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A Sock Puppet on a String by Luke Evans

A Sock Puppet on a String

by Luke Evans
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Page 1

Aubrey Wessen hurried down the corridor. Slow down, slow down. His heart raced unreasonably. What’s there to fear? He slowed his steps, sped up again, and stumbled over himself.

He was cold all over. He stopped and planted his hands against the stone wall, took deep breaths.

The sounds of the world returned to his ears, real sounds: the clop-clop of a tile floor underfoot, bats swooshing down in the dusk, the squeal of a child on a playground. They were always there if he listened for them, even in the vacuous hum here in the Castle on the Abyss.

He sighed. He’d done nothing wrong. It was a little riot, some unsettled demons and antsy prisoners, nothing more. He had it under control. He is the gatekeeper, after all, and he showed them why.

He stopped before the door, a great heavy oak thing of an older time, and lifted the latch. It clicked then swung ponderously inward. The hollow sound of the hall resonated in his ears.

They were seated at the table, every one of them, patron line of the Grimm family from the patriarchs of the 1800s to his own father. It was a long, slender table that extended far into the dusty shadows of the lightless hall.

“Come,” one of them said, and the echo of it haunted the room. “Stand before us.”

He did so, at the foot of the table, and every head turned toward him.

“We have heard things,” his many-times-great-uncle said. His eyes were long and weary, the skin stretched and furrowed, the hair hanging white around the frame of his shapeless face. He was one of the patriarchs, a Brother Grimm.

His voice held an unseen power. Deep and castle-dried, the voice of one who has long battled death and wearied of the fight. It vibrated through Aubrey, and he hung his chin.

“It was just—” he began, but his uncle held up his hand.

“Enough,” he said. “We do not need tales. Behind you, find a door.”

Aubrey turned to face another great door behind him. It was stained black and interlaid with many carvings and etches, all telling some great tale. It was the Door to the Gate.

“Open it,” his uncle said.

“But, my Lord.” Aubrey turned in fear to his uncle. “We cannot. Have you forgotten—”

“Have you forgotten who we are, and our powers? You are nothing for you are young. A pawn. We, the true power. Open the door.”

Aubrey lifted the latch. It was heavy in his hands, and took the strength of both arms to raise it and set it in its groove. The door nudged forward and a dank draft seeped from the crack.

“Enter, and follow the hallway to its end. There you shall wait.”

For what, my Lord? he thought, but bit his tongue. The hallway led to the gate, which led to the world above, but he had no need of the gate. As if on cue, the key in his pocket jabbed his leg, the lead weight of it boring into his skin.

He pushed the door the rest of the way open, and a mist escaped the hallway and curled around his legs. “The end of the hall,” his uncle repeated.

Aubrey entered the hallway. The darkness crawled about him. He could feel it on his skin and in his bones. A deathly silence settled like a pall.

Behind him, the door creaked closed. He swung around, alarmed, and lunged for it. He wrapped his arms around its edge, braced all his weight against it, but nothing. It continued to close, inexorable in its arc.

Then he saw them, lining the tables, silly grins on their faces, mocking jubilation in their eyes. Some of them had hopped on top of the table and hunched over, watching the Door to the Gate close upon the Gatekeeper.

They were not the men, not the line of Grimm, not the Lords of the Underworld.

They were the demons, and they had tricked him.

Phantoms swirl in my head. All is confusion, a swelling mass of half-formed images prancing around, mocking me. Some of them look familiar, but I cannot focus. They are demons, and they are free. A knot of pain darts through my skull. Nothing blots out their grinning, devilish faces. A dead dance upon the living. I see people from my youth, my best friends, my parents, my sister.

My girlfriend.

Lana is beautiful. I can see her perfectly. She is tending her garden, massaging the ground and cupping flowers in her hands. Her hair is drawn back and drips sweat from her brow. She wipes it away, leaving a grimy streak on her forehead.

She was so hurt when I left her. I did not explain. I could not. She would not understand. Better for her to love another and live her life without this dread weight hanging over her head.

As I watch, her comely form morphs into that of the gnome Rumpelstiltskin, standing at the head of the table in place of my uncle. He stares at me and laughs. Laughs long, hard, wicked. His head tilts back, and his little cloth hat clings to his scalp, the flaps about the ears bouncing and the horns above them bobbing.

He has stopped the door from closing, and now grabs me by the cuff. For the first time I am afraid of him, really truly afraid.

“Now, for the key,” Rumpelstiltskin says.

He propels me against the stone wall in the corner, and I crumple to the floor.


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About the Author

Luke Evans

Luke Evans has had stories published at MuseItUp Publishing, Gryphonwood, and TQRstories, among others.

Story Discussion

Stories by Luke Evans

A Sock Puppet on a String by Luke Evans

A Sock Puppet on a String

Aubrey stifled a gasp. How could this be? His head swam. He pulled back the covers on his side, saw a fresh stain in the center of the mattress, looked down at his shorts—no, another man’s shorts.

This can’t be. No, no, no, it’s all wrong.

He stumbled from the room. Everything was strange, nothing right.

He looked out a window. A great storm brewed over the ocean. Lightning, darkness, clouds prancing like dogs beneath a treed prey. Raindrops bounced off the concrete walk, trees vacillated in the ever-changing breeze.

But this was not an ordinary storm. Aubrey saw it for what it was: the coming of the devils.

He backed away from the window. His foot caught on something, and he fell to the floor. Stickiness covered him. Blood. He looked behind him, to the object on the floor that had tripped him. A man’s body, handsome, tall, smartly dressed.

Dead. A massive blow to the head.

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Alitza scrambled backward until she hit a barrel then pulled herself up on it, trying to keep her feet on the wet and thrashing deck. The serpent caught her movement and turned its head toward her, baring its teeth. Its neck was narrow and writhing, its claws lashing at the ship.

“Alitza!” someone yelled. She couldn’t have responded if she’d wanted to, and didn’t try…

Will Alitza survive? Will she earn one of the coveted Apprenticeships? Find out in this new original fantasy story by Barbara E. Walton, author of Quantum Leap: Odyssey.

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A Mynah for the King

“I burned the papers. The stories are in my head.”

The prime minister turned to the captain of the soldiers. “You heard what he said?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you heard what the king said. The king wants the stories and not the story teller.”

“Yes, sir.”

“The stories are in this man’s head.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then what are you waiting for? Split open his head and get the stories.”

The captain pulled out his sword.

“No,”

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