Somewhere out there, among the countless worlds and timelines that could ever be, is a dead, forgotten, and utterly barren world.

No more gods or witches or people or purpose or even stars in the night sky.

A lonely rock. An indifferent sun.

And one last, abandoned doll.

All the life and joy and color and magic that slowly receded from the world over unmarked millenia should be dead and gone.

But somehow—through some confluence of fumbled witchcraft, the slow decay of the world into unreality, and fate’s whims—it lives on in this doll’s mind.

Outwardly limp, lifeless, and still, the doll is noteworthy for remaining in near pristine condition long after the world around her decayed into dust and rubble.

The pleasant smile on her painted face still points up at the sky, aimed at nothing in particular.

When the sun sets, her hands shine brilliantly. The shimmering stardust on her is one of the only things that her creator did not painstakingly craft of her.

The stories filling her head, through which she occupies her endless time, are also all her own.

A million dreams and the world’s countless missing colors fill her mind.

Endless remixes and reframings and mutations of every influence of her life all take part. The sisters she once knew, the witch who abandoned her, the books she snuck into the library to read, all of it.

The doll dreams of what names the witch might have given her if she hadn’t failed her somehow, if she’d been loved and cherished like she imagines she could have been.

She was never called anything but “Doll,” and although that was not such a pretty name, no other fits.

Perhaps she can call herself “Dolly,” though. That name is not so different it feels like it belongs to someone else, but it’s cute enough to feel good about.

It feels nice to imagine the witch that created her being proud of her for choosing a name. So she does.

Dolly remembers the witch not being particularly kind to her, but she imagines her Miss had her reasons.

She finds herself missing her witch and her old life anyway. It was nice to not be alone. She imagines that her witch secretly loved her best and was sad about being mean.

Dolly imagines that her witch is still alive somehow. Her Miss always knew so much! Maybe she just doesn’t know that Dolly is still here after all this time, that’s all.

She imagines her old joints still able to bend and move. She imagines getting up and standing on her own.

She still remembers where the old house was. She imagines finding her way back there, seeing her witch, and having a happy reunion.

Her Miss would excitedly greet her and tell Dolly, “You’re the best doll I ever had, and I’m sorry I forgot that when I left you behind!”

She imagines that—

She imagines—

She imagines she does not have to imagine a happy ending for herself.

One starlight-stained hand twitches and grasps at the ground under her. The other follows.

Rigid palms press into dirt, and with a creaking shiver, the doll sits up.