Fungal Halo

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Anxiety Meds

The doll frets and paces and clenches its fists again and again, stalking through the halls of the witch’s house, holding in a restless impulse that’s filled it to bursting with an overwhelming need to release every bit of coiled ferocity in an explosion of violence.

It cannot give in.

It truly cannot. It doesn’t even have the option of losing control. That part of it has been forcibly locked away, with the witch that adopted it holding the key to its internal cage.

For better or for worse, the other dolls are safe from it.

They aren’t like this one, anyway.

They weren’t lovingly crafted for murder by a long-gone creature of malice.

They don’t need the same enforced restraint that it does just to exist in proximity of other dolls.

They seem so carefree in comparison.

“Hey there!”

The doll whirls in place, finding a smaller, slighter doll peeking into the hallway from the room it just passed. It glares at its “sister” with all the violence it can’t put into action, waiting for the other doll to explain why it called out.

“You seem like you’re not doing very well, so I went out and got you some medicine,” the other doll says, bright and cheerful and utterly without reaction to the withering look leveled against it. It cradles a small cup in its outstretched arms.

The restless doll tentatively accepts it, peering inside to find…

Spiders. The cup is full of tiny spiders.

The other doll smiles and nods encouragingly. “Medicine!”

The decision is easy enough to make. Very little could possibly be worse than this escalating anxiety without relief.

The doll opens its mouth and pours the spiders in.

The other hops up and down, clapping its hands in a show of pleasure.

The other grabs the doll’s hand and starts tugging. It chooses to permit the excited thing to lead it through the house on a winding journey ending in the cozy parlor where several more dolls are seated, enjoying tea together.

The other doll sits it down in an empty seat with a firm push on its shoulders.

Something tickles inside, and strangely, the restless doll finds it easy to let go and not resist.

Yet another doll approaches and pours it a cup of tea.

The other dolls introduce themselves. The spider-bringer calls itself Sylvie.

The doll nods politely but does not offer its own name, which was never more than a designation of its capabilities anyway.

It was given a better name once, but that was one it didn’t deserve.

The doll reaches for the cup and misses. Its arm feels strange. Sluggish. Heavy. The doll adjusts its posture and feels the rest of its body feeling similar.

The strange tickling feeling spreads and intensifies, and it has to suppress a giggle.


“Oh!” Sylvie exclaims, immediately noticing the doll’s loss of coordination. “Is your medicine working already?”

“…are they doing…”

“I think it is,” another voice says, but the doll finds it hard to tell which one is speaking. “Look how slow it’s moving!”

“…to me?”

“Little friends spinning threads inside you,” Sylvie explains. “They’re gonna wrap up your springs and gears and whatever all cozy and soft so you can slow down and rest!”

It does feel easier to just stop. The tightness inside feels muffled and distant now.

It can’t help giggling a little at the relentless tickling. The doll feels a little silly, a little frivolous, and that feels okay.

Thoughts come slower and slower. The need to Move or Speak or Do slowly fades into a sea of soft, cottony nothing.

Hours pass. The tea grows cold while the doll sits motionless in its seat. It doesn’t mind. The other dolls don’t seem to mind, either.

After cleaning up, Sylvie and another doll carry it to bed with them.

The doll finds relaxation in their arms for the first time.