After they buried Anne and Doris my life went on dismally. I could no longer bring myself to putting on a smiling face and charm my way to a sale. It wasn’t long before people started to notice. Old friends and distant relatives came to visit me in my wretched state, bearing homemade cakes and parcels of home cooked meals. Half of their intentions were probably meant to do me well - make sure I was fed and still functional - while the other half I am sure was simply to see how many jumps away from Bedlam I was. Soon, I could no longer be amongst people, so I hired a good looking boy to run the shop front and immersed myself in my work, making hats throughout the night to stop the nightmares that had started to haunt me.
The nightmare that had started to haunt me.
It was a man with flowing pale green hair and sharp teeth, cackling and holding out his gloved hand as if to beckon me towards him. He never said anything, or at least he didn’t until that night.
I wasn’t asleep, but I couldn’t very well say that I was awake either. I was in that wondrous state of mind in between the two, working without thinking, without feeling, without caring. My hands knew what they were doing; my skill was great enough that I could create gloriously beautiful hats without so much as blinking an eye, and certainly without the need for a plan. Then suddenly, my attention was brought to something, someone.
“Hello there, Simon,” called a cool steely voice.
I looked up. The voice had come from a tall, slender man. The man from my nightmares.
“Who are you?” I asked, clearly afraid.
“Someone who wants to help. A friend, even. I know of your troubles, dearest Simon, I know you are in pain. Such pain you feel like every fiber of your being could unravel at the slightest touch, and yet if it did you wouldn’t care in the least. You're haunted by everything, every minute of every day creeps by reminding you of the perfect life you no longer have. It reminds you that you are alive and they are dead. Suddenly it’s as if the air has turned to fire and noxious gas, and gravity is now pushing a hundred times harder than before. I know, friend, I understand. And I am here to help.” His voice was clear and cold, but it was terrifying and comforting like the trickle of a stream in a dangerous wood. His eyes were black as coals but burned with empathy so fierce I could almost feel its warmth.
“How?” was all I could manage to choke out.
“Trust you? What do you mean?”
A grin crept across his face, sending a chill down my spine. “It’s as simple as that my dearest Simon. All you have to do is trust me. Say you trust me, and I will take care of all the rest. That is what friends do, is it not?”
“Friends? But I don’t know you. I don’t know anything about you.” My voice had begun to rise, either in fear or confusion, but it didn’t faze the man one bit.
Still smiling, he walked right up to me and put both of his cold bony hands on my shoulders and whispered, “But you will.”