Author: David Barber

In the darkened room, snores come from the bed.

The dim figure in the doorway is noiseless on bare feet, except when its toenails, two inches long and yellow as piss, scrape the polished floorboards.

There it is now, silhouetted against the embers in the grate as it creeps nearer, avoiding obstacles like a true creature of the night. It reaches out a hand to the man in the bed.

“Mr. Wells…”

Who squeals like an Eloi seized from sleep, huddling against the headboard, dragging the sheets with him, like a child still trusting in the protection of bedclothes.

“Calm yourself, Mr. Wells. History confirms that plump white flesh will not be tasted this night.”

Now the man is groping for the matchbox and candle on the bedside table.

“And put down that Lucifer. It would stab at eyes bred to the dark.”

Clumsy with sleep, he only manages to brush the box onto the floor in a patter of matchsticks.

“First things first. Some titles to get you started.”

The shade empties a sack, tumbling one volume after another onto the bed.

“Take them, Mr. Wells. The Shape of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible War, The Machine of the Worlds, The Time Sleepers.”

All the jumbled notions that plague the hours at his writing desk. The man squeezes his eyes shut, then opens them again. Still, there is someone in the room.

“So many tropes from one pen! Take them I say, else remain a footnote to the novels of social realism.”

The man mumbles that he must be dreaming.

“No, this is not a dream, though it is about one. Consider how just predicting a thing makes it more likely as if talk of war encourages the slaughter. We fashion you so you may fashion us in turn.”

The bedroom curtains hang narrowly parted and a slice of moonlight reveals the midnight visitor, small and muscular, more like a troll than a man.

“We strive to make your vision of Morlock and Eloi real, but what has failed before and what will succeed this time are tangled.” The creature shakes his head. “The knot grows tighter the more we struggle.”

It is the book the man is trying to write. The mention of time explains the lucidity of this dream. Often on waking, he finds himself troubled by storylines as if his sleeping brain plotted without him.

The mind, he says aloud, the mind is a curious thing.

“Do not concern yourself with detail, Mr. Wells,” interrupts the creature. “Overnight the time machine stood by the Sphinx and we employ it to ensure our birth.”

The creature looms so close the man catches the gleam of its big square teeth, bared in a brutal smile, and his nostrils fill with the unwholesome damps of the grave.

“Ironic that we cannot make our own machine, since its workings are pure imagination, and we have none.”

With a queasy fascination, the man ventures a question.

“Yes, that is blood.” The creature seems reluctant to speak of it. “I brought the Eloi, Weena, to tempt you, but grew thirsty. Do not look at me so. After all, we are the creatures of Man, or will be, if history goes to plan.”

Confident of success, the Morlock already feels more real, though it still has to slink back across London, to the hidden time machine, perhaps through the dank alleyways of Whitechapel with its loitering women…

It wonders about sunrise and whether there will be time to feed.