"Jason, it was just your imagination-"

"No! I saw her!"

"What happened to Sarah wasn't your fault, and we did all we could."

"Mark, I swear to god, I saw Sarah. She was there, at the edge of the woods..."


" the edge of the woods... with that THING."

"What thing, Jason?"

"It-it was, like... covered in those stitches-"

"Jason, how about you start from the beginning?"

My daughter, Sarah, and I lived by ourselves, in a large house. It had two floors, with plenty of space, so it was perfect for a single father to raise a daughter. There were huge trees, with branches that reminded me of spider's legs, surrounding the dark house, giving my property a gloomy atmosphere. Sarah always managed to brighten it up. I can still remember her red hair, flowing in the breeze as she'd ride her bike around the yard.

On both sides of the property there were neighbors, but the backyard ended in a hill going into a large meadow, where wildflowers grew. I would always enjoy going into the meadow where the air was sweet, and the breeze was calming.

The meadow ended in a deep forest, thick with trees that touched the sky. I always told Sarah never to go there, and as far as I can remember, only a group of some teenagers went exploring back there. Other than that, really nobody seemed interested in what lay within the forest.

Sarah was in 3rd grade. I had to comfort her a lot when I got divorced from her mother, which was one of the worst times my heart ached for my daughter. She always seemed happy though, and went off and played with a few friends each day.

One Friday, however, she came home after school a bit happier than usual. I remember opening the door for her when she came home, and she had a large, toothy grin.

"Hey honey, did you have a good day at school?"

"Yeah!" She said, walking to her room. She threw her pink and green Dora the Explorer backpack on the floor, which I picked up. I noticed she clutched something tightly in her hand.

"Sarah, what's that you have?" I asked, looking at what I thought was a flesh-colored blob.

Sarah's grin grew wider and she held out her hand, showing me the thing. "I found it on the way home from school!"

Sarah held a humanoid doll-like figure. Its eyes unsettled me, but what unsettled me more was the large stitches that appeared all over its body. Its hands were like claws, as were its feet.

Sarah handed me the thing. It felt light, and looked soft, yet felt hard in my hand. I would say it felt like wood, but more firm, more unbreakable.

"It's a marionette!" I exclaimed when the realization dawned on me. Sarah's eyes narrowed.

"What's a marionette?" she asked.

"It's a puppet, it's tied to strings that are tied to a stick, and you move the stick to make them dance," I said, remembering the puppets that I once had in my youth. I looked back down to the thing I held in my palm. "But this one looks like its strings were cut off."

Sarah looked a bit disappointed. "Can I still play with it, Daddy?"

I smiled. "Of course, wash it off first though, if it was out on the street," but the puppet looked to have not a spec of dirt on it.

I remember it being very cold that night. The wind howled outside, and the trees in the forest shook violently. I remember the rain, a downpour, drenching the house as well as anything outside. Every raindrop pounded against the house, and as I lie in my bed, trying to keep warm under my blanket, I felt worried for Sarah, wondering if the storm would frighten her. I tried to ignore my paranoia, and eventually found sleep.

I was awoken an hour later, and I was confused for a moment as to why. Thunder raged outside, and I just assumed that was what had startled me from slumber. Something lingered in the back of my mind, but I pushed it further back, rolled over, and crept back into sleep.

I opened my eyes the next morning. Sunlight from my window blinded me temporarily, and instinct made me shield the light with my hand and roll over in my bed. I blinked a few times, then gasped. The marionette Sarah brought home yesterday sat on my nightstand in a sitting position, staring at me. I jumped in surprise, before realizing that a doll of all things had frightened me. With a chuckle, I reached over and picked up the marionette.

It really was quite small. I'd say it was about four inches tall, its body was slender, and its fingers ended in points. It had stitches all over its body, Like two on its chest, one on the thing's arm, one on each of its legs, and even one on its face, just under the right eye, going from its cheek to its neck. It was bald, and seemed to be naked. What I was just noticing was on both of its arms, it had needles, two on each arm, plunged into the body.

I found myself getting a bit curious. Why would this thing be left out on the street? Who would make something like this? How did it get in my room?

Had Sarah thought that it would be funny to leave her new toy on my nightstand? I got out of bed, throwing the blanket aside. My skin crawled in the cold air, and as soon as my bare feet made contact with the floor, which felt like ice, I felt myself wishing I was back in bed.

I dressed in jeans and a normal gray shirt. I went downstairs, where I found Sarah watching her early morning Saturday cartoons.

"Good morning, honey," I greeted her as I strode into the living room, the marionette in my hand.

"'Morning, Daddy!" She said, turning around. Her eyes darted to my hand, "Hey, you found my puppet!"

"Yeah, just, don't leave it in my room anymore, okay?" I scolded.

Sarah frowned. "But I didn't leave it in your room, I sat him in my dollhouse."

"Okay, Sarah, this isn't a funny joke, now what do you want for breakfast?" I asked, stepping into the kitchen.

A confused expression remained on Sarah's face, but she answered "Frosted Flakes" before turning back to the TV. I recognized Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck on screen. I disregarded the whole thing and went into the kitchen to get Sarah her cereal, and myself some toast.

That night, there was another storm. I sat up in my bed as I again woke up in the middle of the night. I jumped at the clap of thunder, and found myself desperately wishing for it to end. I rolled over in my bed, burying my face in my pillow. This usually provides a sense of security, but not tonight.

In fact... I felt the opposite of secure. I felt like there was some unknown entity standing over me, ready to strike. With this thought, I rolled over, looking up to the side of my bed. There was nothing there. Lightning flashed outside as the storm raged on. Despite the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach I somehow managed to find sleep, bringing forth a nightmare to go along with the storm.

I was surrounded by trees. It's hard to describe. It was the middle of the night, yet it was a pleasant afternoon. I could barely see, yet the sun shone bright. I saw dirt shuffle on the ground before me, I was definitely in a forest. The dirt was being pushed aside as a bloody hand reached up. Its fingers were bent at an unnatural angle, as though badly broken.

The hand broke the surface and stopped, dirt falling from its lifeless fingers. I saw leaves rustle on the trees as though wind was blowing, then all the leaves fell from the trees at once. It was hypnotic the way they were caught in the wind completely in sync before being blown away into the abyss of darkness that lie behind the trees in every direction. The hand was the only thing in my sight, other than the trees with empty branches like long fingers stretching out to grab me.

I tried to move my head so I could find a way out of this place, but my head wouldn't move. My arms began to rise up and flail wildly. My legs were flailing too, I was rising into the air. My head tilted back, and to my utter horror, saw transparent strings around my arms, legs, and neck. They were just barely visible. The strings ended at a hand. The fingers ended in points, like claws.

I was a puppet.

I woke up. I gasped for air, sweat running down my face. I had tumbled out of bed and was lying on the hard wooden floor. I gasped a few more times, then reached up with my hand and wiped sweat from my forehead. My throat was dry. I coughed a few times, then got off the floor and walked downstairs to get some water.

I got a clear glass cup, and held it under the sink for some cold water. I enjoyed the cool liquid's refreshing feel as I drank it. After I finished, I turned to the window. It was no longer storming outside, and the sky was lighting up. I looked at the clock. 4:34 AM. It was Sunday, and I would've been sleeping in. I turned around to go back to my room, in the hope of somehow finding sleep, but stopped when I  saw Sarah standing at the bottom of the stairs. She stared at me sleepily, one hand firmly grasping the marionette.

"Sarah, what are you doing down here? Do you know what time it is?" I scolded her.

Sarah looked around and shook her head in a daze, as though confused. I walked over to her. Her red hair was a mess, and she could barely keep her eyes open.

"I'm sorry Daddy," she whispered groggily, somewhat dreamily as though someplace else. "He...he wanted me..."

"Sarah, it was just a bad dream. Go back to bed, okay?" I tried to make my voice sound calm and reassuring. Sarah thought it was, and turned around and stumbled back upstairs to her bed.

I followed her, in hopes of going back to my bed, but I was disturbed by Sarah. Why had she brought her marionette?

It was a long day, no matter how much coffee I drank, or what I was doing, I was still tired. I'm serious, I must have drank seven cups. That night, after such a hard day I was ready for sleep. I tucked Sarah in, bid her goodnight, then went to my room where I crawled into bed. There was no storm and I fell asleep pretty easily.

I had another nightmare. I was suspended in mid air. I looked around, nothing but swirls of black and grey. Oblivion in every direction until finally, I tilted my head back and looked up. The only thing to breach the pure darkness above was the clawed hands, and the strings still holding me. The strings were still transparent, but definitely more solid than last time.

I looked back down and saw pale white faces. They were transparent, mouths open in gaping screams. I couldn't hear any screaming though, just whispers.

"Help us."

"So cold."

"No escape from him."

"He wants us all."

I wanted to raise my hands to my ears and block out those voices, like smoke on the wind. My hands wouldn't move, I was again a puppet. Suspended in mid-air as the faces swirled around me.



"No, no, no, no, no."

"He wants you...he has me..."

"He is-"

He is what?

I awoke in a cold sweat, the last sentence of that last face, what was he trying to say? I lie in my bed, pondering it for a while before Sarah finally woke up and I was snapped out of my trance by the sounds of her early morning cartoons.

I was sick of this, every night having some recurring nightmare, waking up in a pool of sweat; it was driving me crazy. I had to find out what was going on. I walked over to the phone and punched in a number. I pressed the receiver to my ear, and after two rings, I heard my friend Mark on the other line.

"Hullo?" He whispered, sounding exhausted and slightly annoyed. I turned to the clock, silently cursing myself. In my haste, I hadn't realized it was 6 in the morning. Mark woke up at noon for his job as a police officer. What was Sarah doing up? She was never awake before 8...

"Yeah, uh, hi Mark, it's Jason. I'm sorry for calling at this time-"

"Well, your reason better be goddamn important," Mark interrupted irritably.

I felt incredibly foolish now. Mark was cussing, a sign he was sleepy and feeling aggressive. I wanted to just apologize and hang up, but I told him everything. About all the nightmares.

"It's just been driving me crazy, Mark, and I have no idea what to do."

Mark was silent for a while. "Jason, I understand that you needed to talk about it, but just take some sleeping pills and call me in the morning."

I thanked him and hung up. I sat there with my hand on the phone for a while, just lost in my thoughts, when a bang from the TV and Sarah's excited laughter surprised me. I tried to hide all tension and fear from my face, and went into the living room for the morning ritual of getting Sarah her Frosted Flakes.

The storm seemed to explode with extra rage that night. I thought for sure there was a hurricane outside. It was as if the storm was furious at me for something, and was unleashing its fury on me. A tree branch actually slapped against my window. I felt very unsafe in my own bed. I went to Sarah's room, and was astonished when I saw Sarah in her white nightgown, sleeping peacefully. I gently closed her door, then turned and walked back to my room where I crawled into bed. I was reluctant to fall asleep, but finally did despite the howling echoes of the wind and the rain falling like a storm of bullets.

This was familiar. The nightmare continued, except today the strings were no longer transparent. Completely solid, and a shade of black, they were rising me up. The faces were below me, remaining in place. They were no longer whispering. All they did was stare at me with solemn expressions, as if I were a prisoner at the gallows about to be hung.

I was hovering in an abyss, only the mysterious clawed hand to free me from this hell. I was almost there. I still couldn't see where the strings came from, but suddenly the fingers moved.

With surprising speed, they closed around me. It was over. I closed my eyes. It finally had me. With a loud shatter, the dream ended.

I was awake. That shatter wasn't in my dream. It had come from Sarah's room.

I jumped out of bed, tangling my feet in my blanket and falling on the floor. A loud thumping noise came from Sarah's room before all was silent. My frantic gasps and rapid movements were the only sounds I heard as I leapt up from the floor and raced to my daughter's bedroom. I grabbed the door handle and flung the door open.

I fell to my knees as I beheld the scene before me. Sarah was gone, a torn off piece of her nightgown lie discarded on the floor. Her bed and the floor were covered in blood droplets and smears. My eyes darted to the window. It was broken; glass littered the floor. I gripped my head in my hands, sweat dropped down my face as my stomach heaved.

"No, no, no." was all that came from my mouth as it gaped open and closed in deep breaths.

Then I heard it. Sarah's voice, someone else's voice, the wind, I don't know what it was. For all I know, it was just paranoia and fear, but I heard it.

"The forest, the forest, the forest."

Repeating over and over again, a lone voice carried by the wind. Despite everything, I began to mumble with it under my breath.

"The forest, the forest, the forest."

I got to my feet, wearing grey shorts with no shirt on, and walked downstairs.

"The forest, the forest, the forest."

I walked through the kitchen. On the refrigerator was a drawing Sarah made. It was a crudely drawn stick figure with a smiley face. Below it was the words "I love you, Daddy". My eyes teared up.

"The forest, the forest, the forest."

I opened the back door, then kept walking without closing it. Wind blew as though telling me to turn around. Rain soaked me, but I didn't care. The tall trees of the forest were in sight.

The Puppet

A Sketch of the creature holding my daughter

"The forest, the forest, the forest."

My bare feet dragged through the wet grass. I felt like a zombie, but kept walking down the hill. I nearly tripped, but regained my balance. Nothing would stop me now.

"The forest, the forest, the forest."

I had finally reached the edge of the forest. It was eerie. There were no birds out under this pale moon. A harsh wind blew, shaking the trees and sending a shiver down my spine. The rain fell harder. Thunder cracked as the leaves of the trees parted. I gasped as I saw Sarah, her white dress flowing in the breeze. One of the arms of the nightgown was tore off; the cloth from it must have been what I found in her room.

I fell to my knees, tears streaking down my face as I opened my mouth in a wail of fury and sorrow. Sarah had blood all over her face from multiple cuts. Blood soaked her white nightgown. Her head dangled limply, her dirty hair falling down. Her dress was coated in blood and dirt.

Behind her was a terrible sight. A large version of the marionette, but definitely not the marionette. It was about seven feet tall, with skin that looked wooden. Its hands ended in claws. Needles were plunged into its arms, but it didn't seem to feel the pain. I looked into its face. There were stitches running down one cheek, and more stitches around its body.

As I stared it seemed to stare back, the eyes glaring into my soul. I can't even describe his eyes, they were grey with black irises and grey pupils. There was much more to them then that, but I can't describe the rest. It was bald, with a large head.

I then noticed that it had one arm extended. Black strings had come out of his fingers, and were tied around the corpse of my daughter.

"Son of a BITCH!" I screamed as I fell to my knees. It loomed over me, rain fell, thunder cracked.

I couldn't take this anymore. I looked up, and through my tears, saw it move backwards back into the forest, taking my daughter with it. It didn't seem to walk or levitate, kind of a slide. I heard shouts behind me, but that was when I lost consciousness.

"...and you found me, Mark."

"Jason, you say a... puppet of sorts did this?"

"Not a puppet. His name is the Puppet."


"I look into the mirror, and all I see is a puppet staring back at me. Mark, while I was unconscious, I heard Sarah crying out to me. 'Daddy. Help me, Daddy. His name is the Puppet. Help me Daddy.' I can't live like this Mark, I'm-I-I"

"Jason, calm down, take a deep breath-"

"I'm going insane! Mark, I'm his puppet, I can't escape from The Puppet!"


"He's coming for me!"


"What the hell- AUGH!"

"NO! You've taken my daughter, and now my best friend. I'll hunt you down forever! I'll never stop! You hear me? You hear me! Don't go, I don't know if I can find you again... no... You hear me... you hear me... I'll never stop... never... The Puppet..."