17: Stitches

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"Do you like Butterscotch, Powder?"

    The memory of the Monstress' voice not only filled Powder's ears, but her eyes, throat and chest. "I told you I was territorial. . . That's why you're going to make your own doll. . . someone else to pull you away from protos or wait for your ejection. . . He can be your lover."

    Powder's eyes opened wide and let in all the dark that surrounded her in the cleared-out shelf  she had been sleeping in. The dream didn't wake her up, her racing heart did. She beat her chest in hopes she could manually slow it down. She turned on her side. Her hands found the wound on her stomach, tingling and hot beneath the bandage. The still air was cold against her sweaty back and her head was heavy with the remaining thoughts that hadn't been dreamt away. Powder couldn't remember how she had wound up sleeping on one of the bookshelves in the office but she clearly recalled her earlier conversation with Bourbon.

    "None of this madness is stopping for you until you go back to where you came from," he had said. "That's the only real solution."

    Powder had been down that road so many times in her own thoughts as well as with other ideas. Her voice had given away all her frustration. "But none of us knows what that even means or how I should go about it."

    "All I can say is, everything here happens with the M's authority. Whether she lets you out or you sneak out, you have to be close to her. She has to trust you in some regard."

    "She wants me to make dolls. That's what will happen when I get close to her."

    "Then we need to get you out fast."

    Bourbon's choice of words had shot a cold pang through her gut.

    "You mean we need to get out fast."

    Bourbon had said nothing to that.

    The fact of the matter was, no one knew if Powder could escape and, if she could, whether that also meant the dolls would be able to. No one was sure of the rules of the First Realm. If she came from the First Realm and it was filled with humans, could the dolls live there? Powder wondered, but didn't state aloud, if "going back" meant restoring the dolls' spirits to their original human bodies, and their bodies were seriously damaged like she had reason to believe, would they all be dead?

    Powder looked around the office. Everything was black except for the tiny stream of light beneath the door. She tried to think of reasons the dolls could be restored to healthy bodies. All of this work and sacrifice was barely worth it if it only ensured her own escape. The dolls needed to be included—she would demand it—even if it meant returning to uninhabitable bodies. After all, they hadn't chosen this life.

    Or had they? No, no one would choose this place to be stuck in if they really knew what it was like.

    The faint outlines of furniture in the dark came into focus. Powder adjusted her little pillow. It felt like it was filled with beans instead of feathers.

    None of the traumatic events Powder had gone through could really compare to the deaths she had witnessed. There were the ones in the hall, but the ones in the Globe bothered her just as much. Deaths that had been thought fictional but she suspected were now reality. Shooting Mint at the bottom of the stairs, the terse words with Bourbon... Those few events had never been planned in the Globe because they were just being replayed in the M's memory. It made Powder shrink to think of all the dolls as being already dead, their human bodies lying somewhere in the First Realm. She thought about Scotch in the garage. Even if their spirits went back, there wouldn't be a whole lot you could do for someone with holes in their body. Perhaps this is what he meant when the Voice said that they "can't be helped much."

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