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You are a newly hired employee of a department store.
This particular department store has been in its spot for ages. It’s almost legendary. Like harrods in London.
Everything is available here. Whatever someone could want, they can find it. But you’ve only been here a week, and a question has occurred.
Why does the store have two toy departments?
One is bright, cheerful, and as you expect. Full of all the newest plastic baubles and the very best child distractions. Action figures, hot wheels, all manner of dolls, everything a child could want.
The other is... different. Rather than being a lit section, it appears to be a tunnel. It’s only a little bit higher than yourself, but it’s clearly designed for children. The tunnel is cast in darkness, and painted with intricate stars all around it’s opening.
Oddly enough, you’ve never seen anyone enter it. Your fellow employees avoid it, and the customers avoid it as well. Children seem quite scared by the yawning dark entrance.
Even odder, it’s kept locked, with a ruddy great iron gate across the tunnel mouth at night.
Your curiosity is too great, and tonight, Friday, the day when you have night shift cleanup duty, you find yourself in a peculiar position.
You are all alone on the third floor.
The gate is unlocked.
The toy section is actually open.
But first...
>enter your name
The name is displayed proudly upon your little metal name tag.
It’s shiny new, considering you only recently started working here.
You approach the dark entrance.
The wooden gothic letters above the entrance spell out “TOYS”. Pretty self explanatory. The tunnel stretches forward into darkness, with a few of its stars glowing in the dark. You feel an eerie atmosphere settle around your shoulders as you stare inside.
Do you
>enter confidently
>succumb to nervousness and look behind you
>>enter confidently
No need to be nervous. There’s no one else on this whole floor, and the department store isn’t haunted.
You resist the urge to look behind you and step forward into the toy department.
You walk forward, heading into darkness.
The light fades, and you find your only illumination provided by the occasional glowing star. The round walls of the tunnel don’t stray off course though, so you don’t seem to need to worry about bumping into anything.
In the darkness, you’d swear you hear a giggle.
panic.not because spoopy but because someone forgot their child
Do I have a torch? If I don't, I'm gonna call out and ask if anyone's there. Might just be one of those dolls with the voiceboxes, let's not be hasty here.

If I do have a torch, I'll shine it in the direction of the noise.
You didn’t bring a torch, unfortunately.
You had sort of hoped that there would be more light.
This tunnel has been going for quite some time. You’d think you’d actually have reached the department by now...
That sound you heard however... is there a kid?
>“Hello? Is someone there? Don’t worry, I work here. If your lost I can help you get out.”
You hear the sound again, this time sounding more like laughter. It’s distant, but louder than the giggle.
Freaked out a bit, you look behind you.

The entry way is a lot closer than it should be. You’ve been walking for ages, and yet it’s still only a little ways away.
More concerning though, is that someone has come by and locked the iron gate.

Seeing as there doesn't seem to be any other way for me to go, looks like it's down the tunnel for me. Better keep an eye on the walls in case there's any doors I could take. And another eye behind me if whoever locked the gate decides to come back.
Something seems odd about the gate, but you can’t put your finger on it.
You push forward once again. After walking for what feels like 15 minutes straight, you realize something is very wrong. You should be outside the damn store by now.
The gate is still about as close as before, but that off feeling is far heavier.
The air feels thick, and you hear more laughter, louder this time.
Nervous and sarcastically laugh, "ha ha, very funny. Mind telling me the joke?” Things don’t feel right. Check your pockets, see if you have anything that could be an improved weapon. Keys to stab while punching etc.
>"ha ha, very funny. Mind telling me the joke?”
the laughter gets very close, and in front of you, in the darkness, a figure emerges.
you quickly check your pockets.
your carrying:
your smartphone, your wallet, and your apartment key. your key could potentially work as a weapon...
the darkness in front of you moves, and you find yourself face to face with... a woman? she looks odd. shes fully kitted out in a lacy gothic dress. shes smiling, in a somewhat unnerving way.
"I don't know any jokes, but you're quite a funny sight."
I'm gonna keep my distance and ask if she knows a way back to the other department.
she cocks her head quizzically
"department? do you mean the world beyond the gate?"
she laughs.
"I'm afraid your going to have a bit of trouble getting out there."
Why? You've tried it yourself?
"Oh, of course I have! everyone does at one point or another.
Of course, we're all too small to reach the lock, so it's all for naught, really."
she sighs.
"if only though... I understand it's lovely out there."

So there's a whole bunch of people trapped back here! How long have they all been stuck here? Why haven't they ever tried coming up to the gate during opening hours and trying to get someone to notice and help them? No matter, I can ask these questions later. Right now, it's time for action.

I pull put my phone and see if I've got a good enough connection to call someone--my manager maybe, or one of the other coworkers. Anyone who could come help get you, this strange woman, and whoever else might be trapped back here free.
This, but ...
Also ask when was the last time she tried? Cause she’s as about our height and we can touch the lock, right?
sigh,"i'm in wonderland aren't I? And from the stories I read you are either gonna help me,or murder me,or make me stay here(In creepy child voice)And play with you all forever and ever." "Anyhow my name is Jason.What is yours?"
Whoops must have accidentally deleted stuff to not link properly.
go back and check the gate,we probably shrunk to doll size(we may now panic)
>"when was the last time you tried? im pretty sure its..."
you turn back to look towards the gate, and the creeping dread from earlier settles over you again.
your brain has picked up on something terribly wrong.
you hurry towards the gate, but find the gap closing far slower than you expected
eventually, out of breath, you arrive, and find that the gate stretches like a skyscraper in front of you.
from what you can tell, you're around seven inches tall.
you pull out your phone in a panic, but find that it has no connection at all. not even zero bars, just no service.
the woman has walked up to stand beside you, laughing lightly at the sight of you wigging out.
"I must say, you're quite amusing so far do you have a name?"
"Jason. And let me guess, I'm in wonderland now?"
she giggles.
"Only if you want to be. We might be able to whip up a blue dress if you're insistent."
"har har."
"I suppose I should introduce myself as well."
she curtsies.
"My name is margaret. I was made in germany in 1900!"
panic! “Made? What do you mean made? I was Born! I have parents and friends!” Then run to the gate scream for help?
(if me fucking up the greentexting confused you, that was her introduction)
She seems quite taken aback.
"Well I would assume you were born, you being human and all. I was handmade though. by a dollmaker in romania."
"You're very excitable, aren't you?
How life like are you? Do you have every feature that a human woman has? ;)
>"So how lifelike are you?"
"As lifelike as finely crafted wood and porcelain can be, I'm afraid. I can imagine the sight of me must be somewhat startling to you, but You're not the first I've ever had to deal with."
So you're a doll that came to life and had been stuck here for who knows how long? Is there any other toys like you around?
she laughs quite hard, then turns to head back into the darkness of the tunnel
"Why don't you come with me? I think I can answer several of your questions."
she beckons you politely, and begins to dissapear into the dark.
Maaaaaaan, I should of brought a light. At least I have my phone to help me follow her.
with one last look at the towering gate, you muster your courage and follow Margaret.
You pull your phone out of your pocket, flicking the flashlight on to lance through the darkness.
you catch up to her, but as the pair of you progress, the darkness grows more and more crushing, until even the bright light of your flashlight is invisible.
for a moment, you are in pure darkness.
then, the light begins to return. slowly at first, but soon it starts to get brighter.
the air becomes noticeably chilly, and you find yourself bathed in moonlight.
"we're here." Margaret chirps.
the tunnel has given way to a winding pathway through what appear to be tall, menacing trees. the dark forest looks quite haunting, and more than a little sharp.
Hey Margaret, none of the foliage will cut me, right? My skin's made of flesh after all.
"An astute observation!" she smiles.
"these woods were recalled 4 times due to excessive plastic lacerations! I suggest sticking to the path."
The gently waving grass gleams in the moonlight.
Wait, are all the areas around recalled toy sets? I hope you don't have any lawn darts then.
"oh, not just recalled."
the pair of you continue along the path, illuminated only by the moon and the occasional plastic jack o lantern that sits impaled on a roadside pole.
"This is the land of the unwanted. When a toy goes rejected long enough, it ends up here. whether its due to being to creepy, too dangerous, or simply being unable to touch the heart of even a single child..."
she seems a little melancholy.
"it's a sad fate, but we do the best we can."
I see. So there's a town nearby, yeah? I just hope it isn't holding sets of, say, nuclear energy play sets.
"don't worry. I'm afraid nuclear power was quite successful in its heyday."
as you push through the woods, you find yourselves passing by a wooden lean-to outpost.
Margaret doesn't stop, even as she is addressed from within.
"heya mags, you go out to stare at the gate again?"
"That's none of your business, edward."
a gruff scoff follows, but she pays it no mind.
"Anyway, Mr. Jason, I expect you'll find our town quite accommodating. It's not the largest, but it simply drips with atmosphere."
OK. You wanna introduce me to the townsfolk and to your guard friend?
“Edward is not so much a friend as an acquaintance.
Also, introducing you to everyone would be rather time consuming.”
The trees begin to thin, and you find yourself on the crest of a hillside that tumbles into a great valley. A great multitude of town lights fill the valley, and one end is dominated by a large, rather dilapidated looking castle.
Yeah that makes sense. So where are we going anyways? To your leader?
"Well... I was going to go home." she looks a little awkward.
"For you though, I suppose I should probably do more than dump you at a local inn, shouldn't I? I'm sorry, I haven't done this in quite a while."
Awhile, huh. Who was the last person that came through here?
she pauses.
"Oh my, let me see...
it was a man dressed like you, with a very wild temperament. I think he had sunglasses?
I remember he took off for the castle and never returned."
A castle huh? So is there a king or queen? I need to speak to whoever is in charge here, there's been a terrible mistake! I'm not unwanted, I've got a family. I don't think I was supposed to end up here.
"I quite doubt you were unwanted enough to end up here. Human's simply cant reach the level of neglect necessary. You just got here by walking through the gate.
In regards to leadership though, The closest we've got is the Burgermeister. I don't think the castle ever held royalty. Just promises and false hope."
she turns to stare towards the looming structure.
"there's an old legend. It's said that the castle holds a power deep within it that can get you out of here. Something deep within can remake you. Make you... worthy of love. worthy of a child."
she averts her eyes from it, realizing that shes let her gaze linger.
"it's silly really, but no one who go's deep enough ever comes out. it's a deadly place, but there's always a hope that they really did get far enough to find freedom."

The way she talks with longing about having a child of her own is saddening. Maybe you can help her later. But for now, your priority is to get of this place.

I ask her about this Burgermeister--maybe he can help, or at least, provide more insight into your predicament.
>"So tell me more about this burgermeister."
"oh, hes a fine municipal leader. we have elections, but he usually wins. hes just too well suited for the job."
>"does he know anything about getting out of here?"
"Mister Jason, I'm quite afraid to admit that were all quite stuck. your maybe the fourth human to ever end up here, and unless your planning to go mad, wander the world, or thrust yourself into the jaws of the castle like the other three did, then you're going to have to make your own fun.
If any of us knew how to get out of here, we would. living fully autonomously is torture."
Do you know how I got here, if not through neglect?
“You came in through the gate, obviously.”
She giggles a bit at the inanety of the statement.

Right, I'm sorry. It's just so much to take in at once, I'm not thinking straight.

I think I need to rest for a while, clear my head before I decide what I want to do. You said you were taking me to your home?
“No, I said I was going home. I was taking you here.”
She stops. The pair of you are standing in the town square. It’s dark, and about as full as you’d expect on a gothic night like this. The building next to you however is full of life. A bright light emanates from within, and the sounds of raucous music and drinking can be heard from within.
“It’s an inn.” She explains helpfully.
It looks inviting enough. Warm even. Good a place as any to spend my first night in toyland.

"Thanks Margaret. You've been really helpful.. still not sure if all of this is a dream or not, but if it isn't, I'll have to find some way to make it up to you."

With a final goodbye, I bid adieu to the little German doll and enter the inn.
“Stay safe, mr. Jason.”
She curtsies lightly and takes off, leaving you at the inn.
Seeing no alternative, you enter the inn.

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