Fungal Halo

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Song And Dance

As long as I’ve been here, Miss has always been something of a scavenger. Head of a diminished house, she makes her forays into the world in search of suitable replacements for what this place has lost.

Though she used to build us herself, I’m taught, before the heartbreak of loss became too great to bear.

So she finds the lost, aimless, and broken ones that have some use left in us. She repairs us when necessary, brings us home, and thereby replenishes the house. Of those she once crafted personally, only Dahlia remains, and we all answer to her when the Lady is away.

The latest bit of salvage is called Song, and she’s a terribly odd one. A little extra broken, perhaps, and not in the way that Dahlia likes to break us in. She is dreadfully slow in the completion of her chores, and too cheerful by half, even when punished for tardiness!

When loaded with extra chores? Song smiles and thanks Dahlia. When given impossible deadlines to complete them? She nods as though in understanding and continues working at the same plodding pace, oblivious to the clock as the deadline comes and goes.

And what an easily distracted thing she is! We send her to sweep the front walkway, then later catch her interrupting her work every few steps to scoop up each bug she encounters, gently escorting them to the garden.

Or the dancing! That should have been her namesake, since she’s no good at singing. I’ve personally caught her taking a break from raking leaves to practice some silly, unfamiliar dance, swinging her arms in strange, wide arcs and hopping from foot to foot.

I yell at her to get back to work, naturally, and she just smiles at me with that slow, simple grin of hers and resumes her work without even a trace of proper contrition after being caught slacking off! Needless to say, I always report such dereliction of duty.

She doesn’t even have the shame to act embarrassed when Dahlia shoves her to her knees and puts her useless tongue to work in front of the rest of us, but it seems she serves adequately in that regard, judging by Dahlia’s soft vocalizations. At least Song has that one talent.

On one dark day when the reapers return—as we’ve all known they must eventually—it’s Song that greets them at the front gate. Four of them: combat dolls belonging to Miss’s great enemy.

Poor, stupid thing. She was told to run, to hide, if she ever spotted them. Yet she forgets that lesson as easily as all the others.

Dahlia screams for Song to get away. Despite everything, we’re all in her care, and the Lady’s last remaining creation risks herself in a reckless sprint to grab and rescue Song.

She’s unable to cross even half the distance to her charge before the sharp crack of a gunshot pierces the air.

I can’t bear to look. I can’t bear not to look. I peek from the bushes to see whether Song or Dahlia is the first of us to be broken this time.

Dahlia remains standing, still and stiff as the day she was made. Song also stands, striking one of her favorite dance poses, one arm lifted so that the back of her hand nudges the reaper’s gun arm just slightly up and away from aiming true.

Then I watch her continue her dance.

She curls her fingers around the wrist of her surprised dance partner and twists its arm until it pops out of place. With a smooth sweep, her other hand passes through the reaper’s arm, shattering it to pieces. She swivels her hips and the combat doll falls to the ground.

I recognize these dance moves from all those times I caught her playing instead of working, but I never noticed how she flows like water from one pose to another, nor considered what she’d look like dancing with another.

These are combat dolls, though! Made for killing and only killing! It shouldn’t matter how fancy your dance moves are when they have guns, or knives for hands, or can topple stone walls with a single punch!

Still, they’d have to hit Song first, and they don’t seem to know her dance well enough to catch her. Wherever they swing an arm, she’s already somewhere else.

One of them trips and falls over an elegant sweep of her leg. Another collapses after her palm smashes its head in.

They look so clumsy next to her, trying and failing to surround her, dropping their weapons when she taps an arm, falling over when she catches a fist and twirls them around.

Soon there are only two still moving. Then one. Then none.

I can hardly believe the threat is over. I don’t know what to do. Should I leave my hiding spot? Should I get back to work?

Dahlia is the first to move, approaching Song, looking her over to make sure she isn’t damaged, and then giving her a great big slap across the face.

“What is wrong with you?” she yells. “I told you to run and hide when you see reapers!”

Song smiles and nods and apologizes like always while Dahlia, shaking with some emotion I don’t recognize, continues to scold her harder than I think I’ve ever seen her scold any of us.

It ends the way everyone expects, with Song on her knees between Dahlia’s legs.

Ideal outcome, I think. Everyone is still intact. Everyone still knows her place.

Time to do my job and clean up the mess.