Slappyville sprawled like a puppet with its strings cut, a town in miniature winding around hills and trees and a single burbling river. Amanda limped to its outskirt, Petey still buzzing from where she had it tucked under her arm, its batteries drained. Damn dog.
Her leg ached from shin to hip, and the rest of her body wasn’t much better off. Where she landed avoiding the Doom Viewer would bruise, and a line across her back burned from where a vampire-ghost managed to score a hit.
She expected there to be a party of slappys there to meet her, glass eyes and wooden expressions bent by painted-on smiles. Not that she minded their absence, but something about the empty streets worried her, pulled at the part of her that always whispered run, run and don’t look back. It was a voice she had to fight not to listen to, because she knew it was right. At the same time, though, she knew there was no place left to run—she had tried before, after all, and failed miserably.
Donna stands before the beast, shoulders square, skin a sheen of sweat. Twelve years old and the gun seems almost comical in her hands. At least, until she starts to fire.
Amanda shook the memory away, focused on the current problem. Slappville, absent slappys. Something was wrong. Sighing, she started walking toward the town center.
She noticed the chanting before she saw the crowd. It looked like every single resident of Slappyville had turned out in the town square, hundreds of wooden bodies creating a living wall as slappys craned necks to see what was going on. A full four feet taller than the gathered horde, Amanda had no problem taking in the scene.
The square itself was mostly cleared, and in its center was constructed what looked like a miniature guillotine, situated on a raised stage. It must have been quick work, given that she hadn’t noticed it when she came through just that morning. The sun was getting low again, but it couldn’t have been more than twelve hours—slappys were scary when motivated.
Standing on the platform were a slappy wearing a solid black hood to complement their black suit, another slappy dressed in shorts and a tee shirt, and Slappy himself, distinct because of his golden crown. Even with the ornamentation, though, it was the second slappy that stood out most—next to all the antique dresses and mini-tuxedos their clothes looked...normal. Their hair was different, too, not the solid painted black or curly clown red or long blonde of most of the slappys, but a spikey dark brown.
“What’s going on here?” Amanda asked, not loud enough to carry far but the effect was instantaneous—the chatter and chanting abruptly cut off, and hundreds of glass eyes turned to look directly at her, catching the setting sun in a kaleidoscope of ill intent. She clutched her Stick a little tighter.
“Ah, Amanda,” Slappy said from the platform, his voice clear and shrill despite the distance. “I’d say I was glad to see you but I’ve seen Creeps that looked better than your sorry mug.”
“Job’s done,” she said, pointedly not rolling her eyes at his attempts at humor.
“Then you’ll wanting to be paid,” he said, that painted smile stretching even wider.
Doing business with slappys wasn’t exactly the best idea she’d ever had, but given that Slappy did decent business for himself, selling off his minions for cheap labor to larger powers and running smuggling, brokering, and other illicit activities, Amanda figured she didn’t have much choice. She needed batteries and food, and Slappy had both, regardless of how awful he was. There were worse things out there, after all. Or that’s what Amanda told herself—she didn’t sleep worth a damn anyway.
“That’s the idea,” she said, a moment before the strange slappy on the platform began shouting.
“You have to help me!” they screamed, their voice sounding younger than she expected, less piercing...and completely terrified. “I’m a real boy! They’re going to kill me!”
Amanda’s eyebrows inched up, and she shot a look to Slappy. She had never heard of a human actually being transformed into a slappy, but that didn’t mean it was impossible.
“Ignore them,” Slappy said. “They’re just malfunctioning.”
The slappy in the hood clamped a hand over the other’s mouth.
“It your usual policy to behead...malfunctioning slappys?” she asked. She shouldn’t have, should have just accepted payment and gone on her way. But there was something about the slappy on stage, the fire in their eyes, the desperation in their voice, that seemed almost...human. And they had asked for help. Amanda sighed. It was her policy never to turn down someone asking for help, regardless of who it was.
“But of course,” Slappy said. “I wouldn’t expect a buffoon of your caliber to understand, but in civilized society there’s a little thing called blood and circuses. At least, that’s as far in the history books as I got before I dozed off.”
The square erupted in laughter as the slappys all joined their ruler in cruel merriment. Amanda flinched, but held her ground.
“Why don’t you let me take him, instead?” she asked. “He obviously doesn’t want to be here, and you obviously don’t want him here. So...”
“After I’ve gone through all the work of building the stage?” Slappy asked, gesturing to the platform and guillotine. “I think I’d prefer to watch the drama play out. But thanks for the offer.”
A slappy approached from the side, holding a bag that probably had most of what Slappy agreed to pay her. Amanda looked again at the platform, feeling the weight of her stick, the weight of Petey, the weight of the years pressing down on her, threatening to crush her. She took the bag and slipped Petey into it, then slung it over her shoulder, moving her other hand slyly from her stick into her pocket, where she found a small glass orb. Not exactly how she planned on using it, but not completely unexpected either.
“Now, if you’ll excuse us,” Slappy said, turning back to his trembling captive.
Amanda drew the orb from her pocket and heaved it at the platform. She was hazy about the radius, but hoped it would work as advertised. Immediately she rushed forward toward it, kicking slappys out of her way, feeling a bit like one of those giant lizards she used to see destroying cities in movies. Slappy’s mouth fell open in shock and he looked ready to scream something at her when the orb struck, shattered, and every slappy in the square dropped to the ground.
Unfortunately, that meant so did the one she meant to save, and she didn’t have an extra arm as she pushed past the limp bodies of the slappys and hopped onto the stage. Without hesitating, she shoved the captive into the bag as well, and then ran as fast as she could. The null orb would knock out every magical influence in the area, but she had no idea how long the effect would last, and she did not want to be around when Slappy woke up. A voice in her head told her she should just kill Slappy, if that was even possible. To kill all of them. Again, it was a voice she had to fight to ignore, because it, too, was probably right. She’d regret this. There were much worse things than regret, though.
She ran, without a specific direction in mind, until the sun finally bled out across the horizons and the bag on her shoulder grew too heavy to keep going. Exhaustion finally caught up to her, its legs timeless and strong, and she sank down to the ground, her back to the trunk of a sturdy tree, and fell instantly to sleep.