This is a serial tale, with each section penned by one of three different authors (with a conclusion by the first author), extending the plot while drawing upon what has been written before. In song, this would be called a 'rondo'; here in print it's a wonderful way to collaborate and stretch one's "thematic wings".
I'm looking forward to future efforts like this – it was nifty seeing the directions my co-authors took from my initial premise.
[Originally posted to the stuckposing.com forum in 2001~2012, Ed.]
"Tara, would you just STOP whining? I got you just about the best job in the world and you find something to gripe about. You don't have to pretend to make nice for those bratty kids or their snooty moms," said the girl costumed as a Santa's elf, complete with pointed hat, red-striped tights and curly-toed shoes. There was a yellowish smear of what looked like baby vomit on her short green satin tunic.
Her blond-wigged friend looked much more elegant, clothed in a short low-cut cocktail dress, silvery nylons, and high-heeled shoes. A fluff of fur was draped around her bare shoulders. Her shapely figure was tall and lean, perhaps a bit too thin for some tastes. She looked absolutely gorgeous, as if she had just stepped out of a display window. In fact, she had. "I know, Judy, I know; it's just that my feet hurt... and the display periods seem longer every day," the living mannequin complained again.
"Quit. Your. Bitching! Please," Judy shot back, tugging at a wad of gum that some fiendish youngster had tucked into her curly hair. "All you have to do is stand around all day, not even lifting a finger I might add, and look pretty for the shoppers. Besides, you chose that job; you could have been an elf too."
"You know all that crimson clashes with my eyes..." Tara explained innocently.
"Clashes with your eyes! What kind of weak-ass excuse is that? You just saw a chance to get paid for doing nothing and you jumped at it."
"It wasn't just me. Mr. Saunders said I had the kind of look the store wanted; he actually suggested me for this position."
"Old 'handsy' Saunders? Has he felt you up yet, and then said it's all part of the job? He grabbed my ass while there were kids standing in line..."
"Come to think of it, he did help me out with my pose quite a bit. He wanted it to be perfect, he said."
"Bull puckey! He's got a thing about touching us when we can't do anything about it. Oh, crap... here he comes now."
A balding mid-thirties man with horn-rimmed glasses and a bad comb-over approached the pair, his eyes lighting up when he caught sight of Tara, but he avoided making eye contact with the elf. His voice was a nasal wheeze. "Ah, Miss Lee; I'm glad I caught you."
"I'll bet you are," muttered Judy just loud enough that he could hear.
He ignored the remark, with a raised eyebrow, concentrating on the blond beauty as his eyes drifted into her cleavage. "Word of your -ah, difficulties- has reached me and I think I have a solution that might work out excellently for everyone. Your being on display for our store is very appealing and I want to make things as pleasant as possible for you during your time here."
"Thank you; that's very thoughtful," Tara beamed. Beside her, Judy moved her lips as if to say 'Watch out' but didn't speak anything out loud. "How can you help my feet?" Tara continued, shifting her weight from one foot to another.
He produced a small metal box a few inches on a side with a couple of buttons and a dial on the front of it, cradling it in both hands for her to peer at like it was something precious.
"Um, ok. How is that going to help?" Tara asked, her smile fading slightly.
"One of our visual merchandisers found it years ago; claimed it was a working prop from some old TV spy show, said it could do amazing things. I thought it had been lost. Do you want to see it work?"
- - - - - - -
"Wait a second," Judy jumped into the middle of the conversation, "just what is that thing?"
"The guy who found it told me that it was some kind of hypnotic gadget that could put a person into a sort of trance for hours at a time." Saunders had begun fiddling with the controls on the device and his attention was divided unequally between it, Tara's cleavage and Judy's question, so that he was not really fully focused on anything in front of him. "I figure that if we can hypnotise your friend here, then we can take her mind off her poor sore feet so she can go back to her job and everyone is happy!"
He looked at Tara, who clapped her hands together and nodded, happy at the prospect of being relieved of her aching feet and then at Judy who shook her head and threw her arms up in resignation. She reasoned that if her friend was in some kind of trance at least she could be spared the indignity of being molested by this pervert and remembering the experience. Why, oh why did I take this job? she wondered, for not the first time.
"Okay then," Saunders shooed Tara back into the window where she had been contracted to stand as still as she was able to, mimicking a display mannequin, where she took her stance atop a small glass disk. "Let's see if I can get this thing working."
"Don't tell me you've never worked that thing before?" Judy asked, though she had a sinking feeling that she knew the answer already.
"Oh don't be so negative;" he already had the device pointed at Tara, "it can't be that hard to figure out... There, look!" Judy glanced over Saunders's shoulder and saw that he was pointing to a dial on the front of the small box. "They made it user-friendly, see. This dial's got easy to understand options for the kind of trance that you want to induce: Easter, Halloween, even X-Rated! There we go; we'll use this one titled ‘Festive Gift’!"
Without a moment more of hesitation, Saunders pushed the largest and most impressive button on the device (which he correctly assumed activated it) and watched in awe as a strange wave of...something emerged from the antenna on the top and flowed over Tara as she stood expectantly. The light formed a kind of cloud around the attractive young model, then seemed to be absorbed into her body as it dissipated.
At first nothing seemed to happen and Judy was about to let out a sigh of relief, to partner Saunders's sigh of disappointment, when something flashed for a second behind Tara's eyes before it was gone. She seemed unchanged, but unusually still.
"Tara," Judy waved a hand in front of her friend's blank unblinking eyes, "are you in there?"
"Oooh," Tara's voice was distorted and slow, as if it had been altered by some special effect, "I... feel... real funny... Why are you all moving... so faaast all... of a sud-den...?"
"She sounds like Barry White on dope!" Judy screamed at Saunders, "you moron, you screwed her brain up and she didn't have all that much to begin with!"
"Never mind her damn brain, look at her body," Saunders backed off a few feet to the side of the faux mannequin and was staring at the middle of Tara's back, "what in the hell is that?!?"
Judy followed his line of sight and gawped as much as he had when she spotted the huge metal key that materialized from between Tara's shoulder blades. The thing was jutting out of a smooth hole in her back and must have been a foot across. The hole was perfectly circular and there was no sign of blood whatsoever.
Tearing herself away from staring dumbfounded at the key, Judy tried to get her friend's attention again, but was stopped in her tracks by the sight of her face. Tara's smooth skin had become as pale as snow, save for two bright circles of red on her cheeks and the similar shade on her lips. A pair of lines had also appeared that seemed to run from the corners of her mouth to the edges of her jaw, as though her mouth were that of a puppet or doll.
Judy grabbed Tara's hands in time to feel the soft warmth of human flesh being replaced by the cold and smooth texture of porcelain and saw joints on her friend's arms appear like those she had seen on poseable dummies. She recoiled and thrust her friend's cold hands away as the joints moved in response to her efforts.
All the while her friend slumped further forwards until she was bent over almost double and remained totally still.
"You prick!" Judy rounded on Saunders, "what have you done to her?"
"I... I had no idea this would happen," Saunders began sweating and Judy realized that this time it was from panic and fear rather than arousal from staring at female colleague's bodies. "Why didn't you stop me!"
"Christ," Judy shook her head, "only four shopping days left to Christmas and now my best friend has been turned into a life-sized wind-up doll... what do we do now?"
"Well," Saunders replied, shrugging his shoulders, "we could always try winding her up?"
- - - - - - -
Before Judy could protest, Saunders turned Tara's key a few times. The clicking and clanking sound made Judy wince while she thinks, Tara are you ok?
I have been wound up, Tara thinks, time to perform. Tara straightens up slowly and begins to move about, rocking her right hand in back and forth like she is waving to someone. She moves gracefully in a circle, waving mechanically to everyone. She then bends over slightly, putting her hands on her knees, which helps Saunders forget his worries. He is now enthralled with his new toy. Judy tears her eyes away from what her friend has become long enough to see how he is leering at Tara.
Judy decides this has gone on long enough and moves between Tara and his hungry eyes. Tara has since made a full turn and is looking at Judy now, face-to-face. Tara's frozen smiling expression does not change as she looks through her best friend, and Judy can only stare in disbelief. "Tara?" She asks. Tara, mechanically and without changing her rhythm, states: "I am a wonderful toy; wind me up and watch me wave to those around me, spreading holiday cheer to all... Merry Christmas!" Tara then falls silent again. Judy knows her friend is gone and knows who to blame.
Turning around, she sees Saunders with the device still death-gripped in his bony hands. "Alright, Saunders," she demands, "You turn her back – right now – or I'll go to the police." Saunders, having lost his initial fears, says with cool confidence, "I don't think so. My store now has the perfect display for the holiday shoppers to see." His grin is greedy at best.
"Didn't you hear me, creep?" Judy steps up to him, closer now, yelling "Change her back!"
Saunders states matter-of-factly, "I only know how to operate this device one way; I'll have to see if my technical team can undo it." Before Judy can interrupt, he continues, "They will be in on Tuesday next, after the Christmas weekend. Don't worry; she's not going anywhere..." He looks back towards Tara lustfully once more.
Shaking her head in disbelief that her friend would be stuck like that all weekend, she points her finger into his face, "No deal; we'll get someone else. Working this thing can't be that difficult." She turns her back on him, walking away in disgust.
She takes two steps but then freezes in her tracks. What is that? Judy tries to walk, but she cannot. Every part of her is frozen; she cannot make the tiniest sound. Her eyes stare vacantly towards the exit door. Saunders appears in front of her view, the activation light flashing on the device in his hand. "There's always room for another animatronic, I think," he murmurs as he puts his hand on her motionless breast, feeling it hardening more and more with every passing second.
Judy tries to pull away, but her body isn't listening; her only thought is, I'm not going to be a toy! The room seems to spin around her as she finds herself changing her pose, matching Tara's, then freezing rigidly. Her insides stop their movements as they slowly become metal parts: gears and levers and springs. There is a itchy tickle at her back as a large wind-up key appears there. This is so --- she never finishes her thought as the transformation completes. Judy slumps over, inactive.
Saunders steps back, looking gleefully at his two new additions. All they need is new outfits, and they are good to go. He reaches for his cellphone, tucking the device under one arm, as he turns Judy's key. As she straightens up and rotates to mimic Tara's stiffly mechanical movements, he turns around, laughing.
- - - - - - -
"May the holidays bring you happiness and joy," the porcelain doll that was once Judy suddenly proclaims, bowing deeply as her jointed body mechanically follows a cam-driven path and her vacant eyes sweep across an imaginary crowd of onlookers. Saunders, briefly surprised, turns back towards the transformed girl and watches as she cycles through her pattern while the key in her back slowly turns. "May the holidays bring you happiness and joy..." she repeats over and over.
"Oh, WONderful; she's a doll and still won't shut up!" he practically giggles at her plight. "But, my lovely toys, you've already brought me happiness with your new forms and you'll give me even more joy when the season's over and I can take you both home with me..."
Judy is winding down; her movements slowing along with her words; she runs out of energy at the end of a cycle, managing to say "May the.. holidays bring... you.. happiness... and....." before she freezes in place with her hinged mouth halfway open.
"That's better," he sighs. "You look absolutely luscious that way; how about a kiss?"
Bending towards her still body, he plants a wet one on her hard red lips. The slight jar to her body is enough to coax one last action from her nearly unwound spring: "...joy!" she blurts, starting to rotate back towards her starting point, bumping Saunders unexpectedly.
Surprised, he jerks back with a gasp, then hears a 'thump' on the floor and turns to look. He'd forgotten all about the magical control device and it has slipped out from under his arm. As rotten luck would have it, the box lands on top of the buttons. With a click, a nimbus of strange light appears around the antenna, forming a cloud that moves towards him.
"No, blast it all!" he grumbles, reaching out to turn the box off, when he realizes his muscles are starting to stiffen in the magical glow. Too late, he turns away, trying to get away as the world around him speeds up and his body slows to a standstill just before straightening up into a rigid stance of attention as his right hand flattens and touches his forehead in a frozen salute. He cannot see his skin turning a tan flesh-tone of resin or plastic, nor the rosy dots that appear on his cheeks. This wasn't supposed to happen like... are his last unspoken words as the transformation overcomes his conscious thoughts. Unseen by his sightless empty orbs, the nimbus of light has been absorbed into his body. Saunders, too, has become a life-sized mechanical toy.
The magical light splashes across Judy's still figure at the same time, and seems to have the opposite effect. Her skin regains its original color and texture as the joints, levers, and key disappear from her body. Blood flows once more in her veins and her surprised voice gasps: "..the hell!" as she finds herself standing on her own two feet, in control of her body once more. "That was the strangest thing; did you..." she says to Tara before noticing her friend hasn't been restored to life as well. "I guess not, yet."
Judy then turns to the stiffly standing Saunders. "Hmm, what have we here? Looks like you got a taste of your own 'candy', perv! Now you're a toy-solder-doll, ready for the big parade diorama up on eleven. But where's your costume? We'll have to fix that!" she concludes with a grin, scooping up the magical control box carefully.
[& a Happy New Year to all from the Writer's Christmas Toybox]