The mannequins are here again. I can feel them throbbing in my ears. They’re standing around in the kitchen, impassive as stone. But inside they’re laughing. I’m not getting out of bed for them, not this time.
My watch says it’s twelve o’clock. I don’t know if it’s midday or midnight. The sun and the moon look the same to me.
Everything’s the same really, if you think about it. A table, a horse, a joke, pity. All the same.
I can hear the mannequins talking now. Their voices are like embers. I don’t know what they’re saying.
I’m having a bad, bad time. Whenever I shut my eyes I see myself as a foetus, glowing in the womb. I’m incomplete: my hands are drippy and my song is lost at sea. Even my valves and pistons don’t work properly.
The obvious solution is not to close my eyes. But I have to blink now and then. I’m sure you’ll appreciate my predicament.
The mannequins have become suspiciously quiet.
Yesterday or the day before or some other time, I had a visitor. She appeared in the doorway and smiled at me. I shone my torch at her, moving the light up and down, to try to work her out. She wore a green dress that made me think of reptiles. She asked if she could join me, so I moved to one side and pushed back the duvet.
I may have fallen asleep at that point. Either that, or we had sex. Whatever happened, she disappeared afterwards. First she was there, then she wasn’t. But she left her green dress on my bed. I picked it up to throw it on the floor and found it was sticky and brittle, like shed skin.
I feel as if I’m in a forest. The stripy wallpaper is probably to blame. Sometimes I’m scared. A wolf’s paw rests on my shoulder.
The mannequins in my kitchen will be eating toast now. They’re welcome to it; I don’t even like bread.
My room smells of rotten eggs. I’ve no idea why. The stink would make you gag, if you were here and not elsewhere or six feet under or nowhere. Actually, I quite like the stench, which I consider a charm to ward off evil.
Something’s rustling in the dead leaves.
Everything in this room looks like an old photograph. Mum and Dad are probably sliding around in the shadows somewhere, their cracked heads leaking red wine.
It’s a good idea to have a book to hand, to while away the time. Not that I’m waiting for anything. You know what I mean. It’s just sensible to have a book, so you can look at words and wonder at their odd shapes and try to fathom their meanings. Stops you thinking about other things.
Mind you, when I was little I fell into a book and was lucky to get out alive.
Memories trouble me. There are three kinds: memories of things that have happened, memories of things I think happened but didn’t, and memories I invented to amuse myself or cheer myself up or give myself something to be sad or angry about.
I can never tell which category a memory belongs to. Probably doesn’t matter. Memories are stories or disconnected parts of stories, and we all need stories.
Here’s one: I’m walking along a shingle beach under a thin veil of cloud on a warm summer’s day, when I come across a set of false teeth. After I’ve kicked it into the sea an old man with a bleeding mouth walks past.
I often find myself laughing for no reason.
There are seagulls on the roof, screeching like a Punch and Judy show. They’re probably in cahoots with the mannequins.
Something’s moving among the trees or the stripes in the wallpaper or the bars of my prison.
It’s difficult not to feel uneasy.
This is an excerpt from my book In the Dark Room.
Texts and images copyright James Knight. All rights reserved.