Here we are, at last. The final tale of this anthology. 100 years of horror fiction, and it all comes down to this. Can Pelan go out with a bang?
Death pervades this entire story, but not the protagonist’s. No, Jake suffers more than that. The love of his life, Amy, is dead, leaving him alone, wondering how he’s going to fill the rest of his life up. With every breath he thinks of her, and he knows that’s going to continue happening until he no longer breathes. He’s just got to figure out what he’s going to do with himself until that glorious day when they’re reunited in the Hereafter.
In the meantime, he does his best to dodge all of his friends. They mean well, but they’re all broken records, asking about how he’s doing. How do they think he’s doing?! The only friend he hangs out with is Jamie, who just wants to shoot the shit and drink good Irish whiskey.
Even so, Jake finds he likes being alone more often. And then comes the day he finds a rag doll in the gutter. It has Amy’s nose, and it brings back a memory of her that he’d forgotten about. Unable to let her go, he brings the doll home.
And then he finds another doll, this one with Amy’s eyes. Soon, he develops a collection of found dolls, all bearing features of his beloved and memories he’d forgotten about.
This is a very sad tale, full of grief and woe. But as with many good stories, there reaches a point where one should stop reading them, or the spell will be broken. This is one of those tales. SPOILER ALERT: During a piss-up with Jamie, his friend tells him that Amy used to have a nickname for Jamie. Jamie then tells Jake about a few places where he can find more of Amy. Surely enough, Jake collects even more of these dolls until he has them all. They’re all around his house, breathing new life into each room, breathing new life into Jake.
And it’s then that Jake remembers what Amy used to call Jamie: Angel. [Cue Darth Vader NNNNOOOOOO here.] Ugh. Really? Lebbon is a fantastic writer. He can do better than this. So Jamie was hanging out with Jake because he’s an angel trying to save his friend’s life? Come on. END OF SPOILERS.
If only Lebbon didn’t throw in that twist ending. This story would have been perfect without it. It would have been fine without any explanation, too. This could have been an excellent ending to a wonderful anthology, but we get a fumble instead. “The doll sat in the crook of his arm as if watching the way they were going, ready to object should he take the wrong turn.” If you stop reading after that sentence, you’ll be happy.
Stay tuned for the CBHF wrap-up tomorrow . . . .
[This story first appeared in AS THE SUN GOES DOWN, and it cannot be read online at this time.]