They walked up the pathway and Celia glanced at Louise. She pressed the doorbell and waited. Eventually the door was opened by a frail-looking old man in a worn house coat, reeking of cigarette smoke. He glanced at them.
“Yes, can I help you?” His accent was cultured, mannered, with a slight German twinge. It spoke to Celia of wealth and privilege.
She extended a hand and he shook it dutifully. “Are you Irwin Shaw?”
“Yes,” he said, frowning slightly.
“You were a friend of Richard Hobbes?”
“Richard is dead. Why?” His face was pinched with mixed emotions.
“I’m also a writer, my name’s Celia Gray. I was hoping we could talk briefly.”
The old man glanced at Louise, then back at Celia. “You’re Celia Anne Gray? The woman who wrote Leaving Her?”
She nodded, “I won’t take much of your time.”
He closed his eyes, muttering something that Celia didn’t catch and ushered them both into the house. The living-room was massive, almost twice the size of Celia’s. There were dozens of bird photographs on the walls – perching birds, feeding birds, birds in flight.
“Wow…” said Celia. The old man smiled.
“A passion in my youthful days. Can I get you ladies anything? A drink, something to eat? I have cold-cuts in the refrigerator.” They declined and he shrugged, lighting himself a cigarette. Celia lit one too.
“Are you married, Mr Shaw?”
Standing at a photograph of a soaring falcon, he nodded. “Yes I am, but my wife is dead. Sixteen years now.” He coughed on the cigarette. Louise caught Celia’s gaze and frowned.
“Are you okay, sir?” Louise asked him. “Are you ill?”
He nodded without looking at them. “Cancer.”
“Condolences, condolences. None of us can escape time, ladies.”
“We can’t run from the clock,” said Celia, “can we Mr Shaw?”
He laughed, looked at her. “I’m afraid not.” Louise glanced between them.
“Mr Shaw, I’m not here to upset your life or to bother you needlessly. I’m here because I’m afraid.”
He made himself comfortable in a leather armchair and motioned for them to sit on the sofa. “Please, call me Irwin,” he asked after they had seated. “I don’t know who Mr Shaw is anymore. I’m just Irwin now.”
Celia nodded and there was a brief silence between the three of them.
“Irwin,” Celia said quietly, “I need guidance. I don’t want to force your hand but…I’ve seen things. I think I’m in danger; part of something, something you might know about.”
She was appealing to any honour or chivalry he possessed. Irwin Shaw looked flatly at her, thinking. Finally he said, “You know, I’ve lived my life – writer, businessman, photographer. Only death scares me now. And part of me welcomes it. I’ve had excellent doctors. Nothing can be done. Richard was my best friend, a very complicated but brilliant man. In my humble opinion he was the definition of Genius. Only in my opinion.”
Celia glanced at Louise and said, “I’m interested in his two novels; the mythology he based them on.” Irwin Shaw said nothing and Celia shifted on the sofa. “Sir…I need to know what he knew.”
“Clockhost?” he asked quietly. “Dollmen?” Celia nodded and he laughed. “Miss Gray, Richard was a very unhappy person. He lost his parents in a tragic rock-climbing accident when he was seventeen. He saw them fall, both of them. It affected him greatly. It nearly destroyed him. He was incredibly sensitive, you see.”
“But he believed in the occult, didn’t he? He thought the myths were true?” She hoped now that they were on the same page. She searched his face as he pulled on his cigarette.
“Richard was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic when he was twenty-two, Miss Gray. He thought that demons secretly ruled the world, through occult black magic societies. Fallen angels, to be more specific, fallen angels pretending to be men. He thought they existed by using the collective unconscious of human beings and the subconscious of individuals like himself. He really believed these things. He was a genius…but these ideas, they warped his mind, turned his creativity against him. He lived his entire life in fear of these things. His books were an attempt to deal honestly with that fear. Let him rest, okay?”
“You were his friend?”
“I loved him like a brother…”
“You considered him a genius,” said Louise, thinking. Celia glanced at her.
“Richard…he was…he didn’t want to be on this Earth, believing what he believed. He saw things that other people didn’t choose or want to see. He made connections, brilliant deductions about art, myth, physics and psychology. It’s sad to see an old man kill himself. Yes…he was my friend.” Irwin Shaw coughed repeatedly and stubbed out the cigarette. He looked at Celia, into her eyes.
She wanted to grab him and shake his deepest secrets from him.
“I’m begging you, tell me what you know. Help me understand, Irwin, please, I’m begging you.”
A voice came from the hallway, the voice of a child. “Dollmen.” Celia turned and saw a boy standing there; eleven or twelve, with dirty-blonde hair.
The old man barked at him, “Go back to bed, Ryan. Now!” The boy shook his head and Irwin Shaw glanced at Celia. “My grandson. A very headstrong young boy.” He shot the boy a warning look. “You need your rest, Ryan. We don’t want you falling sick again. Let me speak with these ladies alone.”
“No,” said Ryan, quietly.
Celia rose from the sofa, staring at the boy. “Ryan,” she said sternly, “What do you know about the Dollmen? Don’t listen to your grandfather, you must tell me. It’s very important.”
“Look here, you can’t…” But the boy interjected the old man’s words.
“The Dollmen are real.”
Celia and Louise turned in Shaw’s direction. Silently, he sat back down in the armchair. “What the hell is going on?” Louise barked suddenly, “Who the hell are you, Mr Shaw?”
“Fools rush in,” he muttered, staring up at both of them and shrugging.
Celia went to the boy and kneeled in front of him, taking his hand. “I’m Celia…I used to be an English teacher. Your name’s Ryan?”
“I don’t like teachers. They’re cruel.”
“Sometimes they can be, yeah. But I’m not cruel, I promise.”
“I didn’t think you were,” said Ryan. “You got a nice face.”
“Thank you. Ryan, what do you know about the Dollmen?”
The boy glanced at Irwin Shaw sitting in the armchair. “They’re real…well, kind of real. Like a dream you can touch. They live underneath
London, in the City of .” Lights
Celia didn’t know if the chill she felt was her imagination. “The City of
“That’s where they’re keeping Emily.”
“My sister,” he muttered, pulling his hands from her grasp. “She’s probably dead by now…” He disappeared into the kitchen.
Celia glanced at Louise who was almost frozen. She turned to Irwin Shaw. He fumbled with his pack of cigarettes and Celia stalked forward, slapping them from his hand. “You better tell me the fucking truth…”
He smiled humourlessly. “What I said about Richard was all true. I’m trying to protect you. Both of you.”
“Protect us from what?” Louise barked.
“I think your friend already knows.” His eyes met Celia’s and he stood up without breaking the gaze. “You want guidance? Here’s some guidance: There’s things in this world that our sense of logic and reason will deny at all costs. They’re true nonetheless. To accept these things…well, kiss goodbye to the comfortable nature of your prior perceptions.”
“I don’t have a choice,” she told him. “I want answers for what they did.”
The old man nodded, “Then you don’t need me to tell you anything. You already know. How you deal with that knowledge – that’s the real mystery.” Carefully, he bent down and retrieved his cigarette packet, then lit one. “Welcome to the loneliest club in the world.”
Celia shook her head and backed away, hurrying into the kitchen, Louise following behind her.
Ryan was sitting at the breakfast table with a glass of orange juice. “Don’t make me tell you if you’re not gonna believe me.”
Celia quickly took a seat next to him. “I believe you.”
The boy gestured at Louise in the doorway, “Does she?” Celia glanced at Louise and she nodded slowly, wide-eyed.
“Tell me, Ryan. Tell me so I can understand.”
There were tears in the boy’s eyes but he smiled. “Dollmen are like monsters, demons – like they teach at church. They’re really old. They’re snakes actually.”
“Snakes?” murmured Celia. He nodded.
“Lizards – is that what you call them? The ones with arms and legs. Scary, huh? Sometimes they drink blood.”
Celia’s mind wanted to repel at what the boy had said. “Are they vampires?” she asked him quietly. He shook his head.
“No…they’re men – and snakes. It’s not like you think. They can act like vampires because their love went away a long time ago. They’re Bogeymen. They live in your head, inside your mind.”
Celia glanced at Louise, who had both hands over her mouth. “How can they be real then, Ryan?”
The boy sighed. “They’re very clever. They just move about like you tune a radio. The Dollmen can do all that stuff. Seems like magic…but it’s not.” He finished his juice, taking big gulps. “They can be there and you won’t know. They like to hide, behind pretend faces. They took my sister…they take lots of kids.”
Irwin Shaw stepped into the doorway behind Louise. “They steal children,” he told them quietly, “just like in fairy-tales.” They glanced at him and then back at Ryan. The boy was nodding.
“They take them down into the City of
. They kill them. And eat them. They’ve probably eaten Emily already.” Lights
Louise whispered, “This is fucking madness…”
Celia bolted from the chair, past Louise, and snatched Irwin Shaw by the throat, slamming his head back against the kitchen cabinets. She squeezed. “You sick son of a bitch! What the fuck have you done to this boy? Tell me!”
“Leave him alone!” cried Ryan, “He hasn’t done anything! He’s my only friend!”
Celia released her grip on Shaw’s throat and shoved him away, glancing at him sideways with eyes like dark whirlpools. “I’ve had enough,” she said shakily, “Tell me the truth or I swear to Christ I’ll beat you down right here…”
He looked at her, rubbing his throat, smiling with empty resignation.
“The Clock and its associates control everything, Miss Gray; politics, religion, art, even our concept of mythology. Is that what you want to hear? They’re the engineers of the mind of Man, the priest-kings of ancient times. Richard knew it. I know it. You know it now.”
Celia watched him carefully. “Secretly they rule over us by wearing our faces. It’s not their true shape. They can change form…I don’t know if they have any form, apart from what we give them. They are quite simply the Shadow of Man.”
“This is completely fucked,” muttered Louise, “Cee, he’s telling you lies.”
“No,” said Shaw, “I wish I was. You wanted an answer and I’ve given you one. They are supreme occultists and they hide the fire of illumination, for the purposes of coveting dark power.”
Louise narrowed her eyes. “Dark power? Shut your ugly mouth. You’re a liar…you’re not even a good liar.”
He continued unabated. “Ritual and children are used, sacrificed, consumed, to create a vibration-connection to the lower astral plane; the place where demons of legend were said to reside.” He laughed. “Sick nonsense, I know. The depraved fantasies of weak minds, and true nonetheless. Clockhost hand, Clockhost eye, we will be free when the Clockhost die. I want the same thing that you want, Miss Gray.”
Louise glanced at Celia and went to Ryan, taking his hand. “Tell me the truth now. Has your grandfather hurt you? Has he…touched you?”
“No,” Ryan said quietly, “I know what you mean – he’d never do that. He’d never hurt me. He saved my life.”
“Who told you these things about the Dollmen? Was it your grandfather?”
“No. The Colony. I’ve seen them myself. I’m telling you the truth. The Clockhost trick the world and the Dollmen trick the Clockhost.” He laughed sadly. “Their love goes away.”
Louise shook him suddenly, forcefully. “That’s impossible, Ryan! You hear me? God would never let something like that be true!”
The boy pulled away and scowled at her, “Well he did! He did! He let it be true!” He ran to Irwin Shaw and the old man hugged him.
“There was no need for that!” he spat at Louise, real anger in his voice, almost hatred. He looked at Celia. “You’re both extremely stupid, rushing in where angels fear to tread.” He nodded at her, staring her down. “Get the fuck out of my house, and go think about what you’ve heard here today.”
Louise brushed up against Celia, glaring darkly at her; reaching into her jacket pocket and snagging a set of keys.
“I’ll be in the car…” She stalked from the old man’s big kitchen.
Irwin Shaw rubbed Ryan’s back and looked expectantly at Celia. “You got your truth, for what it’s worth to you. Now leave me and my grandson alone.”
“Leave now!” he exclaimed and began coughing madly. Ryan ran to the sink and poured him a glass of water. Celia backed away.
She left the old man’s house, hurrying quickly to her Ford. Celia climbed into the car. Louise was looking at her.
“Cee, I don’t know what the hell is going on but that wasn’t the truth in there. That man has put some vile rubbish into that boy’s mind.”
Celia knew they both believed what they’d said. “They love each other.”
Louise winced. “That just makes it worse. That kid’s completely innocent. It makes me feel sick…”
Celia didn’t say anything. She was about to start the engine when she saw the boy and the old man step into the front doorway of the house. Irwin Shaw looked like he was crying. He looked defeated. Ryan motioned her back.