Once upon a time, an old man and his dead child lived in an aging necropolis on the outskirts of New Albion of the world.
Years ago, the dead, yet animate child had had both a twin and a mother, but an embryoman and a breeze had taken them, one by one, from her.
The old man and his wife had desired children more than anything else, but had found themselves unable to conceive. They sought help from witch, sage, and doctor, but to no avail, until one day they were approached by an embryoman in thin, wire-rimmed glasses.
“Our clinick believes we can help you,” he said to the couple. “If you take this potion as directed, you will bear multiple children. In return, however, we wish to place tiny eyeballs along the inside of your womb, and upon birth we lay claim to one of your infants.”
With no other options, the couple agreed. The woman gave birth to twins, one of whom was taken at birth by the embryoman and never seen by the couple again.
Time passed, and their remaining child, whom they adored, grew into a little girl.
One day, a light wind passed through the couple’s house. The wind was almost at the end of a long, arduous journey to the Northeastern corner of the world, near where the couple lived. It was a dying wind by this time, with not enough strength to finish its trek. So it stole the child’s breath that it might continue.
But the girl’s mother saw the breeze’s deed, and she shut the doors and windows of the house, trapping the wind inside.
“Give my child back her breath,” she said.
“But then I will die before completing my journey to the corner of the world,” replied the wind.
“We are not so very far,” said the mother. “If you return her breath, I will walk you there myself, fanning you with my sensu when you get tired.”
And so woman and wind set off together for the corner of the world. But when they arrived, as she waved the breeze off the edge with her small, hand held fan, the howling winds that had gathered there lifted the woman up and away, over the end of the world, carrying her into another story for another time.
As for the child, the small wind had put back her breath as best it could, but lacked the skill to truly undo what it had done. Thus was the young girl internally animated, but not truly alive.
So the dead child and her aging father lived for many years together in their lonely necropolis, sometimes visited by restless spirits, wandering ghosts, silent lethargic ghouls, and the occasional living mourner. Eventually, however, age and decay caught up with the old man, and while strolling past one of the ancient, ivory mausoleums, he fell over, dying, and the night cloaked Ferryman came for him.
“Where are you taking him?” asked the dead child.
“I have come to sail him to the other side of the Shores Of Eternity,” replied the Ferryman.
“Please then, won’t you take me, too?” asked the girl.
“I’m sorry,” said the Ferryman, “but my fee for carrying the living into Eternity is the last heartbeat of your life. Dead child, the wind that animates your limbs does not pump your heart. You have no payment to offer me. I cannot take you.”
So the girl was left to wander the necropolis. And the days came and went, and slowly in the grey stillness, months passed, and the child grew unbearably lonely.
Sometimes she would lay at the feet of one of the chipped, marble, angel statues, talking to it for company, and wishing to be either truly alive or truly dead. One night as she lay chatting with her silent friend, a fog crept across the necropolis. Grey tendrils of mist slid curiously across the little girl, and she felt a tentative presence.
“Ssssssssss. Child of half life. You are hungry, too I feel.”
“Hello?” said the girl.
“You wish for life or death.”
“I’m lonely here. My papa left with the Ferryman, but he wouldn’t take me because of my heart.”
“Mmmmm. You need a secret entrance into the world of the living, perhaps. Yes?”
“Do you know one?” the little girl asked.
The fog wrapped long, translucent fingers around the dead child. “They say that when you love someone you give them a piece of your soul. When that person dies, that piece you gave them goes with them into the realm of the dead. But as long as someone living loves the dead, there is a piece of the dead soul among the living. Has anyone loved you?”
“My father and mother. But they’re dead. And the Ferryman won’t take me to them.”
“Do you know no one else?”
“Well,” she said tentatively, “I had a twin brother once.”
“Aaaaaaaaah,” said the fog. “There we are.”
“But we were seperated at birth. He probably doesn’t even remember me.”
“Mmmmmm. There are memories of the womb. They are deep and hidden, but they are there. Perhaps they will be just enough to cross.”
“Cross? Where can I cross?”
“At the intersection of dream and memory. Listen, and I will tell you…”