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"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.

The Marionette's Daughter

Michelle Muenzler, also known at local conventions as "The Cookie Lady," writes fiction both dark and strange to counterbalance the sweetness of her baking. Her fiction and poetry have been published in magazines such as Star*Line, Daily Science Fiction, and Apex Magazine, and she takes immense joy in crinkling words like little foil puppets. Check out her squidgy-weird buddy adventure novella, The Hills of Meat, the Forest of Bone, on Amazon if you want to see why she probably shouldn't be allowed to write humor. She promises it won't bite. Much.

***Editor's Note: Adult Story***
She'd been born with strings. With little wooden arms. With her happy cherub face smiling a painted smile.
"What did you expect?" asked the doctors as the new parents looked on in horror. In particular, her father.
Her parents took her home anyway. Swaddled her up tight. And if they squinted their eyes just so, they almost couldn't tell.
When they finally named her, they settled on Antoinette.
Antoinette never questioned why she had strings and the other children at school did not. Not until the children themselves questioned. And then she only looked at her strings, at her wooden limbs, and laughed.
"I suppose I'm a puppet," she said, and tugged her arms all akimbo.
Soon the entire class was pulling her this way and that. Enthralled at how the puppet danced.
It was not long before her laughter stopped.
The only surprise to anyone was that it took so long to happen.
She'd practically asked for it, they said. She was a marionette, easy to manipulate--what had she expected?
Others claimed she could have ripped her strings free, if she'd truly wanted. She could have run. Outstripped her fear and confusion and saved herself.
They said many things, after.
Her father, on the other hand, cried. He cried a lot.
"It's all my fault," he could be heard sobbing from the kitchen while her mother stared in stony silence.
Antoinette disagreed. If it was anyone's fault, it was the boy who'd forced her. His and nobody else's.
Her mother began sending her to doctors. Specialists of every type poked at her wooden joints, tugged at her strings. They ran their sterile hands down her limbs that seemed to grow just like the flesh of other girls. One even suggested coring a sample to see if she had rings like a tree.
Thankfully, her mother intervened on that one. But not the rest.
Antoinette began to dislike the color white. Also, the feel of paper sheeting.
One night, Antoinette's father took her aside while her mother lay passed out on the sofa.
"There is a woman," he whispered. "Someone who can help. She helped me."
Despite all the doctors' opinions, Antoinette didn't think she needed helping. She didn't feel ill, merely used. And perhaps broken-hearted, as she had trusted the boy who'd taken what was not his to take.
But, being an obedient daughter, she followed her father as he tiptoed out the door. Buckled in as he drove her through the snow and out into the forest where a small cottage stood.
An elderly woman answered the door, her hair a faded blue.
She took one look at Antoinette. "Oh, Pino," she said, "what have you done? I warned you."
"I wanted only to be happy," her father replied. "Was that so wrong?"
The woman's mouth tightened. "Come here, child," she said. "Let me fix you."
If Antoinette had known what the blue-haired woman would do, she would have run into the snow. She would have fled her father and the cottage and everything to save herself.
She hadn't asked to be made real. Indeed, she had never thought of herself as not.
Yet her reaction did little to deter those around her from telling her how grateful she ought to be.
Her schoolmates were shocked at first, passing their hands about where her strings used to be, tugging at her fleshy arms and laughing as she jerked them back of her own accord.
And when the boy from before pushed himself onto her again (for of course he was still at that same school--why wouldn't he be?), she was only a little surprised.
It had never been about the strings, after all.
No matter how much everyone else wanted it to be.
The last anyone from her old life saw her, she was working a carnival deep in the Midwest. "The Living Marionette," they billed her. Hundreds of strings bound her flesh, and carnival-goers could pay five dollars to tug them as they pleased and make her dance to a merry tune while they chatted amongst themselves and licked cotton candy from their lips.
When asked after closing how she could do such a thing to herself, she merely smiled.
Smiled and said, "After all this time, it's still the strings that bother you?"
And with that, she disappeared into the large tent where all the carnival folk gathered after their long day to share a cheap meal and a cheap beer, and nothing more was heard from her but laughter, deep into the night.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Author Comments

There are the stories you write for fun, and there are the stories you write because you couldn't find them when you were of the age you needed them most. This is one of those stories I wish I'd had when I was younger; it might have saved me quite a bit of early grief in regards to body ownership.

- Michelle Muenzler
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