Death Mask

Lloyd had been a dollmaker for ages. He was great at crafting the most lifelike dolls, and was renowned and highly famous for his craftsmanship and exquisite skills. His work was so realistic and lifelike, it was baffling. How was it possible to make a doll’s face look so alive? People had been known to run into his shop, scared that the babies in the bassinet in the window were actual babies, not dolls. The relief on their faces when they realized their mistake was always so genuine it was almost funny. Lloyd himself was much-loved within his community, who envied his skills. Lloyd always remembered their children’s names, and made them dolls that looked like little versions of them. Though they lived in a little suburb just two miles from the city center, it was agreed by all who saw his work that he was unparalleled in his skills. 

He was kind, funny, and oddly charming. He didn’t seem to care much about making money (though he did, indeed, make a lot of money). Though of course, it was seen as a bit odd for a grown man to be so obsessed with doll making, and some found him strange. It didn’t diminish his popularity, though. Lloyd was perpetually single, and didn’t seem interested in dating. Many of the local women offered to set him up with their daughters, or nieces, or even themselves, but he always graciously turned them down, saying he didn’t have time for romance. He lived in a small apartment above his shop, which was extremely convenient for him. It was fairly simple, but he considered himself a fairly simple man. He knew what he liked, he knew how to do his job to pay his bills, and he knew what he liked to do in his free time. But nobody could have guessed what he was like behind closed doors. And even Lloyd himself couldn’t have predicted how his personal and professional lives would become so intertwined.

He’d recently been asked to design a resuscitation doll. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, was starting to be taught in schools and workplaces, and a standard doll that could be mass-produced would help spread the word and give students a standardized “body” to practice on. He’d been contacted because his work was so lifelike, the people behind the doll thought it would make it more realistic for those learning CPR. The more real it felt, the more likely people would take the exercise seriously (and reduce the need for someone to volunteer to be the doll, which was extremely awkward in and of itself). He took the job incredibly seriously, and even ended up hiring a local woman, Annie, to help him in the shop so he could dedicate more of his time and focus to making the perfect face for the doll. 

Annie was a natural at helping the customers, and with her manning the storefront almost every day, he had lots of time to focus on the CPR doll. It had to be perfect. He would accept nothing except perfection. Lloyd stopped coming into the shop most days, and Annie started to hear odd noises in the space above the shop where Lloyd lived. When he did show up, he was pale, and looked very odd. But he kept making dolls, and the customers were thrilled, so Annie didn’t ask questions. It was winter, and every other person who came to the shop had some sort of cold, and with the stress of the Christmas rush, Annie focused on making sure she was healthy and the customers were happy. Lloyd was a grown man, after all, he could take care of himself. But as time wore on, Lloyd appeared less and less, and the weird noises above the shop started happening more and more frequently. The inventory in the shop dwindled, and there were less customers coming in as there was almost no stock for them to buy. After a final two days of no sales capping off two weeks of no Lloyd and no new inventory, Annie made up her mind. She closed the shop and unlocked the door to the upstairs stairwell. Had she ever been upstairs? No. Should she possibly have warned Lloyd that she was coming into his private space? Possibly. Was she prepared for what she found? Not at all.

What hit her first was the smell, like rotting garbage mixed with a dead animal. It was rancid. This only made her more concerned, though, and she pressed forward up the stairway, convinced something terrible had happened to Lloyd. She called out his name as she climbed the stairs, worried she’d find him unconscious, or worse, but if he could answer her….

Annie stopped in her tracks at the top of the stairwell. It was a small studio apartment, but it was in absolute disarray. The small bed was stripped of its linens and lay bare and menacing against the far wall. There were multiple oddly-shaped lumps on the floor under the bedclothes. Annie pulled her shirt up over her nose against the smell. “Lloyd?” she called out again, and heard a thump behind her. She turned around and saw light coming out at her feet behind what she’d thought was a wall. She pushed the wall, and a secret door opened. This must be Lloyd’s workshop. It was filthy, barely lit besides one bulb hanging high from the center of the ceiling, and she could see movement at the far end. “Ll … Lloyd? Are you….?” He turned around, but it wasn’t Lloyd. Or, rather, it was Lloyd, but he was wearing a mask of someone else’s face. Annie screamed, and turned to run, but she tripped over another mass of something on the ground. Lloyd quickly walked over and pinned her to the ground. “You weren’t supposed to see this, Annie,” he said, slipping the mask off his face. The underside of the mask looked like raw meat, and there appeared to be blood all over Lloyd’s face. Annie turned away, looking for an escape, and that’s when she noticed the walls were lined with shelves full of faces. Most looked like masks, but some looked utterly, terrifyingly real. She passed out from fright.

When she awoke, she found herself strapped to a cot in Lloyd’s workshop. In front of her was a wall of faces. “Do you like my death masks?” Lloyd asked her. She tried to shake her head, but she couldn’t. “I’ve been trying to make the perfect face for this resuscitation doll, but none of the faces were right. I used my death masks for inspiration, but they weren’t working. So I went out and started collecting faces for inspiration. But when you showed up here, the look of shock on your face, it was perfect. You’re it. You’re my muse.” His face looked lit from within; she could swear she saw tears in his eyes. “I’ve even named the doll after you. You’re going to be the first Resusci Anne. But there’s no saving you now.”

Scent Notes: Oaked vanilla and benzoin resin swirl among a blooming bouquet of cassia, juniper, hyacinth, narcissus, and poppy with hints of sage, freshly turned dirt, coumarin, and camphor.