The girls filed into their chairs facing the demonstration table with the old dollhouse at the head of the classroom. Only a patient observer might have been able to distinguish one from another, a placement of a freckle, some minor variations in height. They were indeed there, but it was hard not to look at the stiff pleats of the skirts, the length of the tails of their hair ribbons and the way each of them held their head with the same look of detached attention that made it easy to dismiss them as a monolithic mass.
The headmistress entered the room several minutes after, holding a golden birdcage with a small dove frantically beating its wings against the bars. She set the cage on a high stool near the table. None of the small eyes blinked or looked away when she reached in, grabbed the bird, ignoring its small retaliatory pecks and the blood they drew, and twisted its neck over the dollhouse.
“You may come up and observe now,” she said, placing the lifeless bird back in the cage. The girls went up to the doll house with no jostling or shoving and watched as new doll, a perfect image of a middle aged man, complete with a poorly concealed bald spot, materialized in the house. An eyeball about the height of new doll started rolling in its direction and although the doll’s mouth opened, no scream came out as it ran from the room it appeared in.
In the other rooms of the doll house, similar images presented themselves with some dolls faring much better than others, but all of them re-materializing again a few minutes after misfortune befell them, only to run through the house again.
The headmistress finished tending to her small wounds and motioned for the girls to return to their seats. She was about to turn to get out her lesson plan for the day when she found she could not move at all. Anger buzzed in her mind as she saw a small set of feet come towards her and felt a small hand positioning her limbs until she was standing straight, hands placed at her sides looking straight at one of her charges.
The girl held the broken dove in one hand, her index finger on its bloody beak. “No Missus, you won’t be able to move. I’ve enough of your blood here to be sure you aren’t going anywhere. I wouldn’t count on any of the others. Even if they did know what to do, I’ve made sure to bind them good and proper to their chairs. It didn’t take too much special to be sure of that.”
The girl turned the headmistress so she could see. They were all sitting in their chairs facing the dollhouse.
“I am grateful to you Missus. I learned an awful lot from you I never could have learned anywhere else. The magic, that was gift enough. But I learned that knowledge doesn’t necessarily make one kind. I learned a lot about my will and my pride, to make sure to never set myself up as the least or the best, so I’d stay hidden in plain sight. I learned I could take the knowledge you gave, and although it changed me a bit, it couldn’t change the core of me, if I didn’t let it.”
The girl pulled a feather from the bird, stood on tiptoe to touch it to the headmistress’s brow. Her body fell back on the floor.
The girl walked back to the cage, placing the bird’s body back inside but still holding the feather. “I’ve learned to be a bit cruel, though I’m not proud of it. At least I haven’t forgotten what I was like before I learned it.”
She turned to face her former classmates. “You aren’t her. Not yet. If you can cry just one honest tear, that’ll break the enchantment holding you to the chairs and you can go your way. But I know it may take a while for that, so until then you can watch the dollhouse.”
She turned the dollhouse on the table and moved it closer to the other girls so they could see everything going on inside. Laying the feather on top of the house she took one last look at her classroom and walked out.
A doll, the perfect likeness of the headmistress, appeared inside the house. And then she began to run.
Song Choice: Fighter by Christina Aguilera
This post is for Magpie Tales 285 Check out the link for more literary fun