Puppet Master by Jinapher J. Hoffman
An Original Short Story
There’s this moment when everything around you will stop as if time has become your only friend, your only savior, because if time doesn’t stop, you know you will crash through a hail storm head first, skidding across ice that breaks after years of standing firm under your feet.
That’s what I feel like when it happens. The confinement. The strings.
Everything will be fine: sunshine and daisies. Then, it’s me and a large mound of cracking egg shells. I am an eggshell. I am fragile. I am weak. And, I am afraid. I’m afraid of myself, of what my mind is thinking as I lay on the carpeted floor staring at the ceiling and thinking thoughts no one should think. I think about running as far as the horizon goes. I think about drifting to a better place during a better time. I think about my fate and the reason why I am the mess I am today.
For a long time, I thought I was a puppet. I thought I was being pulled and pushed, swayed and sashayed, lifted and limited. I thought I was the one out of any control. Then, I lost him, his cold skin as cold as the water that pulled him under.
I had a daydream once or twice about that moment BEFORE it ever happened. I daydreamed about Liam, my Liam, leaving everything behind for no reason and stepping into the current of a strong rip tide. I watched Liam lie down, no muscle twitching, and drift away into a monstrous sea. I watched, but I did not help, because how could I? It was only a daydream, an odd vision as the math on the page in front of me had blurred in and out.
Then, I had left school, only to pull off on the side of the road when I saw Liam’s truck parked. I turned off my ignition, settled my stomach which was drowning in bad feelings, and walked over to the car. It was empty, the driver’s door left carelessly open. I followed the sandy ground out through a path thick with vegetation, starting to run when I thought I heard a scream. When I emerged on the beach, water hitting my toes, I saw him. His face was blue, his body bloated, and his eyes that used to whirl like the storm of an everlasting rip tide were dead. He was dead. My Liam was dead. There was a couple, a young blonde and her surfer-dude boyfriend, who had frantically scrambled up the beach to screaming for help. I stared at Liam, every muscle in my body turning to dried ash, sending me sinking to my knees in desperation for him to blink, twitch, ANYTHING. But, there was nothing.
Now, I still lie on my floor, face turned up toward the ceiling, tears dripping down my cheeks and onto the carpet beneath me. I don’t know how long I’ve been here, all I know is why.
“Candace, your gateway is waiting,” the cloaked figures voice is a seething siren, music like a woman’s but deep like a man’s. I don’t know who they are, all I know is why.
“Candace, it is time,” the cloaked figure says, this time more hurriedly. I want to stand, to follow, to not let Liam die in vain. I want to save him, to bring him back, and to find peace. So, I do. I don’t know where this cloaked person will take me, all I know is why.
Why? Why? Why?
“Graduating from you puppeteer status must be nerve-wracking,” the cloaked figure glides next to me, steadily pushing both of us toward the shadow arch on my bedroom wall.
I don’t speak. Why should I? Why? Why? Why?
“I know you must be shaken up, but the sacrifice had to be made. You knew that. You’ve always known, Candace.”
She or he is right. I have always known. I knew that whoever I loved had to be a no-strings-attached relationship, because where there’s strings, the puppet master cannot resist the temptation of fate.
“I remember when you’re father became a puppet master. It was a grand occasion,” the cloaked figure waves it’s clothed arm and the shadow arch begins to twist.
“My father is dead,” I speak slowly, my eyes glazing over with fresh tears.
“He broke the laws, Candace, he did not sacrifice your mother as he was told to after you were born. He knew the rules: carry the legacy, kill the bride,” the cloaked person says, their voice twisting to mischief, “Except in your case, all you needed was to kill the groom.”
“My mother is dead,” I shake.
“As she should be,” the archway stops twisting and a black curtain suddenly appears.
“My Liam is dead,” I cry, sucking in hulk sized sobs.
“Come now, dear child, there’s nothing left for you here,” the cloaked figure pulls the black curtain aside to reveal a dark expanse of nothing.
“What will happen when I jump?” I ask in fright.
“The darkness will take you and all will be well. The rules are the rules. You will be reunited with your loved ones and you will begin your journey as a puppet master.”
“I think I must jump,” I nod, suddenly convinced.
“Just be careful of the crowd. They’re always so intolerant to those leaving the stage,” the cloaked figure beckons once again to the dark expanse, “Go now, Candace, go now.”
I close my eyes and jump, doing my best not to think about the many strings that proclaim me a puppeteer. They were the strings of my past, pushing me forcefully to every edge. But, now I have jumped, and I shall graduate, and I will see my father, my mother, and my Liam. We will be puppet masters of our own.
But, the stage will be empty. It will be empty for a long time, because I was the last of the puppeteers and my legacy was not carried on through jumps into the shadow arch. My legacy was carried on through a chair and a rope. A chair that could be tipped over, forgotten like our pasts, and a rope that could be tied around our necks, a lasso of the taunting cloaked ones.
This short story was brought to you by Jinapher J. Hoffman for her Short Story Thursday segment. All rights are reserved to the author. If you wish to share the story, all credit for the writing must be given to Jinapher J. Hoffman. Thank-you for reading and be sure to come back on Thursdays for more short stories by this author.