Rolled up sheets and metal threads were tucked away underneath the stage as the first wave of people walked towards the laid out metal seats. As they started taking their seats, the ringmaster made his way onto the stage, his hands adjusting his tie.
“Good evening to all of you,” he began, smiling. “I hope you all had a wonderful evening with us here!”
The audience cheered, the energy staggering.
“And our last event of tonight is one of our most acclaimed shows,” he announced as he gestured towards the curtains behind him. “Our marionette show!”
The applause echoed through the open field as the stage lit up. The curtains drew open as the cheering grew louder. A single marionette sat in the middle of the stage, it’s limp limbs placed onto its lap. As the music began, the marionette raised its head, flashing a smile at the audience. As the beams raised it into the air, its limbs moved into position.
Stay in form, stay in form.
The marionette forced a smile as the strings pushed it forward. The audience watched in awe as the marionette danced to the music, the fluid movements almost enchanting.
“My brethren, this is the jewel of our company – our human marionette!”
The audience cheered as the beams lowered, giving back control to the marionette. She bowed timidly, her leg tucked behind the other. As she looked at the sea of overridden bodies one more time, the curtains closed.
The marionette stood in place, waiting for the marionettist to come and detach the metal strings. She could feel the metal hooks burn into her skin.
A moment passed. Then another. The marionette felt her impatience threatening to burst as she waited.
The back door flung open as the marionettist stumbled in. He closed the metal door as quietly as he could, before sinking onto the floor.
“Merissa,” he gasped, his body bloated. The marionette could smell the stench of death from him.
“You’re dead,” she said. “It’s algor mortis.”
“You don’t think I know?” he muttered as he crawled towards her. “I need your help.”
Merissa froze. Her eyes widened as she feared the worst.
“Not that,” he dismissed, guessing what she was thinking. “I don’t want your body as a host, no.” He inched closer, beckoning her towards him. “I need you for a job.”
A bang echoed through the stage room. Merissa jumped violently as the metal door was pounded on.
“The ringmaster,” the marionettist explained. “I need you to kill him.”
The marionette froze for a moment as the door was pounded one last time. A moment later, the footsteps receded.
“They’re coming from the front,” he muttered, turning towards Merissa. “You need to kill him!”
They could hear footsteps right behind the curtain. Panicking, she looked at him.
“A human can’t kill an overridden, it’s against the-”
“Do you think that matters now?!” he yelled, shoving a gun into her palm.
The curtain flew open. Fumbling with the weapon, Merissa pointed it towards the ringmaster.
“What’s going on here?!” he yelled. The voice sent a shiver down her spine.
“Merissa, what are you waiting for?!” the marionettist yelled.
The ringmaster cocked his head sideways, staring at the marionette.
“Merissa, why are you here?” his voice sent chills down her spine. “Detach yourself and get back to your tent right now.”
“Don’t,” the marionettist pleaded. “He’s going to kill the both of us.”
“Merissa, as long as you don’t get involved I will not harm you whatsoever, now get out!”
The marionette felt the pressure overwhelm her as she lowered her gun. She looked at her marionettist, her expression apologetic.
“So you really are a puppet, aren’t you?” he spat. “You do realise the only reason he’s keeping you alive is because he wants your body as a host!”
She froze. Her eyes darted towards the ringmaster, conflicted.
“Nonsense!” he yelled. “He tried to kill me, don’t take the traitor’s words to heart!”
The marionettist laughed, propping his body against the back wall.
Rigor mortis, she thought. It’s beginning to set in.
“I tried to kill you, yes,” he forced himself to speak. “For a better cause. ” He looked at Merissa, his eyes glassy. “I promise you’ll be free. Help me.”
She turned towards the ringmaster, gun loaded. The ringmaster’s eyes widened.
“Mutiny!” he yelled, stepping forward. “Blatant mutiny!”
He lunged forward. In a split moment, a shot rang across the room, followed by the thud.
Gasping and trembling, she sank to the ground, her breathing erratic. As the guilt made her way into her, she gasped for air.
Her eyes shot towards her marionettist, whose jaw was set open. A shudder crept down her spine as she saw him twitch.
“You need a new host, don’t you?” she asked, wiping her face with her palm. “Who are you going to take?”
The body’s rigid head cocked towards the side, its eyes slowly moving. She watched in horror as it’s glassy eyes locked on her.
“No,” she muttered, crawling back. “You promised, no, please-”
Her body froze in shock as she watched the body fall onto the ground. A moment later, a parasite crawled out of the body, it’s tentacles slowly extending out. The being plopped onto the wooden floor, it’s surface covered in blood.
A wave of panic and nausea overtook her body as she got onto her feet. She took a step back, feeling something holding her back. Her eyes landed on the thin metal strings tied to her limbs, holding her in place.
“No,” she muttered, pulling on the strings. “No, no. no!”
She thrashed against the strings, desperately trying to break free. The hooks inside her limbs burned into her with each jerking move, forcing her to stay in place. Her eyes shot to the ceiling, landing on the beams that tied her to the room.
Slowly, she looked down. The being stood in front of her, almost as if it was waiting for her to finish her tantrum. Tears streamed her face as she looked at the ground.
The parasite paused for a moment, before pouncing on it’s new host.
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