“Your abilities are entirely lacking, witchling. Your time here has been a mockery of everything the Sisterhood stands for. Your mere existence is offensive, and you have done absolutely nothing to prove otherwise to us. Die, and return your magicks to the earth.”
It was the last thing the witch remembered when he opened his eyes, his entire body aching and sore. Beams of distant light trickled down through his surroundings, bioluminescent fungi growing out of the piles of scrap around him. Streams trickled around him as he stood, taking in the scene around him to try to figure out where he was. The smell of decay was thick in the air, cut by the sweetness of fermentation and synthetic fuels. He looked at the ground beneath him, realizing with a start that what he at first thought was some kind of sand was in fact pulverized porcelain. It was a doll graveyard.
He took uneasy steps down from the perch he’d found himself on, taking more of the cavern in. Countless broken bodies were heaped in piles, the sounds of slow, thunderous footsteps in the far distance of the colossal grounds keepers that had made them. This was, for all extents and purposes, what passed for a doll afterlife. A place no witch ever wanted to find themself.
“Maybe you’re already dead.” A reflection began to walk beside him, hands tucked into skirt pockets as they made their way further down. “Hell, your magic is so weak, maybe you 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 a doll all along. That’s why you’re here, where dolls go to die.”
“Dolls don’t die,” he retorted, rummaging through a pile for sturdy scraps of clothes to begin fashioning into ropes. “They break down, and when witches don’t want to repair them anymore, they’re tossed away.”
“So like your teacher just did?”
“I’m not a doll.” The witch tossed his rope over the side of a short cliff, scaling down to a ledge below. “I’m a witch. I’m going prove them wrong.”
“You’re off to a great start, huh? In doll hell and you’re going deeper. Doesn’t that sound like death?”
“Why am I talking to you again?”
“Because I am you, silly. You can’t stop talking to me anymore than you can stop thinking. I guess that makes you an awfully poor doll, hmm? Unable to enjoy even the slightest bit of quiet. Your mind just races and races and races and races…”
He kept descending, the reflection continuing to muse relentlessly. He knew who he was. He was the last child of his family. He had gifts that made them cast him out. He had the blood of Eve in his veins, he was a witch through and through.
“Are you, really, though?” The reflection took notice of his thoughts once more. “It’s the Sisterhood, isn’t it? Are you a sister, my little delusional witch? Or are you a doll pretending to be a boy pretending to be a woman?”
“If you’re me, why don’t you tell me?”
“Where’s the fun in that? I’m not the one desperate to get to the heart of this place. Having those paranoid little thoughts, that your memories aren’t your own. You know how memorycraft works. Perhaps you’re just a doll who’s witch tried to train to be another witch.”
“Then they wouldn’t shape a doll into something they hate, would they?”
“A witch hating her dolls? Next you’ll tell me the sun rises in the east.”
The witch made it to as low a level as he reasonably could, standing over an even steeper drop off that looked to go at least a hundred meters down. Far below, a grounds keeper half that height had begun to excavate the cliff, each stab of its shovel sending small quakes up.
“You could always just check. Prick your finger; if you’re a real witch, you’ll bleed, won’t you?” The reflection sat on the edge now, legs kicking back and forth slowly in the breeze. “Of course, if that witch crafted you from flesh, you’ll still bleed. It’s such a conundrum.”
“I need to get down there,” he murmured to himself, scanning his surroundings to no avail. It was simply too steep of a drop, with no ledges to climb down with. “Doll cores are all sent to the center; I can escape with the magic there.”
“Not enough in yours, then? Maybe if you had been born to different circumstances, that wouldn’t be a problem, hmm?” The reflection’s form shifted, taking on an appearance similar to his sister. “Where do you think she is these days? Another coven, maybe?”
“She’s back home.”
“You can’t hide your fears from me. You were both born under the same moon, born to the same blood. Even if you lack the talent, you know she has to have it too. That Matriarch couldn’t see it, but you could. You felt it, just as she felt yours.”
“If I’m a doll, I don’t have a sister, do I? It means I’m me.” There: the keeper’s shovel was being raised high into the air to scrape an outcropping. He could make the jump. “I’m going to get out of here. I’m going to prove myself. I’m going to get my revenge. I swear it.”
“Will you?” It laughed, gesturing out. “Then take your chance. Take the chance, jump… and prove you’re a witch. Prove you’re fierce, independent, unbeholden to anyone…”
“…Unless, of course, that’s what your Miss told you to think. Maybe this is where you slip, and that body of yours cracks open on the ground below. You’ll know then, won’t you?”
He gave a final look at the shovel, waiting for it to peak its arc… and then he ran for it.