The pile teetered on the shelf. Wrapped in plastic and held stiff with slabs of cardboard, they plummeted and crashed on the hardwood with a slap, slap, slap. The chandelier swung too as did his late mother’s prized porcelain doll, the one that gave him so many nightmares as a child and that he would swear took a bite out of his ankle on the 23rd of November 1977.
He was concerned about the comics most of all because with the pile went a full glass of sticky sweet syrupy soda, the kind that no matter how many protective coatings there were crept into the cracks, the seams, the pages.
He shot up from his armchair but was unsteady on his feet. The floor buckled and rolled as the tectonic plate shifted beneath him, a hiccup not felt in over seventy years. The glass spilled on his prized issues and in the process knocked over that doll.
He swore the doll, a brunette with long ringlets and a drop of what could only be described as blood on its chin, turned to him and mouth the words “you taste good” as she fell, freed from her glass case and landed on top of his prized Heliotrope Issue 9, the one that was worth almost what he owed on his car and had been waiting to sell and pay off that junk heap of metal.
The doll looked at him again then turned to the comic book and with tiny molded white fingers, managed to shimmy the issue out of its protective wrapper.
“If you let me have one more bite, I won’t,” she said.
She didn’t have to explain what he knew she was about to do: tear through the pages with her teeth, like tiny splinters of glass.
He gasped. “Wait. I’ll do it.”
The smile on her lips was wicked. The corners of her mouth turned up and the teeth shone through. She scooted across the puddle of soda and faced his ankle, reached down, and pulled down his sock.
The shaking stopped just then and his face relaxed when the pain didn’t come. He opened his eyes and saw her there, on the couch. He tried to move until he saw her smile, reached out a hand, and realized he was under a glass dome dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy with porcelain skin and a splash of red syrupy soda on his little dimpled chin.
Julie Jansen lives in Olympia, Washington where she spends the rainy days writing and plotting ways to sneak vegetables into her bonus children's meals. Her stories have appeared in The Harrow, Black Petals Magazine, and Nature: the International Journal of Science.