The envelope had a faint smell of perfume on it. The man opened it and took out the card inside. He opened the card and smiled at the picture in it. The photo was of a beautiful young woman in a white wedding gown, her luminous chestnut colored hair contrasting with the gown. Beside her was a handsome young man; both were smiling at the camera. “Ah, Cynthia. It's so wonderful to hear about your wedding. I know you and your husband will have a long and happy life together and many wonderful children.”
The man put the picture and the card in a frame. Cynthia’s handwriting, as beautiful as was she, was on display with the other cards, letters, photos and pictures of many other smiling ladies on the bookshelves. Some were mature ladies, some much younger, but all beautiful and all very happy. It was a strange reward for what he did, but the reward was worth it to him. He had all money had wanted and all things he wanted. Those ladies were the something he could give back to the world.
Nicholas looked out window after he put the frame in the proper place. Night was coming on the plantation. Christmas was close.
The woman was sitting in chair by the fireplace. She looked small and hunched over. Her husband sat next to her with his arms around her. He quietly said something to her as she kept crying. Nothing stopped the tears. Nothing could. Their daughter was gone for years and they could do nothing on days like this when they remember day their little Cassandra disappeared. He tried to see more, to make things last longer. But dreams like this never last. The last thing he saw was the picture the woman had in her hand of Cassandra. The teenage girl was standing before the stands, dressed to play softball. The image was last thing he saw before a bright light overwhelmed him and his mind fill with all he needed to know. Everything he needed to know.
He always knew all he needed to know to do his work when he woke up from the dreams that told him to do the work. In old days he used paper and pencil to draw what he had to do and worked on what he thought it should be. Now he had computers and programs to age a person’s picture and change their appearance he used to help him. Used to like drawing everything himself but the computers made things much easier.
The first thing he would do was easy because he didn’t have to do a thing. He had everything he needed to know about Cassandra, like he knew everything he needed to know about all the other girls. But using these memories was hard, sometimes very hard. And finding the accessories was difficult too. But that came later. Now he went into his workshop. It had everything he needed, from all the different materials to computers to mixers and molds to an oven and simple things like big bowls and sinks. A plastic skeleton hung from metal rod in the corner next to shelves filled with books about the human anatomy and pictures of various parts of the body. The material he used was different these days.
The bones of the skeleton were made out of plaster in the past. Now he could use premade plastic and ceramic you could buy in every art store, and he mixed and made them right out of the art books. He did have to craft the bones into the right shape and size but the computers made it easy for him; copying a medical skeleton students used in school made it even easier to articulate the joints and connections.
He got out the right bags, boxes, cans, and jars of material and carefully poured the right amount he needed. That changed with each girl, but for some reason he always knew the right amount he needed for each girl. He didn’t have to think about it. He always got right cups and poured the right amounts. Then it was following the instructions to mix the materials to the right recipe and make sure everything was correct and proper.
While the mix was settling, Nicholas went to the computer and punched in the right information for what he needed. Again he did it without a thought. In the old days he would have made the molds himself, different sets for each project. Now he gave the computer the right information and it produced from the mix bones of the right size. It made things a lot easier. Then he poured the mix into the computer controlled sculpting machine, turned it on and pressed the proper key on the keyboard. “Program Initiating…” showed on the computer screen display. He took one look to make sure things were as they should be and then he turned to other things.
There was more mixing of material to get the compounds he used to make skin, muscles and other internal tissues right. He also got out paint to color what he couldn’t make from the main batches. Again, another computer and machine made the job easier for the muscles and tissues. The skin was something else and he had to mix that himself. But that was always easy and only thing he had to do was keep it cold and gel-like so he could apply it later.
The computer finished the bones about when he finished the skin. He carefully took each bone and check out how it was. The computer was much easier to use because he didn’t have to polish it as much as he used to with plaster. But he had to make sure everything was right, every bone a human body had, was done right. He didn’t know how he did it but he always knew when something was wrong.
Nothing was, and he started putting the bones together as they would be in a body. The books talking about skeletons helped, and using the
connectors and pins and metal joints, he put the bones together where they should go. He needed a drill to put in the pins because the plastic was hard and tough. But the skeleton was easy to do once you had done one before. It didn't really change much. He also had perfect knowledge. When he finished with the entire skeleton, a expert could see it was that of a young woman. Nicholas also nicked a line into one of left arm bones, as if the bone had broken in the past and healed. He didn't know why he did this; it just felt right to do so.
He had lunch and finished cleaning the dishes when the organs and tissues were finished by the machines. After emptying all the molds, he started using wires to put the pieces together and then attach them to the body. It was slow work, even with all he did before and even with perfect knowledge because he had to get things exactly right. But he had time and the medical books with the pictures of the internal organs of a body displayed there helped and soon he had the entire body cavity filled with internal organs.
It look like a model somebody in med school would use to teach students what organs were called and where they were, but this was complete and full-sized. It did look like something out of a horror movie and Nicholas shook his head. Sometimes his projects looked like somebody else’s nightmares.
Attaching the muscles, tendons, nerves and blood vessels was even harder since they required more careful work. But he didn’t have to be exact with everything but have the most important ones put where they should be. The tendons and muscles were a bit hard because he needed to attach them to the bones but he had worked up the bones to allow for that and it went smoothly until the bare skeleton was now more a body which looked like it didn’t have any skin on it then a simple skeleton. The final touch was applying paint to parts where the color was not quite right, at least from what the medical books said
Putting the skin was harder still. He couldn’t put it on whole like clothes or a wetsuit, but carefully put it on the body in strips like a bandage. Not only did he put it on but he also worked it on in some parts and pressed on it in others. It took a long time and he was not finished until he covered the entire body. He had to carefully mold delicate facial features like nose and lips. The breasts of a young woman were now formed as well as other more private parts. Then he added texture to the unblemished skin and made the body look like a human body, with fully functional limbs and features. A series of functional tests made sure of that.
He then opened the mouth and added more detail to the teeth. A tongue was put into the mouth and he made sure the mouth and lips could form any gestures a normal person could. Then it was time to finish the body. He went through his supplies and came up with eyeballs with blue irises in them that were what he needed. The exact shade of light blue that her eyes would be. Then he looked through the wigs and hairs he had until he had the shade of light blonde hair he needed. He careful put the eyeballs into the sockets and all the hairs into the right places. The hair cut was of the wrong length and style and he used his barber kit until it had right look he wanted.
The complete body of a young woman now lie naked on the worktable, perfect in every way and exactly as his mind said she should be. Still he was not finished. He add another light coat of paint to the body and then turned on the special lights in the workshop over the table. It would take a while before he was ready for the next stage.
While the body was being finished, Nicholas walked to another room and picked out what he needed from there. A pair of ripped jeans, a shirt with a rock band's logo on it. A pair of sneakers and a black headband. Backpack with Walkman and a large number of rock CDs. A simple sports bra and black thong panties. The last sounded odd but he knew somehow it was the right thing to do. He added some other clothes like
what Cassandra would wear and tossed them into the pack.
The body was finished when he came back. He dropped all the stuff into a box by the worktable. She had gotten a good tan, something people would have if they spent time in the southern sun. Now came what he thought was the strange part. “If all this isn't strange, I don’t know what is,” Nicholas said to himself. He used a key from a cord around his neck and opened a special drawer in a safe in the corner of the workshop. He took out a small crystal bottle and a crystal decanter. He filled the decanter with the water-like stuff from the bottle and put the bottle back into the safe. IT always had enough water to fill the decanter. He always emptied it like his father told him to. And when he needed the bottle again it was always filled once more. Nicholas didn’t know how it filled after he emptied it and he didn’t want to know. Some things he figured should never be fully known, such as what the watery fluid actually was. He had seen it once in moonlight and it seemed to glow.
He took the decanter and sprinkled most of the water over the still figure on the worktable. When he had a quarter left of all the water he had put into the decanter, he opened the mouth of the body and dumped the rest of the water into it. Then he closed the mouth and carefully turned the head one way and then another to make sure the water spread where it could. Finally he got a silver necklace with a silver pendant on the end from the safe and put it around the figure’s neck. The pendant was the size of quarter and had a strange symbol on it; he never found out what it meant. But using the pendant was another something he knew he had to do and it was always something he did. He put the rest of things back into the safe and closed it.
He left the workshop again and sat in his chair on the veranda. He took an alarm clock and set a one hour interval on the clock; then he sat in the chair and closed his eyes. He concentrated on everything he knew about Cassandra and focused it to the silvery pendant on the necklace around the figure’s neck. He didn’t know how long he spent in mediation before he went to sleep.
The girl was trying to breathe but it was very hard. It hurt so bad what the boys had did to her and they hurt her more when she tried to get away. She caused the car they chased her in to slip into the river with them in it. But she was still hurting. The boys might have killed her for all she knew and running mindlessly panicked through the forest was not good either. She fell once and got up. Then she fell again and she couldn’t get up, there was a sharp pain in her ankle. Instead she crawled with her hands pulling her forward and one leg pushing. She could see the highway in front of her with all the cars and trucks going both ways. She could see their bright lights and..oh, it hurt so much! She knew she could get help if she got to the road and it was only a short way to the road and she could crawl that far…
She never saw the deep sinkhole in the ground in the dark when she fell into it. She try to scream but she couldn’t do it. Even as she fell the trees and ground seem to tumble in behind her and bury her efforts to escape. It was so hard to breathe. So much pain, darkness...
Nicholas woke to the alarm. He got up and looked out at the plantation. It was already almost evening and he still had things to do for the day. He went into the workshop. The figure of the girl was still there on the worktable. But it looked more like she was a real person instead of some artifact he had made. But she was still a simple lifelike figure. Now..
He carefully took the figure in both arms, cradled her like a real girl with one arm under her knees and other under her back and walked out of the
workshop. He carried her to through the house and up to the second floor. He had given the cook and housekeeper the day off when he started work on her and did not worry about somebody seeing what he was doing. It used to take a couple days to get this far but with the latest technology he could finish a new one in just a day.
There was still some work to be done but he couldn’t do it anymore. He brought the figure into one of the bedrooms and lay her on the bed, arranging her arms and legs as if she were sleeping. He covered her with blankets and lit a candle next to the bed. Then he left the room to get the rest of the stuff. In the room, the candle gave out a sweet smell and white smoke from candle started to spin around the room and the bed. It soon covered the figure of the girl and the magic slowly started to work..
When Nicholas came back he saw that the candle was burning low. The smoke had disappeared..And he could see the figure had changed. Not only because the figure looked more like a living girl, with color in her previously ashen cheeks.. But she was breathing. Her chest rose and fell, slow and steady like she was sleeping but she was breathing. He smile when he saw it. She was coming alive!
His work was almost done.
He filled the backpack and then he put on the clothes he picked out on the now living girl, who remained fast asleep. He then took her up in his arms again and walked out of the room with the backpack. It was another trip to the garage but the car he use for this part was already open. Before he put her in, he grabbed some dirt and mud and smeared them across her pristine face and body and hair. He hated to do this sort of thing to such a lovely girl, but it was needed to make everything seem right. The dirt could be washed away when everything was set right. He was sure of that.
Before he closed the door, he turned to go back into the house. He had completed another special project when he woke up and waited for everything to finish with the first girl. He never did that before but something inside him told him how to do it right and he had followed his instincts. If he did everything properly he could solve two hurts in one night.
She couldn’t see. There was so much dust and debris and metal and paper and glass and plastic around her. The smoke blinded her as much as the dust and the fire she kept running into confused her more. She had to get out. All the firemen and police officers had said so. Everybody in the building who could had done so already but she had thought the cops were trying to trick her into showing herself. A young girl who snuck into the place to spend the night indoors was not a person the cops would wave by.
But now she wish she had done what everybody had said to do. After the first roaring noise she knew she was in trouble and it was time to get out. But it seemed hard to do. Every time she tried, something would stop her. She tried to call for help and people had called back to her but she never could get to them or they could not reach her. If only she could see! She could get out. She wished she could make the second roaring sound stop..
He never finished a project so fast before, but it was something he had to do. Something in the final dream of Leslie had made him do it. He couldn’t stop it if he wanted and he never would try that. But now he was finished. There was only one thing left to do and he closed the car
door and drove the car out the plantation to finish it.
“Hello?” The voice on the phone sounded official, bored. “Mrs. Sorenson?”
“This is Sergeant Thomas of the St. Cloud police.”
“Yes, how can I help you?” Is it news of Cassandra? She hoped for years it would be news only to receive disappointment in return for her hope. This time it was different.
“I am calling because we got a message from the sheriff in Mooreville, North Carolina. They say they had somebody in the hospital there named Cassandra Sorenson who gave them your number..”
“Good news, Leslie. Your family is coming from California. The sheriff called me right now and told me. So both of you will see your families soon,” the nurse relays in happy tones at Leslie Gold. The slim girl sat on her bed the doctors insisted she and Cassandra stay in until their families came to see them.
Leslie felt happiness and relief and her new friend shared her feelings. She could tell from Cassandra's face. They became friends really fast since they woke up being carried into the hospital. They had both been away from home for a long time which was something else they had in common. They also shared another bond... A mysterious man named Nicholas Klausen; they had a lot of memories of him that were the
same for both girls.. What they remembered seemed almost like a dream...
Nicholas put the two cards he had recently gotten in the mail on the shelf with the rest. Leslie had celebrated her first birthday at home in over five years and Cassandra was going to college to get a degree so she could help with children. He knew they would both do well and he could tell that Cassandra’s boyfriend was overjoyed to see her again. “I think you will find a surprise coming soon from him,” Nicholas smiled sagely as he looked at the photos, “And Leslie will be in the wedding party too.”
He looked out the window over the plantation. He knew there was something else. It was almost Christmas and there was much to do.