Its own body could never be graceful, could never be beautiful in that way humans thought bodies were beautiful, but as long as puppets like this danced, the audience would always come and appreciate its excellence.
Guided by an amorphous master, the ballerina twirled and pranced and jolted across the wooden stage platform by no will of her own.
All was dark except for the focus of evil's attention. Connected to each of her joints was a long, supple ebony filament, which pierced skin in bloodless wounds, bonding to the electric voice every body spoke with, and always knew which way to move. She could barely resist, and when she did, began to feel the pain her Puppeteer suppressed.
Its own body could never be graceful, could never be beautiful in that way humans thought bodies were beautiful, but as long as puppets like these danced, the audience would always come and appreciate its excellence.
Its appendages were, at this critical moment, invisible to the audience through exquisitely detailed trickery of their surroundings, so the ballerina's movements seemed natural and agile, unassisted. It was a master of illusion as well as puppetry. She never once faltered or fell.
She wore a glinting pink gown that billowed ethereally and caught light in just the right way. She wore those tiny slipper-shoes, and her bright blond hair was kept in a neat bun to reveal the curves of her neck and shoulders which should have been bleeding and hurting from the filament's passage, but weren't due to it's genius.
The Puppeteer was an immense, coagulated entity that occupied the length of the ceiling, its bulk mostly hidden by thick red curtains. It could bring more puppets out of its tarlike muck, concentrating enough to bring forth a more solid state, but decided this would best be saved for the final act, where a male would emerge and dance with her until this show ended too, the remnants of applause and approval echoing through this cavernous theater.
It controlled the lights, swiveling them to follow its lovely captive as she air-swam left and right, sinuous and waving like kelp moved by ocean currents.
There was a tendril encircling her slender throat like an abhorrent necklace. If she tried to cry for help, it would constrict. For now its hold was gentle. As long as she would cooperate, it would see no reason to be cruel.
I was part of the audience but also floating as a dream-ghost and feeling what the ballerina felt. The Puppeteer's grip was cold and oily, like an eel. Her mind was quaking with rage. She was biding her time and hating the Puppeteer. This happened every night, if not to her than to someone else caught up in the Puppeteer's viscid, ruling strings.
Its intentions were puzzlingly single-minded. It only wanted to put on a good show. This was its dream, to please and entrance, and if this goal was not reached, puppets would suffer.
The tendrils attached to her knees jerked them up one at a time to show off the pale, well formed shape of her legs, and the ones controlling her elbows did the same, their influence surging all the way to fingertips and toes to make them point in just the right way. She kicked and spun, her gown dazzling in the spotlight's gaze and making people clap and cheer.
Then she paused, head dropping dramatically, only to tilt back and gaze at it who held her strings.
Above was a pair of harsh, unnatural green eyes, and a wide mouth filled with thorny teeth. Surrounding this was a torturous mass of liquid malevolence.
Her expression of fear and anger was replaced with shock as another thicker fiber snaked from above and slowly worked into the back of her skull with parasitic tenacity. Her mouth popped open in silent agony, and observing people wondered if it was part of the act.
Shortly thereafter, the need to express emotion faded, and as the Puppeteer greedily flooded her vocal chords, she began to sing.
Her voice rose and fell with the music, and it reminded me of the susurration of rain, or perhaps, some primeval tide from which the Puppeteer had swum. A tune from some manic instrument but inherently angelic to human ears.
It decided the time was right to bring out her dance partner, but then it made a mistake. A terrible mistake that would jeopardize its place in this world. Stupid, stupid.
Half its body suddenly lost its muculent grip, slipped loose and landed on the stage and all invisibility failed. Concentration shattered, and the audience could for the first time SEE it.
A puddle, no, an ocean of black rained from above. Seething, bubbling black out of which formed the remains of untold dancers, actors, props. Some were alive and twitching and nearly depleted of life, others just floating there waiting to be used.
Panicking, the Puppeteer quickly formed the man meant to frolic with its ballerina. But desperation produced no art. He came out wrong, malformed and dismal gray, like a broken, bloated corpse.
It knew it should have used the real thing. The audience gasped in alarm and the ballerina sensed opportunity. Its hold over her snapped along with its filaments. Her mind and body clamped shut like a bear trap and made her captor draw back in pain and wounded pride.
Starting with the one within her skull, its manipulating projections withdrew with a hiss and a squirt of blood. She ripped the rest out with her hands and backed away from their shredded remains. Natural reactions had been suppressed but now she screamed and bled and ran.
She was in the best condition of all its puppets. It could not lose her. But its display had been ruined, the show forever unfinished. Failure.
All music stopped, spotlights fell, the audience began to scream, and the Puppeteer began to punish.
Its missing puppet evaded swinging tendril whips and blobs of congealed death that sought to swallow her up, leaped off the stage like a freed songbird, found her way through darkness and disarray, and finally into daylight.