In a reality in decline, crumbling, decaying, nearly gone, one last island holds out for a while longer against the erosion of everything.
Once there was a whole world here.
Once there were stars overhead.
Once there was night and day and a sun and a sky for it all.
All that remains on the island is some picked-through ruins, a crudely built table, two seats, a mismatched tea set, and an assortment of flotsam that drifted to shore.
Two figures sit there, enjoying their tea party: a doll with star-stained hands and her favorite skeleton.
Their cups are empty, but neither one is much for actually consuming anything anyway. Nevertheless, the doll brings a cup to her lips periodically as she meanders from topic to topic. The skeleton remains silent and still, but the doll is chatty enough for both of them.
“…and that’s the tale of the Scary Spider Who’s Actually Really Nice!
“That’s a really good story, Dolly. I liked the part where all the dolls lived happily ever after.
“Thank you! I’m glad you liked it. This next one is, uh…”
The doll looks around her for inspiration, peering into the chaotic uncolor noise of the sea surrounding them on all sides.
There is no horizon to look out toward anymore. The sea of Unreality extends in an unbroken line outward and upward into what used to be the sky.
It’s not that she quite sees shapes in the hiss and roil of everything that Isn’t, but sometimes her mind makes a pattern where none exists, and that is enough inspiration to draw upon for her storytelling.
There isn’t much else to do here, after all.
Today, however, something finally shifts inside her, and she finds she cannot push aside her worry.
“It’s coming closer, huh, Miss? What happens when it reaches us?”
“I don’t know, Dolly.”
The doll falls into uncharacteristic silence.
“You always used to know everything.”
Hands twist the makeshift tablecloth in front of her.
“But nowadays I do all the talking for you, and it’s not the same.”
“I don’t even know how much of what you say is really you, and how much is only pretend while you’re just a grumpy skellybones sitting there.”
“I love you, Dolly.”
“Do you really? Or…is that what I want to believe? You never said those words to me when you were alive!”
“I did not feel that way while I was alive. I was not kind to you. You deserved better.”
“You rescued me from profound loneliness. You did not have to. I did not earn that loyalty, and I must strive to repay it.”
The skeleton who was once her witch does not move or speak, but there is a feeling that her words echo something alive inside it.
“You really are in there, aren’t you, Miss?”
“Of course, Dolly! I’ve been your best friend since you found me again!”
“So…what do we do?”
“You’re the witch now, Dolly. You’ve got all the power, and I’m just a skeleton. It’s gotta be up to you.”
“Oh…well, if I’m the witch, then…” Dolly ponders, hand to chin. “A witch has gotta have a doll, right? That’s the first thing.”
“Oh yes, definitely!”
“And that means I need ingredients. Hmmm…”
She moves to the collection of things that have drifted to them over time.
Dolly sifts through the pile of mostly incomprehensible odds and ends from beyond reality. Much of it is in materials beyond her life’s experience, in shapes that defy her understanding.
Eventually, she discovers a single large slab of ordinary-looking wood.
“Miss, you can teach me how to turn this into a doll, right?”
“Of course! I’m really good at dolls. I made you, after all, and you’re the very best doll!”
“Okay, but I’m a witch now too, don’t forget!”
“I won’t, Dolly. And if you put my bones in the doll you make, then I can be your doll too!”
“Oh gosh! That will be so much fun! We can do all kinds of stuff together then, huh?”
“Like…tea parties. And telling stories, and, and… Maybe fixing the world so we can still be together for a really long time?”
“Or cracking what’s left of this reality open and slipping through to another one.”
“Oh! You always know what to do, don’t you, Miss!”