by Harris Coverley

Wilhelmina, aged eight and three-quarters, took the wooden box off the shelf above her rag dolls, slid off the lid, and laid the miniatures out on the desk in her room, before replacing the lid.

There were twelve of them exactly, all of them little people, finely sculptured from clay in exhaustive detail, and dressed in archetypical Regency era or early Victorian clothing. There was a man in a blue cloak and tricorne, a woman resembling Madame du Pompadour in a pink gown, five peasants, a stable groom, a town crier, a stockinger, a milk maid, and an early police constable in a top hat.

Wilhelmina picked up the police constable and giggled at him: “Go on, try to arrest me.”

The police constable frowned and said, “You know, I was a postman in the old life, not a policeman…”

Wilhelmina exaggerated a yawn: “That old chestnut…you’re soooo boring!”

She let the constable drop to the marbled oak of the desk, and he shattered into pieces.

The woman resembling Madame du Pompadour began to cry, and the little girl scooped her up and looked at her with distaste.

“And what are you blathering about?” Wilhelmina asked. “It’s not like you got smashed.”

“You treat us like rubbish,” complained the finely dressed figurine. “We have feelings, we had lives…we want you to stop.”

Wilhelmina ignored her pleas and danced her around the desk, over and over, singing softly and tunelessly, “We’re going to the ball, we’re going to the ball…oh what wondrous sights we’ll see, we’re going to the ball!”

“Please!” cried the little clay woman as Wilhelmina danced her clear over the edge of the desk. The Madame screamed as she went, and hit the thickly carpeted floor with a muted tinkle.

“Oops,” smiled Wilhelmina, and picked her back up. She was cracked across her chest, and her eyes were glazed over, but she was not yet broken.

Wilhelmina slid the lid off the box and dropped the Madame in, finally breaking her in two. She slid the lid back on, and turned her attention to the remaining miniatures, relishing in their looks of terror. At the same time, she was confused by their reactions: this was always the standard of play.

Over the next ten minutes, she forced the milk maid and the stockinger to dry hump, disintegrating them into each other, before using the feet of the man in the blue cloak and tricorne to smash off the head of one of the peasants, crumbling his legs in the process. Wilhelmina then progressed through the rest of the figurines in myriad forms of butchery until there was but one left, the smallest of the peasants. The likeness of a boy around ten, she observed that his eyes were wide and sickly as she held him in her palms, pondering his fate.

“Please,” he begged her, and managed, very slowly and painfully, to move his hands together into prayer. “You know this hurts every time…spare me this once, just for today.”

She thought about his words, before declaring, “You know, I’m going to see how easy your arms will come off…won’t that be fun?”

In a panic, as her fingers seized him, the young peasant boy did something he had never done before: he fought back. Her index finger hooked around his right arm, he bite hard into the skin between the first two knuckles, drawing a tiny but stinging droplet of blood.

Wilhelmina squealed and dropped him, a rare grin passing his lips as he fell to his destruction on the desk. In a fit of rage and tears, she picked up the box and smashed the extant parts of the miniatures into smaller and smaller bits until they were barely dust, and then swept as much as she could of them back into it with her hairbrush.

Drying her eyes on her dress sleeves, she went to the bathroom and rinsed her cut. On her way out, a voice called to her from downstairs, “Willie, is everything all right up there?”

“Yes, father dear,” Wilhelmina replied, leaning over the bannister rail, “I’m just playing.”

“Well, keep the noise down, I’m trying to read the paper.”

“Yes, father dear.”

“Good girl.”

She thought of telling her father about the bite, but decided against it. He might overreact and get rid of the miniatures, burn them even, and she could not have that.

Returning to her bedroom, Wilhelmina replaced the wooden box back in its place on the shelf, and figured that, after such excitement, it was time for a nap. She took off her shoes and got under her bedcovers. Before she closed her eyes, she looked at the box and smiled. By tomorrow, they would have regenerated, like always, ready for new and rougher play. She had to be rougher, she thought; it was the only way they would learn any respect.

She then turned onto her side and went to sleep, dreaming of minefields.