The rain was coming down in buckets. It was a miracle that your backpack had any dry spots on it at all.
All the stuff you’d brought with you in the hopes of documenting whatever you found was trashed, completely logged with water. But you’d already jumped the barrier, and it wasn’t like they were essential to the task at hand. There was no sense in turning back, especially if turning back meant you had to climb back up for another half hour on a cold, rainy evening.
You were sore. Your entire body ached from the effort, hands raw from holding onto the fence. You would have given up much sooner if it weren’t for the stakes. You weren’t walking through the grass, you were limping through it. Your sneakers were collecting mud as they dragged along the ground.
The lot was surprisingly large, given how small the building in it’s center was. You’d seen pictures from above, posted on the local forums, but you’d assumed they were bad photoshops. Everything looked tiny and out of proportion, unnatural. But sure enough, the shack before you looked just like the photos.
Of course, forum posts alone didn’t mean anything. Reports of people “leaving, and never coming back” spring up around anything even slightly haunted. The internet is full of people looking to scaremonger and start rumors. It was only when you and a friend decided to look into it that things became interesting. Accounts got taken down, photos removed by administrators. And then your friend disappeared, just like that. No one had anything to say about it. No one wanted to talk about it.
There was one particular street name that popped up in conversation between you two time and time again. It was a row of development sites in the middle of downtown, normal, save for one with a single shack that eerily resembled the images from the forum. It had been foreclosed for a long, long time, shortly after the owner died in the early 20th century. Due to the mysterious circumstances of his death, rumors about a “breakthrough, too powerful for the public” had been circulating ever since.
You’d visited the site together. It was fenced off, black tarp taped up to keep the prying public eye away. That was the closest you’d gotten to it, at least as a pair. With nothing left to see, you walked her back to her car. She’d torn up her leg trying to scale the fence only a month earlier, and her sandaled footsteps now resembled the clopping of a horse’s hooves as she walked with an odd gait through the parking garage.
She mumbled something about how she was going to get in. All she needed was a ladder, and she’d be in there, she’d get photo evidence to show you the next time you met up in real life. Then she stepped in, closed the door, and sped off.
That was your last memory of her. Just those footsteps, the engine of her dad’s Plymouth, and then nothing. She was gone the next day. With her disappearance, you could only assume she’d succeeded in breaking in.
There was too much weird shit going on, and way too much at stake to just let it fly over your head, so bravery got the best of you.
In the present, dragging yourself through the wet, overgrown grass in the wee hours of the morning, you began to wish it hadn’t got the best of you.
There were pieces of the building scattered to the four corners, like the wind had torn it apart. Despite this, though, it still stood. A little lopsided, missing a wall or two, sure, but it was as stable as a condemned building could ever hope to be.
Perhaps most curious was the massive wooden board that was laying face up in the grass, surrounded on all sides by the overgrowth. Its letters were faded, bleached white by the sun, but you could still make them out. “Toy Store.” No name, no street, no phone number. The letters were large and easily readable, simple in their design, just painted onto a white background. Everything about it seemed to suggest it was old, a remnant of a time before the city blew up in population, before competition, before you had to brand everything to outshine others.
If it really was the first toy store ever built in town, the decrepit nature of the shack before you could be easily explained. The fact that the city hadn’t picked it up and tried to restore it wasn’t a big surprise, especially given its history and current state of repair. In fact, you were more surprised at the fact the lot had went this long without being cleared.
So… something was definitely up with it. Nothing immediately stood out as “evil” just by looking through the front door window. All it’s stock had been cleared out, though. As far as you could see, a few rows of white, barren shelves were all that remained.
The window above the doorknob had been smashed out completely, the glass shards carried away by years of wind. You jiggled the handle, and much to your surprise, it creaked open without falling off its hinges and smashing to the floor. Whatever they’d built this place out of was sturdier than it had any right to be. In fact, much of the store seemed to be in relatively good condition. There were holes punched through the roof, sagging wallpaper and missing floorboards, yes. But the shack was still standing against all odds. The harsh downpour and wind outside did not shake the walls.
The rain wasn’t any quieter inside the shop. It poured through the holes in the ceiling and pooled in the cracks in the floor, the broken windows failing to shield you from any of the noise outside. You shivered and readjusted your raincoat as you squeezed between the rows and rows of empty shelves.
Posters for toys that had long since fallen out of style flapped in the wind that blew through the decrepit walls. Odd looking wooden dogs, intricately painted dolls, ball-in-a-cup style doo-dads. Things that must have been good time wasters a few decades ago. Probably more than a few decades, seeing as the use of plastic hadn’t become popular yet.
As much fun as it was to suck in all the history surrounding the place, the ice-cold rain against the welts on your hands and harsh winds convinced you to keep moving. Plus, you were here to find out where your friend had gone, not learn about city history.
You hobbled around the till at the very back of the store, briefly admiring all the old-timey machinery. The cash register was massive and clunky, rusted over with its compartment popped open and stripped of it’s bills. Not that any of the money would have been useable anyways, the slots filled with water. It was only when you went to close it back up that you noticed the trapdoor beneath your feet. Despite the state of everything else, it was virtually flush with the flooring. A little gold plaque near its handle read “employees only.”
You weren’t an employee. But you were also fairly certain no one was around to chastise you for opening it. The only thing stopping you was a fear of what you’d find underneath. Cellars in condemned buildings didn’t bode particularly well, especially considering the myths surrounding the place.
Honestly, though, you couldn’t just leave it closed. It was a toy store, after all. There was guaranteed to be something cool in the basement. Or, you know, a long-dead friend of yours. The latter would be slightly less cool.
Turning your head, you pulled open the hatch and held your breath. The door swung open, smacking loudly against the floor as the dark, shallow basement opened to you. No dead body smells, just sawdust. So, that was a pleasant surprise.
Taking careful, hesitant steps, you made your way down the old, wooden staircase. Hidden underground, it had fared much better than the materials above, but it still creaked and groaned from age.
After a few minutes of feeling around in the dark, the back of your hand brushed up against a metal chain. It rattled from the ceiling, a single, barren bulb poking out from the water-damaged ceiling. You took some time to prepare yourself before yanking it.
The light came on. It was brighter than expected, and offered enough light to see just about everything in the tiny basement area. Little slivers of light pierced through the holes in the ceiling, illuminating the shop’s ground level.
Nothing. Your voice seemed amplified in the little room, bouncing off the unfinished walls.
It was hard to tell what it was meant to be. The size and complete lack of space to move around suggested it was some sort of storage room, packed to the brim with old toys. But the desk in the corner, surrounded on all sides by sewing machines and woodworking benches suggested some sort of workspace. Either way, it was a bit drier than the surface.
With a few more pained steps, you reached the bottom of the steps. If she was here at all, she’d be hard to find, hidden between mounds and mounds of old toys. You were trying to find a place to start looking, but the entire scene was so cluttered and overwhelming that it seemed like an impossible task. The only thing that seemed to be in order was the desk in the corner.
It was certainly suspicious looking. The rest of the room was chaotic, machines stacked on top of machines, but the desk in the corner was neat and tidy, a few papers on it, but nothing else. Getting over to it would be a hell of a task, though. Every pathway through the piles of stuff was narrow, and looked like it was bound to collapse at any moment. Hell, you felt like you were bound to collapse at any moment.
Nevertheless, you put an arm through the valley between the piles of toys and shuffled your way through sideways. You could hear your wet shoes squishing against the floor as you wiggled along. It wasn’t a pleasant noise, but it was reassuring to know that you were still moving. The rain sounds were mostly muted by the ceiling between you and the surface, allowing the stillness of the basement to make itself known.
The toys weren’t in boxes, and they weren’t stamped with labels. No two playthings looked alike, each hand-painted with different colours and intricate designs. As you got further along the narrow crack, the designs became more and more intricate; infinite, painted spirals, carefully carved fish scales. They were incredibly detailed, but maintained a level of fun colouring and texture to keep a child interested. It was clear that the owner had loved their job all the way up until their death.
Admiring the details kept your mind off the claustrophobic atmosphere surrounding you on all sides. You were nearly out now anyways, a single arm out the other end feeling for a handhold. As long as the rest of your body followed, you’d pop out the other side without an issue.
You caught the leg of a tiny stool and gave it a few cautionary tugs, pulling the rest of your body through when it held firm. You stumbled out the other side as the narrow corridor let go of you, your body tumbling to the floor in front of the desk. It was far from graceful, and you’d made all your previous injuries a hundred times worse. However, you were pleased to see that you hadn’t knocked anything over in the process. It was just as much a mess as it had been before.
Still no sign of your friend. But, if there was going to be a super-secret compartment inside the basement, it was bound to be somewhere around the workstation. You admired the craftsmanship as you got back on your feet, nursing a few splinters.
It was an old, oak table, recently dusted off by somebody and kept in good shape. It was odd to think that a human other than you had been down here in the last 50 years to do some upkeep.
Standing above the desk, you could finally get a clear look at the projects. Or, at least, clearer than before. The notes were all completely intact, save for a bit of water that made the writing in some places illegible. Not that it much mattered. The notes were all in doctor’s handwriting, scribbles and loops that didn’t seem to translate to anything.
The diagrams next to the notes, rough as they were, gave a better idea of what was going on. Many were unfinished, sketchy blue lines and formless shapes, but a few stood out as interesting. A human figure, with lines branching off into a hundred different toys. A few spools of thread and another object you couldn’t put a finger on, organized neatly into a pyramid, stood just to the right of that diagram.
There were parts of the table where the wood had splintered, from some sort of impact, but whatever had smashed down on top of it was long gone. There were a few nail-shaped scratch marks too, the origin of which you hated thinking about.
There was no explanation for any of this in sight. You were just left to theorize on what it meant as you continued picking through the corner of the room.
You found nothing of interest as you dug through the piles. More dolls, more plush animals, more hula-hoops. The only one that stood out was the rocking horse just to the side of the desk. The features on this one were immaculate, but still had a fun, playful shape to them, the perfect balance of realism and entertainment. This must have been the owners final work, judging by how well hidden it was. It was the logical progression from years and years of skill.
The only thing that seemed off about it was the human qualities it seemed to hold. Its head was rounded and feminine, while still retaining the sharp features of an equine. Even it’s eyes, though they were painted on, seemed to gleam in the low light, and it held a vague smile that hadn’t been there moments before.
Kinda creepy. But kinda neat.
It wasn’t at all helpful in finding your friend, though. After a brief period of frustration, you gave in to your urge to rifle through the desk drawers.
You spun on your heel and pulled out the top compartments. Lots of thread, loose pens and notepads, one half of a pair of ancient-looking scissors. The next drawer down was about the same, stuffed to the brim with more sewing material, little patches of polka-dot fabric, some fluffy stuffing in a paper bag. The cabinets near the bottom were totally empty, leaving only the locked compartment in the very center.
Luckily, whoever had opened it last was terrible at hiding things. You could’ve seen it poking out from the pen jar a mile away. You snatched it up and crammed it into the lock, twisting it until it clicked.
The locked drawer was surprisingly light as you pulled it from it’s slot. Its weight was deceiving though, the entire compartment packed to the brim with spools of golden, glowing thread. For once, it wasn’t a trick of the light. They were radiating bright, yellow light, like spun gold.
Cool. But not what you were hoping to find.
The drawer only came halfway out of the desk, though. There was some other stuff rattling around in the back that you couldn’t see. And seeing as you’d already broken into someone’s personal stash of sewing supplies, there was no point in not continuing. It’s not like there was anyone around to chastise you for it.
You slipped your hand into the drawer, cramming it as far back as it would go.
This turned out to be a bad decision.
Sharp needles that jutted out from between the spools poked holes in the palms of your hands, cut lines across your already-damaged palm. You banged your knuckle against the underside of the desk, cursing and biting your lip.
It wasn’t too bad an injury. It just caught you off guard, like a bee sting.
Carefully, you removed your hand to check out the damage. It was just a few tiny cuts, little red lines running parallel to your fingers. It was nothing your body couldn’t heal on its own. You sucked on one of the wounds, nursing it while surveying the room for something to keep the cuts covered.
There wasn’t much for clean bandaging around. In fact, there wasn’t much for clean... anything. Dust seemed to cover every inch of the basement. The best you could do was wrap your hands up in your t-shirt and continue the search.
Wiping your bloodied hand on the bottom of your tee, you noticed something peculiar. The blood flow had ceased to be, just as quickly as it had begun. You turned over your palm, trying to figure out what had caused it to clot so quickly.
You got your answer. But it wasn’t the one you were expecting.
There was no clot. The golden sewing thread had closed the cut, clean and precise, barely noticeable except for its shining quality. Only a small part of you was thankful for the stitch. The other 99% of you freaked out.
You turned your palm away from you to avoid looking at it, terrified by the mysterious happening. Everything was silent for a few moments; the muted rain sounds long gone as the skies above cleared up. Only your heightened breathing pierced the silence.
There was no point in telling yourself that you were alright. Physically, aside from a bit of residual pain and knees that quaked and shivered, you were perfectly healthy, and you knew this. The biggest issue came from your thoughts, going a million miles a minute trying to figure out what had caused the seams to appear.
Reluctantly, you turned your hand to look at it again. You wish you hadn’t. The seams had stretched far beyond the reaches of the cut, halfway up the arm now, and continuing. It was stretching into the arms of your shirt, out of view. A mix of fascination and sheer terror washed over you as the golden thread pulled in and out of your arm, with quick and precise motions, like it was working on a quilt instead of a human being.
You whipped off your t-shirt, horrified to see the valley continuing to snake upwards.
It didn’t hurt too bad. It felt like pinpricks, getting less and less intense as they moved up your arm, but your brain made it so much worse. It felt as though all your mental energy was going to panicking, your senses and spatial awareness being pushed aside. That was either magic, or you succumbing to a mysterious illness. It was hard to tell with all the commotion inside your head.
You took a seat in the chair that had accompanied the desk, taking deep breaths in an attempt to calm yourself down. Your legs were gelatin, unable to support the rest of your body. Even your arm felt unusually heavy. It didn’t much matter anyways, you were virtually frozen with fear. The seam had stretched beyond your arm now, branching off at the shoulder into a few more paths, spilling down the front of your chest like organized tree roots.
Faster and faster, the thread continued down your abdomen, dipping in and out of your belly button before moving towards your pelvis.
In a continued panic, you ripped off your jeans, watching as the lines continued down your thigh, down your leg, all the way to your feet. The breakneck pace they’d been travelling at grew to a crawl as they approached your toes.
They ceased to move from this point, but you could still feel them tingling. You thanked your lucky stars that no one could see you in your current state, nearly naked and shaking with fear and confusion.
There was a brief moment where nothing terrifying was happening, so you figured you’d try to make the best of it. You wriggled back into the seat, attempting to get comfortable and maintain a sense of calm control over your body. Whether it was working or not was debatable.
You took deep, deep breaths. In and out, a few seconds at a time, until you slowly collected yourself. Whatever was happening clearly wasn’t malicious in intention, or it would have killed you already. It was a total takeover, but one in which the final goal wasn’t clear. Whatever this was, it was quick. And… not entirely unpleasant. It certainly felt better when you stopped freaking out about it.
It was hard to tell what felt good and what didn’t, with nothing else to compare it to, but there was a certain numbing quality to the sewed-up arm that hadn’t been there before. Even your neck felt like jelly, shaking under the weight of your head. You tried to view the situation through a positive lens, and, for the most part, it worked. It all just felt limp, weak, and warm. The pain in your arms and legs had diminished greatly, and the stitches that had extended across your body had ceased to burn.
While wiggling your fingers, and stretching your legs to test for feeling, it came to your attention that the lack of senses from your initial panic had not subsided. You still weren’t feeling much of anything. There was a nice, warm, sensation radiating from inside of you, but all external stimuli just felt like… dry air. The chair you were sitting on barely registered as contacting with the rest of your body. You were left floating above the floor.
There was a part of you that panicked at the feeling, but with a few more deep breaths, you found the good in it. It was calming, in a way. It was a total disconnect from the musty basement, and it took your mind off the situation.
When your neck was finally too numb to support your skull, and your head fell forwards against your chest, you didn’t feel anything. You made a few vein attempts to lift it, but it seemed too heavy for your body to support. You could only turn it from side to side, looking down the front of your body as the seams began pulsing with light, bulging slightly. You tried to push the objections you had to the back of your mind, and let the magic do it’s thing. The less freak-outs, the better.
You were surprised to see patches of fur pop up from the valleys in your chest, like dandelions from a sidewalk. Not frightened, just surprised. A lot of your initial shock and panic had worn off through your efforts to stay calm, replaced with a sense of peace as the last bits of pain you’d been feeling wore away into the air. You weren’t terrified of the thread anymore, and it seemed to be rewarding you for your trust.
The fur was brown and shaggy in texture, like it had been hand-sewn onto you. You couldn’t lift your arms high enough to feel it, but you could imagine how soft it must have been.
Meanwhile, just below the growing patch of fur, your belly was plumping out a little, millimeter by millimeter. It was a subtle change, but one that you caught onto pretty quickly. As the expansion picked up speed, your belly button smoothed over completely. The fur from your chest came down in an avalanche, random patches appearing everywhere around your stomach as they grew together, slowly covering the whole of your lower torso. The furred skin of your chest and stomach seemed to pull together, the distance shortening as you grew smaller.
Much the same thing was happening to your arms and legs. Though you couldn’t see the entire expansion with your head tucked to your chest, you could feel it happening just fine. Your limbs were thickening to a uniform size and shape, pulling back into your body as they grew shorter and shorter. Scars and cuts smoothed out as they prepared for furring.
You couldn’t help but be surprised as your fingers fattened and disappeared beneath the thick coat of fur that had just sprung up. Lifting your hand and bringing it into view took considerable effort, but seeing the progress that had been made was worth it. A warm leather paw pad was forming in the center of your palm, surrounded on all sides by a sea of thick fur. It emerged from the tangles of brown string quickly, like a breaching whale. It was old, and cracked with age, as though it had always been there.
This didn’t look much like any paw you’d ever seen, however. It was wide and blobby, all the features lacking definition. Sewing thread lined the outer edge of the pawpad, holding it in place in the center of your hand. You could only assume that your feet were in a similar condition, as they were beyond your limited view.
Your new paws just looked… soft. Everything felt soft.
With enough shrinking, your paws fell from the chairs armrests and flopped onto the cushion, laying flat against the seat. You strained to lift them, but within a few attempts, you managed to bring them up and set them on top of your belly.
Something looked to be moving around inside your stomach as it continued to grow outwards. The valleys formed by the golden thread began pulsing once more as the furred skin churned. Whatever it was created a gentle motion, like ocean waves inside of you, it’s calming effect enough to distract you from the other changes for a short time.
Your belly was far less firm than it was before, but far lighter. Your paws were sunken deeply into the fur, like a waterbed. Though it had swollen quite noticeably, it was similar to a pillow in weight, light and fluffy with enough structure to maintain it’s round shape. There was no telling what was happening for sure, but it looked and felt as though you were being pumped full of fluff. You could feel the gentle motion moving up your chest, nearing your shoulders. It was a nice sensation, all your complex, heavy organs being booted out and replaced with magic stuffing.
Your midsection had shrunken significantly, trying it’s best to keep up with the rest of your body. No longer could your feet hang over the edge of the seat. Your height was diminishing at a rapid pace, and you could only watch as the edge of the chair you’d been sitting on grew farther and farther away from you. In only a few minutes, you’d shrunk an unbelievable amount, now less than half your original height.
The gentle motions from inside were doing their best to rock you to sleep. You struggled to keep your eyes open as the waves of cotton continued flowing through you. A crackling noise, like a campfire, or an FM radio seemed to encircle your head. It was hypnotic, and you felt more compelled than ever to remain perfectly still, completely free of complex thought.
After a few minutes spent in the relaxing grasp of the noises, it came to your attention that you were no longer breathing. Not that you weren’t aware of it, more that it just… wasn’t happening. You couldn’t even do it manually, your strength failing you when you tried to inhale. But somehow, you were perfectly fine. It was one less thing your body had to worry about, one less organ to look after. You could no longer feel your own heartbeat, feel your own limbs, but you were under such a spell that it didn’t concern you. The magic thread now had your full trust.
With nothing else to focus on, you could give your full attention to the changes. You’d failed to notice just how much progress they’d made in a few short minutes. The last bits of fur popped out from the corners of your vision, and with that, the transition from skin to fur was complete. Not a single patch was left uncovered by the shaggy, fuzzy string.
You could feel the waves of stuffing moving up through your neck, quickly approaching the rest of your head. Your tongue was widening, but growing flat. You struggled to get your mouth open, but sure enough, the tongue that lolled out was only a simple strip of dry, pink felt.
It was totally immobile, left hanging out as the front of your face stretched forwards. Your nose flattened, black leather folding around the tip of your short snout to form a little sniffer. You tried to reach out and touch it, but your arms refused to move from your belly. It wasn’t that your cotton-filled limbs were too heavy. It was more so that your body didn’t let you.
And why would you ever want to move? It felt better to stay still, let the all-encompassing warmth be the only thing you focused on. Why strain to perform a task you didn’t need to do?
You remained perfectly still for the time being, admiring the quick work the thread had made of you. Your human teeth pulled back into your gums, leaving a vacant feeling where they had once been. It was alleviated quickly, however, as the last bits of felt stretched over your lips. They covered the roof and floor of your mouth in seconds, sealing off the space where your throat had once been. Your mouth was the same colour as your fur, but a lot less fuzzy.
Your vision warped all of a sudden, becoming blurry, like looking through a dirty bus window. Everything rounded out like a fish-eye lens. It was growing darker too, your eyes shrinking to a pair of beady, black orbs. The glow that had previously touched the corners of the rooms grew even dimmer as your eyes made the transition to shaded glass. You couldn’t see much anymore, but there was nothing that you hadn’t already seen anyways.
Your head was nodded forwards permanently, at least until someone handled you again. You were weak, and you liked it that way. Your movement was outside your control. You were just a toy.
With that admission, the changes were nearly complete.
No pain, no concerns. Slow, simple, thoughts.
You were content. No, not even content. You were happy. You were warm and dry, surrounded by toys just like you. The soothing sounds from inside you kept you under, warmth encompassing you from every angle. You were comfortable, propped up against the back of the chair, completely immobile.
The only thing left to do was let the thread put you to sleep, as the sun’s beams filtered in through the ceiling. It was the dawn of a new day, and the strong, warm winds that blew in through the ceiling brought with them the smell of dew on grass and fresh air. The toys stirred to life in the wind. The gentle sound of the rocking horse beneath you wore away at your consciousness, it’s off-beat swinging putting you into a sleepy trance.
It had a certain sound to it, like a slow gallop. Like shoes on pavement. It seemed surrounded by the city noise from beyond the basement, passing cars and chirping birds. It was a soundscape you recognized.
Your mind moved slowly, rewinding back to the soft features of the rocking horse, it’s gleaming eyes and friendly smile.
You didn’t have enough energy to open your mouth to speak, or turn your head to look. And you didn’t need or want to. You’d been blind not to see it earlier.
She was there with you, in that room. Your search was over, your final purpose as a human fulfilled.
There was nothing left. No stressors, no unresolved mysteries. You’d leave nothing behind.
Your vision faded to black, the warmth moving in close to you as the memories of your former self melted away. It encompassed you in seconds, swallowing up all thought. You ceased to exist, your soul left in the body of a plush bear.
All the thread left behind was a stuffed animal and a rocking horse, toys among toys in a warm basement.
something more recent from my FA!