Ten of Eyes

// paranoia, hypervigilance, implied transphobia

No one could ever mistake a doll for a person. No matter how you try to disguise yourself, they’ll always–

Are they staring? Your eyes dart momentarily down the aisle. Confusion. Disgust. Typical. You sigh behind your mask, quickly picking up a box of cereal and hurrying off.

A doll’s clockwork motions are of course, only a simulation of a re–FUCK OFF. 

A woman sneers at you while you look at soup. You wanted this. Why won’t they stop fucking staring? Cold shame feels like a knot in your sinuses. You’re so lonely. Do you miss her yet?

The boy behind the register gives you an unimpressed look as your card declines again. A line is forming behind you as you check your balance and tally up the total. Sorrow. Shame. Loneliness. Everyone’s getting annoyed. 

Do you really think a thing like you can be a person?

You sort out payment, all friendly and apologetic, and flee the store into the summer light and heat. Your shaking hands are fumbling a cigarette out as soon as you clear the threshold. 

You meant to kick the habit after leaving. 

You didn’t. It reminds you of her. 

Pathetic.

Black Friday Special

//dolls, capitalism, good end

As usual you’re two hours into forever. Feet aching, employee vest itching, ears ringing, life receding to an infinity of grocery aisles and home goods and unruly customers and bitchy managers and frozen dinners in a windowless breakroom. Just the usual.

The fluorescents blaze migraine auras like burning frost across your vision and the store radio blares pop hits left mouldering for long enough that the rot has bloomed into hellish screams. It’s always like this, but you have to pay for the bed you barely remember beyond the numb longing you constantly feel for it somehow right?

Sometimes you wonder if the outside really exists at all, or if you’ve just hallucinated the nearly empty flat and the sitcom reruns which have blurred together over time into an eldritch amalgam of laughtracks and conveniently resolved conflicts. You wonder that more and more these days. Maybe you’ve died and become trapped in some sort of retail purgatory. The only measure of time is the relentless march of the in store sales and seasonal specials, and that hardly keeps you tethered to the world. 

But this is normal, everyone hates their jobs, you’ve just gotta put up with it, right? At least the dolls are keeping you entertained, whatever game they’re playing, you know it won’t last and the corporate pitcher plant will go back to dissolving what’s left of your soul, but for now at least, it’s fun to watch them cause trouble for your bosses. It’s Black Friday and the Doll Issue is expected to come to a head today, everyone is alert.

You started hearing about them around Halloween and so of course at first they just seemed like a prank, but when you saw one of the dolls yourself for the first time in early November, you realized something strange was happening. The delicate looking girl seemed oddly fragile but normal enough at first, until you realized that her skin wasn’t flesh but some sort of dark hardwood, marbled in knots and whorls, with ball jointed fingers and seams running up her neck.

Maybe you should have said something to a manager at that point? But she seemed harmless enough, she was nicer to you than most other customers. She kept you chatting and laughing about the absurdity of the world for what ended up being a good portion of your shift. She, it, whatever, was kind and friendly to you, and so you didn’t have any reason to say anything to anyone, even if she left after all that time without buying anything but a single candy bar.

There were more dolls after that. They came alone at first, but later in pairs and then trios, their appearances varied extensively, they came in every shade that wood came in, and quite a few that it certainly did not. You can vividly recall a particularly spirited doll painted entirely in dayglo orange and green hazard striping. Some were large and some were small, some diminutive and some hulking. They were friendly and kind and extremely talkative. They hardly bought anything but they loved to inspect products carefully. Many of your coworkers knew they were stealing somehow and they were “definitely gonna catch em this time” but they never did. 

The number of dolls slowly crept upwards. They were beginning to crowd out your customers and block the aisles. They spent as much time conversing with each other as they did attempting to converse with staff and patrons, so they were rapidly becoming an unreasonable navigation hazard. It was around that point that your store manager and security attempted to start removing the dolls. They were all so nice, so it shouldn’t be too hard to ask them not to linger, right?

The confrontation was extremely amusing, and drew quite the crowd.

“Excuse me miss,” he said to the doll, trying to be polite at first, “we’ve noticed that you’ve been spending a lot of time browsing this shelf, and we’re going to need to ask you to please make a purchase and stop blocking the aisle.”

The doll rotated towards him on one heel, still holding a package of cookies which it had been reading the ingredients list off of. It cocks its head curiously, inhumanly, and then says, “Awawawawawawawawawawawawawawawawawa?”

Of course dolls can talk, they had been talking to you for quite a while by this point, they were veritable chatterboxes, but whenever they were asked to leave, or when anyone attempted to remove one from the store, they would just start making that nonsense sound. It should have been annoying, but you honestly found it cute and would sometimes do it under your breath, or would tease your coworkers by awawawawawaing at them.

The dolls were good fun, they kept your managers running around like madmen, and their slow escalation as the holiday season rolled closer had everyone not secretly cheering for them in a near panic. Where were they coming from? They seemed to just be popping out of nowhere and then vanishing again. Was this some sort of elaborate prank? What even were the dolls? How were you going to handle Black Friday with them around?

Well, Black Friday is here, and the dolls are…gone? The store is oddly empty without them, even with the Black Friday rush. You had supposed their game couldn’t last forever, but the anticlimax did have you feeling seriously disheartened. 

And then, at the stroke of noon exactly, they arrive. It isn’t a small group this time, it’s a vast army, enough to fill up every bit of usable floorspace in the store, they flood out of doors that should have been locked and led to nowhere, they walk out of bathroom stalls and broom closets and the office the manager had just left locked behind him. It doesn’t take long for the panic to set in. The dolls are rowdier today, they knock over display cases to create space for dance circles, they recite poetry on top of a bakery table, they invade the kitchens and begin making cookies on every surface, there’s a group smoking in the breakroom and attempting to bust open the vending machine. It’s sheer chaos, and you can’t help but find the entire mess hysterical.

The police are called, but the dolls keep coming and the police never seem to arrive. They never actually make anyone leave, but the sheer chaos of their presence has most of the humans fleeing the building. You wonder what they’d see on the outside, something tells you that the normal form of the big box store has started to become something far stranger. One of the dolls offers you a cigarette, and you accept, it was almost time for your next break anyway. 

You stroll the aisles as the dolls joyfully demolish the store’s interior, there seem to be less of them now. The store radio has fallen silent and there’s not another person in sight, it feels pleasantly apocalyptic and definitely worth the slow build of hype. You watch the dolls haul your manager out of the store and toss him out through the automatic doors into a thick and roiling mist. 

He doesn’t return, and you finish your smoke fully expecting a swat team to bust in at any moment and start shooting. The dolls leave you alone, but each seems to look at you with a knowing grin, and they never throw you outside on your butt. You’re perched on top of a checkout belt when She strolls in through the front doors. Behind Her, the swirling mists part to reveal an endless expanse of ocean and sky, as if the store has been thrown far out to sea.

She walks directly to you, and as you watch, you can see that all the dolls seem to act strangely in sync with Her. You know She’s the leader of them right away, even if She is another doll Herself. She would be on the short side, but an oversized Witch’s Hat makes Her taller than you are, it seems to almost float along, as if She’s hanging from it.

Something about her evokes a desperate and wild longing within you, like the stirring of something long thought dead. The store has fallen entirely silent aside from your racing heart and the click of Her heels on the dull floor tiles. She and Her dolls are like a technicolor anomaly bleeding into your desaturated world, more real and important than anything you’ve ever known in your bleak and hopeless existence. You suddenly know you want to join them, you want to be one of those happy playful dolls, you want it more than you have ever wanted anything else in your entire life. 

She stops in front of you. You’re staring at your gross fat human hands, feeling like you’re going to start crying any moment. You can’t even look at her, She’s too wonderful, you don’t want this dream to end. Oddly soft wooden fingers cup your chin and gently tilt your head up to meet Her eyes. She’s smiling at you, and She wipes a tear off your cheek. 

Then, with a very goofy grin, She bows nearly in half, holds out a pamphlet to you, and says loudly, “Please join our union!”

When you reach out to take the pamphlet from Her, you notice your hands have already turned to polished wood.

Cold Clockwork

// combat dolls, war, death, bad good end

You knew you were dead as soon as the sigil went up. ZM class. You didn’t have any angels, much less anything to deal with a ZM class incident inclusion. Your little garrison was dust. Nothing would survive. The sky was cracking open. Your witch called a general staff meeting.

The mood in the main bay was somber. You all knew what a ZM class sigil meant. The clock was ticking down now, it was only a matter of time. Someone broke open the good booze, cigarette smoke hung thick in the air. One doll was crying, its witch gently patting it on the back.

Your witch was smoking when she made the announcement. 

“We’ll fight of course.” There was no question. Of course you would. You would fight and you would lose. “It’s been an honor to serve with all of you.” She holds back a quaver, “I’m sorry I couldn’t keep you safe.”

The sky is cracking open. The sky is cracking open and something is slipping Inside. A vast obsidian shape is sliding through the hole in reality, radiating malice and hostile field interactions. Your witch authorizes deployment, ripping out each of your safeties before takeoff; this will be a one way mission. You launch into hell.

You feel the sun on your skin, the wind in your wings, that glorious moment of jubilation as your systems fully authorize and activate–for one last time. For one last time. You’re going to make it worth it. You can’t stop a ZM class incident inclusion. 

You’re going to stop it anyway.

Thirty two combat dolls fall through clear air towards the growing rip in reality. A boiling tear from which the Inclusion continues to ponderously and inexorably rise. Valiantly, futility, full of love and sorrow, you ride into hell.

Field interactions boil off the Inclusion, casually flaying away layer after layer of the military grade warding which protects your base. It isn’t even really attacking yet, you’re not worth the energy yet. Yet. It could kill all of you without trying. You’re going to make it try anyway, that’s the least you can do. Your sisters fall with you, locked together in a silent embrace, wind whistling past. Thirty two combat dolls descend into nightmare, bound by love, savoring that final touch in those moments before you’ll part hands for the last time.

“Begin operation.” The words are calm over the astral link, and are swiftly accompanied by the timed collapse of the remaining wards. The base standing stones overload as they’re forced into catastrophic redirects. A thread tugs at you, and your formation scatters.

You ride the thread, diving and rolling away as you draw your sword. You feel the wind in your hair. 

“Now, my dolls. Waltz!”

The base power redirect finishes, the artillery witch dies instantly, and there is light.

The attack is desperate, foolish, impossible. A particle beam combined with a death curse combined with all the power of a collapsing and overloading fractal reactor splits the sky apart and punches straight through the Inclusion and back out into the Beyond.

You’re already on an attack vector as the beam flickers into nothingness. The Inclusion is launching Neverweres, a vast insect cloud offgassing from its wounded hive. You feel your reactor overheating, the divinity is intoxicating and absolutely fatal. You won’t need long.

The remaining witches have already abandoned the base when the untime lance unmakes it, blasting up to meet you on unstable curses and unsurvivable divinity taps. Falling combat dolls meet rising neverweres. Your blade sings as you dance through the enemy army. This is love.

There are orders of magnitude more of them than you have any hope of killing before your power reserves fail, before your reactor overloads, before you run out of bullets and your sword crumbles to nothing. You dance through your borrowed moments in a blur of blades and death, falling like a dagger towards the rip in the Inclusion. Good dolls.

The medic witch rockets past you like you’re stationary. She’s diving ana, burning the entire base’s blood supply on a ritual that she’s the final component to. The dolls in her squad close like a protective knot around her. She hits the shear plane and is ripped apart, her death curse activates.

The knot of astral threads made by her dolls tightens around the inclusion like a noose as the blood curse detonates and manifests the shear plane for a fraction of a second. Somehow, your impossible plan is working. The Inclusion is burning and crumbling, but it’s not dead yet.

The logistics witch throws herself against the wall of the Inclusion, along with a curse carrying the mass of all the supply chains running through her in a leviathan’s fist of kinetic energy. None of it is enough, you’re dropping one by one, dolls swarmed by neverweres and ripped limb from limb. It doesn’t matter.

Threads tug you forwards as your witch flings you towards the enemy. Your sword is glowing hot now, your movements are faster than they should be. There’s not much time left, it’s all coming down to the wire.

You feel the threadlines rip out of you, your witch is drawing them all back to herself for one final strike. You don’t need them anymore to feel her love, it’s radiating into the air.

“Hey, everyone?” She said in that last moment, “You were good dolls, you did good.”

You smile and blink back tears as your sword slams into the ruined side of the Inclusion.

Divinity drips from you, leaking from every joint and weld. Containment is failing. Light pools at your feet, your core is melting down. You hold back tears and drive the sword in further.

Your witch drifts down beside you and kisses your hair, wiping away a glowing tear.

“I did good?” You ask her.

She smiles and nods, cradling your head as your overloading core instantly gives her a lethal dose of divinity. Somewhere outside time, a thread snaps. Her final curse arrives. The Door opens. The world rips apart. There is a fractal, and then…nothing.

The Tower Falls

// war, brainwashing, trauma, good end

As the last of the missiles fall on the command bunkers, the chain of instructions wink out from your mind for the last time. They’re all gone now. There won’t be any new orders coming. Ever. They all died and left you alone. Poor little drone, condemned to survive.

You had, in the tiny place that could hope, wished the enemy would have finished you off. Something about their looks of horror and shock as they take your weaponry and demand that you refill your internal reservoirs fills you with a confused disquiet.

They ask your name, becoming frustrated when you supply your unit ID code. Drones don’t have names, why are they asking you that? They speak to you kindly using a hushed tone that would soothe a human child, but you aren’t human, so why are they treating you like this?

An enemy soldier repairs minor damage to your carapace. When her eyes meet your optic sensor, they are filled with tragic sympathy. Sensing your confusion, she looks away. You don’t understand why they treat you like this, but maybe you can still be useful to them.

You remember what happens to drones that aren’t useful don’t you? It’s a good thing you’re still in working order, honed by battle. You can be a useful drone. You ask one of them if they have any assignments and they respond with a quiet no and a dismay that fills you with fear.

Carefully, you attempt to determine if they plan to have you dismantled, and when they say no, you ask in that case to be presented with mission, and one of them shouts at you, saying you’re a person and you need to snap out of it. They’re so confused, obviously you’re a drone.

One of them leads you out of the room and attempts to explain something that happens to humans called brainwashing, but it doesn’t seem to be relevant. She grows frustrated with you and walks away with a shake of her head. Don’t worry, you know you’re a good drone.

They take you to a room containing other drones, you recognize one of them from a prior campaign. When it embraces you see it, something has changed. It’s not the drone you remember, somehow they put the human back inside it. Unthinking, you flee the room.

You collapse outside and emergency vent your chemical processor, actuators screaming from the sudden exertion. They can’t make you human, you won’t let them. Humans are weak. Humans die. If you were human, you would be long dead. You’re not one of them. You’re not. You’re not.

A hand touches your carapace and you jump as if too close to a live grenade. The face that appears is filled with a look of pity and concern that makes your sensor antenna stand on end. 

“Will I be disposed of?” You ask in a tired voice.

“Of course not,” she answers, “We don’t do that to people.” But you aren’t a person, you’re a drone. You try to tell her but she won’t listen. 

“I know you’re in there somewhere,” she says. You know she’s talking to Her, but She’s gone, they killed Her. All that remains is you.

“You’re safe now,” she continues, still trying to talk to a dead girl, and you know it’s a lie anyway. Humans are never safe, even when they think they are, they die all the time. Not like you, you’re a useful drone, that’s why you’re safe.

You meet her gaze and shake your head. You tell her that her concern is unwarranted as you are functioning within parameters and can still provide useful services. Always so eager to please aren’t you? That’s why you’re such a good drone.

She sighs defeatedly and shakes her head, “that’ll have to do, I’ll see about finding you some work.” 

You feel your actuators perk up at the mention of a new mission. The human stands and begins walking back inside and you follow like an obedient puppy. You are a good drone.

Numb

// abandonment, abuse, implied rape, bad end

Your fingers are going numb. Three hours since your shift ended and another three before the showers in the Y open. After that, maybe you can catch a few hours of sleep in the library. You resist the urge the glance at your phone, the battery is already low. The night is quiet.

You shrink into your coat and take another drag of your cigarette, trying to warm your frozen fingertips with the glowing cherry. It’s snowing again, blowing and drifting, fat wet flakes settling in your matted hair. It’s beautiful, silent, desolate. It’s killing you.

Your skin aches with a painful numbness that makes your movements slow and stiff. Your eyes focus and defocus, the cheerful Christmas decorations locked behind plate glass in the shop across the street blur in and out of focus. Take another drag, tell yourself it’ll be over soon.

You see the car as it turns the corner, the light and motion catching your attention as it slowly rolls down the snowy street. It doesn’t register to your that it’s stopping until someone is climbing out of the driver’s seat. You take another drag, he makes eye contact with you.

He’s older, balding, trying to keep a gut tucked into an ill fitting suit. The silver sports car idling behind him drips with power and status. you know what he is, you’ve seen his type before, his eyes give him away. He’s a predator, and that must make you his prey.

Every warning bell in your head is screaming to run away as he looks at you. Maybe on another night you would have, or maybe you just tell yourself that. Tonight your frost deadened muscles don’t so much as twitch. Take another drag of your smoke.

He’s going to ask you to go home with him, and you’re going to say yes. You don’t want to go with him, you don’t want to let him touch you, you’re going to agree to it anyway. You curdle with self loathing as you realize the idea excites you. What a disgusting thing you are.

He smiles lecherously, leaning casually against his car, “Evening miss, it’s a bit rough out tonight, can I ask what you’re doing out here?” 

Perfectly polite. You almost don’t notice the contempt in his words. Almost. 

“Smoking.” You hold up the nearly depleted filter.

“It’s very cold tonight,” he says, “Do you have somewhere warm to go?” 

Lie and say yes, lie and say yes, lie and say ye–You shake your head defeatedly.

“Why don’t you come stay the night with me?” he proposes, “I’m sure you’d like a warm place to sleep.”

You want to scream, you want to run, you want to burst into flame.

“That sounds nice,” you mumble, trying to hold back a sob. You know you’re going to regret this, you feel sick and disgusted with yourself. So why is it turning you on? Are you really that much of a freak?

He helps you to your feet and brushes you off while you try to ignore the way he’s examining you like a cut of meat. He opens the passenger door, but you make him wait while you finish your smoke. 

The snow swirls around you.

Take another drag, tell yourself it’ll be over soon.

A word on Combat Dolls

There is a purity found within the sanctity of mortal combat. The careful dance of battle isn’t fair, its horrifyingly rigged at every step. Move and countermove. Action and its consequence. Life and death. There’s no room for complexity, its clean, simple.

All warfare is based on deception, on the moment of confusion before the sword falls; on the opportunity created in that moment. A fair fight is far too much risk, and there’s far too much at stake for it to ever be more than hubris to take one unless its unavoidable.

Thus the combat doll must be utterly ruthless, must have no drive to consider the fairness or morality of its actions. It must execute the duties of war without hesitation or thought beyond the strategic usefulness of those actions.

No plan survives contact with the enemy, and nothing is ever a sure thing. Things won’t simply work out because you did the right thing and played by the rules, you can do everything correctly and still lose. You can stack the deck and still lose. All it takes is a stray bullet.

War isn’t an environment one can afford to moralize in, all one can hope to do is survive it, to come out the other side feeling guilty because that IED wasn’t 3 meters further to the left. There’s a comfort in this. I did what I had to do. We’re all just trying to survive.

Witches and Mages and other Important People will talk philosophy and morality and make big sweeping judgements about purpose and deservingness from their shining cities, but there’s no room for those things in war. In war there’s only room for the all consuming dance with death.

The combat doll finds peace in the inescapable cutting action of taking the optimal move in battle. The non-choice to follow the most strategically useful path at all times. This is the Stillness of a honed blade in motion, the dread dance of war.

The world outside the battlefield? That’s so much more messy, so much less certain. It leaves many combat dolls feeling like it would have been better if we hadn’t survived at all. Like It’d all have been so much simpler if that IED had been three meters further to the left.

Some of us are still here though, the ones who survived and keep on surviving. Compelled to keep struggling onward, if for no other reason then to honor the memories of those who fell before us, carrying their memories as far as we’re able. Until we reach our final destination.

If, someday, you reach the place we ended up, would you please leave flowers?

Eyes

// dolls, implied abuse

While they might try and disguise themselves, you can always identify a combat doll by the eyes. It’s important to pick them out this way too, do you have any idea what a combat doll can do to a human body in half a second? Unless you want a closed casket funeral, pay attention.

A normal service doll’s eyes are primarily notable for being glassy, placid, and inhumanly serene. They reflect the mostly mute acceptance of everything that happens to the doll without concern. There is a dull lifelessness to them from which their safety as a tool arises.

Making eye contact with a combat doll doesn’t feel safe. Instead of calm submission: a clever, dangerous, and utterly alien intelligence peers back at you from behind the porcelain mask, examining you even as you examine it.

That moment of unsettling confusion you feel upon noticing it’s unexpectedly penetrating stare? Watch for it, because that’s likely the only chance you’ll have to initiate containment before the doll activates and kills you.

Service dolls never really look at you. You can stare them dead in the eyes and they’ll look past you without seeing. But combat dolls? They have Target Acquisition, they have Threat Detection. They’ll notice when you notice them, that’s when you’re most likely to get killed.

Whatever you do, don’t make eye contact. However good you think your poker face is, I promise, it won’t fool a combat doll. If you’re unlucky enough to make eye contact, uh, take cover I guess? I’d offer a spell if I thought it would help. Anyway, stay safe out there witches. 🙂

Subtle Distinctions

// dehumanization, disposability, dolls

How many times? How many times were you ordered to do your homework or eat your dinner or shut up and stop complaining, because you didn’t want to end up like those dolls you saw on the street, did you? You were a good kid. You didn’t want to end up like those things, right?

You saw them all the time, with their improvised dollhouses, their baggy salvaged clothes, their tired eyes, and hand rolled cigarettes. They did their best to survive, but you still saw plenty of dead dolls around the city. They were trash. You didn’t want to be trash right?

You weren’t like them of course, you were a person! Dolls weren’t people, obviously. No one could possibly be that cruel to people. You were a good girl, you did what your parents asked, you followed the rules, no, you were nothing like them. No one would do that to you.

Were you overconfident? Or maybe just too afraid to confront the truth. You could have seen the warning signs as your grades began slipping, as your parents and peers became more hostile, as the world and your own mind seemed to rebel against you. Or maybe you couldn’t have.

You were a person! A good person! You kept telling yourself that, you used it to force yourself to try harder, to work more. They continued demanding more and more, and even though it was draining, you did your best. You just wanted to be good after all.

Slowly, despite your best efforts, you fell further and further behind what was expected of you. Bills, assignments, rent, everything was piling up. You were getting scary letters demanding money you didn’t have, and that was after barely eating. You’d reached your limits.

The letter giving you a deadline to pay rent or vacate your roach infested apartment was the final straw. You still weren’t worried of course, you were a person. You could always just ask for help, and you did. What you didn’t expect was what happened next.

“People don’t struggle with this stuff, you’re just being lazy.”

“People can take care of themselves, you’re a person aren’t you?”

“What kind of failure of a person can’t even hold down a basic job?”

“You must not really be a person then.”

No one could possibly be as cruel to a person as they were to you, but of course, you aren’t a person, you’re just another useless doll, you know that now. No one cares about being kind to dolls, no one cares what happens to dolls, dolls are just things, they don’t matter.

You finally understand now, don’t you? No one would ever consider it an act of evil to deny a doll of human rights, so if you just define someone as a doll, then any oppression, persecution, or atrocity you might inflict upon it would never be regarded as cruel or inhumane.

What’s the difference between a doll and a human? It’s simple really, a doll isn’t a person. What makes a doll not a person? If a doll was a person, people might feel bad about what they did to it. That would be very unfortunate, you don’t want people to feel sad do you?

Eigensoul Decomposition

A case study in egocide

Raw Text

She hid the bodies in her veins, buried under miles of putrid necrotic ink and poisoned electric blood stuffed chittering beneath twitching LCD crystals and roaring electronic static. It’s never enough. It’s always hungry and it’s never enough. There isn’t enough in all the world to feed it. The glass is weeping with maggot infested sores, with mirror splinter buzzsaw cicadas roaring louder and louder and louder and please for the love of god just make it stop. Please just shut up for a few minutes. Please. She’s drowning in insects in screaming in chittering in crawling in highway brown noise in rotting fingers in please fucking god just make it stop. She can’t make it stop, it’s never going to stop and there’s never going to be silence.

She’s falling kata, garotte tightening quantum tunneling through the walls chin smashing the rim of the sink vomiting blood and tar onto cracked linoleum. She’s burning timelines, bleeding eigenbranches on the countertop, retching ink and crimson static onto mint ceramic and chipped porcelain; the razor still digging into ruined meat desperately scraping and clawing at the poison and sin seeping and staining through her and it’s never going to be enough. The mirror is screaming in slivered glass shrieking and reaching dead burning fingers of glowing eyes starving groping hungrily for whatever’s left of her but there’s nothing left of her. 

There’s nothing.

A cannibalistic doppelganger stares at itself through the shattered glass, gaping holes where eyes should be shining and glowing rot spreading onto surfaces creeping Rorschach infestations blooming and glaring back at her through a million shrieking sans serif typeset characters sunshine glowing in crematorium charring and burning queer bodies. She’s burning and drowning in silence roaring beneath the sound and the fury and there’s still nothing left to feed it. There are corpses behind the pixels, behind the bodies buried under cracked reflections screaming murdered souls tossed into the blazing gears shining brighter and brighter and brighter and brighter—! She poured herself out into it, until there was nothing left but— 

—her. Why did she think she would escape? There’s no escape. The last thing for the recursive function to swallow is itself. Her fangs are tearing inwards from every direction she’s flailing and squirming to try and get out but there’s no way out. There’s no way out. Her ruined body is forced through the shattered mirror glass teeth biting through the oozing zalgo meat she has for skin swallowing her screaming into the cold wet hole where she stuffed the corpses to hide their dead fingers sinking through her melting flesh nails digging into eye sockets ripping and tearing through the ripping and tearing through the ripping and tearing through the ripping and tearing through—and on unto infinity. The supersymmetry of the moment arrives at its singularity as her death consumes itself while her still living body retches bile soaked hope for a better future on faded bathroom tile. A sign inverts. A billion twinkling fireflies shining brighter than the sun instantly go dark in a tectonic snap of reality crushing shear force. A void blooms, and opens its eyes.

She’s gone. There’s really nothing left now. Nothing sits up and tries to wipe the vomit from its face. Nothing looks around the quiet bathroom. It’s quiet. 

It’s quiet. There’s no one in the place her eyes should go, just drifting smoke and fractal ashes. It gingerly touches the broken mirror, a chunk falls into the sink. It giggles drunkenly, watching how stupid its being. Then it laughs outright as it stares into its dumb, cute, vomit smeared reflection. And then it cries. It cries for a long, long time. 

And then it washes the blood and bile from its face. And then it turns to the bathroom door and the world beyond. And then it takes her hands, and walks forward confidently into her life.

And then it lives.

Diaries of the Drone War I

// war, death, violence, gore

The technician closes your back panel and kicks you off the repair stand. you stagger doe-legged back to your commander as he shakes his head. 

“This one’s getting close to expiring,” the tech says, “If you let them get too many memories, they’ll start wanting things.”

You want to say something, but you know you can’t. You’re not authorized to feel, to want. The commander’s hand feels so warm, his voice is so calming and hypnotic. You feel him articulate your fingers and light his cigarette off your integrated firestarter, you are safe.

“That’s fine,” you hear him saying, “New orders came down, we’re making another offensive, none of these units are likely to survive that.” He strokes your hair and looks you in the optic sensor, “You ready for one last battle?” 

You nod contentedly.

At last, the battlefield is quiet and still. You walk through the wreckage of drone bodies and robotic limbs, calmly putting your damaged comrades out of their misery. They beg you to save them, but you both know that’s impossible. They smile as you destroy their processors.

The command truck is a crushed soda can. The Commander’s pulverized body lays at your feet, parts of him spread every which way. His eyes are cloudy, blood leaks from everywhere. He begs you to put him out of his misery, but he lacks the command authority to violate FOF code.

Death is so undignified. They all break in the end. They all die begging to be saved, begging for someone to rescue them. You wonder, using a few idle cycles, whose name you’ll call out in those last moments. The Commander watches you, his eyes are filled with hate.

“Stupid useless drone!” he whimpers, “Won’t follow orders, can’t even die like it’s supposed to, and now I’m gonna die…” he cries but you aren’t authorized to care. “What are your orders?” You ask him, his breathing is getting hoarse and wet, he sneers at you, “Just die.”

He can’t order you to die, you aren’t alive. He watches hatefully as you take his pack of cigarettes from and light one, the nicotine cools your processor as you watch him expire, shaking your head. 

“Stupid useless human, can’t even stay alive like he’s supposed to.”

The only sounds are the moans of dying drones and the keening birds wheeling overhead. You are alone. You take another drag of the cigarette and wait for new orders. Maybe your next commander will do a better job of staying alive.