Mason’s Centre City department store is one of the last remaining ‘Grand Dames’ of retail; over 100 years in existence, occupying its entire downtown block, the multi-story edifice tenders exclusive goods and services of an almost limitless variety contained on high-ceilinged sales floors and within intimate ‘stores within the store’ where fine furniture, bridal garb, and delicate lingerie are offered. Here, too, are their elegantly designed, intricately styled, and pleasingly presented display windows and dioramas, where stunningly life-like mannequin figures model the wares being shown.
Holiday time is an especially special season at Mason’s, when their famous Christmas Pageant occupies almost the entire store, the giant tree is unveiled in their rotunda, and their windows are made over into a fantasy snow-covered wonderland of Santa and his magical factory as final preparations are made for his annual ride to bestow presents upon children of all ages.
It is within one of these windows that this story begins, behind the thick night curtain in the dark and shadowy volume of a make-believe workshop where two mechanical elf figures stand motionless; deactivated along with the halogen lights when the display is shut down at night.
Once these two had gone by the names of Jackie and Stacey; now they only had inventory tags on their shapely bodies. In some sense, the years had been good to them: they had not aged a day since that fateful Halloween, while their figures and faces have since had many makeovers to follow the changing tides of fashion; both now sported the popular long-legged ‘supermodel revival’ look. On the other hand, the two girls were now only hollow fiberglass caricatures of their once-living selves who possessed neither mobility nor freedom.
Around the stroke of midnight, a glimmering point of brilliant light appears in the darkened diorama, casting hard shadows from the elf figures and the heaping load of toy presents they had been passing back and forth every moment the display was powered on. Unable to blink, the two puppet elves stare at the blue-white light as it grows and brightens into a miniature sparkling star from which the figure of a mature woman dressed in a sparkling blue ball gown coalesces. She looks to be in her late fifties and has a diamond tiara in her blue-tinted coiffed hair; the apparition holds a silvery wand with the sparkling blue star forming its tip.
One touch from the wand on each of the elves was all it takes; they begin moving again as the lights in the display come on and the stream of wrapped presents resumes its circular procession around the fairytale toyshop. The one known as Jackie turns stiffly, bends over to pick up one boxed gift with a huge ribbon and bow. Turning to one side, she hands the gift to the Stacey-elf, who in turn places it on a moving conveyor belt that carries the packages out a portal marked “To Sleigh”, then she turns back in time to take another package from the Jackie-elf in an endless loop of repetitive action. The blue-tinted woman watches for a few cycles before clearing her throat with a very ladylike “Ahem”.
“You know, you don’t have to do that any longer?” she suggests to the two mechanical puppets, who in that instant look more like two living girls dressed in elf costumes than painted plastic display figures.
“Huh?” gasps the Stacey-elf as she stands upright, turning further towards the blue-gowned woman than her mechanism had allowed before. This causes her to miss the next package being passed by the Jackie-elf; it falls to the ground at her feet.
“Hey, you shouldn’t…” gripes the Jackie-elf as she turns back to fetch another package before realizing that she has just spoken. After a moment of surprise she, too, straightens up and turns towards the sparkling older woman. “Wait a minute… what did just you do to us?”
“Come over here for a minute, young ladies,” the woman suggests, ignoring Jackie’s question. “Let me have a look at you.” Jackie feels compelled to do as she had asked, as does Stacey.
Both girls have been made up as Santa’s elves, but in a style that is far from the traditional woodcuts, as both look more like showgirls than humble servants of the Christmas spirit. Their green-hued vest-and-pleated-skirt costumes are short, tight, and show a lot of cleavage in their bodices, with just the hint of their aureoles peeking over the plaid fabric of their ‘vest’s, which are fact laced bustiers. Their long slim legs are wrapped in peppermint-striped hose and both stand in high-heeled ankle-top red boots. Matching plaid cuffs and collars wrap around their wrists and necks, while red-green elf hats with bells on the tips are perched in their fluffy, flowing, hairstyles. Their painted faces have been made up extravagantly, with dark eyeliner, mascara, and long lashes; their cheeks are especially rosy and their lipstick is a deep crimson. The only concession to tradition seems to be their pointed elf ears.
“Tsk, tsk; my, how times have changed!” The older gowned woman fusses, looking the two dazzling beauties over. Jackie and Stacey have no idea what she was talking about, since in their revived memories they’ve always looked this way. “Well, no matter,” the woman concludes with a wave of her hand. A cloud of blue sparkles envelops the two elves for only moments; when it vanishes, so have their outlandish costumes and appearances. They are now dressed in the same clothes they had been wearing when working in the dress boutique.
Jackie is the first one to recover her wits. “Who are you and what’s going on? Is this another of Damon’s sick little tricks? And what’s SHE doing alive, too?” she spat the last with an especially venomous glare at Stacey, who returns the poisonous look.
The older woman smiles as if she’d not heard Jackie’s outburst, and states, “You two have been treated quite unfairly in past times, not only by my associate Damon, but also, I’m sad to say, by a representation of my being. In this time of benevolence, charity, and forgiveness I’d like to make some small amends.”
“Wait a minute—“ Stacey blurts, just as Jackie opens her mouth. “You’re saying you’re God?”
Another beatific smile. “That token is one of my many names, along with ‘Santa’, ‘Torngasak’, ‘Ahu’, ‘Tengri’, and the ‘Blue Fairy’ though I much prefer the one you call ‘Mother Nature’ these days, what with all that is happening to this world.”
This revelation quiets down the girls’ impertinence several notches, though the two remain more than suspicious of one another.
Jackie tries a different tack. “How can we serve you, then?” she asks with only slightly feigned humility.
“Oh, pish,” the woman chuckles, “That’s not going to do you any good either; besides I’ve already said you are the ones that deserve my generosity, not the other way around.”
“You can do that?” Stacey wonders, still letting the ‘God’ part sink in.
“Who else?” said with another smile.
“Oh…” Stacey finally figures it out.
“You’re giving us back our lives, then?” Jackie cuts to the chase.
“Unfortunately, no,” the older woman replies; she seems to fade and sparkle less for a moment. “that bokhesh Damon really twisted your existence into a knot. Your previous earthly forms have gone… away; any memories of your past lives are now erased by the ripples of time.”
Jackie bristles, “What kind of a god are you that…”
Stacey nudges her former friend. “Psst – don’t make her angry!”
“That’s all right, little one; no need to worry,” the woman’s smile returns. “For what I’m asking of you goes beyond the flesh and stone of simple reality and will be far more rewarding to the essence of your mutual being. You will become my… ambassadors… of good will to others.”
“You mean, like angels?” Jackie asks, while Stacey looks on warily. Her friend had posed as an angel before and all it had gotten her was to be frozen into a mannequin once again.
“Not in the ecumenical sense; no wings or white robes, either. Simply, your positive spirits.”
“I can do that!” Stacey affirms.
“Let’s say I agree; what happens then?” Jackie asks more warily.
The sparkling woman brings what looks like a large snow-globe from behind her back (where it was before that, we’ve got no clue) and holds it out between the two girls. “Put your hands on this, and you will commence upon your journey.”
Stacey has bought in. “Okay, see ya!” she says in salutation as she grasps the globe. Another cloud of sparkles envelops her; when it disappears, Stacey is gone as well.
“Where’d she go?” Jackie asks, warily.
“A place where she is needed,” the older woman replies obliquely. “What of yourself?”
“Suppose I say ‘no’?” Jackie bargains.
“I would be disappointed, but this is no test, only a path towards my renewal. You know your future in the alternative.” The older woman angles her head towards the workshop diorama only a few steps away and Jackie sees the spot where a mechanical elf figure should be posed.
Jackie sighs, then puts her hands on the globe. As the sparkles surround her and the window set seems to dissolve, her last sight is of the smiling face of the Blue Fairy.
* – * – *
After a moment of disorientation, the sparkles clear and she’s in a place from her memories; walking back from school on a crisp autumn afternoon. Her breath fogs the air; she feels the heft of her wool coat and the weight of her backpack book bag.
Jackie glances around for a moment, surprised by the scene as much as by the fact that she looks the same way when she was about to graduate high school. She wonders what else has changed at about the time she notices another girl walking about fifty feet in front of her. There’s a twinge of recognition and curiosity; what is this place?
Picking up the pace, she calls out to the other walker, “Hey, wait up!”
The other girl turns around; Jackie recognizes Ashley Palachinko, a snooty classmate of hers. “Who says I want to be seen with you, will-less?” is her snarky reply. Nevertheless, she slows her steps until Jackie catches up.
“Whatever you think I did to you; I’m sorry,” Jackie offers, not really knowing what is going on.
“So, the next time you go off to Mexico with your skanky friend Stacey, you’ll invite me too?” the other girl shot back.
“Uh, sure, Ash. Is that’s what got you so steamed?”
“Yeah, and this stupid prom dress that boutique where you work sold me. It doesn’t fit, and after I told that geezer I was a perfect two!”
Jackie smiled and nodded, while thinking, in your dreams, a two maybe! Her classmate was probably optimistically a size four and honestly more of a six. Ashley was pretty, athletic, and had a nice figure, but she had always thought of herself as wanting to be more like the models in the magazines and on TV. “I see…” she replies.
“So, I’m heading back there to give them a piece of my mind and get all my money back, along with some extra for pain and suffering. You didn’t have to spend the whole prom stuffed into your mother’s shaper girdle. I could barely breathe!” Ashley seethes.
“OK, you want some company? Maybe I can put in a good word for you with Mr. Damon,” Jackie suggests.
“Yeah, right; why weren’t you there earlier to get me your employee discount?” Ashley snaps back.
Jackie now recognizes where and when they are. Heading towards the dress boutique, three blocks away. Ashley said she’d been to the prom, about a month after Halloween. Senior year; the same year she and Jackie decided to pull a trick on their boss…
“Sorry; I would if I could have,” Jackie mumbles as the pieces fell into place, Except that I’d been turned into a mannequin along with Stacey by then, her memories filled in the events. “Hey, Ashley, what say you forget about getting your money back. Let bygones be bygones…?”
“The hell with that; we’re almost there after walking all this way in the cold. You’re not going to help me out?” Ashley turns the next corner, walking faster now. The boutique is located just in the next block.
“I’ve got some extra saved up; let me pay you back instead for the dress,” Jackie bargains, almost running to keep up.
“Don’t be silly – the boutique owes me, and they’re going to pony up, with extra, or else!” Ashley says conclusively.
Jackie knew now what had happened – was going to happen – to get Ashley transformed into another display figure. They’d reached the sidewalk outside the boutique; Jackie could see through the front window to the inside of the store where a pair of mannequins, one looking remarkably like herself, posed rigidly in a floor display.
“Please, no, Ashley. You don’t know Mr. Damon; he’s not going to give you your money back, ever. He’ll find some way to twist the situation around,” Jackie pleads, standing in front of the entrance. Like turning you into a size-two mannequin so that dress will fit your figure perfectly… “It’s not worth it.”
“No? He’s that much of a hard-ass?” Ashley considers.
“You don’t know the half of it, believe me,” Jackie replies, trying not to say too much, not knowing if this intervention was going to cause some kind of paradox. “Besides, I know for a fact they sometimes get undersized dresses from overseas; it’s probably less than a two, even.”
“Think so?” Ashley said, holding up the dress to her figure. The garment still looked small.
“Sure. Besides, it’s a gorgeous color and cut. That’s why you picked it; you’ve got excellent taste and style,” Jackie compliments.
“Yeah; you’re right about that,” Ashley agrees, smiling.
“I’ll bet if you worked out extra, you could easily fit into it by spring formals,” Jackie ventures, skating onto thin ice.
“As if I need to!” Ashley returns, thinking Maybe I can – that’ll show ‘em!
“You’re right, don’t worry about it for now. Save yourself the hassle,” Jackie adds to the suggestion, thinking, Jedi mind trick…
“Besides, it’s not like this is my money; Daddy bought me this dress; he’ll just buy me another. Maybe we can stop by Mason’s instead; I heard they’re having a sale on costume jewelry?” Ashley suggests.
“Sure, let’s go,” Jackie agrees with a sigh of relief as they turn away from the boutique and a fateful encounter for Ashley. Minutes later they arrive at the opulent department store and make their way up to the women’s floor. Unusually for the season, not yet Thanksgiving, Jackie notices a snow-globe sitting in a nimbus of light in the knick-knack section. Letting Ashley forge on ahead, she picks it up and sees the little snowflakes seem to surround her as the scene fades out into whiteness.
* – * – *
Stacey looks up as the swirl of sparkles clears and sees that she’s in a wintertime scene; the few snowflakes drifting down from the sky seem like they may have escaped from the globe, but they’re real. She catches one on her tongue; it’s cool and tastes almost sweet. The snow hasn’t been falling too long; there’s only about an inch on the ground that her boots are leaving tracks in, reaching back along the sidewalk as far as she can see.
Now, then, where exactly am I? she’s thinking, just as she comes up to a flight of steps leading to the ornate oak doorway of an old brownstone apartment block. Seemingly on impulse, she skips up the steps and looks at the directory. Something in her makes her press the button for 6E marked with the name “J. Rubin”.
A few seconds later, a man’s voice comes over the intercom: “Who is this?”
She hesitates, unsure, then decides to just be herself. “Hi; I’m, ah, Stacey. Stacey Dubrowski?”
“Ah, good. I’ve been waiting. Come on up and let’s get going!” he replies; a moment later there is a buzz as the door unlocks. “Oh, and take the stairs; the lift is on the fritz…”
Wondering why she hadn’t pressed 1A instead, Stacey trudges up the stairs, leaving a trail of wet footprints for the first few flights. Coming eventually to 6E, a door at the end of a hallway with a faded-looking wreath on it, she doesn’t see a bell so she knocks. Moments later, the door opens into a much larger space than she’d imagined. Top floor flats were all lofts, with skylights and clerestory windows, though at night all she can see are grey clouds being lit up by the city below.
‘J Rubin’ turns out to be a thirty-ish man with tousled brown hair and a spotty goatee, wearing a gray-smeared dark tee shirt and similarly messy denim jeans. Upon seeing her, he smiles.
“Come on in, Sally.”
“Uh, that’s Stacey,” she corrects him, stepping into the warm apartment. It’s actually almost hot, unusual for the season. The next thing she sees is a life-sized clay figure of a lithe woman, posed in a way that Stacey was all too familiar with. “I’m your… model?” she’d almost said mannequin.
“Yup, but I gotta thank your agency. You’re just about perfect for what I have in mind; much better than the last few girls they sent over.”
“They, er, aim to please,” Stacey replies, not quite sure what to say. “I see you’re sculpting display figures?” she comments looking over at the clay statue, then notices there are two more still figures in the shadows, covered with clay-smudged visqueen sheets.
“Right on, Stace,” he comments cheerfully, “but that’s just to pay the rent, y’know. You’re going to be something special – my Galatea!”
“Galatea? And, please call me Stacey.”
“OK, right, Stace. Anywhoo, Galatea was a statue in a Greek myth that came alive for the dude who was sculpting her, Pygmalion. That’s ‘cuz he had the hots for her I guess, and the gods took pity, blah, blah, blah. Whatever. I’m doing her figure for an art school thesis.”
“Stacey…” Stacey says with some chill in her voice.
“Got it. Just as long as it’s spelled right on your release, okay?” He scribbles her name down on the many-times-copied form then waits for her to sign. “Good; now that that’s out of the way, doff your duds and let’s get started.”
Stacey takes a moment to translate in her mind. “You want me to undress?”
He chuckles. “That’s what I just said, Stay-ceee. Didn’t the agency tell you this was a nude gig?” His eyes are already getting ahead of her actions.
“Yes, they did,” she fibbed, then started to remove her clothes, starting with her scarf and outer garments. If standing frozen into a plastic statue and posed in displays for who-knows-how-long has taught me anything, it’s tolerance for having people gazing at my naked body, she reflects ruefully. “It’s just I thought we’d have a chance to talk a little before I modeled.”
“Oh, yeah; chit-chat; that’s cool,” he replies, trying to be friendly while watching her pull the knitted sweater over her breasts. “Where, ah, you grow up?”
Stacey realized she had no idea where or even when they were at. “Forget it; let’s just get the session over with,” she replies, a little impatiently as she unsnaps her bra and slips her panties down her legs, kicking them a short distance away nonchalantly.
“Woah!” he blurts out upon seeing her fully naked, then blushes slightly, trying to regain his composure. “Why don’ ya, ah, step onto that canvas and I’ll smear the clay on you?”
“You’re gonna be Galatea, remember? Statue, comes to life? Well, I’m doing you half-way, so part of you is still in stone, and the rest flesh and blood.”
“Right; that part I know,” Stacey agreed, thinking, how is this helping me or that damn goddess?
“See, the stone part hasta look, hmm, stony, and so I cover you with slip on the legs and, ah, middle torso beforehand. It’s my process, see?” he explains, hesitantly, letting her fill in the blanks.
“Fine,” she replies, not really feeling fine but also willing to let the experience play out. “Go ahead; don’t let my modesty get in the way of your art,” she comments sarcastically.
“No problem, then,” he says with a smile, completely missing her tone. “This’ll feel cold at first,” he comments, taking a handful of grey liquid from a nearby bowl and rubbing it on her skin, starting with her feet.
“Oohh, it does!” Stacey chuckles, with a little bit of a giggle. Might as well enjoy yourself, she thinks.
He works his way up her legs quickly, his hands confident in their movements, but hesitates upon reaching her smoothly hairless crotch. Becoming gentler, he starts patting the liquid clay on her body instead of smearing it.
“Don’t lose confidence now, big guy,” Stacey says playfully. “You’re just getting to the good parts!”
“OK, then, let me know if you feel, uh, uncomfortable,” he replies, hesitant for the first time.
“Sure will, mmm,” she purrs, feeling more aroused than uncomfortable at his light touches. “Don’t…. stop….”
He finishes the clay just below her navel, diluting the slip so that it fades out in a smooth transition to her bare skin. “All done, Stace; now step carefully up on that pedestal – use the step – and I’ll pose you,” he concludes, his confidence returning.
“Got it; what do you want to see?” she complies, taking slow steps to get into position on the small, foot-high podium.
“Classical Greek; weight on one leg, opposite arm over your head. Pretend you’re holding one of those urn-things. That’s right, look up a little more into the distance. That’s right,” he prompts her. “Great; now, hold it!”
Stacey is about to agree when she realizes she’s completely frozen and can’t move a muscle. Her thoughts echo, NOW I know why she picked me for this task…
“Doin’ good, Stace; just keep holding still like that…” he encourages, not noticing she’s become statue-like already. Uncovering a three-foot-tall maquette that holds clay already formed into her rough shape, he begins to refine the smaller sculpture. Hours slip by unnoticed.
“OK, you can relax now,” he finally says, just as the first light of dawn is brightening the windows to the east. Some time during the night, the clouds have gone away, leaving a striking cobalt-blue sky to welcome the new day.
“Whew!” Stacey lets out her breath for the first time since being frozen, then takes a few steps around the posing platform. “That was something,” she observes.
“I’ll say!” he agrees. “I’ve never seen a better poser; you didn’t move at all the whole session. How’d you do that? Self-hypnosis?” he asks.
“Mime training, mostly. I just put everything else out of my thoughts and tell myself that I’m a statue,” she responds, keeping her thought, like I’ve been doing the past half-eternity, to herself.
“What. Ever,” he comments, then turns towards the maquette, which is now a completed 3D rendering, recognizably Stacey’s figure but with a different, more classically beautiful face. “I’d ask you to pose again, but I’m done. Finito. Pau. Komplett. Never thought I could work so fast!”
“You just needed the right model,” she comments, stepping carefully down from the platform.
“No; what I needed was a muse, and you were that muse for me, lovely Stace-y,” he replies with another blush.
“I need to get cleaned up; where’s your shower?” she asks.
“Through the kitchen; take a left. You want, ah, company?” he suggests.
“No, this is part of my process,” she counters, picking up her clothes and moving towards the bathroom. When she emerges a half-hour later, she’s clean and dressed, with her hair done up in a loose top-ponytail that sways around in the breeze as she walks.
He’s waiting by the door, having changed into a clean t-shirt in the meantime. “Hey, uh, you wanna grab a cuppa or something?” he mumbles, almost pawing the floor with his shoe.
“Not this time, but you could tell me one thing?” Stacey says, with a playful grin to take the edge off her rejection.
“What’s the ‘J’ stand for, in your name?” she asks impishly.
“Oh that. “Jay”; that’s all,” he admits.
“Jay? Real creative, there, guy!” she needles playfully, stepping towards the door.
“Hey, will I see you again?”
“You never know, Jay with a ‘J’; you never know,” she replies, walking out the door and closing it behind her before he can follow. As the lock snicks shut, his phone starts to ring.
Hesitating for a moment, thinking about following her, he turns instead to answer the phone. “Hullo?”
A very nasal accented voice replies, “Mistuh Rewbin; so sorree your model could not make the appointment yesterday. Her car broke down on the Triborah and she was stuck theeere.”
“What do you mean, not make it? I had a wonderful session with Stacey; I was gonna call you and thank you for sending her.”
Stacey makes her way down the stairs and into the street, which by now has almost six inches accumulation, along with a few dimples where covered-over footsteps had been. Her booted tracks form a new line down the sidewalk. Up ahead, she sees where someone has discarded a beautiful snow-globe. It’s a good thing it didn’t break, the snow saved it, she thinks, picking it up.
“I yam verrree sorreee, sir, but we have no-one in our roster with that name. Doo you wanna rebook?”
“No, I got everything I wanted. Almost. Bye now, have a nice holiday,” he hangs up the phone and steps to the window, where he sees her tracks leading away, but his muse is already gone.
* – * – *
Jackie’s vision clears as she gazes into what looks like a basement apartment, with exposed floor rafters above and a few throw rugs on the bare cement floor. Well-used, mostly ratty and threadbare furniture is scattered around, along with a small, fuzzy-pictured TV.
She starts to take a step forward to look around, then realizes she can’t move at all, though one of her hands is visible out of the corner of an eye. It looks shiny, like painted plastic, and one of the fingernails is chipped off, revealing white plaster underneath. Oh, god, I’m a mannequin again! Jackie howls, making no audible sound since her sculpted lips are as rigid as the rest of her smooth body.
At the edge of her frozen eye-line is another mannequin figure, this one dressed in a skimpy gauzy short robe, standing upright, her rigid figure being held in place by a chrome rod extending from a glass base up into the mannequin’s derriere. On her arched feet are high-heeled pumps that don’t quite reach the surface of the platform. An unnaturally dark red wig complements this display fixture. Thanks goodness, she’s not Stacey, Jackie thinks to herself just as she hears footsteps clunking down a flight of stairs.
A young adult, possibly twenty-five to thirty years of age, carrying several extra pounds around his overhanging gut, shuffles into Jackie’s rigid field of view. He’s sloppily dressed, with a torn t-shirt, equally worn jeans, and sneakers with the soles flapping. He squints through tape-repaired eyeglasses with frames that went out of style when he was probably in grade school.
Humming to himself, ignoring Jackie, he walks up to the other mannequin and loops a strand of pearls around the figure’s slim neck.
“See, Juliett, I told you I’d be bringing you a present. Now, how about a smooch?” Since the mannequin was never going to answer him, he waits a moment, then kisses her full on the painted lips. Jackie notices his hands feeling hungrily across her mounded plastic breasts. When he pulls away, the mannequin figure wobbles slightly on the support rod. “You’re welcome,” he replies to her silence, then glances over to where Jackie stands. “Don’t be upset, Wanda, I’ll have a really special gift for you later. Just be patient, my lovely!” he adds, copping a feel of her ass as he moves to sit on the couch, changing the channels on the ancient TV set, taking a slice of many-day-old pizza from the wooden crate that serves as a table. Great, I’m being held captive by a dweeb! Jackie grumbles to herself. ‘Be patient’ he says; you idiot, mannequins are always patient…
Time passes in a succession of increasingly boring shows that Jackie watches with a glassy-eyed stare because she has no choice. At least Juliett is being spared that; she’s posed to look in the other direction.
With a glance at a clock, the dweeb turns off the TV and walks away; Jackie hears the sounds of running water and the shuffle of a toothbrush, followed by a gargle. Minutes pass before he emerges and approaches to where Jackie is posed. She catches the scent of an aftershave in the air as he bends in to kiss her on the lips as well, his hands wandering back to cup her shapely plastic tush cheeks. “Oh, yes, Wanda? Your special gift?” he whispers.
I don’t want to know… Jackie thinks to herself.
“You’re going to spend the night with me,” he announces.
I said I didn’t want to know! her bow-shaped lips don’t quiver.
Reaching his hands around her curved waist, he lifts the mannequin that is Jackie up and off her display base. She’s held by a shoe-bottom-rod and so there is only a momentary tickle at the ball of her left foot. Unable of course to bend or move, she feels her stiff body being tipped over slowly and laid horizontally atop an unkempt bed. Leaned on one side, she can see the young man taking off his t-shirt and pants, then joining her on the covers. Sudden darkness falls as he switches off the room lights, leaving only the glow from a computer screen to brighten the scene.
Jackie’s arms are posed reaching forward; carefully he snuggles in between them so his full body is touching hers. Kissing the Jackie-mannequin’s lips again, he gropes her breasts and ass. She can feel his hard cock as it’s pressing into the front of her rigid crotch while he moves up and down.
This is helping God’s karma, how? Jackie asks the void, only instants pass before the void answers. Suddenly, she knows exactly what she has to do.
She feels her body, for want of better words, ‘thawing’ as her plastic skin turns back to supple skin and her rigidly locked muscles relax. Unexpected arousal soon follows. Flexing her fingers, she draws her first living breath and reflexively returns the young man’s passionate kiss. He reacts as if he’d been touched by a high-voltage wire.
“Aurggh!” he screams, jumping backward out of her arms, then scrambles up out of the bed to stand near a chair. “What the fuck is this?” he yells at Jackie, just as she regains enough mobility to sit up in the bed.
“Exactly,” she smiles up at him. “Now, come back to bed and we can finish what you started,” Jackie says suggestively.
“What. The. Fuck!” he repeats, seemingly exhausting his supply of expletives. “You’re a… a mannequin. I bought you on eBay!”
“I’m sure you did; come back to bed,” Jackie replies.
“But… you’re alive?”
“For such a nerd, you have a keen grasp of the obvious,” she chuckles, patting the sheets.
“How? Why?” he stammers.
“You ever hear the phrase ‘don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’? Well, I’m not calling myself a horse…” she explains with a grin, “but don't ask too many questions. Just enjoy the moment.”
“Way. This is your Christmas wish, come true,” she continues.
“I haven’t told a soul…” he admits.
“Those are the best kind.”
“I never thought I could fuck a real woman,” he adds, not necessarily talking to her.
“You’ve got to work on your delivery, there, sport,” she chuckles. “Be a little smoother; don’t be afraid nobody will like you. They will, in time.”
“Nobody has, so far…” he mumbles. “Then, I found my mannequins. They don’t reject me; don’t judge, see?”
“I’m not rejecting you, now,” Jackie replies.
“But you’re not real,” he counters.
“Who you calling ‘not real’, Horatio, Arch-Lord of the Western Archipelago?” she asks, not knowing where that flamboyant honorific had come from.
“That’s my gaming name; I made it up…” he admits.
“You made up Wanda, too, and I’m no less real. You want to feel these puppies?” she challenges, rubbing her own warm, soft, not-plastic breasts for emphasis.
“No… I mean, yes!”
“Then get your ass back in here and do me. This your one-night-only offer,” Jackie invites, suddenly feeling very horny once more.
“You’re not going to turn into some goblin and eat my face?” he counters.
“Not that I know of; what you eat may be a different story entirely,” she says, wryly.
“OK, but gimme a moment. I have to turn Juliett a little; she can get jealous, you know.”
“I’ll give you that; sure you don’t want a threesome with her too?” Jackie suggests.
“No… that’s… more than I could handle, I think,” he’s overawed by the possibility.
“I could help you through the hard parts. No? Come on; no more talking now!” she snickers.
“Okay!” is his last word for some time as they quickly become entwined, touch replaces speech, and tongues become otherwise occupied.
He’s eager and unskilled, entering her and ejaculating at almost the same instant. Jackie allows him to take a rest, guiding his fingers to her right places while he recovers in a short time. The second climax is slower and better, with the extra stimulation giving just the right amount of assistance so that he never knows it isn’t his effort alone that brings her to ecstasy.
Lying together, after, both feel the warm glow of satisfaction that follows the climax.
“Wow!” is his first word, said along with heavy breathing, for this is more exertion than he’s had in weeks.
“First time, eh?” she asks.
“How did you know?”
“Well, we have ways,” she chuckles. “Everyone has a first time; it wasn’t your only time, either.”
“Yeah; that was, is, super!” he agrees.
“It gets easier every time, so don’t forget to practice, and not just solo, you hear?”
“Yeah. Fuck, yeah!”
“Believe it or not, there are some young ladies who like to believe they are dolls or mannequins and want to be loved that way too, so you don’t have to stick with your personal ‘harem’ here, either,” she suggests.
“Way. All you have to do is keep an open mind and ask. There are always… possibilities.”
“Spock said that, once.”
“Just a character in an old movie; you probably wouldn’t know it. Too bad.”
“There’s a lot of things I’ll never know, but it doesn’t bother me anymore.”
“I try to look forward, not back. The best will be ahead of me, always,” Jackie muses.
“Good words to live by,” he agrees. They lay in silence for a while longer.
Another urge pops into Jackie’s mind, unbidden, “I’m getting the feeling my time here with you is getting short. I think you need to help me back to my display stand, now,” she says abruptly, feeling a sudden tightness in her legs.
“I have to; I’m not real, remember?” she says ruefully.
“You’ll always be real to me, Wanda.” He supports her on one arm as she hobbles stiff-legged, over to the glass plate and slips her foot down onto the support rod. There isn’t much time left.
“Jackie; my name is Jackie,” she says, lifting her arms up in front of her body where they freeze into position, then she gets a far-away look in her eyes as her body stiffens into place and a plastic-like sheen condenses on her skin. Her last satisfied smile hardens on her face and lips. She’s quickly turning back into a mannequin. White sparkles begin to appear in her vision.
“Jackie, thanks. I’ll never forget you…” he pledges as her vision blurs to whiteness.
* – * – *
Stacey slogs along through the deepening snow, reminding herself not to shake the globe so strongly next time. Having no idea where she’s going, the bundled-up young woman lets her whim and the winds of chance pick her path. Turning when she chooses, her steps lead eventually to an alley in the garment district where the tall buildings shield her from the storm.
It’s here she comes upon another figure huddled down in the corner near a rubbish bin. Probably another homeless person, she thinks, bending over to offer some assistance, lifting the thin blanket that covers the unmoving shape. With a gasp of surprise, recoiling, she sees that it’s a naked woman who’s been hacked to pieces, with her disjointed arms and legs heaped on top of her torso. The figure’s face is turned mostly away, but she can see the victim’s eyes are still open and blankly staring. Puffs of snow collect on her still face like tiny specks of cotton.
Stacey glances around, looking for someone to help, the police, or to see if the murderer is still hanging around the scene of the crime. The increasing snowfall muffles the air, hiding the sights and sounds of the bustling city all around her. A siren wails, far off, as a squad car rushes past a block or two away, full lights ablaze. Quiet descends quickly again. Stacey thinks about running, but something urges her to stay. There is something – familiar – about the frozen girl lying there in the snow as the wintry winds blow the strands of platinum-blond hair across her face.
Reaching down, Stacey starts to turn the body over, then notices the corpse is unusually light and seems to be made of… plastic? The torso flops over, revealing a pin-and-socket connector at the shoulders and smoothly rounded breasts; there’s a separation line just below the waist.
“Sweet bejeezus, it’s a mannequin!” Stacy yells out with relief and surprise as the imagined danger evaporates as quickly as her foggy breath. “Whee-ooo…” Looking around, she sees there isn’t anyone to make fun of her getting so spooked and chuckles with embarrassment.
Glancing down again, she’s just about ready to turn and walk away when something about the display figure’s frozen visage that catches her eye; she’s seen that face somewhere before, with a much bigger smile on those lips and a much slinkier dress barely covering those firm breasts. An instant later, her mind makes the connection. “Gwenny? Why have they tossed you out?” Of course, the silent and rigid figure doesn’t reply but stares back at Stacey rather accusingly.
The last she had seen of Gwendolyn, once a lascivious and sexually adventurous young woman, had been many (forget how many) Halloweens ago, when Stacey had seduced the beauty into sharing a bed, then tricked her into saying that she wished she could be beautiful forever. Damon’s dark magic had taken care of the rest of the bargain; Gwendolyn was turned into a lifeless mannequin and mounted on a display base to become another victim of cruel vanity.
That was a long time ago, it seemed, and the fates were less than kind, because what remained of Gwendolyn Prong was chipped and dented and seemed to be missing her left hand. The wig that sat askew atop her head was dirty and matted; only her eyes remained clear; the melted snowflakes on her face streamed down her rigid cheeks, almost as if she were crying.
Stacey had to do something; she didn’t know what, but she knew she couldn’t leave Gwenny here for the garbagemen to collect in the morning. Gathering up what remained of the victim’s plastic body in the sheet she’d been laying on, Stacey sets off down the snow-covered alley, slinging the mannequin’s pieces over her shoulder like a duffle bag. Her steps have a purpose now, she isn’t wandering aimlessly. Turning one corner, then another, she makes her way to a nondescript door in a warehouse building. A key in her handbag unlocks the door, though Stacy can’t recall ever seeing this place before. Inside is a mostly empty space; when she turns on the lights, the rest of the gallery is revealed.
“What the hell?” she asks herself, looking around, for many more mannequin figures stand on proud display towards one side of the large space, while a dropcloth-covered workspace, clear plastic paint booth, and make-up table occupy the remainder. A couple of dusty shopworn mannequins stand or lay at the back of the workspace, along with an assortment of display bases and support rods; random painted arms and legs hang on wires, waiting for assembly.
“Don’t know how or why, but we’re going to get you fixed up…” Stacey pledges to the sad figure, as memories of skills and knowledge she never knew she had flood into her thoughts. Placing the bundle of parts down on the dropcloth, she starts to put Gwendolyn Prong back together again.
Time passes as if in a montage of fleeting scenes, but its passage seems to have no meaning as Stacey works as if possessed; drying, cleaning, filling, choosing, fitting, painting, mounting, touching up and at last picking out a better wig for the made-over mannequin.
“There, Gwenny, you look just like you did when Damon took you; maybe a little better,” Stacey proclaims at last, brushing her paint-smeared hands on her work shirt. The display figure in front of her has become almost a work of art; it looks very much like the sparkling, vivacious woman she’d first seen at that long-ago party scene. The only difference is that this frozen beauty cannot not move or speak or laugh; her renewed smile will always remain – as will she – hollow.
Stacey felt a pang of remorse for once tricking this young woman into changing her life forever, for the sake of some silly competition. It all seemed so pointless; so final.
“Best I can do; sorry,” Stacey admits, her eyes welling up with tears. Reaching up on tip-toe, she touches her lips to Gwen’s in a kiss of sympathy that the other could never return.
On her way over to fetch the two-wheel dolly to move the Gwenny figure to join the finished makeovers, she sees a sparkle out of the corner of her eye; there is a snow-globe sitting on the workbench where she hadn’t noticed one before. Picking it up, gently, she could see herself falling into the miniature village inside the sphere…
* – * – *
Jackie retraces her steps, for the umpteenth time; she’s totally lost. Any way she turns in this tiny village leads her back to the same town square, where a tall, decorated, Christmas tree stands illuminated in the center, atop what would be in summer, a fountain. Off to one edge of the square a large nativity scene has been displayed, with full-size figures of Mary, her baby son, and the three Wise Men, with donkeys watching at the edge of the manger.
“Ooff!” Stacey grunts as she lands in the scene’s haystack, thinking wryly frozen straw isn’t as soft as advertised, while brushing herself off. Somewhere along the way, her coat, scarf, and knitted cap had vanished, leaving her standing in the cold clear air without much protection. She shivers, as much out of trepidation as from the cold. Looking up, she can see the glint off a ghostly glass dome far above her head, about where the stars were sparkling. Great; now I’m stuck in a snow-globe!
“What are you doing here?” a familiar voice calls out to her. She turns and spots her once-friend walking towards her.
“Jackie?” Stacey confirms.
“Yeah. You drop in to gloat about how you tricked me yet again?” Jackie accuses.
“I don’t know what you mean; I’ve been having some interesting experiences recently,” Stacey responds.
“Me, too. Did you have anything to do with that, after you disappeared?” Jackie prompts.
“No; my night hasn’t been exactly a box of cherries, er, chocolates, either. I’m starting to feel like the Ghost of Christmas Past!”
“Me, too; I got dissed by Ashley Palachinko…” Jackie volunteers.
“Well, I had to fix up things with Gwenny after posing for a statue,” Stacey counters.
“Oh? I’ll bet you didn’t have some geeky kid dry-humping you!” Jackie ups the ante.
“Hmm. You got me there, Jack,” Stacey chuckles. “So, why are we here, wherever that is?”
“Don’t know, but I’ll bet that blue bitch has something to do with it. She brought us back to life, and now this. Either she or that slime Damon is up to his tricks,” Jackie looks around, as if their nemesis is going to pop up out of a bush.
“Or, do you have something else up your sleeve? ‘Angel’ indeed; I trusted you!” Stacey says suspiciously.
“Hey; it was a contest. You would have done the same thing to me,” Jackie replies.
“Well, I almost did,” Stacey admits with a grin. “Aren’t we a couple of dumb loo-sers, trying to one-up each other?”
“When our real enemy is Damon; he put us up to that scheme of his!’ Jackie agrees.
“And we fell for it. Sorry, Jackie,” Stacey admits.
“Sure did. Sorry, Stacey,” Jackie replies.
“It’s OK.” They pause for a moment, then hug warmly.
“I can’t stay mad at you forever,” they both say, almost simultaneously, then giggle at the coincidence.
“So, what now?” Jackie asks, after some time to reflect.
“I dunno. Did you notice where were are?” Stacey queries.
“Stuck in a snow globe?” Jackie guesses.
“Stuck in a snow globe!” Stacey agrees. “Nothing to get all shook up about, really,” she adds sarcastically.
Jackie laughs out loud. “Shook up – that’s it!”
Stacey looks at her as if she’s gone mad.
Jackie continues, “We’ve got to shake this place up; magic happens when the snow swirls around. You’ve done it, too…”
“Maybe you’re right. It’s way too calm right now,” Stacey agrees, starting to run in a wide circle. Her steps start to pick up little bits of fake snow that swirl slowly in the clear liquid ‘air’. “Come on; get that snow flying!” she urges.
Jackie hesitates for just a moment, then makes up her mind as she begins circling, too. More snow is kicked up; soon there’s a tiny but growing blizzard in the town square. The big tree starts to shake in the ‘breeze’ and some tinsel is picked up by the whirlwind, along with a few small ornaments. For what seems like hours, the two circle the square and the swirling snowstorm gets larger until it fills the sky above the town.
Finally, Stacey can’t do it any longer, she spirals to the ground and lays there, looking up into the snowy heavens. “Dizzy!” she giggles.
“Me, too,” Jackie admits, collapsing alongside her friend. After a few moments, she gasps, “Look!”
Above them, the swirling snow starts to sparkle as they feel themselves floating off the ground and up into the whirlwind. The scene fades into a whiteout that seems to consume them, disorienting the two friends completely.
When their heads clear, Stacey and Jackie are back in Mason’s Centre City, but not in the window. They’re instead in the main hall, looking up at the full-sized Christmas tree in the store’s rotunda. The scent of pine and holly is in the air.
“Welcome back!” greets the older, blue-dressed woman. “I trust you discovered some things?”
“We discovered you’re a tricky old broad!” Stacey accuses, but with a smile and a chuckle.
“Easy, Stacey. We found out we’re still friends, whatever stuff happens,” Jackie adds.
“Yes, and we can help each other out, even in the worst situations,” Stacey puts in, seriously. “Thanks for showing us that.”
The older woman smiles again, this time with wisdom.
“So, I don’t know what’s next, but I’m ready to go back to being an elf for a while. A little boring repetitive work seems good to me, right about now,” Jackie states.
“I guess, but those tights kind of gave me wedgie,” puts in Stacey.
Another smile from the old blue lady. “Well, you aren’t going to get that much of a rest, but you won’t have to worry about wedgies, at least for that reason,” she states.
“Oh, there have been some changes around here,” the blue-gowned woman continues. “The store is expanding their visual merchandising staff because of the success of their ‘living displays’ so they need some new associates,” she explains, pulling two security badges out of the sparkling air and handing them to Jackie and Stacey; their pictures and names are there. “From now on, you’ll be helping create the displays, rather than being part of them!”
It was the girls’ turn to grin from ear to ear as they took the badges and clipped them on.
“Oh, thank you!”
“It’s wonderful to be free again…”
“Don’t think it’s all tea and cookies; now you’re going to have to do some real work – no more standing around like a couple of dummies,” the woman cautions.
“Sounds good to us!” Jackie agrees for both of them.
“And..” the woman puts in, “you’re going to need some help…” As if on cue, in strides a living Gwendolyn Prong along with a good-looking young man that Jackie doesn’t recognize for a moment; then it hits her.
“I was in your basement; wow, have you changed. Who are you?” she realizes this is the ‘dweeb’ she made love to, but she doesn’t even know his name.
“Toby, miss Jackie. Yes, it’s me and I owe you… so much!”
“Glad to help, Toby. You’re looking good,” she observes.
“You got me turned around; I cleaned up, got a job that fits with my interests and found some new girlfriends and now… this. What a Christmas this is turning out to be!” he relates.
“I’ll be throwing my hat into that same ring!” Gwenny proclaims in her plummy British accent, “For I’ve found my someone once more, right after she brought me back,” she continues while hugging Stacey, who seems confused.
“But, I tricked you into becoming a mannequin, at the beginning?” Stacey stammers.
“Nonsense; you might have given me the opportunity, but the choice was mine. And, who knows, I might want to do it again. All in all, it was a splendid holiday up until the laast…” Gwen says, then kisses Stacey, who returns the affection.
“You see; in time, things work out for the best sometimes,” the older woman beams. “My work here for now seems to be done…” she concludes, waving her wand above her head, triggering a shower of sparkles. She starts to dissolve into them.
“Wait!” yells Jackie, and the sparkles fade with the older woman still present.
“Yes? You know, I don’t like to be kept waiting,” she says with an edge in her voice.
“What about Damon? We’ve made agreements with him…” Jackie wonders.
“…that are now null and void,” the older woman concludes. “His recruiting practices were less than honorable. I’ve arranged it for that one to take a bit of a vacation as well. Go have a look into ‘your’ window; I really must be going now!” with that, the blue fairy waves her wand again and this time the sparkles complete their work as she vanishes into a blue star that shrinks into a brilliant blue point of light before fading away.
The four lose no time in racing down the escalators and stairs to rush outside, where the next day’s crowd of onlookers is viewing Mason’s famous Christmas displays. Children laugh and point into ‘their’ window, where a grumpy-looking ancient elf in baggy tights and a too-big cap, works all alone, lifting a never-ending stream of packages onto the conveyor ‘To Sleigh’, then turning back mechanically to repeat those actions over and over and over again.
“Merry Christmas, Mister Damon!” taunts Stacey.
“And a Happy New Year, too!” adds Jackie with a chuckle.
“You old blighter!” puts in Gwendolyn. Toby is simply, confused.
Damon looks up during his mechanical cycle, glaring at those outside the window. He manages to grunt “Bah, Humbug” before bending over to pick up the next package.
Nothing lasts forever! The devil’s evil thoughts provide feeble comfort.