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I’m always fascinated by Dr. Frankenstein’s work and the things in his laboratory. I was peering into one of the tall beakers filled with some amorphous, fleshy object submerged in a bubbling, yellowish liquid when it struck me that colors had ever so slowly crept into Nod. I never noticed it before and it saddened me for some reason. I suppose because I failed to notice something so momentous. Suddenly a question flashed into my mind and I blurted it out to the doctor.

lab vat

“Why can’t I look upon the City on the Hill?”

“Ah, my young boy, you aren’t ready to yet. When your will is strong enough, you will. And when you do, the site of it will tear you down again. But don’t worry, the tearing down will be a release. A rebirth.”

I pondered this while I browsed his lab some more. Then I asked, “Who is the Ochre King?”

At this, Dr. Frankenstein stopped his work of sewing an appendage onto one of his flesh golems and looked at me. “He is the Savior. The one who will set things aright. The Repairer of Reputations. The one orchestrating everything behind the scenes. He walks freely between worlds and affects everything he touches with true sight. He is your salvation from Her. But you already knew this didn’t you, Mr. Branner?”

I just nodded my head.

***

I have to admit that the Shadow Man has taught me how to communicate without uttering a sound. I use that knowledge to “talk” to Shelly. She is very good at it too. But today we actually were able to have a real conversation and I now feel as giddy as a school girl experiencing her first crush. If all of this anguish and torment have been a prelude for our fates to intertwine, then it was all worth it. Every second of every torture, pain, and immolation.

The most amazing part is that she approached me. That just confirmed that my infatuation with her is equally reciprocated. Of course the ruffian who was escorting me intervened when she approached our table, but she asked him if she could speak to me and he agreed as long as we remained on opposite sides of the table. Then she sat down. “I just wanted to thank you for picking up Sarah,” she said indicating her doll.

“You’re quite welcome,” I said winking at her knowingly. “I know your name is Shelly. I’ve overheard them say it. My name is Jimmy and I find you simply captivating.”

She bent her head smiling but I knew she was just being coy. “Thank you. How long have been here?” she asked.

“I lost track of the time a long while ago. I remember my family was somehow terrible. I remember a funeral of a girl. But she’s not really important. I remember drives around the city. And then the city grew haunted so they brought me here. I know about many things that they hide from me. I also know about things many of them don’t know or can never know. I wish I could say more but . . . not right now, at least. How about you? Why are you here?”

“I would rather not talk about it. It’s very hard. I would rather talk about nice things.”

And so that’s what we did. We talked about all manner of frivolous things. But I know she really wanted to talk about things that we couldn’t mention in front of others. Still, it was wonderful. It was pure bliss.

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