I Am Advent
Having reverted to the state of mind of a doll, I began to reassess my surroundings in order to correct my understanding to fit the new paradigm. Glint had been the one that brought me here, and the current visitation was made upon his initiative. Given that I had followed without question, that meant that he was the closest individual I had to a puppeteer at the moment. The purpose of our visitation was to convince Advent’s father to enter under patronage to the Empress. Given my similarity in appearance to Advent, my duty in this scenario was to act like Advent and thereby convince him to agree. Up to this moment, my puppeteer had successfully guided Advent’s father to a position of agreeability. All that was required was a final push. The humans in the room were currently looking at me with expressions of concern. I pushed myself up from my crumpled position on the floor and made a show of wiping my tears. I manipulated my facial muscles to emulate a human smile.
“I’m fine. I’m alright. It’s just that I’ve seen and done too much…”
I shook my head with a practiced motion, angles calculated to appear natural.
“Anyway, father. Would you please accept the Empress’ offer? I would be able to rest more at ease if I knew you were safe.”
I modulated my voice to decrease in amplitude as the sentence ended, to mimic a tone of pleading. I saw Advent’s father’s face soften. The show was effective. He walked up to me and placed his hand on my head.
“Of course I’ll take the offer. How could I not?”
I reached out and hugged the man, while glancing at my puppeteer to confirm that I had performed according to specifications. My puppeteer was watching me with a harsh glare. Was my performance unsatisfactory? Determined to fulfill my function, I shook my shoulders and stimulated my tear ducts to simulate sobs of relief. My puppeteer’s expression grew harsher. I did not understand. What part of my performance was lacking?
My puppeteer walked up to us and gently separated me from Advent’s father. He bowed to the man.
“Thank you for understanding. However, we must away. There is much to be done tonight, and not enough time to do it. I promise you that you will see your daughter again, but for now, I must ask you to suffer a temporary parting.”
Advent’s father looked at me with tearful eyes, but nodded to my puppeteer.
“Of course. Take care of her.”
With no further words, my puppeteer took my hand and led me away. I followed silently. A doll does not speak unless its puppeteer requires it to do so.
I was led out of the house and down the street, out of the high-class district. I was led through the middle-class district and into the lower-class district. I was led down a network of alleyways, too numerous to count. Then, in the darkness of one of these alleyways, my puppeteer abruptly stopped and turned around. I mirrored his halt with mechanical precision. His expression indicated that he was upset. He spoke to me, an edge to his voice.
So it seems that I was to be called Advent, even though Advent had never existed. I accepted the name – a doll has only the name given to it. I stood at attention, awaiting a command.
“Advent, what are you?”
“I am a doll.”
“And who am I?”
“You are my puppeteer.”
A flash of anger appeared on my puppeteer’s face as he stared at me.
“Have I done something to anger you, puppeteer? Please tell me, so that I may improve my operational processes.”
An unreadable expression warped my puppeteer’s visage. Based on the muscles used, I identified anger alongside sadness, as well as a third emotion I could see but could not identify. Then, abruptly, my puppeteer burst out laughing. He doubled over, laughter racking his sides. When he brought his face back up, I saw an expression I had never seen on his face before – a sneer.
“Ahaha! So that’s how it is?! You turned back?! That’s, that’s just perfect!”
“Puppeteer? Is something the ma-”
“Shut up. Dolls don’t talk unless their puppeteer makes them talk, right?”
My puppeteer was correct. I wondered what had caused my thought processes to malfunction in such a manner. I complied and remained silent as he continued chortling.
“Still, I can’t believe you turned back into a doll. On top of that, you gave your strings to me! Not that bitch Rosalind, me! Man, Julio’s gonna love this.”
The name sent a wave of emotion through my body. I ignored it. Dolls have no emotions.
“When that bitch woke you up, I was seriously worried, you know. What if you spilled all our plans to her? That would have been a real nuisance for both of us. I was originally going to kill you tonight, but I guess I don’t have to anymore. At least now I can get that Julio Kronschild to owe me a favour. Never know when a debt from the most powerful man in the country might come in handy.”
More waves of emotion wracked my body. I tried to ignore them, but they were becoming too hard to ignore. I felt my muscles tensing, my heart rate increasing. I felt my nails dig into my palms.
“Y’know, when I accepted Julio’s offer to be his agent back in that prison cell, I had my doubts. Not anymore. If I get to do what I want with a wonderful little specimen like you, I’ll betray a thousand masters.”
My puppeteer walked up to me and took my chin, forcing my face upwards to look into his gleeful, sadistic eyes.
“Now, here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to do exactly what I say, little doll. Tonight, I’m going to play with you. Because that’s what you do with dolls, isn’t it? You play with them. I’m going to play with you, just like your old master Julio played with you. And then, in the morning, we’re going to march right up to Julio’s place, and we’re going to tell him exactly what happened. And then I’m going to give you to him. Understood?”
Something stopped me from giving my acknowledgement. Something deep within me. Something primal. Something originary.
I didn’t understand. I was a doll. If my puppeteer wanted to give me away to someone else, I would be given away. That was all. It wasn’t an issue or rights or freedoms – an object has no rights.
No. I will not be Julio’s plaything again.
I was a doll. A doll had no will.
Then I won’t be a doll.
But if I wasn’t a doll, then what was I?
I am Advent Whiterose.
Advent does not exist. Advent has never existed.
It doesn’t matter.
How could that possibly not matter?
It doesn’t matter because I don’t care whether Advent existed or not. If I am here now and I declare I am Advent, I exist, and therefore Advent exists. I am me. Advent is not a name on a thesis. Advent is not a name on some document lost to time. Advent exists in the present, not the past. Advent is a living, breathing girl. So, who am I?
I am Advent.
I felt the persona of the doll melting away, returning to the recesses of my soul. In the doll’s place was the free girl named Advent Whiterose, christened by the Empress Rosalind herself. Grabbing the hand that was tilting my chin, I flung Glint away and into a wall, running after him into the cloud of dust that the collision created. When the dust cleared, I found myself pinning Glint to the wall with one arm, my other hand holding a dagger of condensed shadow that had stopped just short of his neck. Glint wasn’t fighting back, though he did hold a dagger of light defensively in front of his face. That was what had stopped my blow. His face no longer held any traces of the sadistic, cruel visage he had worn just seconds ago. Instead, he greeted me with a warm smile, overflowing with relief.
“There you are.”