It was the first time she had seen him talk. She had heard the voice of the doll a number of times before, holding a disturbing edge that made her skin crawl. But this was different.
Somehow this felt even more uncanny then him simply moving. When dealing with the innkeeper woman, she hadn’t the chance nor the time to see her mouth movements for the panic of survival had taken hold and little else mattered.
Now though. Now she had no choice but to pay attention. To have it forever engrained into her memory and be something that she would never be able to forget.
Toya looked at her, his head tilting to the side, the squeaks and groans that came from that one motion made her feel almost ill. As it looked as though his mouth was stuck between smiling and not smiling.
In that moment all there was to instigate a change was a single sound. The squeaking groan of moving limbs. He lunged at her, doll arms extended, like a spider lunging to catch its prey. But Taryn reacted quickly, thanks to the sound she pulled out the gun and quickly fired, landing at least three shots directly to the chest.
It was thanks to her father and uncle when it came to the quick draw speed.
Toya fell to the ground, faced down now silent. She kept her eyes on him all the while giving quick glances around the circular carved out room. There seemed to be another entrance, or exit, where it led was unknown.
But it was a small alter that held her attention, while constantly looking to see if Toya would move, she noticed how there seemed to be two blades, a katana of average length, some type of ritual knife resting on a stand above the sword, and a mirror.
Taryn had an understanding of the mirror itself, for mirrors held a vast majority of different aspects depending on the culture.
She moved slowly around Toya, inching her away towards the mirror, eyes now firmly on the doll that continued to lay at her feet. But the moment she had gotten at least a few feet away he had moved. Suddenly grasping at her ankle, the same one which had been bandaged. With him being in doll form the normal laws didn’t apply.
He could very well stretch his own limbs out however far he wanted, there were probably limits but that was one of the few things Taryn thought about in that moment. Still holding the gun, she shot the arm not willing to risk shooing the hand that held a tight grasp on her ankle.
His grip loosened causing her to kick off his hand and jump back, landing on her left foot rather then her right so not to be in further pain.
“You shot me.” Toya’s voice echoed around her followed with a soft chuckle. “You really are full of surprises.” His arm retracted as his glass eyes looked to the spot where she hit him. “Three in the chest, besides the arm, that’s seemed to be some type of military move. Did your father teach you that?”
She remained silent, still inching herself towards the katana and knife. She knew that with this gun there were only a few number of bullets in such a small hand gun. However, she didn’t even know if bullets would even have any kind of affect on him. Or if there was, how many were actually needed in order to stop him. But she wouldn’t risk firing blindly. When she would run out would be the problem. It was why she kept inching herself towards the blades.
“But what will you do…” he turned to look at her, his mouth moving almost unnatural to his doll form as he looked at he with wide eyes. “when you run out of bullets?”
She felt a chill down her spine, of course he would know it too, after all she came down here with very little planning, had her uncle been here, he would have smacked her lightly upside the head for being so carless. But she didn’t think, fear and worry dictated her actions. Even if she had some god given foolproof plan, the likelihood of it going off with out any problems were impossible to count. This was all going to be through luck and chance with nothing else in-between. She wasn’t a cop, or someone who went into the army. There was only so much someone like her could even do.
All she could do was play it by ear. In cases like this, it was all she could do. If anything, she found herself to be good at it, whether it was due to luck or chance mattered little. She wasn’t about to overthink something when it came to life or death. After all, it was something she had done at least once before back when she and Rachael had just gotten to know one another. Though if anything that incident drew them both closer together, and even gave Taryn someone else to trust with what she could see.
But that and this were completely different things with little to compare.
Toya lunged at her once more, and she fired again. emptying the gun completely as he was now on the ground once more. She was much closer to the mirror, deciding to throw the now empty gun, and instinctively hurled it at Toya for a ditched effort to distract him as he rose up once again, she ran over to the mirror, dagger and katana.
And just as she was about to reach the closest thing, she felt a sudden tug on her leg causing her to fall. On the ground she looked back to see that Toya had starched his arm out to grab her right ankle. Opposite to the one that had been bandaged. She frowned at that, had he wanted to truly catch her, he could have gone for her injured leg, giving him more of a chance to get her. But instead, he did the opposite. Why?
The sound of his limbs squeaked, echoing around her as he made his way too her, his hand now slowly dragging her towards him. Taryn clawed at the ground, trying to keep herself as far away from him as humanly possible, originally, she wanted to grab the dagger, for it would have been far easier to handle. But the more his hand pulled her towards him, the further she was from it. With gritted teeth she grasped the hilt of the katana and pulled the blade out of its sheath. Toya stopped in his tracks suddenly.
At first, she thought that it might have something to do with the katana she grabbed, but then he spoke.
“Why… can I not… move?”
Hearing that, Taryn instantly turned her gaze to the mirror, her eyes going wide at what she saw. Within the mirror she could see why Toya was suddenly struggling to move.
There were ghosts.
A large number of them to the point where all she could really see where shadows. This was something she had seen before, her oldest memory of seeing so many ghosts at such a young age. She never expected to see so many again. of the ghosts however, she did make out.
It was Sachiko and Robert.
It was only them that she could make out, the rest merely looked like shadows to her. Was it because of their influence that caused the others to react as well?
Within that short moment Robert looked towards her. Though his mouth did not move, his eyes said it all. It would not be something that would last long.
Gritting her teeth, she took the katana and plunged it into Toya’s arm, forcing the doll to let go from the combined shock and confusion of the current situation. Then ran towards him as he continued to struggle with the unknown force. His hands tried to reach for her, but they too were pinned. He looked to his arms as if wondering what would have caused it only for his attention to be quickly brought back to Taryn as she used the blade with both hands and slashed at him. Tearing his kimono and making contact with his body. The sudden expression on his face told her that it had done something, taking the incentive she slashed at him again before she was about to try and plunge the blade into his body.
That was until he seemed to shake off the spirits that were trying to keep him down, and shoved Taryn back.
She staggered back but quickly regained her footing as she continued to slash at him, only to suddenly come to a halt when he used his arm to block her. She struggled, pressing down as hard as she could as he seemed to be using little effort on his end. Besides the spirits that seemed to be still trying to keep him down his eyes remained locked on her the entire time.
Knowing that this constant pressure would accomplish nothing, Taryn quickly drew back to try and strike again. but much like before he used his right arm to block her attack. Groves were starting to appear on his arm with each time she struck. Taryn thought briefly that if she could apply enough force then maybe she could at least remove one of his arms. Using as much of her upper body’s strength as possibly she stuck once more only to hear a sudden snap, the sound echoing around her, before feeling the sudden force her Toya pushing her back once more, this time it was hard enough to cause her to fall to the ground.
When he had she realized that the katana had broken. Toya now held the other part of the blade before simply dropping it to the ground with a dull thud. His head now looking down to his hands then to the rest of his body.
“Strange…” he said as he moved his fingers in an unnatural way before tensing and relaxing his shoulders. “Such a thing, I have never experienced before…” his gaze locked with her’s. “And it’s all because of you.” however the tone he used was not filled with any malice, if anything, it was with intrude. “Fascinating…”
In that moment he had moved, not giving her the chance to get up this time, forcing her down onto the ground completely. But he had not pinned her arms. Grasping his chest with her right hand, she used all the force of her left and stabbed him. He looked at her with wide eyes before she continued. Over and over again without uttering a single word before he collapsed on top of her.
Leaving her in abject silence.
The grim reality of what she had done hit her as she forced the doll off of her, the body now collapsed on it’s back, head lolled to the side, glassy emerald green eyes staring at her almost absently as she remained where she was, sitting on the ground with elbows on her knees desperately trying to catch her breath. And to fight off the urge to be throw up.
She looked to her left hand which was now coated in blood with the broken remains of the katana. A katana which she threw away from her in that instant. Her lungs burned for air as she now fought off the anxiety, tears burning her eyes as she physically came to grips of what she did. This was far different from the time with the kid who killed her father. Back then she didn’t think. Here, she actively went to kill a man.
Regardless of what he was, she had taken a life.
Now she had to deal with the reality of it. It made her question how her father had coped with it so many times before she was ever even born.
When she let out another breath, her anxiety finally calmed, she found herself looking back at Toya. Her blue eyes moving to look at the damage that she had done. Before she then went to look back at his eyes when a sudden thought came to the surface of her muddled thoughts.
Was he actually dead?
A cold sweat suddenly came over her as she swallowed the lump that formed in her throat. Her bloody hand still shaking she slowly reached towards his throat. She couldn’t feel a heartbeat. But this was a doll, not a human body. Normal ways to check wouldn’t apply here. If she wanted to be abundantly sure, she needed to check.
Her eyes instantly went back to Toya’s eyes. Nothing had changed.
Slowly, she moved. Leaning over his body she placed her right hand firmly on his chest before lowering her head to his chest and listened.
She heard the sound of a frantic heartbeat. Causing her to lunge back, but Toya had no moved. Taryn rested her right hand along her chest, causing her to realize what she had heard was her own heartbeat, not his. Gripping her shirt, she went back to hear, forcing her body to try and relax so she could hear.
There was nothing.
Moving away and looking back to his face, nothing had changed. She let out the breath that she had been holding and then pushed herself to stand up. Her legs shook, her body still pumping with adrenaline as she continued to let out large heavy breaths. Trying to calm herself.
Taryn took a few steps back, as a sudden wave of guilt hit her. “For what it’s worth Toya…” her voice softly echoing around them. “I wish things were different. I wish that this never happened.”
Saying those words would do nothing, but it was the truth, much like with Robert, she really wished things were different. That this didn’t have to happen. That they never should have come here in the first place. Or that Toya did this, for reasons she would never understand, but it mattered little now, both her thoughts and her words.
She took a few steps back, before turning around to head down the tunnel that she came from. Yet when she entered the tunnel she felt a slight breeze to her right, frowning she looked to where the breeze was coming from only to realize that there was another way through the tunnel. One that she hadn’t noticed before when all of her attention had been focused on Toya. Though this one was smaller and would have gone completely unnoticed without the sudden breeze. But it’s what she saw that held her attention.
It was June.
The Asian woman was completely visible to her now. Dressed in the same clothes she had seen in the reflections of mirrors. Reminding her of how she had seen Robert before he made her find his body. Her completion was ghastly pale, making a drastic contrast to her long black hair with lifeless looking eyes before vanishing.
Did she want her to follow?
Taryn then found herself looking back to Toya, again he hadn’t moved. In the end she decided to follow after the woman. June had led her to what was needed before after all.
As she followed the woman Taryn noted how that there were torches at the far end of this tunnel. Her mind could only guess as to what was there as she rounded a corner. Taryn stopped in her tracks when she saw June again standing patiently in front of a large wooden door, before disappearing through it.
Part of her looked at the door warily. Last time she opened a large ominous door down here she ended up in some type of torture chamber.
It couldn’t be any worse then that right?
Biting back the nagging feeling she placed both hands along the door and pushed, the old wood groaned heavily from doing so. Yet what was inside what she saw was indeed one of the last things she expected.
It was dolls.
Dolls that were once human beings lined along the walls.
An indescribable number of dolls that all seemed to be hung on the smaller circular room. A room that went up high.
“God…” was all she could say before her eyes moved towards what was in the center of the room. It was the doll version of June. That squeaking sound of limbs now made Taryn think of nails on a chalkboard. And unpleasant sound, one that she would be all too happy to forget.
“Please…” June spoke in English. “Help… us.”
Taryn frowned. “What? How do you expect me to help you?”
Then there were voices. Many, many voices. All speaking in different languages, so much so to the point that they all began to merge to be completely incoherent. Their voices grew louder and louder, causing her to grasp her ears from the sudden pain. It was too loud, too painful.
“Stop! I can’t… I can’t understand all of you!”
It was then that they fell silent. And that was where June spoke.
“Help us… end us.” She spoke in English. “Let us die…”
The voices returned, this time softly before reverberating around her booming voices, all speaking in their native languages before turning to English. “Help us! Free us! End us! Let us die! Let us die! We want to die! KILL US!!”
“Enough!” Taryn gasped out from the loud noise. “You don’t have to shout.” She let out a breath, before looking to the many dolls that now seemed to have locked eyes with her, all staring at her like spotlights. Refusing to move. “Is this… what you all really want?”
“For many, our families are dead. We have no homes to return too, and those few who do, do not wish for them to see what we have become. We… want to sleep. Finally. That is all.”
Taryn stepped further into the room looking at the many faces, she could only imagen that this was merely a fraction however, to how many Toya had taken against their wills. Those who wished for it and survived, worked for him, that was at least what she could gather. She could have been wrong. But she wanted to be sure.
“Are you sure?” she asked, looking up to the many, many dolls. Ones that looked as though they had been left and forgotten about high up on a shelf. “Are you really sure that all of you wants this?”
“If you cannot, then think of it as merely stepping on a bug. With little to no notice. That is what many of us are now.” June said to her, looking at her with glassy brown eyes.
“Even bugs have lives.” Taryn stated.
“Yes,” June agreed. “But we are already dead. We cannot return to normal, for none of us know how. If we did, we would no be asking you.”
“Why me?” she asked. “Is it just because I’m here? Or is it something you’re not saying?”
“There is no reason, you are simply here. But, if I were to give one, it would be that you understand better then most. About being stuck in between, stuck between living and dead. And yet, still hold respect for the dead.”
She gave a short laugh, but there was no humor in it. “Stuck in between, story of my life these days…” she closed her eyes and let out a slow steady breath. “Alright, you helped me this far, I suppose it’s only fair to return the favor.” She looked around the room. “How should I…”
Taryn trailed off when she saw June point to a standing torch. “You already know…”
She immediately recalled what happened to the innkeeper, and how she died. “Is burning really the only way? Won’t it… hurt?”
To Taryn’s surprise June shook her head. “None of us can feel pain any more, to us it’ll be like falling asleep.”
Taryn fell silent, unable to say anything in response. But she knew deep down, if she did not do this now, if she continued to waver she would never be able too. Fighting with herself in doing it, and not, her body moved to the torch, and with one last short glance to those hanging along the walls. She kicked it over. Sending the burning charcoal and wood outwards. Sparks and flames caught hold of a kimono that one wore, before spreading and going to another, and then another. And another. And many, many more.
She felt no joy in this, only a deep sorrow.
There were no screams as the dolls were slowly consumed by the flames, if anything there were sighs. Of relief, of exhaustion or release. She could not be sure.
The flames grew stronger as it rose upwards, as though taking and devouring a mighty tall tree. Without a word she walked back towards the doors, only to stop when June spoke.
Taryn looked back, as the flames began to fall like rain from the higher reaches. Her body groaned and squeaked, as she gave Taryn a bow of thanks. When she rose her head, Taryn could see that June was smiling. A short brief moment before being consumed by the fire.
Taryn then left, heading back the way she came. Not wanting to risk getting lost, she continued on for several more feet before her knees gave out and slumped to the ground.
Her breath now coming in short bursts, as her eyes burned with tears and shoulders shook.
Unable to take the tension anymore, she opened her mouth and cried.
The damn of emotions broke, the torrents of what she felt, the fight or flight situation with Toya, the death of Robert, and the assisted suicide of the countless victims.
She didn’t know if it would actually help. Or even make it worse. But at that point, her mind had ceased on critical thinking, of questioning, she had done so much already when fighting Toya. And the stress of the aftermath and the subsequent killing of so many lives was too much to bare.
Her crying was short and brief.
But it was enough for her to calm herself to a point and forced herself back on her feet and continue onwards. That was until she heard a sound, the familiar groaning squeak. She turned to look back with wide eyes and stilled breath, only see nothing. Or at least that’s what she thought she heard. Only to realize it came from the bloody doors that she had gone through. She gave a short nervous laugh that held no humor as her expression became sad.
“I’m sorry…” was all she said before continuing. When she reached the front entrance, she found herself collapsing. Her body mentally and physically exhausted. The last thing she could recall as her vision faded, was seeing Robert kneeling down before her, looking at her with an almost tired smile.