Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Marionette Manipulator & The Headless Bride

by Cate Gardner

Reginald ignored the tap, tap, tap of the branch against his bedroom window. He pulled the pillow over his head as the glass screamed and he hid beneath the duvet as the window smashed on his bedroom floor.

Someone coughed, and Reginald was certain he wasn’t that someone, which was strange as he was the only one in the room. Or rather he should be.

“Excuse me,” a woman said.

This startled Reginald most of all because although he believed he could have coughed and not realised there was no way he sounded like a girl; his voice had broken thirty years ago. He dared to raise his head above the pillow.

The scream definitely broke through his lips.

“‘I would marry you, if you lost your head’, my neighbour assured me. Turns out he’s not only big and fat, he’s a liar.”

The woman placed her head on his pillow, and sat her body down in his chair. Dried blood caked the collar of her blue dress and stained her chest.

“W-Well,” he stammered. “Y-you’ve not exact-exactly lost your head. It’s s-s-sitting on my pil-pillow.”

“Moot point.”

Reginald edged so far back he fell out of the bed. His head thudded against the bedside table and his elbow jarred against the floorboards. Space distorted, making the door seem miles not inches away. Feet shuffled as she circled the bed. Sad eyes looked down at him.

“He did the same thing,” she said. “Fell with a plop. Well his head did anyway.”

“W-What do you want with me?”

Though he hated shaving, he preferred his head attached to his neck. He liked to think of it as something other than a quirk. She offered him her hand, and being a gentleman, he accepted it.

“Sorry about the blood.”

“N-not a problem,” he said, wiping his hand down his pyjama top. “M-may I ask if it is your or his blood.”

“His, of course. Nobody chops off their head wearing their best. Will you help me?”

“I don’t know what you w-want me to do.”

His fingers gripped his neck, as if afraid she was about to pull an axe from beneath her skirt. She giggled at his reaction. She bent forward and pressed her hands to her lips to stifle her hiccups.

“How do you speak without the proper bits connected?”

“Magic, I guess. Shouldn’t you be more concerned that I’m dead and doing anything?”

“It does unnerve me, I cannot deny that. Though, you seem amiable enough and if you wanted to chop off my head you’d have done it already.”

“Maybe,” she said. “I spent a few hours trying to convince Bert we should be together, but he wouldn’t stop screaming. Well, not until I chopped off his head. I didn’t expect it to kill him.”

“So now you want to be my wife.”

“Goodness no, you’re so ugly I wouldn’t even if you buried your head up your butt. I like to be clear about these things, unlike Bert. I require your services as a marionette manipulator.”

“A what?”

“I’ve seen you playing with puppets in your back garden. I have binoculars. You are excellent at making the dead things move.”

“They’re not dead, they’re dolls.”

“Are they alive?”


“I rest my case.”


Bert Brocklebank lived in an ordinary terrace, on an ordinary street, with a view of the graveyard he very much wanted to be buried in. When mad Liza dislodged his head from his neck, he knew instinctively to play dead. He was in the midst of sewing his head back on—his hobby was taxidermy—when the back door opened.

“You naughty, naughty beautiful man,” she said. She leapt up, clapped her hands and dropped her head in the process. Her skull smashed like a dropped pumpkin. Her body collapsed to the floor as dead as it should have been four days earlier.

The thin man who accompanied her picked up her body and slung it over his shoulder, closing the door as he left. Bert watched from his bedroom window as the man attached strings to Liza’s arms and legs and sat her down for a lover’s picnic.


Catherine J. Gardner is a writer of all things odd. You can find her stories online at Arkham Tales, Three Crow Press and Every Day Fiction. She also has stories forthcoming in Postscripts, Fantasy Magazine, Dead Souls, Sand, Necrotic Tissue and Space & Time. You can find her on the web at and at


Michael Stone said...

To call that story odd would be like saying Neptune is a bit further away than the post office. Cate, whatever you do, keep taking the pills. If they make you hallucinate stories like this then then we're all better off for them. :)

Rachel Green said...

Fascinating and intriguing. Is there more somewhere? I feels part of a larger whole.

Josh Reynolds said...

That was odd and lovely. I enjoyed it immensely.

Cate Gardner said...

Thank you all.

Leatherdyke, there is always more. :)

Catherine Edmunds said...

Gripping and trippy. Great stuff!

Jamie Eyberg said...

I think the word trippy is the word that seems to work best here, as in 'an acid trip in hell.'

jonathan pinnock said...

As strange and wonderful as usual, Cate. And I tend to agree with Rachel that it's crying out for more.

Cate Gardner said...

Thanks for reading, everyone.

L.R. Bonehill said...

Weird and wonderful, no doubt about it.

Katey said...

Love the visuals, and as always, love your voice. You make the most grotesque things so beautiful.

Cate Gardner said...

Thanks LR & Katey.

rcloenen-ruiz said...

More, more. I enjoyed reading this one, Cate. It is weird and wonderful.

Jodi Lee (Morrighan) said...

Way to go, Cate!

That is one twisted bride... :)

Fox Lee said...

You have one of the most distinctively delightful voices of any write I know : )

Jeremy D Brooks said...

Very good, very eccentric story reminded me of the one you did for the Cafe Doom contest last kind of makes you think around the corners.

Felicity Dowker said...

Your stories make me feel stupid, 'cos I often don't get large parts of them - but I get immense enjoyment from reading them anyway! :op

Cate Gardner said...

Thanks to all for reading and commenting.

Felicity, they make me feel stupid too. :D

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...did I just read a Cate Gardener story or take some 'shrooms? Very well done, Cate!

BT said...

Well done, Cate - I agree with all other comments:

Wonderful voice, & a weirdly odd and beautiful story.


Leon1234 said...

This was really good! I really like.. Hey, I would love to speak to you sometime about writing. Let me know when you are available.

Bobbie Metevier said...

I loved it!

Cate Gardner said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Inkpot said...

Brilliant Catherine, I love it! Men and their commitment issues - you cut off your head and he still won't marry you. What's a girl to do?

Cate Gardner said...

Thank you. :)

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