Something’s not right. My sleep is disturbed, fractured. It’s all very wrong.
Normally when I bring clay to life, I slumber soundly. Time slips peacefully past my unconscious form. That’s why I leave Wylie, my animated pooch, on guard. He’s there to protect me and keep me safe, just in case. Yet, there are some things he can’t defend me from. Lights flash through the darkness of my mind like I’m in one of the great wars, and I’m being shelled in the trenches, but it’s also eerily quiet. There’s a spark that grows into something so bright it’s blinding, but I’m not seeing it. It’s just disturbing my sleep.
Another flick grows, and mushrooms up, scorching my vision, leaving an afterglow.I realise I’m somewhere else. I don’t know where, but I’m definitely not laid out on the sofa in my apartment anymore. I’m outside doing something. It excites me, but I don’t know why. Where am I?
Then the face of the mortal, Darren, leers into view, but it’s not happening right now. It’s a memory of that meeting.
“Darren? That’s my name, too. Dude, how weird is that, right?” His words echo around my head, and then they come again, but it’s not him.
“Darren? That’s my name, too. Dude, how weird is that, right?” It’s the voice. The one that has tormented me for all these months. And it’s not alone.
“How weird is that? Darren’s my name, too.”
The pair of them cackle and more bright spots well up in the darkness. I can smell something, oil or grease, and I’m back in the warehouse. The place where the women were killed, and the pair of voices can’t resist tormenting me.
“They died by your hand.”
“But not your hand.”
“You are in control, after all.”
Trixie’s body lies on the floor before me again. Blonde hair falls over her face, and I can’t stop myself. I have to pull back the locks. Only this time, it’s not her or her sister, but me. I stare at myself, and then the ashen mouth moves.
“Where was your control, Dolus?”
I stammer, unable to form words, craft a question or a lie. Then I, I mean he, continues, “What went wrong? Why aren’t you in control?” I want to respond, to tell him it had to be that way. I had to do that because they were too close, and there was a risk. No one else should have known what I’d planned. I realise he’s said all these things to me just as he grabs my throat and hauls me up.
There’s a flash, and I’m looking into the face of one of my clay men. The grey features glare at me, perfectly created eyebrows dipping over unseeing eyes. Its grip around my neck tightens, but I don’t know what I’ve done wrong. Why is my own creation turning on me? It shouldn’t be this way. They are loyal. Once alive, they will protect me. Their life comes from me, my essence. They must protect me.
I’m running out of air, choking, suffocating. I paw at the hand that holds me so tightly, but it’s immovable. The face doesn’t flinch but slowly fades from my vision, blackness consuming it. I gurgle, and then something shifts my attention. A hard object comes up and strikes me. The last bit of air in my lungs is forced out. I lay still, wondering if I should just tell my body to put me out of my misery, and end the torment we’ve been through.
Then Lily’s there. So close, and I feel my lungs restart. I suck air into me, my eyes locked with hers. There’s so much warmth directed at me. It’s like she’s always been there at my side. There’s a thump, and suddenly she’s gone. My head hurts. A pain rings across the surface of my mind, and the voices restart.
“You are in control.”
“Aren’t you in control?”
A third and then fourth resound around my mind.
“Aren’t you in control?”
Another flash, and I can see the lopsided floor of my flat, something smeared across the tiles. I’ve fallen from the sofa, that’s all. It’s what must have happened. I drag myself to a sitting position. Before me, I can see muddy footprints. As quickly as I register them, they are gone. I twirl and notice that my clay men are standing over me. Then they aren’t. They are back where I left them, still lifeless. But it can’t be, I’ve not been asleep that long. Or have I?
I move towards the kitchen, not knowing where my stash of food is. I need something to steady me. There’s a crash, and one of the many bottles of booze on the shelf that lines the apartment’s wall falls to the ground. I curse and then wonder why. There’s nothing on the floor, no mess. Is this still a dream?
The darkness drops over my eyes, like the curtain coming down at the theatre, and then comes up as quickly. I’m in the bathroom. I see my face, haunted, gaunt. It’s taking its toll, infusing so many statues with so much of my life. The lightbulbs overhead glow and then pop. It’s black once more, but I feel better and stronger. I am sickeningly disorientated, and I suddenly want off this ride, but I know I can’t. There’s no stopping it now. I stagger towards my lounge, certain I just need to rest, but the room is not where I left it. I emerge into the warehouse. Why am I here again?
The single lightbulb is still, perfectly circling the figure tied to the chair. It is Lily. I try to rush to her side, to be with her. But I trip, or rather, I am tripped. I hit the floor, and then everything blurs. Now I’m seated, my arms tied behind my back. They are good knots, done by someone who knows what they are doing. They are the sort of knots I’d tie.
Now my beautiful woman is in front of me, her red hair hanging in her face. There’s pure evil radiating from her eyes. Her mouth opens, and four voices rise up in my brain. Each strikes me from a different direction, my left temple, then my right, the front of my head, the back.
Then Lily’s mouth stretches wider, and the darkness pours forth. My world fades to black.
When I finally awaken, I’m on the sofa, exactly where I should be. My bag of junk food is nearby, one bag of cheesy delights torn open, but no signs of the culprit. I close my eyes, centre myself. I tell myself I’m in control. It was just an unexpected dream.
It’s never been like that before. Images rear up in my mind. I see deserted depositories, dirty marks on an otherwise clean floor, and the attack on me. I twirl and take in my workforce, each creature is exactly where it should be. Collectively, they tilt their heads towards me and nod solemnly, ready to obey. I ease back, steadying my weakened form against the side of the breakfast bar. There’s no threat here. Maybe I sensed something outside these walls.
I fumble for my phone, my fingers feeling unsteady as they grip the device. There’s plenty of messages, requests for favours, offers, but nothing serious. No problem that should have disturbed what I was doing. I am astounded when I see the date. I’ve been asleep way longer than I should have been. Although, in all fairness, I’ve never given life to so many statues, of such a size, all at once.
Speaking of which, I wonder where my dog is. He was meant to be right by my side. He’s clearly helped himself to my food, but where’s he got to now? Wylie doesn’t get thirsty, and he doesn’t need to relieve himself. I look this way and that before spotting the little pile of dust. I stagger towards it and can see just the tiniest hint of orange powder in the mix. I sink to my knees. I never expected this to happen.
Wylie had been with me so long. He’d survived moves and other creations. I thought he always would be. I guess I wasn’t strong enough and didn’t have enough of me to give. I had to sacrifice him too. I didn’t want it to be this way, and I didn’t even get to say goodbye. I would have patted that smooth head, enjoyed the flick of that broken tail for the last time. I would have told him what a good boy he was. He was the best. I knew, deep down, that I couldn’t take him with me when I settled down with Lily. But it had reassured me that he’d still be here, standing guard, and going on. This wasn’t meant to happen.
The four voices force their way into my emotions. Annoyance, disappointment, anger, and retribution well up in me, brought on by them. I shake my head. I’m not going to let them have this moment. It’s not right.
“Then get rid of us?”
“Show us you are in control.”
“Because you are, aren’t you?”
I am. I have been. I will be. I just need to sort things out. I didn’t want to lose my best friend, but I can rebuild him, make him better. Have him still here, in secret.
“Another lie to poor Lily.”
“Something else you’ll keep from her?”
“Is that right?”
“Should you do that?”
I ignore them. I am weak now, vulnerable. Once I’ve rested and eaten, I’ll be ready to complete my plan. They won’t get to me then. Even if I hear them, I won’t care because I’ll be with the love of my life. I’m in control, and that’s the way it is going to stay, no matter what they say.