Last week I began my series of reviews of the collection of short stories The New Uncanny - Tales of Unease. The stories are all inspired by Sigmund Freud's idea of traditional horror writing, he claimed to understand all of it's secrets and concluded that we are all afraid of the same things. A horror template, if you will. Next up is Nicholas Royle's The Dummy.
Short Story Review
We meet our English protagonist driving alone at night on a Belgian motorway, from the monotony he is having microsleeps. He notices a man at the side of the road dressed head to toe in hi-vis clothing, signalling traffic to slow down, alerting them of an incident up ahead that we never see. We immediately jump from this scene to a few nights previously, where we see his marriage is in trouble and he is having an affair with a journalist in Belgium.
Back in the original scene, he is having trouble staying awake and in the distance sees the same orange glow of the safety guy in hi-vis clothing. He gets closer and realises the man is lying on the ground. He stops the car and runs over to the man but when he gets there he realises his face looks like it is made from some kind of plastic. His body feels real and has weight to it but it is just a dummy. Still, he picks it up and puts it in his car and drives aimlessly on, probably taking the dummy for some kind of company.
Freud was right, there is something scary about inanimate objects. They're not supposed to be able to move or make a noise. We trust them with our secrets and we are free to be ourselves without being judged. But what if they had more to them than we gave them credit for? What if they then took what was ours because us dummies let our guards down?