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Puppet Show...


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Another short story here. Getting very excited for June releases and was inspired my some books I've been reading to do something different.


"It's wonderful isn't it, Matty!" Sarah cried and wrapped her older brother in a big hug.

Matty could only nod his head as he stared with wide, excited eyes at the puppet show. Matty had a secret desire to one day be a puppeteer, when he got a little older than seven that is, and this was by far the most beautiful show he had ever seen. A wide stage protruded from the side of an exquisite wagon. The deep purple wagon was decorated with intricate blue and green wood carved into a variety of designs. The top corners of the wagon were sculpted to look like smiling and leering masks, while carved vines and branches wormed their way down the wagon's sides. Lashed to the front of the wagon were two magnificent clockwork horses, though these appeared to be made of wood and not steel, and they received their own share of awestruck attention from the crowd.

Matty was fixated on the stage, however. He was barely aware of his mouth hanging open as he watched the masterfully crafted marionettes dance and cavort about the stage. There was no narration to the story they told, but there didn't need to be. The story their graceful movements told was one of happiness, friendship and youthful mischief, and Matty was utterly mesmerized.

Matty felt as if he could sit there for an eternity and watch this show, but eventually all good things must come to an end. With a final flourish and a perfectly executed bow, the Marionettes withdrew into the wagon. Matty felt a deep sense of loss and longing when it was over, and he couldn't motivate himself to move from his seat on the grass. Around him, the other children were leaping to their feet in excitement, and rushing off into the approaching dusk to find their parents and babble joyously about the terrific show.

"I'm gonna go find Mommy and Daddy, you coming?" Sarah asked, rising to her feet and brushing loose grass from her red dress.

"You go ahead, I want to look a little while longer," Matty lied. He had no intention of going home just yet, he had to see Them, the puppets. When his sister was out of sight, Matty slowly got up and made his way toward the wagon as stealthily as he was able. He blended into the small crowd of children standing in front of the wagon pointing with energetic intensity at the designs on the wagon and the mysterious clockwork horses. Sensing an opportunity, Matty darted quickly around the side of the wagon and into its shadow.

From this angle, the wagon suddenly didn't seem so beautiful. The paint was chipped and pealing, the wood stained brown with mold and the wheels were missing spokes, not to mention the smell, an awful rotting smell. Matty was too excited to notice any of this, and his heart was beating a furious tattoo in his chest as he approached the open "back" door of the wagon. A pale light shone out of the door, painting a square of sickly illumination on the gently waving grass. Matty slowed his advance, taking long, careful strides to avoid being heard. He reached the edge of the doorway and craned his neck to peer inside. It was dark, and it smelled like a dirty barn, but he thought he could make out the shapes of marionettes hanging by their strings; he took another hesitant step forward.

"Hello, Matty," a rich, deep voice spoke from behind him. Matty uttered a terrified cry and whirled around. His heart leapt up into his throat as he turned to face the Puppeteer. He was tall, impossibly tall and rail thin. He wore an exquisitely crafted blue and purple robe with pale blue floral designs. His wrists were wrapped in purple bracers, making the wide mouths of his sleeves flare out. His hands were clasped at the wrists within these flared sleeves, concealing them from view. Underneath a strange purple hat, the figure's features were hidden by a wooden mask carved with a gentle smile and a long thin nose.

"I…I'm sorry, Sir! I didn't mean-" Matty began before the Puppeteer cut him off.

"Now, now, none of that, I admire your…boldness, Matty," the figure spoke in a kind, amused tone.

Matty nodded, swallowed hard and asked, "How did you know my name, Sir?"

"Ahh," the Puppeteer replied, "It is my business to know my audience, how else would I know what they like to see my marionettes perform?" Matty, whose narrow, seven year old mind couldn't comprehend that this was practically impossible, just bobbed his head and smiled a frightened little smile.

"Would you like to see them? Would you like to see my marionettes, Matty?" The Puppeteer asked as he bent down a little closer to the boy. It was then that Matty looked into the man's eyes, and was struck by the sudden realization that something was very wrong. The eyes were beautiful ice blue, but they didn't look real. They looked painted on, and they didn't glisten the way a persons eyes do. Matty's shrunk away from the Puppeteer, his hands shooting up to his collar in a protective little knot and he began fidgeting at the neckline of his shirt.

"I would love to, Sir, but I really think I must be going, I-," He began.

"Oh my dear boy, did you really sneak all the way back here just to get cold feet, did you?" mocked the Puppeteer, who cocked his head questioningly at the cowering boy before him.

"Maaaaatty!" Came a cry floating on the air, it was Matty's mother calling him.

"I really need to go, Sir, that's my Mom, and-"

The Puppeteer's finger shot out impossibly fast and came to rest on Matty's upper lip. "Now that just won't do, Matty," the Puppeteer said sternly, "I want you to see my marionettes, they are quite lovely and you risked the chastisement of your parents to come back here, would you want that to have been wasted effort, boy?"

The mask had lost its smile and now seemed to be looking reproachful and a little scary, had it always been that way? Matty couldn't remember. He felt a thin line of pain bloom on his upper lip and he looked down at the finger pressed there. Matty's eyes widened, the hand was made of wood, and the fingers were sharpened to razor edges. The deep grooves in the wood were filled with a dried dark substance that smelled vaguely of spoiled milk and blood. Matty gurgled as he tried to keep himself from voimiting. He began to shake, and was fighting an uphill struggle to control his bladder.

Matty shook his head.

"That's a good lad," the Puppeteer said, obviously amused. It was then that Matty noticed the second thing that was very wrong about this man, if he indeed was a man. His voice wasn't coming from behind his mask; it was as if the Puppeteer was speaking directly into his mind, a rich voice filled with unknowable age and undertones of malice. Matty was now losing another battle within himself, a battle for his sanity.

Matty made to turn and run, but those foul smelling wooden hands grabbed his shoulders, shredding the fabric of his shirt.

"Where are you going Matty?" The disembodied voice of the Puppeteer asked. "You wanted to see my puppets didn't you, Matty? You like puppets don't you, Matty? DON'T YOU LIKE PUPPETS, MATTY?!"

These last words hammered into Matty's head like a rusty hatched and seemed to echo around inside his head, it felt as if his brain were about to explode. He could hear laughter in the background of his thoughts, dark laughter. The Puppeteer leaned close, his wooden, dagger-like nose digging into Matty's own. The mask was now a demonic leer, and those fake looking eyes were now black pits that seemed to swallow the light around them. A feeling of heaviness fell over Matty, like he was under water or trapped under a massive blanket. His mother called him again, but she sounded miles away, and Matty knew that to call back to her would be pointless. He stared in shock at those hungry, hateful black pits in the Puppeteer's face, and he began to cry.

The Puppeteer stood up, and removed his hands from Matty's shoulders. His mask was now once more a gentle smile and his eyes were no longer pits of blackness, but the creepy painted-on looking blue eyes.

"Oh, hush, hush now, boy. Don't be frightened," soothed the Puppeteer, gently patting Matty's hair, their bladelike edges sheering off several locks, sending them drifting away in the wind. "I promise, everything will be okay Matty, just one quick look and you'll be on you way. I may even let you play with one of my marionettes, would you like that?" asked the Pupeteer cheerily, "I can see you are very tired and scared, but I assure you no harm will come to you , and then you can go tell your mother all about the wonderful puppets!" The Puppeteer extended his arms in a grand gesture toward the open door of the wagon. Another jittering, whispering giggle crawled through Matty's mind, but he did feel calmer now, yes, much calmer. Some voice deep in his subconscious screamed at him to run, run as fast as he could away from this man (creature) but Matty was once again elated by the prospect of seeing the puppets up close.

"S-Sure, Sir. That would be amazing!" Matty exclaimed, wiping the tears from his face and smiling, ignoring that terrified voice in his mind urging him ever more insistently to run for his life.

"Ahh, my friend, you will not be disappointed, I might even be able to teach you a thing or two about the trade, it won't take long at all," the Puppeteer said merrily.

Matty turned toward the door with the Puppeteer in toe, but he didn't notice a second set of wooden arms unfold themselves from behind their place clasped behind the Puppeteer's back, where they had been the whole conversation. One right hand tussled Matty's hair again, slicing into the boys scalp and drawing thin lines of blood, while the other right hand rested on the boys back, guiding him into the wagon. Matty was entranced now, and couldn't care less about such trivial things; he was too far gone now.

As they mounted the steps into wagon, the door closed slowly on its own. Almost at once, the awe inspiring clockwork horses clattered into motion and began drawing the wagon away from the crowd.

As the tearful shrieks of Matty's mother rose into the evening, no one noticed the pleading cries of agony and terror drifting from within the quickly retreating puppet wagon.

Edited by Necromorph
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