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The old man brings his marionette out onto the stage.

The smell of sawdust and paint give away the notion that, mere days ago, this entire theatre was in shambles. It appears as if someone stepped in to volunteer the renovations, keeping the entire place from being razed a few weeks from now.

So far, a small girl has sung a horrible rendition of "The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow". That was followed by the clumsy juggler on his unicycle, then the pair of identical twins who spun in dizzying circles with a variety of colorful twirling rings.

Right now, however, the old man has everyone's attention.

He drags a stool with him, its wooden legs screeching along the dusty, scuffed stage. When he reaches the center, he sits carefully on the stool and holds the marionette out in front of him.

He clears his throat once, then again, working out some mysterious bit of something that clearly does not wish to go.

The marionette is interesting, to say the least. Crudely carved, with splinters and knots clearly visible, it jiggles and quivers on its invisible strings as the old man tries to empty his windpipe.

The puppet is probably intended to be an infant, though its elongated, awkward limbs and fully formed hands and feet don't seem to fit the concept. The thing's face is chubby-cheeked, almost cherubic, but with squinting eyes and a single yellow tooth set within its silently wailing mouth.

A dried, brown, crackling fig leaf appears to be half-nailed to its genderless groin.

"Freidrich." The old man speaks in a German accept several times heavier than the weight of his frail voice.

"Yes, father?" The marionette answers, jaw click-clacking out of time with the words.

"I hope you have had a good sleep inside your box." The old man stares forward, into the audience, his white hair and beard seeming almost transparent in the spotlight. "The box, it is your home."

"I know this." The oddly-proportioned baby swivels and jerks, "I am happy to have a home! It is a good box. Strong and air-tight."

"Freidrich, will you tell a joke for the nice audience people?"

"Surely, I will. It is my duty."

"Go on, then."

"When I was born, I was so ugly that the Doctor slapped my Mother!"

The audience is silent.

"I don't think they liked your joke, Freidrich."

"That is a travesty. Perhaps I shall tell them another?"

"If you so choose, Freidrich."

The baby twists and turns on its strings, its feet hopping. One of its lengthy, knobby arms works around to stroke the rough curve of its chin.

"Why did the man ask his herb garden for its wisdom?"

"I do not know. Why, Freidrich? Why did this man ask for wisdom from a common herb garden? Perhaps he was overcome with a certain amount of... madness?"

"Father, the garden was full of sage advice."

Someone in the room coughs. As the unsettling pool of silence fills the room to its ceiling, another unseen audience member wretches violently.

"I think they've heard your jokes before, Freidrich."

The marionette quivers and shifts between its feet, shaking its odd melon head as if to assert the negative.

"No, Father! I am sure it's something else. I am always learning new jokes and sometimes I make them up from nothing!"

The old man takes something from his vest pocket. It is metal. It gleams briefly in the spotlight. As he palms the object, as if the audience hadn't seen it, the puppet grows even more concerned.

The old man's other gnarled, spotted hand, its long fingernails tapering out into points, controls the marionette with a white-knuckled grip.

"Sing them your song, Friedrich. Sing your Baby Song."

"Is it time, Father?"

"Yes."

The puppet wobbles closer to the audience, as if this is its moment to shine. The old man continues to look indifferent, his weathered visage seems almost sad.

"This is a song about a woman who died while expelling a child!" The marionette proudly proclaims.

The audience audibly gasps in shock and disgust.

"There waaaas a sweeet young woman..." The puppet begins, "Who 'neath the moon was shaaaamed..."

The song is slow, so far. It is mournful, like a funeral dirge.

"The maaaan who did her wroooong, could ne'er be truly blaaaaaamed."

The puppet begins to dance, the pace picking up a bit.

"So underneath the Doctor's knife, the dear young girl, she lost her life! Then there was a voice, you see, after he'd pulled a baby free..."

The marionette's voice changes, becoming sinister and cruel as it delivers a line in spoken word.

"And my friends, I tell no lies! This is what it said!"

The thing's limbs begin to jump and twitch in a ferocious, demented jig. The old man's hand, the one controlling the puppet, does not move.

It sings quickly in a loud, shrill tone.

"HA HA! HEE HEE! YOU GOT MY BROTHER BUT YOU NEVER GOT ME!"

The old man reveals a pair of scissors.

"HA HA! HEE HEE! YOU GOT MY BROTHER BUT YOU NEVER GOT ME!"

Snip.

"HA HA! HEE HEE! YOU GOT MY BROTHER BUT YOU NEVER GOT ME!"

Snip snip.

"HA HA! HEE HEE! YOU GOT MY BROTHER BUT YOU NEVER GOT ME!"

Snip snip snip.

The strings are cut. The marionette, the deformed and awful infant, dances around the stage, whirling and leaping as if suspended from threads that clearly do not exist. It wheels about madly, lunging to and fro as it repeats the same obnoxious mantra over and over again.

"HA HA! HEE HEE! YOU GOT MY BROTHER BUT YOU NEVER GOT ME!"

With a sudden and unexpected burst of impossible power, the marionette launches itself into the audience, and all at once the sickening sound of rough wood tearing flesh echoes through the theatre.

"HA HA!"

A mist of blood and the unmistakable scent of human entrails swirl about.

"HEE HEE!"

You've made it through the show so far. The Juggler and his knives "mistakenly" spun out into the crowd, the little singer and her eardrum shattering off-pitch notes, even the ring-spinning twins and the thin brass barbs they cast off in every direction.

Now, Freidrich has claimed another among the audience, and you've been passed over. The number of warm bodies is dwindling, and with each performance your odds become increasingly bad.

How long will this last? How many more acts will there be?

Why won't your limbs move?

Why can't you walk out?



Credited to Slimebeast
Content is available under CC BY-NC

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