I had quite the creepy dream, more of a nightmare, really… and thought it was actually rather fitting to share on Halloween.
What signifies a poppet?
* * *
Benedict Cumberbatch wax figure, Madame Tussauds, London (Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)
I’m in London, visiting Benedict Cumberbatch. Not the actual Benedict Cumberbatch, you understand, but the wax version that was recently unveiled at Madame Tussauds. I’m in the middle a whole lot of CumberCollective members, and (though I don’t really affiliate myself as a Cumberbabe, or Cumberbitch, or whatever they are calling themselves these days) their enthusiasm is rather infectious. I’m right there in the throng, looking and acting suspiciously like a Cumberbitch, busy trying to get a selfie with Benedict. I can’t seem to get it right. (What was it Guylty said? Chin out, tilt head… I don’t have the art of the selfie down at all!) After some dreadful results on my first several attempts, I decide to move to a less crowded area to practice my selfie. Once I have the knack of it, I will re-enter the fray and try for a better one with Benedict.
I move down a corridor, looking for a private area where I can practice with my cell phone. I see a door marked “Private” and that is exactly what I’ve been looking for. (Part of me knows I’m not authorized to go in there, but my dream self is apparently willing to break the rules in the name of Benedict Cumberbatch.) I knock hesitantly on the door, and there is no response, so I try the door knob, and find it unlocked. I slip into the darkened room, and feel for a light switch, but there is none. This appears to be a storage area, but there is a dimly lit doorway across the room that appears to have a light source.
I enter the connecting room, which is dimly lit with small lights along the floorboards, but I am able to make out that there are tall wax figures (perfect for practicing!) in here. I find an overhead light switch, flip it on, and what I see here takes my breath. My heart begins to thud, because I’ve just stumbled onto something that as far as I know, is a Real Scoop for my true fandom, the Richard Armitage fandom. We’ve all been wondering if Richard Armitage would ever have his day at Madame Tussauds… and it appears that he secretly has!
John Proctor, upright and scowling. (Johan Persson)
Five life-sized wax figures are arranged
in various poses around the room…
John Proctor is standing in the center,
John Thorton, top hat on his head.
John Thornton, wearing his top hat,
stands gazing pensively, as if waiting,
with one hand behind his back,
and a small stack of books in the other.
Guy of Gisborne, looking up with a smirk.
Guy of Gisborne leans casually
against a post, arms crossed,
with a slight smirk.
Lucas North, armed and dangerous.
Lucas North has a weapon in one hand,
and the other hand touching his ear,
as if listening to an ear mic.
Harry Kennedy, carefree.
Harry Kennedy is dressed for a
walk in the countryside,
and looks casually relaxed and cheerful.
I am absolutely amazed at my perfect, blind luck! I immediately begin taking pictures from all angles of these gorgeous works of wax. I’ve completely forgotten about practicing selfies, and it doesn’t occur to me to attempt to do selfies with these Richard Armitage characters. They’re too beautiful… I’m thinking to myself that either the management at Madame Tussauds, or one of the wax artists, must be a huge fan of Richard’s work, and am greatly puzzled about why these amazing pieces are not on display in the museum. Is it a work in progress, with more characters to be added? Certainly Thorin ought to have a place, I muse, and John Porter. Even sweetie John Standring, heroic dad Gary WhatsHisName, or Lee in his speedo, would be admirable additions!
I’m so caught up studying these figures in minute detail that I lose track of time. I’m done taking shots of the overall figures, and have moved on to close-ups of elegant hands, chiseled lips, elfish ears and expressive blue eyes. I’m in the middle of a particularly compelling close up of John Thornton’s hand, when the overhead light goes off. A clock chimes somewhere out in the main area of the museum, and I realize it’s midnight! Suddenly aware that I must have missed the closing time, I start to move toward the door, when I hear a distinct click of a lock, and retreating footsteps. Security guard? I move out into the room that I first entered, try the door, and find myself locked in the room! I’m about to call out, when I hear a noise behind me, and all the hairs on my arms stand up.
As far as I knew, I was alone in these rooms. So who was that?
I slowly turn around, and though the lighting is very dim, I see that the wax figure of John Proctor is now seated, with his face in one hand, much like he sat in the opening of The Crucible. He’s not moving; he’s still as wax. Nevertheless, chills run up and down my spine. I could have sworn he was standing a moment ago! My heart is now racing and I am feeling true fear. It’s clear to me that I’ve left a pleasant fantasy world, and entered a horror story instead. I hear another small noise, creep nearer, and see that Gisborne is now looking down, studying a drawn knife. There is now an expression of deadly ferocity on his face. He’s not moving, either, but I know (that I know that I know!) he didn’t have a knife a few minutes ago. He was smirking! His arms were crossed! I have the pictures to prove it!
I slowly and silently sink down to the floor, pressing my cheek against the wall; I am filled with dread and awe… my limbs feel hollow, my lips feel numb. I Must Not Turn My Back On Them. I peek around the door frame again, and now Thornton has moved! He’s taken his hat off with his free hand, and is now looking expectantly up, as if he’s on Margaret’s doorstep. I don’t even want to know what Lucas is up to- if he even is Lucas– what if that’s actually his alter ego John Bateman? That one had a freaking gun last I knew!
As the minutes tick by, I am frozen on the floor, having no idea what kind of alternate reality I’ve fallen into. I hear an occasional scuffing sound, but mostly there is nothing but silence, and the sound of my own heartbeat pounding in my ears. My mind is racing with possibilities, and at some point, I begin to ponder which of these wax figures I could trust the most, in the event that Lucas or Guy, with their weapons, should discover me! I instinctively believe that Harry is probably harmless, but I’m not certain whether the accountant is up to defending me against a warrior like Guy, or a trained operative like Lucas. I know Thornton is good at fisticuffs, but when I last dared to look, he seemed distracted, like his thoughts are on Margaret, so I think I’m going to have to rely on John Proctor. I’m not planning to appeal to Proctor unless I’m in dire need, but I feel better having a plan.
As I sit petrified, hardly daring to breathe, wondering what the hell is going on, I naturally start to second-guess myself. For all I know, these animated wax figures are nothing like the characters they portray. Harry Kennedy could be a smiling psychopath. John Proctor could be the Devil’s familiar! I keep hearing small movements in the dimly lit room, but I no longer have the courage to try to see what the wax figures are up to.
After an interminable period of waiting and wondering, I begin to hear footsteps in the corridor. They draw nearer, but I don’t know if I can, or indeed should, say anything. I don’t know if that’s even a human! For all I know, that could be the wax figure of Adolf Hitler marching around out there! I decide to stay silent.
To my escalating horror, I hear the footsteps stop outside in the corridor. There is a key in the lock, and the door opens. Two women come in, and they are cloaked mysteriously. Whispering to each other, they move past me without ever looking down, and enter the room with the Richard Armitage characters. I hear one of the women whisper that Harry looks to be in the easiest position to carry, and soon they emerge, with soft grunts and staggering slightly, carrying Harry Kennedy horizontally, one at the shoulder level and one at the knee level. Harry’s face is toward me, and I am incredibly creeped out when his eyes lock with mine and stay focused on me as he is carried past. Harry is no longer smiling.
I abruptly decide to try to sneak out in the wake of the two women, judging that they may be distracted enough not to hear me, as they are themselves making a moderate amount of noise as they carry the tall figure of Harry Kennedy through the room. Slipping in behind them, I reach the door to the corridor, and just as I am making my escape, I see an extra cloak hanging from a coat rack just inside the storage room. I snatch the cloak and don it, pulling the hood up just in time. The women shuffle to a stop, so they may shut the door behind them, and they see me. I freeze, but they can’t see my face, and although they mutter in surprise, they assume I am one of them. The woman closest to me asks me to close the door and lock it. I close the door, and fake like I have a key and am locking it.
At this point, I have no choice but to follow along. The women are beginning to huff and puff with the effort of carrying such a large burden. After a short distance, the woman at Harry’s knees orders a stop, and she grunts that she will move to the waist if I can get the knees. I comply, now helping to lighten the load. I am stunned when I realize that Harry’s knees are warm. They flex a little, and I murmur that he’s trying to bend his legs, and the woman in front says, quietly but authoritatively, “None of that, Harry! No funny business!”
We make our way through what seems like endless corridors and then finally to a long stairwell, which we descend. I don’t care to imagine what new terrors might lurk down in the… basement? Dungeon? When we reach the bottom of the stairwell, I see there are dozens of cloaked and hooded women, standing in a circle in what appears to be some sort of cavernous grotto. Above us is a candle chandelier. All of the figures except me have yellow roses pinned to their cloaks. I realize this is some sort of Armitage faction, as the yellow roses are a symbol in North and South. Then I see the poppets. Many of the women are cradling creepy little poppets… poppets of cloth, with needles glinting in the candlelight, that look straight out of The Crucible.
What signifies these poppets?
We set Harry on his feet in the center of the circle, and he crouches there, knees slightly bent. I am Really Not Feeling Comfortable with whatever is going on here. I seem to be taking my cues from Harry, who has a posture of intimidation, hunched shoulders, hands fisted, and a hunted expression. He stands perfectly still. The women begin to chant.
The clock chimes one time, indicating that an hour has passed since all the weirdness began. I start to back toward the stairwell, and this draws the attention of a tall woman who appears to be leading the chant. She suddenly points a pale finger at me, and asks me where is my “Automata Rose”… I don’t know what an Automata Rose is, and take another step backward. My mind races, and it hits me that “Automata” would be plural for “Automaton”, which does seem to describe these otherworldly wax figurines.
I’m frozen with indecision, when another woman suddenly drops her poppet and shrieks “Imposter!” and a third shouts “Stop it, Harry!” I glance at Harry, and see that he’s staring at me with a fierce and pleading expression, and he’s pointing to the stairs. I don’t need another cue. I spin and run straight out of the room, slamming the door behind me. In my panicked flight, I hear footsteps in pursuit behind me, but I never look back. I reach the top of the stairs and sprint faster. I take several wild turns, having no idea where I’m going, and soon I hear another set of pounding footsteps in front of me!
I hurtle onward, finally rounding another corner and then I see the source of the footsteps I’m running toward… it’s a security guard! I am far more afraid of the cult-like women and their horrible poppets than I am of the security guard, so I run straight for him, and am very relieved when he loudly orders a halt. Because when I halt, so, too, do my pursuers. The security guard seems more irritated than dangerous, as he sternly tells me that I’m in past visitor hours and that he will have to escort me out immediately. He stops to listen, as if momentarily wondering what happened to the other footsteps, but all is silent, and I know that the women have abandoned the chase. Whatever they are doing here, I know now, is unsanctioned.
I have escaped. And abandoned Harry to I know not what.
* * *
I really don’t know what to make of this dream! Nightmares are rare for me. Ludicrous as the dream now seems, it did in fact freak me out at the time… when I woke up, I remember having sweaty palms and feeling short of breath… consistent with an actual adrenaline release! The dream actually happened several nights ago, after I’d been to see the 2011 National Theatre production of Frankenstein at the local cinema. Perhaps that idea of animated creatures, plus some of the discussions I’ve been following recently about the nature of the Richard Armitage fandom (how well do we know it)… may have inspired it.
Paging Dr. Scott White…. can you analyze this, sir?