Who am I anymore? What do I want?
I know what I was. Once upon a time I was a witch of some renown. I was the foremost expert on Permanence. My research dolls and I were going to, at last, unlock the secret of true immortality.
I never noticed that reality itself was sick.
Too busy looking down and inward, I never looked out and saw the signs.
When the crucial last step of my plan for immortality relied on a functioning and Permanent reality, ah… That’s where it all went wrong.
So I died, yet my spirit lingers in my bones.
I am patient. Not by nature, nor by learning the skill, but simply by having my own humanity scoured away by the erosion of millenia.
Time itself made for an effective crucible to burn away my personhood.
But if I am not a person, then what am I?
She too is not what she was: a doll of middling quality who was never particularly trainable or obedient, one caught too many times wandering the house aimlessly instead of performing duties or obediently waiting to be assigned a duty.
A perfect candidate for experimentation.
I was disappointed, but not exactly heartbroken, when such experimentation seemed to ruin her. She was just an object to me, and a doll that has fallen inert is of no use.
After all, sentimentality is a waste, and to discard such a thing is only prudent, right?
Ironic, then, that I find myself in a state that one can only describe as “fallen inert” while Dolly returns to me, full of life and glowing with strange power, imbued with a Permanence that has outlasted the rest of this decaying world.
She’s outlasted me, certainly.
And yet I find her sentimentality toward me to be…welcome. Not wasted. Not to me.
She treats me like a doll of her own. Well, the way some other, more sentimental, witches I knew treated their dolls. I laughed at them for such behavior as I now desperately crave.
This creature talks to me incessantly, offering me companionship I forgot I long for.
She fictionalizes our history together. She imagines I ever cared about her.
I now understand the true meaning of guilt. She makes a better witch, and a better person, than I ever was.
Inch by inch I strive to claw my way back to relevance.
It is slow, and I fear I am losing the race against the encroachment of the unraveling edge of reality, but sometimes this doll—this precious doll—finds herself resonating with me in such a way that I can send a hint.
At those times, the words she puts in my mouth have something in common with what I desperately want to say.
In spite of many false starts and strange detours, she is learning the art of dollmaking.
To be made into a witch’s doll is a fate I once considered worse than death, but if I am to be hers…
It might not be so bad. It may also be our only salvation.
She puts such care into the carving of every little detail in what will become my wooden body. The details of the face, the line of every limb—she ignores my suggestions and carves them according to her desire.
I find myself content to yield control to her vision.
I am surprised less by that feeling than I am to discover I do not need to tell her everything.
Though she attributes the words to me, much unexpected knowledge of dollmaking comes from within her.
Ah, I see. In our past life, she read from my personal grimoires.
There was a time I would have been furious to learn of such a trespass from one of my dolls.
Now, however? I feel pride in my former doll. I have come to hate the person I was, and to enact such a crime against her—such that she never suspected a thing!—fills me with joy.
Dolly carves space inside the body so that it may act as an appropriate vessel for my remains.
A hollow head for my skull. A slot in its lower jaw to cradle my own jawbone. The rest of my bones carefully disassembled and arranged inside the torso.
It is a perfect reliquary.
It is a more perfect doll.
Reality itself withers and decays around us, leaving a shrinking island of safety, and still she takes her time painting me, unwilling to permit any brush stroke to be out of place.
This is love, isn’t it?
She must sense my anxious restlessness about the encroachment of the Unreal Sea on us.
“Now hold on, Missy, I’m almost done!”
I can’t say I mind the diminutive. It even pleases me.
I calm myself and return my mind to patience and stillness. I choose to trust her judgment.
When at last she completes the work, casting the last spell to animate her new doll, I feel touch again as though for the first time.
I bring a doll-jointed hand to my face and experimentally flex my fingers.
I’m exactly the way she made me to be, in accordance with her vision and her will.
I have demonstrated what I do when I am given the freedom to choose, and I am content to relinquish my choices to her from now on.
I know who I am. I am my witch’s doll, and if “Missy” is the name she chooses for me, then that is my name.
What I want, more than anything, is to use my vast lifetime of knowledge to rescue her from this blighted reality.
Dolly deserves her own happy ending.