The car lay upturned in the ditch. The headlights continued to shine through the packed trees, illuminating the tangles of vines, the moss-speckled bark, and the broken turnpike laying in the dirt.

The radio shone in dull yellow, illuminating the black interior of the car. Music tinkled out of it, tuned to Radio 4. Static fizzed, like the hiss of a small robotic kitten. The music resumed. It was a tinkling ballad, featuring the warbling of an operatic singer crooning about a girl two blocks away who could never understand how he felt, underpinning the instrumentals.

Apart from the glowing haze of the FM radio, the only other light came from an iPhone that illuminated the tired, jaundice-looking face of Gary Brenan in the harsh phone torchlight.

The little bubble encased around three moving dots at the bottom of the text log screen was replaced by a block of text. The phone let off a brief “whoo-oop,” an electronic sigh in the silence of the crashed car.

“can not find eny help, m8,” read the text. “i gave up and got in a car. just hitchhiking it back 2 city. suggest u do same m8.”

Gary cursed Ray, regretting even bothering to make the trip out to the ass-end of nowhere with that sorry excuse for a pal.

Ray Denson had gone to get help two hours ago. And given the choice between helping both of them and helping himself, of course that selfish fuck had picked the latter.

Gary began to type, making certain references to Ray’s mother, his sexuality, and a small run-on-sentence involving Ray getting sexually impaled by a boar, then stopped. He exhaled, begrudgingly held his thumb over the backspace key, and deleted his diatribe.

As much as he’d never liked Ray to begin with, he’d needed him to land his job in journalism in the first place. And in that particular kind of biz, you can never turn around and you hate pretty much all parties involved in your professional life.

He settled instead for kicking out with his leg, hitting the latch of the glove compartment, which opened up with a snap.

A bumper-sized bag of M&M’s spilled out from the darkened corner, pattering against the bottom of his jeans, riddling the floor with a thousand multicoloured chocolate pebbles.

For a moment, his heart rose and he believed all of his problems were solved. Then he realised with mingled disgust that the packet was yellow, not brown.

He was allergic to peanuts.

Gary wondered if he’d starve to death in the wilderness, trapped inside the hulking metal vehicle. He swept some of the glass away from his head and dusted down his suit.

Some situations only seemed to go from bad to worse.

There was nothing for it.

Just off of the abandoned highway, the door of a green upside-down Ford Escort opened. The car plinked agitatedly as Gary crawled out of the wreckage. It died instantly as he stood up and slammed the door shut.

He walked up the green copse into the road. Apart from the glowing cat’s eyes indented in the centre of the road, the metal barrier that stretched off infinitely into the night, and the swaying oaks with countless gesticulating branches, Gary Brenan was quite alone.

He began to walk.

Three miles down the road, three miles that offered nothing but lonely and desolate lampposts, the faraway barking of a dog somewhere in the far distance, and two cattle grids, Gary saw a house. It was a small, but fairly suburban, terraced house that lay just down a dirt lane. A light was exuding from behind a curtain the colour of extremely dull sandpaper.

As he approached the house, moving through the overhanging gorse bushes and rotted wooden fencing, he noticed the light vanish from behind the curtain.

He depressed the rubber doorbell and stepped back, wiping his feet on the scuffed welcome mat as he did so.

The letterbox slat opened, revealing two pairs of eyes beset into a dark and troubled face.

“Go away.”

“Mate, I’ve got nowhere to go.”

“Sure you do; back the way you came.”

The letterbox slat fell closed with a bang.

Gary Brenan pounded the door.


“I’ll call the police.”

Gary felt the patterings of rain on his shoulders as the wind picked up. He hunched his shoulders, his thin sweatshirt and ripped jeans doing little to keep away the chill. In a few short hours, he knew that it would be near unbearable.

He sat down on the doorstep, looking out into the night. Above the trees, the cold stars burned vividly against the country night sky. Outside of the city, the sky looked almost dreamlike in its beauty. As he looked up, enthralled, the door swung open behind him.

“I ain’t got no telephone.” the man mumbled. He was fiddling with a flimsy Victorian nightcap on his head and seemed to have hastily pulled on some clothes over his pyjamas, which poked out from under his clothing. “If you want to stay the night, all I got is a sofa. That’s it. That’s all you’re getting.”

“No, no, that’s fantastic. Thank you so much.” Gary realised at the last second that he was almost gushing, but didn’t care. “Thank you.”

“Well, you can stand out here and catch your death or move your ass inside. The storm ain’t clearing for a good while, probably not until tomorrow afternoon.” He motioned with a calloused hand and Gary, huddled and shivering, entered the house.

The man in the nightcap closed the door behind him and latched it.

The man stared at Gary from the dusty camelback sofa as Gary sat on a boudeuse love seat with hundreds of horrible dust-caked tassels, shifting uncomfortably and starting to wonder whether it would have been safe in the vestiges of the ruined car. Only five minutes into getting out of the freezing night, he was beginning to regret his decision.

He felt the springs in the seat creak as he leaned forward on his seat to pick up the glass of cold gin from the cracked plastic dinner tray balancing slightly precariously on the footstool in front of him.

He took a long and hard sip, feeling the hard alcoholic tang somewhere in the recesses of his throat.

He coughed, twice.

The man on the sofa, who’d identified himself as Jerry, smiled. “May always used to say that gin always tasted of Christmas trees.”


He sighed with a deep and seemingly unending breath. “It’s times like these when I miss my little May the most.”

Gary Brenan eyed the door, wondering just how quickly he could get to it before the maniac fell upon him. This was clearly a man who couldn’t quite ride the elevator to the top anymore; there was just something in his eyes.

“Your wife?” Gary offered.

The man shook his head, sadly. “At the end, she wasn’t. I wanted her to be, but she didn’t want it like I wanted it.”

Gary nodded sagely, internally resigning himself to the fact that this weirdo would most likely try to murder him and lock him in the attic with the rest of the bodies.

Normal people did not let you into the house, give you booze, and reminisce.

The man was laughing. His face turned to Gary as he tensed his legs, ready to run for the door.

His laughing fit was over, Gary felt himself mentally prepare to run for the door. Sure, there was the weather, but it was better to die outside than at the hands of some psycho serial killer.

“My name’s David. David Bier,” he said. “Sorry, I’m just telling you all about my ex-wife and I haven’t even introduced myself. I can only imagine how odd I must seem to you!”

“Not at all!” Gary replied, with a wry chuckle. “You seemed like a perfectly ordinary fellow to me!”

David narrowed his eyes, smiling, as Gary held his smile. Gary held the smile. He’d had practise doing it. He’d held it all the way through his brief acting stint and the job he had had as a used furniture seller. “Honestly!” said Gary.

This seemed good enough for David, who shrugged and gulped from his tumbler of cold gin. The ice cubes clinked as he set it back down.

“I know how it can be,” said Gary, surprising himself. “I know what it’s like to be lonely. You know, it’s hard.”

“What’s life done to you, Mr. Brenan?” asked David Bier. His eyes gleamed, soft and green.

“Well,” said Gary, putting on a very serious face he reserved only for funeral and bullshitting strangers into letting them sleep on his sofa, “my mother died when I was quite young, you see. I mostly had to raise myself.”

Dave nodded sympathetically as Gary continued his story, mixing lies with the first other thing that came into his head, which was the plot of Annie.

“In the orphanage where I grew up, we never learned of Santa and the matron used to bully us. It was a hard—“

Gary paused for dramatic effect, pretending (quite believably) to clear his throat.

“—hard life. But, you know, you get through it.

“One day at a time.” mumbled David. His eyes were filmy, clouding as he spoke.

“One day at a time.” Gary agreed. He thought briefly of his mother, who was alive and well, probably only an hour’s drive away. He pushed the thought out of his head.

“It’s nice to meet a likeminded person, in all honesty,” Gary continued. “And whilst we’re in the realms of the honest, it’s refreshing to meet someone who I can relate to on a personal level. Also, can I sleep on your sofa?”

David was silent. Gary stared out of the window. The rain was no longer splattering against the pane. It was hammering.

“I sorta don’t want to go back outside and you’re pretty much my only option, mate.”

Gary turned his head back from the window and almost jumped out of his skin at the ear-to-ear grin on the face of the main sitting on the sofa. The moon illuminated his face, making it all the more horrible.

“It’s been so long,” said David. “Just so long since I’ve met someone who could understand me. Understand me like you can, Mr. Brenan.”

He ran his tongue over his teeth, orange and discoloured. The tongue stopped on a particularly old and rotten molar, which he wiggled around thoughtfully. The smile never broke. Not once.

“Can I show you a secret?”

“Must you?” said Gary, weakly.

David Bier nodded, his white wisps of hair dancing across his hair.


As David turned the door handle at the bottom of the dark and musty stairs riddled with cobwebs and the slight smell of gone-off almonds, Gary was glad that he was wrong about David Bier being a weirdo who killed people and kept the bodies in the attic.

Clearly, this was someone who kept the bodies in the basement.

Dave pushed open the door and led Gary inside. David flicked the light switch.

The floor of the basement was made of the most beautiful, and yet heartachingly haunting, diorama. The dirt ground had been dug out to make a large trench, easily five or six feet deep. A jet pump at the end of the room pumped out water, which cascaded over a stone waterfall covered in ferns that had been planted in the wooden sleepers, beams, and struts.

A wretched looking wax model of a woman was grasping onto an outcrop as the manmade river whirled past. The torrid stream whipped at her body, eternally pulling her into the slipstream. Away from the rocks, a wax male model stood on some felt-effect grass looking out at the river and the drowning, desperate, female model. The figure has his hands in his pockets. His face is passive, uncaring.

Gary turned away from the diorama, stunned. David was sitting cross-legged at the foot of the diorama, looking at his own creation with a look of sad concentration. “It’s taken my whole life to make, Mr. Brenan. But after my darling May drowned, I had nothing else to dedicate my life to.”

Gary considered the scene in front of him. And why not, he supposed. No kids, no wife, no job prospects because you’re a weirdo in the middle of bumfuck-nowhere countryside. Gary was beginning to feel sorry for David and his bizarro basement display. And as he felt the pang of pity rise up from his guy, his ex-furniture salesman spoke up.

“People would pay to see this, you know?” said Gary. David grunted and didn’t look up; his eyes were transfixed on the two wax models.

“Too personal.”

“Is that your wife?”

“Ex-wife.” said David, his voice soft. “I wasn’t her husband at the end.”

His face hardened and he jabbed one stubby index figure at the model on dry land. “That poor excuse of a man was.”

“Oh,” said Gary, fully taking in what exactly it was that he was looking at. “This is a depiction of the time she—uh, she—yeah.”

The two men were quiet. Finally, David spoke up. His teeth were gritted together, as if he’d suddenly developed lockjaw. “He didn’t even try. He didn’t even try, Gary!”

“No?” Gary instantly regretted opening his mouth.

“No!” David screamed, turning his head to look at Gary. One ugly purple vein was bulging in his crimson forehead. Tears spilled from his face.

“There was nobody, nobody to help her. When the paramedics came and found her husband with his hands in his pockets, he told them he couldn’t swim. Couldn’t swim! In a fucking river! A river, Gary!”


“You know, the worst part of it is the fact that I know what he did. And every time I shut my eyes, I see her drowning, his filthy fat hands slide into his pockets, I see her struggling. And that fat fuck is still alive, Gary! He’s still alive!”

“You could make a lot of money from this, you know?”


“I mean if you rebranded it slightly, took it to London. People would pay, man. And I’m a journalist, so I know newspapers that would—“

Gary felt hands close around his neck and yelled as David Bier slammed him against the wall with a brutish strength that he couldn’t have even imagined that a man even half of his age would be capable of. His eyes shone with an incandescent rage which looked dead, as if something was behind them and shut off, leaving only anger. They were the eyes of a basking shark.

When he spoke, he spoke with a certain deadness that made Gary’s balls shrivel to raisins.

“This is my heart, Gary. This is my soul. You want to talk about rebranding my soul, Gary? About selling out my very core, you son of a bitch?”

Gary felt his windpipe slowly getting crushed inward. The light filtered out of his vision as David continued to strangle him. He only managed to get the words out in time, choked and half-decipherable.

“Eeleair! Eel-e-air!”

David dropped him and Gary fell to the floor, immediately stretching out his arms as he felt the maniac loom over him. “He’ll be there, David! He’ll be there! For the love of God, he’ll be in London!”

Gary winced, but the blow never came. He looked up to see David wondering. He’d retreated to the corner of the room and seemed to have almost forgotten that Gary was there.

He paced the room with his head in his hands. Any sympathy or pity that Gary had for the man in front of him had eroded and, as David turned back to him, he suddenly got the impression that this was not a man he wanted to piss off.

“I heard rumours he’d settled down in the city. With her money, no less.”

“So you’ll do it?”

“I’ll do it.”

David motioned Gary back upstairs, and the two men left the basement.


​The morning sun crested through a gap in the thick orange curtains and Gary winced. He stretched and yawned before turning over and noticing David’s face only centimetres from his own, stretched in that horrible grin of his.


“Gary, I was thinking about your little proposition,” he replied, his breath coated in the horrible smell of an old man who’d had far too much to drink the night before. “And I think it might just be the best idea I’ve ever heard.”


Gary looked into David’s bloodshot eyes, ringed with the black discolouration distinctive of a man who slept perhaps only once a week. He looked positively rabid.

“You’ll have to forgive me, I haven’t been to bed,” said David. “I was too busy thinking of the Titanic.”

“The Titanic?”

David’s face twisted into an expression of anger, and Gary felt a sudden slight stinging from the bruise on his neck, so he kept talking.

“As in the ship? You want your model downstairs to be turned into a reproduction of the Titanic’s sinking?”

“Yes!” David screeched, happily. “Yes! I can jury-rig the jets to pump water into an entire room and make a few more models! I can—“

Gary zoned out as David continued his crazy ramblings, sawing his hands through the air and smiling that horrific smile as he explained his ideas for a six-foot Perspex wall allowing the audience to view the drowned victims. He continued explaining the dimensions of the ship, the hull extending through the wall of the exhibit. Just the figurehead and the prow, giant and overshadowing the viewers.

As David went into detail of how he wanted people to get a sense of loss and fear and of the very hope being drained out of their bodies, Gary noticed three entire Sapphire Bombay bottles resting on the living room carpet. One was still dripping onto the carpet.

“So when do you want to start this exhibition?” Gary asked, cutting David off.

“Today, Gary! Today!”

Gary looked at David as he bounced up and down on him, like an excited child trying to get their parents out of bed on Christmas morning. He thought it wouldn’t be a good idea to say anything, and so he got out his mobile and phoned Ray, telling him to get into talks with any of art galleries and architects on his list of professional contacts. Gary felt quietly confident that Ray would pull through. After all, he owed him.

Whilst Gary was on the phone, David pulled the car cover off of his old Chrysler and checked the brake fluids, engine, and fuel levels. Five years had passed since he’d covered it, but it had all held up.

Gary and David wordlessly climbed into the Chrysler, David nabbing the garage door opener from a rotten shelf stacked with paint-caked coveralls and a small mint tin filled with nails.

David pressed the button at the top of the remote and the garage door folded back. He gripped the wheel and drove off into the early morning sunlight. As the car shot past the hills and vales on the sodden tarmac, he felt a strange feeling build up in him, a burning wish to have never entered the lonely life of David Bier.


The exhibition almost went off without a hitch. They had managed to secure a large plot near a stripped-out mall that had shut down during the 2008 recession. The area wasn’t fantastic, but there was plenty of footfall. Three men designed the mast and prow of the Titanic as David worked all night making human-sized wax models.

Whilst Gary had a hotel, David had a hammock placed in the building just next to the tank that had been filled with water from a local Aquatic pet centre. As far as Gary could tell, he never used it. All he did was work.

It took roughly two months to complete the project, and people flocked from miles around to see the Titanic. Madame Tussaud’s even reported that their profits had dropped due to tourists flocking to the weird fabrication that had been erected inside a disused building.

Gary did the pleasantries, talking to guests and offering them light refreshments and nibbles and trying to make sure that they never saw the lunatic who worked in the back room, where on calm evenings, a quiet laughter could be heard.

He made a fair amount of money from admissions and was, only two weeks into the venture, quite a wealthy man. When he made comment of the success to David, however, he made no remark on it.

“You said he’d be here,” said David Bier, violently carving facial features into a waxwork in the back, his teeth gritted. As his face grew angrier, Gary could have sworn he heard one of David’s teeth snap in two. “You said he’d come.”

“And he will,” replied Gary, money at the very forefront of his mind. “Just give it time.”

“I don’t have a lot of it,” David replied, as if that ended the conversation, and he turned back to his work: A small drowned child, their wax lips distended into a howl of agony.


The next day, Gary entered the building to the howls of David Bier, who was pounding the Perspex glass. After only a few seconds, Gary could see why. In the tank, there were perhaps two dozen sad, blue-skinned wax models that were tied to the bottom on translucent strings, but there was one that was entirely headless.

Gary recognised the model. It was the recreation that David had done of May’s husband, the man who had stayed on dry land with his hands in his pockets as his wife drowned.

After consoling him for two hours, he finally calmed to slow and gentle sobbing. “But it’s the most important model! It’s the only one that gave this project meaning!”

“Can’t you just make another one?” Gary asked, making sure he distanced himself as he asked the question.

“I can’t remember his face, Gary!” he shrieked, the cup of tea cascading over his hands. The steam left pink welts, but David didn’t seem to notice. “I need to see it! I need to see it again!”

He threw the cup, which hit the wall and shattered into a thousand porcelain pieces. Gary flinched.

“You said he’d come, Gary! You said! And if I can’t show him his own likeness, then what was the point of this!”

“Look, David, he’ll come,” said Gary. “I promise you that we’ll keep the exhibit open until he comes.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

Gary felt that this wasn’t the best time to tell him that he’d received a letter from the council, politely informing him that the building had been condemned and that they had only a fortnight to pack up shop. He’d tell him when the man was feeling a whole lot less murderous.

David sat back in his chair. After some time, he shook his head and turned back to the wax head he’d been trying to perfect all afternoon.

“I need to see him, Gary,” David muttered. “I need to see his face.”

“Don’t stress yourself out. Just get some rest, man. You’re overworking yourself. And besides, there’s no real issue. We can just angle the body differently. We’ve already put a duster onto the body which covers most of the head and neck area, anyway. It actually looks kind of cool, man. The way it billows up in the water and covers his face. Adds mystery to the whole—“

“Leave me to my work, Gary.”

The voice didn’t sound angry. It sounded resigned. Gary felt that it sounded, in many ways, worse.


That evening, David was shutting down the exhibit when one last patron was standing by the Perspex, admiring. Gary had long since gone home and often let David take care of the stragglers. He didn’t much care if they found David odd. Only the morning and afternoon tourists were ones he cared about. Evenings were either quiet or dead. On that particular evening, the gallery was dead apart from Gary and the one viewer.

He approached the man, having spent the entire day carving a sorry wax head that every day, he felt, looked less and less like the person who had murdered his wife and ruined his existence.

“I’m sorry, you need to go. I hope you liked looking at it, but we have to close up now.”

“It’s no problem,” said the man. He stood there, with his hands in his pockets.

David realised who he was, before he’d even turned around.

When he did, he put a hand into a satchel he was carrying and pulled out a wax replica of his own head. The likeness was close. Almost uncanny.

“I’ve been here a few times, if I’m being honest with you. Each time I checked if you were in, but thankfully, you were nowhere in sight. I don’t think Mr. Brenan recognised me. In fact, I’m surprised you didn’t give him a description.”

The man took several bold steps towards David, brandishing the wax head. “He’s a bit slow, that one. Didn’t even noticed when I leaned into the tank and pulled the thing clean off.”

David stared.

“Now, on to business. This is my head, and you never gave me payment.” He smiled, roguishly. “If you wish to continue using my features, you’re going to have to buy the head back from me.”

“Or I could just take it,” said David.

“So we can come to an arrangement?”

“Something like that.” said David, walking towards him.


“I have to say,” said Gary. “I’m impressed with just how fast you’ve worked on this one.”

David chuckled, his face glowing. He looked much healthier and seemed to have much more bounce in him than he usually did.

“Well, shucks, boss! It was just a little bit of overnight work.”

“Well, it just looks great. How did you get that level of detail in the face?”

“It’s all about care, I suppose.”

Gary smiled at him, feeling for the first time since he met him that David had somehow moved on from his past and that he was looking at a new and happier man. It was nice, he thought, to see such a radical change in a person once so bitter and angry.

He smiled as he unlocked his office door and made a few calls to council. He’d brought in enough money to buy out the building and planned to do some renovation work. He’d tell David his plan later, sure it would bring him even more happiness and positivity.

As Gary talked and laughed on the phone with the councilman, he nonchalantly threw an apple core he’d left on the desk the night before into the wastepaper basket.

It landed next to the wax head.