This story begins with Globe Without Goodbye – The Shore (1). To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.
Amazed as he realized the doll had truly spoken to him, not just given a recorded warning, Jeffrey slowly turned to his right. A wizened corpse lay stretched out naked on a lower slab. He hadn’t noticed it before. The corpse was so old, the flesh so desiccated, that it looked like a coated skeleton. He could barely tell that the body had been female. Dried hair rested against its old shoulders, but in the dim light of the cave he could not be certain of the hair’s color. The skeleton’s hands clasped over a small book that laid against its time-flattened chest. The corpse gave off no smell. It did not disgust Jeffrey. In fact, it fascinated him. He’d only seen bodies alive, in mock life at funerals, or depicted artistically, before now. He’d never seen a former person remind him so much of withered autumn leaves.
Jeffrey swallowed. He looked down at the doll and spoke to it: “You’re a doll. And you’re talking. But you’re a doll.” He swallowed again, his tongue feeling thick and stupid, like he hadn’t used it in years. Suddenly he knew he hadn’t dreamt this up. His mind simply did not contain these details. He had somehow been transported to another world, and he did not understand its rules. “How can those be your bones?”
The doll only responded by clicking shut its jaw.
In time, Jeffrey wondered if it had ever talked at all, if he had not perhaps completely imagined the thin voice. Perhaps he had hallucinated every inch of the shore to here. Did that make him insane? If so, would he ever be sane again?
At last the jaw clicked open. He heard the doll say: “Welcome to the world between worlds. The longer you stay here, the more powers you will develop. Powers like mine. Welcome. Now put me down and go about your business. I made this place so I could rest forever.”
Jeffrey tried to parse what the doll had said. His eyes traveled over the interior of the cave. He remembered how from the outside he could not tell if it were natural or fabricated. It did not appear to hold any other secrets; it only contained rocks, a very small amount of sand, a skeleton holding an intriguing book, a stone doll with glass eyes, and him.
He set the doll down gently where he had found it – lying on its back this time, like an infant in a crib. He ignored the doll’s protests as he approached the skeleton. He knelt beside it. He felt no fear; the ancient taboo against interacting with dead things held no power here. He wanted that book!
The flesh-coated skeleton’s arms didn’t want to move. They had stiffened into place pressing the book against the withered chest. The book, however, could bend. Two inches thick, about seven inches tall and five inches wide, it was bound in worn brown suede. He slid it loose from under the skeleton’s hands with a minimum of cracking of flesh, a minimum of wiggling of bones. Pulling it free carefully, he took it outside the cave to read. In the light of the blue sky with no sun, he could see grease-prints in the suede, where the book had been held open with eager fingers many, many times.
Thank you for reading! Coming up next week: Jeffrey tries to read the stolen book.
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