Chapter 2:

Fly Free, Just Moderately

Doll's Vestige

Whilst the catharsis my little screaming fit brought calmed me down, I found myself no more inclined to remembering, nor did I wake up. Usually, I would wake up when things got too scary - but apparently that wasn’t going to happen this time. Either this really was my reality, I was in a coma, or this was a very, very fucked up dream. And in my heart of hearts, I knew that it was most likely to be the first.

It was hard to tell how much time had gone by, too. I stumbled to my feet and went back in to try and find that source of light – but the moon I could have sworn I saw had left my viewing angle. So that was out, and it didn’t seem any closer to morning. The bricks I saw floating didn’t seem to have moved a single bit, so not that much time could have gone by – but maybe they were just moving that slowly.

A deep breath, a pat of the chest, and I brought myself to my feet. I wasn’t raised to be a mess that curled up into the fetal position whenever something stressful happened, no – so I decided to take a little time to test some things.

First, those rocks.

I walked forward, down to the pathway to where it ended and crouched – carefully – down to a squat. First, I poked at the furthest-most brick, testing to see if it budged. It didn’t. Then a harder smack – and I could hear a crunch, a crumble, the brittle mortar holding it to the mass of stone beneath me coming away, fragments floating off into the void a little faster, ricocheting off the stationary seeming bricks further out.

So, the edge pieces could move if enough force were to be applied to it. Unsettling, but not necessarily terrible – that void wasn’t necessarily just a drop in to nothingness.

I tested that too.

The brick that I spent a little time more time wriggling loose, I watched slowly drift down, further and further, at a stationary pace – seemingly affected by neither gravity nor wind resistance. It simply got further and further away, until it was a speck in the fog – and then nothing.

With a dry throat, I carefully crept away from the edge and stood back up, remembering the gravelly voiced warning. And I cursed myself for not taking his offer of guidance.

Still, the path between the cells was wide enough to fit two people… A brief glance into the cell I awoke in found nothing else I arrived with, so instead of sitting there and moping, I set off.

And I walked.

Further and further, I walked.

As I did, I took careful glances off to my sides. Sometimes, a couple intact cells would remain connected to the pathway – sometimes, an intact cell was out in the void, lonely and crumbling. In some cells, lifeless mannequins were stacked like in storage. In one cell out in the nothingness, a kneeling doll gripping the bars seemed to stare at me, head slowly rotating as if to track my movement.

I walked a little faster seeing that.

Not that it did me any good, really. The path simply stretched on, and instead, I took to the task of glancing up every so often to find that moon.

Which turned out to be a rather… challenging exercise. While each time, I could find a moon in the sky, shining soft but bright light down on to me and my surroundings with surprising strength – each time, it was in a different place. One look it was to my left, behind the remains of a crumbling block of cells. The next, it was directly above me, and it was only half of a moon. Even when I entered a tunnel where the ceiling still remained, the lighting didn’t really change – I could see beams of light cascading through stagnant dust on either end, but I found myself perfectly able to see and make out the inside of the tunnel as if it were shining on all parts equally.

It made absolutely zero sense.

And it was as I pondered over that logical incongruence, that I found myself walking through an open archway on to open, grassy plains, with a winding pathway carving a route through it. Instead of the narrow, crumbling path, finally, the over-grown grass stretched on to the left and the right of me, eerily stagnant, without a breath of wind.

And to the side of that pathway, I found two familiar figures, waiting. The Commissar, along with the shorter dress-wearing companion I briefly sighted.

Like the tall military-uniformed doll, the shorter one had two eye-like holes carved into it’s porcelain-white head, but this time with off-white hair cascading down either side of it’s head – cut at the shoulders, with straight bangs framing it’s sinister face. Instead of the smile of the first, however – it had the curve of it’s mouth inverted to turn it in to… well, a sad face.

That thought did get a giggle out of me – that they were slightly like emojis, of all things – but the moment their focus turned to me, I quietened immediately. The Dress gave a demure wave in spite of my instinctive change of stance to grabbing for my sabre. The Commissar, however, folded it’s arms in a disapproving gesture and spoke in that same gravelly voice.

“Look, missy, if every time you see us you threaten to stab us, this is going to make for an extremely poor working relationship,” it seemed to sigh after it spoke, before shrugging. “If it weren’t for her insisting that we stop and wait for you, we’d be long gone by now.”

“Wait for me? Why?” In spite of myself, I found myself speaking.

“Dunno. She’s a gal of few words, s’why I agreed, figure she might know you or somethin’,”

“… Know me? I’ve never seen the likes of you in my life. Speaking of, what in the blazes are you both?”

If it could breathe, the motion it made would have been an extremely sharp intake of breath. After sharing a look between one another, the Commissar only gave me a shrug.

“That’s probably a pill too hard for you to swallow right now if you haven’t put two and two together, missy,” it grumbled, one hand moving to rub the back of its head. “Look, I’m taking us both to the closest thing to a settlement this place has. You come with us, I’ll answer a few questions on the way, and in return you don’t poke me with that pointy thing on your waist while we walk, yeah?”

The doll at its side looked at me almost expectantly, and after a couple moments pondering, I carefully took my hand off the handle of my saber and looked studiously at the uniform wearing figure.

“Cross my heart, lady, I won’t be doing anything untoward. Just here as a guide,”

“Okay. Why is the moon like that?”

“Like th- Oh. Not a clue,” It turned it’s head up to look, grabbing on to it’s hat to keep it in place. I followed it’s gaze, finding the moon, this time, with a half-circle chunk carved out of it with pieces of rock seemingly crumbling into pieces.

“You have no clue why the moon is suddenly in bits?”

“Nah, for me, right now it’s…” It pointed upward, somewhere off to the left of where I was looking at empty space, “Right there, and it’s red with a yellow twin. Weird perception thing about where we are, I don’t think the moon actually exists here. Just our minds trying to make sense of this world we’re in.”

“What do you mean the moon doesn’t… Okay. Right. Moon’s fake. Got it,” my brow furrowed, I could feel that headache coming back on with a vengeance – and before it could take over, I stepped forward to join the pair, “Let’s get going, I can tell I’m not getting any good answers from you. Are there any humans in that settlement?”

“… Yeah. Lots of ‘em,”

“Cool, I’ll get answers from them then,”

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see it rubbing its face with one hand and making a motion as if to give a long sigh. It was all weirdly human, now that I took a moment to think about it.