I turned away when the Death King pointed his finger at me, and I think I’ll always regret that.
I don’t know what the three witches promised him, and I didn’t know what they took in return. But I know Heracles wouldn’t speak a word of it to us–his closest allies–afterwards. We’d almost forgotten about it, we three, and might have missed the signs completely if it wasn’t for Diana’s watchful eye. She always knew Heracles best, or wanted to, and she came to me that first night it happened.
“Mr. Emry, you know you’re not allowed… oh.”
This is a fanfiction piece from the world of Cultist Simulator, by Weather Factory. If you haven’t played their frankly incredible game, I recommend it. It’s like nothing else.
Sylas was very good at what he did. Some, perhaps, would say he was the best, although most likely didn’t understand what being a good bartender really meant. And perhaps to everyone it meant something slightly different–but to Sylas it meant listening. Listening to everything the customer had to say, audible and inaudible: understanding them. Encouraging them.
“Because I am a big man, my anger gets very big. Yes?” The giant sat hunched in front of the tavern bar, hulking. Monstrous, perhaps. He was large enough to bring to mind images of something sufficiently small–a child, perhaps, or even an average-sized woman–being crushed under him if he happened to stumble. Even the barmaid, who was a little stouter than most, made the patrons nervous when she slipped past the giant on her way to the bar. He was large enough to evoke at least some nervousness when one of the large mugs of ale was deposited in front of him and he received it with a grin. What could such a man do with enough alcohol in him?
Brent did not smile. Not when the criminal was led up to the steps, not when the bag was pulled off the man’s head to reveal a purpling bruise underneath his eye, and not when the hangman’s noose was cinched around his neck. Brent did not smile, because there was no particular joy in death. Executions were a necessary fact of life, and some people had to be removed from the world–that was the reality of it, and one he was very familiar with. He had put many people to the sword himself and returned many more for judgment, wherever possible. He was neither judge nor jury: that was a job reserved for someone else. Someone who knew better than he did, for all Brent truly knew was the edicts of his lord and the strength of his blade.
Representing personality types is difficult, in real life and in fiction. How do you convey how a person will act, overcome an obstacle or falter with just a few words? How can you say how a character feels or thinks without describing their entire life story?
What’s better than the American Old West? Well, the West when it was raw and untamed and full of things that you might call magic or you might call superstition or you might call a tall tale. But there’s something about those tall tales, haven’t you noticed? The more people tell them, the taller they get. The realer they get. The more they start to be able to reach their fingers through the veil between story and reality and grab hold.
Some good friends of mine have done
a Kickstarter campaign
In my dreams I raise my hands to my lips and I lift the corners of my mouth so a curve appears.
And in my dreams, when I remove my fingers the smile remains.
A doll is not supposed to dream; this is common knowledge and I never found any reason to doubt it until I met Hei. The first dream I ever experienced was of him taking my hand in his, and I will never forget it as long as I live. Ever since that moment he has made me… confused. He is confusing.
Sometimes I think I will never understand.
But here in my dreams, I can pretend I know all. In my dreams I raise my face to him and somehow I can see his expression without aid, and somehow I perceive that he answers my smile.
Sometimes there is more, and this too is confusing. I have felt his lips on mine and I recall that it was pleasant.
It is not an easy thing for me to talk freely and I’d be glad of never having to say another word as long as I live. Words are flimsy and fake; people lie as easily as they smile and I hate nothing more than a lie. That is why the melody of a piano is so soothing to my heart–music can never tell a lie or try to fool you. And in my dreams I speak to Hei without words, I say everything that could be said and he replies in kind.
Hei has never lied to me.
It is an anguish to wake, though feeling his presence beside me tempers the pain. He notices my eyes open and he says my name, the one he chose for me: Yin. It is a sweet agony to hear that word, all the more hurtful because I cannot answer it the way I do in my dreams. I think as hard as I can, trying to convey all I feel, but it does not reach him. I open my mouth to echo the confession but cannot find the words. No phrases or empty sayings could adequately explain how I feel and words lie too easily. He might not believe me or worse, might not feel the same.
A single word comes out instead: “Hei.” I put all the emotion I can into it but my voice just sounds artificial, inhuman. Like a Doll’s.
He turns back to his work and I adjust his shirt on my frame, worrying needlessly over whether some part of me had been exposed. I say I worry when in fact I am not sure if I want to leave this top button open or closed; perhaps I am most afraid he would look away if I did so. Politeness can sting as much as hatred at times.
I am not sorry to be what is called a “Doll.” it allows me certain talents that are useful to me. It makes my outside just as plain as my inside. It gives me the power to help Hei. Sometimes I wonder if I would still be playing a quiet concerto in an empty building if I had not become like this. Sometimes I wonder if Hei would still allow me to follow him if I was not a Doll. It is painful to wonder, too.
I cannot see Hei without water, but I know what he feels like. I know his hands that dwarf mine, catching my tiny fingers in his grasp. I know the curve of his arm and the hardness of his chest. I know the structure of his face, and I know the subtle tones that indicate his mood. I know when he is angry and I know when he is sad. I know that he is strange, just like me.
And I know the feeling of his presence, the safeness that washes over me like a warm ripple. Being near him is like a hot tub and a crystal lake all at once. He startles me awake when he comes near but as he does I start to lose the feeling in my head and I become fuzzy. I want to lay back and think of nothing at all; if it were not for a desire to protect him then I would certainly spend my time keeping perfectly still and perfectly quiet so I can hear and feel every sound he makes, even if it is just the deep evenness of his breathing or the solid beat of his heart.
Is it strange for a Doll to have feelings?
Both Contractors and Dolls are supposed to act completely rationally. Besides our powers, this is what differentiates us from humans. And yet in my time with Hei I have seen the emotionless act very oddly. I remember well the smile that new Doll gave me. From a sink in the corner I watched her eyes light up when I mentioned the boy trying to save her. It made me feel strange, “watching” that couple so devoted to each other. It was a good feeling but bad too, and I do not understand it.
There have been others that defy common sense. If no Contractor makes an irrational move then why did that woman throw herself in front of an automobile to save Huang? When he told me the story all I could think was how strange it was. Now I wonder if I wouldn’t do the same.
It is pleasant to be in this place with Hei. It is the first time since Tokyo that we have been alone, and the sound of the sea is wonderful. When we walk along the beach I ache to have his hand in mine but I haven’t the courage to reach out. Perhaps next time, I tell myself, but I can never bring myself to do so. It is lonely sleeping in a small, cold bed but it is enough to have him in the same room. I have never felt so safe as when he sits beside my bed and stares into the night. I should like to have him lay beside me, but I should count my blessings. Just this much is fine for now; just this much is pleasant.
And when he sleeps I repay the kindness, though I doubt my watch is as complete or as reassuring as his is to me. When the night is quiet I watch him through my Spectre and I dream while waking of nothing in particular; perhaps, his hands or his arms or the warmth of his skin. It is hard to return my attention to the hotel but a little lapse means nothing. This place is safe. We are safe together. I snatch little moments from the night like raindrops on my hand. This night I tiptoed to his side and tried to speak my heart, but failed. I wanted to say everything I felt but all that came were two short, stunted words:
I hate words. They’re slippery and false. They play both listener and speaker for fools. If only I could be honest with my actions: just once I have leaned in and brushed his lips with mine. Just once I have felt raw electricity race through my body. I wanted to kiss him fully, wake him up or touch his skin, but I am afraid.
Instead, I dream of his smile. I like to think that I would know he was smiling even if I could not see it, though I know such a thing to be ridiculous. But that is what my dreams are for: hoping for something ephemeral, like clutching at a spider’s thread.
I dream of him feeling the same way I do.
I dare to hope that one day it will be so, but for now I will simply keep watch. Just a Doll, saying and feeling nothing. He doesn’t have to know that just feeling him near changes me in ways I cannot understand.
For now, it’s enough.