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Puppet Theater (standard:horror, 1026 words)
Author: Pamela GatesAdded: Jul 25 2006Views/Reads: 2243/1258Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Things aren't always what they seem at the Theater.

I told them to go ahead, told my husband to take Mikey in before he
missed the show, that I just needed a cigarette. In truth, the place 
terrified me. 

The two buildings looked harmless enough on the outside. They were both
painted in bright blues and yellows. In the center, a large courtyard. 
Oversized panels– the wood shaped like angels, their faces decorated 
with brilliant smiles and eyes made of stars– ran along a tall fence. 

I stood frozen at the threshold, body numb, heart pounding, staring at
the sign before me: 

Puppet Theater. 

With a deep breath, I mustered enough courage to walk into the
courtyard. Rust-colored slabs of stone adorned the path, intermixed 
with yellow shards of mosaic glass. Dark rocks shaped like a set of 
footsteps led to a small glass door. 

I stepped on the first foot-shaped rock. A tingle of apprehension grew,
spread like wildfire through my body. The courtyard housed a variety of 
garden knickknacks: imps, gnomes, little green frogs with smiling 
faces. The head of a cherub, so childlike and innocent in appearance, 
sat before a large wire cage with its door open. 

A slight breeze blew through the courtyard, sent the door swaying back
and forth. A small lock clanged against the thin metal. I stepped 
closer. Red liquid had dried on the lock. Ketchup? No, too dark. Punch, 
maybe? Whatever it was, it smelled like copper, coated my tongue with a 
bitter taste. Inside the cage, flies buzzed over a grayish-green 
substance someone had heaped into a dog bowl. A stained blanket sat in 
one corner. What kind of animal had lived inside this thing? 

Heat worked into my fingers. I looked down. My cigarette had burned to
its end and was moving its way through my skin. I let it drop to the 
ground, crushed it with my shoe, then turned toward the glass door. 
Jack was probably glancing at his watch right now. Mikey would be 
tugging on Jack's sleeve, his blue eyes wide, asking where Mommy was, 
if he could have popcorn after the show, why the sky was blue, or a 
dozen other things a normal five-year-old wondered. 

A jingle rang through the air as I opened the glass door and stepped
inside. A musty smell greeted me– the odor of wet wood and old 
newspapers. I was glad to be away from the courtyard, at least until my 
eyes adjusted to the dark room. Marionettes– hundreds of them– lined up 
in neat rows across the walls, dangled from hat racks and store display 

Thousands of eyes stared back at me: a court jester that looked more
like a hunchback, a dragon bearing sharp fangs, a gypsy with a 
widespread grin. The gypsy had silver hoop earrings hanging down her 
earlobes, a shiny bandana pulling back her raven hair, a long, black 
dress, and a dozen glitter bracelets on her wrists. She seemed to gaze 
right at me, her green eyes just waiting for me to look away so she 
could cast her evil spell. 

A ripple of laughter echoed through the room, startled me from my
trance, and I found myself releasing a nervous laugh. Dolls, they were 
just dolls. I followed the source of the sound down a thin hallway, and 
into another room. Dozens of children sat huddled on the floor in front 
of a small stage. Their eyes were glazed over, their bodies still, all 
hypnotized by the show. 

“I wish I could have a child of my own,” a wooden Gepetto said. I
scanned the crowd and searched for my son's flaming red hair. Mikey did 
not sit among the other children, so I looked for my husband instead 
and found him in the back of the room. “Where's Mikey?” “They let him 
go backstage to watch.” Jack's face beamed with pride, yet fear gripped 
me like a vice. 

My stomach turned into a series of complicated knots as I took a seat.
Five, ten, fifteen, agonizing minutes later, the show ended. The lights 
came on, illuminated walls painted with Disney characters. In the 
brightness of the room, I felt foolish for being afraid earlier. My 
husband and I moved to the stage and waited. And waited. 

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