Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dark As It Gets

Two women from the auction house walk down the hallway, and the younger one speaks in a whisper, as if people still lived there.
“Despicable,” she says. “His own wife. And he didn’t even attend the funeral.”
The older one shoots her a look, but she’s oblivious.
“They say…” she adds conspiratorially, but the other cuts her off with a raised hand. They pause outside a closed door.
“This will take some time,” the older woman says. “There are 500 of them, many quite valuable. It’s really something to see.”
Only one boat leaves the marina after midnight, its lights off and its course erratic. The man at the helm barely notices the pylons and buoys as he slips out toward sea. Next to him is a plastic bag filled with some clothing and a letter; he intended to drop them into the water. But he seems distracted.
“Stop,” he mutters to no one, shaking and shaking his head, the boat veering this way and that. “Stop it.”
“She collected her entire life, but acquired almost a third of them – more than a hundred – during the last two years of her marriage. Those weren’t pleasant years.”
“Where are they from?”
“All over the world. She stacked them on specially-made bookcases that line the room. You might want to prepare yourself. It’s a bit of a shock, walking in and seeing them all…”

“I said, stop it!” the man shouts out in the wind as his boat zips by a reef. But it’s no use. People in the street. Manikins in the storefront. Photos in the frame shop. None of them would listen. They were everywhere, and all of them, all of them…

They enter the room. Every space on the wall is lined with shelves, and every shelf is filled with dolls. Exquisite, porcelain dolls, their small faces expressionless. But something is wrong, because the young woman chokes and can’t speak. The older one looks around, seeing and not seeing, seeing and not seeing, until finally it strikes her, and she is just as dumb.
Each of the five hundred dolls stares from its shelf with a set of tiny black sockets, its eyes plucked out.
The man heads full throttle into the open ocean. But water is collecting in the bottom of his craft; he must have hit something back in the harbor. He doesn’t care, doesn’t even look down. The boat drives onward, thumping over the waves and catching great bursts of spray, until the nose slips into the surf and doesn’t come up. The whole thing turns on its side once and sinks, the man strapped into his seat and not struggling.
“Stop looking at me,” he says with finality before he’s gone. And down in the deep water his last thought is of the fish.
All those eyes, just like glass, hanging in the dark to watch him go.

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