In 1942 Katie wasn't sure which had gotten her attention first, the crackling sounds or the bright yellow flames moving toward her. Being only a wax mannequin, she could only stand in her rigid state feeling horror swelling up inside of her.
Flames rippled across the first floor the two-story store. The burning clothes went up like matchsticks and only serve to remind her of her soon to be fate. If only she could move. Get out of the store and to freedom. Even the mirror on the nearby wall was on fire as it reflected the flames across the room.
Katie wished she could choke, do something as the smoke filled her nose. She stared helpless, not knowing if she wanted to scream or cry as her mirror image showed her feet fusing together into a melted puddle of wax. The room got higher and higher as her melted body sank lower and lower to the ground. The clothes she had on sticking to her melting flesh.
Outside the sirens of fire engines showed up and hoses shot bursts of water into the old store before it could completely burn to the ground. The owner of the shop couldn't help but send a tear down his check as he comforted his wife and kids. It would be tough to start over, and he thought maybe it would be better to begin again elsewhere.
After the fire was put out, one worker stepped into the rubble of charred lumber and broken beams. Being paid to open the store wall safe, he worked latched off until the door fell off. As part of the wall broke away, the ceiling came down on top of him. Neither him nor the people outside noticed an energy rise out of a puddle of wax and off across the open field between the main store, shed and barn.
In the year 1992, Angie was wearing a plaid dress that flared out at the hips. With the toes of her bare feet painted bright red, she turned the burgers on the outdoor grill. "You'll eat your supper at your usual time, Theodora." She said to her daughter as a car was heard on the other side of the fence.
"Looks like your sister, Katie made it," Tomas said as he gave his wife a kiss. "Think she had any luck in her house hunting?"
"You mean house haunting," Theodora giggled. "They say someone died in a fire in that house."
"Now, now," Tomas grinned. "You know there are no such things as ghosts."
"Katie, dear," Angie smiled as she gave her sister a hug. "How was the house you looked at?"
"Trying to get rid of me huh?" Katie joked, though she had been a burden on Angie since the despair she felt from loose George had resulted in her loosing her apartment. "I know I'm late, but I wanted another look at the house in the daylight. The driveway was well hidden and the lawn needs a lot of work with the uncut growth and weeds."
"Doesn't anyone take care of the place?" Thomas asked.
"It is a fixer upper, but it's also beautiful," Katie commented. "The shed next to the main house, has quite a few rotten boards. I'm not sure if it is safe to move in right away. For the among of land and buildings it is an incredible low price."
"Why so cheep?" Angie asked.
"Because it's haunted, mommy," Theodora giggled again, but hushed when she saw how her parents were looking at her. She rocked her rag doll in her arms and went to sit on the swing in silence while Tomas and Angie turned back to Katie.
"Katie?" Angie asked.
"Actually Theodora is right," Katie grinned. "You wouldn't believe how many people believe in haunted houses. Not to mention how hard it is for real estate people to sell homes when they are believed to be haunted."
"What really got me was when I found myself standing inside the place," Katie continued. "It was the biggest case of deja-vu I ever felt. Like I stood in the room staring at the wall once before. It had felt the strangest sensation of being completely stiff for a moment as a gazed into a dusty old mirror. I don't think it's a feeling I'll ever forget."
Katie started walking around the room, protecting herself from the strange feeling of being immobile. Her mind was haunted by her dusty mirror image that made her skin look so pale and surreal. She wrapped her arms around her and began to run her arms as she felt a sudden chill. Even thinking of the house seemed to make her joints feel inflexible for some reason. "The shed near the main house isn't very big, but I think it can be fixed up into a nice place house for Theodora. Frankly, it'd feel better having some company now and then."
"You sound like you don't want to move in," Angie said worriedly.
"It's a good buy," Katie reminded her. "Just because few real estate agents will show it, doesn't mean it's really haunted. I'd be a fool not to jump at the chance to have a real home of my own."
Katie's mind bounced from thought to thought. How much emptiness her life felt when she saw Angie and her family. She was searching for something that would bring her life meaning again. For her, the house seemed like the answer.
The next day, Tomas let himself into the house and found darkness. Electricity hadn't been turned on yet. He stopped, his eyes adjusting to the light. He had let up on Katie, knowing she was old enough to make her own decision about keeping the house. What the hell was he going to do about the haunting feelings she expressed?
The kids were asleep when Katie got home, but at least Angie was up when she kicked off her shoes and pulled her soaking wet jeans off in front of the fireplace. The warm glow of the fire didn't seem to help warm the coldness she felt inside her body. She was glad that Angie and her family were going to stay with her until the power, telephone and water companies restored things.
"Let's sit down and talk awhile," Angie said between hiccups. With a bottle of wine in one hand she poured a glass in the other and handed it to Katie. Katie smiled and took a sip. One sip became another and yet another.
"Wh- What are you doing?" Katie asked as Angie pressed her lips against Angie. She squeezed Katie's breast and Katie let out a soft moan and felt wet. The two go into a 69 position, giggling and licking one another's pussy.
"I'm so glad you bought a place of your own," Angie panted between orgasms.
"Tell Tomas, I'm sorry I missed dinner," Katie said as she dried herself off and went to bed. Sleep didn't come easy as she tossed and turned in bed, the sheets arousing her sex more than she could ever remember. She stared with her eyes transfixed on the ceiling. She even noticed herself breathing more softly. She couldn't understand what was wrong. Wondered if it had to do with her making love to Angie, though it was like some outside force had control of them like puppets.
The next morning, Katie tried to talk to Angie before Tomas got up. But Angie didn't want to listen to what Katie was speaking about. Angie just stared at her with a maternal affection that bothered Katie. "About last night," Katie began. "I didn't mean anything from it."
"It was the wine." Angie stared at her pink painted toe starring through her sandal. "Tomas loves me and I love him and Theodora. That's all that matters. I don't think the romantic candlelight will bring up such moods again."
Katie said nothing and waited. She then waited some more. She would say nothing as Angie searched her own feelings for the right words to say. The words Katie wanted to hear the most.
"It was a mistake," Angie finally said. "I don't plan to tell Tomas or Theodora. I can't tell you why I did what I did last night. But I don't want them to know what happened."
Katie finally answered. "It's your choice."
"Thanks, Katie." Angie felt the dim lights made the place more romantic than depressing. "What's wrong?"
"It's just all the weird experiences in this house," Katie replied. "Whatever scared the relaters off I don't want to know. Don't want a repeat of what happened to us."
"You think they were serious about this place being haunted?"
"I don't know what to think anymore?"
"We'll talk some other time, Katie," Angie said as she heard Theodora wake up for breakfast.
Theodora came into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of milk. As Katie finished her breakfast she just stared at Angie and thought about her dream. Her skin seemed very pale and, her body felt unable to move as she continued to feel fear deep within her mind.
The nights that came were different for Angie and her family. The house wasn't really ready for people to move in. The nights were more difficult for Katie. Katie would wake up feeling stiff and having the need to walk about. She would check of Angie and the kids. She stared wide-eyed at the window where the street light sparkled in the distance, dimly lighting up the driveway. The old house still had mysteries yet to be answered. After she closed the blinds, she returned to bed and an uneasy sleep. Her dreams focused on being paralyzed and engulfed by flames.
Something inside her snapped her back awake. Everything in her room was normal, except the feeling of the horror just out of the reach of her mind. She felt like she hadn't been breathing all night long. Or at least she had held her breath all night. It wasn't like any of the nightmares she had as a child. She had no idea what the helpless images meant.
"Am I loosing my mind?" Katie thought to herself.
Katie suddenly had the horrible daydream image of being under someone's control. The visions of some unseen person posing her limbs like she was his property. She realized she could not trust herself and had to seek some answers.
"What are you doing up?" Angie asked as she tied her robe belt and heard the downstairs clock chime 5:30am. "Is everything alright?"
"I think I'd like to learn a little more about this house's history," Katie said to Angie as she started doing some light housekeeping to distract her mind from any more terrifying visions. She wasn't about to admit that she needed to see a doctor.
A few hours later, Katie felt awkward at the city hall building planning room. "I'm sorry if I'm messing things up," she apologized to the head of the department as he picked up the books and blue prints she had finished with.
"Not to worry." The woman said picking up a blue print and putting it on a small handcart. She pushed them to the self and started putting them back.
"Maybe you should go back to looking for a job, or at least a hobby, sis," Angie said as she carried some more books over to the table. Angie wanted to go home, but didn't want to leave Katie alone in the state of mind she was in.
"Where's Tomas?" Katie had asked Angie, who started to go through real estate records of past owners.
"At work. We may be keeping you company in your house until power is restored, but we still have to pay our house payments."
Theodora went tearing through the isles of books with a paper airplane held up above her head. She rounded a copy machine and let it fly across the table her mother was sitting at.
"Stop it!" Angie demanded, feeling embarrassed that she had to bring her along. She couldn't get a babysitter at such short notice and didn't want Katie going downtown in the state she was in alone. Taking her by the hand, she sat her down and put a coloring book in front of her to play with.
"This is interesting," Katie said as she passed over a newspaper article. "It says that the house used to be a store. Not only that, but the owner's wife was killed in an alley in town one night."
"Any further articles about the investigations?" Angie asked, finding the case had been left unsolved. "Did they ever catch the murderer?"
"Not from what I can see," Katie replied as she skimmed through the articles. "There is an article about how the owner felt such grief about losing his wife, that he had a mannequin made in her image. She was set up in the store until it mysteriously caught fire and melted."
After they left city hall, Katie sat in her car holding the steering wheel as Angie buckled Theodora into her car seat. She left the office and headed back toward the house. Once home she fixed each of them a sandwich and ate them in the kitchen.
When Theodora was done, she went up to her room to read since there was no electricity for the television or radio. Angie started to wash the dishes with store bought water. She now knew what her parents went through in Florida when they returned home from a hurricane evacuation and found all power and water gone.
Katie turned to leave the kitchen when she thought she saw a figure in the darkness. She was about to call out Theodora's name until she noticed the silhouette was too tall to be Theodora. She stood in cold terror, wanting to run away, but her legs felt stiff. A sudden drop in temperature caused her nipples to go erect, yet her arms remained frozen at her sides.
"Katie?" Angie asked as her confused voice snapped Katie out of her trance. Katie turned and ran in terror to her room with her bare feet slapping against the wooden floor. Katie could hear the sound of footsteps coming up behind her as she shut her bedroom door.
Katie just sat on her bed at the far end of the room and stared at the door. As her fingernails tapped her legs, her skin made a hard clicking sound, as if her skin was hard plastic. She listened to the sound of the footsteps grow closer and watched as the doorknob began to turn. With a creaking sound the door was slowly pushed open.
"Katie, why did you run off suddenly?" Angie asked as Katie released her breath and felt relief. She ran the palm of her hand along her leg and found that it felt perfectly normal. She got off the bed, walked over to the door and stared down the empty hall.
"I thought I saw someone in the house," Katie answered. "Someone other than us or Theodora."
"It must have just been the sun playing a shadow trick on the wall or something," Angie replied.
"The shadow seemed to be standing in the middle of the hall, not along the wall," Katie said as the two returned to the kitchen and saw nothing there.
Katie needed to relax. She went into the bathroom and pealed off the clothes from her sticky body. She got into a bath and felt like she was in a cool, wet tropical paradise. She stretched out her legs and felt the tensions rise out of her stiff muscles.
"Are you loosing weight?" Angie asked when she stepped pass Katie's bedroom door to see her tuck her blouse into a pair of jeans. Her nylon coated feet slipped into a pair of loafers.
"Why do you say that?" Katie asked.
"Your figure just seems a little more surreal than normal," Angie said as her eyes moved up and down her form. "Your waist seems smaller and your breasts fuller than before."
"I'm not dieting or anything." Katie ran her hands down along her waist and over her hips. "We've been eating the same food over the past few days. I shouldn't loose any more weight than you."
"I just don't understand…" Katie started to say as she felt how cold her skin was.
That night, Katie and Angie sat on lawn chairs outside and stared at the stars while Theodora played in her playhouse. Katie wanted to talk to Angie more about her chilled feelings. She said nothing. Angie felt terrible about making Katie feel stupid when they went back to the kitchen hall and also said nothing. Nothing had happened to Katie growing up to merit her behavior.
Angie finally broke the silence. "Remember when we use to camp out in the backyard as kids?" Angie asked. "We use to sit and stared up at the stars a lot. I don't think we could both fit in that tiny pop tent now if we wanted to."
"We could barely fit in it back then," Katie giggled.
When Tomas showed up, Katie went to lie in bed until morning. While heading upstairs, she felt off balance and was afraid she'd fall and knock into Theodora before getting her to bed. It occurred to her than she couldn't sell the house even if she wanted to. The papers of her purchase hadn't been fully processed yet. So, haunted or not, she was stuck with the place. She was just glad she wasn't in the house alone.
"Oh, God," she murmured aloud as she rolled over on her side and stared at the open doorway. The figure seemed male, based on its height and broad shoulders. She felt completely helpless, as she couldn't even blink at the figure. She wanted to close her eyes in the hope of it being gone when they were reopened. She couldn't budge them.
The shadow man entered the room and hovered over her. It stopped over by her headboard and tilted its own head to look at her better. The figure moved through the shadows as Katie stared glassy eyed. Katie felt as light as a doll as its transparent arms stood her up on tiptoes. His hand reached up and ran along her smooth skin, which seemed to be made of hard plastic. It felt like the touch of a real person.
For some reason the idea of having someone dress and undress her thrilled her. Katie stared down at the faint tracks of light that fell upon her skin from the streetlight. There wasn't a hair or freckle on her entire body. She felt a wave of pleasure as he picked her up and moved her a couple of paces back. Katie was but an observer as she became impaled on a rod that sent waves of pleasure throughout her body.
As swiftly as it occurred, the vivid scene was gone. Katie woke and found her breath. She sat down on her bed and looked at her shaking hands. She clenched her fingers into fists, glad for the sensation of motion. The freckles on her skin had returned, but she couldn't understand what was happening to her.
"Did you have an uncomfortable night?" Angie asked as she found Katie sitting in the lawn chair and watching the sunrise.
Katie nodded. "Had the weirdest dream about being a mannequin with a rod shoved up my ass."
Katie drew in a breath and looked at her hands. She no longer felt totally real. She knew that Angie would listen to anything she had to say, no matter how unbelievable. "All right. Let's talk about the man in my dreams. I'm sure it wasn't my late husband."
"Who else could you be dreaming about?" Angie asked.
Katie just shook her head. "I don't know. I don't understand what's happening to me."
Katie and Angie returned to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. They sat with only the ticking of the battery clock breaking the silence. She saw the shadow man again. This time it moved behind the chair Angie was in so Katie could see him.
She stared at him aghast. She wanted to warn Angie, but knew that she was in no danger. It was Katie that he wanted. "You won't tell Thomas or Theodora about my dreams will you?" she asked Angie.
"No," she said as she learned over and kissed Katie on the lips and made them both feel wet. Katie never felt so trapped. "Your dreams will be our secret too." After a brief pause, she added, "You don't look very thankful."
"I don't?" Katie asked. "What makes you think that?"
Later that day at work, Tomas was stopped by his friend, George. "How's Katie?"
"I haven't been around her enough lately to tell," Tomas said at the water cooler. "I feel that Angie is hiding something from me. She seems concerned about Katie for some reason. I think it has something to do with the ghost stories dealing with her new house."
Katie dreaded going back to the house from the market. Downtown she called her new number and found that the telephones had all been connected. She didn't mind paying Angie back. She was more concerned with learning what was happening to her. Each vision or dream was becoming clearer than the last.
"Aunt Katie," Theodora smiled as the smell of cookies filled the kitchen. "We've been cooking."
Angie's voice interrupted. "The gas and electric companies showed and fixed you all up. After this weekend is over, we'll be returning home."
Katie tried to answer but instead she swelled up with dread about being in the house alone. Alone with the shadow man. She wondered if keeping her door locked at night would keep it out and protect her.
After paying Angie back, Katie went upstairs into the bathroom. It had been several days since she had shaved her legs, but they were smoother than before her hormones took over.
"Are you okay, Aunt Katie?" Theodora asked as she ran pass on her way to her room.
That night, Katie laid in bed with her back toward the darkness. Her breath paused as she heard footsteps approach her. She felt a pair of breasts brush up against her back as Angie's manicured fingers tweaked her nipple. Katie let out a low moan.
What an adventure the two had during the night. She kept her screams to herself during her highs, though she had no idea why a happily married woman like Angie was doing such things to her. The adventure remained sweet till she passed out.
Katie looked about her room and saw no sign of Angie ever being there. She wondered if Angie had gone back to her room. Back to her husband. Katie felt like her skin had been tightening to the point where she couldn't move.
Then suddenly the feeling was gone and Katie blinked. She got out of bed and found nobody on the stairs or the first floor. When she reached the first floor, she turned again, feeling now as if she was starring at herself. She felt rigid and helpless as she felt a growing heat. A heat like the place was on fire. But she was wondering if her subconscious was picking up what she had read in the city records.
Katie tipped her head back and eyed herself in the wall mirror. "What is wrong with me? Why can't my mind control my muscles?"
The shadow man touched her bent knees. She felt like she was rooted into the floorboard. She heard a voice as the shadow man moved behind her.
"Feel like talking?" he asked.
Katie wanted to answer, but found she didn't possess a voice.
Katie drew breath and collapsed to her hands and knees when the sound of tiny footsteps approached. Katie looked straight at Theodora as she came downstairs. Letting her lead the way, she was glad to get away from the entrance.
Angie looked across the distance at Katie during breakfast. The length of the table separated them as she watched her sister taking slow bites.
Katie began to talk in a tone too silent to be heard. Angie strained to hear but it was as if she was talking from the other side of a vast canyon. Angie stared at Katie who gazed in a dream like state at nothing particular.
Katie didn't see Angie for the rest of the day. That night, Katie tossed and turned sleeplessly in her bed. She almost fell out of bed as she listened to the ticking of the clock. Even when it did go off in the morning, she didn't feel at all tired.
She waited until she heard someone at the bottom of the stairs before she went down. She saw Angie dusting the railing with her hair wrapped up in a cloth while wearing an old T-shirt and jeans. With a wet sponge she started to scrub the wooden steps.
"You look like you've had a good night sleep for a change," Angie smiled up at her sister.
"Actually I haven't slept all night," Katie replied unable to think why. "I can't understand why I'm not the least bit tired. Though I am a bit stiff."
Katie reached the bottom of the stairs and saw the shadow man standing behind Angie. "Nooooooooo!"
Katie's eyes flickered open when she felt a damp cloth on her forehead. "What happened?" Angie asked. "Why did you faint?"
The cold moisture of the cloth seemed to make the dampness of her face even more shinny than normal. She couldn't remember seeing such shiny skin before, except for the lady mannequins in the town's shopping center windows. "I'm all right," Katie said as she forced in a breath.
Shock washed over Katie as her skin felt cold and tight. A tingling sensation passed through her body. Katie reached out for Angie, but drew her hand back in.
Katie heard the sound of a door slam shut. Theodora ran down the stairs and disappeared among the shadows of the kitchen. Katie was so glad to see her that she didn't mind the fact her body had gone as limp as a rag doll in Angie's arms.
"I think you need to get back to bed, sis," Angie ordered. "A little sleep will do wonders for you."
"Angie, I think I need to talk to you about something."
Angie sat close to Katie on the bed Indian style, her elbows resting on her knees. "Angie, I wasn't going to say anything, but something happened downstairs. It was like I couldn't move a muscle. Like I was a living mannequin."
"I don't want you to go," Katie cried out as she grabbed Angie by the shoulders. "Whenever I'm alone I feel less and less real. I can't live here by myself."
"You're still seeing the shadow man?" Angie asked.
Katie simply nodded silently.
Angie pulled her knees up and gave Katie a hug. "I just want you to know that I'm there for you when you need me. Even if it is just a phone call."
Katie just sat still after Angie left. She was afraid to get off the bed and go near the door. She wished she knew if the shadow man was hallucination or real. Would come back if she tried to leave the room?
Katie's fears were justified. With Angie now gone, the shadow man proceeded into the room. She immediately knew something was wrong. Her own mind processes didn't seem to work properly. He had soft, inflexible hands. The bones were melting away inside her. Her skin was smooth as honey and her glassy eyes stared directly ahead. She seemed to only wear a touch of lipstick and eye shadow to highlight her face. The surreal plastic only had the faintest resemblance to Katie. The color was similar, but lighter in complexion.
Unfortunately it was true. It was like some force too strong for her to stop was transforming her into something else. She wondered if the person knew what he was doing to her and why he was doing it. It was then that he stepped out of the shadows and showed his face.
He was in his thirties, and Katie recognized the features right away. It was the guy who killed the shopkeeper's wife. She knew now that he was indeed caught and sentenced to death. She also knew that she was somehow becoming the woman who had died, possessed by the victim long since departed. Somehow he was attacking her again.
Katie wanted to squeeze her eyes shut and pray for someone to come in and snap her back to normal again. However, she couldn't move her eyes and nobody came in to save her. He wrapped on her cheek and she listened to the hollow sound her head made. "I think you know what has happened to you by now," the man said with a grin. "Though you noticed the changes coming over you since you moved in. The fact you didn't need to go to the bathroom and slept less hours."
He picked Katie up and carried her to the entry hall. He put her on a support rod at an angle so she could see herself in the wall mirror. Katie could hardly recognize herself. Feeling an emptiness like none before, she realized with full force that she now lacked life, she was no longer part of the present world.
The next day at work, Angie came running into Tomas' office in a panic. Her voice was hysterical. "Tomas, Katie has gone missing!"
"Missing!" he shouted, jumping to his feet. "What are you talking about?"
"I went to see how Katie enjoyed her first night alone in the house and she was gone. Since her car was still in the driveway, I knew she hadn't gone into town."
Telling his secretary that he'd be out of the office for awhile, the two got into the car and started to search the town with no luck. Perhaps if they ever go to a nearby mall outside of town, Tomas, Angie or Theodora will see a very familiar-looking mannequin in one of the departments of a clothing store. Her face forever frozen toward those walking by her immobile form.