He was no ordinary marionette. He knew that, but he didn't know why. With his hand-carved wooden body, black and white paint finish, and his jester costume, he could've been any ordinary puppet. But he was not.
He was the most popular doll in the travelling puppet show. His mere existence was based on acting out, and getting attention. And he loved the attention. The attention kept him going.
Every night after a show he snuck around in the dark and dusty crate in which he was kept by his owner, who knew nothing about the puppet's gift. He went around from corner to corner, examining the inanimate puppets, and the props used in the show by his travelling puppeteer. Since everything was piled up inside the crate, some climbing was required to come around, as far as his strings allowed him. And everything was stirring and shaking, because the crate was on the back of an open horse-dragged coach. The only light which entered the crate was the moonlight shining through a round hole in the top, around the size of a penny.
There were plenty of puppets in the crate, ranging from poor and homeless human-replicas, to kings and queens, and last but not least, the beautiful princess. All inanimate, all soulless. All dead. They were only brought to live during shows. But that did not bother our puppet much, because it had always been so. He did get lonely at times, and one of these times was this night.
Every time he got lonely, he climbed over puppets, crayon-coloured cardboard trees, tiny handmade costumes, and tiny cardboard castles. All climbing executed with smooth movements, as if his wooden body wasn't limited by any strings. He would climb and scale obstacles until he found the princess puppet.
He was very fascinated by the blonde, blue-eyed wooden figure. Even though she was inanimate, she seemed very alive. He could spend hours just sitting and studying her. He would imagine her. How she would dance around in her white and blue dress, guided by his arms. How their strings would cross, but never entangle.
But then the coach would run across a bump in the road, and the shock would send him flying out of his dreams. Except for this time, the bump actually sent him flying. _____________________________________________________________________________
He regained consciousness shortly after. Wooden planks were strewn everywhere, along with mutilated corpses of inanimate wooden puppets and other content from the crate, and the tracks on the gravel-road showed the direction the coach headed, ensuring that no one discovered the loss of the crate.
As he crawled across the site of the impact, he searched through piles of debris, only to find amputated limbs, or the puppets missing them. Even though they were inanimate, he was struck with horror and a twist of his non-existing stomach.
In the light of the full moon, only slightly obstructed by the dense surrounding pine trees, he went through pile and pile of debris, each one more gruesome and devastating than the other, but she was nowhere to be found.
He lay down, and it wasn't until then that he saw what a state he was in. His wooden body was torn and bruised, he was dirty, and his jester costume was shredded. His legs hurt, understandably since they were twisted and dislocated. And lastly, his strings were torn off.
He couldn't cry, he was only a wooden puppet. But if he could, he would have. He was injured, he was alone on a dark forest road, he was no longer attached to his strings, his puppeteer was gone, and the princess was nowhere to be found. He was most likely to be eaten by the wolves in the forest.
But that was when she caught his eye. Lying facedown in the earth, with her blonde hair revealing her in the tall grass, in the ditch by the roadside. He quickly put his legs back into place, and got up on his feet. He couldn't believe his eyes, as he started to limp his way across the crash site. He dragged her more-than-usually lifeless body up on the road, only to be shocked at what met his sight. Her dress was ripped to pieces, she was soiled in earth, the strings were cut off with only few pieces still stuck in her, and she was missing her right leg and her left arm.
He gently cleaned her face off, removing the thickest layer of mud. He gazed into her blue eyes, trying to enter the dream he was forced to exit before he was put into this nightmare. He sought how to escape the reality he had been dropped into. Even though she had been maimed and torn, she was still the same old princess. But he couldn't escape this reality, no matter how deep he stared. He was still strong enough to carry her, and so he did. He abandoned the crash site, leaving the rest of the inanimate dolls to an unknown fate. He followed the tracks, carrying his princess in his arms. He wandered for miles, and he soon lost count of his steps. And he soon lost sense of time and space. He lost his sense of reality, so to say.
In the distance, he saw the lights spreading along the horizon to both sides. He felt the life, the pulse and the energy coming from the lights. He was drawn to it.
From gravel roads to cobblestone streets. From dark forest to bright city.
This was obviously a city, but not one in which he had performed before. It was alive and pulsing, even though it was late at night. Artificial light kept the humans awake, the moonlight wasn't even visible. He was still carrying her inanimate and devastated body. All around him were people as tall as his puppeteer, as tall as his usual audience. But from down here, they all looked gigantic. Too gigantic to even notice his presence. He needed help, and he needed care. But no one seemed to notice them. He found a large square underneath a giant steel tower, and he found a place to put the princess. He let her down, laying her on the cold tarmac. Then he started dancing. Dancing the best he had ever learned, showing all of his tricks and moves, hoping to catch the attention of someone. Every jest he had learned through his entire life, ever since the day he was painted and polished, was shown off. Dancing better than ever before, now that he wasn't attached to any strings. He was more agile and quick, a little too quick perhaps. In a twist he fell to the tarmac, and landed on his tail. But still nobody was looking; no one even noticed them at all, no one gave applause for his dance, or a little kind grin for his trip. He was no longer a star, and she was no longer a beautiful princess. They were nothing but shadow puppets.
He carried her to one of the many bridges in the city, across the main river. He sat at the railing next to her, staring into her cold dead eyes once more, hoping to re-enter the beautiful dreamscape. But he was unable. What he had witnessed this night was too much for him.
He had never really felt water before. Only a light spring rain, but this was different. This was all around him, and slowly dragging him down to the bottom. There he lies with his princess, hoping that the quite and peacefulness of the water will let him enter the dream. Dreaming of dancing with her, while outside they're both slowly eroding by time.