He opened his eyes and saw the fan spinning.
He could almost feel the blades cutting the air, almost, there was another noise, a crackling and white light flickered on the ceiling.
He turned his head and it felt heavy, full of sand and happy thoughts. The curtains were red and stretched all the way down to the ceiling. They seemed to melt into the floor which was hatched black and white pattern. The end of a cigarette winked at him from the corner, the smoke rose and faded but never stopped.
There was strange music playing. There was a man dancing, was he dancing, was it him? He couldn’t remember. A small motel room by the looks of it, satin sheets, the smell of cheap perfume.
He felt an arm on his chest, it was bare, the fingers were cold like as plastic wrap. He turned his muggy head around and saw a mannequin with its arms tied back. He closed and opened his eyes a few times and it was gone again and there was a knock on the door.
The cigarette in the corner bobbed, flinging ash in a glass ash tray.
The TV was on, playing nothing but static, it seemed to fit the music perfectly.
“- what loves does”
He shifted his weight on the bed and felt all the springs poking his back. He rocked up and felt his head turn like it was a bottle full of some thick liquid. The whole world shifting on a dime.
The cigarette told him the door was for him, he said he shouldn’t keep her waiting.
James crossed the room past the TV that was on. The bathroom was open with the same hatched pattern on the floor, the light was on but it was empty.
He got to the door and looked out of the peephole, a woman stood too close to the door.
The cigarette in the corner told him to open the door. So, he did.
There was a woman standing at the door, in the night, a light mist covering her body. The sky wanted to rain but held off.
She said her name was ‘Laura’, James didn’t know anyone by that name.
She said she was told to come here by a strange phone call.
She was told to dye her hair red, so she did.
Her hair was a deep crimson; against her skin it was a pale orange. The reflection made it seem like she was covered in rock candy. Her skin a sweet hard sucker.
“So strange- “
The cigarette told him to invite her in, so that’s what he did.
She breezed into the room carrying a heavy sweet scent.
She wore a red dress on cracked heels.
“-Ah what love does”
He watched her walk, she was rounded right. Her curves seemed to fade out around the edges, the room became part of her.
Her face was a blur of makeup and lust.
She sat on the bed next to an old polaroid camera the cigarette must have put there.
She picked it up and goggled at it before stretching her arm out.
“So strange- “
He took the camera off her and she sprawled out across the satin sheets. Her eyes never left the lens as he started to take photographs. It all blurred into one flash after another and before long her lips were on his like a magnet. She just couldn’t stop.
The dress hit the floor hard.
They hit the bed harder.
“-what love does”
He held her tight, she smelled like sandalwood and cold sweat. Sweet and bitter scents sending him into spirals something deep and dark and primal.
He felt drunk on her, her hair, was soft, it was all around him.
Her skin was cold and pleasant to the touch, sending shivers through his fingertips.
Her kiss was even colder, it was hard, unrelenting. Made him burn, deep down, a cold burn.
She slapped him across the face so hard tears came into his eyes. She pulled him further into her digging her nails into his back.
Her hand on his chest was ice cold and small, it sent him into convulsions. His shoulders shook, he felt numb and happy.
“When we’re all alone”
He felt her cold small hands wrap around his neck, her little thumbs pushing on his Adams apple.
The TV was still on, he opened his eyes and he was sat on the end of the bed watching the TV. The static broke apart and he saw the tree again, he saw the dark hair, little fingers running through it. Then the image changed and it was dark, a bird’s eye view of a motel room. A man sat on the end of a bed with his shirt off watching a television. On the television was a motel room with a man sat at the edge of a bed with his shirt off watching a television.
It cut away to a man and woman having sex on the bed, under the satin sheets, two figures writhed.
The room smelled stale, sweat and sex and cigarette smoke.
There was strange music playing in the background.
“Strange, what flies-
The man was on top thrusting wildly. The woman arms were tied back; she was still and silent. She lay there like a mannequin, all her limbs stiff. Her eyes were open and she appeared to be breathing low. Her hair looked like a red wig the colour was so unnatural, her skin was pale and damp looking.
“-those ghosts of love”
The man suddenly straightened up and he put his hands around her neck. His shoulders tightened from the back, the blades meeting. He pressed down on her neck. She couldn’t move, her legs twitched, her mouth opened and closed but no sound came out. Her eyes were wide and empty. They bulged with fear only for a moment before rolling back in her head. James shuddered as he watched, his breath rasping. He felt helpless and lost. He didn’t understand.
The man got out of the bed and walked out of shot and then the TV went back to static.
“Those ghosts of love”
“Do you understand now?”
James opened his eyes a slit, his mouth felt dry and he didn’t feel like opening it. He dry swallowed and shrunk from a beam of light aimed at his eyes with a pen torch. Taking slakes of cold damp air.
“I think you’re ready now” The man’s breathing was slow and deep and getting faster. “James, it’s time, you’re the star of the show, meet your audience”.
He heard a rippling sound. A thick fabric thrown quickly up into the air, tossing up years of dust and dirt and damp from the old box car.
“Do you see them” The man whispered in his ear “They’re watching”
James opened his eyes. The world coming together like some ink blot painting. Colours swirling and then disappearing. What he saw we sullen figures posed in black metal folding chairs.
“These are the perfect ones, I had to dispose of the others. They weren’t quite right. It’s just part of the game really.”
“Game?” James whispered.
“Test, might be a better word, project? Experiment.” He walked around in front of James’s sulking vision as he slowly regained consciousness. “She uses people, like chess pieces, but the point of the game isn’t to win, it’s just to play. To see if she can predict the outcome of any given move she sets into place.”
James fought a sinking feeling, his eyelids were so heavy. He shuttered them and then they fluttered for a moment before flinging them open and he saw them.
They were perfect, so fucking perfect.
They were clean and white and neat. All that flesh and plastic and love and time and care.
On the seats were neatly arranged women.
They were dressed like parishioners all. Hats and long coats.
Their hair neatly set, their makeup applied by a steady hand, the same hand.
Posed in living poses as if they were watching a sermon or attending a play.
Their eyes were wide open and glassy.
They looked just like store mannequins, their skin was waxy and shone.
But they weren’t.
They were real.
“She is the mother of all our wicked thoughts. The voices in your head, those leathery wings beating in your chest, uncoiling, telling you it’s time”.
“You’re a liar”
“I’ve heard them too, were they always there or did she put them there, did we let her? For you I can’t say, did I make you this way? Or did I just wake a sleeping snake? We’ll never know, but right now, they see you, like I do”
“I’m not a killer- I’M NOT A KILLER!”
There was a ringing sound in his ears, a cold hard crunching under his knees. His eyes sealed shut for a moment.
There was something in his hand, cold and hard and heavy.
“MIRRA, PUT THE GUN DOWN!”
A woman’s voice called out to him, carried by crashing waves.
He breathed in deeply, the air was sharp, his heart roared awake, burning with every breathe.
“I SAID PUT THE GUN DOWN!”
He opened his eyes slow, he was looking down. He saw that he was kneeling, his arms down by his sides. There was a gun in his hand, the gun from the glovebox.
He closed his eyes again tight, the gravel under his knees was starting to hurt. It was getting darker, the sun looked tired.
“Tell us what’s going on James, it doesn’t have to end this way”
James eyes fluttered as he looked towards the voice. She was a pretty black woman with her hair tied back, dressed in a black suit, she looked familiar. There was a man behind her with his gun drawn but he didn’t say anything.
Her gun dipped as she spoke, a small plastic gun. “We can help you, you just need to put the gun down so we can talk”.
The revolver in his hand was heavy but he couldn’t let it go, it was there for a reason. As his senses came back he realised he was on this track from the beginning. He didn’t have any choice from the start. This whole time he was on rails, just following his nose as someone lead him down the rabbit hole. What now? Where would it lead?
He breathed in deep, he could smell smoke, car exhausts, fresh air. Birds in the sky, the sun broke through the clouds to gawk.
It was over in a matter of seconds. He raised the gun and pulled the trigger, Hari already had her gun straight and put two in his chest.
He slumped forward, dropping the gun in the gravel and then lowering himself gradually to meet it. His movements slow and deliberate like he was reading direction from a script. This is where you lie down now, and don’t get up.
His breathing was slow and horse. The sky was spinning overhead, the trees started crowding him.
“Tell me what it means, what is this all about, is this the end?”
His eyes swam around, looking for something, before he locked eyes with her and said. “It doesn’t mean anything”.
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