‘Dialogue with a Somnambulist’ by Chloe Aridjis

Impatient to inspect the features up close, I shone a halogen lamp onto his face and stepped back. Just as I was beginning to re-admire all the features, Friedrich came running up and redirected the lamp towards the ceiling. Never do that, he said.

Is there anything weirder than waxworks?

Another recent discovery (her 2019 novel, Sea Monsters, is superb) Chloe Aridjis’s writing is wry, dreamlike, surreal and darkly comic. In this oddly moving story the protagonist drifts through a city, drinks in a mysterious bar filled with ‘monsters’, and acquires a waxwork of the dread somnambulist from The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. She christens him ‘Pompeii’, lives with him for a while (observing his peculiar compulsion to tidy her apartment), and then donates him to a waxwork museum. And then tragedy strikes.

First published in Dialogue with a Somnambulist: Stories, Essays & A Portrait Gallery, House Sparrow Press, 2021