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7. The Dollhouse

Yes, he would think silently, you’ve all fallen asleep, dozing in your certainty that all will be well. Of course, sleep can also mean nightmares, and if awake and asleep are the same, then perhaps nightmares might be very, very real. Wouldn’t that be amusing to watch?

The idea had come to him as he’d glanced at the computer that held the fates and souls of many in its memory. They shouldn’t have been there. He heard them crying out, softly, insistently, trapped in their own private little hells made of silicon. The Asgardians as a rule weren’t fond of machinery that wasn’t also touched by magic. Computers were seen normally seen as vulgar, but Loki rather liked them. They were Bifrosts of their own in a way, bridging vast gaps in space with a simple click of a key.

Oh, and they also had the capacity to end all life on the planet. That was another little plus in their favor. All it needed was one tiny, miniscule push, just a tap, just to see what would happen.

The story of Pandora had always been one of his favorites, but he had rooted for the box to open, and when he gently lifted the lid on the technology that held souls, even he couldn’t have predicted the wild stampede of troubles and demons it would spew forth.

It was all really most amusing, but the one he loved playing with the most was dear, dear Topher. Poor, sweet genius that he was, so lonely that he created the program largely to make himself friends, he lacked one component that would have stopped him cold. The boy hadn’t a shred of humility. He could do something, so he did it, and the results were utterly beyond the scope of believability.

Souls were created and destroyed.

Bodies were treated as casually as clothing to be cast aside when fashions changed.

Cities plummeted into ruin.

The meaning of time ceased.

The world burned.

All because dear little Topher had wanted someone to play with.

Loki watched him, sitting in one of the long abandoned pods, surrounded with symbols and books and attempts to redraw the world back to what it had been. He rocked to and fro, his brilliant mind addled as an egg but still so much more than what the others could see. Adele held him, tried to gently wake him, but the problem was he was already awake. It was the rest who slept on.

Loki glanced at the burning world, the few pockets of humanity left in it, and even for his taste, it was too much. So he opened Topher’s brain just the tiniest bit wider and let him see how to make everyone’s souls go flying back home again.

All it would take was his death.

In those final moments, as he prepared to undo the impossible with yet another impossibility, Topher felt his forehead stroked as gently as Adele had done, though the hand was unseen. He looked at the wall, the pictures labeled “to remember” and for one brief second, he saw a man standing beside him, eyes green as sea glass.


And with his last breath, the world began to turn again.
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