Marionette

Pete thought it would be a great idea to take Angela to the haunted house. It was private and secluded because no one had inhabited the household or stepped on the property for years. But instead of reaching third base as he planned, he was interrupted by a noise of rattling wood.

“What was that?” Angela asked. “I think I heard something upstairs.”

Pete didn’t answer. He had heard it too, but it had been too faint to acknowledge. He waited for the silence to stretch along until he was convinced it was nothing.

“It’s probably just the wind,” he said.

“The wind?” she said. “How can you be so sure?”

“This house is old and untended. There’s probably a broken window somewhere in the house and the wind toppled something over.”

The house was certainly old and untended. It stood neglected in the outskirts of town. Every corner of the house seemed to be covered in dust.

“What if this place is really haunted?” Angela said. “The puppeteer who used to live here committed suicide soon after the kidnappings and murders. His suicide note said he would become a necromantic puppeteer.”

“It’s just a lot of hooey,” Pete said. “It’s just ghost stories.”

He recollected the ghost story in his mind. The Puppeteer named Hanson West kidnapped and murdered three children, one boy and two girls. Their bodies were found hanging in the basement rafters, ropes tied around their bruised wrists and ankles. Their small bodies contained no blood and no internal organs which were later found in a garbage container.

The officers on duty claimed they heard the three children laughing in the darkness…

Pete shivered.

“It’s ironic he would kill himself with a rope,” he said, chuckling at his bad joke.

“You’re—“

Before Angela could complete her sentence, she was interrupted by the same rattling of wood. She turned her head toward the staircase, half expecting a marionette to descend the steps. Pete, on the other hand, was waiting for school kids to burst out laughing.

When Angela began to button her shirt, Pete felt a flow of frustration and anger rising to the surface. Even though she liked to fool around, Angela was not an easy girl to get into bed.  Now he would have to wait a little longer to an already slow journey to have Angela.

“I’m going to see what that noise was,” he said grudgingly, pushing himself off the couch.

“Wait,” Angela peeped. “Don’t leave me alone.”

She clasped his hand, his firm hold easing her anxiety. But she was still frightened because she could not shake off the feeling of dread and despondency.

“Take the axe, Pete,” Angela suggested, pointing at an axe beside the staircase.

“Why is it just sitting there?” Pete said.

“I don’t know. You should just take it with you.”

“I don’t need it right now. It might just be a kid messing around. I don’t want to accidentally decapitate him.”

“You’re gruesome.”

Pete ignored the remark.

As they climbed the staircase, Pete warned Angela the third step from the top looked decrepit and weak. They skipped the step and continued their way up.

When they reached the top, they entered a dingy hallway. The rooms along the walls were filled with moonlight, faintly lighting the darkness. Shadowy forms of broken shelves and console tables littered the floor.

At the end of the hallway, they heard wood creaking and groaning. Even though they sensed an unsettling aura in the air, they followed the noise.

Angela squeezed Pete’s hand harder and harder.

Pete wished he had taken Angela to Lovers’ Peak. There would have been no distractions. There would have been him and her alone in the safe and warm car. But instead he was in a haunted house, in a dingy hallway, with her girlfriend frightened to near-death.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Pete said, smiling wanly. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”

When they finally entered the room, they saw a marionette sitting on a creaking and groaning rocking chair while it moved back and forth. The marionette was modelled after a faraway princess with its locks of blonde hair, detailed facial features, and intricate beryl-coloured gown. Its presence caused Pete and Angela to feel uneasy and anxious.

Pete went up to the rocking chair and stilled it.

“Someone must have just been in here,” Pete said, trying to bury the unpleasantness crawling up and down his chest. “We didn’t see anyone leave the room. There’s only one place to go.”

He walked over to the window and tried to pry it open. He didn’t want to feel the unpleasantness envelope him, so he tried desperately to bury it in doubt and logic.

But Angela didn’t care about Pete’s theories anymore. She was convinced the marionette was alive. She was certain the wooden rattling of the marionette caused them to come up, not the wind toppling something over.

Suddenly, the marionette spun its head toward her. She shrieked hard enough to crack fine glass.

Pete unglued himself from the window. But before he could find out what had happened, Angela was running from the room.

He chased after her, calling out her name, but her scream smothered his call.

“Watch out for the step!” Pete yelled.

But it was too late.

The third step snapped under her weight. Her hair whipped up into the air as she fell forward. She tumbled down and down until she hit the base of the staircase with a sickening thwack.

Pete ran after her but stopped as he stared down at her lifeless body, limbs and spine contorted in unnatural arches.

As he climbed down the stairs, carefully avoiding the broken step, Angela’s body floated up into the air! There were no strings attached to her body, but it did not stop it from climbing up the stairs. Moving like a marionette, her feet brushed each step and her arms dangled like rubber.

Pete could not move. He thought he was in a nightmare.

They were a foot apart now. He could smell the copper-like scent from her bloodied mouth and the perfume of vanilla from her body.

She stretched out her arm. The axe beside the staircase wobbled and floated up into the air until it gently landed on the palm of her hand.

As her dead eyes stared at Pete, Angela asked sinisterly. “Do you still want to reach third base? Because I still want to!”

Her laughter ripped open his soul as she swung the axe.

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