Jealous of the attention lavished upon the puppetry talents of his dear sister—and tormented by visions of her torture at the hands of the mysterious Uncle Pavan who recruited her for his arcane school—Elias is determined to learn the true nature of occult puppetry, no matter the hideous costs, in order to exact vengeance.
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I will not deny that I have always been fascinated with puppets.
Perhaps because I was born on a farm in Saint Siméon, a forgotten town west of Valence in southern France named after the patron saint of puppets. Despite the frequent puppet shows many families considered themselves extraordinarily lucky if a child were accepted into the Lycée Avancé des Marionettes to study such puppetry—not all were enthusiastic.
Neither my father, Patrick Clermont, nor my mother, Anne Belleau, ever bought me a puppet.
I sulked over this injustice. At the age of four, I could only watch my sister, Sonja, play with Angélique, a fairy marionette with long red hair that our Uncle Pavan had bought her.
Occasionally, when she noticed me moping, Sonja would let me pull at the strings. Although I could get Angélique to do a flopping walk, I never could make her glide so gracefully as my sister did. Sonja’s twirling flourishes of thumbs and rippling fingers gave Angélique life.
“Such talent, such polish.” Uncle Pavan rubbed his large thumbs together as he watched Angélique slide amid potted wisteria and marigolds in the garden, flow through the open patio door, and float inside up to the doll’s house to join Sonja.
Sonja played at Angélique’s strings like a harp by whose invisible sounds the marionette bobbed with buoyant grace, almost hovering at times as if her silky azure wings could truly fly.
Uncle Pavan’s own prowess at puppetry was marvelous. Some townsfolk whispered he could literally bring puppets to life. He took a dedicated interest in Sonja’s future. That is why I have so few memories of her. She left for the advanced arts of puppetry.
I was left alone.
I longed to play with Sonja as we had on brighter days of jumping on piles of bronzing autumn leaves or racing through lavender fields with the spring winds—chasing harvest mice and Swallowtail butterflies dipping amid the yellow cowslips. We’d jump and then crouch down between stalks of shuddering wheat or corn. When I brooded and stroked Sebastian, our silky-furred black cat, who had also been the playmate of Sonja, I decided that if I showed myself particularly adept at puppets like my sister, then I would be reunited with her.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Marc Harris teaches creative writing, folklore, and literature, and is the Creative Writing Coordinator at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX.
He graduated with a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Washington, and an MFA in fiction from Bowling Green State University, where he served as Fiction Editor of Mid-American Review.
Creative work in journals such as Apex and Abyss, Arroyo Literary Review, Marvels and Tales, Midwestern Gothic, Psychopomp Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, and Writing Texas
His novella of weird horror Master of Rods and Strings was included in the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award® Reading List for 2021 and will be republished by Crystal Lake Publishing in 2024.
Find the author online at his website: https://jasonmarcharris.com/