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TITLE: The Raggedyman (Prologue) 7/28/12
By Sarah Whitaker

This is more than a little disturbing. Reader discretion is advised if you have weak stomachs.
SAMPLE MATERIAL – Prologue, Chapters 1 & 2

The Raggedyman

Once upon a time forever lost,

In a land so close, yet no longer a part of this world,

There lived a Prince . . .


Precious diamond eyes, which belonged to a fair and noble prince, gazed over the lovely dolls in his room. Patches of cloth, silver string, and needles in a small pillow were littered around, another doll on the table in the midst of creation. What stuffing he had collected over time, he left in the corner of the room across from the table. Without hesitation, he chose the darling one in the yellow dress who had one short leg. A whisper of breath dismissed the small amount of dust that had collected on her. Creator and creation locked eye to button in absolute understanding of everything and nothing at all, as he held her high and danced.

For a moment, his gaze was as distant as his rag doll’s own, twirling around the room in a rhythm all children once knew, but forever lost when they grew to be the strange noble’s age. Raised to the sky, the doll’s dress swished to the time of the prince’s black coat.

All it took was one gaze at the brown locks of his precious toy to decide that it was time for a proper preening. Crouching down, he placed his doll on the floor. His hand rested on his lips in shock. Where were his manners? The prince paused to bow to his inanimate partner before picking up a hairbrush. Taking a moment to admire the beauty of the antique hair tool, the doll maker sat behind his toy. The frizz always started at the bottom, or so dear Sister Puppet always told him. As he started at the bottom with short, expert strokes, he noticed a small tear in her shoulder.

“Oh fiddles! Getting worn already?” he sighed.

“Well, at least your stuffing seems all right, but I’ll have to stitch that later.”

As he arranged her hair, he frowned as he noticed a cobweb tangled within. He stared around the room, seeing more cobwebs in the upper corner of the ceiling.

“Poor thing… how long have you been like this? Shall we check the rest of them? How am I supposed to keep fixing you if the servant puppets cannot perform a proper dusting? My dolls do not deserve such filth even if they are not the level of royalty. Why, do you wonder?”

Turning the doll to face him, he rubbed his nose to the soft face of his precious creation, and ran his fingers through her tangled locks.

“It is because you belong to me. Everything that belongs to me is taken care of by me.”

Crash. Bang Bang.

Tilting his head in the direction of the door, his eyes narrowed and his breathing slowed. Whatever was that awful racket? He rested the button-eyed doll against his chest and turned to the door.

“Maskers! I forbid you from making such awful noises! You know better than-“

Shouting? Those were not Maskers or his servant puppets! The doll maker’s movements were slow and quiet as he clutched his dear Yellow-Dress in his arms. Standing, the noble rested his toy on the table next to the one he had been working on earlier. His diamond eyes focused themselves on the large pick on the table. Staring at the makeshift sword, his hand wrapped around the base, looking at it fearfully before staring at the door.

Thunder-like pops… shouting… thumps, bangs and pops, bangs and pops. Closer, closer, and ever closer they came. All of it behind the door.

The door was trembling with big resounding thumps.

Doors do not get cold… surely it is not shivering!

Fearful for his dear Yellow-Dress, he grabbed her and held her close to his chest with his free arm, making certain that she was in the safest place he could think of.

The thumps turned to cracks. The cracks turned to splinters.

The splinters fell to the floor.

Raising his pick to the door, he was trembling like the door was not moments before. He was not backing away from this dragon!

Alas, it was no dragon, but many puppets he had never seen before. They all had strange glass shields and sticks, and were shouting out nonsense.

“Put your hands on your head!”

“Let go of the body now!”

Scrunching his nose at the unruly things, the doll maker kept his pick pointed at the puppets.

One of the puppets opened his clay jaw wide, and tossed his stuffing on the floor through his mouth. Tilting his head, the prince merely looked at the other puppets curiously.

“Are you all broken? Is that why you came to me?”

“Someone put that freak down!” shouted one of the puppets.

“Your orders were to arrest, not kill. Only shoot to kill if he attacks us like the others.”

That last voice he heard seemed to come out of nowhere. Furrowing his brow, he quickly gazed around, but saw no more puppets nearby.

“What are you blathering about?!” demanded the prince.

Looking past the shattered door, the strange noble’s eyes were fixed in horror past the strange puppets. Tears began to well in his eyes as everything around him ceased to exist for him. Dropping the pick and clutching his doll, he rushed past the group of puppets. That booming voice that seemed to have no owner shouted an order.

“Don’t shoot!”

“Look, Chaplain! We’ve crossed tripwire, dodged homemade mortars, and several armed guys to get here! We’re jumpy as hell,” one of the puppets whined.

On the wooden floor, there lay the familiar forms of what had once been his puppets. Each had a giant hole in their forms with a pool of running sand and stuffing around them. The forms of his clay puppets had turned to dolls, and they no longer moved. Clutching Yellow-Dress, he knelt down next to the tattered mess and glared at the dangerous puppets.

“H… how could you turn them to dolls? … If you wanted dolls so badly, I could have made you some myself! … A… all you had to do was ask!” he cried.

Through falling tears and with shaking hands, the prince looked above him. He became cold with terror.

Feathermen. Feathermen. Feathermen. Everywhere.

Floating in the halls with their white plumes and military robes. Staring, staring, staring with their eyes made of starlight.

“I said put the body down!” one of the puppets shouted again.

“No! Y… you’ll all tear her apart!”

That one he could not see spoke again. Calm. Simple. Authoritative.

“We are here to take these… dolls… to a place where they can be better taken care of. A lot of people have been looking for the people that you made your dolls from.”

“People? What are people?”

“You have to be kidding me,” one of the puppets griped with a fearful tone.

As the doll maker’s eyes roamed above and around him, staring at all the feathered creatures surrounding him, he heard the voice speak to him again.

“We will be taking your dolls to a place where they will be… remade to look better than they do now. They will then be put into boxes where they can be reunited with the people who lost them.”

“There are other princes that can take care of them? … But… who will play with them if you put them in boxes? They will get lonely!”

“Remember? … I said they would be going home. Do you know they were taken away from their homes?”

“N… nonsense!”

His hands cupped the face of his precious Yellow-Dress. At one point, he was told that her glass eyes had broken and her lids had to be closed. Thinking it so tragic when he first was introduced to her parts, he gave her buttons so that she could at least see her creator.

“They came here because they wanted to be played with. Why would they be taken when there were no princes to play with them?”

“We can’t guarantee they will be safe unless you come with us quietly.”

Wide-eyed, the two puppets behind him seemed aghast! All of them had such strange attire that matched, but they all had different aspects of them that differentiated them. After staring and staring for what seemed an eternity, the prince slowly crawled to a wall where he rested his doll. Tears still stained his face as he sniffled, letting his hand run through her long brown locks, one last time.

“They would never bring so many if they did not have someone who could tend to you better than I… don’t be scared. Alright?”

As he slowly stood, two of the puppets grabbed him by the arms. There was such a strange tickle under his sleeves as they hurried him away from his castle. He rarely felt this tickle so strong as he did now. How very desperate these puppets must be to apprehend him so. What games would they play? Was this a strange game of tag? Oh, but the Feathermen! Why in the kingdom would they be here?

Well, they at least brought him a metal carriage. A part of the prince always wanted to ride in one of those, but one without horses? What were those puppets thinking?

So many labyrinth walls.

So many questions to which he had no answer.

So many puppets swarming around him, placing silver bracelets on his wrists.

There was a game where they dipped his fingers in some paint, but they never wanted a full picture. Why were they simply satisfied with a few smudges?

Well, they were at least kind enough to give him new pajamas and a place to shower. He moved around all the time with those bracelets on. What on earth were those iron bars doing in place of a door? Any sensible room had a complete door!
What beads were they talking about? His abacus? That certainly had beads, but what were they talking about when it came to a necklace?

Feathermen, Feathermen, Feathermen everywhere! In the rooms, watching him in the halls! Such indignity! And who were those puppets talking to earlier?

Time kept going as he fell asleep and awoke many times. He eventually lost count as to how many times he did so. Then came the strange room where many puppets gathered, including an Honor puppet with a hammer that he thumped on his desk. This other puppet… oh! He would not stop jabbering!

That puppet kept begging for something. Talking about “please” all the time. At least that one was polite even if he couldn’t keep his jaw shut! He was tied in his own strings, with a pair of cracked hourglasses on his chest. There were shoulders made of scales which tipped from right to left as he walked around. The poor creature had a blindfold covering one of his eyes. And his heartstrings were so very frayed! They were wrapped around his neck like a rope that knotted into the blindfold on his head! What on earth was his nose doing, anyway? It seemed to grow longer every now and then. Whatever insanity was, the puppet with the wooden hammer knocked the hammer against the desk and seemed to give permission for the noisy one to get it.

Surely the Honor puppet was impressed by his courtesy! He did keep saying “please”!

How strange it was then! The same puppets with break sticks that had taken him from his home carried him through a long hall with many closets.
At last, the prince saw the Maskers.

They tugged on the mouth strings of the puppets behind the closet doors as he was hurried along past them.

“Your Highness! Flee from here!” a Masker said through one puppet.

“Run! RUUUUUN!” said another.

The Maskers tugged hard on the strings attached to the puppets in the other closets, slamming the puppets’ arms into the doors. All the doll maker could do was stare, with his eyes widening and his skin getting chilled. Some of his escort puppets tried to subdue the shouting ones. The Feathermen fluttered around, shooing the Maskers away.

So that’s how they did it!

The puppets in the hallway brought the prince to his own dark closet. The large gate closed behind him, leaving him inside, alone.

These games were no longer fun. All he wanted now was to go home.
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