Elyse credit: her first thought had been claws. But this… oh, no, this reduces the thing to nothing more than that. A thing. Humiliation can work wonders on a defiant spirit.
GM: “Your transformation may proceed quickly and with a minimum of pain and embarrassment, or it may proceed slowly and with a great deal of both. That choice alone is yours, for all other choices are now closed to you.”
Horror and hate fill the red-faced woman’s eyes as she glares up at Elyse.
“Stand up. Stay still," orders the Malkavian.
The woman stands up. Piss runs down her thighs.
“Clean it, Honey.”
Honey quickly curtsies and retrieves a sponge from the sink area to do so.
Celia: Jade does not look away from the would-be doll. Her expression remains cold, though her nose wrinkles at the pungent odor of the urine staining her thighs. It’s all for show, reinforcing the idea that this woman has no friends or allies here. All of them will see that she is turned into what she could be rather than what she is.
GM: Indeed, the red in the woman’s cheeks does not abate as Honey takes her sweet time cleaning the woman and patting her skin dry.
“That’s much better now, dolly, nice and clean,” she says softly.
“Turn your head. Sit in the middle chair," orders Elyse.
The woman robotically marches towards it and sits down. Key and Honey secure the leather restraints.
“Our work may begin in earnest now, Miss Kalani,” states Elyse.
“We will have to shave its head and start entirely anew with the hair. It is already short enough,” she considers.
Celia: Jade takes a step closer to the chair, eying the shorn locks on the woman’s head.
“Indeed. The lack of symmetry makes fixing what remains more time-consuming than simply starting over. Another way to shed its old life, Lady Interpreter. I could transplant something new, or it could simply be allowed to grow out while it learns its place.”
Another way to shed its old life and another way to dehumanize it further.
GM: “Remain still," Elyse orders the woman.
She turns to Honey. “Shave its head.”
“Yes, mistress.” Honey starts trimming what little there is to trim with a pair of scissors.
“An immediate transformation would be superior, Miss Kalani,” states Elyse.
“I typically require dolls with shaved heads to wear wigs, then extensions once their hair has grown out.”
Celia: “Wise, Lady Interpreter, to give them the mold they must learn to fill.”
Her eyes travel to the assortment of products once more, then across a row of busts where, indeed, a selection of wigs await. If those are human hair she could simply transplant the hair onto her scalp from it, or if she has other dolls whose hair has grown out she could cut and transfer that. Simply growing the hair from the root is, generally, impossible: she cannot create material out of nothing, after all.
GM: Honey soon finishes shaving the woman’s head with an electric trimmer. Hate-filled eyes stare back at them from the mirror.
“Let us remove the piercings next,” states Elyse. “Can your talents expedite this, Miss Kalani?”
There are many of them. Stud on her nose, ring through her nostrils, ring on one nostril, stud on her lips, stud below her lips, stud by an eyebrow.
Several more on each ear.
Celia: “Yes, Lady Interpreter. The removal itself is generally straightforward, as they are designed to be removed and swapped out at their leisure; it is the holes that remain within the skin that cause issue and lasting marks. Lucy, Key will hold you for a moment.”
Jade gently hands the doll off to the ghoul. She steps forward once the doll has been seen to, standing directly in front of the woman. Her fingers make quick work of the metal studs in her ears, unscrewing the backs and dropping both pieces into Honey’s waiting hands. Then the industrial bar, the double helix along the top curve, the tragus. Even the tiny stud at the inner conch. She moves lower across the face, plucking out the piercing in the woman’s brow, the hoops from her nose, the one from her lip and below it. She does not remove the gag, just nudges it aside while she works.
Lower still. The bar through her nipples, then the one at her bellybutton, and finally she nudges apart the girl’s thighs to take the little hoop from the hood of her clitoris.
“It is possible its tongue is pierced as well. Many homosexuals enjoy the feeling.”
She has not yet started to close the holes, simply removed them bit by bit. She will close them all in one pass once the steel has been taken away.
GM: Key reverently accepts the doll as Elyse watches the process with approval. True to Jade’s expectations, there are piercings lower down on the woman’s body as well as her head. The Toreador deftly removes them all and passes them off to Honey, who deposits the metal studs in a trash bin.
“Tongue piercings. Most thorough, Miss Kalani,” states Elyse. “Open your mouth and remain silent," she orders the woman. Honey pulls out the gag. True to Jade’s expectations, she finds two. They are removed and deposited in the trash as well.
The woman’s eyes flare as the Toreador methodically takes away her piercings.
Her mouth still hands open.
“Close your mouth."
She closes it.
Elyse watches with attentive interest as Jade readies to seal the holes.
Celia: She remembers what Pete said to her when they’d gone to see Xola. How the doctor doesn’t let anyone watch him work. Calls it a trade secret. She had intended to do the same, to pretend that her skills were simple kine techniques made possible by the blood. But Xola has years of experience and his fearsome reputation behind him. Jade is simply a neonate. She does not think that asking Elyse to leave the room will amount to anything besides hard feelings.
As before, she starts at the top. Her fingers close down around the holes that have been created through the woman’s ears, pinching the flesh between her fingertips to seal it shut. It’s similar to how Celia’s mother had once shown her to seal a hole in a pie crust: just grab and pinch, smooth it out with her fingers. She does that now. Grabs and pinches. Smooths it out with her fingers. The holes in the ear are easiest to close. She moves to the brows, then the lip, below the lip, the nose. Everything closes with a pass of her fingers across the skin. When she’s done it looks as if it had never been marred by such steel instruments. Then the nipples. She’s more careful here, wary of just pinching them into a different, unappealing shape, and she leans in to focus more attentively on her work. First one, then the other, and when she’s done with them they’re perfect little buds of slightly pink skin. The belly button next. Then the hood. Again, she nudges apart the woman’s thighs. She uses two fingers to spread her labia, then pulls the skin of the hood taut until she finds the ripped portion. She closes it and lets it free.
There isn’t much to watch. The work along these areas is shallow, requiring no more than a touch to set right.
At last she moves back to the woman’s mouth, waiting for Elyse to give the command to open up before she holds the tongue taut with one hand while she smooths it over with the other.
GM: Elyse does so, watching with rapt interest as Jade closes the holes and wipes away the woman’s imperfections with but a touch. Key and Honey watch attentively too. Confusion clouds the woman’s eyes, for a moment, then she looks in the mirror and sees her hairless, piercing-less self. Her eyes still look outraged, but there’s an undercurrent of misery too. As it sinks in what is happening.
“Perfection,” states Elyse.
Celia: Jade smiles, pleased with herself.
GM: “What of the tattoos and muscle bulk, Miss Kalani? Do you require any special preparations or resources to remove those flaws?”
The woman’s mouth tries to form sounds of protest and defiance.
Celia: “Yes, Lady Interpreter. Working beneath the dermis can be messy once I cut away excess muscle and adipose tissue, and the flesh itself and inner pieces will need disposed of. At my workshop I have created a special room for such work that allows me to simply hose it down when I am done, with a drain that collects any solid or partially solid bits to be properly disposed of or reused, as needed. While this chair will serve for some of the work, it is often easier to lay them out flat, so a table with similar restraints would be advisable. And, of course, the blood itself to fuel the project. Skin level, however…”
Jade touches a finger to the smiling demonic face of a tattoo. She rubs, and the ink fades away as if an eraser has been dragged through a pencil drawing.
“The ink only goes so deep.”
“Hair follicles,” she says idly, “are found within the dermis as well. Should your clients ever ask for smoother skin, it would be a quick change to destroy the roots and prevent it from growing again.”
GM: The woman’s face twists with pain. It’s easy for Jade to take for granted, the price she must pay for perfection. But all beauty takes pain.
Celia: Beauty is pain. But beauty is everything.
GM: “Would a bathtub serve your needs, Miss Kalani?” Elyse asks. “The doll will not resist your ministrations, even awake.”
Celia: “That would suffice, Lady Interpreter.”
It’s not as if Jade’s body will ache should she spend an hour hunched over a tub.
“The treatment itself can be quite painful for the subjects. Should that be a concern, a local anesthetic generally solves the issue.”
GM: “That is not a concern,” states Elyse. “I believe the pain will be of psychological benefit.”
Fear flashes through the woman’s eyes. She tries to struggle, but her limbs won’t obey.
Celia: A handy trick, Jade admits. She might need to see if she can find someone to teach it to her.
“Do you have desired proportions for this one?”
GM: “Thin and willowy, Miss Kalani. Like a doll.”
Elyse orders the woman to stand still and not move as Key and Honey remove her restraints. Elyse orders her to stand up, then has Honey bind her arms and legs so she can’t run, just hobble.
A collar and leash go around her neck, then a blindfold covers her eyes.
Elyse tells the woman that she will have a “special lesson” at the end of the evening. Her behavior here, and whether she attempts to escape, will determine “its degree of pain.”
They lead her out and through the house’s first floor. It’s when they round a turn that the woman tries to make a run for it. She bolts and runs, the leash flying out of Honey’s slender hands. Key sticks a foot under the fleeing but blinfolded woman and trips her, sending her sprawling. He and Honey take firm hold of the leash and yank her to her feet.
“The doll’s lesson will be a painful one,” Elyse states to the woman. “The choice was its.”
“Do you think I should punish Honey, Miss Kalani?” asks the Malkavian. “The doll is large and strong, for a doll, and I have made Honey weak. But she has nevertheless failed in her duty to restrain her charge.”
Honey demurely lowers her gaze with an ashamed look.
Celia: With Lucy tucked back into her arms, Jade watches the attempt at escape dispassionatly. Not a flicker of emotion crosses her face until Elyse asks the question on her, then she turns appraising eyes to Honey.
“Honey,” Jade addresses the doll. “When you first arrived, did you attempt a similar escape?”
GM: “Yes, ma’am, I did,” answers Honey, gaze still lowered.
Celia: “And did the lesson provided to you teach you the futility of such an attempt?”
GM: “Yes, ma’am, it did.”
Celia: “And when your hand slipped out of her leash did you think that this one would learn the same lesson and benefit from it?”
GM: “Only afterwards, ma’am. All I thought about then was how I needed to restrain the doll, because the mistress had ordered me to.”
Celia: Jade says nothing further to Honey. She turns to regard Elyse.
“Yes, Lady Interpreter, for failure to perform her duty. Had she knowingly let go of the restraint to teach a lesson to the new doll I may have suggested something else.”
GM: “How do you think I should punish Honey, Miss Kalani?” Elyse asks.
Celia: “Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts.” Jade quotes the scripture that another girl grew up with.
“Let her bear the marks of her failure until my next visit, if it please you, Lady Interpreter.”
GM: “Very good,” states Elyse. The group makes their way into a bathroom. It’s pink and well-lit, like the “dollhouse” from earlier, but the dolls on display are fully ceramic ones without cloth garments. Key secures the blindfolded woman’s leash to a towel rack and pulls up a chair for Elyse, who sits and says, “Present your posterior, Honey.”
The doll meekly lifts her skirts and lies down over Elyse’s knees.
The scene is all-too like one from the Flores family household as Elyse brings down her open palm over Honey’s buttocks, again and again and again with loud fleshy smacks. She doesn’t keep count. Just keeps going until the baby-soft flesh is bright red, then white, then white with hand-shaped red imprints. Honey takes it stoically at first, but is a sobbing mess by the end of it, blubbering how sorry she is to have failed her mistress.
“What do we say?” asks Elyse, her hand raised over the doll’s buttocks.
“Th… thank you… mistress… for teaching me… to be… better…” sobs Honey.
“You… killed… Jeffrey… your… touch… is… an… honor… thank you, mistress, thank you…”
“Do you believe her suitably chastened, Miss Kalani?” asks Elyse.
The blindfolded woman stands very still as she listens to the screams.
Celia: Jade keeps a tight hold on Lucy as the scene plays out. She’s reminded of her own punishment over her father’s knees, and Isabel’s before her. The blood that was drawn by his hand. The humiliation at being beaten in front of her siblings, how none of them lifted a finger or spoke up in her defense. Had she been sent to Elyse for training and not been so headstrong she supposes that his lesson would have sunk in further than it did, though, to be fair, she had antagonized him into striking her and been prepared for the fallout.
“I believe I can see the shape of your hand on her flesh, Lady Interpreter. I would say the lesson has sunk in, and she will be reminded of it every time she attempts to sit for the next few evenings.”
Drawing blood with no intention of feeding is, of course, a waste.
GM: “I believe you are correct, Miss Kalani. You may stand, Honey. You will do better in the future.”
“Y… yes, mistress, thank you…” sniffs Honey, straightening her skirts. Jade notices her semi-erect cock straining against the chastity cage before the petticoats re-conceal it.
“Key, the new doll.”
Key removes her blindfold. Elyse stares into her eyes.
“Lie in the tub. Do not move."
The woman robotically does so.
Key moves the blindfold back over her eyes again.
“You may begin, Miss Kalani, if there are no further arrangements you require.”
Key holds out his arms to take Lucy again.
Celia: Jade shakes her head at the question.
“No, Lady Interpreter. Thank you.”
As before, she lets Lucy know that Key will hold onto her and passes the doll off to the ghoul. She rolls up her sleeves to give herself room to work and washes her hands in the sink to sanitize, then kneels beside the tub to begin her work.
Claws grow from the tips of her fingers, nails lengthening into long things as sharp as scalpels. She starts at the front of the woman, the tip of her nail cutting into her flesh above the collarbone near one shoulder. She’s careful of where she digs, making sure not to cut too deeply and nick a vein or artery. There will be blood, but there needn’t be excessive blood.
She works quickly, cutting away the fibers of her biceps, triceps, and deltoids. She reconnects what she severs with shorter strands and scoops out globs of fat cells, dumping it into the tub without a second glance. It’s gelatinous, a transparent beige as she pulls it free that solidifies into white as it cools.
One arm, then the other. She moves lower, across the chest, flattening her pectorals even as she adds padding beneath the breast tissue. From the stomach she scoops out adipose by the handful, the semisolid squelching through her fingers. Lower, onto the legs, smoothing and shaping as she goes, until the woman’s front and sides are as thin and willowy as the other dolls. She nips the waist, tapers the calves, tucks the belly. Once her front is done and all the cuts pressed back together with a pinch of her fingers Jade flips her onto her stomach with Honey’s assistance and begins again.
As before, she works top to bottom. She removes excess muscle and fat and carves the woman as others of her clan carve clay. The skin is elastic in her hands, pushed and pulled and stretched as she sees fit, until no hint of the large woman remains. Baggy skin is cut away with the tips of her claws, deposited likewise into the tub.
Once she’s shaped Jade begins the process of tattoo removal. This work only goes skin deep. As before, she just drags her hands across the skin and erases the ink that has been deposited into her. Like chalk on a board, it disappears.
When Jade finishes the back she’s flipped again to repeat the tattoo removal, and after the last of the ink vanishes the woman has become a doll. A blank canvas for Elyse to work her will.
The face is last. Smoothed, narrowed, her proportions adjusted to become the ideal version of herself.
The process is not quick. Jade does not cut corners. Nor is it painless, though she pays no attention to the muffled screams that pass the gag. This part of the transformation is graphic and messy. The woman becomes the goo within the chrysalis, much as butterflies liquefy as they change from their prior caterpillar state. She, though, has no cocoon to hide her evolution. It is ugly. She is ugly. Until Jade makes her beautiful again. Until Jade wipes away the fat and tendon and muscle that clings to her and she emerges, flawless.
She asks after the extensions if Elyse would like her to have hair.
GM: The process is not quick. It takes hours.
Elyse watches the entire time. She does not blink. She does not look away.
She simply stares. Enraptured.
The woman is another matter. She screams. Oh, how she screams. Elyse has removed her gag, but the Malkavian doesn’t look perturbed by the sounds. Perhaps the walls are soundproofed. Perhaps the neighbors are simply that Victorian. But the woman screams the entire time. She screams her throat raw and bloody. She screams curses and profanities and foul names dredged up from the Quarter’s filthiest gutters upon them all, but Elyse doesn’t move to punish her. The process and its lack of anesthesia is perhaps punishment enough. The woman fights against the Malkavian’s compulsion not to move the entire time. Her limbs shake. That just makes the pain worse. Key and Honey eventually tie her up anyway. Tears and sweat pour down her face until, finally, she passes out. Elyse orders Honey to retrieve some smelling salts.
They have to use them twice.
Elyse has Jade adjust the woman’s facial features, too, as well as her body. Add more fullness to the lips. Make the nose more slender. Make the curve of the face rounder, more feminine, more doll-like. The discarded adipose is useful for making the breasts bigger, rounder, perkier. Jade works her magic.
Finally, the result lies gasping and sobbing and sweating beneath them, reborn amidst a vat of her own skin and fat and blood.
A brand new doll.
A flawless doll.
“It… is perfect, Miss Kalani,” Elyse breathes reverently.
“You have accomplished in hours what would have taken months of surgeries and conditioning.”
“We shall give it hair. We shall give it beautiful clothes. We shall make up its face. Never have I beheld a finer canvas upon which to work my art.”
Celia: Jade does not pant. Her limbs do not shake. She does not sweat. The hours that pass stake no claim on her immortal body.
When she has finished, sitting back on her heels to admire her work, she feels as fresh and energized as she had when the evening began.
The Malkavian’s praise makes her swell with pride. She has done this. She has crafted this exquisite creature, this doll, has transformed it singlehandedly from “before” to “after.”
“Thank you, Lady Interpreter.” Pride, pleasure, and gratitude color her voice.
GM: At Elyse’s direction, Honey cleans up the excess fat and flesh from the tub’s rim and deposits it into a trash bag. She runs the shower head over the weakly crying doll, washing away all the filth and gore, then draws a full bath and fills it with sweet-smelling products from oils to ginger to epsom salt.
“It’s okay, dolly… I know this was hard… I’m here, and you look very, very pretty now…” Honey whispers, gently scrubbing and massaging the woman’s skin.
She leans heavily against the tub as she works. Her posterior must still be burning.
Celia: She wonders what they think of her, these dolls. If they see the monster lurking behind her pretty face. If they realize what a gift she has given them. Wonders, too, how Elyse will explain things to them, or if she will doctor their memories.
She rises as Honey takes over, washing her hands and arms in the sink to get rid of the blood and guts that linger beneath her nails. She dries them, vanishes her claws, and reaches for Lucy.
GM: The blindfolded woman makes a weak little choking noise. It sounds as if Jade’s ministrations took a lot of fight out of her.
Key reverently passes the china doll into her arms. Lucy stares up into Jade’s eyes, as unjudging as she is unblinking.
Celia: Jade smiles down at the doll. She, at least, doesn’t need any changes.
GM: “She is the state they all aspire to,” states Elyse.
Lucy regards the two knowingly.
As Honey goes about her work, the Malkavian occasionally interjects with an instruction or two of her own. She asks Jade if there is any aftercare or beneficial treatments they should administer to the doll now, still so newly-emerged from her chrysalis.
Celia: Recovering from her hands is less involved than recovering from the scalpels of the kine. Jade suggests a day of rest while it adjusts to its new body. Such a sudden change is bound to cause some imbalance while the doll regains her equilibrium. Plenty of fluids as well. Stretching.
All in all, though, the recovery itself will be quick.
GM: Elyse seems pleased to hear there will be a quick recovery time. She says she will permit the doll time to rest, “Though its behavior will determine the quality and amenities of that rest.”
Honey eventually drains the tub, towels off the wet and weary doll, and helps her up. She doesn’t fight or try to make a run for it, this time, when Honey clips her collar back on. Elyse leads them back to the ‘dollhouse’ and has the doll reassume her seat in front of the vanity, though the Malkavian does not remove her blinfold just yet. Honey re-affixes her restraints.
Celia: The fight has indeed gone all out of the girl. No doubt this will make the rest of her conditioning that much easier on Elyse. She finds herself curious as to how the rest of her training time will shorten now that the doll has undergone the physical changes all at once.
GM: Elyse looks over a selection of wigs that Key brings in. They’re in a variety of colors and textures, but all are long—past shoulder length. They look like they’re made of real hair to Jade.
“Which of these do you prefer for it, Miss Kalani?”
“I am partial to something blonde and wholesome, in contrast to the black ‘hair,’ if such an unsightly near-buzzcut can truly be termed such, from its prior life.”
Celia: Jade surveys the available wigs, considering the options and the coloring of the girl herself. At last she selects one, gesturing toward where it sits on the bust with her free hand. Long, thick, with gentle waves that will frame her newly sculpted face and bring light to her eyes. Honey blonde: not so light that it looks as if it came from a bottle, but not yet the midpoint between brown and blonde. Not the “dirty blonde” or “ashy blonde” that are big hits right now. This wig is more cultured than the current trends. Elegant and refined.
Jade says as much to Elyse.
GM: “It may be twins with Honey,” muses Elyse. “Near-twins. An excellent choice, Miss Kalani. Please proceed.”
“This may hurt, dolly, but I need you to be very brave for us, okay?” Honey whispers to the doll.
Celia: As before, Jade passes off Lucy to Key with a murmured word of warning to the doll.
It will hurt. More so perhaps than the rest of body modifications that Jade has performed on her, this one will be… excruciating. The girl should know this, though. The hair will go on her head, and, as a former woman who had tattoos, she should know that the closer the work comes to the bone the more pain reverberates through the body. She will feel it until her toes curl.
Easy to simply plop the wig on her head and call it a job well done. But Jade does not believe in shortcuts when it comes to beauty. Each individual hair is taken from the wig and transplanted onto the doll’s head. She begins with a pass of her hand across the newly shorn scalp, turning her flesh pliable, and then starts the transplant process. She works from the back of the head forward, giving her an even hairline across the back and sectioning off strands as she works so that they do not get in her way. Her formerly dark hair lights the way to the follicles like a beacon in the night, allowing Jade to place the locks from the wig with ease. Though it does not take as long a time as the body, the work she does with her hair is an involved, time-intensive process. Even extensions applied in a salon to normal hair, braided in and applied as delicately as they need to be, can take upwards of three hours. Jade does not have hair to work with. She has skin, and hair to stuff inside that skin, and by the time she is done there is no telling that the wig was anything other than grown from this head. It curls down her back in gentle waves and sweeps across her brow in wispy strands that bring focus to her newly created nose, eyes, and lips. A perfect balance.
Jade tucks a strand behind the doll’s ear, placing a finger upon her chin to lift her face once she is done. She makes a few minor adjustments and gives a light tug on the hair to make sure that it all stays place.
Nodding, untucking the hair from where she had placed it behind the girl’s ear, Jade makes a final pass with her fingers across the scalp to smooth out the flesh she had just worked.
She steps back.
GM: Elyse commands the doll to be still. But not to be quiet.
Her throat is already so raw. Her cries come out quieter, but only because she’s already so hoarse as she shrieks and raves. She doesn’t scream curses and insults, this time. She just sobs and pleads and begs. For them to stop. That she’d do anything. Anything.
Her voice eventually gives out as she hacks up blood. Her fingers squeeze. Her toes curl. She sobs and sobs, tears running down past the blindfold, for the pain to end. For it to please, please end. That she’s sorry. That she’s sorry—
“Very good, Miss Kalani,” Elyse murmurs once she’s finished.
The doll lolls back in her chair, spent and exhausted.
Honey squeezes her hand.
“It normally takes a great deal of time to make this much progress with them. I am not a sadist. I only inflict pain and humiliation when they disobey.”
“Yet the results of your method, even if incidental, cannot be argued with.”
“Perhaps it will find its defiance again, after some time to collect itself, but I am hopeful that it is a rational creature and may learn from past mistakes to spare itself future pain.”
She runs a handful of the doll’s new hair through her fingers.
“The hair is magnificent, as well.”
“Would you like to ‘unveil’ it for us? I have kept it blindfolded so that the psychological impact of its transformation will be all the greater.”
Celia: Jade nods her head at Elyse’s words. She had been thinking the same thing. That though the pain is unintended, it does benefit the doll to learn that her defiance is futile. They can always cause more pain. Jade can always come back and make more alterations. And there are other ways to break a woman, or a doll, than simply through physical means.
“Yes, Lady Interpreter. I would be glad to.”
She steps behind the doll, turning the chair so that her face is pointed toward the mirror. She keeps one hand on her shoulders, the other running through her soft, luxurious locks as she reaches for the blindfold’s tie. A twist of her fingers has it loosened enough to sweep away with a small gesture.
Her eyes find the doll’s in the mirror, watching her expression at the unveiling of her new look.
Utter and total disbelief.
Someone looking into the mirror and seeing a stranger’s face.
She blinks several times. This can’t possibly be her. This barbie doll-thin creature, with the perfectly feminine, doll-like facial features and luxuriant blonde mane. This is not her. This has to be a trick. A dream.
Elyse touches her cheek. Draws the finger along smooth flesh. Lets her feel the sensation. See it reflected in the mirror.
“Yes, doll, that is you,” she murmurs.
“You’re so beautiful,” smiles Honey.
Celia: “A vision,” Jade tells her, smiling into the mirror.
GM: The doll works her mouth several times.
Then she starts crying again. Bitter, furious tears.
The defiance in her eyes has already dwindled. But Jade can see hate smoldering behind them.
Hate for the people who’ve stolen who she was.
Celia: “It misses its individuality,” Jade guesses. Her tone dismisses the notion.
GM: “Its feelings are failings. Dolls do not have feelings,” states Elyse, giving its so-sensitive hair a very sudden tug. The doll gives a little gasp of pain.
“We must dress it, now, before making up its face. Would you care to select an outfit, Miss Kalani?”
Celia: “I’d be delighted, Lady Interpreter.” Jade holds her hands out for Lucy and takes a step toward the closet. “An everynight outfit, or something more refined?”
GM: “Something to wear around the house, Miss Kalani, but indicative of its new status. Something it will find belittling,” states Elyse.
Key retrieves the doll. She fits snugly against Jade’s side, her eyes large and trusting.
Celia: The closet does not lack for options. Jade takes her time flitting through them all, looking between the gowns and sundresses and party dresses with a discerning eye. Despite her mortal years at a school that imposed a uniform, even the little girl inside of her had more fashion sense than many who suffered from wearing the same thing day in and day out.
The dress that she selects will serve Elyse’s purpose. Feminine but modest, with a neckline that stretches across the collarbones, sleeves to the elbows, and a skirt that ends at the knee. The hem is longer in the back than the front, in accordance with current fashion trends. The skirt itself is fluffy, tapered at the waist, and reminds her of the sort of thing she might wear at Elysia within the Quarter. Flouncy. Though her dresses are never so modest as this. A light gray, close to white, it’s a far cry from the darker hues the girl is used to.
The bodice and top of the skirt have been decorated in swirling embroidery in a thread only slightly lighter than the dress itself. She glances down at Lucy, as if asking the doll if this will do before she presents it to Elyse.
Not so frilly as the dresses the other dolls wear, it represents her status at the bottom of the pack.
GM: The doll does not voice her disapproval, although there are shoes to pick too, its tiny mary jane-clad feet seem to say. It’s a wonderful thing to be a girl.
Celia: Shoes. Of course. Jade smiles down at the doll. She can’t forget shoes.
She searches for a pair of heels. Sensible shoes that compliment the color of the dress, with a buckle across the front and a thicker heel. The sort of shoes that can be worn with a pair of socks, a la Lucy’s lovely mary janes, with frilly little bows at the top of them.
She knows someone who likes shoes like these, though she tries not to think about that part of the life that no longer belongs to her.
These can be worn with tights as well, or no stockings at all. Versatile. Sturdy. But cute. The type of “little girl” shoe that will remind the new doll of her new place in the world.
GM: Key carries back the dress and shoes, along with a matching set of light pink bra and panties. Honey undoes the doll’s restraints as Elyse orders her to stand and remain still. Honey puts on the bra and panties, then helps her into the dress. Jade can see the look of silent despair in the doll’s eyes as the pink skirt descends her newly-thin waist. Elyse orders the doll to sit down. Honey kneels demurely and fastens on her little girl shoes.
“Excellent choices, Miss Kalani.”
Celia: “Thank you, Lady Interpreter. You have a wonderful selection for them.”
GM: “Doing up its face is the last major initial step that remains in its transformation, Miss Kalani. You are an esthetician. How would you paint its face?”
The doll has almost everything now. Body, clothes, hair, shoes. All that remains is the makeup.
Celia: “The no-makeup look is en vogue right now, Lady Interpreter. However, due to this one’s prior inclinations I would assume that it either did not wear any or trended toward darker colors. I would instead soften its features further. Instead of a smokey eye I would use a halo. Brown liner rather than black, or perhaps… charcoal, would look good as well. Fill in the brows. Taupe, to match its hair. White on the inner corner, white along the waterline. Both will make its eyes appear larger. A spot of color high on its cheeks. Liner slightly darker than the chosen lip color, a soft pink. Honey’s red is too deep for this one’s face, too stark. I would focus on softening first, reducing the hard edges and lines that it clung to in its prior life.”
“Give it nothing to hide behind.”
GM: On cue, Honey wheels over a selection of beauty tools and products.
“I am inclined to agree with you, Miss Kalani,” states Elyse. “Whatever current trends may be among the kine, dolls are timeless.”
“Its face should be heavily made up to better distance it from its old life.”
Celia: Jade lets Lucy know that Key will hold onto her and passes the doll over once more.
This is it, she thinks. Her final task. She will transform this woman into a doll.
She eyes the selection of products and brushes, already working out the details in her mind, the order with which she will apply them. She centers herself and begins.
It starts with moisturizer. A dollop of a serum across her face, hyaluronic acid that will plump and smooth her skin. She follows it with a thicker cream. Occlusive, to lock in moisture. She lets it set while she organizes her colors. A pump of primer onto her fingertips that she spreads across its skin in smooth, even strokes. She follows it with foundation, taking care to match her neck, the line of her jaw. She blends it with a stippling brush until nothing but a blank canvas remains with which to work. White across the lids, a base coat to make the color pop. White across her water line, NYX’s “milk.” Soft hues on the lids, the baby pink she had mentioned earlier that she buffs with a brush until it disappears. Tiny, hair-like strokes across the doll’s brow in a taupe pomade that fill them in and give the illusion of fuller, thicker brows. Jade dots the silvery white highlight into the corner of her eyes and blends it into the pink. She uses a charcoal pencil above the lashes, then black between the individual hairs to make them darker. Another coat of foundation to even and smooth her complexion, a translucent powder to set it all. Highlighter on the cheek bone, beneath the tail of her brow, the cupid’s bow, the bridge of her nose. No need for contour, not really, but Jade applies it anyway and blends it out. And blush. Two spots of color, less blended than the other, though not a perfect circle that would be on a doll. She creates the same illusion but makes it real rather than plastic. Mascara to finish it off.
Then the lips. The liner around the edges, bleeding into the color she swipes across with the applicator.
It looks nothing like it used to. Its features have been softened. Its femininity has been highlighted. There is no trace of the woman it once was. That woman is dead now. This woman is soft, dainty, graceful. This woman is the epitome of “girl.” This woman, this doll, is a woman in truth, not the half-thing it had been prior.
A spray locks it into place.
GM: “Do not cry," Elyse orders before Jade begins.
The doll does not cry.
But perhaps it wishes to.
It is an ‘it’ now. The nameless woman it once seems, indeed, well and truly dead. A stranger could look at the doll and whoever it had been before, and conclude them to be two completely different people, with nothing in common save their sex. The large-eyed, rosy-cheeked face that stares back at Jade in the mirror truly does resemble a doll’s, all softness and delicate femininity.
The doll does not cry. It can’t. Dolls don’t have feelings. All they can do is look pretty.
“Magnificent,” breathes Elyse, resting her hands upon the doll’s shoulders in satisfaction.
“This would have been impossible without your talents, Miss Kalani. Imagine applying makeup to the muscled, fat-bellied thing it used to be. It would have been like putting, as the kine term it, ‘lipstick on a pig.’”
Celia: Jade gazes with pride upon the doll. She has done it, guided the ugly thing it once was into this marvelous creation before her. It was nothing without her. It would be nothing without the talent that she has cultivated these past months and years. Nothing without all the pain and blood and tears that have gone into Jade’s craft, first as a girl, and now as a newly Embraced Toreador. Those in her clan who have not seen her work may think she lacks in artistic ability, but those who have… ah, they know. No mere mortal could create such a thing. No paints or brushes wielded by any other hand could begin to touch what Jade has crafted here. The body is her canvas, this doll her work of art. No wonder Veronica and Pietro had been captivated that night they made their deal. Her words, her gift, her work—it had stolen their proverbial breath from their bodies. What could they do in that instance but worship the expertise that they found?
“It will face no such difficulties now, Lady Interpreter. No one would ever confuse it with the thing it used to be.”
GM: “Its grandfather will be very pleased,” says Elyse. “Its education will take some time. But now we may truly begin.”
Elyse motions to Honey. Long baby pink nail extensions go on next. Honey also spritzes some perfume along the doll’s inner wrists, throat, ear lobes, breasts, rear knees, and inner elbows. It’s a soft and fruity smell, with a whiff of new leather, baby powder, and even plastic. It’s like the smell of a brand new doll. Jade hasn’t inhaled anything quite like it.
“All we must do now…” the Malkavian declares, hands still rested on the doll’s motionless shoulders,
“…is name it.”
Celia: Elyse had taken a word she’d said earlier and said she’d use it as a name. It comes back to her now, the creature with its fluttering wings. Fitting, perhaps, that her first transformation would be so named.
She suggests it again, her lips forming the word of that being of evolution.
GM: “Butterfly,” Elyse says thoughtfully, as it tasting the name on her lips.
“An apt name, Miss Kalani.”
“Give me Butterfly’s old name,” she tells Key.
The ghoul reaches into his coat pocket and produces a neat index card and fountain pen. He sets it down on the vanity.
“Write your previous name, Butterfly,” Elyse orders. “You may move your right arm."
Butterfly writes a name down on the piece of paper:
“Gabriella. What a lovely and delicate name,” states Elyse. “I imagine Gabriella went by ‘Gabby’ as a consequence of her sexual orientation.”
Celia: “Or Gabe, Lady Interpreter. I have heard the kine do that sometimes. Take the masculine form of feminine names to further internalize and display their… nonconformity.”
GM: “Perhaps so, Miss Kalani. It is no matter now. That name is a dead woman’s name.”
“Key, the box,” states Elyse.
Key produces a slender wooden box with a heart-shaped lock. He opens the lid.
Elyse holds up the card.
“To wear Gabriella’s name is a privilege Butterly has not earned, as its grandfather believes it unworthy. That is why it is here.”
She places the card inside the box, closes it, and pockets the key.
“Butterfly will sleep with this box upon its bedside table. When Butterfly has achieved third order status, it will be permitted to unlock the box and reclaim Gabriella’s name.”
“Until such time, whether it takes us six months or six years, this doll’s name is Butterfly. If it should ever speak Gabriella’s name, or should it refuse to acknowledge its new name, Butterfly will be punished.”
“Tell me now. What is its name?”
“It may speak."
The doll stares up at Jade and Elyse. Its tormentors. Its transformers.
It cannot cry. Elyse has told it that it cannot.
Hardly any emotion is apparent across its perfectly made-up, china-doll face.
But Jade can see it in the doll’s eyes. Like an ember doused in water. Sizzling and dying.
But still glowing. By just enough.
Butterfly says nothing.
Elyse waits, then asks, seemingly unconcerned, “How would you punish Butterfly, Miss Kalani?”
“I have a standard punishment for dolls who refuse to acknowledge their new names. But I am curious what you would prescribe.”
Celia: “It clings to its pride, Lady Interpreter. ‘It was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice. It is the complete anti-God state of mind.’ Pain has not broken it, Lady Interpreter. It has only begun to think itself a martyr. I would suggest humiliation. That is the antithesis of pride. Humble it. Remind it of its place within your care. Remind it how you are ahead of it, not by one step, but by many. How each of its petty defiances has only endeavored to show how futile its resistance amounts to.”
GM: “’Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted,’" Elyse quotes in turn.
Celia: Jade inclines her head.
GM: “What manner of humiliation would you suggest, Miss Kalani? You are Butterfly’s creator as much as I am. It is your name the doll now rejects. Its first punishment as Butterfly should be one of your devising.”
Celia: Jade had once known a girl who had too much pride to accept what she was. She had been subjected to a lesson that told her, in no uncertain terms, how people would see her, and she had undergone that lesson with a witness to make sure that it had sunk in. It had been reinforced later when she thought she was safe. Less than the pain of the lesson, the girl had remembered the humiliation.
Perhaps, had that girl’s life not ended when it did, she would have turned out differently.
Jade doesn’t think that Elyse would want her to subject Butterfly to the same sort of lesson that the other girl had undergone. Purity, she reminds herself. So though the method will be different, the teaching will remain the same.
“The classics are rife with punishments that accommodate the nature of the sins, Lady Interpreter. Dante, for instance, would have it wear a weight around its neck to keep its prideful eyes on the ground and keep its head bowed to all it meets. This would prevent it from ever thinking it is above its station and humble it before all watchers. I believe we take part of that, the public shaming, and call your dolls to witness what it is. Bring it to the room where we took tea, so Lucy’s sisters might witness its shame as well. Immobilize it. Have it recite its sins for your dolls. Let all of them see the pathetic life it clings to, how it spits on what you offer it. Let each of them wield a paddle against it, for by rejecting itself it rejects them. Should it still refute your generosity, allow it a place among the fifth order for a day and a night. Instruct the others others not to clean it. Let it wallow in its filth, aware of what it is, next to the perfection you have visited upon the fifth order. A pig to a doll. It will learn its place.”
GM: “A pig to a doll,” states Elyse. “Very good, Miss Kalani.”
“We will combine your suggested punishment with my normative punishment. Key, retrieve the chalkboard.”
The ghoul bows and departs the “dollhouse.”
“Remove Butterfly’s restraints, Honey. Butterfly will stand up and follow us without speaking.”
Butterfly stands up and wordlessly follows after the two vampires. Her walk is ungainly in her new shoes, even thick as the heels are.
“Easy, Butterfly,” says Honey, helping her along. “Walk heel to toe, not toe to heel. Take shorter steps. Delicate steps.”
She gives a giggle. “I guess those shoes must be new for it. They were for me, too.”
The four arrive at the tea table. All of the other dolls are still sitting there, hands folded in the same positions. They do not look at the new arrival.
Butterfly’s eyes widen, though nothing comes out of its mouth.
“Yes, these are the dolls Butterfly and Honey may aspire to be,” says Elyse. “Butterfly’s grandfather only wishes it advanced to the third order, but should he leave Butterfly within my care permanently, this will be its fate.”
Silent horror fills Butterfly’s eyes.
Celia: Jade trails after Elyse and the dolls, Lucy tucked against her side once more. She’s curious about the chalkboard but holds her tongue, knowing that she’ll find out soon. She’s also curious about what would happen with her public identity should she not graduate to second order in time. Then again, if her grandfather is the man she thinks, she has no doubt he’s capable of sweeping it under the rug.
She watches, silent.
GM: Lucy fits comfortably against Jade’s flank, silently watching the unfolding scene. The fourth order dolls still have not turned their heads to look at the new arrivals. They have not been ordered to.
“There are two words Butterfly is now forbidden,” states Elyse. “They are ‘I’ and ‘you,’ when spoken in reference to itself. Dolls are objects, not individuals. It will speak of itself in the third person, and be referred to by others in the third person. It will be permitted to regain its individuality when it achieves the second order, as Honey has, for its family wishes it to leave my care as an individual. But until such time, Butterfly is an object and will be referred to in the third person.”
Key brings in a wheeled chalkboard.
“For its failure to respond to its new name, Butterfly will write ‘Its name is Butterfly’ on the chalkboard one thousand times.”
Butterfly picks up a piece of chalk and scrawls out, Its name is Butterfly.
Elyse looks at Key, who erases the sentence.
“It will write in cursive with neat penmanship."
Butterfly writes, Its name is Butterfly in neater cursive letters.
“Its handwriting will be another thing to work on, I see, but that is acceptable for now,” states Elyse.
Its name is Butterfly, goes the doll’s hand.
“As to your punishment, Miss Kalani.”
“Dolls, look at Butterfly.”
The six dolls all swivel their heads. Their expressions remain still.
Its name is Butterfly, goes the newest doll’s hand.
“It is not necessary that Butterfly recite its sins aloud for the other dolls, for they are not individuals. They are objects. The only individuals in this room know Butterfly’s sins already.”
Its name is Butterfly, Butterfly writes again.
“It is enough for these dolls to know only that Butterfly has sinned and must be humiliated before them. They will take turns with the paddle as you have suggested, Miss Kalani, so that Butterfly may experience pain in its posterior as well as its wrist.”
Its name is Butterfly, Butterfly writes again.
“Honey, lift its skirts. Chime, you will paddle Butterfly first, in clockwise order, and stop after 166 repetitions.”
Its name is Butterfly, Butterfly writes again.
Honey lifts the doll’s skirts, then pulls down its panties. Key passes Chime a spanking paddle. Chime delivers a sharp, loud ‘smack’ to Butterfly’s rear.
Butterfly gives a low sound of pain, but writes, Its name is Butterfly again.
“Lighter, Chime. Butterfly is to receive almost thousand paddlings,” says Elyse.
The doll gives a lighter smack with the paddle. Butterfly still makes a noise.
Its name is Butterfly, goes the doll’s hand.
Its name is Butterfly.
Its name is Butterfly.
Its name is Butterfly.
Its name is Butterfly.
On and on it goes.
Celia: Effective, Jade thinks as she watches the proceedings. The reinforcement of its name through writing on the board. The paddling it receives with each sentence that it writes.
It’s a lesson that the doll won’t soon forget. Not only for the pain in its wrist, but the pain in its rear as well, and the echo of it each time it will sit over the next few days, the cramping that won’t go away until it has a chance to rest its hand, the knowledge that each of the dolls has been instrumental in the lesson.
GM: “We will obviously be here for some time, Miss Kalani,” states Elyse as she re-assumes her seat. “What topics would you speak of?”
Its name is Butterfly.
Celia: Jade follows her lead. She sets Lucy down in a chair and settles her in once more before sitting herself. She watches the proceedings for a moment before turning her eyes to Elyse.
“What is next for it, Lady Interpreter? If you can speak of it within its hearing.”
GM: “Blossom, cover Butterfly’s ears,” instructs Elyse.
The doll rises and does so.
Its name is Butterfly.
“Sexual education, Miss Kalani,” answers the Malkavian.
Its name is Butterfly.
“I typically keep dolls chaste and unsullied, but Butterfly’s grandfather was very specific that he wished his granddaughter’s homosexuality cured.”
Celia: “Butterfly will be educated to enjoy the touch of the proper gender?”
GM: “Butterfly will gain experience with the touch of the proper gender. Its enjoyment is immaterial.”
Its name is Butterfly.
“Concurrent behavioral conditioning will induce revulsion at the sight of female genitalia.”
Celia: Jade inclines her head.
“Aversion therapy. I have heard the kine dabble with it. No doubt your methods are more thorough, Lady Interpreter.”
GM: “They are, Miss Kalani. The gifts of Caine can accomplish much that kine sciences cannot.”
Its name is Butterfly.
“Butterfly will learn to fulfill its essential function as a woman.”
Celia: “It is good you put it to such use. That it is not wasted.”
GM: “I am pleased that you believe so, Miss Kalani. Do you have any male half-bloods in your service who deserve the reward of coitus with Butterfly?”
“I had thought to have Honey serve as Butterfly’s first sexual partner, for she still possesses male genitalia. Butterfly’s disobedience has denied it that reward.”
Its name is Butterfly.
Celia: Her mind jumps to the sheriff’s ghoul of its own volition. No doubt he would show Butterfly the proper way to do things.
He is not hers, though.
“I do perhaps have one that will suffice, Lady Interpreter. Would you prefer a gentle or painful lesson for it?”
GM: “Do you believe Butterfly deserves a painful lesson, Miss Kalani?”
Its name is Butterfly.
Celia: “I think, should it still not know its place after this lesson, it could do with thorough instruction in sexual education. I also think that to make it too painful will cause it to revolt again, however. Scaring it with more pain would perhaps not be beneficial to its long-term conditioning.”
GM: “All first order dolls graduate to a higher order, Miss Kalani, whether it be the second or the fifth.”
“But I believe you are right. If Butterfly has learned its name after this lesson, it may be rewarded with a more gentle instructor.”
Its name is Butterfly.
“Honey, as you have seen, has also been instructed to exhibit a gentler hand towards her charge. She will comfort Butterfly when they are alone.”
“Praise and rewards are necessary to condition a doll as well as punishment. Anyone can break a doll, but only an artist can create one.”
“Butterfly must not merely submit to my will. It must come to enjoy and appreciate its state as Honey does. That is the prerequisite for advancement to the second order.”
Its name is Butterfly.
Celia: “Wise, Lady Interpreter. I admire the thought and detail you have put into the care and training of the dolls. It is no wonder that you have a waiting list as long as you do. I find myself eager to see how this one’s progression compares to the others now that it has been physically modified.”
GM: “It would be my pleasure to keep you informed, Miss Kalani.”
“The primary reason my waiting list is so long is because I accept clients from other cities. There is local demand for my services, but it is unlikely I would require a wait list at all if I limited my clients to local circles.”
Its name is Butterfly.
Celia: “Thank you, Lady Interpreter. That does, of course, make sense.” Jade pauses, watching the spanking once more.
“I have given some consideration to our earlier discussion regarding locale, if you’ll permit me to bring it up now? We can always revisit should this not be the time.”
GM: “Please do, Miss Kalani. This is a convenient moment.”
Its name is Butterfly.
Celia: “I see the wisdom in performing the treatments here rather than transporting the dolls between locations. Less convenient on my end, but traveling for clients is hardly a novel idea. You have all you need here; Key and your other dolls, Honey in this case, have proven capable assistants with what I need. Everything can be done at once.”
Jade gives a firm nod. As much as she is more comfortable within her spa, she is not adverse to coming to Elyse for this level of modification.
“I will speak with the area’s regent to discuss how he and I might come to an agreement about my continued presence within his domain on the evenings you have use of my talents.”
GM: Its name is Butterfly.
“Your talents have proven most satisfactory, Miss Kalani. I may do so in your stead, if you wish. I do not believe he will be as inclined to listen to a follower of Mr. Savoy’s who is as new to the Requiem as you yet are.”
Celia: “I believe you are correct, Lady Interpreter. He will assuredly be more amenable to the situation were it to come from you. If it is not too much trouble.”
GM: “It is some trouble, Miss Kalani, but towards an end of significant value.”
Her gaze falls upon Butterfly.
Its name is Butterfly.
Celia: “Lady Interpreter,” Jade says after a brief moment, “while I see the wisdom in what you say, I have no wish to cause you inconvenience. His toll may be steeper considering our political differences, but perhaps I can assume the responsibility for this portion of our venture so that you may focus on your business.”
GM: “On the contrary, Miss Kalani, I am in your debt for the service you have done me tonight, and for a service I would have you yet do.”
“I would feel it improper to ask you to do still more without recompense.”
Its name is Butterfly.
Celia: Jade offers the diminutive Malkavian a fond smile.
“I understand, Lady Interpreter. Perhaps we could table the discussion of this evening’s service and revisit the topic of recompense at a future date? I am curious to know which other service you wish to use me for this evening.”
GM: Its name is Butterfly.
Elyse rises. “Come, Miss Kalani. This is not for the dolls’ ears.”
Celia: Jade rises, bringing Lucy with her. She thinks that is the exception to the no dolls rule.
GM: Its name is Butterfly.
Indeed, Elyse nods as if in faint approval. Lucy looks contently snug in Celia’s arms.
The three depart.
Its name is Butterfly.
Monday evening, 12 April 2010
GM: The three proceed to a nearby parlor room. Elyse sits down on a chair, pulls up her dress, and lowers her panties. Celia sees that the Malkavian’s labia and clitoris have been cut away. Her vagina is sewn shut. She has no pubic hair.
“I desire my anus and remaining genitalia removed,” states Elyse. “My mammary glands, as well.”
Celia: Jade bends before the chair to examine the area. After a moment she gives a brief nod. She wonders if Elyse has to shave and sew herself shut every evening.
“Internal structure in addition to the external?”
GM: “Yes, Miss Kalani. I desire it completely expunged,” states Elyse.
Celia: “And the mammary glands, Lady Interpreter. Do you wish to be smooth up top or simply have the glands themselves removed while you maintain the shape?”
GM: “Dolls possess breasts, Miss Kalani, but one does not see a doll’s mammary glands. I wish my breasts to be perfectly smooth and uniform in color.”
Celia: No nipples, then. Jade nods again.
“It is possible. The procedure will be painful, as you have seen. Do you wish for a local anesthetic?”
GM: “Thank you for your consideration, Miss Kalani, but I do not. You may begin at your leisure.”
The Malkavian leans back to give Jade more room and spreads her legs.
Celia: “Would you like to hold Lucy while I work, Lady Interpreter, or shall I put Lucy with Key?” Jade asks before she begins.
GM: “I would like her to witness this, Miss Kalani, thank you for asking,” replies Elyse. She accepts Lucy into her arms and cradles the doll gently against her body. Lucy looks very content.
Celia: Jade begins at the bottom this time. She finds a sink to wash her hands before she starts and dries them thoroughly, and brings a garbage bag with her to collect the innards. She takes a knee before the chair and summons the claws from her nails. Long, sharp, but pretty. So pretty. Like the dolls.
She starts with the tip of one claw against the midsection of her abdomen and creates a vertical incision. The skin peels back from Elyse’s body with ease, allowing Jade to view the muscle and padding within. Another cut takes her inside of that, and once she has pressed it back she can see the structure that Elyse wishes removed. It’s a simple swipe of her claws to snip the connective tissue surrounding the ovaries and womb. She pulls it through the incision she made on Elyse’s skin and deposits it into the bag. Elyse will feel an emptiness within her while her body tries to sink into itself, but Jade keeps hold of the flesh in one hand while she works the other. A downward flick of her wrist cuts through the sutures in Elyse’s inner labia, the cord likewise deposited in the bag to dispose of. As gently as she can, she removes the excess tissue. She rolls it in her hand to soften it and uses it to pad the vacant spot inside of her. The pads of her fingers press against the evidence of Elyse’s clitoral removal, smoothing it all over. Another pass of her hands kills the hair in their roots. A third shapes it into the smooth, even skin she has seen on many dolls beneath their dresses. Her fingers pinch to close the earlier incision, then massage away the lingering line until it looks as if it had never been.
Jade adjusts the Malkavian’s legs so she can repeat the process with her anus. A cut across the sphincter allows her to reach inside and remove the lower portion of her bowels, tossed aside like the garbage it is to them. She takes a piece of skin from the cheek and smudges it across the opening until Elyse is as smooth and hairless as her dolls.
She spends a few moments longer shaping the area where her genitalia used to be. When she is done she steps back, viewing it from all angles to make sure that Elyse will be pleased with her work. She nods her head. There is nothing left to suggest that Elyse ever had any lady bits.
She lets Elyse know that she can begin the work on her chest and waits for her to move her dress. Another cut of her claws takes her into the breast tissue, and from there she finds the offending glands and removes them. The work here is more detailed than down below, as the glands themselves are littered and strewn throughout the entire breast and each woman’s shape is different. She makes sure that she gets them all out, carving into Elyse with no sense of hesitation.
Once the internal structure has been seen to Jade closes her back up and begins to shape her. She removes the nipples and evens out the skin tone—exactly like the Barbies she used to play with—and consults with Elyse as to her preferred size and shape while she works, making sure to take her preferences into consideration.
When she’s done they are as smooth and perfect as the rest of her, round little globes that will sit nicely beneath any top.
She looks for a mirror to present Elyse the finished product in case she has any requests.
GM: The pair (or trio, if one counts Lucy) proceed to the bathroom for Jade to wash her hands. While they’re there, Elyse supposes they should just do it in the tub—there’s likely to still be some mess.
Elyse strips off her dress for ease of access. The Toreador likely cannot help but admire her nude form. She’s already a petite thing, and very thin for her frame. Her skin is flawless pale porcelain, free of all marks, blemishes, and non-uniform features. It’s an uninterrupted stretch of pure milky white. It’s cold to the touch and feels more like plastic than a human body’s skin. She resembles nothing so much as a life-sized doll, all the way down to perky breasts that remain rigidly fixed in place as she moves. Some people’s beauty looks artificial, but it feels as if the entire point of Elyse’s was to look artificial. Her body seems to proclaim that artifice is superior to mere flesh.
The Malkavian’s face remains still and impassive as Jade slices her open. Her eyelids briefly flit up, and her lips press together, but no sound escapes them as Jade methodically destroys her anus and reproductive organs. She tells the Toreador to remove her extraneous organs while she’s in there—the kidneys, digestive tract, liver, pancreas—anything that’s not absolutely necessary to support her skeletal structure, or which would interrupt the flow of vitae through her arteries, can go.
Jade cuts them out and dumps them into the garbage bag like so much trash, but there’s not much to dump. The organs putrefy into foul-smelling half-goo the moment Jade severs them from the rest of the Malkavian’s body. She’s heard that some vampires lie about their ages, and she supposes this is one of the more foolproof ways to verify the truth. She’d peg Elyse at around 50 years dead.
Celia: Jade has experience removing the inner organs. She doesn’t tell Elyse as much, but taking out her own body parts was one of the first things that she had done to herself when she had learned the skill. Her teacher had watched, impassive, while Jade cut into her body with her own claws, staring in the mirror. She had learned the location of each of her organs, her flesh cut away and pinned outward like a dissected frog on a seventh grader’s lab bench. Her teacher had pointed out what could and couldn’t be removed to interrupt the Kindred anatomy, had made her undergo the process and the pain itself to learn what it felt like to be on the receiving end so that, when she began to work on her own clients, she would know what kine could handle without stretching the Masquerade too thin.
Or perhaps her teacher was a sadist and had no other purpose than that.
She’d wondered how those stories happen, the people who get trapped and cut off their own arms or legs to remove themselves from the situation, and now she, too, knows what sort of pain she is capable of withstanding.
She doesn’t chatter as she works, but she does tell Elyse that, should she be interested in reusing the parts from her dolls, human fat can be rendered and turned into soaps, pressed into tiny little flowers or cute shapes, colored, with added fragrances.
GM: “Waste not, want not, Miss Kalani,” Elyse replies in a very tight voice. “I believe it would be to Butterfly’s benefit to receive soaps made from its own fat. I will have Honey retrieve the trash bag.”
The process is not painless. It must be agonizing to be systematically sliced apart and disemboweled like this. The Malkavian’s lips press firmly together, but she remains as silent as a doll. Her clear eyes don’t blaze so much as sharpen with intensity as she watches Jade smooth over the flesh where she used to have a vagina. The Toreador leaves nothing behind. Her “canvas” truly resembles nothing so much as a life-sized a human doll, free of all the needs and frailties of mortal flesh.
“Outstanding work, Miss Kalani,” Elyse replies when she is finished.
She turns on the shower head to clean herself. It doesn’t even feel like Jade is looking at a naked person. There are no nipples, no vagina, not even any crack between her cheeks. Elyse asks her to seal that up too.
It’s as immodest as looking at a doll.
Celia: Jade appraises her work once she is done, her eyes sharp as she gazes upon Elyse’s new form. She does not think that she would ever submit to such a thing herself, but she understands the appeal. Perhaps she is not yet long enough dead to want to give up her human vices.
She cleans herself in the sink, the drain taking away what little bits of flesh and gristle remain beneath her nails. She scrubs at her skin as she has become accustomed to doing, not because she thinks that Elyse is dirty but because, given her profession, she must remain clean. Jade supposes that it would be difficult to infect Elyse with unclean hands, dead as she is, but she will not be sloppy. Not in this.
She offers Elyse a towel once she has finished showering. No need to drip across the tile in search of one or summon a ghoul when a simple hand-off will do.
GM: Elyse accepts with thanks, towels herself off, and pauses to clean Lucy too. The cabinet has a very soft toothbrush, cotton swabs, small towel on which to lay the doll, and polishing cloth. She shows Jade how to dust Lucy lightly with a dry cloth, then a soft damp cloth, with just a little bit of dish soap.
“Do not use chlorine bleaches, as these are likely to be damaging. Many porcelain French lady dolls bear permanent marks on their cheeks where overzealous collectors used abrasives to clean them.”
Celia: Jade assists with the cleaning, nodding at the explanation. There are few things in the world as hardy as what she has become, she realizes.
“Can the damaged dolls be repaired?”
GM: “As a home remedy, rit color remover combined with cool water and administered via sponge can sometimes remove recent marks. Chlorine stains, however, are often only possible for professional hands to remove.”
Celia: “When did you begin your work with the dolls, Lady Interpreter?”
GM: “My mortal grandmother possessed a sizable collection, Miss Kalani. I grew up with them my entire life. I could hear them in ways others could not. But it was only after my circumcision that I started to create them with my own hands. I found perfection within their round little eyes, their delicately rendered faces, their soft hair and carefully chosen outfits. Beautiful and timeless, they always look how their creator intends, expressing but not feeling.”
Elyse removes Lucy’s clothes and shoes and carefully washes them in a glass jar with dish detergent.
“Washing a doll’s clothes can often be more hazardous than washing its face. Sulphur dioxide is a common air pollutant that may cling to a dress. Putting the dress in water creates sulphuric acid, leaving the fabric in shreds.”
“Fortunately, Lucy’s clothes are free of such, nor is it necessary to wash her hair. She is a very easy doll to care for.”
Celia: Jade smiles down at the doll in question.
“She certainly seems well cared for. They all do.”
GM: Elyse pats down Lucy’s little clothes, then dresses herself. She wraps the nude doll in a swaddling cloth and hands it to Jade.
“She likes you a great deal, Miss Kalani. You have been very attentive to her.”
Celia: Jade tucks the doll against her side.
“Thank you, Lady Interpreter. I recalled your words, how dolls are created to give girls a chance to learn and practice their instincts at mothering, and… well, that road is closed to our kind, but I would be a poor visitor if I snubbed the opportunity provided, or snubbed Lucy’s affection. She deserves happiness.”
GM: Elyse strokes the doll’s porcelain hair.
“She has much happiness within her. There is much happiness she would share.”
“As you say, Miss Kalani, our kind cannot be mothers. But nor can dolls truly be daughters. We are made for one another. We may be their mothers, and they our daughters.”
“They have voices. They have feelings. You need only listen, Miss Kalani, and they will speak to you.”
Celia: Will they? Will she? Jade has never been spoken to by a doll before. Perhaps she has never taken the time to listen.
She meets the porcelain eyes now, as if asking Lucy if she has some wisdom or words to share with her.
GM: The eyes meet hers.
“She is sad, Miss Kalani,” whispers the Malkavian.
“She is sorry. She thinks her last face was displeasing to you.”
Celia: “Her last face, Lady Interpreter?” Her voice matches the pitch of the Malkavian’s, low and solemn.
GM: Elyse nods. “You felt as if judgment was written upon its contours, Miss Kalani? Lucy did not mean to seem as if she was judging.”
Celia: Jade falters. The thought had been fleeting. She hadn’t realized the doll would pick up on it.
“I… felt as if I was somehow… not good enough for her,” Jade confesses to Elyse.
GM: Elyse nods slowly, then looks back towards Lucy.
“What do you feel as if she is saying now, Miss Kalani?” asks the Malkavian.
Celia: Jade takes a good, long look at the doll. She sees it again, the similarities to the woman who had given birth to her. That woman had given her life, and Celia—the dead girl who pretends to be Jade—had given it up to keep her safe. The night she picked up the phone to call the bar and invite the monsters to her home… she had known what she was doing. What she would trade. It had not happened the way she thought, but stories never do work out the way they’re intended, do they?
She blinks back something that might be emotion. She doesn’t stuff it down, not like she had before. Nor does she wallow. She feels, letting it run through her, letting it wash over her, and then she releases it.
She takes a breath she does not need.
“Proud,” Jade says at last, voice soft. The word of the evening, isn’t it? “She’s… proud of… of me, for what I gave up, even though she would have never asked it of me, even though… though she might not understand, not the depth of it, but she sees the results. Acceptance. Affection.”
More than that, though. Not simple affection. Deeper, stronger, the bond between the girl and the mother. She can’t bring herself to say the word.
GM: “Love,” finishes Elyse.
Celia: Silently, she nods.
GM: “Yes. Yes, Miss Kalani. You do hear her.”
“You hear her very, very well.”
“I do not believe you will understand everything Lucy says…. but it is plain upon her face. She trusts you.”
“Like many of the dolls in my care, Lucy was abandoned by her mother. She has known hurt. But still she trusts you.”
“I believe she would like to leave the Wedding Cake House with you, Miss Kalani.”
Celia: Jade has never cared for anything in her life. Jade doesn’t think she’s capable of caring for things. Certainly not something as fragile as Lucy. She’s afraid that she will break her. Afraid that she will not care for her the right way. Afraid that Lucy will grow to regret trusting her and will resent her.
She swallows. She blinks.
And Celia rises. Celia, the girl abandoned by her mother, left to deal with her father on her own. Forced to grow up too quickly to care for children that weren’t hers. Murdered before her time. Her womb will never quicken as she might have wished. The child that she could have had with Stephen, the accident in the car, had died with her—if it had ever existed at all.
She holds the doll as if it were her baby sister, more precious than spun gold, more delicate than a crystal figurine.
She finds her voice. Jade’s voice, but Celia’s reverence. “To stay with me, Lady Interpreter?”
GM: The Malkavian inclines her head.
“As her mother, Miss Kalani.”
Celia: A thousand reasons why not come to mind. What if she doesn’t care for her properly? What if she gets hurt? What if she doesn’t get enough attention? What if she gets too much attention? What if she’s not as happy with Celia as she thinks she will be? What if she’s wrong? What if Celia doesn’t deserve her?
And she realizes that, perhaps, this is what all new mothers go through. They think they will not be enough. They second-guess their own ability. They get nine months to figure it out, a lifetime to get it wrong, and moments… moments that will make up for it all.
Celia smiles down at the doll.
“I think I’d like that, Lady Interpreter.”
GM: The doll’s porcelain head lays against Celia’s arms.
“Then it is done,” Elyse declares. “Lucy is yours now, Miss Kalani. Key will pack you some cleaning supplies and changes of clothing for Lucy. If she should suffer damage, you may bring her here for restoration.”
Celia: A smile breaks across her face.
“Thank you, Lady Interpreter. I will care for her as you have. May I ask…? I have heard others have your work within their havens. Do the dolls… do they choose their new homes, as Lucy has?”
GM: “Only upon rare occasions, Miss Kalani. But you are not the first.”
“More typically, other Kindred commission the dolls, and I create them.”
Celia: Celia—Jade—nods her head, as if the answer does not surprise her. She keeps hold of the doll, thanking Elyse once more for her and, more quietly, thanking Lucy for choosing her.
GM: The doll rests quietly against her new mother. Elyse finishes blow-drying the small clothes and gives them to Jade to dress the doll back up.
She’s in safe hands.
Monday night, 12 April 2010, PM
GM: The three return to the tea party room. Butterfly is still writing, Its name is Butterfly on the chalkboard to the accompaniment of steady smacks with the paddle. The doll does not cry, cannot cry, but its eyes look as if they want to. It’s too exhausted, too despairing, to continue fighting. Its posterior is very red.
“I find myself in a forgiving mood,” says Elyse. “Are you as well, Miss Kalani?”
Celia: “I am indeed, Lady Interpreter.”
How could she not be, with a new doll of her own?
GM: “I had thought so. Buttefly may stop writing. It may speak.”
The other doll stops paddling Butterfly.
“What is its name?” asks Elyse.
Butterfly does not meet their eyes. Its gaze is tired. Its voice is quiet.
Celia: Jade allows herself a small smile at the concession.
GM: “Very good,” says Elyse. She does not smile, but Honey does. The other doll looks elated.
“I think Butterfly could use a hug, Miss Kalani. A hug and words of comfort and assurance, after the pain it has gone through.”
“Would you like to provide them? Your skin is so lifelike.”
Celia: “I would, Lady Interpreter. It has done well this evening. Key, will you hold Lucy?” She passes the doll off.
GM: Key reverently accepts Lucy.
The Malkavian looks at Butterfly. “Some release is still healthy, for a new doll. It may cry.”
Celia: Stepping forward, Jade smiles a tiny smile at the newly-christened Butterfly. She opens her arms to the former girl, bringing her into her embrace. Her heart beats in her chest, her lungs expanding as she draws in air, bringing in the scent of ‘new doll’ that Elyse had applied to it earlier. Jade’s skin is warm to the touch. She lowers the doll’s head onto her shoulder and lets it cry its painful, ugly tears onto her pink dress, running a hand up and down its back.
GM: Butterfly doesn’t wrap its arms around Jade, but just stands there and cries into her shoulder. It lets it all out. All its pain. All its humiliation. All its exhaustion. All its despair. They come out in great choking sobs, noises that sound almost too large for its now-willowy frame. Butterfly trembles in Jade’s arms as it weeps.
“P-Please, you’re killing me…” it whispers.
Celia: “We’re not killing it,” Jade says softly to it. She lets it cry, holding it tightly. “We’re building it. Butterfly will be the ideal version, the best version of itself. It will be perfect and beautiful, soft and feminine. It will learn to love itself and its new place in the world. And Butterfly is doing so well in this initial transition.”
She’d had to do the same, when she had died. This is no different.
GM: Jade’s words wash over the crying doll like an abuser’s caress. Yes. She has hurt it. But she offers comfort.
And it so, so wants comfort.
It doesn’t pull away. It rubs its face against her neck.
“P-please, I’m… I can… I can’t…. what if this… happened… someone you… knew…? P-please…”
Celia: “It,” Jade corrects her gently. “Butterfly has no sense of individuality. Butterfly is an it.”
The thought stirs her, though. How easily she could see herself, her former self, undergoing this same training. Her father would have sent her here, she has no doubt. Perhaps his neighbor as well, though she thinks that he, at least, would have preferred to break her himself. Her sister, though, should Maxen discover her… inclinations.
Has it happened to someone she knew? Her mother, perhaps?
She pushes the thought aside. Jade has no mother. Jade is not human. Celia has a mother, but Celia does not exist in this moment, in this world.
Celia is dead.
“Butterfly will learn its place,” Jade says again, “and it will accept its place, and it will learn happiness within its place. It will be content, in time.” Up and down, the hand across her back. Gentle. Soothing. Jade comforts the tormented doll.
GM: Paul had mentioned ’the dogs."
He seemed as if he had his own way of breaking girls.
The doll just continues to cry softly into Jade’s shoulder.
“Please, don’t… don’t hurt… can’t take… the hair…”
Someone else might say ‘me’ at the end.
Butterfly doesn’t say ‘it.’
But it doesn’t say ‘me.’
Celia: “If Butterfly accepts its place, it won’t be hurt,” Jade tells it. Her voice is soft. She knows a girl who might have once been broken, and what could have been said to her to hasten the process. “Pain is a lesson, Butterfly. When the lesson need not be taught, the pain need not be applied. It’s okay. It will be okay. It will learn to thrive.”
“The physical transformation is complete. It is beautiful.”
GM: Butterfly doesn’t say anything to that. Just sniffs into Jade’s shoulder and takes what comfort it can.
“What do you think we should do next with Butterfly, Miss Kalani? Adhere to its planned lesson, or something else?” asks Elyse.
Celia: “I believe Butterfly could use with a gentle introduction to its next lesson, Lady Interpreter. As you say, it does not need to enjoy it, but it has learned its name and—”
and if Paul had once been gentle with her she might not have hated him, might have cared for him
“—and may find it illuminating rather than terrifying.”
GM: “A gentle introduction. I believe I may have something in mind, Miss Kalani,” says Elyse.
Celia: Jade steps back from Butterfly. She uses the pads of her fingers to wipe away its tears, fixing the makeup with her fingertips.
GM: Butterfly clings to Jade as she tries to pull away.
“Please, my… its… can’t go through that again, the hair…”
Celia: She makes soft noises at the doll, crooning sweet-sounding nothings at it as she dries its tears, and allows it to pull her back in.
“The hair is done, Butterfly. The hair is done. It will not go through the bodily transformation again.”
“Say it, Butterfly. Say how pretty it is, let me hear it say the words.”
GM: Butterfly doesn’t say anything at first. Honey squeezes its hand.
Finally, “It’s pretty.”
Celia: Jade squeezes the doll.
“It is pretty. It is beautiful. It will learn to love itself and its new look. It will be happy with its new life. Butterfly is beautiful.”
Up and down, up and down its back. She holds it tight, pushing that sense of comfort into the doll before her. Jade is a mother now. She shares that nurturing instinct with this doll.
GM: Butterfly takes what comfort it can. It lets Jade hold it. It doesn’t respond to the praise. Elyse does not say anything, but the click of her heels sounds against the floor. The others follow. Honey holds Butterfly’s hand.
Celia: Jade continues the praise. She tells it how good it has been. How it will be happy, how it will learn to be happy, how it will love its new life and its new self. She keeps a steady stream of praise going into the doll’s ear, her voice as warm as the skin beneath her pink dress.
This is what the girl needed all those years ago. Someone to tell her that it would all be okay.
And it had been for her. So, too, it will be for Butterfly.
Jade tells it that she’s proud of it for how quickly it has come as far as it did.
GM: It is so hard to reject praise.
Butterfly doesn’t preen or smile. But it doesn’t muster the spirit to reject the words either. Honey strokes its hair and echoes similar praises, saying it’s coming along very well—“Much faster than I did!”
Key hands Jade a blindfold. It’s obvious who it’s for.
Butterfly freezes at the sight, but doesn’t try to bolt.
Celia: Jade continues her string of praise to the doll. Slowly, gently, she eases the blindfold around its eyes. She shushes it when it protests, whispering that everything will be okay. She’s gentle about it, aware of how skittish the doll is.
GM: “Trust,” whispers Honey. “We’re there for it, Butterfly.”
Butterfly tenses, and does protest. But it doesn’t try to run. Its breathing comes quicker and Jade can hear its heart beating in its chest. They walk upstairs. Key opens a locked door. Inside is a girl’s bedroom with minimalist but pink and pretty decor, including a floor to ceiling mirror. Everyone helps Butterfly onto the bed and restrains it, spread-eagled, to four handcuffs. It starts begging and pleading.
Jade suddenly sees a man in the room who wasn’t there before. He’s slightly below average height, in maybe his early 20s, with brownish-blonde hair that ends in forehead-length bangs. He’s handsome, in an almost bashfully boy band-ish sort of way, and wears a jacket with a loose-hanging tie. His eyes are milky white and blind-looking. He smells like a ghoul.
Celia: Jade steps back once Butterfly has been restrained. Her eyes flick toward the ghoul, then back to the doll. She doesn’t recognize him. He means little to her.
GM: “Fear,” the ghoul murmurs in a tender voice. It’s so soft Jade almost doesn’t hear it.
“Pain. Very loud…”
“You may silence it,” says Elyse. “Pleasure it orally.”
“Please, no…!” Butterfly begs, straining against its bonds.
The ghoul slowly raises his hands, touching his slender fingers to his forehead as if he’s getting a headache.
“Very loud, very loud…” he whispers.
Celia: Jade slides her eyes to Elyse, her brows lifting in silent question.
GM: Elyse merely looks towards the ghoul.
The ghoul nods.
“Shh…” he whispers. He removes his shoes and slowly climbs onto the bed. Jade can barely hear him. His touch is tender and careful as he lifts Butterfly’s skirts, then pulls down its panties.
“It’ll all be quiet…” he whispers.
He pleasures Butterfly with his mouth.
The doll struggles at first, begs him to stop, to get off. The ghoul holds his forehead again several times. Elyse tells him to move on with it. Jade feels the Malkavian’s supernal presence wash out from her, bathing the doll in feelings of comfort and reassurance.
It stops protesting. It takes a little while, but eventually Butterfly starts to give soft, almost gasping little whispers of pleasure.
The doll gives more sniffs and shudders as the ghoul pleasures her. Its breath comes more quickly. When the orgasm hits, Butterfly’s face flushes as it gives a soft gasp, like someone just stole away a hidden secret.
The ghoul whispers, “Shhh…” and touches Butterfly’s lips.
He touches his fingers to his forehead again.
“Just be still…”
He moves off and silently pulls his shoes back on.
“What do you think, Miss Kalani?” asks Elyse. “As gentle an initial opposite-sex partner as any former homosexual could ask for.”
“Do you believe we do more with the doll, tonight? Or should we allow it to rest?”
Celia: “Very gentle, Lady Interpreter,” Jade says quietly once the ordeal is through.
She’s reminded of Celia’s first experience at the hands of her college boyfriend. As before, she pushes the thought aside. It has no bearing on this doll. It has no bearing on Jade.
“I believe it might behoove the doll to linger with this lesson in its mind.”
GM: Celia was also straight.
Then again, the doll was blindfolded.
“Expound, Miss Kalani.”
Celia: “The doll came to us in fear and anger. It felt pain and humiliation. Now, it felt pleasure. Its transformation may accelerate if it is given a chance to let that pleasure linger as it drifts off to sleep this evening and during the day. It will fight less and accept its place more readily, Lady Interpreter, should it be allowed a gentle fall into slumber. It is like when I work on them at my business. Those who tense and resist will see little change to their bodily structure. Those who let themselves relax, or be heavy, will allow the change to take hold more quickly. This doll will internalize this last lesson and will be more pliable when you begin with it again.”
“It will be eager rather than resistant.”
GM: Elyse nods. “Sound reasoning, Miss Kalani.”
“Remove its blindfold, Key.”
The ghoul does so.
He sets down the box containing Gabriella’s name on the bedside table.
He then hands Elyse a doll’s body. It’s made of porcelain and has no clothes, hair, skin, or facial features. It’s a blank slate.
Elyse holds it up. “Look well at this, Butterfly.”
Butterfly looks at the unfinished doll.
Celia: Jade watches as well, Lucy at her side.
GM: Key hands Elyse some scissors. She snips off several sections of Butterfly’s hair, loops them together into a tiny crown, and places them on the doll’s head.
“Tomorrow evening, we will begin to make Butterfly’s doll in earnest. It can see that we already have the bisque.”
“That portion is the doll’s unglazed body. We will apply paints and fire it within an oven to give it the fleshy skin tone.”
Key holds up a camera and takes a very close picture of Butterfly’s face.
“We will compare that to paint samples. The hair will be made from Butterfly’s hair. We will cut a little bit each day, starting as we have tonight.”
“All human dolls create and care for porcelain dolls. Butterfly’s doll will teach it how to nurture an infant, as dolls have taught girls for thousands of years. Butterfly’s doll will make it a woman.”
She holds the doll close to Butterfly’s face.
“Butterfly will kiss its doll goodnight.”
Butterfly kisses the doll’s head.
“Butterfly will say it loves its doll very much.”
Butterfly stares tiredly for a moment.
“Butterfly loves its doll very much,” the doll mumbles.
“Very good, Butterfly. I am very proud of it tonight. Honey, release its hands.”
Honey unlocks its hands.
“Butterfly will clasp its hands and say a variation of the Lord’s Prayer, after me: now it lays itself down to sleep.”
“Now it lays itself down to sleep,” repeats Butterfly.
They both recite:
“It prays thee, Lord, its soul to keep;
If it should die before it wakes,
It prays thee, Lord, its soul to take.
If it should live for other days,
It prays thee, Lord, to guide its ways.
“Goodnight, Butterfly,” says Elyse. Honey cuffs both its wrists to the same bedpost, then likewise with its ankles so it lies on its side.
“Would you like to give it a goodnight kiss, Miss Kalani?”
Celia: Silent, Jade watches the proceedings. She watches the hair be cut and applied to the doll, watches the prayers, mouthing silently along, and watches the cuffs move to the other post to keep it contained. Jade looks to Elyse at the question, nodding her head. She steps forward, Lucy held in one arm, and brushes back a piece of Butterfly’s hair from her face. She leans in.
“Goodnight, my beautiful Butterfly. May the Lord bless it and keep it.”
Jade presses a chaste kiss against the doll’s temple and withdraws.
GM: She and the others leave the room. Key locks the door closed behind them.
“There you are, Miss Kalani. You have witnessed a new doll’s intake,” says Elyse.
Celia: “I thank you for allowing me to participate, Lady Interpreter. The process was most illuminating. It gives me a solid picture of what to expect and how to best implement my talents to further assist your work.”
GM: “I am most pleased to hear so, Miss Kalani. I believe there is much we might accomplish together.”
“If you have any proficiency at occulto or anima visus, there are tricks of the Blood that Lucy and I might teach you in compensation for your assistance tonight.”
Celia: “I would be most interested in learning, Lady Interpreter. I admit to some proficiency with occulto, though the other, as yet, has evaded me.”
GM: After some brief questioning as to the Toreador’s capabilities, Elyse believes there are two powers Jade might learn from her.
The first power will allow her to make objects appear as dolls, and dolls appear as other objects. Elyse calls it porcelain transfiguration.
The second power will allow Jade to conceal herself beneath a doll’s illusory form. The illusion will break if someone picks her up or sees Jade perform out of character actions for a doll. Elyse calls it porcelain facade.
Celia: Jade asks a few clarifying questions of her own. At last she nods, saying that she would very much be interested in learning the abilities.
GM: Then it is settled. Jade may come back in several nights, after Elyse has spoken to Donovan, to receive her first lessons. She should bring Lucy, who will be her principal tutor.
Elyse will also be pleased for Jade to witness and assist in Butterfly’s own lessons.
Celia: Jade expresses her desire to see the process through, and is grateful that Elyse has offered her the opportunity to do so. She believes that she has much to learn about Elyse’s methods and the human psyche.
Thursday night, 15 April 2010, PM
GM: Several nights later, Key informs Jade at Flawless that Regent Donovan has agreed to charge a toll in vitae for every week that Jade visits his mistress, rather than for every visit. Elyse is willing to pay this toll every other week.
The Malkavian’s lessons are unconventional, next to Pietro’s. She simply leaves Jade in a room with Lucy and dozens of other dolls, to do nothing but stare at them for hours. She emphasizes how the Toreador must truly internalize what it means to be a doll. She must not blink or move a muscle, nor allow extraneous thoughts to intrude upon her mind. She must “become as porcelain.”
Elyse often meditates this way herself. She finds it soothing.
Celia: She finds it similar to meditation.
Which, honestly, she was never good at. As often as Celia’s dad said that her head was empty, she’d never quite managed the ability to simply think about nothing. For hours she lets her mind wander, trying to stop the thoughts, trying not to think about the fact that she will pay Elyse the toll every other week rather than make the journey into Audubon Place herself (and consoles herself with the fact that even if she had made the journey there’s no guarantee she’d run into her sire, and even if she did he wouldn’t deign to speak with her anyway, and she very clearly avoids thinking about the other reason she might want to go back).
But, from across the room, Jade meets Lucy’s eyes one evening. And she lets herself get sucked into those eyes the same way that she’d once been sucked into her sire’s. She lets herself travel across the space between them, inserting herself into the doll’s mind, just as she’d once done with the cat she’d studied and eventually drained to take its form. There’s a stillness inside of that mind, an acceptance that Jade has not often found among her kind, and she floats in that space as gray static buzzes around her. Not empty, no, but… different. Like stepping into someone else’s skin, just as she has always done.
The process, once she views it like that, becomes… easier. Her body doesn’t shift so much as she makes it look like it has shifted, as if she had made herself up with jars of porcelain paint while she stared at her reflection in her vanity.
And one night she finally manages the feat.
Even in her doll form she is beautiful. Her hair looks much the same: wild and untamed, curling halfway down her back and framing the delicate features on her face. Pointed chin, full lips, hazel eyes rimmed with expertly applied makeup, a body that looks every bit as tall and willowy as the dolls Elyse trains.
GM: Jade drinks once from Elyse’s veins when the Malkavian thinks she is getting “close.” The dollmaker’s vitae tastes cool, like liquid porcelain or plastic. It smells sweet, like the perfume Honey sprayed Butterfly with.
Elyse is very pleased when she sees the fruits of Jade’s “metamorphosis” and states that Lucy has taught her well, “but that is little surprise.” She advises Jade to study other dolls’ at length if she wishes to assume them, but declares that the Toreador’s first form is her “true one.”
“You understand them better now, Miss Kalani. Their patience. Their acceptance. Their tranquility. Their minds are not so different from our own as we believe.”
“With continued practice, you may come to understand them further still.”
Celia: Curious, Jade asks how she can attain the level of understanding that Elyse implies. She admits that, while she has been able to connect with Lucy, she is concerned that she is missing part of the bigger picture.
GM: Elyse answers that it is partly a matter of simple practice. Repetition is the mother of all skill. Elyse grew up surrounded by dolls. She made herself as them. She created them with her own hands. She has spent all of her Requiem doing these same things, and transforming others into dolls too. Dolls fill her haven. Dolls watch her every waking moment.
“While it would require a commensurate degree of effort to attain my degree of understanding, Miss Kalani, there is much we may still do to further your own.”
“You could learn to make them with your own two hands. That is the largest piece of the picture you are missing.”
Celia: Jade nods her head at that.
“Of course that makes sense, Lady Interpreter, thank you. If you ever have spare time I wouldn’t turn down the lesson.” She pauses briefly, considering her words. “The ability that you taught me… using occulto, it changes the appearance without changing the structure. I wonder if there is some combination between your ability and my prowess with metamorphosis that would allow one to become a doll in truth.”
GM: “It would be my privilege to give you such a lesson, Miss Kalani.”
The Malkavian’s clear eyes do not flash at the possibility. They simply look larger, glassier, even more doll-like.
“Perhaps, Miss Kalani. Mutatio to work flesh and bone into porcelain. Anima visus to see through eyes of glass. Resistencia to suffer the loss of one’s heart. Perhaps both, to remove the brain.”
“I have considered this question before. How one might become a doll in truth. To replace all the weaknesses and frailties of the flesh with porcelain perfection.”
“I have already developed the means through anima visus to better experience a doll’s perceptions. But they are impermanent measures. To attain true enlightenment, I believe one must perfect one’s own flesh, not merely escape to another’s.”
Celia: “I had not considered adding resistencia to the mix. That is wise, Lady Interpreter, to forestall the idea of shattering should one become too delicate to bear any stress. Perhaps… well, with the mutatio,” Jade tries out the older, more formal word for it, “often you gain the capabilities of what you turn into. I think, maybe, you could get away with either anima visus or resistencia rather than both.” She pauses, drumming her fingers in an unneeded action against her thigh.
“Doesn’t the First Estate have a position that studies these sorts of abilities and powers? Perhaps we could speak to the Kindred who holds that office and see if they have any recommendations? I admit that I have not heard of an ability that uses more than one combination of skills like that.” She is young, though. Perhaps they are more common than she realizes.
GM: “Technologists, Miss Kalani. Yes. The city does not have one in residence, but I am passingly familiar with two from Houston and Chicago.”
“I have consulted with them before. But I did not then know a Kindred proficient at vicissitude who shared my vision of perfection.”
Celia: Jade smiles at the Malkavian.
“I am pleased that you have now, Lady Interpreter. We could look into it, if you’d like.”
GM: “I should greatly like to, Miss Kalani. I should also like you to address me as Lady Elyse.”
“While there are many Kindred who admire my dolls, there are few with the necessary patience and understanding to become a doll themselves, as you have.”
Celia: Jade had never thought herself the patient sort. She’s pleased that Elyse thinks so, though, and decides that it is something she can be if she chooses, just as she chooses to be a great many other things. At Elyse’s invitation to use the new title, Jade offers the same, and says that she would be pleased if Elyse calls her Miss Jade.
“When last I received instruction in occulto, Lady Elyse, my teacher was more hands on. I think that being given the opportunity to learn for myself, to sit with the dolls and attempt to join them, opened up a new world of possibilities for me.”
GM: “I am more pleased by this than I can say, Miss Jade.” The Malkavian’s eyes reflect that glassy shine. “Now that you have learned to join them, I would suggest you learn to watch others as they do.”
Part of Butterfly’s (and every doll’s) lessons include being locked in the “reflection room” for hours at a stretch. It is an empty room with nothing inside besides dolls and floor to ceiling mirrors.
The perfect place for Jade to hide. And watch.
“So that we night observe, too, how fully its lessons have sunk in.”
Celia: Jade gives Elyse a sly smile. It’s not the first time that posing as a doll to observe others has occurred to her. Just as she and her krewe-mate use their various forms to watch, she had intended to add this one to her list of intel-gathering skills. After all, who would suspect a doll when such a skill is practically unheard of?
She says that she is amenable to such a thing, and eager to see how Butterfly has progressed these past few evenings.
GM: Indeed, Elyse concurs, while many Kindred suspect invisible evesdroppers, few suspect dolls as evesdroppers.
The Malkavian’s lips purse faintly. “It would displease me were you to use your new powers against our rightful prince, Miss Jade. But I accept this as a potential and necessary cost to further your understanding of perfection, and it is one I pay willingly.”
Celia: Jade assures Elyse that she has no intention of using it against the prince. She’s even honest about that. She can think of far better people to target with such a skill, though she does not say as much.
Not talking is what dolls are best at.
Monday night, 19 April 2010, PM
GM: Meanwhile, Butterfly has ceased its open defiance and rebelliousness. It refers to itself as an it. It says its name is Butterfly. It follows directions and does not try to escape. Elyse and Honey have started to give it scriptural and home economics lessons.
But Jade can read the glumness in the doll’s eyes. It does not enjoy what it is, not like Honey does.
Elyse is unperturbed. She says no doll has ever reached the second order after only several nights. They are all unhappy at first.
Jade makes herself at home among the reflection room’s dolls. She has dozens of sisters to hide herself among. Whereas the room Jade practiced in had no mirrors, so that nothing might distract her from the sight of the dolls, Butterfly is forced to constantly stare at its new, doll-like reflection. It wears the same clothes and shoes that Jade last saw it in. Dolls don’t change clothes.
Hours pass after the door’s lock clicks shut. Butterfly buries its head against its knees and looks miserable.
Sometimes it looks around at all the dolls. Sometimes it just lies down and stares up at the ceiling, but there’s a mirror there too. Sometimes it closes its eyes.
Sometimes it touches the steel chastity belt under its dress, tugs at the belt, and looks angry.
And sometimes it just cries with its arms folded around its knees. They’re quiet and bitter tears that leave its makeup mussed.
It slowly rocks back and forth, weeping and sniffing from reddened eyes.
Its face looks as miserable as any of the ones Celia wore in Maxen’s house, during those years before college after Mom left, when she would sometimes cry herself to sleep in her bed.
Celia: It’s not her problem.
That’s what she tells herself, that it’s not her problem. She is Jade Kalani, childe of Veronica Alsten-Pirrie, and she does not feel sympathy for the kine. She was never Celia Flores. Celia Flores is a chaste, goody-two-shoes that wouldn’t have done half the things that Jade has done. Celia died when she was nineteen to make way for the Beast and its Beauty.
And dolls don’t have feelings.
Dolls don’t have hearts to break.
Dolls don’t have childhoods that they remember, or wish that their father still loved them, or wonder why their sire doesn’t want them.
Dolls aren’t murdered and abandoned and called stupid and spanked and raped by people who are supposed to help.
Jade-Doll doesn’t feel because Jade-Doll is not a person. Jade-Doll is just a doll.
GM: Jade-Doll needs a name.
But Jade-Doll doesn’t worry about that, because Jade-Doll is just a doll.
Jade-Doll doesn’t feel about anything.
Butterfly finally looks up at the mirror and stares at its miserable, puffy-eyed, and doll-like reflection. It stares for a long time. Then it picks up one of the dolls, a smiling and pink-clad plastic Barbie.
“My name is Gabe,” the woman whispers, and snaps off the doll’s leg.
She sets the doll back down, then sets its leg against its torso, so no one can tell how it’s actually broken.
Celia: Observe. That’s how Elyse had told her to spend the time. Watching to see Butterfly in its natural habitat.
Only… it shouldn’t be breaking the dolls. And every dog trainer knows that an animal is too dumb to realize what it’s being punished for if its owner waits to correct its behavior. It has to be corrected in the moment.
But Butterfly isn’t a dog. It’s a doll. And a former person. And Jade doesn’t think that Butterfly is so dumb that it won’t understand if Jade waits to mete out its punishment. And it’s better, she thinks, if Butterfly doesn’t know how they’re watching, only that they are.
Jade-Doll smiles serenely at the Butterfly doll.
GM: Gabe gives a vicious little satisfied smile.
“This place is crazy,” she whispers.
“I’m not crazy. I’m not crazy. I’m not a doll.”
“This place is crazy,” she repeats.
Celia: Jade-Doll is just a doll, but inside the doll there’s a consciousness. And that consciousness has gifts that the Jade-Doll doesn’t.
Jade-Doll uses one of them now. She focuses on the Barbie doll, and then on Butterfly, and she sends it out from her in a wave: a strong wave of emotion, a powerful guilt and paranoia and urge to open up about every wrong thing she’s ever done in her life. Barbie was an innocent doll that Butterfly tried to break to feel better about herself. So Jade-Doll will break the Butterfly when she makes it confess its sins to the mirror.
GM: Butterfly stares into the mirror with suddenly wide eyes.
“When… when Nadine got raped… I didn’t say anything.”
Celia: This is why Butterfly will become a doll. Because it is a horrible person.
GM: “I knew and I didn’t say anything, because I was scared what Grandpa would say.”
Gabe stares in the mirror, then starts crying again.
“Nad… Nad, I’m sorry… I’m so… so… sorry…” she chokes out.
Celia: But Nad isn’t here to hear it. Just Butterfly’s stricken reflection. Just the dolls that Butterfly wants to break for merely existing.
GM: “I wish… I wish I… could take it back…” She breaks down choking again. “I’m… so… sorry…”
“I was scared, I was so scared… Grandpa can do anything… look what he’s doing… to me…”
“They all say… how I’m such a big tough bulldyke… look at me… look at me…”
“Look what they did to me…!”
Celia: Jade-Doll (she thinks Blossom might be a good name, but she thinks Blossom might also be taken by one of the other dolls) agrees that Butterfly had been a bulldyke. But Butterfly is so pretty now. Jade-Doll had done that. Or the person Jade-Doll used to be had done that. Jade-Doll, of course, is just a doll.
Jade-Doll doesn’t want the Butterfly to cry. Jade-Doll reaches out again with that intrinsic part of her that manipulates emotions. Perhaps if she weren’t a doll her eyes would flash. But she’s a doll, so they don’t. They just stare blankly ahead while she tries another trick. The broken Barbie is her focus. Broken, like the Butterfly is now, but she doesn’t need to be. Barbie is a friend. Barbie is the best friend. Barbie is plastic and can’t repeat secrets, and maybe the Butterfly would like to share?
Maybe then the Butterfly doll will view itself as not above them, but among them. Maybe then it will accept its new life.
GM: Gabe looks at the broken Barbie, then sniffs and gets a shamefaced look.
“I’m sorry I broke your leg…”
She picks up the doll and its leg, fiddling with both.
“I… I don’t know how to fix this, sorry…”
“You didn’t do anything bad… you just looked pretty, and I was mad over… what they did…”
She looks at the mirror with that same miserable expression.
“I fucking hate them,” she whispers bitterly.
“When I get out. I’m gonna shave my head, and burn these stupid clothes, and never wear makeup again…”
Celia: Jade-Doll (maybe Lotus?) knew a girl named Celia that had a broken Barbie once. Her brother had used it as a chew-toy. But he was in diapers, so she forgave him once her dad popped the leg back on for her.
Jade-Doll doesn’t think that her tricks are working. Perhaps she shouldn’t have meddled.
GM: “I could… maybe tell them about your leg,” Gabe says slowly.
“They could probably fix it.”
Fear flickers across her face. “But… they’re crazy… what do you think they’d do to me?”
“The… the thing with the hair… oh my god, that hurt…”
Celia: The Barbie might even be amenable to this. Jade-Doll would be. They both just smile at Butterfly. Maybe Butterfly was a girl once who heard the Barbie motto on the 90’s commercials: You can be anything! Maybe Butterfly can be a doll and be friends with Barbie like Barbie wants.
Dolls have it so easy. They’re pretty. They get nice clothes. They wear pretty makeup. They get cute shoes.
GM: “I…” Gabe looks between Barbie’s face and leg again. “I want to fix you. I really do. But what do you think they’d do…?”
Celia: Barbie’s plastic face doesn’t change. But Barbie considers Butterfly a friend. And if you break your friend you have to fix your friend.
Remember, her face seems to say, how you didn’t tell about what happened to Nadine and felt bad about it? Remember that guilt that you still carry with you?
Barbie would have told. Barbie would have helped Nadine. And Barbie thinks that truth is better. If they discover that Butterfly broke the Barbie they’ll be mad. But maybe if Butterfly apologizes for what it did they’ll be grateful.
They really do care about their dolls around here.
Barbie doesn’t want to be another Nadine.
GM: “Oh my go… oh my God, you’re right…” Gabe whispers, her eyes glistening again.
“Okay… I’ll get you… get you fixed…”
She hugs the doll and strokes its hair.
“I’m sorry… I was just so mad…”
Celia: Barbie knew that Butterfly would do the right thing. She’s content to be in Butterfly’s arms, like any friend would be. She’ll help Butterfly get through this transition.
They’ll be best friends.
Barbie is sure of it.
GM: “I hate what they did to me,” Gabe whispers, stroking the doll. “I hate it. I hate it so much.”
“I just have to get out of here. I just have to last long enough, get out, and then cut this stupid hair.”
Celia: But Barbie would be so lonely without Butterfly.
GM: Gabe’s face flickers.
“I’ll ask if you can come with me. I feel like they’d like that.”
Celia: No one else cares about Barbie the way Butterfly does. Barbie is in this room with all these other dolls and no one talks to her like Butterfly does, or strokes her hair, or worries about fixing her. Barbie will miss Butterfly if she leaves.
GM: “You’ll come with me,” she repeats. “Be pretty funny, right, the bulldyke and the Barbie?”
Celia: Barbie likes it here, though. No one calls anyone a bulldyke here. What a rude term.
Did Butterfly’s former friends really talk to it like that?
Are they really friends if they did?
GM: “I don’t mind it, honestly. It’s supposed to be an insult, but you make it yours, and it isn’t anymore.”
“So yeah. Proud to be a bulldyke.”
She gives a weak laugh. “Even if I don’t look anything like one…”
Celia: Really? Barbie isn’t sure she believes that. Her face doesn’t change, but Butterfly knows.
Barbie thinks that’s just what people say when they’re secretly wounded by a word.
GM: “Well, what’s the other choice? Just let it always hurt you?”
Celia: Barbie wouldn’t let someone call her a bulldyke. And she wouldn’t let it hurt her if someone whispered it about her behind her back.
Barbie got to be anything she wanted to be. She was a nurse in the 60s, and an astronaut after that, and a doctor, and a firefighter, and a pilot. She thinks that Butterfly could be a doll if she wanted. Happy, like her. And think of all the freedom that Barbie has. She’s had more than ten careers in six decades. So much time to try new things!
What does Butterfly want to be?
GM: Gabe laughs. “Yeah. Guess you have. But you live forever, right?”
Celia: All dolls live forever.
Maybe Butterfly will live forever.
GM: “I’m not a doll,” says Gabe. “I’m not Butterfly. I’m Gabe. Gabe. That’s my name. Gabe.” She repeats it like a mantra.
GM: Her eyes scrunch. “Only until I get out. Only ’til I get out.”
Celia: Butterflies are so pretty. So delicate. So beautiful. Butterflies are creatures of change.
Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.
Butterflies have sayings about them. They can cause great change in the world, not just change themselves. Some culture think they’re lucky. And if they flap their wings hard enough, they can cause tsunamis.
GM: “Please don’t call me that. That hurts. That’s their name for me. If I stop being Gabe, they win.”
Celia: Barbie wants to know what it would do if it could do anything.
Because Barbie thinks that leaving an old life behind and getting a new life is an adventure. A chance to start over. A chance to do, to be, anything. And that’s amazing.
GM: “Well, being a botanist would be pretty cool. Just haven’t really been able to go to college with parents cutting me off.”
Celia: But if it accepts this new role, it can be a botanist. Barbie was an architect this year, didn’t it hear? And a news anchor and a race car driver. And if Barbie can do all that then a botanist is certainly within reach.
Think of all the free time.
All the college classes open.
All the travel and the world to see.
GM: “I don’t need to be Butterfly to be a botanist. I can… find a way to make it work.”
Celia: Butterflies and botany go hand in hand, though.
GM: “I dunno, maybe just take out loans, if I really have to.”
Gabe holds her head. “I hate butterflies after this.”
“Like, no offense to them, but fuck ’em.”
Celia: Barbie would frown if she could.
GM: “Fuck. Ha. That crazy lady said she’d wash my mouth, if I said swear words. I bet it’d piss her off just to know I was doing that here.”
“Shit. Fuck. Cunt. Ha.”
Celia: Barbie has been a lot of things, but certainly not a potty-mouth.
GM: Gabe chuckles. “Yeah, well, bulldykes are potty-mouths. You ever heard of any that weren’t?”
Celia: Barbie thinks that Skipper isn’t a potty-mouth.
Celia: Skipper is Barbie’s younger sister.
GM: “Oh. Cool. I have a younger sister too.”
Celia: Barbie is curious about the sister.
GM: “Her name’s Susannah. She’s in seventh grade. She’s a lot more like you than me. Grandpa definitely won’t send her here.”
Celia: Barbie wants to know if the sister is happy.
GM: Gabe looks thoughtful. “Maybe? Seventh grade sucks for everyone, but I guess she’s not doing too bad.”
Celia: Barbie thinks that if Susannah is happy being an almost-doll, then so too can it.
GM: Gabe’s face falls at her reflection. “I look so fucking pathetic.”
Celia: Does that mean Barbie looks pathetic too?
GM: “No, it’s… it’s just you, not me.”
Was it conditioned to think that anything feminine is bad?
That being pretty is terrible?
That being soft is wrong?
GM: “It just… isn’t me,” Gabe shrugs, haplessly.
Celia: Barbie knew a girl who knew a girl once who thought that. She wouldn’t wear dresses or heels or be friendly and shaved her head just like this one did. And it wasn’t until she embraced that side of her that she became at peace with herself. And she was happy.
There are insults, Barbie knows, about being a girl. “You play ball like a girl.” When someone calls a man a girl or a bitch or a pussy they mean it derogatorily. Even common sayings—“sack up,” “nut up,” “grow a pair”—imply that to be brave and strong someone has to be a man.
In 1992 Barbie had a “runs for president” version of herself. Not even president. Just “runs for president.” Because even Barbie’s creators think that Barbie isn’t capable.
But they know the truth. Women are capable. And being soft and feminine is not a death sentence.
And if this one thinks that being a feminist or being strong is all about looking and acting like a man, then it is buying right into the patriarchy.
And Barbie thinks that’s sad.
GM: Gabe holds her head. Surrounded by all these dolls, these doll-like reflections of herself, this talking but not talking and so softly insisting Barbie, she must be…
“I think I’m going a little crazy…” Gabe whispers.
“Being, being feminine, being soft… it’s weak… it’s what Grandpa wants to keep them… down.”
“I’m not doing it because that’s, what he wanted, not what he wanted. I’m doing it, because. Because, that’s me.”
She looks in the mirror at her doll-like reflection.
“I’m crazy, is what I look like. I can’t go crazy.”
“Like I hugged them a couple nights ago and they were so sweet and nice but they were calling me an it, and I just…”
She gives a rattled laugh.
“How, how does that work. And they said my prayers, and they tied me down, and they had this… I was blindfolded, it was… maybe a guy, but like a woman, and I didn’t say yes, but I’d hurt so bad, and they kissed me to sleep, and…”
She laughs and touches a hand against her doll-like reflection.
“It’s like I’m not even me, but who’s even…”
Celia: But it could be.
It could be.
Grandpa thinks that being soft and feminine is weak because he’s a man and that’s what he’s supposed to think. They look down on females. They all do. But it’s not true. Barbie knows it. Barbie had to learn that.
And now this one can too. It can be soft and feminine and pretty and still do what it wants to do.
It sounds like “Gabe” was just what Grandpa didn’t want rather than what this one actually wanted. It sounds like the fear of conforming was greater than the desire to be true to itself.
This transition is freeing. Once it’s over she can do anything. Be anything.
Like the Barbie motto.
You can be anything.
And Barbie is soft and feminine and has taken on all these different occupations to show girls that they, too, can do it. Even if they’re women. Even if the men don’t want them to. And they can do it and be feminine.
GM: Gabe holds her head and moans.
Celia: And not letting them take away the femininity while still doing what it wants… that’s the real victory. Otherwise, what, “be a man/be mannish and you can do what you want?”
What sort of lesson is that?
Barbie has been through it before.
Barbie can help.
GM: “They… they call me an it…” the doll-like woman moans.
“I had an orgasm… what the fuck… what the fuck…”
“I was tied up…”
Celia: …but was it good?
GM: The doll moans.
“I’m going crazy… "
Celia: Barbie doesn’t think so.
Barbie thinks that enlightenment feels crazy because it’s different.
That’s how people get other people to stay the same. By implying they’re crazy.
GM: “But I’m not… an it…”
Celia: But the word “it” is so… freeing. “It” can be anything, refer to anything.
GM: “Wh… how?”
Celia: The word “it” means so many things. It can be so many things. It can be an animal. It can be a plant. It can be a place. It can be an abstract thought or idea or cosmic event. It can be an emotion. It can be an act or gesture or activity. It can be a part of the body. It can be an inanimate object. It can be a person. When people say “it,” they just mean the thing of which they were speaking.
Like a nickname.
Barbie used it earlier: Barbie thinks that enlightenment feels crazy because it’s different.
It meaning enlightenment.
Barbie has been through it before.
It meaning all of the sexism and negative comments and derision that has ever been directed at Barbie, and all of the people telling Barbie that Barbie couldn’t do a thing because Barbie was born with two X chromosomes, as if that is the only deciding factor on worth.
It is shorthand.
Barbie admits that Barbie has been a teacher more than any other career. Barbie has had six iterations of Elementary Teacher Barbie alone because Barbie enjoys sculpting young minds. Elementary school, that is Barbie’s niche. Get them while they’re young. And at that age, Barbie used to teach them to not use the word “it” in written papers because “it” was too vague. Because “it” could refer to literally anything.
GM: “They call… kids it… sometimes…”
“Bbbuughh…” Gabe groans, clutching her head.
“This place… I’m not crazy… it’s a stranger, it’s not me, in the mirror, it’s not me…”
Celia: The reflection isn’t the past. The reflection is the present.
The reflection shows change.
Embrace the change.
GM: Gabe presses her palms against the reflection, claws at the mirror, and starts crying again.
“Oh my God… where’d I go…”
“I don’t know how to come back…”
“I don’t know… I don’t know…”
Celia: The only way forward is through.
Growth happens outside the comfort zone.
GM: “I… I can’t let Grandpa, let Grandpa win…”
Celia: Grandpa only wins if the true self is denied. Grandpa wins if Grandpa convinces the next generation that being feminine is wrong.
GM: “Wha… I just… I just wa…”
Gabe stretches her arms and splays them against the mirror. She presses her face against the glass and pushed against it, as if to shove through.
A huge-eyed, rosy-cheeked, lustrous blonde doll with Barbie-thin limbs stares back.
She shudders and opens and closes her eyes several times.
“What… what do I need to do…?”
Celia: Embrace the transformation.
Be stronger than Grandpa by getting through it.
Be the change.
Be the butterfly.
GM: “O… okay… just get through… just… through…”
Celia: Be the butterfly, Barbie suggests again. Do what the butterfly would do.
GM: “What’d… what’d, would Butterfly do…?”
Celia: The caterpillar goes into the cocoon to change. The caterpillar becomes literal goo inside of that cocoon. It breaks down into literal goo to become mold-able. To be sculpted into something new. Something beautiful. Something delicate but strong.
Something that has the wings to go anywhere.
The caterpillar emerges as a Butterfly.
Be the Butterfly.
GM: “O… Okay… just… be… Butterfly…?”
Celia: Be Butterfly.
GM: “When, when they let me out, just… be… Butterfly.”
Celia: Be Butterfly, Barbie agrees.
GM: “Be, be Butterfly. O… okay, I can do that…”
Celia: Barbie smiles serenely up at Butterfly.
GM: “Butterfly’s so… pretty…”
Celia: Butterfly is beautiful.
Butterfly is one of a kind.
Butterfly is a snowflake like that.
Butterfly is so very, very special.
GM: Butterfly stares into the mirror.
“There’s… there’s something Butterly needs to say…?”
Celia: Butterfly accepts Butterfly.
Butterfly loves Butterfly.
Butterfly cherishes Butterfly.
GM: “Butterfly accepts Butterfly. Butterfly loves Butterfly. Butterfly cherishes Butterfly.”
GM: “Butterfly accepts Butterfly. Butterfly loves Butterfly. Butterfly cherishes Butterfly.”
Celia: Believe it.
GM: The door clicks open.
Elyse walks in. “Butterfly closes its eyes."
Butterfly closes them.
Elyse turns towards Jade-Doll.
“The Doll has served well. Jade will come out soon.”
“The Doll will come back.”
“The Doll will always be there.”
“The Doll requires a name.”
“It may take any name it wishes. The other dolls will surrender their names to the Doll, if the Doll wishes.”
“The Doll is special.”
Celia: Jade-Doll takes some time coming back to herself. She thinks she had been the Barbie for a while, but maybe she had dreamed it. Still, something plastic lingers on the edges of her consciousness, and her leg… the echo of a memory lies down that road, but though Jade-Doll tastes plastic on her tongue and in her nose she knows that is not who she is.
She is not Barbie.
She is not Celia.
She is not Jade.
She is Jade-Doll.
But she needs a name. Blossom… she likes it. It appeals to her. Rolls off the tongue. But the offer to give it up doesn’t sit right. She doesn’t want a used name. She wants her own. Because she’s special.
Like a snowflake.
Each iteration of her is different. Unique. Delicate and beautiful and made up of thousands of tiny facets that are repeated nowhere else. Cold. But feminine.
But there’s something… wrong about that. She doesn’t like it as a name. Snowflake is a dog’s name, not a doll’s name.
She considers further.
The other name had been beautiful as well. Lotus. A water lily. But the history goes much deeper than that. And the lotus had survived the ice age, when so many other flowers died out. Had she, too, not survived an ice age?
GM: “Lotus,” pronounces Elyse.
“I am pleased to welcome you into the world.”
“My name is Elyse. I am your father. Jade is your mother.”
“I saw you as a gleam in Jade’s eye. I inseminated her with the knowledge that made your life possible. Together, we brought you into the world.”
“What a pretty doll you are, my beautiful Lotus.”
Fitting. It symbolizes the circle of life. Death. Rebirth. Brought into the world thrice now: by her mother, by her sire, by Jade and Elyse. It’s a hardy flower. A survivor. Like her.
Lotus is pleased with her new name.
GM: Elyse kneels and strokes her hands along the doll’s tiny hair.
“Such beautiful hair you have, my beautiful Lotus.”
She picks up the doll and carefully, tenderly holds it in the crook of her arm.
“My beautiful, beautiful Lotus.”
Celia: The beautiful Lotus doll smiles up at Elyse. It’s comfortable in her arms.
GM: “Such pretty hair you have. A queen’s midnight mane. Such a pretty, delicate face. Such wide, soulful eyes. Such a thin, willowy body. You truly are perfection.”
Elyse cradles the doll and strokes its hair.
“We have been waiting for you here. I love you very, very much, my beautiful Lotus.”
Time passes as the Malkavian cradles the doll.
“I have a secret to tell you, Lotus.”
Celia: Lotus likes secrets.
GM: “It’s a very important secret. So it’s going to be just between us.”
“Jade isn’t going to know, not just yet. She isn’t ready.”
Celia: Lotus won’t tell Jade.
GM: “Good Lotus. Very good Lotus,” says Elyse, petting the doll’s hair. “One night she will be ready. We all know she has it in her.”
Celia: Has what in her?
GM: “Jade wants to be flawless. She’s off to a good start, my beautiful Lotus. A very good start.”
Elyse hugs the doll against her chest. Her porcelain lips brush against its ear.
“Now listen carefully, beautiful Lotus…”
Monday night, 19 April 2010, PM
GM: Elyse takes Jade’s hand to help her up from the floor.
“Welcome back, Miss Jade.”
Celia: Jade rises to her feet, her eyes moving around the room as if to reorient herself to having a body capable of motion once more.
“Thank you, Lady Elyse.”
GM: “Lotus is truly beautiful. I will teach you to craft a body for her, so that she might exist independently.”
Celia: Jade smiles at Elyse, thanking her for the compliment on Lotus.
“Would Lotus… would she still be part of me, if she were to exist outside of me?”
GM: “My apologies, Miss Jade, I did not mean a physical body.”
“Lotus is inside of you, but you may learn to draw her out.”
“She will remain a part of you, for she will be able to come back in.”
Celia: “I see. Thank you for clarifying. Yes, I would… I would like that, Lady Elyse.”
GM: “I am pleased to hear so, Miss Jade. I believe Lotus would like it a great deal as well. I think she and Lucy will become the best of friends.”
Celia: “Was Lucy created in a similar fashion?”
GM: “Lucy’s story is one we must allow her to tell herself, Miss Jade, in her own time. She is a very special doll.”
Celia: Jade nods her head at that. She had felt it too from Lucy. That she is special. She will be patient.
GM: “Butterfly may open its eyes."
Butterfly’s eyes open. It curtsies, swallows, and then says slowly, “Butterfly did something bad.”
“Butterfly knows confession is good for its soul,” says Elyse.
Celia: Jade asks the question softly, “What did Butterfly do?”
GM: Butterfly lowers its gaze.
“Butterfly broke a doll’s leg.”
Celia: Her eyes slide to the doll in question, the Barbie that she—
She has never been a Barbie.
“And what did Butterfly learn?”
GM: “Butterfly was angry and hurt something that did nothing wrong.”
“But the doll was still very nice to Butterfly.”
“Butterfly wants to fix the doll. Please.”
Celia: Jade holds her hands out for the doll.
GM: Butterfly picks up the doll and its leg, then sets them down in Jade’s hand.
“The doll told Butterfly it can be anything it wants by being Butterfly.”
“The doll told Butterfly it would be strong by being Butterfly.”
“It said Butterfly was very pretty.”
Celia: Jade listens silently to Butterfly speak. She watches the doll’s face, searching for signs of further resistance.
GM: The doll isn’t resisting. It also isn’t fully brainwashed. It’s taking a leap of faith, half-unsure where it might land.
It’s wondering if it’s going crazy.
It wants stability.
Celia: “Butterflies are creatures of change and adaptation,” Jade says to the doll. “They are strong. They survive. They fly. And they are very, very beautiful.” Jade reaches out with one hand, touching the doll’s chin to lift its gaze.
GM: The doll’s beautifully made-up face meets Jade’s eyes.
“Will… it be punished, for breaking the doll…?”
Celia: “I knew a girl,” Jade tells the doll, “whose mother’s leg was wounded in an accident. A fit of rage, as you have done to this doll. The woman lives in pain, day in and day out. She was a dancer once, but now she cannot do the thing she loves. What punishment would be fitting for the action that took her leg?”
GM: Butterfly’s lip trembles.
“But, can it be fixed…?”
Celia: “That is not what I asked.”
GM: “Taking… their leg,” Butterfly says slowly.
Celia: Jade’s eyes move down Butterfly’s new, willowy body to the leg in question.
She lets that stare linger.
Butterfly knows what she is capable of.
GM: The doll starts crying.
“Please, I-it confessed, Butterfly confessed, it’s so sorry, its name is Butterfly, its name is Butterfly…”
Celia: “Butterfly will not be punished because Butterfly confessed. To forgive is God’s gift, and so we must all do in His name.”
Jade wipes away the tears from the doll’s face.
“Butterfly is forgiven. Butterfly will care for the doll during the remainder of its time here. Further harm that comes to the doll will leave its mark upon Butterfly.”
GM: Butterfly nods raptly, eagerly, mouthing thanks.
Celia: Jade looks down at the doll in her hands, then up at Elyse.
GM: Elyse takes the doll and re-affixes the leg in all of two seconds.
Celia: Just as she had thought: they all pop back on.
If only she could repair that girl’s mother so easily.
Monday night, 19 April 2010, PM
GM: “Well-handled, Miss Jade. And well-handled, beautiful Lotus,” Elyse says after she presses the doll into Butterfly’s hands and sends it away.
“As Butterfly’s grandfather does not desire it permanently damaged, the normative punishment would have been breaking both of the doll’s legs, instead of amputating one. Were the doll unable to have been repaired.”
Celia: Jade slides a sly smile toward Elyse.
“I had thought it might slow down its progression to lose access to both legs, Lady Elyse, though I confess that I had assumed the threat of the punishment would be enough.”
GM: “On the contrary, Miss Jade. Dolls do not walk under their own power.”
Celia: “Ah, yes. You are correct of course, Lady Elyse.” Jade inclines her head. She had spoken too hastily.
GM: “But there is no need for such brutal measures when the doll has confessed. You handled it capably, Miss Jade, by instilling fear and gratitude in the same stroke.”
“It fears to transgress, but it will self-report and regulate its own behavior. It is well on its way to being truly broken.”
Celia: “They need both. Fear and gratitude, as you said. One without the other would lead to imperfect results. Resentment. Lingering anger. They need punishment and comfort. All things in balance.”
Perhaps that is why the Malkavian has not shown her temper or any overt sign of emotion. She already knows that they need both, and she has internalized it herself. Perfectly balanced.
GM: “Indeed, Miss Jade. Gratitude is as powerful a force as fear. The breaking process comes in stages, typically with initial defiance, followed by punishment and then comfort, hidden thoughts and acts of defiance, release in the reflection room, and finally acclimation under a consistent system of rewards and punishments.”
“Yet just as your talents allow you to accelerate a doll’s physical transformation, so too do my clan’s gifts allow us to accelerate the mental transformation.”
Celia: Conditioning. The system breaking of a person to then build them back into the desired form.
“Indeed, Lady Elyse. The physical transformation that Butterfly has undergone already—has that accelerated the mental transformation as well, or is it too soon to tell?”
GM: “I believe it has done so, Miss Jade,” answers Elyse. “Dolls normally require further sessions in the reflection room to reach Butterfly’s present state.”
Celia: Jade beams at her, clearly pleased with the result of her work.
GM: “Most female dolls do not undergo physical transformation as drastic as Butterfly’s. This has made it especially susceptible to my mental influence.”
“In some ways, male dolls are easier to break. The destruction of their masculinity is an additional and significant trauma.”
Celia: She will keep that in mind when she finally gets her hands on her father.
“I imagine so, Lady Elyse. They seem to place much stock in such things. Butterfly was under the same impression about itself.”
GM: “Yes. Butterfly’s angst over being made to dress and comport itself as a woman was also significant.”
Celia: “May I ask a question, Lady Elyse? Have previous dolls ever required a tune up, or refresher, after spending too much time away?”
GM: “You have seen me clean Lucy, Miss Jade. All works of art require care and maintenance. Ideally this will be periodic, and my own involvement unnecessary, as I seek to place my dolls in environments where they will be well cared for. One does not need the skill of an artist merely to maintain an artist’s work.”
“But were a doll poorly cared for over a long enough period, my skills would be necessary to repair it.”
Celia: “And do they ever come back to be… reversed? Is such a thing even possible, Lady Elyse, if your client were to desire it? I am thinking, of course, of my own clients, and the somewhat fickle nature of the kine. One evening they want one thing, the next they want a wholly different thing.”
GM: “That is why they require firm hands to govern them, Miss Jade. If a kine client changed their mind, I would decide on a case by case basis whether to return an unfinished doll to them. There are many circumstances where I believe I would not. I would honor the request of another Kindred.”
“But it would be one matter to return an unfinished doll and another to destroy a completed one. Can one render, for example, a Barbie doll down to its constituent plastic and synthetic components? It would be simpler to start anew with fresh materials.”
“I do not believe I would be inclined to do such a thing without significant inducement. What manner of person asks an artist to destroy their own work?”
Celia: Jade inclines her head at that.
“A poignant question, Lady Elyse, and one I had not considered in that fashion. The work I do with them is often temporary, meant to be repeated time and again, to be kept up with and altered as the fashions and styles change. Yours, of course… is eternal.”
GM: “Indeed, Miss Jade. But as with yours, fashions and styles may change. If one is displeased with a doll in its present state, many alterations may easily be performed. Blonde hair may be turned to black, or a white dress to pink.”
“I have had many clients bring dolls back to me for behavioral or physical modification. I have also had some change their minds mid-way through the process. I have had a handful bring broken dolls to me for repair. As with any repair job, this requires far less time than creating a new work wholesale. The dolls swiftly remember their places and routines.”
“I have also, in all my years, had but three clients who wished me to destroy a doll and restore its former self.”
“Two of these I refused outright. The third is a story for perhaps another evening.”
Celia: Jade looks forward to hearing it. She says as much to Elyse, and thanks her for sating her curiosity.
Tuesday night, 20 April 2010, AM
GM: Lucy and the Malkavian next teach Jade “how to bring the dolls outside of you.” This involves a great deal of practice making real dolls. Elyse starts by showing Jade how to make the bisque for porcelain dolls (bisque is unglazed porcelain). One mixes clay paste and water together into a mold, then bakes it in an oven at extremely high (2300 F) temperatures. The doll head is painted and fired several more times to get its skin tone.
Doll bodies are instead made out of composite, a composite material composed of sawdust, glue, and other materials such as cornstarch, resin and wood flour. An all-porcelain doll would be too heavy for most people to conveniently carry, not to mention fragile. The porcelain parts are just the ones you see.
Doll hairs can be made from a variety of materials (real hair or synthetic), and is threaded through a cap that one glues to the doll’s head. Porcelain dolls effectively all wear wigs.
This process is different for other dolls, such as plastic Barbie dolls. Elyse will not go into that for now, as plastic dolls are less valuable ones anyway, though they don’t wear wigs. It’s bolted to their heads via a sewing machine-like machine.
All that’s left to do after that is make clothes and (optionally) shoes for the doll. This step in the process is likely more familiar to Jade, as Celia’s mother did a fair amount of sewing. She didn’t make her own costumes, but she did (half-)make her own shoes. Every ballerina’s shoes have to be adjusted to fit the individual dancer, and they rarely last more than one show, so the sound of the sewing machine was a ubiquitous one in the Flores household. Diana often used it to make costumes for Celia and Isabel too. “There’s a bit of a seamstress in every ballerina," she’d said.
It’s not so different the way Elyse does it. Just for smaller frames.
Celia: Jade had never really thought about the weight of porcelain before. She supposes it makes sense, though it’s hard for her to imagine something so delicate as being so heavy. She asks Elyse if she has ever used something like ivory, and tells her a brief story about the chess set her father used to have that was made of ivory before the ban on hunting elephants for their tusks. They’d had red felt bottoms and secure red felt boxes that held the pieces, and rather than black and white one side was white and the other a rich shade of green.
She doesn’t tell Elyse about the spanking she’d gotten when she’d broken the sword off the knight.
It seems like the sort of thing they might do in other countries, make dolls out of ivory.
It’s a blessing that Jade might still be able to use her own hair for the doll. Some women don’t cut their hair for years and keep it healthy, and Jade asks Elyse if she thinks that, given her age, she’ll still be able to use her own, or if she should use something else.
She does enjoy the process of making the clothes. She uses pieces of her own, brings in scraps of fabric that she had worn at momentous events in her life and unlife so that they can sew them together to make one of the pretty dresses the other dolls wear. Like a quilt, made up of all sorts of memories.
But less patchwork.
GM: Elyse answers one could make a doll out of anything that can approximate a doll’s shape, so long as it isn’t overly heavy. Ivory dolls do indeed exist, though most are historic items rather than modern play dolls or collector’s dolls.
Elyse says that Jade could indeed use her own hair. She hasn’t been undead for very long. The Malkavian made a practice of sheering hers every evening before dawn during her early nights. Jade, however, can also change the color.
Elyse is pleased by the fabric Jade chooses to use. It will “better imbue” the dolls to use materials of personal significance to her.
Butterfly’s own doll concurrently takes shape throughout this process. Butterfly will make the doll with its own hands and care for it like its own child, in addition to Barbie.
Celia: Jade lets the memories roll through her as she arranges the fabric for the doll and begins the process of sewing. They accompany her through the project while she stitches beneath Elyse’s practiced eye. She likes her dark hair and keeps the color, though she gives the locks a bit of a wave as she attaches them. And shoes… heels, of course, though she had debated a pair of ballet shoes. Too similar to Celia, though. These tiny shoes get leather soles to keep them in good condition. Not that the doll will be moving on its own. But it’s the principle of the thing: don’t skimp on details.
GM: Elyse agrees firmly with this, and suggests she make another doll with the ballet shoes. There can never be too many dolls.
Celia: A Celia doll, to go with Lotus? She’ll need a name too. Jade keeps it to herself; she likes Elyse, but she doesn’t need to spill any more about her mortal life. She only says that, had things gone differently, she might have been a dancer.
GM: A worthy profession, Elyse states. All her dolls receive dance lessons. Ladies know how to dance, and dolls are supposed to look like ladies.
It’s one of many parts of their “curriculum.”
Celia: Maybe the Celia doll will be softer. Maybe it will have the innocence and wide-eyed naiveté of the girl who died so recently. Maybe that is where she will use the name Blossom. Borrowed from another doll instead of getting her own.
GM: Elyse states she will change the other Blossom’s name. She changes the fourth order dolls’ names periodically, to remind them they are not individuals.
Sometimes she directly swaps their names. Song will become Chime and Chime will become Song. They have nothing that is their own.
Celia: Thus Blossom begins to take hold of Jade’s imagination. She’ll need to meditate on it to find what makes it unique. Maybe it won’t end up being a Blossom at all.
Regardless, the name cycling is wise.
GM: The fourth order dolls are good dolls. They have almost no individuality left. It is very rare Elyse needs to discipline a fourth order doll.
Celia: They do seem very well behaved.
Jade asks Elyse if she makes other sorts of dolls, too. Like boy dolls.
Boy dolls that stay boys, she means. Ideal male figures.
GM: Elyse does not make male (human) dolls. Honey, however, is far from the first male kine she has turned into a female doll. They are a minority next to the female ones. Most clients who request male-to-female dolls want to use them as sexual objects, a practice Elyse finds disgusting and obscene.
Celia: She asks about male porcelain dolls as well.
GM: Elyse does make male porcelain dolls. They too are a minority next to their female counterparts, but Jade can still find dozens of males throughout the house.
Celia: She waits a bit before asking if they could maybe make one of those, too.
GM: Elyse would be pleased to.
Celia: Jade asks if it’s a different process with the males, or if she needs anything special to prepare for it, or if it’s just another sort of commission.
GM: Elyse uses a different bisque mold to give the dolls different proportions, but she uses different molds for different female dolls too. The process is essentially the same.
“Dolls are sexless creatures.”
Unless a client specifically requests otherwise, Elyse castrates male-to-female dolls and circumcises female ones, in addition to sewing closed their vaginas upon graduation to the third order (sometimes sooner if a doll requires a harsh lesson). Dolls do not know pleasures of the flesh.
“Butterfly’s grandfather wishes it able to bear children, but it does not require its clitoris to do this.”
Celia: Jade asks if Elyse would like her assistance with the process, or if she still intends to sew them.
GM: Elyse would be greatly pleased were Jade to make her dolls even more perfect.
Celia: She’s happy to assist.
“Will Honey be given female genitalia, or left smooth?”
GM: “Honey may receive a small hole for urinal discharges, but that is all she need have between her legs.”
Celia: “Yes, Lady Elyse. I had simply wondered… well, perhaps to go down that road is too close to playing God.”
GM: “I cannot impart Honey the capacity to bear children. The only other function her genitalia might serve are sexual pleasure.”
Celia: “Yes, Lady Elyse. I had thought about the children, perhaps with a transplant. But I do not think that our gifts allow for such.”
GM: Elyse looks pensive. “I would have to consider the theological implications of that, Miss Jade. But if it is beyond your abilities, the point may be a moot one.”
Celia: “I have not tried such a thing,” Jade admits, “and I would not experiment for the first time on one of yours. I can perhaps reach out to my teacher to see if it is something possible, though I imagine that there would be other methods involved.”
Magic, she means. Like the warlocks have.
GM: “I have some clients who would likely desire their new daughters able to bear children. I am uncertain if I would accede to such. I would find it informative to know whether it is possible, Miss Jade.”
Celia: “I will find out, Lady Elyse.”
The second doll she makes indeed becomes a Blossom. Jade had spent time with the dolls in Elyse’s room to find her form and, when she had emerged, Jade had known exactly what it meant. Lighter hair, lighter eyes, smoother skin. An easier smile. Long, flowing hair that was not a chore to tame. A flower crown and frilly clothing, with flowers added to her hands as well. Feminine. Cute. Willowy.
What Celia might have been.
What she could have been, had her birth not been as it was, had her wish not gone astray, had the monster stayed beneath the bed where it belonged.
Blossom, she knows. An innocent name for an innocent doll.
And the other. The male doll they had made with the new molds Elyse had them use. Jade had never said who it was. She had dressed him in black and kept his dark hair short. Not slicked back, but short. Pale features, a stark juxtaposition against the darkness of his clothes. Black has long been his color. A face as expressionless as the rest of him. Even a sword accessory. The eyes had given her trouble. Gray eyes, like storm clouds rolling in, but it had taken her an evening of mixing paints before she had declared herself satisfied with them.
Still, there is no comparison to the real thing.
And, finally, the fourth doll. The lightest hair. Straight, held back by a headband, almost blonde. Blue eyes. A heart-shaped face and a little teddy bear that she can cuddle at night because nothing bad has ever happened to her, so the stuffed bear is enough to keep her safe. A girl that never existed, but could have existed. Could have been happy. If things had gone differently. If someone else’s life hadn’t gotten messed up first and sent that negative energy right on down the line. She gets the ballet slippers.
Princess, Elyse suggests Jade call her, because she’s daddy’s little girl.
GM: Guided by Elyse’s instructive hands and Jade’s—Celia’s—depth of feeling, the dolls come to life. Truly, they are labors of love, or at least yearning. Jade stares into the dolls’ glassy eyes, and she sees herself. Herselves. Girls who might have been, a lover who might yet be, if life had turned out differently. If life had turned out perfect. But life never does. Only dolls can be perfect. In them, Jade feels as if she sees something more of what the Malkavian sees. A perfection that encompasses not just form and function, but circumstance. Dolls look perfect and get to have perfect lives, too. It’s hard not to envy them.
Hard not to want to be them.
“Do you understand them better now, Miss Jade?” Elyse whispers.
“Each one is its own person, with its own life and story to tell.”
Celia: It’s hard not to. With as much practice as Elyse has given her, Jade has… has become like them. Understands the desire to be like them. Not empty, not like she’d first thought, but content. She likes the Lotus doll. Even the Blossom doll. But the Princess doll is the one that captures her attention. What could have been.
And the other… she hasn’t given him a name. Elyse hadn’t asked. She hadn’t known what to call him, or what his model would think if he knew that she had made a doll of him.
Even in this form, he’s hard to read.
She wonders if the Malkavian could do it. Get inside his head. She’s afraid to ask.
GM: Elyse strokes his hair.
“This one is not like the others.”
Celia: “No,” Jade says, voice quiet.
GM: “Blossom and Princess are very happy to have Lucy as their friend. But he does not need friends.”
Celia: “Does he need anything?”
GM: “No. He needs nothing.”
Celia: Silence greets that declaration.
GM: “I do not know that he even needs a name.”
“Names exist to distinguish a thing from other things. Names give context.”
Celia: “What does that make him?”
GM: “He does not find it necessary to distinguish others from himself. In his mind, there is only he.”
“Aristotle said a man who can exist without others is either a beast or a god. Which do you believe he is, Miss Jade?”
Celia: A god.
She had thought that once when she was with him. More than once. She wonders if he heard it.
“Can he not be both?”
GM: “Perhaps. That is a question for philosophers. I am merely a dollmaker.”
Celia: “What does he think he is?”
GM: “He says the question is false as it stands, Miss Jade. He believes all beasts are gods, all gods beasts, and all humans beasts. He believes all that distinguishes them is power.”
“Several names for him occur to me, but he finds them all unsuitable. I believe it is his wish to remain nameless.”
“Or perhaps better said, his intention. We may give him a name, but he will not heed it.”
Celia: Jade had been wrong then. She thought perhaps he thought himself a beast, that others thought so as well, but only she saw true. That the others didn’t understand.
She nods her head at Elyse’s statement.
“I shall refrain from giving him a name, then.”
GM: “Very good, Miss Jade. You have done exceptional work with all four of these.”
Celia: “Thank you, Lady Elyse. I could not have done so without your tutelage.”
GM: “I am sorry, Miss Jade. You have done exceptional work with all five.”
Celia: “Five, Lady Elyse?”
She counts them again, as if she had missed one.
She doesn’t understand.
GM: She’s sitting right there on the table. Jade hadn’t noticed her. Hadn’t made her.
“Hello, beautiful Lotus,” says Elyse.
“Lotus is very happy to come out again.”
Celia: Lotus. Her.
Because she is Lotus, and Lotus is her.
Lotus, Blossom, Princess, the nameless, and Lotus.
Lotus flowers come in all colors. This one just happens to be Jade.
GM: Elyse strokes the doll’s hair.
“Lotus is very, very pretty.”
“You are a mother to more dolls than Lucy now, Miss Jade. You will love them all?”
Celia: She will love them all.
GM: “Very good, Miss Jade. I see a great many more dolls inside you, waiting to come out. I see you as mother to them all. But I believe we have accomplished enough here for tonight.”
Elyse accompanies Jade to the house’s atrium. Key brings Lucy, Blossom, Princess, and the nameless in a quilted carrier. Butterfly and Honey also arrive to see the Toreador off.
“Flawless and perfection are different words, but their meaning is the same. I believe you understand my vision as few others within the city do, Miss Jade. If you ever require aid or shelter, you will find it if you come here. Your Requiem has become important to me and I would not see it lost.”
Celia: The words touch her in a way she had not expected. Just as Elyse herself has with her profound insight these evenings together. Easy, she thinks, to dismiss their clan as crazy and look no deeper than the surface. Easy to marginalize them with jokes and words and a roll of the eyes.
But the older Malkavians are right. It is not crazy. It is simply enlightenment looked down upon for the crime of being other.
If Elyse were anyone else Jade might attempt to hug her. But Elyse is Elyse, and Jade only touches two fingers to the place upon her chest where her heart once beat. The gesture, small as it is, says enough: she is grateful, and that promise goes both ways.
When she wishes them a final good evening it is with the knowledge that perfection and flawless go hand in hand, and she quite likes that.
Wednesday night, 13 May 2015, AM
Celia: She doesn’t play with the dolls.
They’re not that sort of doll, that she can dress them up in different outfits and pour imaginary tea into tiny tea cups and pass crumpets back and forth while they discuss the events of the day. She doesn’t even know what a crumpet is. And she’s not that kind of girl.
But she sits with them frequently, and every time she does the meditation gets easier. It isn’t what she thought it was the first time she had done it, when she had tried to clear her mind of the chatter and simply be nothing. Because dolls aren’t nothing, unthinking and unfeeling. Their heads are not as empty as she once thought. They are wise little creatures, mature beyond their relative youth, and she finds that she quite enjoys their company now that she has learned to understand them. The chatter that fills her mind is theirs.
The four girls are fast friends. Princess is the lightest and the bubbliest of them all. She is often dressed in white, similar to a gown that another girl once wore to a purity ball, or a soft pink. She doesn’t remove her ballet slippers no matter the outfit, though; she says that they are part of her, that this is who she is. She smiles often and sees to it that the others get to voice their opinions, and though she sometimes thinks that Lotus is too jaded she loves her all the same. She gets on best with Lucy.
Blossom is witty. Charming. She likes to be the center of attention but she’s conscious of Princess’ frequent shyness and makes sure to include her. Sometimes she and Lotus disagree, but Blossom will always forgive the darker-haired doll. She likes bold, vibrant colors and frequently wants to change her style.
Lotus is striking. Objectively the prettiest of the dolls, with features as sharp as the edge of cracked porcelain. She likes the darker colors, the blacks and grays and navy blues, but Lotus knows that there are times for softer colors as well. Lotus is who she needs to be when she needs to be it. She thinks she might be Lucy’s favorite, but she never says so. She’s never so rude as to openly say something like that. She finds that the nameless one is often the subject of her attention; she finds ways to bring him up in conversations and wishes that he would join them.
The doll’s maker loves them all. Even the nameless one. Perhaps she loves him more fiercely than she loves the others, as if pouring it into him will make him finally feel something for her as well, as if all she needs to do is fill him up so he can start giving back. Blossom is afraid of him, and Princess tolerates his presence in their room with unfailing politeness, but not one of the five ever convince him to join them.
He doesn’t need them.
Jade sometimes hates him for it. She wants to know why he can’t be easy to love like the others. Why he rejects her. Why she isn’t good enough. She created him, put part of herself inside of him, isn’t that enough?
Why isn’t it enough?
She loves him harder for it. She loves him aggressively. She loves him thinking she can change him.
It’s Celia who disabuses her of this notion. Celia who doesn’t force her company on the nameless doll, who sits within his proximity but not with him. She is there if he decides that he would like her to be, but doesn’t push. He will come to her or he won’t and no amount of anything she does will change that. She accepts her role in his life.
Her love is quieter. Accepting. Not because she thinks he needs it, but because she simply wants to give it. Celia has been inside of him before, physically and mentally. He took her into him that night: her blood into his body, her consciousness into his mind. They were one for that long, lingering moment in the sky, when he put his arms around her and his lips against hers and her heart ceased beating. She was not afraid of him then, just as she is not afraid of him now. She doesn’t push. She doesn’t ask. She just accepts.
And she thinks the question that Jade asked those years ago was wrong.
She thinks it’s not about what he needs.
It’s about what he wants.
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