Fantasy, Home

Porcelain and Paint

Click.

Went the clock, gears grinding smoothly, softly as they went. A smile crossed the porcelain face of a young woman, auburn hair shinning under the golden light that fell like a curtain through the glass window. Despite the beauty of the day, not a soul passed her window.

Gloved hands set down tools that should have been far to heavy for one so delicate, shutting the door to the inner workings of the finished masterpiece. She wound a gilded key and clear and sharp, the clock sang.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

The craftswoman’s smile widened, and she raised her head to the darkened corner of her workshop, where the light stopped just at the brightly colored heels of her companion. The multicolored man brightened and smiled back, or at least, his elegant mask did.

The woman blinked, because she should, not because of anything the Jester did, before taking the finished product and placing it on a table with numerous others, immediately collecting a new piece and returning to her station.

A small silver music box.

The owner claimed it no longer made music as it should, and so gave it to the towns Maker to repair it. She would of course, without complaint, as quickly and efficiently as she did all things.

Today however, her mind was elsewhere. Such distraction did not keep her from working of course. Her limbs moved as if she were paying attention, even when she wasn’t. She’d describe such motions as mechanical, but her slender hands moved to fluidly; motions as beautiful and effortless as they day she was made.

She wondered about her friend, thoughts as steady as newly-repaired clockwork, and frowned, hands stilling. Lips pressed thin, she tried to twist and swirl her thoughts, tried to fight the monotony that ruled her mind, but alas, her efforts came to not.

Soon, far too soon in her opinion, she finished, and upon closing the music box, turned the key, and opened the lid. She paused, sweet tinkling music filling the air as a small ballerina danced as the gears spun. Forever stuck in motion, dead and cold even with and her bright smile and painted rosy cheeks.

The craftswoman’s hands twitched, and she shed her gloves, pressing her palms against the grain of the table. She breathed as the song played, warmth blooming in her chest as her friend’s deep baritone hummed along. Filling the hollowness of her veins, if only briefly.

“Why do you come here, Jester? There are no children to laugh. No adults to entertain.” She spoke. Voicing the question she had asked yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that.

“Because I want to spend time with you.” He replied, speaking the lines they had been repeating for years. Lines they had fought to have scripted. He tilted his head, dark hair spilling like a waterfall down his shoulder. When had he let it down?

Why?” She spat, tongue nearly bleeding as she forced the word from perfect crimson lips. She stopped, hands trembling as she clenched them against the wood. She fought and for a brief moment, she won.

“You’ve gone off script.” Her friend cackled, throwing his head back, the bells adorning his hat jingling loudly in the ensuing silence. “Ha, I knew today would be a good day.” He paused, smiling face suddenly pressed close, the nose of his mask almost touching hers. “But can you go any farther I wonder?”

Slowly, the Jester stepped back, bowed at the waist, and offered her one of his gloved hands.

She stared, eyes wide, limbs frozen, though still they trembled. She wanted…. Oh, she wanted to grab his hand, let him sweep her away, teach her to breathe, to live.

But no. Her moment was over.

She stretched out her hand, her freedom right there, and grabbed the tool next to him. A soft sob escaping her throat before she turned back, hands moving, returning to her never-ending work. No matter how hard she fought, she could not still her unnaturally graceful movements again.

The Jester sighed, hand falling as he rose, his form towering over her like the shadow of doom. Sometimes she wished he would act like one.

“Another day then.” He whispered, one hand ghosting over her cheek, catching the single tear that had escaped. He brushed her hair back, returning her to her pristine condition and left. As swift and quiet as a breeze.

Her heart beat hollowly in her chest, and the burning that had begun to build behind her eyes went out, like a fire doused by ice water, leaving her numb.

A numbness that would continue to devour her fragile soul even as she smiled and laughed and did her work as instructed.

Dancing on command like the Doll she was, as she would be, long after her Father—oh how she hated calling him that, her creator, her jailer— and beloved Jester had gone.

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