August 7th, 1993
Francis played Mingus in his head, trying to drown out the memories that lurked in his leaden mind. He wanted to be able to go to sleep and wake up and have it all be a dream. Just a nightmare. Maybe his whole life up to now was a dream, and he would wake up as a child again, and toddle down the hall to his parent’s bedroom.
Dream or no, the saxophone sang out in his head, and as it tried to soothe him he hoped and prayed someone else would do something about this. Call the police, call the military, call anyone. Call for someone else. Someone who wasn’t him. Someone take this off of his hands and let him sleep…
No, no…sleep wasn’t an option. Anything but sleep. The face still burned in his mind: it hovered there every time he closed his eyes for longer than a moment, staring at him with blank, concrete and spray-paint eyes. Taunting him. Daring him. Mocking him.
Francis shot awake, shaking. There had been a snap. He was sure he had heard a snap. It was still ringing in his ears.
No, no snap. Everyone was still there. Heads attached to necks attached to shoulders. Not popped off like the cork in a bottle of champagne. Four of them sitting around a worn and stained coffee table in Adam’s worn and stained apartment. Jack was there, and Agatha, and Adam was on the phone.
“You all right?” Jack asked. What was that, his fifth cup of coffee? While the bags around his eyes were nothing new, it seemed that now they were even more pronounced and dark. He almost looked like a raccoon. A scraggly, slightly overweight and rather curmudgeonly raccoon.
“Yeah…yeah…I’m fine.” Francis sat up straight, pretending that nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Jack shrugged, and if anyone had taken any extra notice, they did not show it: the circle was, to the man, ragged, and red-eyed. Francis glanced at his watch and counted the hours again: fifty-six since he had last slept. That was before they had found it. Before they found the statue.
He tried bringing up Mingus again. The sweet tones held out for only a few seconds bit before wobbling. Someone’s voice dribbled in through the dying notes, followed by the click of a hung phone receiver. No escape from this dream, then.
Adam walked back into the room, golden retriever padding at his heels. He sat back down in his chair as naturally as a man who could still see it. As comfortable as a king on his throne, as he always was.
“Is there any more news about Connor?” Agatha spoke for the first time in hours. The worry in her voice was evident, no matter how much she tried to cover it up. Everyone else was worried, of course, but no one as much as Agatha. Connor was an old friend, a mentor, and possibly a lover, if rumors were to be believed. Francis didn’t particularly care at this point. Did who was bedding who even matter when a statue could move?
“John and Dmitri are with him now. He’s conscious and talking,” Adam said, folding his hands. “And the doctors say he’ll make a full physical recovery.”
A “That’s good” was ready on Agatha’s lips as Adam shook his head.
“He’ll recover, but only physically. Mentally…he’s like a machine now. John says he barely speaks more than a word at a time. Mostly yes or no. Shaved off all of his hair and claimed it was “unnecessary”. The memories are all there, but it’s not him. Not really.”
Adam scratched Kain behind his ears.
Silence passed briefly, before Agatha excused herself, holding back sobs.
“Sorry?” Jack said as the bedroom door slammed. “You saved his life.”
“My best friend now thinks he’s a robot because he got jumped by a statue that kills people. That's not much of a life, Jack." He slumped down in his chair, looking defeated. Kain licked his hand. “Not much of a life at all. I was too slow.”
Jack set down his coffee. His raccoon eyes were, for once, not angry. Not kind either, but not angry.
“Calm down, man. It's not the time for another breakdown.”
The phone rang again.
“I’ll get it.” Francis stood up and shuffled over to the kitchen area. “Need some more coffee anyway.” It was a lie and a truth. He wanted to sleep, he needed to sleep, but he couldn't. Wouldn't. Wouldn't couldn't shouldn't and shan't.
Who was he kidding? He held the receiver up to his ear.
“Crow residence, Francis speaking," he croaked.
“Frankie, dude, you have got to come see this. This place is amazing.”
“Ben? What are you…what place?”
“The place we found the statue, dipshit!”
Francis was sure his heart stopped. It had to have stopped.
“You went back?”
“Yeah, with Nemo and Fats. Do you know how far this goes? We only ran through like, some storage areas or some shit when it was chasing us. This place goes on for miles! It’s gigantic!”
“Ben, listen to me. Get out of there. We found that thing in there already, and who knows what else is in there, and it’s still in there.”
“But we locked it up.”
“No buts, man. This place is a ghost town. Totally empty. Statue hasn’t moved. Lock the door and it doesn’t bother no-one so long as you don’t go looking at it.”
Francis didn’t respond. Dammit, Ben. You had to go back. Probably wanted some photographs or something, like those tourists in Pisa when they pretend to hold up the tower. You’d take that fake katana of yours and pretend to kill a monster.
“Hey, Frankie, still there?”
Francis groaned. He hung up the phone without answering. Stumbling back into the living area was more of a daze than before. They went back. Why would they go back? To prove something? Sheer stupidity? Or to see the statue again?
Why was any of this happening?
He felt a wave of exhaustion fill his body like water in a glass. Whatever fumes he had been running on, they were out. He could practically feel his brain giving up and shutting down. Or was that his imagination?
Francis collapsed in his chair.
“It’s Ben,” he managed to say as his eyes slammed shut. He could dimly hear the ringing fade off as the face appeared. It had been waiting for him. Waiting for him to blink, just like Kayla blinked. His consciousness faded swiftly, clawing on to the encroaching dream for a few more moments.
Close your eyes
No…I won’t blink… won’t sleep
Sleep. Let all things be undone.
No. No no no no no no NO
I’m not blinking, motherfucker.
I’m watching you.