I am now sitting on an old bench, the green paint chipping as the old boards splinter underneath my weight. My heart is beating rapidly, and I am fatigued, cold with sweat in the frosty morning air. It is four o’clock, and the moon is heavy in the sky, masked here and there by a vagrant cloud or two. The soft hushes carry the smell of damp grass and dirt; the dew is congealing upon the withered blades found creeping through the cracks in the concrete walkway.
Behind me is the madhouse; the malign edifice from which I recently came, bolting madly with the cumbersome voices whispering at my back. I swear I could almost feel their words upon my skin, as some weight upon me; almost as much as the wind that cools my perspiration as of this very moment. But as I wait here, pausing often to look timidly over my shoulder, half-hoping to see the faint outlines of animated bodies in pursuit, to prove that I am not quite insane, I do so that I may bolt again in fear for my life.
If I should die this morning, if those deviant figures should rise against me unexpectedly, I wish to have the events prior recorded here, so that any who may come across my dismembered body may know what has come to pass.
My name is William L. Hume Jr., and I am a middle-aged man living out a very poor mode of existence in Ichor Falls, West Virginia. My means for such a distasteful living are as equally detestable as the mode, but do not assume that I have lived as such since the days of my ignorant youth. I once attended a small community college, around the ripe young age of nineteen, spending two years as a studious incumbent of the collegiate atmosphere, but my father fell under the effects of an illness from which he did not recover. I dropped out to care for him for a period of time, though it swept him eagerly, and thus was a curt struggle.
After his passing, I began labouring in a peculiar manikin shoppe on the outskirts of the Lower Alethia district, needing to supplement myself with an income required for independent living. This place resembled a darkly cast penitentiary, a little decrepit jailhouse in the company of gnarled trees—whose brittle wood and grasping limbs were seemingly animate—surrounded by a ghastly iron wrought fence as tall as two men and lit sparingly by shoddy cold lamps, casting feeble rays upon the soft and foetid earth. I worked third shift, from the darkest hour of night to the cresting morn, and the count of those employed during these hours was drearily thin. I found myself among the company of dozens though; dozens of inanimate bodies that loom in the shadows silently.
I must admit, that, on my first day of work, I could not help but feel a churning in my stomach as it knotted from the sight of dozens of manikins; people without eyes, people without faces, people without words. They stood, huddled en masse underneath dim lights, shadowing the corners of the place with brooding tension; and it felt as though they thought, conspired even. I could swear on my father’s grave that their arms moved without immediate cause. That their heads turned slightly, and that their legs trembled. Each time I manufactured one of these abominations, these artificial men, I felt it would leap into animation and mutilate and dismember me in the most grotesque of fashions.
Despite these assumptions, lest I be viewed a crazed man, I dared not speak of their dark, brooding presence to anyone; not even my fellow colleagues. Yet, I swear upon it, that each of my fellow workers felt the same as I, for I often caught them casting furtive glances into the shadows, as if those pale and immobile creatures should spring into motion and kill us all. Without regard to the unreality of such a conception, I continued to watch each manikin closely, as they stood, finished and staring without eyes to stare with. Whispering into my ear. Breathing over my shoulder. Threatening. Conspiring.
Over the past month, I haven’t been able to sleep well. I would ride the bus home, surprisingly, to the Alethia district, after my nightly shift, sleeping fitfully all the while. I then would lethargically stumble into my little apartment, arriving after a twenty minute ride into town, and fall into bed, dreaming dreams of horrific scope and suggestion. In my dreams, the manikins rose into the air and spake with voices unheard. They looked upon us with eyes unseen. They slew us all, and marched from the factory in a mass of silence and gloom; a pale army of mechanical men that glided quietly over the soft grass and toward Olympus.
Well, it seems that my dreams weren’t that far off, to a degree. This evening, I arrived for work as usual, and took to my labours with the same dissatisfaction as the day before. Though, when I entered beneath the cold and feeble hanging lamps, there was a peculiar air about the place; and though there is always such an air, this one seemed even more peculiar; almost mephitic. A feeling I could not quite understand. I seated myself at the table where I have worked for several months now, and as I began my preparations, a shuffling sound came back of me.
I turned my head, very slowly, to view a group of frightful manikins. They stood there, silently, looming over me in their lofty heights, regarding me in a curious manner. I felt this to be my imagination at work, possibly from too much work and too little sleep, so I turned back, though now with an apprehension. In doing so, I then heard another shuffle, and immediately regarded the hind of me, worrying myself no longer with precautious. Behold, the group had come closer by the measure of an inch, though it seemed they had not moved at all. Maybe it was my imagination, once again at work, meddling with what sanity I still possessed. Maybe they had actually moved. I considered the foregoing measure to be of more reason, so I turned, even more so apprehensively, back to my work once again. I then heard a voice whispered so quietly into my ear, it was certain to be heard by no one else. This occurrence sent chills down my spine. A fear so stark had struck me then, that I was seized by a weakened state, thought I can’t quite call it paralysis. The whispers continued, and I began to perspire. The whispers continued, and my hands tensed on the arms of the chair, where they were stapled by fear. The whispers continued and I felt the air of breath upon my shoulder.
At that point, my demi-paralysis broke, and I was unable to stifle a shout any longer. I screamed at the top of my lungs. I rose and made a break for the door, sprinting madly and wildly as I went. During my egress, I turned my head to look back at those responsible for the mutterings. Those pale and inordinate statues were now at the immediate back of my chair, standing silently and innocently as if they had not moved their inanimate selves with any cause or motion.