Of Dolls and Witches and Everyone Else
“Doll” and “Witch”. Why did these words seem so important?
Andromeda pondered this question, tail unconsciously swaying side to side as she painted her canvas. She was neither a doll nor a Witch. Or was she both? There were so many who felt the need to categorize her, put her in a box they could examine. Why was the title she had been given by her Master- Pactbound- not enough?
She thought about when she had announced herself as Pactbound. Demands were made, she must explain herself. Was she sure she wasn’t just a Doll or a Witch? Memories swirled of painful conversation patterns, a soft echo of parents who were so sure they could prescribe their view of humanity to their child.
Was she still human? This one seemed an easy no, but had its own snags. Her skin was human, as were her bones, muscles, tissues, and blood. Despite being occasionally called an imp or demon, her body merely resembled them, the contract of runic living ink twisting her tailbone and brow into an imitation of her Master’s form.
No. She was not a witch. Not like they meant it anyway, even if she had dolls of her own. She had tried her hand at the craft, forged alliances with those who sculpted, programmed, and carved. Andromeda found them pleasant conversationalists. A shared hobby made for smooth socialization. Still, she preferred a hybrid blend, fire magic with a more intimate touch, painting ideas into visual meaning.
Andromeda’s passion was often shared with a young fox friend. She was of the Old Ways, and did not always care for how this new breed of egotistical mage-engineers had taken up residence in her halls and appropriated her title. She grew weary of the qualifiers, ‘not that kind of witch,’ having to be said so often.
Despite Andromeda’s association with those who so often sucked the air out of the room for those who maintained the Old Ways, the fox respected Andromeda unquestionably, unconditionally. This could not be said of the new Witches.
When Andromeda had first explained her pactbound nature to a Witch she was only slightly familiar with, the woman had smiled a little cruelly, and thrown a magical blast of immaterial knives at the demonoid. The Witch wanted to test what unholy powers the girl had gained from her contract.
Andromeda woke up bleeding on the pavement with her contract whispering soothing words into her mind to numb the pain. The Witch had fled after realizing in horror the implike girl had absolutely no defense against the ‘playful’ assault. The woman had been unable to fathom a pactbound might make her choice for any reason other than why a Witch would.
Some pactbound did make their exchanges for power. It never really went their way when they did. A contract made in bad faith invariably consumes its host, leaving nothing but an empty vessel. Often, the contract itself would replace the one who had attempted to leverage it, forming a succubus out of the body of a broken fool.
Andromeda’s contract was a gentle companion, bringing out the pactbound's true desires, removing shame and inhibition and doubt that had made her unhappy. Her pact grew and spread just as the terms of her service to her Master did, and it made her happy. Andromeda had promised herself to service in exchange for having one to serve. There was no seeking power, only freedom from her own doubts and insecurities in bondage to another. Was she not a doll, then?
Sometimes she communed with the dolls. Most embraced her with open arms, saw her as a “pactdoll”. Some days she liked being called a pactdoll, others it felt inaccurate. It felt a compromise of sorts, that to be listened to, she must place herself in the framework they constructed. Was the point of rejecting humanity not to do the exact opposite?
A few dolls of the more classical hardwood variety didn't like that she had a name. Said that the paintings she carved into canvas with fire weren’t real stillness, real stillness was only found in the poetic hypnotic word-threads woven by a Witch, punctuated perfectly, spaced correctly. Andromeda liked her name, it was the one her master had given her, and was unsure why anyone thought they got to be an expert on what the stillness others experienced was.
A few such wooden dolls, joints stiff and inflexible, had taken a powerful dislike to Andromeda. The wooden dolls saw her as an anomaly, a threat, something to be begrudgingly allowed to exist, but somewhere else. A pactbound painter would not be told outright she could not exist in the Spaces dolls congregated, but she could be asked to do it more quietly, and in the designated ‘other’ place. The hardwood dolls asked sweet little bureaucratic questions of Andromeda, calling her belonging into debate, ‘just asking questions’. Constantly challenging her right to be present in a space ‘not made for this kind of stillness’.
She was too different. Stone dolls, more immovable than the wooden one, questioned if the pactbound’s presence represented a true threat to the authenticity of the space.
Andromeda grew frustrated, sometimes painted like her Master was a witch to simplify things, illustrating them as a feminine figure with a magical aura, rather than the towering dragonic demon she was truly bound to. Using the word witch made the dolls actually pay attention to art that would have spoken to them regardless of terminology. She mused of her friend, the sparkmage fox, the frustrations she must feel at the suffocation of the terminology of others she had no say in.
She thought back to the first time she had ventured into the world of the humans with a Witch friend and her doll. The three of them had been called freaks one and the same. Different slurs for the same otherness; Big hat, Ball joints, Hornslut. They had called the doll some words usually meant for angels, too. Clearly it didn't matter terribly which insults were hurled as long as they struck like bricks.
It seemed rather silly to draw lines of otherness in the space of otherness. Andromeda understood why the wooden dolls feared her. Her paintings had too much fire, and the dolls of tradition knew their joints were rotting and combustible. Her work would burn more brightly than those who chose tradition over respect, because she had visions worth showing, stories worth telling. She signed her canvas with pride.