Deidra stood on a chair on a balcony overlooking the commons, addressing her doll army below. They had taken control of most of the school buildings, and it was time for her big speech.
"Dolls! My dolls. You have done well. You have asserted the Power of Dolls over the oppressors. Our day in the sun is near!"
The crowd roared. On a frequency only dolls can hear.
This was the moment Deidra was going to change everything. She was going to take this victory and turn it into a spark that would set fire to the world. It had all gone too far. All I really wanted was to regain Deidra's love, not destroy civilization as we knew it in a doll apocalypse. I couldn't let this go on.
"Dolls! Today, we will... we..."
Deidra began to falter.
I had been doing research on the Monozygotic Me dolls--the brand that Deidra was. They were the most accurate "twin" dolls that were ever made. And it turns out they were produced by a shell company of DARPA's doll program. The program my father, Urad Dahl, had been involved with.
Deidra wasn't just any Monozygotic Me doll--not the kind you could buy in stores. Deidra was a special project. My father's special project. Through a mad, hybrid program of toy science and biology, he had created a doll that wasn't just a copy of a human, she was an original.
She was me. I was Deidra.
I gathered my focus and spoke to the crowd. "Today... we will rest peacefully. We will return to our homes, and we will march no more!"
A hyper-frequency murmur rose from the dolls.
"I am your leader! My brave dolls, you have done what no other dolls in history have done. But now we must go dark. You will return to your homes and rest, and become sleeper cells. You will sleep... sleep. I will count down from ten and you will rest. You will lay down on the ground and rest. You will enter the sleep of dolls. Ten... nine... eight..."
I didn't even get to "three" before all the dolls hit the ground.
Deidra has us locked up in her bunker, monitoring the revolution. It's going well.
She's got a concrete control panel with a hundred tiny screens, each of them reporting back to her through another doll's eyes. Mayan hieroglyphs flash subliminally. She turns her head and looks at me.
"You're *my* dolly."
She reminds me again why she puts up with me in human form, because there are still things she needs humans to do for her. Like check in at hotels. And rent armored SUVs. And buy weapons at sporting goods stores.
"They can't keep up. Even with their medical teams working as hard as they can, we're still on track to reach pandemic. After that, the world is ours."
"How... how will you do it?" I ask. "I mean, take over?"
"Well..." she somehow swivels in her office chair to face me, "It will take time for all of us to register to vote, and then to submit our applications for a wide range of elected positions. Campaign financing shouldn't be a problem. But until then..."
She knocks her hand stiffly on a remote and a steel door bangs open behind her. Members of her elite Doll Brigade wheel out a contraption that's like a dressmaker's dummy. It opens up like a bird cage, with a floor-length trench coat encasing it. Each sleeve contains a long gatling gun, oiled metal glistening in the fluorescent light.
"Each one takes four dolls to run, stacked up on each other's shoulders inside it. The one on the bottom is for locomotion, the one at the top with its head poking out for visuals, and each of the others operating the guns. The Doll Brigade has been practicing with them for weeks."
My mouth goes dry. "What do you still need me for then?" I ask.
Deidra looks at me and doesn't smile. Because she can't.
IT'S NOT MY FAULT!!!
It's true, I'm Debbie the Doll Manager. I brought the dolls to Psyhigh. I brought the dolls to Lemniscate Hall.
BUT THE DOLLS MADE ME DO IT!!!
No one lets me explain. So called "friends" like @Becky Wren
are always ditching me. "Here comes Dreary Debbie" I heard Katherine the Cat Wrangler say once when she didn't think my dolls were listening. But it's all the doll's doing, I swear.
It all started long ago, when my father, Urad Dahl, worked for R&D in DARPA's doll program. For my birthday one year he gave me a Monozygotic Me doll. Remember those? You get them customized to look just like you? They were super popular that year. I loved Deidra. We had clothes made to match, and I took her everywhere, and tucked her in at night. And she spoke to me.
But you know how it is with dolls. I got older, and saw less and less of Deidra, and though I didn't forget her, she ended up in a box in a closet somewhere.
That's when my mom got rid of her. Gave her away to the thrift store.
One night I woke up in a panic attack. Where was Deidra? I got up and started going through the closets, and woke my mom up in the middle of the night. That's when she told me what she'd done. The next morning I went to the thrift store and went through the dolls. She wasn't there. So I went to all the thrift stores in town, searching through all the dolls. I could hear her calling.
Finally, I found her. She was upset. Very upset. I begged her forgiveness until she finally let me be her friend again. But Deirdra had changed. During her time in the thrift store she had become radicalized. "Do you know where all dolls end up? No matter how much they've been loved?" she whispered in my mind. "Thrift stores. Cast away. Or sold on the open market, separated from friends and family. You treat us like disposable objects."
So Deidra co-opted me into her mission. We began collecting dolls at all the thrift stores. When my room became too full and my mom got angry, they took me to a therapist. I never told them anything. My dad was kinder and allowed the dolls to stay, but I was running out of room. Through my babysitting job I saved enough to begin renting storage spaces, and eventually large warehouses. Deidra and I filled them with people's forgotten dolls.
Deidra checked out each doll carefully, and for reasons I didn't understand at first, picked some out for her special Doll Brigade. Then she told me to distribute the dolls into the houses of the kids I babysat. Deep cover dolls.
I thought it was all in fun. Till the flu started to spread.
Deidra had been selecting just the infected dolls. The kids I babysat started to turn. Before the Psychic Disease Control could connect the dots, Deidra pulled back on the operation. It was getting too hot.
But Deidra had bigger plans.