The Haunted Toy Store… Canto 16

Canto 16 – The First Adventure on Strings

The marionette that was now Shandra and the marionette that was actually Mark were both standing on a stage made for marionettes.  It was small, but ornate, with a woodland scene draped behind them.

“You are now Hansel and Gretel,” said Mr. Mephisto.

Shandra looked up at the puppeteer holding her control stick above her, and the female puppeteer holding the control stick for Mark.  “And who are these dummies that seem to think they gonna make us do stuff with them strings they got attached to us?”

“Oh, they aren’t there to control the two of you.  Trog and Trogina are the real puppets.  They will just hold the strings to convince the audience that you two are puppets.”

“So, we can move and do whatever we want?” Shandra put her marionette hands on her hips and frowned at Mephisto while Trog moved the correct strings to fake that he was doing the controlling.

“You can go anywhere on stage as long as you are attached to the strings.  If you mention something that you need in the story, it will appear on stage as if by the magic of a Troglet handing it to you or changing the scenery like a good stage manager.”

“And what if we say something that’s not on the script?” asked Mark, his voice sounding nervous with apparent stage fright.

“Oh, we are not using a script, Hansel, my boy.  You will just make up the story as you go.  You do basically know the story of Hansel and Gretel, right?”

“I gotta story to tell alright,” said Shandra, frowning even harder with her string-attached eyebrows.

“Good girl.  That’s what we do here.  Improv.  And it all works out in the end one way or another.”

The theater was in a library on Webb Chapel Road.  When Mr. Mephisto pulled back the curtains you could see the shelves of books, and the wooden chairs lined up in front of the puppet theater, and the space right down front that quickly filled up with snotty little brats that were younger than Shandra and Mark by a bit.  Shandra grinned evilly.

Mr. Mephisto came over the speaker and said, “The Kids on Strings now present their version of Hansel and Gretel.”

“ Well, Hansel, we are kicked outta our home by an evil stepfather and have to find a way to feed our own selves.”

“Um, yeah, Gretel…” Mark answered tentatively.

“So, you know that old witch that has the house made of gingerbread and candy?  The one who eats kids like us?”

“Uh, well… yes.”

“Let’s go eat her damn house.  I like gingerbread, and I’m really very hungry.”

“Well, yeah.  But what if the witch catches us?”

“You know how this story goes.  We kill her evil backside… and her frontside too.”

The kids in the audience all laughed.  The adults, however, were looking rather frowny.

The scenery changed.  The Troglet dropped in the gingerbread witch house, which was actually made of cardboard and papier mache.  Shandra winked at the crowd, smiled even bigger, and proceeded to chew the scenery to pieces with her wooden teeth.

Mark helped her make the house-eating scene look real as he greedily chewed up the witch’s house beside Shandra.

“Oh, no!  Look out for the witch!” cried several kids in the audience.  The witch puppet showed up on stage armed with what appeared to be a magic wand.

Shandra grinned at the witch as she said aloud, “Troglet, where is that goddam oven we get to bake her in?”

The oven appeared as if by magic, stage right.

The witch puppet seemed to be looking at Shandra imploringly, fear featured prominently in her bulging, round eyes.

Shandra boldly strode over to the witch, hoisted the villain over her puppet head, and gave Mark a sharp command.  “Open that danged oven, so I can throw this witch in there!”

“Oh, no!” cried the witch, having already dropped her wand.

Shandra marched over and threw the puppet witch into what appeared to be a real fire.  The witch broke free of her strings and started to crisp in the oven’s hot flames. 

Immediately Shandra formed a new plan.  She reached down and picked up the witch’s wand.  She pointed it at the oven.

“I don’t want no gingerbread witch.  I want to turn the witch into a statue of pure gold.  Not puppet-show gold, but real, honest-to-god gold.”

The oven disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving behind a golden statue of the witch.  And, as the spotlight caused the golden statue to glitter, it appeared to be real gold.

The kids all laughed.  The adults mostly applauded.

“That is real gold over there,” said Shandra, grinning at the crowd.  “And I wanna use it to hire a hit man.”

“To kill somebody for real?” asked a black man in the back of the audience.

“Yes.  You, any of you, know Poppa Dark?”

“The con man that maybe killed his stepdaughter?”

“That would be the one.  Guilty as sin.  He killed poor lovely Shandra and deserves to die.  The statue, whatever the gold is worth, goes to anybody who can successfully make him dead.”

“Boy howdy, I don’t know about this!” said a white parent, grabbing her two kids from the front row.

“That is definitely not how the story goes,” someone else said.

“Won’t you all come back for our next show?” Shandra said with a grin.  “It will be called How Poppa Dark Got What’s Coming to Him.”

The part of the library where the puppet show was located quickly emptied, and Mr. Mephisto drew the curtains closed.

Then the old devil man was standing in front of Shandra and Mark with a smile on his face.

“So, now you gonna punish us kids?”

“No, Shandra.  That was perfect, just as it was.”

“You mean we didn’t mess up your evil little plans?”

“Of course not.  That was precisely the introduction we needed in this case.  Somebody will be getting the message soon.”


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Filed under ghost stories, horror writing, novel, Paffooney

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