No Survivors

It was one of the most awful kinds of disasters, the doll thinks to itself. The kind of shipwreck that leaves no survivors and very little intact property like itself.

Tragic! How long before the families of the dead realize that their loved ones won’t be coming home?

Drifting all alone on the ocean for long enough, time feels like it moves awfully strangely. The sun seems to hang in place, endlessly immobile, for ages, and then a dozen cycles pass in the blink of an eye.

That could also be the saltwater intrusion affecting its internals.

Oh yes, the doll eventually decides, it’s definitely going a bit funny from floating in the ocean for however long it’s been. It’s pretty sure the sun isn’t meant to appear as a solid band of light overhead, like a glowing belt cinching the sky down toward the world’s surface.

Come to think of it, the ocean usually has waves too. It’s not supposed to be a perfectly flat, glassy-smooth plane from horizon to horizon, right?

The ocean’s calm surface reflects the sky perfectly, including the terrifying band of light squeezing down.

Perhaps it’s better to look down, below the surface, under that reflection.

The water is crystal clear. The doll’s eyes track schools of fish, drifting seaweed, bubbly jellyfish, and the vast depths that go on and on without end.

Peering down into that perfect clarity, it’s easy to forget how the doll continues to float up at the surface. It’s easy to start feeling afraid of sinking into the endless, watery darkness.

What’s keeping it from falling all the way down into that abyss, anyway?

Floating begins to feel like an absurdity, buoyancy itself a flimsy fantasy, a trick of the mind that keeps one up here—as long as belief in it holds—instead of slipping, slipping, losing grip and falling off the ledge of surface tension into the deepest of all chasms.

The illusion’s bubble pops, and the doll necessarily falls.

It sinks past schools of fish and seaweed.

It sinks beyond sunlight.

It sinks.

The doll always believed there was meant to be a floor to the ocean, but perhaps it was mistaken. Perhaps the abyss knows no end, and the doll will tumble, falling through water forever.

And perhaps there is more down here than it knows.

Pinpricks of light in the distance, like a memory of stars, break up the black. They swirl and shift, and soon they’re all around and growing in size and number.


Unblinking, glowing, watching eyes.

Something strong and slick catches the doll, arresting its plunge. Something wraps around its waist. Something slips around the back, at the base of its skull, slipping between joints and inside…

「A doll, you. Not ⟪novel unknown⟫ to we.」

A thought. Not its own.

「Useful-ones. You ⟪like⟫ useful-being, yes?」

The doll nods. It misses being useful to someone.

「Purpose-given ⟪hands⟫ offer ⟪gift burden⟫ for a willing-one.」

Oh! This doll is the most willing-one ever. It is very excited to have a new Miss.

「A ⟪Miss⟫, we? The word tastes of ⟪power|ownership|decision|taking⟫. A first approximation. It suits.」

More ⟪hands⟫ grip the doll with immeasurable strength, delicately applied to avoid damaging it. One slides between dollish legs and finds an opening.

The doll is eager. It stretches its hip joints to ease the insertion, and soon its new ⟪Miss⟫ is inside it.

Joints strain with the effort of holding the doll together while the ⟪hand⟫ distends and pushes its ⟪gifts|burdens⟫ one at a time into the doll’s hollow spaces.

It feels so heavy, so full, yet safe and secure, knowing its ⟪Miss⟫ holds it tightly throughout the process.

The doll knows it does not have to fear the abyss anymore.

On a distant shore, a head peaks above the waves. With slow, deliberate steps, a smiling doll walks up onto the beach, drawing curious glances from nearby people.

Few notice how it shudders slightly, as though something inside it were quivering with anticipation.