So many stars. The universe so vast.

We're s- so very small, in the end.

The first bullet hit me from behind, where my mask offered no coverage, and I slowly toppled. The second hit me before I could fall, before there could be any pain.

A dark mist welcomed me. What I could see split apart in white particles.

I heard, "That's not-"


Time passed. There were so many sensations. A clarity in my mind unlike anything I knew from before. There were colours before me but there wasn't any sense to them. What I was lying on wasn't flat, it dug into my shoulder and back.

The relief in my throat faded at some point. I knew that but couldn't pin where.

Relief. I tried to remember what from.

There was a point in the colours that drew my attention. I tried to recall what I knew of the thoughts passing through my head.

It was hard to pin where things started and ended. I let more time pass.


It came to me suddenly. That's what the relief was from. My hand moved to my face and made to remove my mask, only to miss. I hit my shoulder instead. I corrected and moved my arm across my face, succeeding in dragging my forearm across my cheek and nose.

I noted a change in the colours I saw and made the first connection. That was my arm.

My arm had hit my face. I wasn't wearing a mask.

Things were connecting now. Memories making sense. I tried to recall something but my mind was just like the colours once I drifted too far from where I was.

I realised I had fallen forward, but was lying on my back.

I wasn't on an incline, I hadn't rolled.

Had someone moved me here?


Why would they do that?

Where even was here?

The circle was attracting my attention. It distracted me.

No. It was the moon. Larger than I remembered it. I remember the moon.

Why wasn't I wearing a mask? If it had been removed, what else had been taken from me?

My knife. It wasn't in my hand. I moved it, as if drunk and slapped against my thigh. My bare thigh.

It was gone.

I felt naked in more ways than one.

Barring the actual nudity and the fact that I was disarmed, there weren't any bugs. It felt like a new sensation.

No. A voice whispered. Young. Female. I hadn't heard that voice in years. It feels like before.

Before? Before what?

I reached back and was swept away by a flow of memory.

"Was it worth it?"

The moon had details.

The answer should have been yes...

I recognised details in the moon. Darker patches where asteroids had struck the surface hard enough to leave a crater that was visible from the celestial body next door.

There were stars around the moon. Obscuring them in places were clouds. Thin, wispy things that reflected the light and made the view from a thing of beauty into something otherworldly. I let my head turn to the side. It didn't want to obey at first, but slowly it started to shift. My perspective swam as I turned and I stopped, willing the colours to return to something I could recognise.

… But somewhere along the way it became no.

I saw… trees.

Incredibly tall trees. Growing from a ground I couldn't see all the way into the heavens where they disappeared.

I kept turning until my head was sideways on the ground, settled in a nook in the surface I was lying on.

I saw… a gravestone.

Mine? Probably. Wait. There were more behind it. I took the time and counted five from my current perspective. I couldn't see what was behind them. There were probably more that I couldn't see. There was writing on the gravestone as well.


I couldn't read it, which pinged pain that I immediately tried homing in on.

Nothing. My mind drifted. What had I been looking for?

I tried sitting up and succeeded in groaning. It was the first thing I heard, making me realise just how quiet things were. I rolled over and pushed with my hand. I realised the floor I was on was cobblestone. Old fashioned. I hadn't really encountered any cobblestone in-...

Push up. I told myself. A first conscious thought. A direction to travel. Did that fit? I pushed up. I pulled my legs forward when I thought there was space. Moments later my arm failed me and I collapsed on my bare knees, but I stayed upright.

I looked up. The colours swam before they stilled.

A house. That's what I saw. A staircase lead up to it. The colours settled a little more. There was a figure by the foot of the staircase. It was… on a ledge. Sitting. A person? I parsed that quickly. I had lost perspective of persons towards the end.

End of what? My head dropped as I redirected the energy to a mental search. I found nothing. Just a bright impression.

It made something click. I had done something. No, become something. I didn't recall what. Now I was here.

My body. That's what clicked. I could feel it again. Understand what the parts were meant for and how they moved. There wasn't any strength in them, which was the problem. I had been beaten and exhausted. One arm ended in a hand while the other stopped short. I flopped them in front of my and saw the difference.

Movement in my peripheral distracted me. I looked and saw tiny people. The colours focused and I saw the details. They had open mouths, all of them, stuck in the same parched looking expression. Their jaws hanging and unmoving. They either had sunken holes where their eyes would be, or blind white orbs that seemed about to fall out. The most off setting thing was how pale they were. Scratch that, it was how they were reaching for me.

I tried to count them, but lost the order. I had counted before, where had it gone?

I refocused on the little people. They were just out of arm's reach. Behind them I could see more tiny people reaching out of the staircase. I looked back at the group in front of me, they were cut off at the waist, a dark fog permeating the ground around them.

Many, many tiny breakers then.


Where had that come from?

The tiny people were still reaching for me. They were silent, while I was loud. Moving had elevated my heart rate, which I could still feel pounding around my skull, hear it in my ears. Each breath was a laboured thing. It's what filled the air while I watched the tiny people reach endlessly towards me, but never moving.

There was something in between them. I couldn't make it out.

I reached forward with my hand and pulled myself forward. It was slow. It was painful. I reached the little people.

As I approached, they lifted the thing between them.

It was a hat. It was shaped in a triangle, with the two sides that were meant to face forward folded back and sweeping up in the back. The back end of the hat was really frayed.

They offered it to me.

I reached and fell over. I had to pull myself back to a kneeling position.

The little people were holding it further towards me. I couldn't tell anything from their faces. I wasn't sure I could tell anything from any face.

Again, I tried to take the hat and dropped it immediately. My grip wasn't good. The little people picked it up and offered the hat again.

I tried again and put more effort into holding the hat. With my limbs still not responding properly, I pushed my arm up with great effort and approximated the best position to release my hand.

The hat toppled off to the side.

All I had done and I couldn't even put on a hat.

I tried again. It took a while, but I succeeded this time.

If the little people were happy with me taking the hat, they didn't stick around to show it. As soon as I had the hat on they pulled back into the ground and disappeared. Then they rose again with something else in their many grasps.

I pulled it towards me. The little people let go as soon as I had a hold of it, weak as my grip was.

It was clothes. A gray shirt, a leather vest, and a long grey jacket with a short black cape to go over it.

I looked at the little people and they looked back.

They could have given me the shirt first.


Putting clothes on took a long time, but it helped me find my coordination. Moving no longer required conscious effort most of the time, and I had found enough balance that I could stand with the assistance of a nearby gravestone.

When I had put on clothes I had been given, another set of garments had been delivered. Trousers, socks, and boots. That was where I had really needed to learn to stand. As soon as the last boot was strapped on the little people had delivered gloves, which I pocketed instead of wearing.

I felt better with the cape on. Was it familiar territory?

One sleeve dangled uselessly. I didn't bother trying to tie a knot in it.

A final group of little people delivered me glasses. I accepted the delicate things and put them on. I looked up again, the moon was even more beautiful now.

There were two more groups of the little people further away, near the motionless figure. I took my first steps tentatively, and soon found a rhythm. My coordination hadn't really been taken away, just my strength. There were a few scares where I nearly fell over, but I made it to the figure and leaned against the wall.

It was a similar figure to me, wearing very different clothes. It's garments were Victorian in design, as far as I could tell. That hadn't been the kind of fashion I was interested in. What was I interested in? I'd never been one to pay much attention to how I dressed...

The doll.

It was a doll. That's why it wasn't moving. It looked well made and beautiful, which gave it many creepy points in my book. It's face stared up into the sky, expression blank and unblinking. There was a lit lantern next to it. Whoever lit it was nowhere to be found.

I turned my attention to the little people.

The nearest bunch had three things for me. I reached for the one in the middle and they pushed the handle towards me. I gripped it. As I pulled it away, the little people started descending, making me pause. They did too. If I took this now, would the other two things be taken away? They had been taking the other things with them as I tugged on this one.

I looked closer. The one on the left looked like the handle for a cane. The one on the right looked like the handle for an axe. I couldn't tell what the handle I was holding as for, but I could tell it had a blade.

An axe would be too unwieldy for me. A cane wouldn't do much in a fight. This seemed to be the smallest blade available, even if it was a little too large for my taste going by the look of it. I had lost my knife, it would have to do.

I pulled the weapon out and nearly dropped the thing when the little people stopped supporting it. It was a mix between a cleaver and a saw attached to a handle. There was no elegance to it, it had clearly been made to saw through whatever was in the way, be it flesh or bone. I gave it an experimental swing and was taken off guard when it suddenly extended, a hinge at the end of the handle snapping out and extending the weapon. I stumbled backwards into the doll.

There had been a memory near the surface there. It was gone now.

When I had swung the saw… cleaver… thing, I had pulled a trigger that I hadn't realised was there. Pressing it again made the weapon move back into its original shape. This would be the one I was more comfortable using, not having the strength to leverage something like that even...

I was staring at the moon again.

I pushed myself back to my feet and attached the saw cleaver to my belt. The clothes had clearly been made with that kind of functionality in mind. By who and for what purpose were questions that were ignored in favour of dwelling on why failing to read had hurt.

I went over to the final group of little people. Two things this time. Handles. Of guns.

I went for the smaller piece and inspected it before attaching it to my belt. They hadn't delivered it with any ammo, meaning it was useless. I wasn't going to be able to use both weapons at the same time anyway. It was an impossibility in my current condition.

It would stay that way too.

Another gathering of little people appeared. They presented me with a bell before retreating under the floor.

I looked around but didn't spy any more little people, so I directed my attention to the house. Now that my thoughts were somewhat in order I wanted to go inside and find someone, anyone. Try talking. Try figuring something out. There was trepidation in the urge to do it, but everything in me was saying that there was purpose to… I couldn't say what.

Talking would help.

I just needed to find someone to talk to.

The doors were closed. I was too weak to turn the handle. That felt right, somehow. It justified my frustration.

I staggered down the stairs and took some time to take in my surroundings. There were many, many more gravestones than the ones I had seen before. There were several stylised gravestones leading up the side of the staircase. There was an empty birdbath in the shadow of the house, as well as another path leading to the side of the building. Now that I took a moment to look at it, I realised that the house was quite small. There wouldn't be room for anything more than a kitchen and bedroom in there, maybe a bathroom if it was just a shower. Other than that I was standing in a garden.

A very macabre garden made by someone with a fetish for gravestones, it seemed.

Movement caught my eye. A little person had appeared at the foot of one of the larger gravestones. I took a moment to wait and see if anything else happened. When nothing did I staggered towards the little person and knelt in front of him.

"What do you want?" I attempted to say.

"Wd- -o -tn?" Is what came out.

The little person didn't reply. I wasn't sure he could. He was reaching for me like all the others had. He was yearning for something. Me? Possibly. I couldn't tell for the life of me what was so good about me.

I moved my hand towards the little one. He reached towards my hand as it approached. I let him reach my hand and he took a soft hold on it. His touch was so light that I could have forced my hand away if I wanted to. After a moment I felt a pull.

It wasn't the little one. It was like my body was attempting to scatter itself. It was something I had felt before with certain teleporters. I was attempting to pin down that thought when the effect tore apart what I had gathered of my mind.


I woke and sat up.

Bugs. I could feel bugs. They were just as numerous as I… remembered.

There were… flies… ants... beetles, small ones… cockroaches… and… no… there weren't any spiders. They felt far away, like my awareness had been shrouded, but I knew they were close. Only walls away. My range was… short.

I pulled them towards me regardless.

I looked at my hands- hand. That part hadn't been a dream. Now I was lying on a bed somewhere. I looked around, taking it in. I was in a clinic, but none that I'd ever been in before. This one was dark and the equipment was unrecognisable. Books were stacked carelessly everywhere. I did recognize an IV drip though, it was injected into my arm. It would stop me from moving too far, so I started removing it.

It was in the arm that still had a hand, so I had to fumble with my teeth and stump to get it out. I succeeded with a spurt of blood. Since I was familiar with treating injuries I put pressure on the bleeding area while looking for bandages, then realised that the blood had come from the needle, not my arm. The blood had been going in me. I temporarily took the pressure off to find there wasn't any blood flowing from my arm. There wasn't even any indication a needle had just been there.

Blood continued flowing from the drip and my stomach growled.

That's right, I had been hungry. My thirst had been sated but I couldn't recall how long it had been since I ate. Two days? Three? More? I needed to move.

I learned I was actually on an operating table by falling off of it when I swung my legs around to stand. I rubbed the sore spots and awkwardly got to my feet, using the operating table as leverage. I nearly fell again when my grip slipped on some paper, inadvertently pulling it off the table.

I picked it up. It had written on it, "Seek Paleblood to transcend the hunt."