The figure sat poised elegantly, back straight, a book in its hands. A frozen expression showed no emotion. The girl could have been barely more than a child, but for the strange beauty. Porcelain edged seamlessly into pale, preserved flesh that ran to painted cloth. Tiny keyholes marked joints that could be fastened tight, binding limbs without cords. No breath made her chest rise and fall, her eyes stared blankly at nothing at all. The ticking that came from within her body was dull, sluggish. It was the only sound in the dark, cluttered room. Scraps of fabric and brushes were strewn about beside gears and springs, all to repair her, day after day. She used to like to think that she had been someone, before. That she had been part of a family, that she had been loved. She didn't remember anything of the sort, but she had pretended. False memories of carriage rides to different parts of the sprawling city, days at school. It had been a comfort, for a while. Now she knew better. If there was a girl who she had been, she pitied her. A soul should not have to endure what she had. Death would be a truer freedom. This false death, this existence without living had taught her that. She knew better now. The clock that was only in her mind told her daylight was fading. Soon she would be wound up, and dance. Perfectly timed movements, adjusted by shifting a gear, tightening a screw. She would move in a graceful ballet, and she would not have any choice. What came after... she would not have any choice either. Her paralyzed body betrayed her nightly, forcing her to move or to remain absolutely still. She could not even cry through her glassy eyes.