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  • Writer's pictureJabe Stafford

One Page Wonders V - Puppeteer Necromancer

Flash fiction is a love of mine, and so are geeky tropes and pulp-style stories of every variety. Sometimes it's the characters that spur the writing. Other times it's atmosphere, concept, magic system, or a twist. One Page Wonders blogs started as a writing exercise. Now they're digestible, one-shot stories you can read on the bus or while sneaking 5 minutes at work!

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Jessy pounds on the locked front doors of Alloy Machining.

A knocking comes from the other side at her knees’ height.

She grips the stretcher she’d dragged from the ambulance and, breathing heavy, peers down through the glass. A disembodied arm lay on the floor just on the other side.

“Mason,” Jessy barks at her paramedic partner. “The victim’s arm is here. Tell Officer—”

The knock comes again, more of a rap-rap-rap this time.

Jessy squints at the arm, then jumps with a peep. “That thing’s moving on its own!”

Mason shoves his way in front of her, the back of his EMT’s uniform scraping against her nose he’s so close. “There’s two of them. One’s already yanking at the door.”

A click and a creak and the door swings inward. One hairy male arm on the floor beckons to Jessy and Mason. A second arm seems to leap off the door handle as though it had feet, landing next to the first. The arm Jessy can see forms hand signs.

Jessy spits out Mason’s black hair caking itself to her face, then steps inside around him. The pair of arms are still signing, and she makes out the ASL signs mid-sentence. [—never had an active shooter here before. That’s why we picked this place to hide in. No one should have thought to hunt for a puppeteer in a safe, small town machining plant.]

Slipping past her partner, Jessy enters and waves behind her for Mason to bring the stretcher. He rolls it over the threshold with clanks and scrapes, but they are not loud enough to drown out the screaming beyond the lobby’s grimy reception set-up. Not pained screams. Get-the-hell-away-from-me screams.

“Are you gonna sign back to them?” Mason says from behind her and to the side. “They can’t hear you without ears, so you’d probably—”

“No eyes either,” she retorts. “And you’re just accepting that two arms are talking to us?”

Mason waves at them like a game show host. “Do you see them doing it? It’s happening.”

Both arms whip their hands together in a loud clap. [She is trying to kill me on the production floor. Hurry.] They turn and crawl army grunt style back through the double doors behind the reception desk.

Jessy nods once, mumbles, “Not that he can see that,” and hauls the stretcher past the desk and through the doors into the main machining floor. Huge hydraulic presses and equipment for making metal mechanical parts loom between beams of overhead florescent lights. Odors of metal shavings and sweat press on her nostrils. An armless, yet not-bleeding man sprints away from a robed-and-booted woman who snatches out at the man’s joints where the humerus meets the shoulder. She misses and stumbles into a machine, dropping, then picking up a butterfly knife in a scrambling hurry.

Another panicked clap from the arms crawling toward the man ahead of her.

“What the hell is this?” She blurts, unable to stop herself. “Horror comedy hallucinations induced by unperceived head trauma? Where’s the accident victim?”

The man looks in her and Mason’s direction from over one shoulder, exasperation on his bearded face. Then the arms sign, [You are looking at him. Vixus the puppeteer necromancer.]

Mason steps up next to Jessy as she signs one thing back and calls another out to the man. [I can’t fight an armed woman. Officers are coming in who could do that.] “Are you mute?”

The woman spins on one foot and locks eyes on both paramedics, readying her butterfly knife. At the same moment, Vixus writhes his shoulders and both arms lurch toward him along the floor. He bends over enough for one arm to re-attach itself at his right shoulder. Then it grabs the left arm and flings it at the distracted woman.

As the fist whirls around and clocks her in the back of the head, Mason cheers. The attacker’s body slumps to the floor, unconscious. “Yeah,” Mason blurts. “Whoa crap, are you controlling your arms with your mind?”

Vixus halts, panting, and nods once. Wriggling his torso again, the necromancer calls the flung left arm back to him. With a scoop and a pop, he re-attaches it and signs, [In a sense, yes.] He looks at the unmoving assailant and adds, [You would not wish to know the price I paid to do this. Thank you for my life.]

With that Vixus dashes around a machine and out of sight in the direction of a red exit sign at the far end of the machining floor.

Police officers barge through the double doors behind Jesse and she and Mason whirl around to face them.

Jessy mutters, “I bet I can guess the price.” Then at the top of her voice, she says to the officers, “Follow that necromancer.”

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