“Settle down, Hamish. I need your help,” Barnabus said. “There is a surge in dangerous nightmares. I think it is a concerted effort to poison dreams. Have you heard anything?”
The corgi’s face didn’t seem capable of anything but excessive cheer, even when contemplating something distasteful. He tilted his head in thought, sitting still for a moment before reanimating.
“Well, there’s always the Workshop. Some of those dolls they produce are upsetting.”
Before Montrose could interject, Barnabus spoke intently.
“Why would that cause you to suspect them? They pride themselves on how creepy people find their creations, but that doesn’t make it a hotspot for the severity of the nightmares we have encountered.”
“There is a puppet there that has been stirring up trouble. His name is Shankill.”
Montrose watched as Barnabus’ fingers stretched out and claws grew from there tips. His hand contracted slowly, leaving deep furrows in the table.
Hamish turned his attention to the gouges in the tabletop.
“So,” he said, still staring, “you know of him.”
“Yes,” Barnabus said through gritted teeth. “I thought he was destroyed.”
“The crafters at the Workshop can repair nearly any damage to a puppet,” Hamish said.
There was a pause in the conversation. Montrose could not contain his curiosity.
“What is the Workshop?”
Hamish looked at Barnabus and realized he wouldn’t answer, still consumed by emotion.
“Many wooden and porcelain dolls are made there. Have you ever seen a doll that made your fur stand on end? Those are real versions of the creations of the Workshop. They usually create creepy stuff, but some have inspired true nightmares. Occasionally the spirit versions are able to inhabit those physical representations. An unpleasant thing to encounter.”
Montrose shuddered at the thought of the dead eyes of innumerable dolls he had encountered.
“Who is Shankill?”
“He’s a nasty piece of work. He tries to harvest nightmares from the dolls he has control over, manipulating their strings.”
Montrose and Barnabus both started at the word harvest.
“That sounds quite familiar,” said Montrose.
Barnabus, eyes burning, said “The strings in the Garden and the wooden cupboard!”
Hamish looked back and forth between them, again tilting his head in confusion. Montrose, looking at Barnabus, gave the corgi the details of their encounter with Marley and the Bogey. He didn’t hear Hamish’s whimpering until the story ended. Then he noticed the tears.
“I’m sorry, Hamish. Certain details could have been glossed over.”
Barnabus looked over, and nudged the corgi with his shoulder. Surprisingly, Hamish put his head on the shoulder. The move shocked the bear, but he allowed it, much to Montrose’s surprise.
“Shankill created the Gardens,” Barnabus said, “and that wasn’t the first time I and Marley have encountered them.”