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Where it had been a world of seemingly endless wonder in the fading light of the evening, alive with all of the lights and sounds that came from the fantastical attractions themselves and the crowds that moved through the delights of the fair, those same rides, tents and stalls were as effectively transformed by the arrival of nightfall and the killing of the lights into things of half-formed, leering nightmares. It was the fear of sound being heard through the eerie silence that served to make the place all the more terrible, not the mere lack of sound itself, and even the scant noise of her own feet on the grass of the field made Annalise sigh as her heart thumped in her chest.
  Likewise in silence she cursed herself for having ever thought up the notion to linger behind her friends as they made up their minds to leave the fair and return to the familiar and mundane streets beyond the field. At the time there had seemed to be no possible danger, merely the choice to hang back and remain entranced for a little while longer by the vibrant colours and enchanting motions of the attractions.
  But she could not recall how long she had spent standing, spellbound by the sight of the carousel above all of the other wonders in the fair. Its combination of golden and autumnal tones, the whimsical music of the organ and the vivacious manner in which the creatures which populated it were carved and painted kept her rooted to the spot until time passed her by.
  Though for some unknown reason, she could not bring herself to ride it.
  Annalise could not have readily offered an explanation for this, feeling somehow that if she had done so, the effect would have been akin to the breaking of a spell, that she would have found the actual experience of sitting atop perhaps the griffin or the hippocampus robbed her of the wonder and rendered the carousel as merely another ride amongst so many others.
  It was only when the carousel wound down and came to a halt that she looked around to realise that she was alone, that there was no one to be seen either browsing the attractions or working the fair. Annalise had made for the direction in which she vaguely recalled the entrance to the fair lay, but she soon found that her memory was not clear, and the darkness made the task of finding her way all the more difficult. For a while she had run, first in this direction and then in that, trying to find a way to the edge of the fairground where she was sure there must be a means to slip between the caravans of the fairground workers and thus find the limits of the field.
  But she soon found that running became ever harder, as though she were sapping her energy at an alarming rate, succumbing to a weariness that she had not known was upon her beforehand. Her legs began to feel leaden and her movements slowed, at first to a gentle trot and then further still until she moved at an alarmingly slow rate. Annalise felt that she might have been running through setting molasses or else that her very joints were seizing up like a set of rusted hinges on an old and neglected door.
  Before too long it became all that she could do to put one leg in front of the other, imagining herself to be moving in slow-motion until she finally came to a complete standstill. No matter how she tried, her limbs simply would not move to answer the urge she still felt to keep on making for whatever exit might lie ahead.
  Annalise felt the panic which had welled up inside of her as the seizure of her joints took hold begin to oddly suffer the same fate as her motion ground to a halt. The sensation of fear did not either dissipate or else become replaced with another distinct emotion, but rather it seemed to be affected acutely by the same slowing. At the same time her ability to quickly and rationally make sense of what was happening to her suffered a similar obstacle, and she could only compare the now sluggish course of her thoughts as being akin to the confused state of being sleepy or having just woken.
  More immediate by far was the sight of her own hands, which had become frozen in place as she stretched them out before her. Their position conspired to make it appear that Annalise had been reaching out toward some unseen goal at the moment that she ceased to be able to move her body.
  But this was not what now caught her eye.
  Annalise gazed at the smoothness of her skin, the way in which the remaining lights played over its surface, reflecting more than should have been possible and showing up none of the subtle imperfections that she knew were supposed to be there and visible when looked for. She studied the joints of her fingers and thumbs, seeing now that where there had previously been the natural creases and lines in the skin, there were now what could only have been cunning joints fashioned to marry together intricately-made components which were intended to give the illusion of human digits, rather than the real thing.
  She felt her head sag slightly to one side.
  She felt her jaw fall a little open.
  And somehow she knew that it was on account of the fact that she was now more a mannequin of cunningly fashioned wood, sinew and paint than a human being. Annalise knew somewhere, deep down inside of her, that she should have been panicking as she felt herself becoming a life-sized doll. But there was no means by which she could have hoped to cry out for help, or scream in terror, as another part of her knew instinctively that the acing hole which she could now feel in the small of her back was intended for a key, and without it she would remain as inert as stone.
 
Time now seemed to have little meaning to Annalise, as her inability to move and the understanding of how she needed to be wound up in order to do so meant she was otherwise sanguine. She waited in silence and stillness until the sound of approaching footsteps reached her ears, delicate and sprightly across the well-trodden grass of the field.
  By that time her thoughts had retreated from any notion of escape, the prospect simply becoming ever more ludicrous as she slowly accepted the inescapable fact that, not matter what her size or indeed what she might have been before the here and now, she was a doll and as such would be required to await the moment when she would learn what her purpose would be.
  “Well, well,” the voice was masculine and sounded surprised, yet not outwardly shocked to any degree, to have happened upon her in such a predicament, “what have we here?”
  Annalise could not see the owner of the voice, but she felt his hands upon her.
  They were to her neither a welcome presence nor a violation, as she had come to accept that as a doll it was inevitable that she should be touched from time to time by those who needed to make use of her, move her from here to there or else dress her as required. And in addition there was nothing in the least lascivious in the manner that she was being touched, in fact it felt more akin to an appraiser making checks over an inanimate object in a professional capacity. In a strange way she was somewhat gratified with this attention, noting the close scrutiny that she was being put under and the approving noises that reached her ears as the inspection wore on.
  “I have to say,” the man exclaimed as he completed his study, “that I couldn’t have picked out a better candidate myself. And the workmanship – well, that’s first class. But what’s to be done with you now that you’ve been chosen? You’re too pretty for the Ghost Train, and you’d make the other sirens in the Tunnel of Love jealous before too long. Ah, yes! The Carousel hasn’t had any new blood for some time now. And I think I have just the spot in mind for you.”
  Annalise felt his hands around her waist, searching for something that she could not identify.
  Then there was a sudden click, and she experienced the strangest sensation in her middle.
  Only when she had been hoisted over the man’s shoulder was she able to cast her eyes backwards and see the baffling image of her own legs, still standing on the exact spot where she had come to a halt, and still wearing the long, flowing dress she had chosen that same morning.
  The man walked around a corner and in amongst the rides and booths, tracing a path which Annalise did not recognise, but clearly benefitted from long knowledge of the carnival’s layout, as they soon stopped by the side of the carousel that she recalled from recent memory.
  Laid upon the grass with great care, she watched as the man climbed onto the carousel and selected the horse nearest to the edge. In a similar manner to the way he had separated her torso from her legs, he located a well-hidden set of catches and sockets, flipping them just so and being rewarded with another clicking sound as the head and neck of the horse lifted away in his hands.
  Next he placed the head a few feet from Annalise, before turning his attention to her once more. He stripped away her blouse, leaving her naked, and then lifted her up and onto the carousel. She found herself manoeuvred into a positon roughly equivalent to that which the head and neck of the horse had occupied moments before and then lowered down a little.
  Something below her waist slotted into something atop the horse’s now headless body, the man’s hands again fiddled with cunningly hidden catches, slots and latches. And then there was a wooden click, and with it came a flood of new sensations that quite took Annalise by surprise.
  Even in her state of limited awareness, she was able to now feel the extent of the carousel horse to which she had been attached. It was not as if one piece of lifeless wood had merely been slotted into another, and instead the fastening of the catches had somehow married her torso to the remaining body of the horse, made it her own and her part of it in turn.
  Annalise found that she was unable to clearly think of herself in any way which did not now take into account he horse’s body below her waist. Her own legs were not even a matter of mild concern any longer, and her equine ones were all that occurred to her when she considered herself as a whole. Had she been given the ability to remove herself from the carousel at that exact moment in time, she could not have imagined doing so as anything other than the centaur into which she had been made.
  In addition she was aware acutely of the gilded pole which descended from the top of the carousel, passing through the middle of her equine body and then into the floor of the ride. Instinctively she knew that when the time came for the carousel to move, this would serve as the key to wind her entire body into motion, that only whilst the whole thing turned would she have the ability to move her limbs or turn her head.
  The carousel came to life then, turning in the semi-darkness and playing a melancholy tune upon its organ as the newest of its components was put into motion for the first time.
  Annalise could not have known what to expect, but the sensations that seized her has the carousel came to life were utterly overpowering and yet wondrous to experience all at once. The motion of her equine body was not of her own choice, and yet the feeling of her four legs as they trammelled the empty air felt as natural as could be. Though she knew that she could have better controlled the movements of her human body above the join, she found that it only served to increase her enjoyment to surrender to the sympathetic motions her unconscious mind suggested should be played out by her arms and the rolling of her chest.
  Glancing around, she understood that some-time soon; the fish upon the carousel would be replaced by seductive mermaids, the lions by regal sphinxes and the colourful birds by delicate harpies.
  And she too would have sisters, to gallop at her side.
  The only thing that was lacking, Annalise realised as she cupped her naked breasts in her hands and looked back longingly over her shoulder at her empty saddle, as a rider to call her own.
There has always been a hint of the sinister and unnerving to be glimpsed beneath the glitz and wonder of a travelling fair, the thought of what happens when the extinguishing of the lights and the departure of the crowds leave the place a maze of confusing sights and unfamiliar sounds amongst the darkness.

Annalise could not have said what made her linger longer than any of her companions, nor what conspired to make her path to the exit of the fair impossible to find. But she soon discovers that once the day is done and the fair-goers have departed, there are very different rules and stakes to be played for.

Though there is still all the fun of the fair to be had.
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:iconnolaa08:
Nolaa08 Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
When I heard the word "mannequin," I thought it was going to end badly. What you did was astounding and I couldn't love this story any more than I do already. Great job.
Reply
:iconnate-walis:
Nate-Walis Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you very much.

What were you expecting?

Something akin to the Kim Catrell movie?
Reply
:iconnolaa08:
Nolaa08 Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
I do not know what movie you are referring to. I was expecting her to stay completely mannequin and not able to move her upper body.

You are welcome.
Reply
:iconnate-walis:
Nate-Walis Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
There was a movie in the 80's called "Mannequin", it starred Kim Cattrell and the basic plot was that she played a princess who had been frozen centuries before by a wizard and survived to the modern day to be mistaken for a common department store mannequin. A young window-dresser finds her and removes the amulet that empowers the spell, returning her to life.
Reply
:iconnolaa08:
Nolaa08 Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Ah, seems interesting. I just like this plot more then.
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:iconnate-walis:
Nate-Walis Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Reply
:iconnolaa08:
Nolaa08 Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
I'll be sure to watch that later.
Reply
:iconnate-walis:
Nate-Walis Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
It's actually quite a fun, light-hearted film.
Reply
(1 Reply)
:icondjedgie:
djedgie Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2016
interesting story Nate.... flexing those creative muscles some...
Reply
:iconnate-walis:
Nate-Walis Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for the compliments.
Reply
:iconmensjedezeemeermin:
MensjeDeZeemeermin Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2016
The intense description of her mental changes was just fascinating, and very intense.
Reply
:iconnate-walis:
Nate-Walis Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
I'm glad that those elements came across, as this was one of those ideas that came into my head late in the day and I knew that I just wanted to get it committed to the page before anything had the time to fade in my memory.
Reply
:icong3n3t1x:
g3n3t1X Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2016
Really cool tone and atmosphere and descriptions of sensations. I liked it.
Reply
:iconnate-walis:
Nate-Walis Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
I'm glad that you enjoyed those aspects of the story, they were the element which really drew me towards wanting to pull this one together.
Reply
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