I’ve been here in Illya for almost as long as I can remember. In fact, the clearest memory I have about my previous life is getting a bayonet shoved through my chest.

I don’t know how I landed here, or why I was given this position, though I suspect the two are related. And no matter how much I search for the answer to those questions, the answer always seems to be one step beyond. I’ll find an important book with clues, only to fall asleep reading it, and wake up in my bed with the contents of the book only a vague vapor of a memory.

Illya is a beautiful countryside, blessed with perpetual spring. Wildflowers are always blooming on the hills, the tall grass never withers or grows unruly, and the cobblestone streets of the village are always clean. The fountain in the middle of the square never needs its stone repaired, the flowers on the windowsills of the residents never need watering, nor their hedges pruning, and my little wooden station on the limits of Illya never has termites, and never ages. Precisely like us.

My station on the border of Illya is the only way in, and the only way out. Behind my little house is the idyllic village and countryside; in front is a charming cobblestone path, and beyond that is the perpetual gray mist of the abyss. Sometimes people will come in, and I’ll step out of my house, walk to the path to meet them, take off my hat, bow, and say, “Hello! I’m Toulouse Fournier, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to Illya! If you’ll just follow me, I have your house set up for you already.” Whether I want to or not.

I’ve done it so many times that I’ve inevitably attempted variation, first as a form of entertainment, but then, after so many failed attempts to stray from the script, with heavy desperation. I’ve tried ignoring the newcomers, I’ve tried to change the dialogue, I’ve tried to keep my hat, or to stay standing instead of bowing. But no matter what I do, or how many times I try, my body is always forced into the same movements, and my throat always regurgitates those same sounds. “Hello! I’m Toulouse Fournier, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to Illya!”

Though, I suppose things aren’t entirely bad. The scar on my chest never fades, but it’s downright benign compared to other residents. Daruma has a thick, purple ring around her neck. And while my repulsive scar is almost always covered by the shirt and vest of my three piece suit, the thin silver chain Daruma has around her neck does little to cover up her cause of death.

Whenever I get lonely, Saleh comes to visit. Occasionally Daruma will come too, and sometimes she’ll bring Potemkin. So while I’ll never get to meet a live person ever again, at least I have plenty of company here in Illya.

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