She loves to dance. When she was younger, her parents let her take any dance class she wanted; ballet, tap, modern, anything their little girl wanted to take. They loved seeing her dance, seeing her joy. They had more children, and she grew up. Money grew tight and she couldn't dance anymore. Her parents asked her to watch her siblings, asked her to give up her freedoms to become a second mother, asked to give up what she is best at in exchange for less recognition. She began to slip away from them, wishing for a way out of the trap her life has become.
They find her one day, between the drudgery of school and the toil awaiting her at home. They are beautiful. Utterly beautiful. They want her. Want to take her away from her dreary life. They know she hates her life, and they know she won't be missed. They promise her wonder. They promise her beauty, to make her beautiful like them. They promise her they recognize her skill, they appreciate her. They promise she can dance, dance for them to her heart's content and beyond. They want her, and she agrees to leave with them, to dance again, to be part of their beauty, their world. She agrees to be theirs.
They take her away. They lead her so far and so long she no longer knows where she is, but she doesn't care, not any more, she only wants away from her life. She feels brambles pull at her clothes and tear at her hair. The brambles seem impenetrable, and endless in all directions. Fear of being lost and left behind creeps into her heart and she clings to their hands tightly, afraid to be separated from her saviors.
They travel for days through the thicket, never stopping, never resting. When she stumbles they pull her along, back to her feet. When she falls, they drag her along. They are changing the further they travel, still beautiful, but growing more terrible with each passing moment. To look at their impossible features makes her feel as if she is going mad. The thorns cut her skin everywhere, and she feels as though with each cut she is losing something important.
The brambles end and she finds herself in their world, a scream catches in her throat, unable to escape. They promised her wonder, but the wonder is tempered with terror. They take her into their palace. The walls and angles inside are impossible to comprehend, but she follows quietly, too paralyzed with fear to do anything else. They want her to dance. Chimes and bells begin to play. She tries to dance but stumbles, her limbs stiff from their journey. They tell her to dance. She tries again, but can't. They make her dance. Her body moves on its own, not under her control any longer. They make her dance for hours before growing tired of her. They place her in a small, dark, empty, dusty room and leave her there.
Every now and then they take her out of her room and tell her to dance to the chimes and bells they are so fond of. If she can't dance, they make her dance. They promised to make her beautiful, but make her beautiful in their terrible image, make her pleasing to their discriminating eyes. She dances until her joints became hinges, and she moves until her muscles and organs became gears and clockwork. She dances until her body lengthens and thins to please her masters. Her skin becomes hard, pale porcelain and her eyes dark and heavy. They make her dance for hours, days, weeks, even sometimes years on end. She doesn't need sleep anymore. Sometimes they feed her, other times they forget about her for months. She doesn't need to eat anymore.
She no longer loves to dance. There is no joy any longer, only the compulsion to move her body for her masters when she hears the music start. They promised her appreciation, but only give her the appreciation warranted by a simple trinket or toy used for amusement. She is hollow now, her soul lost long ago in the brambles, when she agreed to be theirs without understanding what that meant. Dancing is now her curse. They stole her away long ago to make her dance without end.
They make her make her dance less frequently now. She sits quietly in her empty room more often than she dances. They put another, strange girl in her room and the girl is frightened of her. She watches the girl cry for days and days, watches her sleep, watches her call out for her family, saying they'll look for her. She begins to realize why they haven't made her dance in so long, why this girl is so strange and foreign to her. This girl is not like her, the girl is like how she used to be, this girl is still real. This new girl is her replacement. They are bored of her. She moves to look at the girl, wondering why they chose the girl over her, what this girl has that she doesn't, but the girl only screams in fear of her, now so deformed, reformed, she is no longer truly human, but a living doll made by her masters. She tells the girl they lied to her, to both of them. They told the truth but lied in all the worst ways. The girl only screams more, pulling away from her, pounding on the door, desperate to leave, frightened by the monstrous living doll. They never wanted her, they only ever wanted her dancing, and now they were replacing her with this girl, who will become her. She tries to cry, but she can't anymore.
They come for her once more. They lead her away, past the room where she danced, where the replacement dances now, out of their terrible palace of beauty. She follows her mad captors to the brambles, and fells herself stop, now knowing their intentions. They are going to make her go back. They are going to abandon her. She struggles against them, knowing her mind has broken in ways that allowed her to survive in their world, but will make her incapable of living in her own again. She is mad because they made her so, they made her theirs, and now wish to throw her away. They hit her and she falls into darkness.
She wakes in the brambles alone and panics. She runs into the thicket, desperate to find her way back, to find her masters again, knowing they don't want her, knowing that she needs them to survive. Living without them is living death. They changed her and tortured her and abused her, but she needs them, because without them she is just a discarded toy with no purpose, no reason to be anything any longer. She pushes through the thorns for weeks before seeing a bright light and pushing through to it excitedly.
The sun falls on her face, its rays warming her cold, hard skin. She blinks her eyes with soft clicks and feels her jaw drop into a silent scream as she recognizes this world as her own, original world. She ran the wrong way in the brambles, ran away from what she had wanted to move towards. She wails piteously, clutching her spidery arms to her thin body. She turns to return to the thicket, to return to the terrible beauty of the Faye, but the thicket has disappeared, it is gone, lost to her, and she is stuck here.
She tries to find her family, but they had moved long ago, and she no longer remembers her name, or anything about who they were other than the way her family treated her, all the things she disliked about them. She no longer cares what happened to them. She tries to get used to life in her birth world again, but sometimes finds herself seeing things that aren't there, and the Faye world haunts her waking dreams and nightmares. Normal humans don't see her monstrosity here. They only see the beauty enforced on her, not the hinges, or the gears, they don't seem to hear the clicks and whirs of her body, but they sense something is different about her. She doesn't dance anymore if she can help it, but the sound of bells and chimes still provokes her body to dance, and she cannot stop until the music does.
A man stops her one day. He has a camera. He asks her to pose for him. She agrees. He dresses her in beautiful clothes, does her hair and make-up, and takes her picture. So many pictures. He calls her his weeping willow, his beautiful, sorrowful Willow. Others ask to take her picture. She agrees. She is only a doll after all, it is easy to pose for them, and they need her, need her beauty, need her to be theirs. The name Willow has stuck, and they all call her that now. They tell her how lucky she is to be so beautiful, to be so tall and thin and elegant. She can only smile bitterly in return. She lives alone, posing for them when they ask, taking the money they give her, slowly learning to get by again in this world.
Another man approaches her while she is doing a photo shoot. Her photographers try to scare him off, but she senses something familiar about him, a certain kinship. She looks at him and she can see his eyes have horizontal pupils, she can see the horns growing out through his hair. She can see the hair on his body becoming thick fur. He seems to transform before her eyes from a man to a man goat and she knows, this man was touched like she was by the Faye. He sees her monstrosity as easily as she sees his. She approaches him and asks softly if they were cruel. He says they are always cruel. She embraces him awkwardly, not having held anyone since she was human, and lets him lead the way to others like them, leaving her photographers behind, aghast their beautiful Willow is leaving them.