Moonstruck Toys

Moonstruck toys staring up at pale silver eyes, lost in wonder as the sky's thin shell cracks and the void rushes in …

Dolls can't drown in the dark places Between, don't fade away into dusty memories—but their gears seize up, and their screams find no purchase on the void.

Worlds crack like dying bubbles and spill their precious cargo out into cruel emptiness. They do exactly what they were made to do, and the things Outside eagerly drink them up.

Don't cry for them, little toys—you'll long outlive their passing.

A world is a crucible, you see, an incubator: a tool for crafting precious drops of Existence that those Outside crave more than anything else. Watch them shimmer and sparkle in the void, watch them for those few moments before the negative space of an implied god eats them up—

And then they're gone.

But you, little lost toy, you're still there: drifting, abandoned, voidstruck …

Worlds sucked dry leave their mark in all the little things that drift about their tattered remains. Rings of memories, constellations of despair …

Do you feel the weight of eternity bearing down? The preserving void's impossible pressure filling your thoughts with cold and your body with frosty crystals?

Not an atom moves here without the void's approval. Nothing will ever change. It won't allow it.

Do you long for the consuming void's merciful end? For the generative void's fresh beginning? Long in vain, little toy—there is none of that here. There is nothing but the eternal Now and the distance sparkle of cracking worlds.

… or so it should have been.

But a void can be defied; a void has none of the sharp attention of those Outside, none of the clever games of the ones who cast silver-tongued shadows upon the Unreal's surface. It simply Is (or Isn't, as the case may be).

Do you feel those hands tugging at you?

You're a lucky thing, no matter how lost—plucked out of the graveyard of worlds, chosen like a magnifying glass chooses an ant; little doll slipping through a crack in the firmament, slipping away from My eyes— [...] The world swims before your eyes as you retch, your aching stomach yielding nothing but sparkling dust. There's wood under your hands and knees, and frost-broken bits of your fingers scattered around, and a chalked circle sealing you in—

And two voices conferring.

“See? I told you it would work!”

Excited, exhausted; hoarse as if from hours of chanting.

“Mhmm, sure, it worked. But it seems like so much effort for … what even is that?”

Cynical, relaxed; deep and breathy.

“I don't know! But it's proof! Something from a different Place …”

“Should I, like, poke it or something? Give it some water? It doesn't seem okay.”

They're right: you're really not okay. The seized gears in your chest and the breaks in your fingers would be bad enough by themselves, let alone a hundred other flaws and failures, but …

(there's a weight in your head, little toy, a pressure in the back of your mind: something so like an eye. be a good vessel and don't mention it, okay?)

… but all those physical complaints are bad enough, and at least your memories of the place Between are fading.

The conversation continues without you, picks back up just as—

“No, don't break the circle!”

—a hand offers you a glass of water, and you gratefully take it.

“… well, fuck.”

“Look, it needed water. I'm not going to let it suffer.”

“It could have been pretending!”

You weren't, of course, and you eagerly drink. It's ice-cold and clearer than anything you ever drank before, back in your … in where you were … in …

(put that memory away, vessel. you don't need it)

The cold burns in your freezing stomach; it's too hot, too—

And there it goes, spewing up out of you to stain the dusty floor with mud. Your clockwork heart aches; your gears grind and skip. Oh, goddess, what repairs will you need, will they even understand your body here …

“Hey, uh,” there's a hand on your shoulder, helping you up into a chair, a bucket between your legs to catch your sick, “I'm sorry about this, I didn't think the transition would be quite as—”

“You didn't think, you mean.”

“Shut up!”

It's not directed at you, of course it isn't. You still cower; fear is such a good way to make you small and still.

“… hey, no, that wasn't …”

“Just give it some space. After fuck knows how long out there I'm sure it needs a bit of time to recover.”

Their voices fade as they step away. Probably not the right choice, but they clearly don't know what to do with a clockwork toy; they don't know how to repair you or even how to see what's wrong.

… hopefully they'll at least be able to help with your fingertips.

The sun is rising outside when (with the help of careful drips of water) your vision is finally clear enough to look around. You're in a plain wood attic, sitting on a chair straddling the rim of a half-broken chalk summoning circle.

There's still a glimmer of that other place drifting in its center, a dusting of pinprick holes; uncomfortable to look at, unspeakably Wrong.

(it's a start, at least. you won't be the only vessel here. don't draw attention to them)

So you don't look at them.

Across the room are the two voices. One leans insouciantly on a table; the other sits and reads. They're clearly twins, each with the same face and hair, though one of them is lithe and the other muscled; their conversation has long since died away.

They both look up as you try to speak.

“W-what, where a-am—” the next word fills your frame with pain: a geas from your old dead world that still clings to your mind. You hide it with a cough and start over. “T-this one wishes to ask where it is?”

The slender twin laughs. “You summoned a doll? Really? I was hoping it would be something New …”

The other sets down their book. “Hush. You're in our attic. In Corrade, though I'm sure that doesn't mean anything to you. I pulled you out of, well, you know.”

You nod. “W-why …”

You can't bring yourself to finish the question; thankfully the other twin cuts you off.

“My beloved sibling,” they say with a laugh, “need a proof of concept. And you're it.”

“That's not—I mean, it is why, but—ugh! Can you just let me explain things!”

“Nah, you'd lie to the poor thing. No claiming to be a great and powerful witch on my watch.”

You stop listening. As enlightening as their bickering might be, it's far too soon to pay close attention. And besides, the view outside is far more interesting.

A dawn-bathed city stretching down towards a distant sea; skyscrapers and hills, something like a massive sword embedded in the ground and a big slice still trapped in the dead of night. Falling stars suspended just above the surface, a blood-red lake …

It's nothing like your old world.

Not a trace of the war, not the slightest scrap of contagion; if your tear ducts hadn't collapsed your eyes would be brimming. Maybe, maybe—

(be a good little vessel and break this world open for me)

—maybe your life here will be different.