GILBERTINE & THE EXCHANGE (Volume One) — Chapter 1, Black Pinocchio, Part 5

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Then she and the room suddenly disappeared. I was back in my house – but not in my bed – shaking, sweat running down my face, panting, my heart pounding. It wasn’t as if I’d suddenly awakened: It was more as if I’d just been teleported home.

I was standing by a mirror. The two previous times, it had been my bedroom dresser mirror; now it was a full-length mirror that hung near the front door, one where Dad straightened his tie as he left for university and Mum checked her hemlines and makeup as she left the house. I saw the base of the living room, like the short stem of a Wide Latin capital “L,” reflected there, straddling the hallway just beyond: our grandfather clock on the side nearest the long stem of said “L,” my parents’ bar and liquor shelves on the other, concluding its short stem.

Later, both mirrors would become “escape routes” again. So would my bathroom mirrors a few times. Once, it would even be Mum’s vanity mirrors in the master bedroom (thankfully, no one else was there at the time).

I anxiously looked about, still half expecting this doll-girl to pop out from behind some piece of furniture in the living room, dining room or atrium, and come over to me, as my earlier doll-girl had.

But there was no reappearance – the room was still, save for the ticking of the grandfather clock.

No one else was there.

That I was out of bed wasn’t particularly unusual in and of itself; as far back as I could remember I’d been prone to occasional bouts of sleepwalking. Bu,t it had never been more than four or five times a year, and – with one significant exception when I was ten – I’d not gone much past my bedroom door before awakening.

This dream – or whatever it was – and sleepwalking that seemed to go with it, would happen at least every 10 days, frequently, every three or four, and I’d traveled all over the house. I couldn’t help thinking it was more than mere coincidence that I’d been standing beside a mirror each time I’d awakened, as if my entry into this strange world by a mirror mandated that I use one to leave it.

According to the grandfather clock, it was twenty minutes to four in the morning. I had to remind myself I was completely safe: I’d missed the U.S. edition of TW3, but otherwise no worse for wear, There was no doll-girl with a claw, and my greatest peril on the way back to bed was ticking off my parents if I woke them.

I stilled my breathing.

I padded past the grandfather clock, quietly as I could, to my bedroom at the very end of the hall beyond.

It was over.

I could rest easy again, believe it all had to be a dream – no matter how real it felt, or where I’d been when I’d “awakened.”

I named the dream – if dream it actually was – “Black Pinocchio” in honor of Black Sunday, a film I’d seen at the Fox Theatre in mid-July as the bottom half of a Barbara Steele[1] double feature with Castle of Blood.

It was Barbara Steele, whose character, Princess Asa, had endured an iron mask with long pointed spikes being driven into her face at the beginning of the film, her character no doubt feeling a double portion of the terror I felt when the “Doll girl’s” clawlike hand had come closer and closer to my face.

“Doll-girl” – rather like Pinocchio – had become a “real live girl” – of sorts. One that definitely seemed out to haunt me.

So, as with the “dream,” I dubbed her “Black Pinocchio” too.

At least I had the “security,” such as it was, of knowing that it’d be days, maybe a week – maybe even 10 days, if I were really lucky – before I’d have to endure the damn thing again.


[1] Ah Barbara Steele, who simultaneously played dual roles of villainess and heroine in a fair few of her films, and never failed to haunt the dreams and fantasies – and the nightmares – of so many of us boys back then. Those films have stayed with some of us to this day. But when it came to the experience with the “Doll girl” it was Princess Asa, the villainess in Black Sunday, who inspired the name.


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