When Kat woke up on the old bed, it was as if everything had returned to normal. Like she would wake up, stare outside and draw something for the Crow, then go back to sleep after the Shadow had taken a part of her skin. But instead of air there was water. She breathed out wordless bubbles and despite the bed being so uncomfortable she wanted to just lie here in peace. The sword the Bone SPider gave her had fallen out of her hand on the gray floor. She didn't want to look at it. It made her remember the terrible beast, the veiny bare bones, the staring eyes inside that skull, the many black tongues wiggling in its mouth like worms.
AbiGail wasn't there. Kat was surprised she hadn't been woken by her leaving. She'd probably come back soon. Maybe she got hungry or got bored with lying around. Kat sat up in the bed and looked at her old, now flooded room. There wasn't much to look at, but she noticed her shadow on the other side of the wall. She didn't know why, but it seemed odd. Not right.
She looked behind her. There was no light source. Logically this whole place should be pitch black but it wasn't, it's always perfectly illuminated. And now there was this shadow.
The shadow became darker until it was impossibly black darkness.
Caile stepped out of it.
She glanced at the
rib knife and smiled at Kat, more than already.
"You got it."
"What you've been looking for, it's missing, To find it, maybe you should look deeper into it."
As soon as the words were spoken Caile vanished into her shadow, which then vanished too.
Kat took her knife and squeezed through the window again. AbiGail was nowhere to be seen. She waited for her. Her bandages started to dissolve in the water, she tried to reattach them as best as possible. She really needed new clothes.
After a long while Kat gave up waiting and started walking. She found a big stone and carved an arrow into it so AbiGail knew where she was going, if she returned here.
Ahead was a forest of seaweed and pink corals. While walking through it, Kat poked the corals with her knife and found out they made noises when touched, a low humming sound. She was alone but she could pass the time like that. Then the forest ended and there was just beige sand and grey stones. It looked like a flooded desert. The warm orange light turned to a weaker, blue one.
Another hour of walking and she reached a crack in the ground. At first she thought there'd be a bridge over it, seeing the two poles on each side. And there was one, though not the kind she'd want to cross.
There was something attached to the poles, stretched across the gap. It was white and strange looking. When she stood right at the gap she could see what it was. Skin. Arms and legs bound to the poles. It had a dark glow to it. It didn't belong here.
She remained calm until someone started talking to her. Or at least tried to. It was muffled. There was someone behind her, lying on the floor. The arms were tied to the back and the face was hidden.
Kat saw the distress they were in. She wanted to tell them she was going to help them so they aren't scared but couldn't. She rolled them on the stomach to cut them free. They panicked but were so restrained they couldn't do anything about it. There was nothing that tied them up though. What held them back was their own skin. Kat decided to cut them loose, even if it meant slicing through their skin. They had thick metal coiled around the wrists which didn't connect though.
The arms were now free and the person quickly slammed their elbow into Kat's face and despite not being able to see managed to swipe the knife out of her hand. The water became red. Kat's right cheek hurt. When checking it she found it completely ripped open. The person had sharp bones sticking out of their elbows. Trying to cover up the bleeding wound she stared at the person. The face was hidden under skin too. They carefully felt the area where the mouth should be and cut it open, as far open as they had cut Kat's.
They came closer to Kat, who could only watch, frozen in shock. They brought their mouth closer to Kat's ear and told her in a sick gurgling voice:
"...Thaaaaaank youuuuuu... veeeryyy muuuuch....foooor freeeeeiiiing meeee."
They looked to the skin spanned across the poles with their eyeless face.
"Iiiiii haaaave aaa giiiiift fooor youuuuu..."
Their hand wrapped around her left arm, almost crushing it. Slowly they dragged her to the gap. Kat tried to fight them, but when they actually did crush her arm the pain got too much and all strength left her. They lifted her over the crack and threw her onto the skin. She sank deeper and deeper into it, stretching it until the limbs ripped from the poles. Inside the skin she fell down the crack. The laughter of the person was soon drowned out.
The water slowed down Kat's fall, so when she finally hit ground it didn't hurt her any further. She got the skin off her and screamed a big silent bubble when it touched her broken arm. Despite the place being so deep in the sea there was still enough light to see. But it was cold here. She didn't like it but she wrapped the skin around her to warm herself. She couldn't swim back up with her arm like that so she decided to walk around, maybe she'd find something. Blood filled the water.
What was that?
It sounded like metal scraping against metal.
Whatever caused it got closer. Kat moved further, getting faster with every step. A trail of blood followed behind her. The thing seemed to have noticed her, the blood told it exactly where she was. She ran as fast as she could but soon reached a wall. A dead end.
The footsteps got quieter, slower. Kat turned around to face whatever it was.
It was a machine. At least partially. It seemed to have replaced some mechanical parts with organic ones. It had no skin and the bones were made of metal. But the eyes, teeth, brain, heart and other internal organs were real and well visible. The heart pumped blood through the transparent plastic veins, looking so out of place.
"Don't. Be. Afraid." It said, using a different voice for every word. It sounded like it was cut together from different sound files. It looked at her arm.
"I. Can. Fix."
No way she'll let that thing come near her. What is up with all these creepy creatures? She never saw them when she had looked out of the window and she was pretty sure they hadn't existed until recently. She didn't know why she was so sure about that. But it didn't expect an answer, it just carefully grabbed her arm with an inescapable steely grip.
"Bone. Is. Broken. To Fix. You. Need. To. Follow."
It released her and walked off. It was creepy, but it seemed to know this place. Maybe it could help her out of here.
The mechanical monster lived in something that looked like a junkyard. It had built itself some sort of workstation out of the pieces lying around. There was a workbench with various tools and even some hospital equipment. It took what it needed to fix her arm and pointed to the workbench. She sat down on the garden chair next to it and tried to look away as it started its work. It couldn't make it worse could it?
It did its job pretty well. She almost didn't feel anything during the procedure and her arm felt as if it had never been broken. It felt strange though. She wanted to thank the thing but then she saw what it had done. Its arm now had a new broken bone in it. Kat carefully squeezed her arm. There was nothing inside it, just the flesh.
The metal thing noticed her shocked look and explained:
"I. Replaced with. Better. Bone. Doesn't break. Now. Let me. Fix. Face."
Kat ran. She didn't know where to, but her feet brought her away from that thing. The junkyard was big and maze-like. She looked for a hiding place, though the creature did not follow her. She stopped when she couldn't see it anymore. She sat down behind a big metal box and examined her arm. It was like it had always been, held in place, but it could be bent and twisted as much as the skin allowed. Looking at all the things around her, she had a feeling there was something important here. She looked for it for quite a while. Maybe it was something that would help her out of here?
But no, there were too many things, finding anything would take forever.
Oh no, not again. She could see it looking for something in the piles of things. But it looked different now. She recognized her knife in his hand. But what shocked her the most was the fact it now had skin.
Is that really her knife? If so, is that the skin of... the person who took it from her? It finally found something it was interested in and Kat knew that object all too well too. It was the crow's beak. The thing bent its stolen lips to a smile as it looked inside. With it, it walked back to its workstation. Kat followed.
In the garden chair was now a red humanoid thing, a big cloud of blood around it. Kat couldn't recognize who it was, but she was sure it was the person from the cliff. Kat looked at her own blood cloud coming out of her mouth. It was irritating that her cheek was no longer held in place. More so than the pain. The creature was focused on its work. She saw a hammer on the machine's workbench that she could use as a weapon.
The machine concentrated on the skinless person, looking for more body parts to harvest. And the person flinched when it touched its raw nerves. Were they still alive? How?
Kat took the hammer and slammed it into the machines head. She was surprised how fast she could move inside the water, as if it wasn't even there anymore. With the next hit she slammed the knife out of its hand and then proceeded to bash its head in until it fell to the ground. Kat took the knife and her tongue, placing it back in her mouth. Her slashed cheek allowed her to cut her tongue back on before mending it too. She could taste the rust of the beak and cringed at it. She licked her bloody lips to get rid of the taste.
Next she tried to talk. Creating the bubbles wasn't much different than normal talking, she noticed. She soon got the hang of it. Random words decorated the bloody water.
The skinless person stopped moving, either because they finally died or because moving was just too painful. Either way, Kat decided to give them their skin back. The machine had cut holes into it, for the eyes. Once Kat had placed all the skin back, they almost looked normal, aside for the red circles of muscle tissue where their eyes should be. Even below their skin, there were none.
They were still weakened, but conscious. "Thanks for saving me. I'm so sorry for being mean to you! What is your name?"
“I have no name.” Kat bubbled, quite content with how her bubble turned out.
"Oh... have you lost it? If it isn't here, you should look in the LibrarY of Names."
“The LibrarY of Names?”
"I could show you. It's the least I can do."
“What's your name?”
“How will we get back up, Kaceji?”
"Heh, I got my tricks."
Kat followed Kaceji to the cliff side. Despite having no eyes, Kaceji could orientate around the gulch without problem.
They walked along the wall. Kaceji was looking for something. Then she seemed to have found it. Kat looked up and saw the poles on which the skin she wore had been attached. For some reason the skin now felt icky to her and she threw it off her, not caring about the cold.
She noticed it floated up. She grabbed it again, placed it on the ground and sat on it. It lifted her up. It seemed to want to go back to the poles.
"You have the power to bring things back together." Kaceji said. "But you also know when it's best to divide them."