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An Unusual Inheritance


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This fic was inspired by stumbling across this site. Given my username (and icon), I felt like I had to play with this in some form, and this was the result. Hope you enjoy!


“‘To my granddaughter Ali, I leave $2000, as well as my collection of antique half dolls, as I know she’ll treat them with the same care that I did. To my grandson Jesse…”

I tuned the lawyer out at that point, a smile coming to my face. Gran leaving me money was a pleasant surprise, but getting confirmation that she was leaving me the dolls raised my spirits for the first time since her funeral. Even if they hadn’t formally been bequeathed to me, I’d have insisted on taking them as a memento, but knowing that Gran had remembered how much I loved those dolls was comforting, and just made me even more happy to have them. And damn right I’d take care of them. Gran said they were valuable, but I was more interested in preserving them for the sake of memories. Besides, they were just so pretty; no way was I going to let them lose their luster.

I sat through the rest of the will reading, and learned how to claim the monetary part of my inheritance. But as soon as I’d said my goodbyes to my extended family, I looked at Mom. She saw my expression and shook her head affectionately as she opened her purse. “I want this back by tonight.” she said softly but firmly, as she pulled out the key to Gran's house and held it out to me.

“I’ll drop it off on my way home,” I promised, giving Mom a quick hug, “Thanks, Mom.” Mom just smiled faintly and shooed me off.

I headed out to my car and drove to the nearest craft shop, where I bought bubble wrap, tissue paper, and a dozen small gift boxes that looked like they’d do the job. Then I drove to Gran’s house, feeling more excited with each passing mile. It almost felt like I was going to pick up a friend at the airport who I hadn’t seen in ages. Except in this case, the friend was here to stay.

When I got to Gran’s house and let myself in, I saw that I wasn’t the only one who had stopped by to claim their inheritance. There was a lamp missing from one of the side tables, as well as some of the throw blankets from the couches and chairs. But all that really mattered to me was the glass-fronted cabinet in the corner, and I made a beeline for it. “Hey guys,” I said, kneeling down and opening it gently, “I’m back again.”

Ever since I was little, my absolute favorite thing in Gran’s house had been her half dolls. I thought they were weird and pretty at the same time, with their porcelain tops and fluffy bottoms, which nevertheless fit the design of the dolls. Gran explained to me that while a lot of them were meant to be decorative items, some of them had been used as handles for powder tins: you grabbed onto them, and used the attached puff to powder your face. Once she’d drilled into my head that they weren’t toys, she let me look at them more closely, and even touch them as long as I was very careful. When I got a little older, she trusted me enough to let me choose one to stay in the guest room with me on the nights I slept over. Even as I hit my teenage years, my routine was always to say hi to Gran first, then go over to the cabinet to greet the dolls. It was a tradition, one that Gran seemed to embrace wholeheartedly.

I lightly ran my finger over each of the dolls, noting that they all had a thin layer of dust on them, and then started carefully wrapping and boxing them up one by one. As I did so, memories kept springing to my mind, both real and imaginary, as I recalled each doll’s “history.”

The first to be packed was Birdy, a doll wearing what looked like a ballet tutu and a powdered wig and cooing at a parrot perched on her hand. It was an uncreative name that made my adult writer’s soul cringe slightly, but it had stuck, and there was a part of me that wouldn’t change it for the world. I had decided at age six that Birdy really loved her parrot, like I loved our cat Grace, and so imagined that she took the parrot (named Squawk) everywhere with her, sometimes perched on her shoulder pirate style, sometimes on her hand, and sometimes he would even sit on her wig. I put an extra layer of bubble wrap around the two of them, just to make sure they wouldn’t be broken apart.

Next was Jane, who had old-fashioned but simple clothes and was carrying a tray with a teapot and cup on it. I honestly had no idea why I named her Jane; I just liked the name as a kid, even though there were no books, movies, or girls at school who could have given me a reason to do so. Anyway, I figured Jane was probably a maid, and she brought tea to the other dolls when they were thirsty after all their adventures. And because I was a naïve, optimistic child, I assumed that all the others were very nice to her and thanked her a lot for the tea, instead of what I later found out was the historically accurate practice of just taking her for granted. Well, in my world, she’d still be appreciated.

Then came Whisper, who I’d named because she was posed with a hand over her mouth, which I interpreted as her keeping a secret. I decided she was the one the others went to if they needed to tell a secret or get advice, and even used her like that a few times myself. Who knew, maybe I’d wind up doing it again—it was only slightly less weird than just arguing the points out loud to myself like I normally did.

After that was Nala, who was named after the bit in The Lion King when Simba and Nala ride on ostriches. Given that “my” Nala was resting inside an ostrich for some reason, it was the most appropriate name I could give her at the time. I never quite figured out in my head exactly why she had an ostrich; she just did, like Birdy had Squawk. I figured she rode around on her ostrich (I called him Peck) and went to Africa or the jungle to explore and have adventures, more often than not based on things I read or watched that had similar premises. She was definitely the one who had the most exciting life of the group, even if that life was…implausible, to say the least.

Next up was Anna (named after the main character from The King and I, a musical I was oddly obsessed with as a kid), probably the most striking of the dolls because she wasn’t painted like the rest of them. I still liked her design, though, and could understand why she was looking at herself in her hand mirror. I assumed she was getting ready to go to a big ball like Cinderella, and would dance and have all the sorts of adventures that came out of a setup like that. What exactly happened to her depended on how I felt that day; sometimes she danced with the prince which led to her becoming the princess, other times she just ate and had a good time with her friends, and occasionally something more dramatic would happen, like the ball getting crashed by pirates or a food fight breaking out. When I got older, I started imagining her being involved in secret liaisons or palace intrigue instead. In retrospect, it’s pretty obvious that I was going to become a writer when I grew up.

Then I moved on to Kathy (after Kathy from Singin’ in the Rain, another favorite musical), who was probably the most complicated to wrap. The doll herself was pretty straightforward with no significant props built in to her, but she came with a tall, vase-like holder that young me assumed was her carriage, even though there were no horses. The stories I came up with for her either involved her travelling (sometimes to magical lands, sometimes having misadventures while going to a friend’s house), or going to the same balls Anna went to. Gran indulged me in this by rearranging the cabinet so that Anna and Kathy were next to each other, so it would be easier for them to have adventures together. I figured I’d probably keep up the tradition once I got them back to my place.

Once I'd figured out how to wrap the holder and place it in its own box, it was time for Sharie (who’d I’d named after that always sleeping character from the Wayside School books), who was the hardest to do anything with imagination-wise. This was because instead of standing and posing, she had been designed to be lying down staring up at the sky, her powderpuff surrounding her like a big pillow or fur coat (or occasionally bubble bath). I thought of her as the most relaxed of the dolls, who got to spend all her time lying around, reading books or daydreaming, and just listened to all the others talk about the adventures they had instead of going on any herself. At least she liked hearing the stories and was an attentive listener…?

Once Sharie and her base were packed away, I turned to Vivian and Marie. I tended to think of these two as a package deal, because Gran had acquired them at the same time. She had owned the others long before I was born (in fact, Gran said that Jane had actually been used to powder great-grandma’s face before Gran retired her), but she had found these two in a consignment shop and immediately recognized what they were supposed to be. She even called me to tell me about it (I was eleven at this point), promising that she’d wait to attach puffs to them until I was there. Sure enough, the next time I came over, we spent the whole afternoon scouring the internet for guides on how to connect the two parts together, finally using yarn, cloth, and ribbon to secure them and hide the “seams”. When we were finished, Gran smiled at me. “I know you’ve named all of the dolls so far, but would you mind if I named just one of these?” She’d explained that while both of the dolls had feathers in their hair and were holding roses, the one with brown hair looked a lot like a famous picture of Marie Antoinette, right down to the pose. After pulling up the picture, I had to agree with her, and so she became Marie. As for the other, well, Gran loved roses and her hair was as silver and curled as the doll’s, so I asked if we could name it after her. She seemed touched, and thus, Vivian was “born”. For awhile, I had them bond over their love of roses, but after I started learning more about Marie Antoinette, I started thinking of Marie as the actual queen, and Vivian as one of her ladies, talking about various royal things or about how they were going to escape the French Revolution. The fact that Vivian was missing her pinky finger made it even easier for me to come up with dramatic stories about how she lost it helping Marie escape. In my version, Marie got a happy ending, and sometimes she, Vivian, Anna, and Kathy all wound up at the same ball, trying to come up with a way to make Marie queen again. I think I once had them decide to make her a pirate queen instead, which is actually still a hell of an idea, come to think of it.

I boxed up Marie and Vivian, then turned to the last doll, my smile getting wider as I reached for her. Even though I had soft spots for all the dolls, I knew that Oriana was always going to be my favorite, because I was responsible for her coming into Gran’s life. I was sixteen, I’d gotten my driver’s license and a part-time job, and I wanted to use my paycheck to get something special for everyone important in my life. And naturally, the first thing that came to mind when I thought of Gran was the dolls. So I scoured every likely store in town as well as the internet for anything that might fit the bill, and while it took two months, I finally struck gold. One of the antique shops got their hands on a doll that looked like she belonged in the 1920’s, with her short hair, cigarette, and sassy expression. She also had the most amazing pair of gold shoes. Unusually, this doll came in two parts—the upper body of the doll, still attached to what looked like the original powderpuff, and then the bowl you rested the puff in, which had been designed to look like the lower half of the doll, sitting on either an ottoman or a circular piece of luggage. She was stunning, in great shape…and cost $200. Undaunted, I asked if I could put her on layaway, and put ten dollars of every paycheck towards buying her. I even took extra shifts over the summer so I could increase it to fifteen. I wasn’t able to get her by the time of Gran’s birthday, but I did manage to finish paying for her in time for Christmas. The proud look on Gran’s face when I told her where the doll had come from made the whole thing worth it. When she asked what her name was, I responded “Oriana.” I’d scoured the internet for meanings behind names, and learned that Oriana was a name that meant “gold”. Given her shoes, I’d thought it was appropriate. Gran certainly thought it was a pretty name, and gave Oriana pride of place in the center of the cabinet. From then on, I often chose her to stay with me in my room (even though I’d long grown out of the habit of making up stories for the dolls), just because she felt like she was still half-mine. And now I owned her outright.

I ran a finger over Oriana's shoes, wiping away the dust so they could be seen in all their glory. Then I carefully separated the two halves, wrapped them up, and placed them in separate boxes to make it even less likely that something would get broken. Once I taped down the box lid, I took one last look inside the cabinet to make sure I hadn't missed anything, then closed it and began to take the boxes to my car two at a time; I thought I might risk dropping something if I took more than that. I got all twelve boxes on the floor of the passenger seat, then locked the door and drove home, detouring to Mom's house to drop off the key as promised.

After I got home and brought all the boxes inside, I walked around my house, trying to figure out the best place to display the dolls. I'd have to get them their own cabinet (or maybe ask everyone else in the family if I could take Gran's; I doubted I'd meet with much objection), but I wanted them out in the open as soon as possible. Finally, I decided to place them on the middle shelves of the bookcase in my living room, a place where it would be easy to see them while also making it less likely that they'd break if they somehow fell off. I brought the boxes to the bookshelf, opening each of them one by one, checking for damage (none, thankfully), and setting them as far back on the shelf as the books would allow. In the end, Anna, Kathy and her carriage, Birdy, Whisper, and Jane ended up on the second shelf, while Sharie, Nala, Oriana, Marie, and Vivian were on the third. After taking a minute to admire my handiwork, I headed into the kitchen to make myself some food, planning on dusting them off once I'd finished with dinner and dishes.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out that way. Just as I was serving up my chicken, my phone rang, and I got sucked into a conversation with my friend Danny, one of those long, meandering (but entertaining!) talks that moves from topic to topic and can last for hours. While we managed to cut it relatively short after three hours, the sun had mostly set by the time I hung up the phone, and while I was still planning to tackle the dishes, I decided I'd hold off on cleaning the dolls until tomorrow. After all, having a little dust on them wouldn't do any harm.

When I finished the dishes, I changed into my pajamas, then settled myself at my desk to try to get some work done. I was in the middle of editing some short stories I'd written, and while I normally put on some music while I was working to get me in the proper mindset for the story I was working on, I always edited in silence, so I wouldn't be distracted and possibly miss a grammatical error or an awkward turn of phrase. It always felt weird at first, but I knew that after a few minutes, I'd get lost in my work, and barely notice the world around me. So it was sheer dumb luck that I hadn't quite entered into the editing zone at the moment that the first sneeze came.


I jumped about a foot off my chair, my heart hammering in my chest. My first, obvious thought was that someone had broken into my house, and I immediately grabbed my phone to call for the cops. But as the screen lit up, I was startled to see that it was only eight-thirty. It may have been dark outside, but it seemed a little too early for most robberies to be starting. Besides, I'd have assumed the thief would have “cased the joint” and noticed that my bedroom light was on, which should have deterred them. Now confused as well as scared, I gingerly moved to my bedroom door and strained my ears, listening for sounds of movement to try to get a better sense of what was going on. I didn't hear any footsteps, but I did hear what sounded like someone murmuring, and then, after another few seconds, a second sneeze. “Uhh...AAHH...chi!

I blinked. That sneeze had been very different from the first, which suggested there was more than one person in the house. My house wasn't that big, and didn't really have much in the way of valuables. Why would two people come in to rob it? And what were the odds that both of them would have to sneeze while they were trying to be quiet? The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like something else was going on, though I couldn't imagine what. Taking a deep breath and keeping a grip on my phone just in case, I crept out of my room and down the hall, hoping I could get close enough to learn more while still remaining hidden.

After a few steps, I was able to hear the voices a little more clearly. A moment later, I was able to identify one of the voices as feminine, sounding frustrated.

“...ink we'll have to put up with this?”

“Hopefully not too long,” said a second female voice, “With any luck, Ali will clean us off tomorrow.”

I froze in place, my blood running cold. I didn't recognize the voices, so how did they know my name? Just as I was about to retreat back to my room and call the cops after all, I heard the second voice continue speaking.

“Depending on what she uses, we'll probably have to deal with the powder and fluff for another night, but then everything will settle and we won't have to worry about sneezing anymore. In the worst case, she never cleans us, which means that eventually the dust will build up and regularly set us off, but in the short term, it'll at least let the other irritants settle faster.”

My jaw dropped. The mention of powder and fluff was oddly specific, which suggested that the speakers were very familiar with those two things. But it couldn't be...could it?

As I was processing this, the first voice sighed deeply, then spoke again. “I honestly don't know which one I'd prefer. I'd forgotten how annoying it was to...”

She broke off, sniffled, and then sneezed, which sounded identical to the first one I'd heard. “Heh-heh-hehh...Huh-EHSHH!!

“Oh, don't,” warned the second voice, “You know I'm a sympathetic sneezer. And I think you're blowing du...uhh...AAHH...chi!...dust my way.”

“I'm sorry,” the first voice said, sounding genuinely apologetic. But I can't help it.”

“I know,” said the second voice, “And I'll do my best to look on the bright side. In this case, at least Peck isn't made out of real feathers. Even if he does make it easier for dust and fluff to accumulate around me.”

“You think you have it rough?” said a third voice, which was clearly attempting to sound irritated but instead came across as lethargic, “You may have a literal dust bowl, but I'm a...aaaaahhhh-ssssssshhhhhh!!!...a dust magnet! In addition to my puff absorbing dust, I have to stay horizontal instead of vertical, meaning there's more...eeeeeeehhhhhh-sssscchhhhhh!!!...space for dust to land on. Not to mention the puff is close to my face, so the slightest gust of air, from any direction, will brush at least a few strands of fluff over my nose. I'm probably the sneeziest of us...aaaaaaahhhhhhhh-hhhheeeeeeesssssshhhhh!!!

“Good to see you're awake, Sharie,” said the first voice, as the second voice sneezed again, “How are feeling, besides sneezy and tired?”

Sharie yawned, then said “Fairly relaxed, all things considered. I know how much Ali likes us, so I have faith that she'll take good care of us. Sure, it's weird being in an unfamiliar space, but I bet we get used to it pretty quickly.”

“I hope you're right,” said a fourth voice, this one bearing a noticeable French accent, “Given my history, I don't much like moving from place to place. I'd rather not lose my head again, even if it's not meant maliciously this time.”

“Marie!” said the first voice joyfully, “You're finally awake!”

“It's hard not to be, with so many people sneezing into my ear,” Marie responded, amused, “Though I think I'm going to be joining the chorus soon enough. We all kicked up quite a bit of fluff, didn't we?”

“Powder, too,” said a fifth voice, this one speaking with a clipped British accent, “Though I think it's worse up here than it is for the five of you down there. You and Vivian were attached to unused powderpuffs, Sharie's puff was never used either, and Nala's powder was mostly contained in her bowl. But between Jane, Whisper, and myself, we've got at least three different types of makeup grains swirling around us. I'm surprised we didn't start sneezing an hour ago.”

“Everyone reactivates at different times after a move,” the second voice (which I thought was Nala's) said, “Marie and Vivian may have woken up as soon as the house was quiet when they first arrived at human Vivian's house, but Oriana didn't stir until we were halfway through the night. If anything, it's good that the dust doesn't wake people up prematurely.”

“I suppose so,” Marie said, “But that just means it's more likely to make up for lost time once we—and more importantly, our noses—are fully awake.” There was a short pause, and then she said, “And just to prove my point...Aahh...tchu! Tchu! Tchu!”

Nala immediately sneezed as soon as Marie had stopped, but she barely had time to sniff before a new sneeze—“Echh!”—rang out, and she ended up sneezing again. “I'm sorry about that,” said the British voice, “But I think Birdy's starting to wake up, and the sight of the trembling puff was too much for me.”

“It's fine,” Nala said, chuckling, “It doesn't do any harm, as long as I'm not too close to the edge of the shelf. Really, I doubt this will be too much different from our normal set of fits after we get dusted. It'll just take a little longer than usual since we were jostled so much.”

The British voice hummed in agreement, before promptly sneezing again. “Echh!” I only just managed to hear her let out a soft gasp (or possibly groan) before it was drowned out by Nala sneezing again. And then it seemed like all of them must have inhaled a bit of powder, because it sounded like everyone had started sneezing at once.

At this point, I was torn. Part of me felt like I was intruding on something mystical, and it would be in everyone's best interest if I returned to my room and put on headphones to drown out what was going on in the living room. But the larger part of me was desperate to know more, to actually interact with the dolls who had been such a large part of my childhood. But if I made my presence known, would I interfere with whatever magic was at play? Maybe my best option was to stay where I was, where I could at least listen to the goings-on.

Then I heard what sounded like the clack of a heel on wood, and my heart started pounding for a very different reason than it had before. Surely that had to be...

“Sounds like this is going to be quite a night,” said a sixth voice, which was warm, rich, and playful, “Everybody doing all right up there?”

“Hard to say,” said the British voice, “I'm the only one who's fully conscious so far. But everyone looks like they're in once piece, at least.”

Someone laughed huskily. “I'd point out that that phrase doesn't quite work for some of us, but I think us two-piecers ended up here on this level, except for Kathy's carriage. And at least that's not an essential part of her.”

I couldn't resist any more. If that really was Oriana, I wanted to see her for myself. Taking a deep breath, I moved right to the last bit of hall where the living room (or at least the bookcase) was obscured from view, and waited. I knew the exact moment where I should reveal myself, and based on everything I'd been hearing, it probably wouldn't take too long to happen.

“How are you holding up, Oriana?” the first voice (based on context clues, I suspected it was Vivian) asked, “Your powderpuff isn't quite as fresh as the rest of ours. Does that make things better or worse for you?”

“Better, overall,” the playful voice answered, “The puff has stiffened over time, meaning it throws less fluff into the air. And since my bowl was transported in a second box, the dust and powder that had gathered in it didn't have a chance to get up my nose. But that just means it's going to take me a little longer to start sneezing, and thus I might not get it all out of my system by the time it's morning, while the rest of your noses will have adjusted to the irritants in the air.”

“Not mine,” Sharie said, “At least, not with the powderpuff so close to my...eeeeeeeeehhhhhhh-kissssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhh!!!...nose.”

“And Birdy, Kathy, Jane, and Whisper haven't woken up yet,” the British voice said, raising her voice to be heard over Nala's answering sneeze, “So they'll all probably still be sensitive as well.”

Oriana laughed again. “Well, misery loves company. Too bad I'm not up there to commiserate directly.”

Nala sneezed again, then asked “What time is it, anyway? Can anyone see a clock?”

There was a brief silence (well, other than a sneeze from Vivian and an echoing one from Nala), and then some murmurs that suggested the answer was no (which made sense; the only clock in the living room was the one attached to my indoor/outdoor temperature monitor, which wasn't illuminated and was turned away from the bookcase besides). “I wouldn't worry too much, though,” Vivian said, “There's plenty of time for the others to wake up. And once we get an idea of Ali's sleeping patterns, we can figure out if we can get away with staying up through dawn or not.”

“What are the odds of that, do you think?” Marie asked.

“Fairly high,” Oriana said, “Based on the times she's come to visit, she generally doesn't get up until nine or ten. So nine of us will have a certain amount of freedom, but if she keeps up her habit of bringing one of us to her bedroom, that tenth doll will probably have to just stay as quiet and still as possible for the duration.”

“Thank goodness she didn't take one of us there tonight,” the British one (Anna, I had to assume) said, “Or the unlucky one would have been forced to muffle their sneezing to the best of their ability. Most of us could have managed it—Nala might even have benefited from it, since she couldn't hear the rest of us sneezing—but I know at least three of us would have had it harder than the rest.”

Vivian gave a half-chuckle. “And one of them would be me. Sometimes I wonder if having this flower as a prop contributes to that. Having a suggestion of an allergen so close to my face for twelve or more hours a day might make my nose all the more eager to get rid of the actual allergens when it finally gets a chance.” She sniffed, then said, “Like so...Heh-heh-hehh...Huh-EHSHH!!

Nala sneezed almost as soon as the sound of Vivian's sneeze died away, and then I heard Oriana speak again, a hint of a waver in her voice. “I know your sympathetic sneezing is an annoyance to you, Nala, but I think it's a boon to me. The extra sneezing is jostling your puff and sending all the various grains my way. I think my nose is finally ready to start sneezing.”

Everyone fell silent, apparently waiting to see if she was right. After a few seconds, I heard a new sneeze, a graceful sounding “Eshoo!

Taking a deep breath, I made my move. “Bless you.” I said, rounding the corner and moving to stand in the nearest patch of light from the window.

I hadn't been sure what would happen when I finally revealed myself. Would all the dolls freeze back into their original positions as soon as they knew I was there? Would they be stuck in whatever pose they were in when I interrupted them? Or would they still be “alive”? The answer, it turned out, was option three, as I heard gasps and could dimly see movement along the bookshelves, presumably the figures desperately trying to get back into position. “Please,” I said to them, “Don't freeze up or whatever is going on here. I've been listening to most of your conversation, so you can't keep the secret anymore. But I can. I swear to you, I'll never tell anyone that you guys can come to life. Just let me talk to you. Please.”

The silence seemed to stretch out for ages. Then, at last, Oriana spoke.

“We might as well, ladies. Not only has she caught us out, but we owe her our names. And I believe her when she says she won't tell.”

I sighed in relief. “Thank you,” I said, “Can I turn on the light so I can see you better?”

“Can we be seen from the street?” Oriana asked.

“The living room can,” I said, “But you guys probably can't. Maybe from certain angles, but you're too far away from the street for anyone to make you out properly. If you'd prefer, though, I could take you into my bedroom. There isn't a great place to put all of you, but it's much more private.”

“That would probably be best,” Oriana said, “We don't want to take any chances.”

“All right,” I said, “I'll move you guys one at a time. Then I'll get something to try to help get that dust off you.”

“And our noses thank you for it.” Oriana said, as I moved towards the bookcase. I laughed softly, then carefully picked her up and started carrying her back to my bedroom. As I reached the doorway, I looked down at Oriana, and saw her looking back up at me, rolling her cigarette between her fingers. I gave her a reassuring smile, then entered the room and gingerly set her down on the desk. She nodded at me, and I nodded back before going to grab another figure.

I transported Anna and Sharie without incident, and was just setting down Vivian when I heard the sound of a new sneeze from the living room. This must have been one of the other loud sneezers, because it was a sharp “Heh-TCHIK!” sounding almost like a squawk. As soon as I had the thought, I knew which doll had just woken up, though I glanced over at the others to confirm. “Birdy,” Oriana said with a nod, “And even as we speak, Squawk is probably blessing her.” I chuckled, then moved to my ensuite bathroom to grab some paper towels. I might as well start gathering up equipment to clean the dolls and give Nala and Marie time to explain the situation to Birdy, so she wouldn't panic when I showed up.

Once two minutes had passed, I returned to the living room. “Birdy?” I said, “Have the others filled you in?”

“Yes,” said a new voice, a musical note hiding underneath the wary tone, “Though I can't believe we were caught out.”

“We'll talk about it soon,” I said, arriving at the bookcase and picking her up, “I think all of us have questions we want answering.”

“Indeed,” Birdy said, “And hopefully, we can all come to an agreeme...eh-TCHIK!

Awk! Bless you! Awk!” I bit back my laughter, not wanting to further upset Birdy (or Squawk), and carried her towards my room.

The rest of the transfers went smoothly (I saved Nala for last, in the hopes of reducing the amount of sneezing she'd be doing), and after filling up a glass of water to assist with the cleaning, I returned to my bedroom, shutting the door for good measure, and sat down at the desk again. “So,” I said, “Where do we want to start?”

“Let's trade questions,” Oriana said, “We'll ask one, then you can ask. To start with...how did you figure us out?”

“Anna had it right,” I said, dipping a corner of a paper towel into the water and starting to wipe down Oriana's arms, “I heard Vivian sneeze. I initially thought someone had broken in, and when I went to investigate, I realized what was going on.”

Vivian looked chagrined. “It's all right,” I tried to reassure her, “Now that I have some idea of what's happening here, this is kind of awesome. But I guess that leads to my first question; are you guys somehow going to get in trouble for talking to me?”

“I don't think so,” Vivian said, “I guess the real test will be if we wake up again tomorrow, or if the anima inside us will be removed. But since we're still here and talking to you, I think it'll be all right. It's just not advised for humans to know about things like this, for obvious reasons.”

I nodded, waiting for the next question. It took a moment, because Marie wound up having a small sneezing fit and Nala had to echo it. Once she'd finished, though, Nala asked “I take it you're a night person? Vivian and I didn't see or hear anything when we woke up, so we thought it was all right for us to move around.”

“That was just dumb luck on my part, and I guess bad luck on yours,” I said, as I lifted the towel from Oriana's face and started on her back, “I guess you couldn't see the light from the bookcase, and I wasn't playing music like I normally do. If I had, you might not have woken up when you did. But to answer your question, yes, I'm a night person. Depending on how 'in the zone' I get when I'm writing, I sometimes don't get to bed until midnight or one. Related question; when exactly are you allowed to 'wake up'?”

“We aren't fully sure,” Anna said, “Whatever anima is inside us can—not always accurately, apparently—tell when it's secluded and safe for us to wake up. It happens when humans sleep, and whenever a house is empty.”

I looked over at Whisper, Kathy, and Jane. “I know it's your turn to ask, but based on what you just said, what should I do about these three? Will they stay frozen if this 'anima' senses that I'm nearby?”

“I don't know,” Birdy said, “This is a new situation for all of us. But I woke up even after the others knew you were awake, so maybe the same thing will happen to them.”

“If worst comes to worst and they haven't woken up after you've cleaned us off, you can put us all back in the living room for an hour or two, allowing them to wake up and us to explain things,” Marie said, “In the meantime, it's time for a particularly important question; do you live alone?”

“Yes,” I said, discarding the damp section of the paper towel as I prepared to start cleaning Oriana's base, “And I don't entertain here often. My house is too small for that. If I spend time with my friends, we tend to meet up elsewhere. And if I do have guests, they almost never stay the night. Next question; do other things come to life too?”

“They do,” Vivian said, “All items that resemble living creatures come to life as long as they think there's no one around to see. The store Marie and I came from had a collection of dolls, and we all talked among ourselves after the shop closed and the lights were off. There was also a cat figure, and while it didn't move much, we could see it blinking every now and then, and I'm pretty sure I could hear it purring. I'm sure actual children's toys come to life too, though I don't know how they handle it during the night if they're in the same room as the sleeping child.”

Things went quiet for a bit, during which time I finished Oriana's legs and started on the ottoman. Then Oriana chuckled. “I think we've run out of questions on our end, other than repeated reassurances from you that you won't give away our secret. So I guess you can ask to your heart's content now.”

“I'm guessing you guys can't tell me exactly why you and other objects can come to life, right?”

“No one knows,” Nala confirmed, “Though the fact that we look like living creatures probably plays a part in it. Maybe it's a way of allowing us to try to stay in good condition, allowing us to stretch to shake dust out of our crevices or reduce pressure on our joints. But all we can do is speculate.”

Heh-TCHIK!” Birdy sneezed abruptly, accompanied by Squawk's blessing and Nala's sympathetic sneeze. “I'm sorry,” she said, rubbing at her nose, “Just as Nala sneezes whenever she hears someone else sneeze, I sneeze whenever I hear...well, the d-word.”

“What about other allergens?” I asked.

“I tested that,” Birdy said, “And no, things like powder, fluff, or feathers don't seem to do it. It's just...that one word.”

“I'll try not to use it, then,” I said, finishing off Oriana's base. “How's that?” I asked her, straightening her out on her bowl.

Oriana took a careful breath, then nodded. “Much better. My nose is still itching from everything it inhaled earlier, so I'll still sneeze here and there, but I doubt it'll get much worse for me.”

“Perfect,” I said, before looking over the other dolls, “Any preferences for who should be next?”

“I'd like to be next, if no one objects,” Birdy said, “As much as I appreciate Squawk's blessings, they'll get annoying fast if they go on for too long.”

The others nodded, so I picked Birdy up and brought her closer to me, moving Oriana to where Birdy had been to give me more room. “Next question,” I said, dipping a new paper towel in the water, “It seems like all of you wake up at different times after a move. Is there a reason for that? And does that happen even after you've settled into a new place?”

“The reason is unclear,” Marie said, “But it probably has something to do with the anima having to readjust after being disturbed so much. As for why it activates quicker for different dolls...we couldn't begin to tell you. Perhaps it's due to our designs, or maybe our personalities. And as for your second question, no, our waking times are much more consistent after we've made ourselves at home. Even if we get moved about during spring cleaning, we'll all wake up around the same time once it seems safe to do so.”

“Do you...”I began, only to break off when I heard a sniff. Looking over the dolls, I saw Vivian's nose twitch, and then she sneezed into her elbow.


Nala promptly responded with a sneeze of her own. “Uhh...AAHH...chi!

“I notice you guys don't bless each other, Squawk aside,” I said, “Why is that?”

“It doesn't seem worth it,” Nala said, rubbing her nose, “Given what we're made out of, a certain amount of sneezing is inevitable, especially if we get moved about like we were today. If we blessed each other after every sneeze, we'd be at it all night. Our energies are much better spent taking stock of ourselves and getting the sneezing out of our system.”

I nodded. “I guess I'd better follow suit, then. And I'm sorry I didn't dust...sorry!” I said, as Birdy sneezed (though she still politely turned her head away from me so she wouldn't sneeze on my fingers), “I mean, clean you off before I went to bed,” I continued, once Squawk had blessed her and Nala had sneezed, “I meant to, but things came up. I swear, I would have made sure I did it tomorrow, even if we hadn't ended up meeting like this.”

“I believe you,” Oriana said, “Given how you treated us whenever you came to visit, I knew you'd take good care of us.”

I felt myself blush a little. “Did you know Gran had left you to me in her will?”

“We suspected,” Vivian said, “But we weren't sure. We were positive that you'd take Oriana, since you were the one who brought her to Human Vivian's—your grandmother's—in the first place, but the rest of us couldn't know for sure until you came to collect us.”

“Which kind of leads to one of the big questions,” I said, “How aware of things are you during the day?”

“It depends,” Anna said, “Some of us...” and she pointedly glanced at Sharie, “Choose to use the daytime to sleep, but generally, at least one of us stays 'awake' to have some sense of what's going on. How much we can see or hear depends on where we're located. Inside your grandmother's cabinet, we generally had a limited view, and voices could be hard to make out. But if you're concerned about us seeing or hearing something you'd rather keep private, you can relax. We've all learned over the years how to selectively tune things out, or blur our vision somewhat.”

I had to admit, I was relieved at that. I didn't have a lot I wanted to keep secret, but I didn't want to have a vague sense of paranoia when I was in the same room as the dolls during the day. “Good to know. And I guess that just leaves two related questions; did you have names before I named you, and did the stories I made up about you influence the way you are now?”

“As to the first, the answer is no, at least for me,” Marie answered, “When I was completed in 1910, I don't remember thinking of myself with any sort of name. And my first two owners never named me, so you didn't erase a previous identity. What about the rest of you?”

Everyone took a moment to consider, then either murmured no or shook their heads. “We may have been designed to be aesthetically pleasing, but most of us were meant as tools to apply makeup,” Anna said, “And most people don't feel a need to name their grooming implements.”

I didn't say anything, but I did smile slightly, well aware of how quick a lot of people were to anthropomorphize various objects. Marie opened her mouth to continue speaking, but had to pause to sneeze. “Aahh...tchu! Tchu! Tchu!” After composing herself and waiting for Nala to sneeze, she resumed her thought. “As for the second question...I think it's safe to say that you have shaped what we've become. I was made in Germany, so I started out speaking German. When I ended up in America with my second owner, I became fluent in English, though I still spoke with a German accent. But the more you learned about Marie Antoinette and applied it to your stories, the more I began to speak with a French accent, and the more I had memories of being around in the 1700's. And before you ask, no, I don't think I'm Marie Antoinette's reincarnation; I suspect this happens to any figure that gets named after her.”

“I suspect something similar happened to a few of us,” Birdy said, as I set to work cleaning her legs, “I don't think I've changed that much over the years, but after you gave us names, Nala, Kathy, and Anna's voices changed, and Sharie...well, she was always a bit lazy, but she grew even more lethargic once she got her new name.”

I glanced at Sharie guiltily, but she just shrugged her shoulders. “I don't mind. Like Birdy said, I've never really been one for moving around much. I think lounging is just in my nature.”

I nodded. “That's good. And as for the other three, I'd have to watch the movies again to confirm, but I'd be willing to bet that you sound exactly like the characters you were named after.”

“That would make sense,” Anna said, “I'd wondered why I was the only doll who had a British accent.”

“I guess the fact that I generally hear American accents subconsciously influenced how I figured the rest of you would sound, even though I tend to associate the designs of your clothes with British nobility.” I said, giving Birdy one last pass with a dry paper towel.

“It's fine,” Oriana assured me, “As long as we can understand each other, it doesn't really matter what our voices sound like.”

“I'm glad,” I said, setting Birdy aside and reaching for Sharie (who had sat up and was resting with her arms on her knees, presumably to get away from the powderpuff), “But now that the important questions have been answered, I'd like to know more about the 'real' yous. I may have shaped your personalities, but you had lives before you came to Gran's. I'm curious to hear about where you came from and what you've seen.”

The dolls were more than happy to oblige, Marie going first since she'd already shared a bit about herself. I listened intently, and while I made sure to keep working on wiping down the dolls, there were moments when I would get so invested that I'd just sit and listen, or grab my pen and scribble a note on my always close at hand notepad, if what I'd just heard sounded like it had potential for a later story. The dolls didn't seem to mind; if anything, Marie seemed flattered that I saw her as a source of inspiration.

By the time Marie had finished and Vivian started her tale, I'd finished cleaning off all of the currently awake dolls, and decided to start working on Kathy next. After lightly shaking her over the garbage can to try to get rid of some of the dust and loose fluff, I dipped another paper towel in the glass and ran it over her body, giving her face an extra rub in the hopes of minimizing the amount of dust she'd inhale upon waking up. Then I disposed of the wet towel and picked up a dry one to finish the job. And just as I was putting the towel to Kathy's face...


I didn't actually feel any air or dampness against my fingers (either the towel was too thick or doll sneezes didn't produce any spray), but I could definitely feel Kathy quiver in my hands as she apparently sneezed herself awake. I immediately took the towel away, not wanted her to be even more disoriented and scared. As I did so, the first thing I saw was Kathy looking up at me in horror, her body tensing up. “It's all right,” I assured her, “You haven't given anything away. I've already found out, and the others have been filling me in.” I turned her around to show her the other dolls, who all gave her reassuring smiles. “See?” I added.

“Don't worry, Kathy,” Nala said, “I think everything's been sorted out. In fact, you're luckier than all of us. Not only weren't you part of the initial discovery, but you aren't surrounded by irritants like the rest of us were.”

Kathy still seemed hesitant for a moment, her head turning to take in the rest of the group. Then, at last, she relaxed. “I guess that's a relief. And at least this means we won't have to be as quiet from here on out.”

“Absolutely,” I said, turning her back towards me so I could finish drying her, “In fact, I'd encourage it. Talking with you guys seems like it'll be an absolute boon for my story writing.”

Kathy smiled. “I'm not surprised, given the stories you came up with for us when we were just inanimate objects to you.” Her eyes widened faintly, and she did her best to glance around. “Speaking of which, where's my carriage?”

“It's still in the living room,” I said, “I figured cleaning all of you off and learning more about all this took precedence. I'll give it a wipe once I'm done here. Unless it comes to life too.”

Kathy shook her head. “If it was a real carriage with horses attached, that would be a different story. As it is, it just stands there looking pretty.”

I laughed. “Good to know. At least it won't be lonely while I finish up with you.”

“Ali?” Vivian said, “I think Jane's starting to come to. How should we handle this?”

All of us turned to look at Jane. I couldn't see any change—she was still standing there frozen—but the others nodded in agreement with Vivian's assessment. “Maybe we should stay quiet for a bit,” I said, “That way, she'll have the chance to look around without being given as much of a shock as Kathy had.”

“I second that.” Kathy said. Everyone chuckled, and we all fell silent, keeping an eye on Jane while I finished cleaning Kathy off. Initially, I still didn't see any sign of life in Jane, but then I started to see her powderpuff quiver. The quivering started to migrate upwards to the china body, and then, rather abruptly, Jane's eyes closed and she bobbed forward. “Hup-SHOO!

As Nala sneezed in response, Jane remained leaning forward for a few moments, shaking her head. Then she raised her head, only for it to snap forward again. “Hup-SHOO!” Once again, Nala sneezed and Jane shook her head, but this time, she lifted her head and opened her eyes. “Bless you, Miss Nala,” she began, “I'm sorry I...”

She abruptly cut herself off when she saw all of us (or most likely, me) staring at her. “Oh dear...”

“It's ok, Jane,” I said, “The rest of us have already talked things out. You're in safe company.”

Jane glanced around at the other ladies, then finally nodded. “I see. Well, if they're comfortable with it, then I will be too.”

“You should be,” Oriana said, “It'll be so much more freeing. For example, now you can be as loud as you like setting down the tea tray.”

“That's true,” Jane said, eyes sparkling, “And I suppose this means I can wander a decent way away from it during the night, rather than having to stay close in case someone wakes up.”

“I can take it from you now, if you'd like,” I said, holding my hand out, “The pieces might be easier to clean that way.”

Jane nodded and carefully placed the tray on my fingers. I took a moment to marvel at just how small they were, then brought them close to start wiping them down. “While I'm working on this, let's pick up where we left off and let Jane get accustomed to all this. Vivian, I believe you were about to tell us about the events of 1940...?”

Vivian's story kept us entranced as I finished cleaning off Kathy and Jane. She paused when we reached Whisper, but a quick examination by the others confirmed that she still hadn't woken up yet, and I got to work cleaning her too, though I had to pause partway through to write down the real story of how Vivian had lost her finger (she'd fallen off the counter during an air strike; the powderpuff cushioned her fall and prevented any further damage). When I'd finished with Whisper, the others moved aside to make room for her, but then we all turned our attention back to Vivian, letting her speak uninterrupted except for the occasional question or the even more occasional sneeze (my cleaning must have done the trick). When she was finished, I actually applauded, and she smiled and curtseyed. “I appreciate your enthusiasm, though I don't know if it's fully deserved. I don't think my life has been all that exciting.”

“It's more interesting than my story,” Jane said, “I've been with the Barnes family for almost my entire life, save for the trip overseas shortly after I was made. Most of my adventures were made up by Ali.”

I felt a sort of embarrassed pride at that. “Well, I'd still like to hear about your experiences. Gran said Great-Grandma actually used you for your intended purpose, and I'm curious what what was like from the doll's perspective. But maybe we should take a break and wait until Whisper wakes up to continue this. Maybe I should bring all of you back to the living room to encourage the anima to wake her up, like Marie suggested.”

“That won't be necessary,” said a soft voice, “I've been up for a few minutes now.”

We all turned to stare at Whisper, who had lowered her hand and was grinning at all of us. “What?” she asked mock-innocently, “I didn't want to interrupt Vivian's story.”

“But weren't you worried about...” Sharie gestured over at me, “All this?”

“Only for a minute or two,” Whisper said, “But then I figured that, since all of you seemed calm, then I shouldn't be anxious either. I figured I'd just wait and see if anyone noticed I was awake, but then you gave me the perfect opening.”

“I'm kind of surprised you didn't give the game away with a sneeze,” I said, “That seemed to be how everyone else has woken up. I guess I must have gotten the worst of the d—irritants off of you.”

Whisper laughed, though it sounded more like the muffled murmuring you hear behind a closed door. “While what you say is true, I still had enough of it up my nose to cause a few sneezes. It's just that my sneezes are particularly quiet, so unless I'd sneezed during a moment when all of you were silent, you were unlikely to hear me.”

“I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given your name,” I said, chuckling myself, “Still, that must be one tiny sneeze.”

Whisper stretched, then moved closer to Anna. “Allow me to satisfy your curiosity, then.”

With that, she sat down next to Anna's powderpuff, bringing her nose close to the fluff. Anna obligingly began to sway her hips back and forth, allowing more of the material to make contact with Whisper's face. She'd barely completed her second rotation when Whisper pulled her head away and got to her feet, waving her hand in front of her face. I only just caught the sound of her breath catching twice, and then she bobbed forward. “Titt!” She put her hand to her nose, waited for a moment, and then sneezed again. “Tff!” Even though the other dolls and I had obligingly stayed quiet for the performance, it was still a very difficult sound to hear. I felt a little impressed, though I wasn't quite sure why.

Whisper sneezed two more times, then finally straightened up and lowered her hand again. “Bless you,” I said, “No wonder we didn't realize you were awake. Hell, if I'd kept you in here and you were the first to come to life, I probably wouldn't have suspected a thing. I'd have thought your sneezes were just the squeaks of my office chair, or maybe the house settling.”

Whisper laughed again. “They used to be a bit louder. But once you gave me my name, I decided I should live up to it. The anima may have helped a bit with that too.”

“Whatever the cause, it suits you,” I said, “Though now you've all but ensured that you're next to tell your life story after Jane finishes with hers.”

Whisper nodded and carefully sat down, looking at Jane expectantly. Jane seemed a bit abashed by all the attention, but took a deep breath and began to recount everything she could remember about her life while I picked up my pen again, spinning it between my fingers as I waited for some detail to give me a flicker of an idea.


The eleven of us ended up staying up and talking until about two in the morning. We probably could have gone on even longer, but I could feel my energy flagging and wanted to give each doll's story the attention it deserved. So after Kathy had finished her tale, I apologized, said it was time I went to bed, and then carefully brought each doll back to the living room so they could speak amongst themselves without disturbing me. As I wished them a good night and left, I couldn't help but glance behind me, even though I could barely see the dolls. Part of me was worried that, having been seen by me, that the “anima” would desert them, meaning I'd never be able to talk to them again. That didn't seem fair, but since there didn't seem to be anything I could do about it, I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

When I woke up the next morning, the first thing I did was peek in at the dolls. They were all back where I'd placed them the night before, in their proper poses. No one would have suspected what had gone on the night before; hell, I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't have both such clear memories and two and a half pages of notes waiting for me at my desk. I touched each doll, thanking them for talking with me and apologizing just in case they were now permanently frozen, then took a deep breath and went off to start my day proper.

I spent most of the day half-distracted, unsure what was going to happen when the sun set that evening. To try to assure the “anima” that it was all right, I stayed away from the living room once it started to get dark, closing the door to my bedroom and even putting on headphones, resisting the urge to hum along with my music to try to ensure a quiet atmosphere for the dolls. But at last, around ten pm, I couldn't wait any longer, and left my room, straining my ears for any sound coming from the end of the hall. When I heard a caw from Squawk, I felt a flood of relief. When I called out a greeting, my heart swelled with hope. And when I reached the bookcase and received a chorus of pleased greetings, I had tears in my eyes and a grin that stretched from ear to ear.

After that night, the dolls became a regular fixture in my life. I didn't spend every night sitting and talking with them—I had work to do and flesh and blood people to spend time with, after all—but I did always make sure to give them a greeting every night, generally two hours after sundown. If I had no plans that night, I'd bring the dolls into my room, where we could talk without risk of being seen. There were even a few occasions where I'd “playtest” a board game for my gaming group with them; sure, I had to do the bulk of the work, but there was something endearing about that. It reminded me of playing tea party as a kid, only I didn't have to rely entirely on my imagination this time.

There were two other, major benefits to having the dolls in my life. One, they made it easier to stick to a cleaning schedule. As soon as one or more of them started sneezing, I knew I'd need to both wipe them down and dust off the bookcase the next day. Furthermore, I started bringing one or two of them into another area of the house that needed cleaning, so they could keep me company while I worked, which helped everything go faster. Two, and more importantly, they became my muses. Not only did I end up basing several characters off of them, either physically or in terms of personality, but I regularly used them as a soundboard for ideas or to help me with writer's block. There were quite a few nights where I'd be in my room, staring at my computer screen, while whichever doll I'd brought into the room that night (I tended to cycle through them, though if I was working on something relevant to their lives, I'd stick to one particular doll, like bringing Marie in on consultations for Regency era stories) would pace on the desk, asking questions or offering suggestions. If you've ever wondered who those names or initials belonged to on my dedication pages, now you know.

Which brings me to the point of me writing this. As of this moment, I'm unmarried, but in an increasingly serious relationship. I've been debating with myself and with the dolls about the best way to introduce my s.o. to them, (or if we should say anything at all; after all, the more people who know the secret, the more likely it is to cause problems) and that in turn has got me thinking about the future. Assuming I do eventually marry and have children, I feel like there will eventually come a point when the dolls will need to resume the old routine of only coming to life when everyone's asleep. But it doesn't seem fair to have given them an extended taste of freedom, only to take it away from them. I've been turning things over in my head for the past week, and I finally decided this was the best long-term solution.

When the time finally comes for me to start making a will and deciding who gets what, I'm going to make it clear that all the dolls (and any new ones that I may come across) are to remain together and not be split up. Ideally, there will be a friend or family member in my life who loves the dolls as much as I do, making it an easy choice who to leave them to. Once that's been settled, I will rewrite this document slightly, adding in the recipient's name, some personal statements, and anything else that I think they need to know about the dolls, and then add it to the will in a sealed envelope for my lawyer to give to the recipient, with instructions for them to read it as soon as they can. With luck, that will keep them from being startled the way I was.

So, to the currently anonymous person who has been given the dolls, I leave these final instructions/requests. Treat the dolls with politeness and respect, and they'll do the same to you. Don't tell anyone about the dolls coming to life, unless you have complete faith that they'll keep the secret. And when the sun goes down tonight, leave the dolls in a dark, quiet room, wait an hour, then enter the room without turning on the lights and say “Ali told me everything. I can't wait to get to know you.” That way, the dolls will know you've been properly informed, and you can hopefully have a much smoother introduction than I did.

Good luck with everything, and may your time with the dolls be as delightful as mine has been.



P.S.: When you take the dolls from my house and bring them to yours, shake out their powderpuffs and wipe their bodies down with a damp cloth or paper towel before setting them out on display. Enough dust and fluff will have been shifted during the move that the dolls will still probably sneeze a bit, but hopefully this will help make their first night with you go even more smoothly.

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Oh. My. GODDESS!!!!! *Squeal* This story is so cute 🥰. It’s different from what I’ve been reading recently. But it’s a nice homey story that I will be reading multiple times. Keep up the great work. 🥰😍😘

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@ThePokeFan599 I was thinking more Toy Story, myself (I'm not a big fan of horror, which I assume is where Annabelle comes from). I'm glad you enjoyed it, though, regardless of what it reminded you of!

@sneezyfeather338 I'm glad it appealed to you, even if it's not your usual thing (in fact, that makes your enjoyment of it even more flattering)! Thanks so much for reading!

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I give this one a ton of credit right away simply due to raw creativity, and it also introduces a bunch of fun characters in the form of the dolls!  Thank you for sharing, it was a ton of fun!

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  • 2 weeks later...

@Dc1 Thanks so much for the praise! I'm glad people found the story engaging, particularly given how long the story goes without sneezing. Means I'm doing something right!

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  • 2 weeks later...

oh that's so cool! I love those old stories about the dolls who are alive. Or maybe there are new ones too now, it made me think of Racketty Packety House. the idea of the sneezy dolls is verry cool

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@Teacups I think some variant of those stories will always exist, although I think it's generally either kid's stories or horror movies, with very little in-between. I prefer the kid's stories, since they're much more innocent and wholesome. Hopefully I managed a similar vibe with this story.

Glad you enjoyed! Thanks so much for reading/commenting!

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