Form was a strange thing. Pain was even stranger. He could remember it clearly. He could understand how they had been entranced by physical sensation. Pain and pleasure…both were addictive in their own ways, though for him there was no longer any enchantment. Form was cold, slow and brutal. Consciousness, that font of illusory light; it was limitless, without rules or mercy.
He pondered, eyeless in the candlelight.
Frequencies were sometimes too much, even for him, like a lightning strike down the spine, and he could feel himself losing cohesion. Shape and form was often hard to maintain. It was no longer his native dream.
Miss Renn entered the Silent Gallery, bald, black and beautiful. She approached him, touching his cheek.
“I can see into your skull, Namahey. You don’t look your best.” She wiggled her fingers in the holes of his sockets and kissed him. Raising two glass eyes in her hand, she pushed them into his empty face. He blinked, smiling sadly at her. “There,” she said quietly, “Much more attractive. Like a true
You bring glory, you know that. You’ll bring victory, I’m telling you.” Man.
“But I…” She pressed a finger to his lips.
“Hush. David hasn’t bested you. The real warriors in this world are the children, remember? You told me, baby.”
Mr Finn touched his head against Miss Renn’s chest. She stroked his throat. “You comfort me and I love you for it,” he whispered, “but I hunger for this, Lillibeth. You’ve forgotten but I still recall.” She pecked his cheek.
“You’re at your best when your mind is calm. Blue and green, my love, the Earth is blue and green.” A wonderful smile crept across her face.
Mr Finn chuckled at her humour, took her hand and kissed it in return. “When we finally stop this tick-tock nonsense, and we show them the War of Miracles…then I’ll rest. I’ll rest because you’ll be deeper in me. And I’ll be deeper in you.”
Miss Renn shook her head, smiling. “Rest with me now, baby, I’ll quiet that screaming inside…”
Together in time without clocks, in space without windows – on the floor of the Silent Gallery, in candlelight, she took him inside her.
There were times in her life when she thought she’d seen beyond physical reality, to some awesome power that seemed to speak in symbols and associations.
Whether this power was Christ; the Lord Almighty, like her mum had believed, Celia didn’t know. Her reason told her that all religion was myth, created because people needed something to believe in, an axis for their brief but painful existence. But she had at least felt the presence of this power, seen evidence of it at times, like now. It went beyond science. Sometimes she feared it went beyond love.
Night had fallen beyond the hotel windows. Celia and Louise lay side by side.
London: An Occult History lay open on Celia’s lap. She leafed through its pages. Louise hadn’t spoken much for the whole day, merely drinking and eating and watching TV. She stared now at the screen, half asleep. Celia didn’t want to watch TV, but she didn’t dare ask Louise to switch it off.
Celia turned the pages of her book, the Myths & Legends chapter. Strange images stared up at her from glossy pages; etchings and paintings of gruesome scenes.
Witch-faced old women. A wolf with a star in its mouth. A girl wrapped in a snake that disappeared into her vagina. Celia frowned. An old man on his knees with rope binding his hands and a large crow perched on his head. She turned the page again.
There was large pen & ink drawing, intricately detailed.
A tall man dressed in a Victorian overcoat, his face turned slightly, shadowed by the brim of a top-hat. He had talon fingers and razor teeth. Under his right arm he held a bundle. Celia squinted and realised the bundle was a baby. The tall man was disappearing into a stone archway.
Beneath the drawing was the word ‘Dollman’.
She looked again at the image. It was perverse and gleeful. She read the text that accompanied the drawing.
The Dollman was a very popular myth, amongst Victorian schoolchildren and academics alike, a Bogeyman that was said to live in ancient tunnels deep beneath
. His particular delight was abducting and murdering naughty youngsters. He preyed upon adults too, but for more specific reasons; terrifying and slaughtering children was his first pleasure. London
The Dollman could often be found in the ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ of the late nineteenth century. The infamous Whitechapel Murders of 1888 were often portrayed as the handiwork of the Dollman, in the more lurid fictions of the time. The mythologies of various Bogeymen have their origins in Germanic and Scandinavian fairy-tales, where non-human beings preyed upon children and lost travellers.
Celia glanced up, feeling cold. Eventually her eyes returned to the page.
The Dollman can be traced back to at least the middle ages and seems to be a precursor to the later Sandman, popularised by the German author ETA Hoffman, in his tale of the same name. These Bogeymen evoke fears of castration and violent death. Their genesis can be ascribed to primal terrors in both the young and old alike; fears of sleep, dream and imagination. In the modern scientific age the prevalence of these ancient fairy-tale predators has declined. Now we have reason, to banish the shadows – and electric light, to illuminate the dark corners.
Celia looked up from the page again. She laughed suddenly, glancing at Louise. Her eyes were closed. Celia lit a cigarette and took a deep pull. How could something be both real and unreal? It stretched her reason, trying to embrace it. On an intuitive level she grasped it irrationaly. There was a halfway place between fantasy and reality. Somehow they were using mythology to give themselves form, cloaked in old stories.
She frowned, looking through the hotel windows at the night sky. What was Truth? Did it even exist? Celia felt the spectre of Madness near her shoulder, like a Bogeyman itself. The line between the real and unreal could be removed briefly, for artistic and poetic insight, but to remove it forever was schizophrenia; a complete fragmentation of the psychological system. Perception was everything.
In her mind’s eye Celia could see the imaginary nun from her dreams. She hadn’t really existed, when Celia woke there had been doctors – and yet the nun was now more real than the actual memory of waking up from her failed attempt to die, showing Celia her own wrists. Look…please look at what you’ve done.
Later, in the dream, her mother stands at the window. Beyond, the sky is splashed with red. Celia watches her writing intently upon the glass. Strange letters. They are foreign. Celia cannot read them.
The darkness was heavier than ever before. Emily Fisher blinked but she couldn’t see. Perhaps the blackness had blinded her. She felt so weak, so utterly alone; eleven years old, forgotten, a lost blonde girl in heavy chains.
Something flickered in the warm, wet black.
A luminous butterfly, just like before, leaving soft trails of light in the dark.
“Stay with me,” she murmured, hoping it would hear her. It danced around high above her head and then dipped low. She heard the rapid fluttering and saw weird free-forming patterns in its glowing wings, strangely beautiful patterns that seemed to be showing her things, things she could only begin to grasp
“…oh my God…” The butterfly pulled away from her and then dipped forward again, close enough to light Emily’s face in the darkness. “…how can you ask me to not be afraid?”
Its luminous wings brushed her cheek and Emily saw a place, vast, indescribably complex and yet shockingly simple. It was too powerful, far too powerful. She began screaming hoarsely in the darkness. “No! Please no! I don’t wanna die! I don’t wanna die!”
As she wailed and sobbed with the last strength she had, the butterfly drew trails of light around her. It flew quickly into her mouth, plunging deep into her throat. It detonated in her chest like a painless bomb. She shuddered, her eyes flaring with luminescence. And then Emily Fisher’s suffering and fear was lost to the Light, brighter and softer and warmer than any she could have dared to imagine.
“I had a nightmare, Cee. I dreamt he stabbed me again.” They were sitting in the dining hall of the Pont de Franca, eating breakfast. There were circles around Louise’s eyes and her skin was almost as pale as Celia’s. It seemed sleep had sapped her strength rather than replenished it.
“I’m sorry,” was all Celia could say. Louise nodded from hooded eyes, taking a sip from a cup of coffee.
“It was so real…I could smell him. Smelled like decay. I think I’m terrified.”
Celia nodded. “So am I.”
In London: An Occult History, Celia found the name of someone who had contributed the drawing of the Dollman, along with certain source materials.
‘Special thanks to my good friend Irwin Shaw, without whom this text could not have been compiled.’
Celia had to find him. She had to get answers from him. She left Louise in the room and went down to the foyer, snagging an ashtray from the other side of a glass table. She dialled Hades House and asked to speak to Paul Drazer. She waited, lighting a cigarette.
“I thought I was done – jeez, you must really love the sound of my voice. What do you want now?”
“I need a guy named Irwin Shaw, a friend of Richard Hobbes.”
“So, is he alive, is he dead, or what? He helped Hobbes on his occult textbook. I know you’ve got some kind of information on him.”
“What the hell do you want from me Celia? Isn’t it enough that I helped you out yesterday? You threw our relationship back in my face.”
Celia shook her head. “We didn’t have a relationship, Paulie – we didn’t even sleep together. A month of dating, that was all. I thought you said you were over it? Get a grip, man.” She waited for him to respond, the phone pressed to her ear.
“We could’ve had – okay fine, fine, you prick-tease.” There was a smile in the sound of his voice. “Look, I can’t go giving information about our clients to everyone that asks. This is a publishing house, not directory inquiries.”
Celia tried to put a damper on her impatience. “Please, Paulie…?”
She heard him laugh. “Hey, screw you motherfucker, you don’t get to call me Paulie.”
“You’re acting like a pissed off teenager, Paul. Come on, help me out.”
“What the hell is this about, anyway?”
An idea hit her out of the blue. “It’s for a new book I’m planning. I wanted Hobbes to help, but seeing as he’s dead, Irwin Shaw is the next best thing.”
“When were you going to run this by me, Celia?”
“Once it’s all clear in my head I’ll give you a full proposition.”
“A proposition?” There was another smile in his voice.
“Jesus, Paulie. Get your head out of the damn gutter – it’s never going to happen. So drop it, fuckhead.”
She heard him sigh. “Fine, fine. A bloke has got to try, right?”
“Give me a second.” She heard his fingers tapping at the keyboard of his computer. “Okay…Irwin Shaw. Right here in
. London 68 Lomas Road, Wells Gate. No telephone number listed. Happy now, sweetie?”
Celia immediately switched off the mobile, committing the address to memory.
She told Louise where they were going and her lover hadn’t said a word. Celia drove in silence. Louise stared from the passenger window.
“What? Say something, Lou. You think this is a bad idea?”
“No. I just think this might be a big fat anticlimax. Don’t want to see your hopes dashed.”
“I’m not going to hide from this, Lou. I can’t. If this guy knows something, anything, I’m going to make him tell me.”
Louise reclined the seat slightly, closing her eyes. “I get it, but what possible answer are you hoping for?”
Celia didn’t reply. After a while she said, “Lou, I know you don’t want to believe what I told you, but I think someone really did hurt me – a long time ago. And I’m telling you, it’s all connected to everything that’s happened.” Louise opened her eyes and looked at her. “You don’t believe me?” asked Celia.
Louise shrugged, “I do believe you. It doesn’t change anything.” They drove the rest of the way in silence.