The doors are locked. No matter how hard we fight with the locks and slam our fists against the glass, there is no breaking through. The windshield is shatterproof, but molten steel would still make short work of that. We change up our strategy, hammering on it with our shoes—pile-driving full-forced blows into it.
The damn thing doesn’t even budge.
It barely even cracks.
I turn to Danton. I don’t remember meeting him. It must have happened a long time ago. We have the same name.
With the glass now smudged with shoe prints and sweaty palm-prints, our view of the outside world is a hellish pastel-smear of fiery light.
A quick inspection told us we’re suspended above an enormous vat of molten steel in the cab of a flat-nosed truck. The truck is wrapped in a loop of chains thick enough to anchor a cruise ship—a bleak cast-iron lattice covered the side windows.
I have no idea how we got here, but there is no way out. We’re stuck.
Danton turns to me, desperation in his eyes. He’s looking for something—any sign that I might have a way out up my sleeve.
He shuts his eyes and slams back into the seat, evidently disappointed. His sharply-tailored black suit and tie are still crisp. We’re wearing matching sets.
Have we just come from some kind of formal event? I can’t say with any certainty.
The past is a hard wall in this particular instant.
Danton scrunches up his face, trying hard to chase a particular thought.
“You have to remember in a different direction. You have to remember backwards.”
“I don’t understand.”
He’s speaking about the dream of course. That’s what dreaming is, remembering in a different direction. He reaches out, fingers spread and palm facing outwards. I copy the gesture and see—really see the present as it’s happening…
Danton and I stand in the bookstore.
He pulls a book from the shelf, a nonchalant volume with black leather binding. He opens it easily, though it seems rather hefty.
“I am the suicidal, and you are the saviour who follows.”
“You talking to me?”
“I thought you were reading from the book?”
“Maybe the book is reading from you?” He looks up with a smile. These events have no connection to the memories of the molten steel and the truck.
I’m sure of it. Those images sit isolated from this cosy space smelling of weathered paper, yellowed, musty pages, and ancient binding glue holding them to their tattered, cracked spines. From hand-to-hand and mind-to-mind, these crazed visions have travelled from person-to-person, exchanged countless times. Each encompass nostalgia for lives unlived, merely glimpsed and felt in the air—smiling from behind their dog-eared pages.
“Are you so sure we’re not still in that truck?”
“Positive.” I inhale the dust of the place and run my fingers along several books, the smooth, glossy texture of their spines.
“So why did the book open on Mollina?”
He isn’t wearing the suit anymore.
Neither am I.
We’re in long brown coats, the kind inspectors wear on those lame cop shows. The ones where they always discover some clue right before the ad break.
“She’s right here.”
“Coincidence.” I shrug again and select a volume of my own.
“That’s not the only place she is…”
Danton points up at the uppermost shelf towards an eccentric collection of trinkets: China plates, antique coffee pots, strange gilded silver biscuit bowls. A foreboding collection of china-faced dolls.
I notice her instantly. She’s leaning over, taking her weight on one arm, her knees laid sideways, one atop the other. Her tiny left hand is extended out in that familiar gesture, palm out and fingers spread wide. Her proportions caricature and squat, while her head is enormous, exaggerating her eyes. Like Japanese cartoons.
Except Mollina didn’t have eyes, instead her empty sockets were stuffed with corks of dried blood.
That was how we always knew it was her.
Maul Allan Hewish is a Australian, Brisbane-based author and visual artist, who dabbles in Sigil-crafting, Tarot, and Western Occultism. His fiction, art and poetry deciphering the horrors of waking life, mirror his own experiences with mental-illness and childhood trauma. His works have been published twice in Grotesque Quarerly Magazine. He lives with his loving partner Katya. They spend their free time having long discussions on the merits of bad horror movies, video-gaming, and collecting obscure miniatures. For more updates, check out his website: www.themaul.net
Featured Photo Credit: Ingrid Creepy Scary Horror OOAK doll by WickedWondersDesign