This is one of those stories of someone, that were written by someone, read by someone, but yet never occurred to someone. Atleast, that's what you'd wish for because now you will hear this story, told by one of those someones who also is one of those such events were not supposed to be happening to. In other words, my story.
It all began on a somewhat mild autumn day. The trees looked like a lunatic painter had gone down the avenue, lush green, happy yellow, rotting brown and blood-red leaves sitting next to each other. It was Saturday (and Halloween, by the way) and Thomas Henneth (that's me) left his family's mansion to take the family dog for a walk to town. Crossing the yard aiming for the gate, his gaze wandered right towards the tree that marked the family graveyard. He noticed the leaves of the old elm had already nearly completely fallen down. Only a sorry five still clung to the branches. Once he stepped through the gate and continued on the road to town he had his mind busy with trying to remember all the things he needed to buy and forgot about this seemingly irrelevant fact.
He arrived in town about twenty minutes later. It seemed the people of Greychapel were enjoying their autumn Saturday as well, by staying in bed.
'Unusually busy today, don't you think, Farr?' The dog barked in response, the sound echoing creepily hollow from as far as the grey church, hunched on the small hill that ended abruptly in a cliff leading directly down to sea.
While wandering through random streets, he didn't meet anyone, not even the usual gossipping women, tattling their tales in the backyards. He almost felt like an intruder on a holy mess, running into the church and stomping up stairs and down again, never to even realize there were others around. Turning around a corner, he almost rushed into someone. At first, he only saw little streams of blood running down from that person's mouth and jumped back with a suppressed scream of surprise. An arm reached for him, the skin an unhealthy grey. He even thought to hear a rasping dying breath. Then he realized the monster floated above the ground a few inches! Farr wasn't quite so shocked and tore at the creature's leg. Then it suddenly collapsed. It toppled over a few times lifelessly as a ragdoll then lay still. Curious, Thomas stepped closer. It's clothes didn't seem new, but not old and torn like zombie clothes he remembered from stories either. Just normal townsfolk garment, as everyone could wear it. He didn't touch it, but he thought it to be a real creature until he saw the strings. He wouldn't have noticed them, but Farr had caught his paw in one. A wave of relief surged over Thomas and he freed his struggling dog. That bloody zombie was just an original-sized marionette. He turned around and found a little sign stuck to the wall where the puppet hung.
Free public performance of "Little Man's Hunt"
A puppet play by
Arthur S. Henneth
Acts 12:00, 15:00 and 18:00 at town hall square'
So the marionette was just advertisement for his grandfather-in-law's play. He felt tears welling up in his eyes. Lord Arthur S. Henneth had died two weeks ago and Thomas had been very attached to the exceptionally gifted writer and voice imitator. The Lord had been very famous not only in Greychapel but in the whole country. He was loved by children and adults alike and his plays weren't as trite as other puppeteers' he knew.
He led Farr away from the poor damaged doll towards town hall square. He didn't look back. Maybe he should have.
A stage was set up on the square. Not only the stage itself, but also the auditorium was canopied, probably in considerance of the clouded sky. As Thomas looked up, he guessed it would start raining soon. It seemed the whole town had gathered to see the play and there hardly were any free seats left. He took one a bit secluded and checked on his watch that the play was to start soon.
'Ladies and Gentleman! I am truly honored that you attend this public performance. This play was designed by me in reaction to -'
Thomas didn't listen to the rest. He just sat there and stared. The voice was unmistakenly the one of his grandfather. And it didn't sound like a recording at all. He looked at the spectators. They looked like ordinary people but then he saw a glittering line above one head, then over others. Farr whinced and unspeakable horror took his heart into its grasp. He sprang from his seat and fled, Farr just at his heels. Behind him he heard artificial-sounding laughs.
He ran down the street leading back to the mansion, breathing hard and with each breath sucking in the smell of wood glue.
He fumbled open the door and almost fell over his feet in his eagerness to enter the safety of the mansion. Sinking to his knees he tried to catch his breath again, as Farr licked his hand consolingly.
Being able to breath normally again, he stood and called 'Emilia, dear! Are you there?' and silently to himself: 'Please be there, please...'
As he waited for an answer, he looked out of the window and noticed that four of the five leaves had fallen. A cold tingle ran down his spine. Did this mean something? It was the tree watching over Lord Henneth's grave after all...
He jumped as a voice from behind said 'Thomas? What happened?'
Emilia Henneth, his wife, stood behind him, looking like she just got out of bed, wild hair and all. Her husband hugged her tight and blurted his story to her. She seemed to not take it seriously, as he expected.
'Come on, do you take me for a fool? I know it's Halloween, dear!' she said with a smile. 'But in honor of your storytelling abilities I'll get you a nice tea.'
She seized his arm with her cold fingers. Cold? Every single one of his hairs stood on end. As he looked back out of the window, the last leaf just fell down. He smelled wood glue again and then his body moved on it's own. In Emilia's eyes he could see that she too had been made a puppet. Eyes full of pain, staring at the strings on his legs, head, arms and even every single finger and toe.
From that day on, every year at Halloween, the Puppeteer returned to have the town act out his last play for one day.