By: Anne Boleyn
Writing Prompt: Yes
Date: 21st Nov 2021
The queen heard tell of a grand puppeteer, the greatest in England and beyond – a man who created life with no more than wood, cloth and string. Surely a fitting gift for the newly born princess, the queen thought to herself. And so she summoned the puppeteer to London, afforded him her grace, her patronage, and her coin in exchange for something unique. The man’s greatest creation, practically indistinguishable from life. The puppeteer toiled ceaselessly, eager to meet the queen’s demands and fearful of her wrath should he fail. But he did not. After months of effort, not counting a week in a tower following a fit of madness, he presented his work. Her majesty was less than impressed.
“Hideous,” she said, clutching the wooden figure as she sat upon her throne. Her eyes bored into the puppet’s own and a chill shot up her spine, almost as if the little abomination stared back. “The stuff of nightmares. Looks like it’s going to spring to life and kill me the minute my back is turned.”
The puppeteer’s hands shook, the months of painstaking work leaving them bent into perpetual claws. He pleaded pitifully. “I’ve never put more work into a puppet than I have with Pricklewitt, your grace.”
The queen tittered. “Pricklewitt?” she asked, examining the puppet again, hands underneath his arms as if she was lifting up her own sweet babe. “Hello there, Prick. I do suppose we’ll keep you. But is there anything that can be done to make it… less sinister? Looks like it’s just waiting to be possessed by all manner of daemon and specter. I can hardly have it running around the castle, dagger in hand, carving up servants and dignitaries alike at Satan’s behest. You understand, of course.”
The puppeteer nodded miserably and resigned himself to more work, more misery, more time in the castle. His work continued, but took on a blasphemous bent. Beneath Pricklewitt’s immaculate clothes the puppeteer lovingly carved runes, sigils, and curses in languages long thought lost to the mortal world. To maintain a mask of friendliness, he enlarged Pricklewitt’s eyes, slopped the eyebrows up to make the wooden face seem welcoming, gave him a slight but benevolent smile. The queen approved.
“Much less of an abomination,” she said, examining Pricklewitt’s updates from her throne. The puppeteer rang his hands anxiously, and the queen noticed, dismissing him with a wave. “The crown approves. You may take your gold and go. Help yourself to some royal fruit on the way out. Not the plums, though.”
Giving the queen a final bow, the puppeteer was quick to turn and leave, almost as if he was fleeing. A guard later claimed he heard the man mumbling some sort of incantation on the way out, but having suffered an outbreak of boils after previously reporting a reputed witch for gossip, he was not eager to make another accusation.
Back in the throne room, the queen enjoyed a plate of cheese and plums. Pricklewitt reclined limply against the throne, waiting to be passed along at the queen’s convenience. She barely noticed as his hand crept to her tray, wooden fingers creaking softly as they wrapped around her silver fork. But his body was not yet accustomed to life, his legs wobbling like a foal’s as he took those first steps. The queen looked in Pricklewitt’s direction, and laughed. Then turned away, shook her head and looked again at her wooden wouldbe assassin. “Oh no,” she said, snatching a knife of her own from the trey and burying it through Pricklewitt’s shoulder, pinning him to the side of her throne. The queen stood, putting distance between the two of them to better examine the writhing, wrathful being before her. Fruitless as the endeavor was, he still jabbed at her with the fork, eager to bury the prongs in her throat. The queen rolled her eyes. “Well, I know where this is going.”
A quick trip to Hackney followed, with Pricklewitt chained and gagged inside of a wooden chest. The creature was already developing rudimentary speech and the queen refused to subject her ears to his inhuman stumbles through the English language. One guard led her to a well that had recently run dry, a fitting resting place for anything ungodly. Another helped lift the chest, though it shook in their hands as Pricklewitt used what little room inside to hatefully hurl himself about. The guards stopped alongside the well, letting the chest rest precariously on the edge. Reluctance and fear danced in their eyes, and the queen could see the encounter with a demonic doll had taken quite the toll on their fragile masculine minds. Charitable, she finished the job for them, giving the chest a push that sent it toppling into the well, disappearing into the darkness. Some seconds later, a muddy thump echoed back. Soon enough, it would be filled in with stones. The problem had been solved. “So long, Prick.”
“I loathe puppets,” said Anne, absentmindedly munching on a pizza slice, double pepperoni. The server she dubbed Slackjaw stared at her, unsure what distant memory stirred the remark. “I’ve been using your Disney Plus account, by the way. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Gepetto wanted Pinnochio to become a real boy so that he’d be easier to kill, am I correct?”
Slackjaw’s jaw slackened.
“Flesh is rather easy to injure,” Anne continued. “Rend, maim, slice, flay; an abundance of options. Wood though, a bit trickier. Of course, not many of us are accustomed to dispatching assailants made from timber, are we?” Anne laughed as she chewed, but frowned when she saw Slackjaw failing to laugh with her. “You’ll get it later.”
Before leaving the pizzeria, Anne demanded two large pies, and Slackjaw knew better than to refuse her. Back in her loft, pigeons cooed in the rafters, enthralled by some Star War or other that she left playing for them. It was then that she noted a draft and looked over to see her fire escape door open, the view outside obscured by a familiar wooden form.
“Hello, Prick,” said Anne. “You look well.”
At some point over the centuries, he replaced his fork with a jagged dagger. Considering the puppet was hundreds of years old, and at some point had to unchain himself, escape a chest, dig himself out from a well full of rocks, and then travel to the Americas for revenge – he looked quite well. To his credit, his command of the English language had dramatically improved. “Waited a long time for this, I have,” he said, waving the dagger at her.
Anne unlaced a single boot, groaning at the notion. “Could we possibly do this some other time? Afraid I’m not terribly in the mood for hosting.”
Pricklewitt shook his head, waved his dagger.
“Well then,” said Anne, snapping her fingers. On a rafter above, a lone pigeon pecked at an open jar, topped with a viscous black liquid. The jar toppled, spilling its contents onto Pricklewitt, coating his wooden frame in blackened pitch. It was enough to stun, and the puppet quickly realized the sticky resin would slow his moments.
He did not, however, notice that Anne had taken the opening to arm herself with a shortbow stowed beneath her kitchen counter. An arrow was already nocked, and she dipped the head into the flames beneath a cauldron of boiling coffee. “Goodbye, Prick,” she said, loosing the arrow. It flew silently through the room, striking Pricklewitt’s chest and he ignited like a tinderbox. Unwilling to subject her ears to his inhuman screaming, Anne closed the gap between him and planted her still-booted foot into his wooden face. Pricklewitt stumbled backwards, out the window. Anne’s next attack was a punt that sent him sailing across the dreary New York street so many stories below. Pricklewitt arced through the arrow and then fell to the earth like an unholy comet. Anne saw with some delight that his trajectory looked to land him in an open dumpster in the alley across from her. Her heart sank when he ricocheted off the side of the building instead and finally crashed onto the alley floor. “Damn, almost.”
She shut the window, rubbing her arms at the chill from the city air. A thought occurred to her. “Oh drat,” she recalled. “I have a match.”
Anne looked back to her kitchen, to her pizzas, her coffee cauldron, her bow and quiver. “Surely they’ll let me bring the bow.”