PART 1: THE NIGHTDREAMING MAN
I was considering my destruction as the gentle, cool breeze appeared to softly push against the swing. I concentrated as intensely as I was able; but soon I was crushed, for questions bulldozed through and into my anguished brain. Why could I not forget the dark secret from my past? Was the full moon indeed looking down on me with a sly grimace? And what was it really like for her in the kingdom of doomed souls?
A strange reek exuded from somewhere around, and, not knowing the nature of this foul odour, I tried to dismiss it, to toss it away and out of existence. However, this seemed not to be a good idea, for my thoughts again turned to the horrid secret from my past, something that I was able to fully remember, although I begged my memory not to bring this into focus. My mind appeared intent only on exploring my dreams, and not prepared to concentrate on anything connected with reality.
The park was deserted at this time of night, except for myself of course. I gripped the chains of the swing as I looked around in all directions. I almost slipped from off the wooden seat, which was cold and hard and slightly dank with dew. The rickety breeze blew me forwards, and I felt an abnormal thrill. It was as if I had been transported back to my childhood, and was being pushed by an avid relative. The memory of horror began to surface, but my mind snapped it away before the image could materialise. I nearly called out in frustration, but stopped myself when I spotted a dark figure stepping in my direction.
His footsteps were not swift, it was more like a saunter, or perhaps an amble. His clothing was very black, causing him to resemble a giant shadow, moving along the grass like a ghostly spectre. I was compelled to search his features, in case I should recognise him, someone from my past perhaps? He melted into the darkness of the night, and when I glanced upwards momentarily I noticed that the face of the moon was curled up in apparent laughter.
The stranger took a position on the next seat to mine. I was instantly fascinated by this enigmatic person, and sought to recognise his features more intently. His huge bulk seemed rather extraordinary and ludicrous upon the seat of the swing, although I was not in the mood for merriment of any nature. Then the light of the moon caught his countenace, just for a second, and I managed to succumb a sudden shriek upon gazing at a face that was pale and haunting and resembled a mask of white plasticine. I also noticed that remarkably he was moving backwards and forwards like a playful child; although, when I came to my senses, I realised that it was I who was moving to and fro, and not with the aid of the breeze.
A gush of wind bit at my facial skin, causing me to wince. The stranger was making me edgy, so I tried to ignore his presence, instead attempting to continue my night-dreaming. However, it was extremely difficult, for I had the odd notion that perhaps he had materialised from out of some dark, doomful place.
I caught a sight of his flesh in the gleam of the moon, this time the putty-like skin of his left hand which was positioned upon his thigh. It appeared quite inhuman, as if this stranger was not skin and bone, but something akin to a living mannikin.
In order to settle my aching nerves I opted to stare off into the black sky. I have always been fascinated by the darkness. Lots of peculiar things take place in darkness, things such as dreams and nightmares, torture and death, shadow and illusion. However, I found that my nerves could not settle in the presence of this odd figure.
The stranger lifted his other hand from out of his jacket pocket, and still he was gazing in my direction. I immediately became suspicious, imagining him to be one of those perverted ghouls that stalked and sneaked around in parks at midnight.
He got up, frightening me with his massive, intimidating frame. His swarthy bulk momentarily blotted out the moonlight, although the multitude of stars still sparkled and twinkled in the blackness. He gazed into my eyes, as if inviting me to get up and follow. I was apprehensive, yet at the same time greatly inquisitive, so that I did arise and prepare myself for a trip into the cold night.
Adopting a position slightly behind the dark stranger, I noticed that he was hobbling and limping as though severely afflicted. His walk was a struggle to him, and I felt a certain relief, for I knew that if I had reason to flee then he would not be able to pursue in any haste. Yet still I pondered over why I felt compelled to follow him; it was as though a gigantic, invisible magnetic force was pulling and tugging me.
The man looked at me, although again I was unable to discern his features fully. I followed his plodding, stumbling journey across the grass and on to the footpath, taking a second to gaze up at the moon, whose face now seemed to be belching and guffawing with obscene laughter. Then I took a last look at the swings, and spotted a ghostly image of a tiny girl in a blue-and-white summer dress and white ankle socks, a grin of virgin innocence upon her small face. But then she vanished just as quickly as the image had arrived from out of my wretched memory.
The stranger led me along grey-black cobbles, past tumbledown and ramshackle ruins, through silent, eerie streets that smelled of things that had died, down pitch-dark alleys that terrified me greatly, across deserted roads shrouded in a rancid mist, by the hunched banks of a grimy river, and finally into a vast clearing that reeked of rust and decay. I was breathless and afraid, because I had no clue why I had been brought here, but mainly because, as I puffed and panted in the icy coldness, I found that I did recognise this accursed place.
"Why have you brought me here?" I asked.
There was no response. A cloying silence ensued, and I suddenly acquired terrible ideas that this stranger intended to cause me harm and torment. The seconds went by, until he launched himself in the direction of a towering warehouse that had obviously been abandoned long ago. He totally disregarded my question, instead adopting a quietude that both angered and annoyed me.
I watched his clumsy doddering, water splashing from puddles that gleamed in the moonlight as his feet stepped into them. I took the cue to follow, my own shoes sinking momentarily into beds of wet clay and mud as I made progress across the yard. Two large steel doors were ajar, and the stranger vanished between them and into the massive building.
Just before I stepped inside, I glanced up at the sky for a moment. This dark, enigmatic void had for a long period dominated my existence, and yet at the same time it had practically destroyed my sanity. I shunned sleep long ago, instead opting to spend my black hours night-dreaming, indulging in long walks and periods of rest in the park. I had gazed up at the stars and the pale moon, and had over the years become enchanted by them, so that eventually I had acquired a singular admiration, especially for the dark.
The stranger had stopped, and was staring at me, interrupting my train of thinking, and I ventured further into the cold building. We tumbled over loose bricks and other objects that lay upon the warehouse floor, and into my mouth crept sprinkles of dust and strands of webbing. I gazed upwards, spotting the maze of rafters and beams that dotted the ceiling area like a bizarre jigsaw puzzle. My fear increased tenfold; why had the stranger fetched me to this forbidding place? Bad memories buzzed and hummed inside my brain, and horrible visions of death and agony surfaced in my head.
Again he came to a halt, and looked at me before pointing upwards with a stubbly finger. I glanced at the distant ceiling, squinting to make out the things hidden amongst the seedy blackness. And then I managed to suppress a scream, as I spotted something that I had horribly expected to see.
Swinging, swinging, to and fro, hither and thither, back and forth. Slow and silent, as in death. Twenty, thirty feet in the murky air. A dark, dark figure, still and solemn. I didn't wish to observe this pitiful creature at closer quarters, but the giant magnet snatched me and hurled me in the direction of the dilapidated staircase that led to the upper levels.
I got there in no time at all, although it did seem like a life-age. I was adjacent to the rocking figure, and I almost vomited when I saw the makeshift noose wrapped tightly around the neck. And the features, clouded by shadows; I didn't really need to see them. I already knew that they were identical to my own.
Trapped between the living and the dead; but it was only temporary after all. I glanced down at the scattered puddles. The stranger was heading away from the warehouse, tottering like a cripple, and just for the briefest moment I discerned the array of strings that ascended from his arms, his legs, his head; almost concealed in the night-greyness, reaching heavenwards up to the darkness, the same dark sky that had served to destroy my sanity.
PART 2: LYRA
I shall always remember the time that I chose to stand beside the mail-box on that cold, empty street, for this happened to be the first occasion that I noticed Lyra. It was a period of much confusion for me; I considered that I had somehow escaped the eternal sleep of death, if only temporarily, for I recalled awakening upon the dust-laden floor of the abandoned warehouse. I imagined that I had been chewed up and discarded by the darkness of death, and that now, instead of existing in that place between the living and the dead, I was in some alternative plain of existence.
I looked up at my tormented self, still swinging from the high beams above me, and I was instantly sickened by this wretched sight, and I immediately turned and stepped out of that grim place and into the approaching dawn. However, my progress was not swift, for I noticed a remarkable change in pace. My feet appeared filled with some awful heaviness, so that my steps were leaden and cumbersome. This caused me to shiver as I recalled the dark stranger, and I almost cried out when I imagined that I might now be an instrument of that infernal puppet-master known to me as the darkness.
But I calmed down upon spotting no strings extending from my person. I was still human; or at least, as human as any dead one can be. As I made my way out of the yard and headed for the streets, the memory of the incident from my past chose to surface inside my head once more. I cursed it, and begged for it to vanish from my mind completely, for I had always suffered terrible torment each time I recalled this dreaded secret. Endeavouring to shake it out of my brain, I found my feet taking me in the direction of the town centre.
After a while I finally arrived at the spot, standing beside the mail-box on that cold, empty street. Blackness surrounded me, except for the gaping light of the shop window that was situated in front of me. I cannot imagine the reason I decided to linger here; it was as though a strange destiny had summoned and deposited me in this particular place. Here, all thought of the darkness and the horrible secret from my past disappeared, so that I was left alone to concentrate on the beautiful creature that was Lyra.
Of course, I only learnt her name at a later date, as in all affairs of the heart. She was standing, dressed in a frock that hugged her figure tightly, accentuating the shapeliness of her delightful form. She was as still and as silent as death itself, although I detected, perhaps in a subhuman manner, that she did possess a wild amount of liveliness. I immediately dreamt of savage frolics in deep, dark woods, naked swimming in ice-cold waters, intense love-making between sheets of cool satin - all with this gorgeous creature.
My only regret at this point was the fact that the glass of the shop window separated us, as if we both existed in totally different worlds.
She was staring at me; gazing with a lost look, directly into my eyes. Was she indeed concentrating on me, or was she gazing right through me, and into some other world? My notion was that she was looking at me and nothing else. Her eye-lashes were as long as finger-nails, and were draped over the balls of her eyes. Her lips were glossy red and puckered, inviting some surreal kiss from the mouth of someone with a ferocious passion. My heart could never be the same after witnessing such a radiant creature.
Each evening I arrived at the initial outbreak of twilight, to stand beside the mail-box on that cold, empty street. My devotion was focused entirely on Lyra the whole time. I guessed that the feeling was mutual, for I started to notice odd twinkles emanating from her eyes, and I detected a bizarre sensation of magical passion lingering in the dark air between us. My imagination was both exciting and shameful, as I pictured scenes of mad desire taking place, all involving the delicious Lyra and myself. And then, on the fourth night that I selected to stand beside the mail-box on that cold, empty street, a certain development occurred.
Attired in an exotic ensemble of thin, cream-coloured blouse and impossibly slim pencil skirt, I was thrilled to witness her moving, making her way from the shop window and toward the main door of the establishment. I attempted to read her mind, but of course I could not. Yet all the same I wondered what exactly she had in her thoughts, as I listened to the rattling of the door-lock and the heart-stopping sight of the door slowly opening inwards.
She stepped out into the night air, and an outrageous swoon erupted from within my heart. As she approached on heels that caused her to totter and teeter on the dank pavement, I noticed how incredibly beautiful she really was. And then she was upon me, barely inches away from my quaking self, her bewitching aroma drifting across the ether and filling me with something wholly insane.
"I'm Lyra," she breathed.
I told her my own name, just remembering it in time. I was such a wreck! And then she took my hand in hers, and asked me to lead the way. This I did gladly, although I had no notion of where I ought to take her on this amazing night. I had become so accustomed to night-dreaming alone that her company seemed strange to me.
We exchanged questions and answers as we walked in the cool light of the moon. I told her of the time when I was seventeen, and how I had cried so much following that drastic event. I told her about my mortal self swinging and wrapped in a noose in that deserted warehouse. All of this I told her as we made our way to the silence and seclusion of the park.
"But why did you choose to take your own life?" she enquired in a concerned fashion.
"It revolves around what happened when I was seventeen," I replied sadly, "the dark secret from my past. This revolves around everything, it has dominated my life for years."
She allowed me to touch her after we had decided to rest upon a wooden bench close to the sparkling lake. All inhibitions vanished as I kissed her warm, inhuman lips. It appeared that all the small talk had been exhausted, and that Lyra required some attention that was both intimate and physical. She unbuttoned her blouse, and invited me to sweep my palms across her breasts, which were perfectly manufactured. I was a little astonished to discover that these and her flesh seemed strikingly real, and when she stepped out of her skirt to reveal her nakedness I started to tremble madly.
I investigated her luscious genitalia, and she gasped as I inserted my eager finger into her wet, sloppy opening. Something awakened within me, and, having discarded my own layer of clothing, we sank to the damp grass to indulge in some nocturnal privacy. And when I reached the point of utter relaxation, that sensation of incredible utopia, I just knew that my death would never be the same again.
The following night I hurried along the pavement as I anticipated our second moment of coupling. My insides were throbbing when I reached the mail-box on that cold, empty street. However, I experienced some dark force tugging at my guts as I spotted the scene in the shop window.
She was there; my darling! Yet she was not alone, at least she was not solely in subhuman company, for standing next to her was a fellow that I soon recognised as a window dresser.
I ought to have known; yes, I should have realised that someone as deeply sensuous as Lyra would have more than one admirer. What a fool I had been! This fellow was evil, I could sense it, I could see it in his dark eyes. He was a madman, a raving psychotic. How did I know this? How did I come to realise that he was overcome with a jealous rage? Why, anyone who witnessed his behaviour in that shop window that night would have come to the same conclusion.
As he began to disrobe my lovely his sinful eyes were upon me, stabbing at me like ghastly daggers. He swiftly took off the crimson satin dress that she had been displaying, and underneath she was naked once again, a figure of magnificence and beauty. I quivered as I observed, for I understood the man to possess some type of baleful intent. I was correct; oh, was I correct! I openly shrieked as I watched him wrap his fist around Lyra's right arm and tug it off like a twig. This he did again with the left arm, and as tears formed in my eyes I spotted a countenance of pure terror arrive to Lyra's face. I could stand it no longer, for I dashed forward, and proceeded to bang my clenched fists against the glass of the window. Yet the horror continued, as the window dresser, obviously overwhelmed with a mix of madness and envy, yanked away Lyra's legs, snapping them away like tree-branches, and laid them to one side like outrageous trophies. I yelled for him to stop, to cease this evil behaviour, but of course he seemed taken by the Devil, an utter demonic maniac.
By now Lyra was a mere torso, laid naked upon the canvas of the shop window display. I noticed the other window-figures, looking on with terrified eyes, perhaps fearing that they too would fall prey to this fool. The window dresser ignored them, however. Instead he kept his gaze on me, as he delivered the ultimate damning action. His almighty hands gripped Lyra's skull and with a sickening popping sound he wrenched the head off completely.
Imagine how I felt at this point; just imagine it!
I was bawling and screaming at the madman, but then I realised that my pleas were now futile. In a swirling haze I heard the main door of the store swing open, and I screeched horribly as Lyra's head came tumbling out toward me. It hit the concrete with a loathsome crack. A loathsome crack... And just for one moment the memories of when I was seventeen slithered back into my brain.
Once more I had been crushed by the darkness, as I curled up into a ball upon the gleaming wet pavement, hugging my own outrageous trophy to my breast as I sobbed and blubbered in the wan glow of the moon.
PART 3: THE DOLL HOUSE
The thing I remembered most about the doll house was the fact that whenever I was on the inside the door was locked from the outside, and whenever I was on the outside the door was locked from the inside. Everything else appeared hazy and incomplete. At this point, I realised that I was quickly waning, and that I was nearing my moment of annihilation. I was convinced that it was correct to re-visit the doll house for one final time.
With Lyra's cold skull clutched to my chest I stumbled along the route that directed me to the graveyard. I sensed the black of the night closing in on me, the dark sky dripping droplets of wet ooze upon my head. I lifted my hand to sweep it off, but felt nothing. My bones creaked and cracked as I made slow progress through the night-mist, the eerie quiet of the streets haunting my every thought.
Upon finally reaching the cemetery, I sank to my knees and plunged my hands into the dank earth beside the family grave, scratching away a pit large enough to bury the head. I considered it a fitting place to lay my love to rest, or rather, what remained of her. I planted one last sweet kiss upon her icy lips before laying the head beneath the soil, and then swept the earth back over it. With tears creeping down each cheek I left the graveyard, and chose to head straight for the doll house.
Home. I didn't really consider it as home any longer. I hadn't been there in years, as it was a painful reminder of the incident from my past. Inside my head I pictured Father in white shirt and braces, smoking a pipe as he watched us from the step of the back door. He always had this smile, the smile of a man who possessed no fear of death. And Mother, her large arms elbow-deep in creamy, soapy water, her features creased up in concentration. I still recall her crazed screams on that sun-drenched afternoon.
I got to the place, although at first I failed to recognise the crumbling brickwork and latticed windows. It was ruined in more ways than one; a decrepit epitaph to a time when things had made more sense than they ever had. I tramped down the dim alley-way that led to the rear of the house, and pushed the gate open, spotting that no lock nor latch was evident upon it. And then I set eyes upon the doll house.
I shivered, for it was exactly as I remembered it. Situated close to the garden fence and nestled upon the lawn (which was now, by the way, a horrible tangle of weeds and long grass), the doll house was the size of a small shed, large enough for an adult person to crawl inside. I felt a tingle inside, and suddenly a deathly tremor murmured somewhere around my heart. The awful memory appeared to be affecting me more than I imagined it would.
I bent down on the cold grass and fumbled at the door, immediately discovering that it was locked. Of course, this was from the inside, so that I was unable to even struggle with the lock itself. It was just as it always had been; an enigmatic place of confusion and frustration. I glanced around, and spotted the single swing at the opposite side of the garden. At once I felt weak all over, and sank to the ground in a pathetic heap. As unconsciousness took me, and I drifted off into darkness, I pictured the dreaded sight of my younger sister, gazing at me from her position on the swing, asking me the question she had been asking me for years inside my head.
Answers did not come to me, not even in my unwakefulness. For countless years I had endeavoured to discover a solution, a reason for the awful horror of this particular incident. I wished to inform the ghost of my younger sister that I had found an answer, and that I did know why it happened. However, as all good people know, the blackness of death has never been understood by any person.
I awoke, lifting my head from off a cold, damp tarpaulin surface. Yet had I not slumped to the grass that was outside the doll house? Now, as I wearily glanced at my surroundings, the familiarity arrived to my senses, and I did recognise that I was actually inside the house. It appeared that during my period of sleep I had mysteriously been transported into the dim confines of the small construction.
A horrible weakening had arrived to my body, so that my actions had now become weary and sluggish. Having adjusted my waning eyesight to the gloom around me, I visibly shook upon spotting a collection of plastic dolls that were sitting in one corner of the place. It seemed to me that they had been placed there deliberately and meticulously, as opposed to merely slung in a heap by a wicked infant. All of them were female, as is mostly the case with child's dolls. They were attired in pretty dresses of all colours, and sported white ankle socks with black court shoes. I found myself strangely leering like a lecher at the cool, tanned flesh upon that collection of bare legs.
I slowly crawled over to the door, hearing the distinct barking of a lone dog in the distance. I ought to have realised that the door would be locked from the outside. But by whom? This always appeared to be the damning question when confronted by the doll house in the garden of my home.
I recall a tense feeling of dread at this particular junction of my imprisonment in the doll house. Again I looked at the dolls, and openly quivered, for they seemed to be actually staring at me with their dark, loathsome eyes. Each of them had been loved and cherished by my younger sister throughout her early years. Did they somehow sense the shameful feeling of guilt that harvested within my soul?
Suddenly I was startled, for I was certain that one of them actually moved. It was only a slight adjustment to its position, but all the same it frightened me. The doll in question appeared, in one ghastly instance, to have broken all the laws of inanimation. I continued to concentrate my attention upon that weird brood of plastic beings, focusing my eyes so that I might detect further movement. But alas, the weakness was overwhelming, so that within seconds my eyelids started to droop and close, and soon I found myself succumbing to a further period of unconsciousness upon that cold, damp tarpaulin.
I did not dream; I was certain of this, for my mind was completely devoid of all dreamings at this point. However, the events that occurred during my sleeping were exactly as amazing as those that happen within dreams. After some minutes I experienced a horrendous shivering, it became dreadfully cold inside that doll house. I huddled closer to the wall, tugging at the tarpaulin for warmth, and without opening my eyes I realised that I had incredibly become naked. What is more, I felt a collection of small, wet scrapings upon my flesh, as though a tiny army of earth-worms was creeping over my skin. It was alarming, yet strangely exciting, and I lay flat upon my back in order to allow the slug-like things to crawl across me.
Odd murmurings prevailed, as if these things had voices, and upon realising this I did open my eyes. Immediately I gasped in bewilderment at the sight before me. The dolls had somehow slid acrosss the room, and they had shed their dresses, so that I was able to see them in their naked glory. They all were licking my flesh with their fuzzy tongues, their red lips opened and their eyes gazing trance-like. The sensation was astounding, a luxurious feeling of pleasure spread throughout my bones.
I directed my gaze to the closest of the dolls, a chubby figure with blonde tousled hair and deep, sensuous eyes. Her small, baby-like fingers were gripping and nipping at my flesh as her gleaming tongue slid across my shoulder. Slowly I reached out to caress her pear-like breast, clutching it in my palm. It felt very odd, like a clump of wobbly jelly, and as I squeezed I noticed a look of immense delight arrive to her face. This caused me to explore her body more fully, and as I eventually probed at her squelchy love-hole with my fingertips, my attention was taken elsewhere by the sound of a loud, lugubrious scream from outside the doll house.
I had heard that scream before; one time in reality, and a thousand times in my memories. Looking up at the window of the doll house, I noticed that it was now daylight, the rays of the sun streaming down upon my bare skin and the flesh-hungry dolls. I was incredibly weak, but I managed to get up and make my way to the door. I rattled the latch, but of course, as always, it had been locked from the outside. Now I could hear weeping from outside, and tears arrived to my eyes as I flopped down in a heap upon the tarpaulin. Defeated, I decided to close my eyes to death, for this was the one thing that I did deserve.
A picture now came to my mind. I was seventeen, and my younger sister was on the garden swing, and I was pushing her. She was wearing her beautiful blue and white dress, and she was giggling incessantly, obviously thrilled by the up and down motions. She was calling out to me.
And higher she went. Up into the blue sky, dazzling before the white clouds. With each almighty, playful shove of my palms upon her dainty shoulders she went farther and farther away from me, only returning for another push. Still she giggled, and I appeared to detect a second tittering noise coming from behind me. I glanced over my shoulder, and spotted a group of tiny faces at the window of the doll house, all of them chortling at the sight of my younger sister's skyward motions. And then I remembered that the doll house was inhabited by figures that were not human.
Turning back, I shrieked as I watched my younger sister accidentally fall from the swing at its highest point. She let out an awful screech, just before her head hit the concrete with a loathsome crack. Panic arrived at once, as I leapt over to her, cradling her bleeding head in my arms. Her eyes were glazed, like one of her dolls. This I recall the most vividly. Her eyes were glazed...
After what seemed like hours I laid her dead form upon the concrete and trudged over to the doll house. I knew that I did not belong here any more, and that it was time for me to pass over to another place. My destruction almost complete, I bent down to discover that the key was inserted in the door lock. It was difficult to see, for to my astonishment darkness had fallen over the earth. I unlocked the door and pulled it open.
Inside I saw my lifeless body sprawled across the wet tarpaulin, the flesh as pale as clouds, and all around the dolls were lying like dead babies, naked and with eyes glazed. Satisfied, I closed the door and locked it again, as a dreadful swirl descended on me, grabbing a hold and shrouding me with a hazy clamminess, and I was tossed and tugged upwards, destined for an afterlife of darkness and hell in the place where no-one breathes.
© Paul Bradshaw
Courtesy by Paul Bradshaw.