There were a lot of ideas overall what this story could be, but even sparing any of that it follows my typical hawkthornean archetypes as far as story structure and tropes go. The lost wanderer, transfixed and transformed by their journey in metaphysical and often visually illustrious ways. I’d like to give thanks to all the people who helped build off and contribute to this piece, it’s been about 6-7 slumped years in the making with only recent interest bringing it back from the depths of obscurity. May any readers out there enjoy it thoroughly as I have writing it. Thanks!


3. Puella Aeterna Fin

You wake up in a strange room. There are motionless dolls lying around and a pleasant young girl with a tray of tea on her lap. She offers you a drink, but you politely refuse. She smiles to you and takes it away kindly. Your head has a massive lapse of memory, as if a train just hit you and your entire body is stiff and unusually dense, like you're made of lead or simply about to drop over any second.

Surprisingly, against the difficulty it gives you and strange sensations aside, you manage to stand up, then walk carefully. The room is strangely tidy, and this disturbs you for some reason that cannot quite place. Were you in this room before? If not, where were you? Clouds of fuzzy giddy pastel flashes coat and block your concentration, you cannot think too hard on it. Without focus the tingling goes away and you focus on the present. You feel odd, heavy and stiff still but something else, almost like a part of you is strangely, hollow. Or missing perhaps?

You're not quite sure. It's not a physical sense, it's something more intertwined, more primal, aching within you. You have no time to be worrying about this, a voice calls you from afar and carefully leave the room. As you make your way through the hallway and tread down the stairs cautiously, the awkwardness you felt in your stiff, heavily restricted body fades, even if the empty feeling doesn't.

Eventually you make it down the stairway. You see a man dressed in a suit who is finely well off, who announces himself as the house's servant and alerts you that dinner is ready. You're glad, your stomach is starved. He shows you to the kitchen, sits you down and soon places a large tray on the table.

He tells you his master will be with you shortly and to eat up while you can, his hospitality is noted and you thank him as he goes off.

The tray he left has some fruit, some grains that are possibly oatmeal, and some pinkish-orange juice left for you that you can recognize. Also spread across the platter is some stringy red fibers of some kind, as additive to some leathery sort of meat, a round looking oval shaped bean, two chunks placed near the sides, and the centerpiece is adorned by a still dry lump in the center with a few holes and valves, which you guess is the main course. You start digging in and devouring the meal set for you, and despite the odd looks and unrecognized meats on the table it's strangely the most delicious thing you've ever tasted.

You continue eating until you’re full, and then wash it down with some of orange-pinkish drink that taste strangely salty. When you’re finished, you put the top of the tray-cover back on the platter, and feel ready to move onwards when something catches your attention.

An odd reflection shimmering in the silvery bowl covering the remains of your meal. You see a stray, red meaty looking creature. You move your limbs, wave your fingers to it and examine closer and it does exactly the same staring back. Feeling your skin, it's now smooth as silk and at least to your vision rather pale at that. Or wasn’t it before? Your features are more redefined than ever, looking like they were graced for an older matured woman and not for you, a mere child. Your body is strangely comfortable and well put, despite the empty feeling still and the reflection staring back at you of a skinned woman.

Picking up a stray silver spoon, your reflection reveals the same red muscled beast whose features would frighten you, if that empty feeling wasn't lingering so. For some reason so long as that pervades your mind you feel strangely stoic, undefined, detached almost from a usual sort of sudden plethora of action or sentiments surrounding you usual behavior.

The feeling weirds you out, but you don't have to think about it because your name is called again from the top of the stairs.

However coming into the foyer things are different, the room is undecorated, as if it was suddenly cleared out or robbed, and peeking into every hall and room it's the same way, blank empty room after room. Furthermore the house seems to have strangely lost its color, but your inquiring on that makes for little meaningful thought as you're called up again. You cannot seem to care about the house being robbed or cleared either. You're wondering why you would, and what a strange thought that is. You think you really should be remembering something but it bounces off your head like a ball down a slope.

As you approach the stairs, you notice the upper floor has become even more deranged. Now not merely discolored, it seems to be transparent or shimmering like glass completely. It's white and crystal clear at first, but once you reach the farther reaches where the voice called you it comes darker, neon and chrome colors fill the void beyond the glass structures and the house is strangely surreal. As you drift into one room which catches your attention, there's a string attached to the metallic ceiling and it's almost indefinitely urging you to pull it. You do so.

A hatch opens from the ceiling. What pours out amounts to dozens if not hundreds of rolled up sheets, which quickly pile atop and bury you. Once you recover and pull yourself off of the pile, your investigation into these unrolled sheets mystifies you. Of the countless there, you could have almost swore that you authored some of these. The craftsmanship, the handwork and designs which map out some bizarre labyrinthine location. These relate to you somehow, but like water through your fingertips you cannot quite recall, no matter how closely or how many maps you look at.

Some other sheets interestingly enough don’t seem to be yours, you can at least differentiate that. Some have different map designs and work obviously not done by you, but others are so unrelated you can simply square them out. Sheets with elaborate pulleys and devices, sheets with shovels and underground tunnels drawn, one of them even with a shapely woman with long hair pointing out of a tower like Rapunzel, the list goes on.

"The master will see you now mistress."

Says the courteous cute girl behind you, the same polite girl who offered you tea earlier when you last awoke. She startles you so that your sheets drop instantly and are of mind to get going. Before she shows you out, she raises a finger to the pile of papers and plans scattered about and with a simple whiff of breath, sets them all ablaze. You don't get to see them scatter and ruin to ash, she closes up and locks the door and urges you forward. By now the house has become ever more unrecognizable, previously crystalline or metallic structures have become vapid and surreal in nature. You can hardly believe some walls and pillars are still solid, as they appear wispy and intangible. This trend continues as you go on, all the way until you reach another spiral staircase you don't recognize, and at that point the whole mansion might as well have been made of smoke and mirrors. Looking back, despite that the floor is so translucent and lustrous, it barely exist at all. The visible floor fades out behind you as well so soon it's only you and the small surface surrounding the spiral staircase. Soon even that disappears, forcing you to hop onto the first step.

There's no going back now, the way you came has disappeared out of existence. You peak underneath the staircase, and there's no floor or support any longer. From what you can see an endless psychedelic sea of neon colors floods the bottom, to where it leads you're quite unsure. Looking up top you see the staircase is rising higher than ever, but beyond that there's just a canopy of endless black which covers the sky however far out, into infinity until it meets the colorful horizon.

There is no longer any mansion. No walls, no floors, no rooms or safe ground for you to tread on. The only way is up.

"We should get going mistress. The master will be waiting."

The girl says, already 10 steps ahead of you. "R..right." You reluctantly agree, and start making your way up the stairs, which inconveniently enough fade and blend into nothingness behind you as you make your way up.

10 steps you take. Than its 20, and then 30. Soon 50 steps. Eventually 100, but you've lost track by then and however many you take after is of pure conjecture. The amount of time spent climbing these spiral stairs is of no consequence as well. You don't feel any more tired or less inclined to continue than you do before, but there is this strange feeling of emptiness even separate from the lack you felt waking up. It's a void of causality, a lack of distinction between your efforts and any possible results. Everything feels strangely, forlorn to you, bleeding feelings of outright misery onto your psyche. After the first few steps you take, you cannot imagine or conceptualize a difference between any others, be it 10 or a thousand more.

And so you don't feel any closer to where you were originally, nor do you feel any farther away. The disappearing steps behind you make it so you cannot visualize how far you've gone, yet the seemingly infinite height of the staircase gives no indication of how far you have left to go. It's a futile and empty endeavor, and although you can rationalize that fact you cannot distinguish it in your forebrain.

Even in a never ending staircase, surrounded by a sea of colorful static and sky of unreachable darkness, you don't question why you ascend. You simply do.

The idea of time passing, of exhaustion, of perhaps futility or even the copious trends of nihilism passively embraced by your thought, go unrealized. You simply keep climbing the stairs, waiting out perpetuity to arrive at some destination you’re unsure of, for a purpose you cannot discern nor can you even speak of why you desire. Eventually however your guide takes notice of that. The lady you've been following the entire time, always 10 steps ahead of you no more no less stops climbing. Following only in her stead, you do the same.

"We're here." She says. "The master will see you now."

You don't make a peep, not of relief or anticipation.

"Stay here a moment. The master will address you when you arrive."

Unsure of the exact ordinance of those words, you simply wait as she walks up further, and soon within seconds is above you and then soon out of sight. With a sigh you continue up as well. The staircase stops reaching out into infinity, and within a short amount of time you can finally see the top. The top doesn't lead anywhere, it just ends.

Arriving at the very last step, the rest of the staircase vanishes and you're standing on a mere tile. That too vanishes, leaving you floating out into eternity's empty chasm. Manifesting in front of you is a marble pillar, perhaps fit for containing a bust or Vase. However laying at the top of the white stone is a red metallic artifact, with two grooved intrusions bent on one side like a 'V' and a smoothed out tip on the other. You were told the master would address you when you've arrived, so you wonder if that will be so.

Taking a closer look at the shapely red object, you slowly and carefully eye it and with only a gentle poke, it cracks. Swimming back slightly, with both hands covering your mouth shocked, or notified atleast, the cracks begin to grow and soon split and multiply, and once covering throughout the whole red object shatters. You cover your eyes in fright, but then you remember you cannot recall what that feels like or why you would need it. Shrugging, you approach the object inside reveals itself.

Unleashed fresh from the artifact, is a lumpy fleshy pinkish-grey wad of meat of some sort. You vaguely recognize it from earlier, however long ago. However this one is slightly different, it seems fresher, better preserved. As you watch it shake, soon it squeezes itself and expands out again, oscillating between a pull and a pump in a steady beat. A shiny, ruby red liquid starts pouring out and soon covers the entire pedestal, creating an overflowing fountain that oozes out and spills into the nothingness below.

You finger some of the liquid and have a lick. It's salty. You don't care.

Staring onward, oblivious and unconcerned with these fanatical and nonsensical machinations, you cannot even think of the reason why you are here, or any reason you should be anywhere. It simply seems pointless to you.

"Take it."

A voice echoes, one that sounds exactly like your own. "What?" You murmur.

"Take it I said."

Oh right, the master. That must have been who sent you, right? You now remember you came here because you were called forth by it. You reach your hands out into the fountain and brush the flowing organ, but with a half-hearted squeeze on the squishy object, slowly drift your hands out of its grasp and stare at your red soaked cringing hands apathetically.

"Why?" You ask, staring at the sky, and then all around you.

"Don't you want it Do you not desire it?" The voice, your voice booms from above, below and all around you.

Thinking for only a few seconds and without any attempt at flattery nor misdirection you answer simple and direct.

"No." You tell the voice.

There is a long pause, and in the silence you float out into space, with your hands dripping and dyed red. Finally you attention is drawn back to the pillar again and from the bottom up it fades out of existence. Once the top is vanished, the still pumping object descends into the chaos below, soon unseen and unreachable.

Its replacement is soon found in a large bust of concrete, which stretches and grows out of the infinite sky like a painting expanding out of its canvas. The bust shapes and forms until its large enough to dwarf you several times over, and its image forms something out of a Greek pantheon you think, perhaps a splitting image of Zeus or Odin or some bearded god carved into a magnificent statue.

"Why did you not take it?" The voice beckons, not coming from the statue per say but its general direction.

"I had no desire to." You are inclined to say, which is what you do facing the carved monolith.

"Ahh, I see. I am glad, but that makes things a little difficult for us next. Let us correct that." It echoes.

Your eyes have to squint, a strange beam of light swirls around your face blinding you somewhat, eventually beaming directly on your eyes and then your forehead. You cover yourself with both hands, but the realization that sets in after cannot be blocked out regardless.

You scream. You’re not quite sure why at first, but the terror quickly sets in regardless. You pat and grasp at your naked chest, tiddling fingers over scars and stitching written over your body. Your shake and shout and plea in a frenzy of anguish and confusion as absolute despair seeps over you. Of which you try to recall, but it's a cascade of images and ideas tormenting your mind and you just don't think you can take it all at once.

So instead you decide to take it out on something else. With frail hands reaching out, you attempt to bash the patriarchal statue, the stone effigy symbolizing your humiliation and agony. Although your hands do little to it at first, you eventually go frantic and swear and curse the statue, and with a series of ravishing punts and scratches and attacks, it cracks and crumbles from the waist up. Than it splits at the groin and the two bottom thighs fall apart, melting into a puddle and forming up again.

Blood drips down your forehead and wrist, some of the seams all across your body have become undone slightly. A strange windy essence emits from them. But what you find strange is the blood isn't the red of wine or hell's boiling streams, but black like the night, oily and thick. Reflecting your porcelain reflection in its shrouded mist, it’s blown away somewhat by the air escaping your seems before it evaporates, dripping off into nothingness before it even reaches into the infinite cavalcade of nihility mounted by infinity’s bergschrund grace, the glacier of nothingness moving along the bottom canvas against the backdrop of multicolored bands, forming spectrums of vaporous dew and hazy yet colorful exhaust against the dark skyline.

You hold your wrist out and watch it flow and wisp away, shaking your knees before they succumb to soreness and start to tear and bleed themselves. Now on your knees, you fall over and, daring not kiss the air it but cursing the world with your last breath. Your body feels like it’s ready to split apart, the strange aura like a hurricane within you’re core. It leaks out and soon surrounds you, growing as you’re body plugs with emptiness. The statue that had begun to reassemble now takes on a semi-fleshy organic form, black and metallic, revealing a shiny and free flowing opalescent reflection against a jet-black casing, reaching out into the sky and slowly distorting the warped realm around you. Soon its form stretches all around you like a cyclone.

“Why did you turn me into a doll? Why have you kept me here? What do you want with me already?” You scream.

"Are you not pleased?" It ask.

You scowl, and attempt to stand forward-front again despite it being evident to any observer mortal and beyond alike that you can barely save face for all your aggravation. You give it your answer bathing in your own furious contempt.

"Why are you not happy? Are you not perfection?"

You shout further and decry its claims, lashing out every chance you get. With your captor surrounding you on all sides spinning in full motion with the power of a thousand forsaken storms you try to lunge towards it only to be blown back dead center, knocking you back senseless. "I'm sorry you don't believe this form is absolute. However to appraise your earlier comments, there is no such thing as any real deity. There was no house or watcher or even host to speak of. Your beliefs and qualms with me are amiss." You try to swim upwards and argue back and forth further. There's no end to how high you can raise yourself, and yet no end to where it can encircle you eternally. The tunnel is limitless.

"Oh, is that so? Don't get ahead of yourself human. Then again, you’re not human are you? I had little preference whether you lived or died, it was decided merely on a whim. I could have just as easily disposed of you at any time."

It goes on further, giving monologue against your humanity, your worth, your search and devaluing your plight with existential stupor. None of the answers or reason about the Mansion or your transformation or captivity, are any bit relevant to what you’d actually want to hear. Not even any justifications or fake rationale given. You use to see the ‘House’ as a sentient entity, perhaps lonely and fleeting, flaming red and gushing at the thought of making you into its playing, however juvenile and base the attitude is. You imagined it vengeful or raging when you misbehaved, or cruel and punishing sending those dolls in to finish you off. But you cannot project the same foretell of conviction onto this, this thing. Nor can you arrive any answers from it, you cannot even make any sense out of the brooding pseudo-philosophical gibberish it’s garbling. You’ve had enough, patience has run out and now so will you. You’ll search for a way out. Anyway possible, despite that nothing presents itself as a way up or down or through the vortex. Every time you try to reach it or get past it you simply get flown out further, ripping more seams, steaming out more black liquid throughout your scars and broken stiches now. Like a rag doll, you are truly tearing yourself apart.

An attempt to fist through it goes unnoticed, tearing your hand limp and then off asunder, dangling from its wrist and then ripped clean out into the skyline’s multicolored stratum. The wind racks itself against you continuously, both from within and out. Enough seams on your precious adorable head finally rip that your face itself tears off, and much of your head with it. Whatever’s left can barely see or observe what's happening, or how torn and ripped apart your body is. With a left hand, right arm, lower leg and part of your waist ripped apart you look like some sort of spring or mummy shredded up and twisted around the edge of its form, gasping at what remains of you. The storm continues to flash and tear at you, but you can still hear the voice. It fades out slightly, the terrible conversation declines and finally stops. There is one more wicked comment you hear clearly.

"To prove that you are truly worthless, I will show you how little you mean to me."

At that moment you very quickly feel yourself together again. Limbs, eyes, parts and fragments of your body recollect and you’re whole again, back within your child body and all its sophisticated sculpted mature adult features. Momentarily, you are whole. And then eternally, you are nothing. A burst of black comes from within, and every part of your body ruptures and rips, from the center out to the very seems and stitching holding you together. You’re not merely broken or split, you’re obliterated. Within seconds all that is left of you is fabric and dust, ash and black goopy residue. No amount of poetic flair or overly verbose sentimentality can make the realization or there lack of therefore any more apparent, or manifestly plain obvious.

You are dead.

It's peaceful though. You cannot say you feel peaceful, because you can neither say nor feel anything, but if you were still there its how you would explain it. No feelings, no sensations. No associations or identities anywhere in space or time, no realizations or even slightest bit of thought. The onset of oblivion comforts your nonexistence, the absolute nothingness suits you. The darkness comforts you, soothes you at its irreparable freedom. A freedom without burdens, without sight or sound, sense or reason. Mind or soul nowhere to be found, for you are truly one with space and feel and perceive as little as it does, which is to say none. An absolute bliss without longing, an inescapable grasp on the in essence of lack of being. "Death, it's truly beautiful." To be one with it, inescapably bound to the dichotomy of pain and pleasure.

You have become death. One with it and it in its entirety.

These thoughts evade and provoke your mind for a momentarily lapse of eternity's blessed regards, but then they fade back into nonsense and abstract object fear as they once were. Mainly that you can realize them at all, negating their presence and any mitigating truth to them. You open your eyes again, gasping for air that isn't there, racking your head around what you just experienced.

You are alive. Again.

Terrible. Your body is put back together in full, and every part of you remains with no stiches or seam lines to be seen. You feel your chest again, but there's still no response. Porcelain skin still greets you with dainty smooth limbs and a feminine gracefully milky silken body. You notice that it's aged a bit now, you seem to have taken the guise of a young adult or women on the cusp of adolescence at least. You've grown at least a foot if not a half more in height, your breast have reasserted themselves and your find all the eccentricities of womanhood greeting you once again, previously absent from your infantile form. Your body also seems to have a strange pale glow to it, a wispy miasma that follows your form and you’re every movement.

Despite your body resurrecting, other fears cloud your mind. You were momentarily absent from this world, any world. From any sort of existence or reality that you could comprehend and the idea of comprehension itself of this absent state comes off as quite absurd. A lingering impression still sticks to your mind, that for a momentarily lapse of eternity you were one with everything, the death of one joining with the death and ex nihilo of every living being, inanimate object, every particle or plane of space, every concept abstract or concrete to signify in your mind. Death, the great equalizer. You had become her.

One with her and all of her subjects and servants into nothingness’s brothel of tedium-tether tugging across you’re lonely hatched in story. Some other fanciful thoughts go through your mind romanticizing about death continue, pretense and poetry, methods of ascension and meaningful brooding clarify your situation and make your opinion quite evidently clear. Some afraid but most excited and mystified. But it doesn't matter anymore, you think as you sigh. Here you are again.

You miss being dead.

Your eyes go glassy and a faint shimmer flickers out of them, and the voice echoes in your head once again. No more statues or tornados of wrath to strike you down, instead merely instilling comfort and approval of that last thought. It doesn't give you a lasting decision. Choice is a rather foggy if not putrid thing for you right now. You cannot even entertain the idea of will or intent, and as you try to go back to sycophantic servitude over death's embrace, a part of you cannot quite deny there's something missing from your equation.

Death. You missed being dead, but how could you miss it? How could you miss something that's not there? Something that's present one eternal moment and gone the next, more to the point what is there to miss about it? What's preventing you from missing it, life? You would have to be alive to miss it. Life. Without its presence death cannot be kept at bay, and you cannot truly swoon over its offers and enticing entropic gift. Life? Humans? What strange words these seem to you now. You cannot imagine why you would ever want to be alive. You cannot see into the scope of desiring death anymore, because life's absence delays you in that pursuit, still you have no desire to relinquish your stagnation, your masterfully crafted form. Beautiful perfection that you are.

You think about it close for a second, and the idea of being alive doesn't even make any rational or intrinsic sense naturally. After all, you're not human. That occurs to you as quite strange, yet feels so natural at the same time.

You're a doll. You cannot bleed. Only humans bleed. If you cut yourself open, no blood would drain out, because then you'd be a human. But you aren't, you're a doll. You'd be mobile and others couldn't take you and dress you and pose you and put makeup on you. A terrible and scary thought. If you become alive the house would bemoan and miss its doll. And you're not a person yet. You never were one. You’re glad.

You smile, and put your hand to your chest. Nothing beats. You look at your arms, and no veins are visible. That makes you happy. Suddenly ideas of death and life and humanity don't matter to you. It's as if they never did, and your mind is like a carnival, happy and overjoyed at your existence.

"I'm a doll. A pretty doll, and I need my master to make me happy." You declare in a sing-song voice as sweet as a child’s.

As you say, like magic, you’re back on the stairs, back in the mansion, back in the map room, the woods and city and maze and kitchen and all of these things and none of them all at once. You’re a doll after all, so things like time and place are rather tricky silly things for you to imagine. But why would you, you don't need to bother with such anymore.

Wherever you are, you’re happy to be who you are. And as you think these things your beautiful black blouse and long frilly dress comes back to you, fingerless gloves reappear right with high-heeled boots just as gothic makeup and nail polish decorate you fully again. In no time (that you can understand) at all your body is repaired and beautiful again, and you are ecstatic. You can move of course, and the rooms and locations gradually settle down. You see the labyrinth undo itself before your eyes, the foyer melt into thin air and map room set aflame with black fires and dust only to leave smoky gray ash. Every room and part of the manor faces a fantastical sight of destruction until soon all that's left is a dainty welcoming forest on the dawn of a new day with ruins to spare. And upfront, is a doll with not a care for it to bide her time with. She has better things to do. With a blissful smile and skip, you sway yourself demurely and make your way onwards.

You make your way through the cresses and weeds, grace your way past the vines and thorns, slip and throttle around the woods and forest, navigating through its beautiful wonders and slip shine rays of sunlight pouring through the tops of trees with canopies tall enough to blot out the sky. You see empty put-out campfires probably attended by forest creatures. You cross magical incantations and huts, feel the wind sweep over your carefree ascendance as a questant with no particular object to strive for, no thoughts for age or time insurmountable in mind that would distract anything from your most jubilant little dance across the coppices and thickets, one that extends for miles upon dozens of miles like the wind itself reaching and getting to all across the strip stream, expelled and emanating from only the elated aura of life itself. You are the ever-present gale, a squall of joyous embodiment that becomes central to the very livelihood and lifeblood of these wildernesses.

This goes on for however much time, you cannot really determine, lost in the tracks of your own endless journey and satiated as the wood’s gusted keeper. Until one day, you come across a well with a trail of hemoglobin. You instantly panic, not knowing many orifices common to these parts that bleed horribly streaking red across soil and beloved terrain. Is it sick, does it need help? The poor ground! Your mind jumps to worry and concern for the element composed of earth and bleeding before you, and to set out your concerns into amends you begin following the trail. It’s quite dried up, for however long ago but still broad enough to follow through the forest. You make a turn and twist, succeeding one subsequent pathway of rusted bled earth to the next, until finally you arrive towards what seems to be some sort of old structure. You stop and reminisce closely for a moment, strange natures broad up, yet faded and washed-out through the waves of time, barely registering as you stare across the ruinous Villa.

Its top two floors have collapsed and caved in both inwards and across its surrounding establishments, guarded only by a rusted gate more incomplete than full. Weeds and thorns overtake its gardens, and tendrils reach into its remaining walls and corridors. All windows are shattered, all artifacts crushed or pillaged by vandals most likely, and what seems to be some sort of maze or well-trimmed labyrinthine hedge is toppled as such that anyone could crawl across it, if they bothered to. Putting aside the magnificent if wistful sight of the building and its remains aside, you follow the dwindling trail of blood-soaked ground to a decaying, horrific sight barely past the front gate. It’s a corpse half buried in the ground, skeletal yet filled with fleshy rotten remains preserved and resting eternally, it’s hand reaching towards the sky as if asking for help or a saving plea to a god unseen. What a strange sight, you think. How sad that some stray traveler or visitor be so unlucky to fall prey upon this house.

After all everyone in the woods knows anyone who comes across this Mansion dies.

What happens after that however, is nothing to say of your awareness on the subject. The house looks like it’s been destroyed and abandon for decades, if not centuries even, it’s antiquated beyond repair or recognition for anyone of this modern era. The body however, looks rather recent, it could haven’t been half-buried here too long ago. Strangely enough, you see what look to be red footsteps leading in and out of the building a little bit behind the corpse, but the marks are tiny and petite, fit for a child and not this traveler, it couldn’t have been them. You give a stiff prayer to the goddess before blessing the poor deceased passerby, reminding yourself to give them a proper burial later. Looking upon the mansion brings old memories buried in the shelved knolls of time, stints of lost eternity dawn across you as a stray tear escapes you. How long has it been, years, decades, centuries or eons since you’ve been here? Where you ever here? You cannot recall, it always holds a special sort of remembrance in your mind, a position of unseen importance, profound significance you cannot quite mark. The actual events or history with it is lost to you. Keeping it in reverence, but acknowledging the necessity to move forward, you keep your concerns with the future, the irreproachable dawning tomorrow for which you coast for day to day, night to night, and dusk to dawn for all of time without end.

Not a single thought crosses your mind about the incidents, nor do they occur about the phenomenon that caused it. A cryptic mansion in the middle of the forest, a tale nobody’s ever heard, save today and the day next when told, infinitudes of spells apart, and if you ever had any presence or effect on the world nobody remembers it beforehand. Even if that presence is all-encompassing and ever-reaching for a world’s vivacious requite. Only the stray traveler or kitsune or forested spirit can still hear the faint melody, but if they attune themselves close enough to the wind and her cherished peaceful gale they might just catch a whiff, nary a glimpse at the ethereal porcelain doll that sits briefly before it sirens death's herald elsewhere, for a new heir perhaps eternally in bondage by time, given the role by its own derision for patience or meditation of any kind. That way, they too may become like they were in life, endlessly drifting as the wind, up until and towards death as they would be, with eternal childlike reverie to spare. That way others too may hear the storyteller’s tale and join them in seining other spectators with lure and enticement, reaching words of wisdoms and tales of the inimitable loveliness of her beckoning call across elsewhere. And one day they too of course, may see beyond life and death uniform vastly engorging itself throughout the world. Like a petite, delicate and beautiful maiden whispering them off elsewhere with stories of little girls and children lost in the woods, tales only told when a new avatar of poignant ceaseless pity is to be chosen.

You know not what you do or who you are, but she carries you about where you need to go, and you sire her whims accordingly in these harrowed aches of time.

Forever forth, the world drifts onward. The story ends here, the listener absent or misplaced within its fabled tombs and storyteller gone astray back to the places for which she is needed, consigned to eternity save for the sparks of talespoken pithiness, an ensign of brevity for which forever allowed for both origin and if it may allow so, affluence. A simple joy and melancholy for only a moment’s recall, before returning to the great beyond the ether expatriates her for.

And now, so do you.









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