By Chef KI Simpson
It was a marionette, I think. It had a big head, the face was made of wrinkly, flesh colored rubber. The eyes were gigantic, bulging white orbs with red pupils. The hair was black, made of some hard substance that didn’t mesh with the rubbery head. The teeth were gigantic, pure white and capable of moving up and down. The body and limbs were wooden, painted to resemble clothes, but the paint was faded, you could see the wood’s natural brown in some places. Each arm and leg was a different length, but the hands and feet were pretty detailed. It made a loud clattering sound whenever it moved.
That puppet… followed me. I don’t mean it got up and chased me. I mean it kept showing up in my life. My earliest memory of it is from my first birthday. I obviously don’t remember the full details of that day, but I remember my parents singing happy birthday and that puppet. I don’t know what it was there for; I just remember it scared me to death and I couldn’t stop crying. When I was able to talk, I asked my parents about it, and they said nothing like that had happened on my first birthday. They must not have thought lying about it would make things easier for me.
The next time I saw it, I was around three. I was exploring a room filled with old stuff my parents had stored away and I found a calendar, but I don’t remember the year. There was a photo for each month, but the only one I remember was October; that puppet was the image for it. I got scared and ran out of the room. I told my mom and tried to show her the calendar so that she’d know the puppet was real, but I couldn’t find it. The room had been very messy, and I had ran out of it so quickly I knocked over piles of stuff, I guess the calendar got buried.
I was six when it happened again. It was the middle of the night, I woke up from a nightmare I can’t remember the details of. I was too scared to go back to sleep, so I went into the living room and turned on the TV. An old black and white show on Nick at Nite was ending and when the commercials started, that puppet came on. It was dancing while loud music played. I screamed and started crying uncontrollably, but by the time my parents got downstairs, the puppet was gone.
I didn’t see the puppet again for a while after that, but I kept having nightmares about it. When I was 15, I decided to try to track it down, using the internet to try to find information about the calendar, the short, anything. No one had ever heard of it, but one day I got an instant message from someone I had never talked to before. Their screen name was a random mash-up of numbers and letters, but their avatar was a picture of the puppet. They IMed me, “Glad that you still remember me,” then immediately signed off. They never contacted me or came online again.
When I was 20, I was walking by a store that sold old toys and dolls, and in the front window, I saw the puppet. I went inside, and asked the clerk if he knew anything about that puppet’s history, when it was made, where it was from, anything. He didn’t, said the puppet had just been sold to the store a few days ago, I could have it for $6. I wasn’t sure what to do, it still scared me, but having proof that it really existed seemed like a good idea. I bought the puppet, and took it home.
For a while, I felt better. I viewed the puppet as a childhood fear I had overcome as an adult and even started to believe the explanations my parents had given me for the past appearances of it (I saw it somewhere else as a baby, imagined the calendar, dreamed the TV short, and someone online who had played a trick on me).
I kept the puppet, but as I moved on in my life, I pretty much forgot about it. I finished college, got married, and my wife should be giving birth in a few weeks. I was cleaning up a room for when the baby comes, and found the puppet, dusty and abandoned. I didn’t want my kid seeing it when he was little, so I picked it up, and decided I might as well wipe the dust off before moving it to another place. When I dusted it, I noticed a faded inscription on the back: “This is what he’ll look like.” Before I could figure out what this meant, I heard my wife starting to cry. I rushed to her, she looked more upset than I had ever seen her. Sobbing, she told me that the doctor had just called. There was a problem with the baby…