Author's Note/Disclaimer: Happy Holidays, everybody! Just like last year and the year before that, here's a Nightmare Before Christmas story for Christmastime. Hope this short isn't too much of a letdown after last year's four-part story. To be fair, I put a lot of care into revising this short, whereas with It's a Wonderful Nightmare I was in a bind to write. Ack! Enough apologizing! Here's a story about Sally's life in the lab. If you like it, please leave a review. I'm playing around with the possibility of a longer story about Sally, and this is sort of a trial piece.
I do not own "Nightmare" or any of its characters. I also don't own Tangled or the song from it I quote here. Both movies are under the Walt Disney Company name. I just write for fun.
Out Where Pumpkins Glow
The broom made a gentle scratching sound as it swept against the cold, uneven stone. It was a soft rhythm that to the rag doll who was sweeping seemed to carry on endlessly, like a drumbeat in her head. Sometimes she'd get caught up in that beat and sing to herself, but never too loud. She wouldn't want to disturb her creator while he slept.
Start on my chores and sweep 'til the floor's all clean…
The mop and pail had a rhythm as well. It was more jarring than the broom, like a "swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, plop!" It was also a tricky rhythm to sing along to, but dancing along to it wasn't out of the question. Unfortunately her wobbly legs and tiny feet wouldn't allow her even the slightest grace on the slippery floor.
She'd continue this sweep–mop–sweep pattern throughout whole the manor, singing quietly and carefully shuffling her feet left and right as she went. Despite the never-ending feel of the chores, she was efficient. Dr. Finkelstein would awaken to clean, dry floors by sunrise every day.
With cleaning out of the way, breakfast needed to be cooked. The rag doll had perfected timing that as well. She'd start boiling a brew or fry up some lizard eggs as she cleaned, not letting the meal cook too long. Ideally she would serve her creator breakfast as he awoke. He might scold her if she wasn't prompt about the meal, so it was better to multitask than to take her time.
Her creator would need some time to eat and set up the organized chaos of the lab for the day, and after cleaning the dishes leftover from cooking the rag doll could finally enjoy some time to herself. As she did most every day, she spent this time in her creator's study reading up on any number of subjects. She had read through nearly every book in the collection by now, but rereading never hurt. She held onto the hope that if she continued memorizing the facts and history of Halloween Town, her creator might allow her to venture out into the world beyond the high window and locked door.
Laboratory work would follow the rag doll's short read. She was the primary log-keeper since her creator performed experiments and his other creation Igor was illiterate. She didn't enjoy the job, but the doctor insisted that she continue writing.
"It's good for your mind," he would say. "Besides, you have such pretty handwriting."
But before she could get to recordkeeping, the rag doll had to partake in small, mental tests. Her creator said that her brain had been the most difficult of her pieces to come by, and he insisted that she was still "his experiment," so she still had to demonstrate her mental growth. Sadly, the tests he assigned had become dull. Little things like listing all the alphabet letters in less than ten seconds, doing mental mathematics, or saying hello in four different languages were no longer challenging, but she had to pretend to be interested. Her creator would call her "his snarky Sally" if she didn't feign concern.
After Sally's mental warm ups and Igor's daily bone biscuit, the day's experiments would begin. This work had also become mundane to Sally and often she would have some spare time between the doctor's testing to just sit. She was never bored though, for she'd always have a book or sewing project in her lap, and her creator had no trouble with her spending her free time productively. There were only two activities that the rag doll wasn't allowed to partake in during lab time. The first was daydream, because the doctor insisted that it halted progress in all aspects of life. The second was sing, because it distracted the doctor from his work and because it often caused Sally to daydream even more.
There was one more rule that had become more or less Sally's way of life. As it was at any other time of the day, the rag doll was forbidden to leave the manor. She wasn't even allowed to talk about the outside world without being scolded for it. Her creator constantly reminded her that she both physically and emotionally wasn't ready to go out, but she wondered when she finally would be.
I'll work in the lab, and knit, and cook, and basically
Just wonder, when will my life begin?
With morning experiments done, her creator would be hungry for lunch. He almost always requested soup, but never the same variety two days in a row. He resented too much routine. Sally returned to a book or project while he ate. She enjoyed baking, and if Igor had brought home ingredients, some days she would whip up some goodies for her creator like bat cookies or bone marrow cakes. Some days she liked to play with the 30-piece pumpkin puzzle the doctor kept in his study, trying to break her record of putting it together in 17 seconds flat. Igor liked the puzzle too, but he could never put together more than a few pieces before becoming entirely stumped and giving up.
"There, there," Sally would say to comfort her fellow abomination should he become upset. "You're getting better every day."
Soon lab work would start again, and likewise, Sally would work on more side projects. Lately she had been trying her hand at knitting. Unfortunately the needles often punctured her tiny fabric hands or her fingers would get tangled up in the yarn if she didn't pay too much attention, so it wasn't always the best idea while working in the lab.
Experiments would continue on for the rest of the day with no break. If she was efficient with her side work and the experiments as uneventful as usual, Sally could create small embroideries, knit the beginnings of a scarf, or read through a chapter of a book. Assisting in the lab was mostly easy work, but occasionally there were more unpleasant experiments to do. Being basically various rags stuffed with leaves, she was resistant to many pains like electric shocks and sharp objects. Should any tests prove hazardous to Dr. Finkelstein's health, Sally had to be the guinea pig.
She once had tried to protest. "I may not have nerves, but I do have feelings!"
But her creator only made her feel guilty. "You want me to get electrocuted? The very person that brought you into this world?"
She only sighed and never resisted again. She cared too much for her creator to allow him to come to harm.
Fixing dinner went about the same as lunch, but now there were more dishes to be cleaned. Almost every night as she washed dishes a few of her wrist stitches would pop, mostly because she was too tired by then to pay attention to keeping herself together. Still, dishwashing gave her time to think…even to sing.
I'll stitch some new project, must be something somewhere.
And then I'll mend a stitch, don't forget to brush my hair,
Stuck in the same place I've always been…
Of course her creator was right. Singing made her drift off into other worlds, but not the one she wanted to visit. The only world she truly longed to be a part of was the one just outside the laboratory. So far the words of her creator and the books she read had been her only links to it, but words weren't enough to placate her desire to step outside.
Before turning in for the night, Sally would work on a few last-minute things, like repairing her loose stitches, finish up sewing, or read a favorite book, but she would always go to sleep early enough to feel refreshed for the next morning's work.
One thing Sally did every night before she fell asleep was look out the window and watch the creatures haunting the town below her, looking like dots from her height. She was a monster too. It was so unfair that they could shuffle about freely down there while she was shut away indoors.
"You're not ready yet," her creator's voice echoed in her mind. "Give it another year or two, then maybe, if you're really good…"
There was one building that stood out among all the others from her view of Halloween Town. It was a house, almost as tall as her creator's manor, with a tower leading up from the roof. Every night, a light would glow from the not-so-distant tower. Curious, she had asked her creator about the house, and he told her that the huge house belonged to the Pumpkin King.
A king and his kingdom lay just beyond her window yet no creature knew that she existed.
It was like something out one of the many scarytales she had read. There were many stories of fair monsters locked away in a tower or dungeon, put to sleep by a magician's spell or trapped by humans who didn't understand the she-demons had only wanted to give them a good scare. Then one day a gruesome prince of fright would come to the maiden's rescue and the two ghouls would live frighteningly ever after. Sometimes Sally would imagine herself as a monster in distress, and dream of an angel of darkness to come sweep her off her wobbly feet, but she knew that it was just not to be.
No matter what her future held, the rag doll was determined to one-day leave the laboratory. One-day, hopefully one-day soon, she would be able to prove she was ready to join the other monsters. One-day she would show the doctor that she had been created for something more than just being his assistant. On that glorious day, her life would begin.
What is it like out there where pumpkins glow?
Maybe someday he might just let me go…