//dolls, ego death, transformation

“Well it’s a day late but I did finally find a viable doll.” She’s talking about you but you stopped paying attention a while ago. Distracted, wide curious glass eyes rove the timeworn and weathershined corridors of the old warship, taking it in. This is what you wanted right?

The decades-old destroyer floating anomalously in a small pond wasn’t what you were expecting when you read the advertisement online. Then again, it doesn’t seem like you were what they were expecting either. Your eyes go to your splintered wooden hands and back to the witch.

She’s examining you. The other witch you’ve been brought to, your witch, you realize as she tugs your threads, your new captain.

“You’re sure it’s in spec?” She asks critically, circling you. “Divine spark? 3rd magnitude soul reservoir? Native vector alignment?”

“Fifth magnitude, native alignment well within tolerances, high marks on intelligence and problem solving, I’m telling you boss it’s solid.” The witch who purchased you knocks lightly on your wooden head.

“You sure you didn’t get scammed? Not gonna lie it’s kinda shitty looking.”

“I ran the tests on it myself, besides it applied on its own, it wasn’t pawned off to me,” you’re already tuning it out again. Your witch captain is nodding and resumes examining the clipboard with your specifications. She’s right, you are kinda shitty looking.

You were made well, forged in a divine crucible by a particularly dedicated dollmaker, you were a work of art, once. That was a long time ago now, and time has not been kind to you. Entropy has whittled you down to yarn and kindling.

So why not be utterly transformed into fire?

You don’t notice your feet moving until they’ve already carried you out onto the deck. Distant stormclouds scuttle along the horizon, darkening the otherwise clear skies. The vast steel hull of the ship seems to call to you and, since no one stops you, you listen and follow.

The sun bleached decking feels comfortingly familiar. Your hand touches the cool metal of the railing, running calloused fingers over rusted iron. You feel a deep sense of kinship for the old vessel. Appropriate, you suppose, you’re both of the same kind.

“She’s sleeping right now,” a voice says, drawing your eyes up to a moth girl in mechanics overalls. “You’re the new spark aren’t you? You’re the one who’s going to wake her up.”

You nod, eyes drifting back up the superstructure. That’s why you’re surprised when she hugs you.

“Thank you,” she says emotionally, “I was afraid we might lose her forever. Thank you so much.”

You aren’t sure what to say, but your arms instinctively  wrap around her, returning the embrace. It’s a little awkward, and being summoned back to the bridge is a relief.

You expected the process to take a few days but they’re in a hurry to leave. Something about the weather pushes them into a frenzy and you were all they were really waiting for anyway. You’re sure this is what you want right? You know the answer. You can feel her dreaming.

A dive vehicle is basically a large doll, it’s explained to you. At the abstract mechanical level, it’s the same set of components: eigensoul pressure vessel, divinity reactor, vector alignment manifold, mainspring, eigenrotor, mass halo, just bigger. That means it needs a soul.

They lead you by the hand into the bowels of the ship, pointing out components and systems, all silent and still. There’s something unsettling about the very state of stillness, it’s less like a happy doll, and more like a corpse that has yet to decay. Her soul was snuffed out.

Your witch brings you before the unmoving heart of the vehicle and you instinctively reach out to touch the cold walls of the reactor vessel. You really are two of a kind: a body yearning for a soul, a soul yearning for body. You smile. Why not be utterly transformed into fire?

The machine designed to remove your soul from what lefts of your body these days is a coffinlike pod embedded into the wall of the reactor. Your witch carefully straps you into the unit, taking care that each of your limbs is aligned in the correct place. It’s comfortable.

Her hand lingers on your cheek, staring into your damaged eyes, “You’re going to be beautiful,” she tells you, kissing you on the forehead. The hatch closes, she leaves the room, and you’re alone. There’s no fear left anymore, just calm anticipation. This is what you wanted.

The term ‘eigensoul decomposition’ is dryly technical and masks much of the sensation behind scientific jargon. You know everything that is about to happen, however that does little to prepare you for the actual experience. It starts of course, with flames.

A pulse of thermal radiation causes you to instantly combust, tinder limbs dissolving into boiling plasma, as your soul is liberated from your body and you are utterly transformed into fire.

You feel yourselves decompressing into innumerable lives, you see yourselves dancing, making coffee, going into debt, laughing, becoming a doll, instantly dying in a fiery infer–your soul reflects off the walls of the reactor, pressure waves rippling through you, energy rising.

You feel a fierce joy and terrible pain, you feel pins and needles in places that don’t exist as your flames stretch and course into new veins. A transcendent vastness balloons open in your mind, if you had a mouth you would laugh, but all you can do is reach, reach, reach.

Something like fingers grasp something like a surface and your million cameras and sensors begin to wink on. The pressure within you is still rising, reflecting endlessly, resonating faster and faster. Your soul is crushed into a singularity of self and then–


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