Part One: The Doll
The night was chilly, and the first snow covered the hills that surrounded this sleepy town like a jealous lover. Dave Burn, a self proclaimed clairvoyant, who made his fortune thanks to superstitious people, walked quickly through the dark streets to meet the cozy heat of his small, rented apartment. Yes, he was pleased with the sum of money which he took from some poor guy, providing him with only sleepless nights and nothing more. He was thinking about moving to another location, perhaps at the other end of the town, because people like him can’t cheat in one place. Some angry client could ask for him, and then who knows? They could break his bones.
He was occupied with his thoughts so he couldn’t notice the outline of a man, who was sitting between two piles of scattered garbage.
He walked by him, almost brushing the old man’s naked feet. Then he stopped, after he heard a hoarse voice.”Sir … hey sir,” the man whispered, wrapped in tattered rags.
“Who’s there?” Dave asked nervously.
“Sorry if I scared you … do you have some change for the poor old man?”
“Oh, leave me alone … I have nothing!” said Dave.
“I would say that you do have some money, the way you look. But listen, I’m hungry and I will be grateful if you give me a few bucks,” said the beggar, using such a calm voice.
“Hey … What the fuck do you know if I do have or don’t have that shitty money, but if you ask me, you could die of hunger!” Dave shouted now, already irritated, and then he made another step deeper into the shadows of that secret alley. “It’s cold and I have to run, so bugger off!”
“Why are you so upset, sir? There’s no reason for that, you can just say that nicely,” he heard the beggar talking and then stopped again.
He was totally confused and he didn’t know what to say. He only knew that beggars never talk like that. They just hold their filthy hands out and mutter something.
But this one was different somehow. He spoke like someone who has just jumped out of his business suit and decided to freeze his ass in the stench of scattered garbage.
“Please say that again … I think I did not understand you,” Dave said.
“Well, you see,” said the beggar, “we can do this other way. Can I give you something in return?Let’s make a deal, what do you say?”
“What are you talking about?” Dave asked, accepting conversation with a brief touch of interest.
“You can give me some money, and I’ll give you something very interesting,” said the beggar, unfurling the newspaper that lay on the damp concrete beside him.
Dave was intrigued by this strange man’s sudden offer. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”
The man unwrapped his partially wet paper and pulled a solid object out, which Dave could not recognize, because of the darkness.
“Come closer, I don’t bite,” said the old man.
Dave hesitated for a moment and then decided to take a better look. He bent over into a fierce stench. He didn’t know what smelled stronger: the old man or the garbage. He knelt and when his eyes were adjusted to the darkness, he saw that this weirdo was holding something that looked like a children’s doll.
He couldn’t understand this old man’s game, and it infuriated him.”Do you think I’m a little baby, and I need a doll? Do you maybe have a pacifier too, you damn fool? ”
“This is something more than a doll,” said the old man ignoring his swearing, and pushed the warm thing in his hand.
Dave was confused, but only momentarily. He was about to push it back, and to hit that old fool. He stood up now and stared at the doll.
He was fascinated by its simplicity. The doll was some kind of a neuter moppet, and much different from the others, which he’s seen in his life. It didn’t have extra clothes. It was completely white and no synthetic hair. It only had two unusual details, which gave it a morbid appearance: A long shallow slit, stretched across its back, and a strange face without a nose and mouth. Instead of eyes, two scrawled characters. They reminded him of a letter X.
Those “eyes” reminded him of funny cartoons as well, that he watched when he was a kid. Dead animals were presented with those eyes and with their tongue sticking out. A smile was replaced by amazement on his face, and he looked up at the beggar.
He wanted to tell him that he likes the puppet, and then he realized that the old man was no longer there. Dave was surprised, and he felt like a person awaken from a deep sleep. He shouted, calling for the man.
Only his voice echoed between the dark buildings.
Quiet music played on the radio. It was good old jazz from the ’40s.
Dave was sitting on the bed and studied the slit on the doll’s back, which extended from its mid-neck to the butt. Without thinking, he put his finger in the slit and slid it halfway through. The innards were soft and warm. He could feel the excitement and warmth spreading through him, warming his bones. Sweet thoughts passed through his head, and then he thought that the slit moistened.
“What am I doing?” he muttered and suddenly pulled his finger out.
He could not believe what he saw. The finger was bloody.
I’m out of my mind … he thought, and threw the doll on the floor, then got up and went into the bathroom to wash his hand.
There was a sink with a mirror above it. A quite pale and confused man looked at him from the oval glass, a man who, after that night, will no longer be able to explain some things to himself.
He went back into the bedroom and stood over the place where the doll lay. He hesitated for a while and then decided to pick it up. He put his finger in the slit again, but now there was no trace of moisture or blood.
“I thought … I just thought that I saw blood…”
He wanted to throw the doll away, but there was something that stopped him.
Instead, he put it on the bedside cabinet and lay down. He turned the radio off shutting the virtuoso saxophonist and the light. He listened to the wind howling under the window, and he could not sleep for a long time.
He thought of the old man and the puppet, and about the man he cheated tonight, telling him that he would soon be dead.
Stray dogs were barking in the distance, and then he fell asleep.
Part Two: Bloodshed
He dreamed of standing on the field and looking at a lonely rocky hill.
Everything was perfectly quiet: no birds, no wind and noises.
Those surroundings were familiar to him.
He walked toward the hill, and as he was getting closer, he saw some ruins at its peak. They looked like an old fortress, of which only partially preserved walls with holes from the windows remained.
He felt discomfort due to the ruins.
They awoke some sick feeling with their ominous presence, so he decided not to climb up.
He turned around and saw a man walking slowly toward him. He could not see who it was,because of the great distance between them. When the man finally approached, Dave realized that his face was familiar.
It was the beggar, dirty and smelly, who dragged the material for his house behind him: a cardboard box.
“Are you satisfied with our business?” the old man asked.
Just for a moment Dave doubted the dream and believed that this is really the spacious field.
It was all too real.
“Yes or no?” asked the old man, in his quiet raspy voice.
Dave wanted to ask him where he came from and what he means by this question, and then he realized that he could not speak. The brain was sending a command, but the language and the mouth were refusing it. Panic seized him and he recalled that in some dreams he could not cry when he was hunted by the creatures from the world of shadows.
He wanted to run and look away from the sleazy old man, and then the other one said: “Just nod if you like what I gave you … I know you can’t talk, but don’t worry, it’s better this way.”
Confused and frightened, Dave remembered the doll he was given by the beggar, but he didn’t understand what he was talking about. He decided to move away from him, but his legs were not listening.
This is impossible … Dave thought, … I’m dreaming, just dreaming this.
Then the old man said, “I understand now … All of this is a bit strange, but you’ll get it!”
After he approached Dave, he stretched his hand, stained with some unusual disease, and touched his face.
Dave shuddered. The old man brought down his hand, looking at his gnarled fingers. Then, Dave noticed that the old man’s fingers were stained with blood.
He began to laugh, and Dave felt something around them change: like the environment disappeared, and became darker.
The old man’s laughter died away and Dave suddenly realized he was in the dark. He knew that his eyes were open, and for a moment he thought he was blind.
Fear was biting now and it took him a few seconds to move.
Then he saw the window of his room, from which the low-light fell on the cabinet and the doll sitting on it.
He realized that he woke up, and lit the lamp.
His wet shirt clung to the body, and his breathing was distinctly shortened.
“Fucking dreams!” he cried into the empty room. The doll hanged her head to the right.
Its face had a lifeless expression.
“What are you doing to me?” he asked, although he knew that it could not answer. “Who’s the old man, who are you?”
Then he got up, grabbed the doll and went to the window. He paused only for a moment to feel the slit that was completely dry now, and said: “Like I thought, that’s stupid.” Then he opened the window and threw it on the wet street.
He was in bed again, turned off the lights and went to sleep. But, he thought he heard an alien voice, somewhere deep down, in the most intimate landscapes of his mind. Then, like some sharp ice blades, the phone ringing broke his comatose REM state.
“Hello … hello …” said the heavy voice of a dead man.
Dave recognized the voice of his friend Henry, on the other end of the line.
“Sorry if I woke you up, I know it’s late.”
“No worries … how come … you’re calling right now?”
“I have some very bad news, Dave … it’s about John and Isabel…”
“What’s wrong with them … what happened?” Dave asked, confused.
“They’re dead Dave. Police found their bodies about half an hour ago.” Henry’s voice was trembling.
“Oh God …” Dave didn’t know what to say. He knew John and Isabel since his student days, as well as he knew Henry. The four of them were really good friends. John was dating Isabel for a few years now. They planned to get married in the next couple of months.
“Last night they went out … and never showed up again. Isabel’s parents were worried,” said Henry. “They weren’t at John’s, or at their close friends. I thought her parents had contacted you.”
“No … the phone would certainly wake me up. Where … where were they found?” Dave asked.
“When they called me and asked if I saw them, I remembered one of the places John often told me about … places he likes to go,” Henry said. ”They were found in that place.”
“The old fortress above the town,” said Henry.
Dave felt tingles ascending through his spine. He dreamed of the fortress tonight.
“Dave, are you there … Dave?”
“I … can’t, I do not know what to say,” Dave said.
“I can’t talk any longer,” said Henry. “I’m calling you from the police station. They kept me because I am a suspect and associated with this case … you know, the way I guessed the crime scene and stuff … and it’s so hard Dave, I do not know …” he began to cry.
“I’ll pick you up, just tell me where you are.”
“No need, they’ll let me go soon I believe.”
Dave heard the irritating sound of a broken connection now. The fortress leaned over the city, like some ugly memory of ancient times. Various stories circulated about it, but almost no one knew its true history.
All that was left of it were a few dilapidated walls, and the wasteland between them overgrown by tall grass. The lovers often came there, sometime during the day, sometimes at the blood-red dusk, because they thought it was a romantic place. Sometimes those boys and girls were drinking beer, smoking pot.
In the smooth, handwritten history of the city, there were no recorded or remembered atrocities connected to that cold, evil-looking thing; until that fateful night when John Terence and Isabel Dawson were killed. The dawn was creeping out of the chilling darkness. Dave was standing in front of one of the few entrances to that granite monster, and watched the yellow crime scene tape that stretched around the walls.
He glanced over his shoulder to see if someone was spying on him, and then slipped under the tape and entered between the walls. He went through a little smelly room, then through a small courtyard, and two other rooms without a roof. He found himself in a large central part of the fortress, which was also roofless. Three walls were relatively preserved, while the fourth was heavily damaged and dangerous, due to the large gaping holes leading into the abyss. He was nervous because his friends were killed there, recently. It was hard, but at the same time he was confused because the dream he had somehow predicted this tragic event.
In real life he was a false prophet, and he knew that there was no possibility that he could really predict something. All the time he designed and constructed the fate of the people in his sick mind. But he had a vision on a previous night.
He saw the blood and thought that beggar and the moppet have something to do with it. Now he stood at the highest place and watched sleepy town in the valley.
Maybe I do have this gift, he thought, and then he heard the familiar voice, coming from behind him. He turned around just to see Henry, standing several meters away.
“They let me go because they had no evidence,” said Henry.
“That’s good, but you were supposed to tell me where to pick you up.”
“It doesn’t matter … I went to your apartment after they released me. You’ve been gone, so I assumed you’re here.”
“I had to come,” said Dave.
“I know, it’s hard for you and I’m also fucked up, but we should not be here. You saw the ban. We can’t do anything … we can’t get them back!”
Dave was silent, and he wiped his tears with the palm of his trembling hand. He knew that they would not help, but he couldn’t control them.
The pain was too strong.
“We can go to my place, smoke some weed … try to relax, at least for a while,” Henry said.
“Why not?” Dave replied. It was almost a decade since he smoked marijuana, and he remembered how he enjoyed it.
The two mourning friends stopped at the exit so that they could glance once again at the place where the souls of their friends will be trapped forever.
Part Three: Deadface
Darkness fell, and Dave was returning home. The grass was withdrawing its tentacles from his body. There was buzzing in his head and he felt a mild vertigo.
He didn’t even notice that he was walking down the same street, where it all began. When he realized where he was, he began to turn around, anticipating that he’ll catch dirty old man, but the street was completely empty. This time he could not get answers to questions that have plagued him.
“Where you at, you damn old man … where are you hiding? What is happening to me?” The words echoed off the dark walls, which were intermittent with high windows, their glasses smashed.
“Be quiet you idiot!” Someone yelled from the upper floors.
Dave kicked the sardine can and walked away. The metallic sound was cutting the silence, while the can rolled and hit the skeleton of an abandoned car.
He felt some smelly heat after he walked into his apartment.
He passed by a lamp, and didn’t turn the light on, but came to the window and opened it.
Cold air touched his gloomy face. He stood there, frozen for a few moments, and then closed the window again. His eyes were very heavy with fatigue and he was about to lie down, when he saw the doll sitting on the table beside the bed. He lit the lamp and touched its soft white body. It was warm, and he felt his cock getting hard.
Henry was sleeping and dreaming about sitting with John and Isabel in a completely deserted white room, without doors and windows. The three of them were sitting on the floor. His friends were covered with blood; their wounds, which looked like scratches by some large animal’s claw, opened their skinny bodies in several places. He wasn’t scared.
John told him that he wants to marry Isabel, who smiled gently, and blood flowed from her mouth. Henry said he was glad, and suggested that he should be the best man.
At that point, the walls began to curl, and Henry asked John what was happening.
“He’s coming for you,” was his reply.
Henry was startled from his sleep, panting like he had just ran a couple of miles.
“Mother of God … It’s terrible, terrible,” he whispered to the cold room.
Then he heard some noises from nearby; he was stiff and he listened. There was the creaking of a floor and Henry thought that he was still dreaming, but the reality of the shadows and sounds, reassured him completely. His heart started to pound.
Slowly, he moved and picked up the letter opener, which stood on the table beside the bed. Soft footsteps were approaching his room, and he got up from the bed and headed for the door.
He wanted to stand behind them and surprise a burglar.
But before he reached the wall, the door opened with a crash, and he stopped in his tracks with a hand up, which held the metal opener firmly. There was a silhouette of the burglar, who stood there now, his outline vibrating between the door frames.
Henry’s eyes couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
It was a man wrapped in a white cloth, which clung to the body, and highlighted his every muscle. He had no nose or mouth, and instead of eyes there were two slits that were reminiscent of the two letters X.
Some wet sound was coming from behind this abstract midnight visitor. That was a huge bloody slit, but of course, Henry couldn’t have known that. Blood was dripping on the floor, and the wound produced the sound, as it expanded and tightened, like the gills the creature used for breathing.
Dave was standing in front of a house now.
He thought it was terribly familiar, but he could not remember where from.
He was not sure whether he’s asleep or not, because of the same feeling of reality that he felt while dreaming of the fortress. He was not even sure if the fortress was a dream, on a night his friends were brutally murdered. Now he felt like a ghost, who has left the body, and floated in a wide street, surrounded by old Victorian homes. Then he remembered.
“Yes, it’s Henry’s house … what am I doing here?”
He wanted to turn around and leave because the house looked somewhat sinister, cold and creepy. But he didn’t feel his legs, and he was not able to run.What is happening to me? I have to reach Henry.
He tried to shout, but even that did not work.
His tongue was lying dead in its crib. There was sudden panic that crept out of the dark depths, and suddenly his field of vision was divided into two pictures. Now, his sight made out of the two images was blending in the middle.
One image showed Henry’s house, overlooking the street, and the other, he realized that after a few moments, showed the interior and Henry standing in the middle of the room, with the expression of astonishment on his face. Dave was astonished as well. He wondered how he has one eye floating around out there, and the other in the room interwoven with shadows.
Henry watched him, holding something that looked like a knife in his hand. Dave tried to greet him, and to ask what was it about, but he failed. Then, he finally made a step, but only partially:Outside, in front of the house Dave was still standing, and inside the room he was moving toward Henry.
I’m dreaming … this is only possible in dreams he thought and felt some kind of satisfaction.
There was no more fear and amazement. He walked slowly towards Henry, who started to withdraw behind the bed, but then Henry was swinging with a letter opener, as he warned Dave not to get closer. Henry looks funny, Dave thought.
He raised his hand to his confused and frightened friend, and now it entered his field of vision.Then he noticed that something was wrong. It was a hand of a puppet, with elongated fingers, pointed as ice picks, white as the dead man.
He paused, and that moment of confusion was enough for Henry to run toward him and thrust his opener, with all of his strength, in his stomach. Dave looked up at Henry now seeing the whole picture.
The fear on Henry’s face turned into amazement.
Then Henry spoke. “Dave … it’s impossible … what have you done, I … I …” he stammered.
He couldn’t believe what he saw. His friend was now standing in front of him, holding his stomach, from which the letter opener protruded.
Blood flowed from his mouth, and then he collapsed on the floor. Henry knelt beside him calling his name. He was holding his head in his bloody arms while tears went down his cheeks.
“Oh God, what have I done, oh God,” he sobbed, and then heard Dave who tried to speak.
“Now … I realize what happened to me … the old man’s doll … somehow came to life and … used me … we exchanged … bodies. I turned into a monster … and killed … while I was convinced that I have a gift … to see the future.
“The doll did it. It used … my desire, and my body … as an instrument for its own purposes. It can happen to anyone … who touches it … you should destroy it,” he barely spoke while life was slowly leaking out of him.
Henry wouldn’t believe his crazy story, if he wasn’t the witness of this bizarre and Tartarean show. “Where’s the doll, where have you left it, Dave … Dave?”
“In … my room at …” he could not speak and the body let go.
He died in Henry’s arms, who slowly lowered his head to the floor, then put on a jacket, and ran into the street.
A bedroom window was open. The wind tore the veil with its icy touch, while the snow fell on the carpet in front of the bed, melting away into oblivion. The room was empty and the doll was sitting on the bedside table, its head downcast as if asleep, its arms loose, eyes meaningless.
The dark silhouette emerged from the shadows, and lifted the doll from the cabinet. Neon lights of a nearby motel located in the neighboring building, shone on the face of this sudden visitor, but just for a moment. The old beggar was standing in the room, wrapped in tattered rags. He had long, slimy octopus tentacles instead of legs.
His smile was spreading while two worms were trying to escape out of his mouth. He sucked them back in, and swallowed them with such a great appetite.
“It’s a shame! Reason dragged him to the other side, and I thought that we would play with him some more. He showed a lot of promise, he was young and strong,wasn’t he, old friend?”
The doll stared into emptiness.
“But it doesn’t matter … we will find another victim,” said the old man, hiding a doll in a newspaper.
Henry was running down the slippery street towards Dave’s building. Snow hindered his view, and the wind tried to slow him down. When he finally arrived, he climbed the stairs and entered the apartment. He turned on the light and ran to close the window.
Suddenly, he looked around and scanned the room. He opened a drawer of a nightstand, rolled a pillow on the bed, and looked underneath it, but there was no sign of the doll.
He heard hideous laughter, howling through the wind, becoming halcyon, and eventually stopped completely. He went to the window, opened it and looked down the narrow street.
A black cat ran across it and disappeared into the shadows.
Henry returned to the bed and sat down. He covered his face with his bloody hands.
He knew that the problems were beginning now; problems that he won’t be able to solve.Share