The Masque of the Monochrome Marionette

Out on the farm, in the dead of night, no one was asleep. Beyond the trees and the end of the driveway, big, bellowing vehicles roamed up and down the road running north-south, red lights strobing, blinding flood lights sweeping the eastern edges of our property.

We were under threat of invasion by some dark entity—the government, or Russia.

Men’s voices shouted here and there in the darkness.

A young woman with short, brown hair crouched in the shadows beside me, and I tugged at her to follow me. The only escape was westward, into the pasture.

At the mouth of the cattle lane, two men appeared to be stealing our horses (we don’t actually have horses). They saw us, but let us pass. We ran on, the sounds of grinding machinery and shouts fading to silence.

After about half a mile, the lane spilled out into the pasture. Our steps slowed as we picked our way down the ridge, the only sound the soft sigh of the night wind in the buffalo grass. There was ancient farm machinery scattered about, half-buried in the clay, and we had to proceed with great caution.

A soft crunching sound to our right made us clutch each other, braced for flight. Just then, the clouds drifted apart, admitting the feeble light of a quarter-moon, and we breathed again. A few yards away, a large cow was grazing, her tail lazily swishing.

We ventured further down the slope. The monochrome light revealed only the outlines of fenceposts and the curved tops of distant hills, leaving the gulleys and canyons shrouded in blackness.

Up from that blackness, rapid footsteps approached, and before we could react, a slender woman in a thin shift dress dashed right between us and on up the hill. I swallowed my fright and yelled after her: “Hey! Who are you?” I wondered if she was a refugee from another farm, displaced by the spreading violence.

At the sound of my voice, the woman stopped and stood with her back to us for several seconds. Then she turned and ran back to stand in our midst.marionette

The faint moonlight outlined her long, blond hair in silver. Then, it slowly revealed her face. It was the wooden mask of a life-size marionette, eyes carved in deep, mad spirals, mouth split from ear to ear in a merry grin.

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