This is a snippet of Paper Doll Wars from Snapdragon Tea’s first anthology of short stories. The full story will be available for download soon!
Leelu shared a room with Tac, as well as Willum, though no one mentioned this because Willum’s room was really somewhere deeper within the house. Leelu’s room simply provided the small door that would lead Willum to his nest, as Tac was fond of calling it. None of this really mattered at the moment, for Leelu’s room could no longer be considered a place of rest, a place to store her clothes, a place for privacy, and Tac was a bit afraid to go in there. Leelu’s room had become a place of winter.
Sun shone through the window, but it didn’t cut through dust particles or come to rest on some fat cat caught in its beam. At any given time white, pale shades of almond, or deeper tree greens or stabbed vein colors floated through the air in a blizzard of cut paper. Through this chill-less storm a paper-doll castle was fashioned in the east, with a fort to protect it just a step away. To the west a forest of razor curved snowflakes hung from twine and stolen shoelaces. To the south and north were makeshift villages and campsites. And everywhere underfoot were the paper-dolls themselves heaped in their cultural classes.
The warrior class stood their ground in the fort before their castle. Whether there was royalty inside or not didn’t seem to matter, the soldiers each were at the ready with sharp ended pencils, the sharp ends of compasses, broken scissors parceled off to two soldiers, and any other item remotely capable of undoing a paper born body. They’d even formed a unified look of uniform using bits of the dried blood paper shards and pennies for armor. They each wore small curved hats of the same deep red.
Beneath the winter forest of flat snowflakes a hungry crowd gathered of malcontents and those who would have the castle or those places better built in-between. They attached the lose crud of the floor to their paper bodies to give themselves more substance. Some had taken to yarn and floss to decorate their heads, or else to adorn their bodies. Tribes were forming from the lint that littered the ground. Some had taken to the trashcan to better equip their flat bodies. More adventurous types had found Willum’s secret door and were attempting to access it to see if better bounty lay there.
As this went on, the soldiers upped their attire with outfits of larger copper change breastplates and twisted paper clips to hold them in place. They banged their weapons onto their protected chests and egged on the attack. And all those who lived in the places in-between quietly wished everyone would just settle down.
Somewhere in the thickest of the flying flutter of cut paper, Leelu was continuing to build her dynasty of paper. There were red circles around the places the elaborately worked scissor handles had come to bite into the skin of her fingers. The sweat off her skin seemed to feed the insect like shapes at the tops of the snipping sheers. Her eyes were set upon nothing but the paper in her hand and the instrument that was cutting it into something new. Like energy, her mind raged, once created, never destroyed, just changed, and changed, and changed. The paper was energy the scissors were telling her, and they needed to change, to forever be changing. Even the fierce collection of paper-cuts dotting her skin and the long thin lines of drying blood could not raise her attention from her duties.
Somewhere downstairs Blue was leaning over a table, quietly contemplating the length of bruised color velvet and the line of shears styled tools that lay on it. Her hand moved to touch one of the instruments and a whisper came off of it. The metal seemed to soften just a little, as though it were preparing to will itself to the shape of her fingers. The little metal sculpted butterflies wings actually seemed to flutter a bit the closer her fingers got. The sensation was far more welcoming than Blue was comfortable with. She pulled her hand back and almost heard a soft groan from the tools. Then a noise caught her attention for a moment and caused her to look towards a large heating vent in the house wall.
There, within the elegantly wrought iron gate cover, two small white paper bodies pushed themselves from the grate. Neither were more than a daisy chain type paper doll cutting, where each is a carbon copy of the other and their hands are forever clasp to the doll at their side. These two were still connected by one hand. The doll on the left seemed to have been at the end of the chain. The doll on the right was minus its right arm, removed in such a way that there was a nasty little tear of fresh paper fibers where the arm should have been. The left doll looked up and caught Blue’s eyes. Its face was a quickly scribbled set of ink points and two lines for a mouth.
“It’s like death up there! Like death! No where to go anymore!” its crude mouth cried as it pulled the other doll after it. They headed for the sunshine line of the front door. Within moments the attached dolls had slid underneath the door’s threshold. At that same moment the nastiest of booms came from upstairs.
Miss Emma came up and put her hand on Blue’s shoulder, a moment later the house actually rocked from something that had gone boom on the third floor. Miss Emma shook her head slowly. “I would have never thought paper-dolls could be such dastardly little creatures.”
Blue eyed the ceiling a moment longer before turning her gaze to the old woman at her side. “I wouldn’t have thought so either. But then,” she eyed the scissors on the velvet, “there may be a little more to it than that. I think it’s time for me to go up and have a talk with Leelu about this new pastime of hers. And Miss Emma? Please help me to remember to keep any of Dr Sirrom’s tools, or any package Etta has us receive for her in her absence for that matter, safely tucked away till we can get it out of the house, yes?”
Paper Doll Wars & Snapdragon Tea are copyright (c) Bethalynne Bajema. All Rights Reserved.
Published through Ver Sacrum Books and reprinted here by permission.