Posted in Challenges and Contests, Flash Fiction Pieces, Story a Day May Challenge, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom, Writing Samples

Still and Strange Story A Day May: Day Three

Still and Strange

“Marilyn? Are you in here?”

There’s no answer, only some faintly disturbing sounds coming from somewhere deeper in the house – Marilyn’s room, maybe? Ophelia listens, tipping her head to pinpoint where the repetitive sounds are coming from. This damned mansion is so huge and empty, it’s hard to tell.

Things echo.

It makes her shiver, but she doesn’t know why.

She takes a step. Listens. Takes two more. Listens. Pinpoints a likely doorway, and heads for it.

Yes. The sounds are more distinct; she can follow them through a vast room with wine-red walls and marble trimmings. It makes her think of an empty heart. She hurries through – she doesn’t like this space, or this house. But it’s where her sister lives –

And something about Marilyn’s message says that she’s in trouble.


And she’s all alone in this huge, hollow, house.

That makes Ophelia hurry. Room after room. She doesn’t pause to look; she just gets a faint sense of color, shape – and a uniform cold sterility.

Was this ever really a home to Marilyn?

She can hear murmuring now, along with that rhythmic noise. Short bursts of Marilyn – chanting? – and punctuations of heavy breathing, short and tight.

She’s getting close – but now her steps slow, and her heart is a too-large burden in her chest.

Ophelia needs to go to her sister. And she doesn’t want to.

Things are never easy with Marilyn. Everything’s got complications and land mines with no markers. Every word and breath might bring disaster.

“They call him the Doll Maker.” That’s what Marilyn’s chanting, sing-song, and yet somehow flat. Hollow, like this damned mansion that looms in from all around. “They call him the Doll Maker.”

Ophelia reaches a door. It’s cracked open. Marilyn is inside.

So is whatever today’s trouble is.

“They call him the Doll Maker, Doll Maker, Doll Maker.”

Ophelia pushes the door open. The room is huge, but crowded with tacky furniture, like what people might put out free on the road, or shove into their basements.

Marilyn is on a battered and ugly plaid couch, her back to the door, long golden hair snarled and stringy, but still shining in the gloom.

Rapunzel, Ophelia thinks, for no reason, and reminds herself that this isn’t a fairy tale. This is her sister, and she’s in trouble.

Marilyn is moving rhythmically, and still chanting about the Doll Maker. Is it a song she’d learned as a little girl?


“They call him the Doll Maker, Doll Maker, Doll Maker.”

Ophelia edges closer. She sees a pile of something soft, and something glinting in Marilyn’s hand as she raises and lowers it.

And she sees the gallon of orange juice, half gone.

That tells her Marilyn is tripping – something she should probably have already guessed, by the flat chanting.

She isn’t going to get a coherent answer. Marilyn never trips halfway – even now that she’s pregnant. Ophelia’s tried to talk her out of it. Marilyn’s tried to stop, again and again.

She’s trapped. In this hateful house. In her addictions. In the pain that causes them.

Ophelia hates that more than the house. What did her father do to Marilyn, when he ran off to be with her own mother?

“They call him the Doll Maker, Doll Maker, Doll Maker.”

He broke her, that’s what.

Ophelia edges around. Marilyn is hacking at a pile of what looks like Raggedy Ann dolls with a pair of scissors. Her hands are bleeding.

And her swollen belly is so close to those blades!

Ophelia gets closer, sits on the edge of the bed. She waits, breath stopped, until Marilyn lifts the scissors again, then reaches out and gently cradles her sister’s hand.

Marilyn blinks. “They call him the Doll Maker, Ophelia.”

“I know.” Truth is, though, she doesn’t. She doesn’t have a clue what to do to fix what their father broke. All she has is instinct, so she goes with it. “Tell me about him.”

“No one ever talks about it, but – shhh! It’s a secret!” She goes still and strange, then points at the mass of mutilated ragdolls with her free hand. She whispers, “They all have the same face. Every. Single. One!”

What’s happening in Marilyn’s mind?

Is it related to her past?

Will Ophelia be able to help her?

Any guesses?

Come back tomorrow for another installment, and we can explore this new story seed together!


I am myself. I own my life, and live with three other people who own theirs. My intention is to do only those things that bring me joy, and to give myself wholly to those things I do. Writing has been my passion throughout my life, and this will become the home for my writing life...because it brings me great joy!

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