Jenne MM


Jenne MM is a Los Angeles native who tells stories that pop up from deep-seated memories of her complicated childhood and transition into adulthood. She wishes to dissect life as she perceives it through her writing, focusing on intersectional identities and issues of socioeconomic class, gender, queerness, race and ethnicity.

To Animate a Mannequin


I was cutting through the grass, heat beating down on me as I walked towards the library, when a sudden chill ran through me. The sun was still about an hour or two away from setting and not a single cloud was above me. I was under some trees but there was no breeze, only shade. The chill passed and went away and in a sense, in that moment, so did I.

I squinted my eyes and then blinked just to make sure that what I was seeing was real. I looked around and saw picnic benches with groups of 4-6 people each, eating dinner together. Faceless white bodies with light hair tied up in “messy” buns, athletic shorts exposing long legs, plates topped with leafy greens, and voices fighting to be heard among the groups, it felt like small cult gatherings of a mannequin factory which had breathed life into its dummies. 

As I walked closer and closer to the center of the nest, eerie bells marked the beginning of a strange quest. The world around me began to feel like an outdated and lagging video game, one I hadn’t played in years and only some of my progress had been saved. Now, the world I thought I knew became distorted and the more that I tried to gather my thoughts, the easier it was to tell that a pinch couldn’t save me from this questionable reality.



I became a character locked into a new land, left to explore and divide my new world into enemies and allies. I had only the information that was given to me before my quest about the strange creatures in this place. The rest, I had to learn from whatever future experiences I would have with them to help me know whether they were friend or foe.

Instead of dealing with the mannequins though, I used my powers of transformation to turn into a mythic force, one that was seen but not to be disturbed. I blended in enough with the surroundings to not raise any signals, but I did raise some eyebrows. And yet, the chains holding up these puppets were not too long, and thus would not allow them to initiate the interaction. I picked up the pace to find an open place to rest, and once I left the tree-filled lawn and towards my destination, I popped out of the distorted and suffocating bubble that I had been trapped in. The warmth came back and I could see the sky again-- still no clouds.

I began to see faces again, people I could reach, bodies of different colors and sizes which set themselves apart and whose eyes and voices actually reached me. Their steps were in sync, but only with agreement and acknowledgement from both parties. Kind smiles revealed beautiful teeth underneath full lips. I shed my shields quickly, the way I would drop a coat if it were on fire, and they shattered, eaten up and taken by the wind, and I became solid again. Maybe the faces around me didn’t know me, but they at least knew that I was there.

Later, more of the same, but different, was repeated. This time, the mannequins felt closer than before. Where they had previously been inhabitants of a land I had not yet unlocked, I had now amassed enough points to get closer to them. I was ready to see what the crisp, fall air had in store for me on a Friday night, and I walked out to the crowds.


 I faced masses of people wandering the road at midnight, in the search of a better gathering space. Like sheep without a shepherd, drunken bodies staggered and moved in the general direction of the neighboring sheep.  They laughed loudly, announcing to the world that they had not a single care in it.



“Oh my god I love your hair! And your shirt, too!” Sheep #3 laughed. “I’m sorry. I must sound like a creep! But I love your style.” The herd kept moving and Sheep #3 bleated “have a good night!”

I kept walking the opposite direction, swarms of people still moving past me. The world around me started losing its color palette and darkened into shades of black, white, and grey, with red and yellow bursts of heat as sources of light. Villages lit by fire and song could be seen and heard in every direction. Time itself wanted to rewind, but it simply transformed the environment around me. Short, tight dresses and crisp, polo shirts turned into long, puffy dresses and neat, heavy detective coats. Street and party lights turned into sticks on fire, protruding from within and around the crowds. The streets did not close in, but where there used to be a way out was only a glass barrier, a fourth wall.


I found myself inside a TV box from the 1960’s, feeling like a deer in the headlights. But that night, I felt like a fawn. My legs could not move steadily or as quickly as I wanted them to. The breeze was no competition for the heat radiating from the torches. I stopped seeing faces and saw only bodies forming big mobs lazily mobilizing and preparing for their next conquer.  My breath slowed down until I felt the weight of history rob me of my presence. Right before I tried running through the glass and break free, a hand reached out to me saying “let’s hold hands so we don’t get lost,” and the walls of the TV retracted back into nothingness.




Sometimes, the mannequins play dress up. It is necessary for them to claim a role if they want to partake in any session of the game.  They unlock extra features, working to gain points until they become players themselves, not just background or neighboring characters.

Because in anybody’s world, levels of engagement and cross-cultural discourse are tough and uneven. In lands apart, you may see the grayed-out neighboring lands, fearing any type of engagement in many cases. Particularly, legends and stories warn of violent histories about thy neighbor, tending to lands acquired without warning or compromise. Passing each other, fear of the other places each player in a chokehold, air of friendliness trapped within. The fear is a two-way channel of non-communication.

But these players decide that they would like to break away from their own world and into additional spheres unknown. Sometimes, it is mere curiosity and desire to engage with the other side. There are few of this kind, but they exist. They yank on their chains and the less they believe in a fixed destiny of unchangeableness, the looser their cuffs become until, finally, they can move out of the shadows.

The details of their armor and facial features start to form, an investment reserved only for those coming into the foreground of your territory, only for dynamic beings on quests of their own or in sync with their fellow allies. These features are afforded only to those closest to the action, because who can afford to invest their time, energy, and imagination on beings who will idly sit by selfishly as the rest of the world teams up to exert hard work and effort towards a better future? Who can actually, truly, excuse those in power who turn a blind eye as the world burns down around them? As injustices drown, devour, and destroy those too far from the top from before they were even born to have ever had the chance to make it out relatively unscathed before the inevitable end of us all-- death?

Underneath those masks and armors however,  you don’t really know who or what is there. The armors hide the mannequin safely. Their newly acquired features take some getting used to, like acquiring a new weapon or unlocking new powers.

Exercised correctly, the communication between the dummies and myself is possible-- notable differences exist among each mannequin (the fake breaths, the dusty particles, the paleness, the instinct to protect their fragile selves at all cost, etc.), but their effort counts. I am more than happy to coexist and share and laugh and eat with them, and we learn a lot from each other. Sometimes, we admit to the misconceptions we had about the other, and we share a laugh. “They aren’t so bad,” I think. “They like me and don’t hold my skin color against me.” I stop marking the differences between my “mannequin” friends and my regular friends, at least consciously. Subconsciously, I still think, there are some things I will never share with them. There are some things I just can’t bring myself to say. There are some ideas that roll out of my mouth before I can catch them, and they leave a little bruise from where they bounced unto fragile skin and away. I struggle with my speech, losing words in every language, adding soft accents where they add hard ones, etc. But it’s a work in progress. I tell myself each time I meet one of their members “maybe next time I will stop by at one of their cult meetings and say hi.” But I never do. I think the way it normally works is I stumble upon these meetings. I feel like a specimen, but that’s the weirdo in me.


© The Acentos Review 2019