Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: The Puppet Master
Sheepishly, Jack returned from market, patting his threadbare pocket containing his purchase but it afforded him little comfort. The magic beans he acquired eight years ago resurfaced in his mind along with the wrath of his mother. But this time, it would be different. This time, Jack (unlike his mother) would beat death itself.
Watering down the soup again, his wife Gwen looked up expectantly through tired eyes. “We’re on our last meal, I hope you got a good price for the cow.”
“I did. Our lives are going to change forever!”
“Oh Jack. Not the beans again.”
“No, something better.” He pulled out the crumpled parchment from his pocket, spreading across the wooden table.
“A treasure map?”
“Better. I met a merchant in the market. He told stories of far off lands, fantastical tales of his adventures, his travels, a mind older than the wisest man but he’s younger than you and I. This, Gwen will give us eternal youth. We will never die.”
“But we don’t have enough food for the week let alone eternity.”
“That’s the beauty of it. We won’t need food. We’ll be stronger and healthier than the strongest knight. No more empty bellies. No more boiled water for a meal. We can do all those things we dreamed of. We’ll travel, see the world and want for nothing.”
Gwen took some persuading but that was a talent of Jack’s and as the moon rose in a black sky, they set off, leaving their ramshackled life behind. They trekked through the dark forest, following the map, only stopping once for a short rest and to nibble the last of the bread.
The moon cast their shadows across a clearing where a small Romany caravan stood. The merchant sat on the steps, watching as Jack and Gwen hurried towards him. “You decided to come?”
“Yes, of course,” replied a breathless Jack.
“And you’re ready for a life of travel?”
“And never to be hungry again?”
“Yes,” replied Jack. “And the eternal life.”
“Yes, yes, of course eternal life.”
“What happens now?” asked Gwen, a little tremble in her voice.
“Come in, out of the cold and I’ll begin.”
Jack and Gwen followed him inside. The space was small and cluttered. Candles, potions, pans, books, marionettes, masks and hats filled shelves, hung from the ceiling and littered the floor. The merchant handed each of them a cup of tea.
“You have quite an interesting home,” Gwen said, sipping her hot, sweet tea.
“And it will be your home too.”
“When do we start?” Jack asked.
Gwen and Jack looked to each other; Gwen nervous but forced a smile as Jack grinned back, full of excitement.
“I promised you travel. I promised you never to feel hungry again. I promised you eternal life,” the merchant said, watching them sip their tea.
Jack’s smile faded, as he couldn’t lift his arm. Gwen’s face froze, the merest hint of a smile. Both creaked as they faced each other, stretching out their hands, their fingertips barely touching before the cups fell from their wooden hand.
“There,” the merchant said. “I always keep my promises.” He picked up his newly acquired marionettes and hung them up with the rest.
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I dream of sharing my work with the big wide world one day as a published author. Right now, I share flash fiction with a wonderful community of writers and friends. If you liked this story, then why not visit my blog at http://40somethingundomesticateddevil.blogspot.co.uk/ for more. Thank you. Love Lizzie x