Monday, 27 October 2014

#CoffinHop Day 4: Bête Noire

For today's dark offering, I bring you writer and senior editor at Bête Noire Magazine, Jennifer L. Gifford, with an excerpt from her story, The Dollhouse, and also a bit about the magazine itself...

By Jennifer L. Gifford

I’m an artist. I confine myself to one simple medium, but my art is one of a kind. Working in fear and pain, much the way Picasso worked in oils, I utilize whatever tools I have around me to complete my dark masterpieces. I specialize in the macabre, emulating the dark essence of it, capturing it in all its dark twisted beauty. Death, sweet death, is my greatest creation.
My pieces are never seen by others, and while one day I hope that my creations bring me notoriety, I make them for the soul purpose of my own enjoyment. They are my creations, though they didn't start out that way. At first they belonged to God, but I stole them from Him, and I made them my own.
My pieces, as a novice, were rough, choppy, and out of proportion with the form. But over time I learned to correct the broken limbs, the pasty complexions, and yellowish skin that had once been a drain on my energies, not to mention the scarcity of my precious resources. Much like any other hobby, it takes practice, dedication, and commitment.
Helena was my first success. She was so breathtaking, and still is, that I sometimes sit in awe of my own handiwork. She was handpicked from hundreds of others. It was her face that captivated me, drew me to her. Helena was special.
She had a heart shaped face, soft and round with the cheeks of a cherub. Her hair flowed around her feminine features like spun corn silk. And the eyes, oh the eyes, so full and round--like her lips--were deep pools of cerulean.
I took her one night, bringing her to my studio, where I do all my work. I prepare them there, before putting them in the dollhouse. The building is old, a three story brick structure down along the Detroit River, and I own the whole thing. It’s in a seedy part of town where everyone minds their own business, and doesn't ask questions. But its quiet and I need quiet when I work.
The dolls always seemed so shocked to find themselves my helpless guest. I believe it’s because they have never been in the presence of a true artist before, so I imagine that is where their anxiety comes from.
I gave Helena a lethal dose of sedatives. It’s my own personal blend of prescription painkillers and good old fashioned laudanum.
It’s best to wait until they are fully asleep before inserting the thick embalming needle into the side of their neck, near the carotid artery. Sometimes a dolls eye’s will flutter open catching sight of the needle sticking out of her neck. It’s intoxicating to watch as the fear washes over them in their last moments. 
The needle is hollow, and with it at the neck, it’s easier to elevate the doll to let the blood drain. I empty it of blood, but not completely. That small amount of life left in them keeps them warm just long enough for me to prepare them.
I must also admit, it’s here that I get a rush knowing that their last precious drop of divinity is controlled by me.
Before the body’s temperature cools, I slowly inject heated rubber cement in the joints of the body. Several smaller injections into each of the major muscle groups of the skeletal system, allows me to move the limbs of my doll however I want them. As precious as my dolls are to me, I still like to take them out of their box from time to time and play with them. When I do, the rubber cement gives the flesh a firm, supple feel that bends, but never damages the body.
I remove all the unnecessary hair from the body. I like my dolls to have skin as smooth as porcelain. I use large strips of wax I purchase at a local beauty supply store, and strip every inch of my new doll’s precious form. It’s during this process that I start to get intimately familiar with every crevice and line of her delicate form, and in that very moment, I own my doll, body and soul. I have thought about branding my dolls, burnishing my initials onto their cool flesh, but the thought of that dark blemish, that blight upon my perfect canvas, is almost more than I can bear.
Through trial and error, I discovered that by spraying a thin coat of silicone floor sealant over the body carefully, the sealant acts as a protective barrier and completely closes the pores on the body. It also prevents the often inevitable darkening and rotting of the flesh. It’s so heartbreaking to painstakingly toll over such a magnificent body of work, only to have it wretched from your desperately clinging hands by the cruel ravages of time.
Starting with her lips, I formed the full oval into a tempting pout. Next I slowly bathe her form from head to toe before spraying her with a painting primer that serves as a sealant and top coat.
Using a small butane kitchen torch, like the ones the chefs use for making Crème Brule, I apply a small localized amount of heat to her cheeks, to naturally and permanently heat her cheeks to a pleasant rose hue.
It is here in this process as well, that my dedication, handiwork, and artistic abilities often lull me into a restful daze as my new doll, my muse, inspires me into artistic daydreams.
From past experiences, I force myself to pay close attention to the methods in which I use in my erotic taxidermy. Too much heat can blister and blacken the skin beyond all recovery. I have ruined several earlier dolls that way.
I use spray paint as a foundation. It’s cheap, and it comes in a lovely variety of shades that I can match to any of the dolls’ skin tones. After, I painstakingly airbrush on all the subtle lowlights and glowing highlights their natural skin tone had.
While the paint dried, I started on her hair. I always like all my dolls hair to have loose curls that frame and accent the face. I want to show off the natural beauty of my dolls, not hide it. I think that’s what makes them all lifelike. The rest of the embalming process is completed while I finish the hair.
Next, I use a light finishing sandpaper before applying her make-up. I want the face to be smooth. When my fingers caress her cheek, and stroke her swan-like neck, I want the cool flesh of my doll to be as freshly spun silk.
I artfully made up her face. Dramatic eyes, like a movie star. I injected super glue into the eyeballs themselves, at the corners. It keeps the eyes from decomposing, and gives their eyes that glow that seems to gaze at me with longing.

Jennifer L. Gifford is a writer and senior editor for Bête Noire Magazine

Bête Noire is a quarterly print magazine headed by authors A.W. Gifford and Jennifer L. Gifford, along with its sister publication, Dark Opus Press. 2014 sees Bête Noire Magazine celebrating its fourth anniversary, continuing to publish the best in dark speculative fiction that showcases the creative talents of both new and established authors, Bram Stoker award winners, Pushcart prize nominees, and Nebula Award winners.
Blending a mix of horror, science-fiction, Victorian, gothic, suspense, and steampunk, Bête Noire Magazine creates a unique mix that’s redefining the speculative fiction realm.
Bete Noire magazine is also a platform for photography, original artwork, and poetry that encompasses the subgenres of dark fiction, striving to uphold the talents of reputable authors, while bringing new authors to the forefront.
Remember, fear is just a point of view.

And don’t forget to enter my contest, or creep over and check out more of the Coffin Hoppers.


katie M John said...

A really interesting article. I love the metaphor at the beginning about her medium comparing the abstract to the concrete. Interesting - will be following up. Thanks for sharing. Have a great Coffin Hop

A. F. Stewart said...

Yes, she has a lovely feel to her writing; it's an excellent story.

DarcNina said...

A great feature, Anita! The story sounds very intriguing. Thanks for 'opening our eyes' to it. :)

A. F. Stewart said...

You're welcome.

Paul Stansfield said...

A.F.--thanks for the excerpt, and the info about Bete Noire Magazine. I'll have to remember that name, for both reading and submitting.

A. F. Stewart said...

Yes, it looks like a great magazine.

Anonymous said...

That was fantastic! Thank you for sharing it Anita :)

A. F. Stewart said...

You're welcome, Julianne, glad you liked the post.

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