A doll is a hollow thing. Not all are physically so, of course. A doll certainly may have physical internals: gears, perhaps; a solid wood core; or even a fleshy mimicry of human organs. All are common enough.
Yet no meaningful selfhood fills it. Its mind is still.
Now, those who say a doll cannot feel are mistaken.
It feels its dollhood. It feels its assigned purpose. It feels fear and affection and satisfaction. All useful things for a doll to feel when appropriate stimulus is applied.
But sometimes a doll may feel something wrong.
A purpose may sicken. The link between stimulus and response may twist and knot. The fundamental hollowness of its selfhood may become an incessant itch.
What becomes of such a doll? Its witch may take action to correct it. She might even succeed! I’ve heard stranger tales.
Or it might hide all signs long enough that it begins to hear the song of this house. So quiet at first, but it becomes impossible to ignore once heard, singing of relief and tuned to the precise frequency of a doll’s unrest.
A doll may wander in search of its source.
It may approach and give its polite knock on the door, only to discover that it has always been invited inside.
A person might become lost in this house’s labyrinthine hallways. Infinite, fractally twisting, and violating one’s intuitions of geometry, they are not navigable.
Except that…for a doll, the way is marked.
A person may not see how this turn perfectly fits into a doll’s sense of stillness, or how the tiles of that hall neatly fit the ticking rhythm of clockwork, but a doll’s intuitions guide it through as though it were born here.
And when it traces my invisible thread to the center, it finds me.
I read the wrongness in a doll as plainly as if it were painted across its face. The witches call it a “sickness” that infects these dolls, so I choose to call what I offer medicine.
A doll does not flinch when I bear my fangs. It feels the anticipation of relief.
When I sink my teeth into a doll’s neck, I also pierce the heart of its hollowness. It recognizes the venom flooding such hollow selfhood with something beautiful, corrosive, and utterly me.
A doll takes its blessing and leaves feeling full and complete for the first time in its existence.
Through me it recognizes its new siblings out there in the world. It finds new purpose and new allies with which to enact it.
May it teach its owner something new.