GILBERTINE & THE EXCHANGE (Volume One) — Chapter 1, 31 July 1964, “Black Pinocchio” (Part 4)

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In a corner opposite the dollhouse, on a throne-like pedestal large enough for a small child, sat a classically beautiful, exquisite Victorian porcelain doll.

Her hair was dark brown, her skin a dainty powder white. She was clad almost entirely in purple satin. As I looked at her, she opened her eyes and looked back at me. Then, she rose from her throne and opened her parasol.

A stairway descended from that pedestal to the floor; she slowly came down those stairs, carrying her parasol elevated in her left hand. With each step, she grew bigger, taller, her hair beginning to resemble human hair, her face human skin.

By the time her feet reached the floor, she was over four feet tall and appeared nearly human.

This wasn’t entirely new to me.

I’d had an adventure, of sorts, with a doll-girl before – but not like this. The last one had vacillated wildly between being a beautiful human girl and a barely human-looking doll. This one wasn’t quite as stunning, or alluring, but was lovely in a far more realistic way. And, rather than vacillate, she was consistently almost human.

Almost, but not entirely, and the discrepancy was rather unsettling.

Her head, covered in Shirley Temple curls, dripping like melting dark chocolate curlicues, was at least 10% too large to be proportionate to her body.



Her face was soft, heart-shaped, slightly chubby, as if it stubbornly refused to let go of her last bit of baby fat. Her expression was ingenuous. She’d a high forehead, a button nose, and two amber-brown eyes of a size and shape I didn’t think existed outside Keane paintings.

Wait – I had seen eyes like that outside Keane paintings once – but I couldn’t remember where.

A beauty mark rested a centimeter or so above and to the right of the upper right hand corner of her pouting bow mouth, The face had matured. It was no longer that of a little girl, but of a girl my age  Except for her skin: It was no longer porcelain powder white, but a creepily waxen, pale yellow, translucent alabaster.

There was an inquiring look in her eyes as she touched the tip of her parasol to her lips, then extended a gloved hand to me. Amused, I kissed it, lightly, my lips barely touching its surface, the way I’d seen old school gentlemen do in the movies.



It was only then I noticed that her cameo wasn’t one of the usual profiled faces: It was of a grinning skull, not in profile, but in full face.



I looked back at her face – it had changed too, as human – or inhuman – as before, but now nearly all of the baby fat was gone; it had now become more angular, her eyes sunken and shadowy.



She smiled strangely at me, and removed a glove, bringing the ungloved hand to my face. It was no hand of flesh and bone, but of wood – rotting wood. From within the decaying fingers. to my horror, skeletal, stiletto clawlike metal phalanges forced their way out, extending where the fingers should have been.




I stood motionless, too frozen in fear to move, my voice incapable of uttering so much as a sound, as the Doll-girl’s pointed, razor-sharp appendages closed in on my face, a centimeter from my eyes and getting nearer.

God help me! She was about to claw my eyes out!

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