In February of 2009 the Family Man carried out one of his life long aspirations: to visit the small town of Greywitch. It wasn’t every day that he was able to visit a place so rife with tangible dread. Contained within every sound—from the incomprehensible mutterings of a passing stranger to the arthritic settling of an old house—was an irrefutable sense of anticipated doom. All because they are the unfortunate neighbor of a particularly infamous town, one that is said to have grown from the seed of the devil himself, and blossomed, rancid and twisted, into a garden of shadows and secrets. This town is known only as Devil’s Clay.
Originally, the Family Man sought to bed down in the Low House Woods, a span of forestry separating Greywitch and Devil’s Clay, but he decided against it, as delving into another’s darkness uninvited is dangerous, not to mention impolite. Instead, he stayed at a local motel (a decision he didn’t come to lightly, as he preferred the hard concrete of an alleyway, or the moistened feel of wet sod), hoping that the nightmares infesting Devil’s Clay might reach out to him and find a willing dreamer. They did.
The notorious killer walked through a pair of decrepit Victorian doors, entering a room crowded with inhuman shapes and clouds of skulking fog. Situated in the front of the room, behind a flimsy layer of crimson and silk, was a stage colored with the beaming glares of yellow and red spot lights. When the curtains parted a preternatural hush filled the room, an audible silence that could only be born from the most eager expectations. Then, descending from some vague space above the platform, was a strange and ominous figure. She was a smiling jigsaw of divorced parts, a marionette forced to dance by the kicking fingers of an unseen puppeteer in the gloom above. The crowd cheered in response to her bizarre gestures, spilling their septic laughter and crooked songs across the smoke filled room. Eventually, the patchwork woman’s empty gaze, which resembled black holes churning inside a small universe of hollow bone, laid themselves across the infamous murderer.
“Why, what do we have here? Looks like we have ourselves a visitor,” the puppet appeared to say through grinning, dead lips.
The Family Man replied, “I’m simply an admirer, puppet, a lone dreamer taking a stroll through this endless nightmare. It’s beautiful.”
The dismembered woman laughed and looked around the room, seeking the attention of her patrons. “And he calls me a Puppet! If only he knew!”
“Only one of us is attached to strings,” the Family Man countered, slightly annoyed by the woman’s jeers.
“Free will is an illusion, my gigantic friend. The shadows are slaves to the sun; the seas toil to the song of storms; and I dance to the playful urges of hidden fingers. Tell me, my murderous friend, do you know who pulls your strings?”
The Family Man felt a sudden heat flare-up from his back; his father had awakened. And although the killer’s rage was becoming increasingly palpable, the butchered marionette chose to press on, uttering a singular question.
“Do you want to know?”
The dream suddenly erupted into flames, and before the Family Man could savor anymore of the delightful scenes before him, the roar of his raging father forced him into the waking world.
When the Family Man returned to consciousness, he dwelled on the strange words of the mysterious puppet, and why they had infuriated his father so. But after about thirty minutes of pointless pondering, he decided to move on, chalking the mutilated woman’s words up to the clever deceptions of a well practiced trickster (she was from Devil’s Clay, after all). Regardless, the Family Man left Greywitch the following morning, choosing to a find his next victim elsewhere. He reasoned that poaching from another’s territory was as pathetic as it was rude, and, perhaps even more importantly, that an artist should never impose his vision upon another artist’s canvas.
Although the Family Man had to travel over a hundred miles to reach the next town, Elwinsburgh, he found his next muse quite quickly. And how could he not? For the moment he stepped across the borders of Elwinsburgh he saw a woman who looked exactly like the marionette in his dreams. Intrigued, he quickly identified the woman as Stacey Sammons, a local antiques dealer who owned a small shop on the outskirts of the city.
Sammons spent much of her day selling and procuring antiques from various sites around the country. And while she was not the diabolical marionette of the Family Man’s dream, she did give off a certain air—a sense of unspoken wisdom that drifted around her like smoke. With every move she made, he could see the shadow of that unwholesome puppet playing just beyond Ms. Sammon’s skin, seething like a ghost caught in a cage of flesh and finitude. As such, the killer began his work as soon as possible, stealing into Ms. Sammons residence after a few nights of observation, and giving back to her the dream the world had stolen from her.
Two mornings later, the customers of “Stacey’s Antiques” were welcomed by the cold, red smile of a woman held together by cords and twine, instead of flesh and bone. It was beautiful.