The Mannequin

The Mannequin

A Story by Andy Robinson
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Charlie works nights alone. But when his boss brings a mannequin into the shop, Charlie thinks he has found the companionship he's been craving. But something is not quite right.

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‘Evening!’ said Charlie as he came into the shop.

Pete looked up from his paper momentarily before replying with a firm and friendly nod of acknowledgement.

Charlie set his bag down and looked over the sales report for the day, pausing only briefly to remove his coat and beanie hat. The figures reflected poorly on the various charts and graphs adding to the strong decline of sales over the past several weeks. He absorbed the unflattering news until folding the report and filing it away with the others.

Pete sat up from his paper and began to gather his belongings. He was tired and needed a good nights’ sleep after a long day of routine and boredom. ‘Can you tidy the polo shirt bay and email me the targets for next week before you leave?’ Charlie nodded in reply while he picked up the newspaper and studied the bold headline.

‘Have a good night Charlie, don’t fall asleep!’

Pete moved towards the front door, leaving his partner for the arduous night shift. Before he could step out he was halted in his tracks for a final question. ‘Pete? What the f**k is that?’

He turned to see Charlie pointing towards an unsuspecting figure at the back of the shop, visible only by the dull glow of the ceiling light.

‘Oh right yeah. I found that by the Mount Batton estate this morning, thought it could be used to promote a few t-shirts and things. You can dress him if you want?

Charlie studied the chiselled features and blank expression of the naked figurine.

‘It’s creepy!’ he calmly replied.

Pete laughed. ‘It’s a mannequin dickhead. Remember what I said, don’t fall asleep!’ he turned and left.

Charlie stood rubbing his eyes until moving towards the door and double bolting it tightly. The wood was rotting slightly but still looked presentable despite being broken only a fortnight ago. He pondered about tending to the rot but needed to examine the reports more carefully while he was still moderately switched on.

He walked to the back room and put the kettle on, arranging the coffee granules into a mug and spooning in the sugar. The water bubbled to life as he counted the seconds, splashing milk into the dark powder and topping the rest with whiskey from his hip flask. The aroma ensnared him momentarily. Scotch was his favourite for the night shifts. He always considered it an obligation to drink a respectful beverage if the situation was particularly difficult and an eight hour night shift was no exception.

Charlie drank deep and made his way back into the shop, dragging his feet like a troublesome toddler. Turning the corner he violently flinched at the sight of the mannequin causing him to spill coffee on his jumper. Sighing in annoyance, he rubbed his palm into the damp material, trying to shift some of the moisture.

‘Don’t do that!’ he ordered. The man stared back at him without any sign of apology.

 

2

Over the space of three hours, Charlie studied the sales reports with attention and focus, pausing only occasionally to top up his coffee mug every 40 minutes or so. Without having any music or entertainment he was forced to be captured by the silence and entrancing spell of the whiskey.  Fuzziness and confusion took effect after several helpings which left him in a daze, unable to focus on his task at hand. The numbers had become blurry and his sense of data managing had quickly vanished. ‘I could sleep for a bit?’ he thought as he rubbed the bridge of his nose with a pencil. ‘No, No, No you can’t! Pete said no sleeping. You can’t fall asleep.’ His daze had rendered him unable to decide. ‘But you’re tired and drunk, you obviously can’t work, just have five minutes and Pete will never know.’ He slapped his face, letting his argument settle before standing up and moving towards the back for a glass of water.

The mannequin watched his stagger and drooping sense of posture. Whiskey takes its main effect when the victim is standing up. Returning, he finally took the time to study his guest. The grey material was crafted into a fine form of height and strength. The bald head gleamed in the dim glow while his soulless eyes darted forward and his arms hung out. He was at least 6 ft 5, towering over Charlie and looking out into the great beyond. Almost like a Greek idol.

‘You don’t talk much do you? The man stood blank and Charlie laughed.

‘I suppose you’re wondering why a man of my talents is working a night shift in a clothes shop? Well sir I’ll have you know that we were burgled a fortnight ago. They broke in through the front door and nicked almost all of our stock! So now, Mr Presumptuous Pete informs me that I have to work all through the night just in case it happens again. Like, burglars are going to hit the same shop they did a fortnight ago. What a load of rubbish!’

He paused to swig the tap water while the mannequin patiently waited.

‘And I suppose you’re wondering why I’m drinking? Well that’s none of your business sir!’ Charlie laughed again, spilling his water in the process. After wiping away the droplets from his mouth he slunk his head down.

‘Between you and me, this company is in trouble. I don’t expect for a second that you understand about sales targets, breaking even or even profit margins but let’s just say that I might be making a trip to the job centre soon.  Do you want to come with me?’ He paused at the thought. ‘We could be travelling clothes merchants! I could provide the clothes and you could model them. We’ll get a van with an open top side and travel round the country, visiting towns and showing off our stock.’

He looked at the nakedness of his companion.

‘But sir, you are not dressed, allow me to show you some of our finest collections.’ With a grin, he scurried off to the shelves returning with bright t-shirts, jackets and trousers, all large.

‘You will be the bell of the ball my good sir! And which would you like to try on?’ Without an answer, Charlie followed the point of his finger to a t-shirt he had dropped on the floor and the other to a pair of jeans.

‘Ah a fine choice may I say. You know these were once described as fit for a king. And that’s what you are my good sir, a king!’ With a smile he dressed the man taking care not to rip any of the clothes. After he finished, he stood back to admire his work. He wore a brown t-shirt with a side pocket and torn jeans. Charlie had crowned the ensemble with a green bomber jacket and Yankee baseball cap.

‘Fit for a king!’ he said as he returned the rest of the clothes to the shelves.

‘Now! I’m going to go to the back and fix myself another drink. Can you watch the shop for me?’ the man replied with eye contact.  

Pouring himself another healthy measure of scotch, Charlie returned whilst carrying a chair and setting it down in front of his guest. He took several swigs from his mug as he gazed upon the hulking figure, looking in awe at his craft and style. Charlie had always wanted to be athletic and tall from a young age, though his short, stumpy form had always got the better of him. Many would bully him about his size in school, though he never let them affect his skills and performance. Though even Charlie knew, the most hardened person can be damaged. His wife had often informed him about his lack of masculinity both physically and mentally. Charlie was never one for fighting or confrontation. Achieving respect in this sense was indeed his hardest challenge. And staring up at the figurine was in itself quite intimidating.

‘You’re not so creepy after all. I guess the sight of you naked is pretty startling to anyone. Now all you need is a name. Any suggestions?’ he didn’t reply. ‘We need something normal but something you’ll be remembered by. I’m not going to spend my days calling you ‘mannequin’, how about . . . Nicolas?’ The man stared. ‘No? Ok, what about . . . Cole?’ again nothing. ‘Ok, Ok we need something a bit more obscure, let me think.’ He pondered for several seconds before leaping up from his chair in excitement. ‘I’ve got it! Lester! Your name shall be Lester! What do you think?’ Within the depths of detail in his face, Charlie could make out a hint of a smile. ‘Yes! I knew you would like it.’ And they sat talking for several hours.

 

 

 

By 3:00 am, Charlie had covered almost his entire life. The ups, the downs and the parts he didn’t quite remember. Lester hung on his every word, listening intently and never interrupting. Charlie had sobered up by 4:00 am and despite the initial embarrassment of talking to Lester, had appreciated the company. Now he was frantically trying to finish his reports and email them before Pete arrived in an hour. His headache was beginning to form, causing mild dizziness and dryness in his mouth. Nevertheless, he managed to complete his work with ten minutes to spare.

He gathered his mug and made his way to the back, ignoring Lester’s stare for the first time. Setting his mug down, he put his jacket and beanie hat on with the intention to leave as soon as Pete arrived. His headache was now in full form. He needed a pillow to caress and a hearty breakfast to gorge. His phone buzzed as a text came through from his wife reading:

No time to sleep today,

Need you to paint bathroom for work party tonight.

Sorry xxxxxxxxx

Charlie bit his hand, snarling into his flesh as the saliva dripped onto his skin. ‘And I guess I’m not invited to this work party’ he rasped. He grabbed his bag and stormed out into the shop before turning to Lester for a final time.

‘You wanna know something? I drink because I have a wife who doesn’t appreciate me. That’s why I cheated on her last month.’ As he said the words he felt the guilt ooze out of him like a string of slime. He buried his head in shame as he clasped tightly to his shoulder bag.

‘So there, now you know everything.’ He turned his back and made his way to the door.

 

3

 

At home he saw Diane only briefly as she was making her way to work. She kissed him on his nose and told him which colour to paint the bathroom before leaving. He fell asleep on the kitchen floor for ten minutes, sleeping off his headache and catching the few moments of solace before he needed to work. He thought the comfort of a bed would ensnare him for too long. 

The paint dripped down the side of the sink as the stiff paint brush was slapped against the wall. Charlie swayed uncontrollably; occasionally nodding off on his shoulder and jolting awake when he dropped the brush. The paint job was a messy array of uneven streaks and blotchy gloops making the wall seem alien from the rest. ‘I don’t care anymore! She can moan all she wants, I can’t carry on!’ he slunk down to the floor and smeared the paint into his t-shirt. ‘But she needs this done and you won’t hear the end of it till it’s finished.’ With a sigh he stood up and stared. ‘F**k!’ and he spat on the floor.

That evening he returned to the shop with his belongings from the previous night. Pete sat up as Charlie entered, closing his newspaper.

‘Did you get some sleep?’ he calmly asked.

‘Kind of, I had to paint my bathroom for Diane’s work party tonight so I’m still a bit dozy.’

‘You feeling ok though?’

‘I guess so!’ he smiled.

Pete sat quietly and examined his colleague.

‘No headaches or dizziness?’

Charlie stood confused. ‘Umm no.’

Pete made his way to his side and put a hand on his shoulder.

‘What I mean is . . . have you slept off your hangover?’

There was a moments silence as Charlie struggled for words while Pete maintained eye contact.

‘I know you’ve been drinking here at night mate. I run a business you know, I could sack you!’

Charlie frantically fidgeted as he tried to gather himself. His hip flask dug into his side like a sly taunt at his misfortune.

‘How did you . . .?’

 ‘It doesn’t matter how I know, all I do know is that I’m giving you one final chance. No more drinking ok, I will find out if it happens again Charlie.’

He nodded like an obedient dog and reeled off some forms of apology before Pete put his hand up and made his way to the door.

‘I will find out! I kid you not.’ And he left without another word.

Charlie breathed deep and organised his belongings. There was menace in Pete’s voice and he knew that it was serious. His palms were sweating and he mopped his brow, listening to the intensity of his heart beats. ‘What if he tells Diane? She’ll kill me!’ And within his thoughts he became lost. ‘But when would he tell her? It’s not like they regularly talk or anything.’ And again he searched for an answer. ‘What if he did though?’ He looked towards the back and saw Lester. His clothes hadn’t changed and his expression was still blank yet he found it uncomfortable as if seeing him for the first time again.

‘Stop looking at me!’ he shouted and Lester once again made no reply.

He rummaged his documents and tried to settle himself in his chair. There were stacks to get through and he knew that without focus he would surely make regular mistakes. ‘Just do the work and stop worrying! He confronted you, now it’s in the past. Move on!’ The numbers made no sense and the graphs were muddled. ‘But how did he know? No one was here?’ his sweat dripped onto the documents. ‘A security camera maybe.’ He puzzled for a moment before looking at every corner in the shop, frantically trying to find his answer. ‘No, no there’s no camera or anything! Nothing makes sense, how the hell did he know!?’

He heard something fall at the back causing the silence to be broken. Emerging from his hands, he peered towards the back. Lester stood still. Their eyes met as Charlie focussed his gaze upon his features, until witnessing the same, sly smile, he had seen the previous night.

He walked slowly towards the back. He was no longer swaying. Lester peered down on him as he came closer, towering above his frightened companion. Charlie’s gaze was again fixed as he studied Lester with worry. ‘Are you really going to say it?’ Lester’s eyes became fierce as Charlie opened his mouth.

‘It was you, wasn’t it?’

The smile returned.

‘You told Pete didn’t you?’

His lip trembled as he was frightened by Lester’s presence and his own absurd suggestion. ‘Am I going crazy?’ his sweat itched. ‘How else could Pete know though?’

Lester’s smile remained as Charlie tried to find reasoning.

‘Stop smiling!’ he didn’t listen.

‘Well you know what, you couldn’t have told Pete because you are an inanimate object who can’t speak or move! You’re nothing! You don’t even deserve those clothes!’ he ripped off the t shirt and removed his jeans, leaving his grey physique exposed. The smile had finally disappeared.

‘How do you like that?’ he paused for an answer.

‘Got nothing to say? Good! Then stop mocking me! I’m in control!’ and he turned Lester around to face the wall.

 

4

 

‘You’re going crazy aren’t you?’ Charlie sat down trembling. ‘No, I’m not! Lester had told him, there’s no other way!’

He swayed in rhythm to the clock unable to settle. He took out his phone and checked his emails in an attempt to divert his attention but nothing had come through. Bashing his phone against his forehead, he breathed deep until a buzz emerged. A text from Diane had come though:-

I want a word with you when you get home!!

 

No kisses and no acknowledgement. ‘Oh no!’ Oh god please no!’ Pete had told her. He knew he had! The work party! She must have invited him! ‘But Pete doesn’t work with her, Pete works with you!’ ‘But how does she know? It doesn’t make sense!’

He picked up the stapler from the table and hurled it at Lester’s back, denting his smooth finish.

‘You see what you’ve done!! Pete has now gone and told her about my drinking! What the f**k am I going to do?’ his screaming had caused an echo. Lester remained facing the wall. Charlie wiped his sweaty forehead, clenching his teeth and pacing the floor, emitting groans of agitation and rage while he fixed his eyes on Lester and gave a menacing smile.

‘Well I am going to make you pay for what you did! Nobody takes advantage of me Lester!!’ He marched towards the back spitting abuse as he frantically tried to search for his desire. Burying his head in a tool chest, he emerged with a rusty hacksaw. ‘Chop his f*****g leg off Charlie!’ He giggled uncontrollably as he came back into the shop, dragging the blade against the wall, causing a high pitched screech. He gently turned Lester around and looked into his cold stare. The menace had returned and his eyes were fierce but Charlie didn’t back down.

‘I’m going to show you what happens when you cross me!’ he knelt down and touched the blade against his leg. ‘Any last words?’ No reply. Charlie laughed a soft giggle and began to hack away at Lester’s thigh. Dust oozed out of the cut like flowing blood and within the depths of torture came sounds of wincing and pain. Charlie remained fixated, grinning like a young boy at Christmas. He was sawing for almost 3 minutes until the leg fell off. It clunked down on the floor echoing out into the shop and remained still. Lester’s stump was still twitching as Charlie stood up and threw the saw on the floor.

‘Now you know Lester!’ If it happens again, it’ll be your head!!’

He stared into his eyes feeling like a warrior. Lester’s gaze had softened and his expression looked hurt. Charlie studied for several seconds, unflinching and focussed. Lester’s mouth merged as Charlie stood still. His expression was now anger. A fierce look of rage as he stared down at Charlie making him back down and avert his gaze.

‘You don’t belong in here Lester! I’m moving you!’ he dragged him into the back, towards the utility cupboard and cleared out the mess inside, throwing brooms and mops onto the floor. He slotted Lester inside and gave a final stare into his dead eyes.

‘Let’s see how you like it in here!’ and he slammed the door shut leaving Lester in total darkness.

 

5

 

3:00 am. The shop was silent and Charlie had calmed down. His phone stood blank as he contemplated phoning his wife. ‘The party must have finished by now!’ Yet he felt the desire to wait till the morning. The morning light seemed more appealing than ever before. He wanted to bask in sunshine, away from the warm lighting of the shop, away from his problems and away from Lester. To enjoy an evening of solitude in a restaurant or a bar, sipping whiskey like a king and feeling normal for the first time in months. Charlie rested his head on the desk and fell victim to his warm thoughts. They made him smile a smile that wasn’t venomous. They made him feel loved. It was hypnotic and Charlie fell asleep.

He awoke to the sound of knocking . . . slow, dense knocking that rung out throughout the shop. Charlie sat up slowly and listened. They were loud and unnerving, never pausing and never stopping. He stood up and made his way to the back stepping in time to the knocks. They were coming from the back and getting louder. ‘Just run away!’ He battled with his conscious. He was scared and wanted to run and hide but he needed closure. He needed to know the truth.

The knocks kept wailing as his made his way to the cupboard. The door was rattling in its frame as the violent blows kept hammering against the wood. Charlie approached clutching his chest and cowering in fear. The blows against the wood were coming fiercer with more strength with every knock.  Charlie stood in front of the door and it all fell silent. He looked down at the handle. A slow screech emerged as it moved down. The door rattled again as it tried to break free. The hammering returned but far more violent than before. The door would break! Charlie started crying in hysterics as he fell against the door and caressed the wood. He ran his hand down the frame as the blows tried to shake him off. Tears were streaming down his face as he wailed uncontrollably at his own nightmarish horror.

‘Lester, I’m Sorry!!’ he screamed in a fit of tears. The wood continued to rattle as finger nail screeches ran down the frame.

‘Please don’t hurt me! Ahaaaa!’ he vomited on the floor as the shadow from inside swayed to the blows.

‘Please don’t tell my wife I had an affair! I love her so much! I don’t wanna go! I don’t wanna go!’ his tears were staining the wood but Lester wasn’t stopping.

‘Lester, please! I’m so sorry!’ he wailed a screaming fit.

The door was battered and Charlie hung on. The figure inside was getting faster and Charlie was ready to confront whatever lay inside. The final blow blasted him away from the door making him fall over. The handle came down as the door screeched and began to open. Charlie cowered, tucking his knees in his arms and swaying like a lost toddler. The shadow emerged from under the crack and moved towards its prey. Charlie shut his eyes and waited for his horror. The footsteps approached and Charlie gasped as he was shaken to his core by a pair of hands.

‘Charlie, Charlie!!’

He opened them momentarily to see Pete towering over him. The knocking had stopped, the screeching had died and the door lay motionless.

‘Charlie! What’s going on?’ Charlie sat motionless as he looked towards the door trying to find the signs of life that were once so horrific.

He stood and ran to the door, taking the key out of his pocket and unlocking the double bolt. He ripped open the door and saw Lester, standing still and looking as lifeless as ever. No anger, no rage and no expression. Charlie slammed the door shut and grabbed Pete by the shoulders.

‘How did you know?!!’ There was desperation in his pleas.

‘Charlie . . . you need to go home!’

‘How did you know!! Answer the f*****g question!’ he began to cry again.

Pete looked in worry.

‘Know what?’

‘About my drinking! There’s no security camera or anything! Lester told you didn’t he?’

Pete began to back away from his clutches.

‘Charlie, you’re worrying me. Who’s Lester?’

‘The f*****g mannequin! He told you didn’t he and then you went and told my wife! What else has he told you? Tell me what he told you!’ his cries were harder than before.

Pete sighed heavily. He remained silent for several seconds until taking Charlie’s hands off his shoulders and placing them to his sides.

‘Charlie . . . you’re an alcoholic! You’ve been coming to work stinking of booze for months! I’ve known for ages!’

Charlie backed away looking confused.

‘Diane phoned me because she was worried. She said you had painted ‘Lester’ on your bathroom wall thousands of times.’

Charlie gazed down at the floor trying to find his answers.

‘But he’s alive! I know he is! He was banging on the door trying to escape!’ Pete looked down in disappointment.

‘Charlie . . . he’s not real. You’ve been doing odd things around here for a while now. The shop has been left in a mess! You’re numbers for the company don’t make any sense! I’ve found whiskey bottles strung around the place, I thought what I said yesterday would set you straight but you’re clearly not well! Just tell me . . . what happened to you to cause all this?’

Charlie backed away to the wall and slid down to the ground. 

‘I cheated on Diane.’

Pete sacked him the next day. Charlie told Diane about his affair and she filed for divorce. He began attending therapy with a psychiatrist but was allowed to live independently without the need for institution. He took the time as a life lesson. He knew he was ill and needed to repair but something was always going to remain. Moving past the shop he would look in and see Lester standing at the back and staring ahead, reminding Charlie of what he did and never letting him forget. 


© 2017 Andy Robinson



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Added on November 2, 2017
Last Updated on November 2, 2017
Tags: Horror, Mystery, Crime, Death, Isolation, Addiction

Author

Andy Robinson
Andy Robinson

About
I love to write and will happily read anything if anyone wants some feedback. My stories tend to be pretty dark from their characters but I also really like stuff that will make me laugh and stories t.. more..

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