My eyes snapped open. Thank God, it was just a dream, and what an awful dream it was, definitely one of the craziest ones I've had. But the more I examined my surroundings, the more I realised this wasn't my living room, in fact, this wasn't my house.
The door opened and Thomas and a woman appeared. Thomas looked relieved while the woman stared at me, saying nothing. She carried a drink in her hand and set it on the table beside the sofa- green tea.
Thomas sat on the armrest of the sofa, baring a wide grin. "I'm so glad you're okay. Are you feeling better?"
I rubbed my forehead, it was all vague pieces to me. I saw something and then I woke up on a sofa. "Y-yeah, I guess."
"That's good, Joyce made you some tea."
"Oh, you're Joyce. You look ah- a lot… different than I imagined," I stuttered.
She didn't say anything. Her black unblinking eyes cut through my soul like an icicle and sent shivers down my spine. I didn't feel welcome or safe around her. It didn't help that her body was made out of muscle, those thick biceps of hers could punch through concrete. The more I looked between Thomas and Joyce, the more the pair seemed like opposites. Thomas always smiled and was happy to talk, Joyce had a bored frown and never said a word.
Thomas laughed nervously, trying to lighten up the atmosphere. "She's like that with new people," he said to me, "she'll warm up to you. Promise."
"I'm sure she will," I murmured. "Hey, what happened in Joyce's basement? I can't remember a thing."
"Well, I'm not sure either. I think you must've seen something-"
"Yes! Mannequins, what's up with that?"
"I'm sorry?" Thomas looked baffled.
"The mannequins, one pulled my hair. Don't you remember?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," he drifted off.
I didn't believe for one second he was telling the truth. Mannequins would explain why this hamlet is almost deserted, why they existed was beyond my reasoning. I decided to prove them wrong.
I walked down the road decorated with small waist-height stones and shrubbery lit up by the sunshine. Picking a cottage closest to the outskirts. I moved the small gate and walked down the stone path surrounded by larges bushes, several colourful flowers and a tree. A mini wonderland made me smile.
A single knock opened the door. I frowned, who'd leave their door unlocked? I poked my head through the crack of the door and called out hello. No response. I asked if they were okay- maybe they fell. I opened the door fully and stepped into a tight hallway. An eerie and suffocating silence shrouded the place. The door on my left led into the living room and no one was present. I went upstairs, cringing when the floor creaked. My breathing became ragged, losing the will to speak. "Anyone here?" I whispered. The sound of water running made my heart jump. My shoulders were tense, hurting my neck. I reached for the knob to the bathroom and opened it.
A mannequin stood in front of the mirror. Breathing. Staring at itself in the mirror. I couldn't scream, my voice caught in my throat. I moved my foot back but ended up slipping on a bar of soap. Squealing, I hit my head against the floor.
The mannequin's head twisted towards me, its blank face cutting through me. "Darn, told that Margret to pick up after herself."
I gasped, and scurried up the floor, jumping over several steps but stopping in the middle when a female mannequin stood at the end of the staircase. "Fredrick!" she screamed.
"Get off my case, will you?!" yelled the male mannequin back at her, now standing at the top of the staircase. "You're the one who left the darn soap on the ground, now our guest is sore."
"Maybe if you weren't so blind you could've lifted it. But you're too lazy for that. Stupid man," she spat.
"Crazy woman, I'm getting a divorce."
Margaret fired a wooden spoon at Fredrick and it knocked against his plastic head. He picked it up and fired it back at her, but she ducked in time. "See? You're absolutely useless, can't even throw a spoon."
Their arguing continued long enough for my shock and horror to melt into confusion and extreme uncomfortableness. I recognised Fredrick as the same mannequin that told me Joyce made great green tea. I wasn't imagining them, they really did exist. Answers explaining the possibility of walking and talking mannequins swam through my head, jumping from one explanation to the next, but none of them logical enough. Who created them? Why and for what purpose? A failed science experiment, people dressed up in white suits and caked with make-up to play them, the possibilities were endless.
With no sign of the argument dying, I scooted down the railings, past Margaret, and slid the closed. I could tell hear them through the wall. I met up again with Thomas and Joyce to give them an update.
"There you have it," I announced. "In that cottage are two mannequins called Fredrick and Margaret having an argument about their marriage."
Thomas put his hands up defensively. "Okay, I admit it. There are mannequins. You don't need to worry about your blood pressure, they're harmless and will probably leave you alone."
"That's a relief."
Thomas had to leave for a quick few minutes as his girlfriend requested his presence via text, leaving me alone with Joyce. She said nothing. The silence was the worst I ever experienced. What is she gaining through this?
"Mannequins will keep you safe," she said. Her voice took me by surprise, she was confident and her voice deep.
"From who?" I asked, baffled.
A wicked smile stretched across her lips, and I felt my head shrink into my shoulder to make myself smaller.
"From my amazing green tea."