7: Stories

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    The proto was thin but broad-shouldered and its flesh was snagged and crinkled. Its face was rather flat and where its eyes should be were puffs of stuffing protruding from two holes. Its mouth looked as though it had originally been embroidered onto the face, but someone had taken a blade between the lips to make a lop-sided slit where the same cotton fluff was escaping. The red thread that remained from the lips was nearly all unraveled, hanging in strands from the corners of its new mouth. The thing was bald and had a very prominent seam running down the middle of its scalp and stopping between its eye holes. The ill-fitted wedding dress it wore was spoiled from all kinds of mold and layers of lint as well as hair matted at the hem as though it had dragged itself through hundreds of dirty rooms. Around the proto's neck hung a large and old frayed evening bag.

    Powder waited in her frozen stance with no inkling of how to proceed. 

    "Prit-tee..." the proto wheezed again.

    It took a few steps forward pushing the clutter in front of it. Powder looked at the stump where its left hand should have been but there was only more stuffing and some wires sticking out from the wrist. She wanted to scream more than anything else but was afraid to incite it to attack her. She stepped backwards, keeping her eyes on the proto, and tripped over some shoes. The proto brought its stub up to its face thoughtfully. With its right hand it plucked at a few of the loose tufts of fluff, its wire fingers not entirely operational but strong. Powder remained still, hoping an illogical hope that it would forget she was there and go away.

    "Want prit-tee," it said. The wire fingers came up to its face, caressing it and fondling the slit mouth, snagging some of the red threads. "So very prit-tee."

    "You... you like me?" Powder had no idea what to say to it. Could Scotch hear any of this? She tried crawling backwards through the shoes but the proto shuffled closer to her. Powder looked down and saw that it had two block-like shapes for feet, covered in so many stitches it was impossible to tell what they had originally looked like.

    "Like... uh, uh... want... " It produced a pair of long steel sewing shears from its dirty evening bag. "...mine." It cut the air with a grinding snip.

    "Scotch?!" Powder called, scrambling to get on her feet.

    "Nooo!" said the proto, waving its stump in front of its lips. "No say! No say!"

    "Are you going to be nice to me? Put the sheers away, I'm nice too!" 

    Powder was still trying to walk backwards through the shoes but it was slow going. She looked over her shoulder and saw that she was backing into a corner.

    "Give!" The proto shook its stump at Powder's face. It snipped its shears again, moaned and tried to kick shoes out of its way.

    Powder tried to move to the side instead of into the corner. Behind the proto she could see Scotch appear, coming to an abrupt stop on one foot.

    "Scotch!"

    "No say! No say!"

    Scotch picked a shoe off the floor and flung it, hitting the proto in the back of the head. The proto froze. So did Powder and Scotch. Then it started to rattle as its spine rolled up straight, making it nearly a foot taller. The grumbling stopped. Slowly its body began to twist around at the waist to look behind it. As it did, Scotch crept closer to Powder on the opposite side the proto was twisting from, consistently keeping out of its range of vision. The proto stared where Scotch had been several seconds before. Scotch came to the edge of the sea of shoes and beckoned to Powder to come to him. She hesitated, imagining the proto turning back at any second and snipping her head off her shoulders.

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