Terri, with an i

The Witch of Forgotten Sounds (such an unwieldy title! She preferred to go by “Terri, with an i”) woke to find a doll in her bed.

An everyday occurrence for many witches, of course, but Terri made a point of not keeping dolls (“they're always so busy, I can't stand it!”).

She didn't scream.

Witches are made of better stuff than that.

Instead she carefully untangled the doll's limbs from her own, slipped out of bed, and stepped into her screaming room (a converted closet) to scream herself hoarse.

She had good lungs, so it took a while.

By the time she was done the doll had also woken up, and so when she finally cracked open the door of her screaming room to peek outside (doing her best not to let any of the jackets she kept there flow out around her), she found that her bed was empty.

Perhaps, Terri wondered, perhaps—was it just a dream? A nightmare? Was she actually awake, or still dreaming? Perhaps she was not a witch at all but a lesser creature dreaming, and perhaps she did not exist at all—

She slapped herself as hard as she could manage.

Besides, she could hear Noises Happening in her tiny kitchen. The sizzle of a frying pan and the beep of a timer, the burble of water filling a pot, even the warm nuttiness of hot butter …

Such lovely sounds!

And such a good incentive not to get lost inside her head.

Because there was a DOLL IN HER KITCHEN, doing goddess-knows-what with the (admittedly extremely scant) contents of her fridge, poking its little nose in where it was not meant to be! And such a state of affairs could not be allowed to continue!

Terri was absolutely ready to give the doll a good talking to when she walked into the kitchen. She really, truly was.

But …

How do you give something a talking to when it's just handed you a plate of the most delicious omelet you've ever heard? Really, how?

The doll wisely waited until her mouth was full to cheerily say “good morning, miss! I hope you slept well.” Terri was already smiling at the feeling of all the omelet's delicious sounds filling her mouth and dissolving on her tongue, so she couldn't help but smile in reply.

And when she was done with the omelet there was a cup of morning tea for her to drink, and then there was the sparkling sounds of her morning shower heated to precisely the right temperature, and then she was getting dressed and walking out the door—

She was just in time to catch her bus, and it was only as the crowded thing shuffled its way down the street and Terri swayed back and forth in the polyp field that filled its innards that she really started to wonder what the fuck had just happened.

It was baffling.

The next few days proceeded in much the same manner. The doll (definitely not her doll) was as busy as ever a doll has been, and somehow conspired to never quite give her a chance to really talk to it, and somehow seemed to perfectly know her preferences and desires.

It was just … she wanted to scream! At the doll, not at her screaming room!

She just.

It just wouldn't give her a chance to!

Well, not until the weekend, anyway. Not until she had a day when she didn't need to do anything, when its machinations couldn't keep her busy.

But even so, they were walking along the lake by the time she finished the last of the blintzes (delicious little cylinders full of echoing warmth and the subtle songs of fruit) it had brought along for their walk and was finally able to really actually TALK.

After all that time you'd think that she'd be able to come up with something at least slightly eloquent, but the best she could manage was “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.”

“Yes, miss?” the doll replied.

“WHO ARE YOU?!”

“I'm your doll, miss!”

“That-that's not an answer!”

“I'm sorry, miss, but you haven't given me a name yet so it's all the answer I can give.”

The doll didn't sound at all sorry.

“I don't have a doll.”

“But I'm your doll, miss.”

“I … no! You're not! I don't even like dolls! They're so, so …”

“So what, miss?”

That was really the last straw for Terri; clearly talking wasn't going to work. So she just screamed.

It was a good scream. She wasn't the Witch of Forgotten Sounds for nothing, no matter how much she disliked the title. She filled her voice with so many things—

with the aching pain of twisting metal and the echoing cracks of newborn volcanos, with the death cries of forgotten krakens and the bellows of bloodcrazed dinosaurs; she screamed like the end of the world and the sun's seed hatching into life countless millennia ago

—and then she let it loose into the world.

After the last echoes of falling buildings faded, after the cracks in the sky stitched themselves closed and the sun uncovered its face and the only sounds where the whimpers of survivors and far-off sirens, she closed her jaw.

The doll was still standing next to her, entirely unscathed save for a few stray hairs.

“… what the fuck.”

“This one would be a poor servant if it were destroyed by its mistress's magic, miss.” It sounded so fucking smug. “It tries its best to be a good servant.”

Terri stared at it, and it demurely lowered its eyes. She could feel another scream gathering in her lungs, another outpouring of magic, but …

Well.

If that hadn't done anything, then another one wouldn't either. She could recognize that, even if she hated it.

And … well, it's not like it was making her life worse. If anything it was saving her time, streamlining all her tasks … and the food!

… maybe, Terri thought, maybe this wasn't that bad. Even if the doll somehow managed to smile infuriating just as she decided that.

“… we should get out of here before the cops show up. I don't want to have to pay damages again.”

“Of course, miss!”

“And you're not my doll. I'm just letting you stay with me because you're useful.”

The doll just smiled at her.

“… ugh, fuck it. Let's go.”