It was the 8th year anniversary of my brother’s disappearance. My parents, as usual, sat by the fireplace, mindlessly rocking back and forth in their rapidly deteriorating redwood chairs, wallowing in their never-ending sorrow. I could never understand why people bothered commemorating such devastating events, it always seemed like such a waste of emotions to me. But, in spite of their pain, day after day, they took blame for what happened, encasing themselves within a makeshift tomb constructed of past regrets. Why did we let him go? Are we bad parents? Was it our fault? I knew, though I desperately wanted to disprove it, that most of the blame befell upon me. I was supposed to watch him that fateful night, the night of that accursed show. I was granted the temporary responsibility of being his caretaker, and I had failed miserably.
I yearned for the chance to relive that night; maybe I could’ve kept a better eye on him or held his hand so he wouldn’t get lost. The tragedy of losing a relative at the age of 10, isn’t something you forget, but, at the risk of sounding egoistic, it’s not something I want to reminisce either. Despite how much it pained me however, I wanted to learn the truth. I wanted answers to my parents unending questions, questions that forced tightened cuffs upon their psyche, trapping them within their mental prisons. That moment came when I received word that the same puppet show that caused our burdens would be returning to town. I would finally receive my answers.
Being the ripe age of 18, I had no problems acquiring a ticket to the show on my own. I decided against notifying my parents of my whereabouts, knowing that if I told them, they would forbid me to go. It was just as I remembered. The building for the performance was decayed and putrescent. Its walls were striped of most of its paint and vibrant green vines lengthened along its sides. The inside however, was the complete opposite. The walls were adorned with red and black colored wallpaper, posters and stringed lights decorated the room, small chairs gathered around a large wooden stage draped behind scarlet red curtains. It was like walking into an old, abandoned building, only to be greeted with a beautiful oasis. The show wouldn’t begin for another thirty minutes, although many were already arriving. I took my seat in the far back and waited patiently for the show to begin.
Aside from a few subtle changes and the addition of new puppets, it was the same show that I’d experienced in my childhood. My eyes swelled up with tears at the thought of my brother, I found it difficult to focus on the show any longer. Just as I was ready to make my departure, one of the puppets caught my eye. It had soft, curly brown hair and eyes that shimmered with the brightest pools of blue. It had uncanny resemblance to my brother, a carbon copy of how he looked right before his kidnapping. It even bore the same clothing as he: jean overalls draped over a white shirt. I was dumbfounded, it had to be a coincidence? Rapid thoughts flashed through my mind like multiple bolts of lightning striking all at once. Could this man, this puppeteer, be the one behind my brother’s disappearance?
I needed to find proof of my disquieting discovery before pointing blame. I waited for the show to end and while he was distracted with autographs, I stealthily snuck away to his dressing room. I was surprised to find the door unlocked. I cautiously twisted the knob in my trembling fist, my heartbeat steadily increasing as I ascended into the room. Silhouettes of marionettes hung from the ceiling and sat among the many shelves the room held. A sliver of light beaming from the hallway illuminated the room only slightly. I trailed my fingers along the wall in search of a light source, my hand eventually coming in contact with one. I flicked the switch only to be greeted with the most haunting display.
My stupefied gaze was met not with the site of marionettes, but with children. Children who were reported missing from neighboring towns and cities, all gathered together to partake in the puppeteer’s demented puppet show. Many of their limbs had been amputated and stitched back into place, eyes gouged out of their sockets and placed in jars, soaking in an unknown liquid. Their mouths cut to their ears and sewn shut, drips of dried blood leaked from their orifices. Some had their heads decapitated from their bodies and attached to that of a dolls. I swallowed hard, forcing down the vomit that erupted from the pits of my stomach. I stared, awe-struck at the hellish sight I was now witnessing, the ability to move had left me.
I heard footsteps quickly approaching my location, I spun around only to have my eyes meet with the puppeteer’s; he was holding my brother, or, what was left of him. I wasted no time in sprinting away as fast as I could, I was relieved to hear the absence of steps behind me. As soon as I arrived home I called the police. My parents, noticing how frantic I was, kept questioning if I was ok, but I couldn’t answer them. The police arrived about a half hour later, I was too distraught to give a detailed statement, but told them as much as I could. Three days later, they were able to capture and apprehend the puppeteer.
The remains of the children were all returned to their families and allowed a proper burial. The puppeteer was given the death sentence for his crimes, scheduled to take place within the next twenty years. As of late, word had gotten out of his escape from prison. Somehow, before escaping, he managed to write out my name on the cell walls with his own blood. No one knows how he learned my name, I opted to stay anonymous for the duration of the trial and did not appear in person. The cops guessed he was able to get a hold of the police records, and recognized my picture from my encounter with him. If that’s the case, then my faith is now entrusted in the protective agency, and the reassurance that our location was well hidden. I just hope it stays that way.