"Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true."
Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens
Once upon a time, in a country of humble size but of remarkable beauty dwelled the town of Caterina. This quaint town was off the beaten road, many miles away from the capital city. It dwelled in the lush countryside; where the tall emerald grass waved lazily in the wind and lilac and lavender perfumed the air as they admired their reflection in the crystal stream. Caterina was far from industrialization and the progress of new and upcoming technologies.
Though the intricate clock which resided in the town square called out the hour, its melodious chiming echoing over the cottages, cobblestone pathways and all the residents of the town, all time seemed to stand still; no change or significant event differentiating the habitual course of days. The baker had a fresh batch of bread each day and pretty milk maids and farmer's daughters strolled the cobbled streets. Especially for the children who giggled together as they headed to the river to fish, or playing simple games near the center of the square, all things were in order.
Below the clock's circular face, the town's square was lined with shops and carts, selling coo-coo clocks, shoes, produce, flowers, even hats of grandiose style. Though these shops managed to create a decent income, no one retained significantly more wealth than anyone else. All were willing to share what they had, that is with the exception of one shop owner.
Nearing the eastern edge of the town, out of the way of many patrons, was a quiet shop owned by a man by the name of Luciano and his small brother, Macario. This shop sold puppets and marionettes.
Luciano was tall in stature, like a statue created by an artist eye. Dark russet curls swooped around his high cheek bones and cobalt eyes, his mouth ample. These eyes held vast amounts of knowledge far beyond his years. His skin was fair and contrasted like the night to day with his mysterious features. But though he was handsome, his personality was cold, and unconcerned with much of the town. However, with the exception of his work, his young brother Macario received all his affection.
Macario was a vibrant youth – full of vigor and vitality just as any boy his age would be. He enjoyed being out in the fresh air of the town, talking with people of all kinds. Also, he would join the other children at the clear stream to fish every now and again. He had long, unkempt, ebony tresses, which caressed his shoulders like the breeze of spring would to sleeping flower buds. His eyes were wide and blue like his brothers, though his skin possessed a healthier glow. But though the two did not appear to be alike, they were all each other had.
Luciano was a talented youth, not even considered a man by the standards of the town's society. He had been blessed with an extensive inheritance (or it would seem in the eyes of regular townsfolk). His father was well-to-do but passed away unexpectedly, leaving all that he owned in the young hands of Luciano and Macario, Instead of starting a new life with their inheritance, the two continued to pursue a living with the shop. It was certainly no coincidence that the eldest boy had a knack for creating works of beautiful art in the form of wood carvings.
His creations were sophisticated in design and pleasing to the eye. Each marionette and puppet was an individual. Upon entering the shop a person would be swept away into a world filled with mystical creatures and fascinating fairytales with the clear scents of varying woods. The walls were covered with shelves of which masterful pieces all shapes and sizes sat; their painted faces gleaming with sadness, joy, anger, as well as many other common emotions. There was one however which was slightly different than the rest…
Elnora was a humble marionette. She possessed no elegant costume, nor was large in stature. Instead, Elnora was adorned in simple clothes that of a young villager who more than likely was the daughter of a baker, or the blacksmith. Her eyes were dark green and her hair was a vibrant red—comparable to the small wildflowers which grew near the stream during the summer months.
Now in regards to the many extravagant puppets and marionettes in the shop, Elnora was not one who would particularly stand out. But something was special about this marionette; she truly loved her creator.
Elnora, though a creation of wood and skill was blessed with a soul. Not even she understood where this spark of spirit had come. Because of this, she greatly wanted to be human; to be with her creator forever. Though her master, Luciano, appeared cold like the bitter winter wind, the little marionette saw a side of the skillful carver that few had ever known: Luciano was above all, kind to his small brother who cared for his well-being. Not only that, but he was careful with his marionettes and other creations.
Elnora would sit on the shelf silently and watch her handsome master with great revere and tenderness. Elnora was especially fond of his creator's slender hands, his fingers long and graceful. This was so because those were the hands which brought Elnora into this world. They were the source of her being, for which she was eternally grateful.
One night, when the heavens were watching over the humble town, the moon's face gleaming with the sun's light, a peculiar event took place inside the shop. While the town slumbered, mischief lurked in the open to play.
While Luciano and Macario slept peacefully for the night in their rooms separated from the shop, pale rays of light trickling through all the cool glass of the windows. It poured like water onto the hard floor, and a certain spirit of temptation found its way into the establishment as hushed as a whisper. Elnora, silent and immobile watched intently as a feeling of fear fell over her like dusk.
Through the front windows of the cottage-like shop slipped the spirit like vapor, though the ominous feeling it emitted was ever present. In an instant, as a soul of the afterlife would rise from its choking tomb came the spirit. Slowly, dark matter began to form in the middle of the shop floor like a puddle. Then, upward the matter grew; growing, growing until it created the shape of what appeared to be human. The humble marionette continued to watch and wait for what would come.
The spirit was only a shadow; without face, hair, or skin. At once, it noticed the little toy on the shelf. It spoke fluidly and persuasively, yet its tone hid darker meanings.
"You wish for things of which you are unable to obtain," spoke the shadow, its form moving gingerly towards Elnora. "But though all may seem hopeless for a creation such as you, there is a chance…"
"A chance? Who are you?" Elnora uttered mentally.
"I am known by many names from times old and new. But, you may call me Damiano. Yes. A chance for you to be with your master…for as long as the stars have dotted the sky…"
"To be…with Luciano?" the marionette thought once more, her soul swelling with happiness. "I would do anything to be with my creator."
"Do you desire this above all?" Damiano spoke, his fingers black as ink reaching out for Elnora's wooden frame.
"I do…more than anything anyone has ever desired."
"Then it shall be done."
With whatever sinister power Damiano possessed, he placed it onto the humble marionette.
Elnora's vision blurred, her body becoming warm, like the sunshine of a summer's day. She could feel herself gaining control over her body – no longer controlled by strings which another would direct. All her wooden parts seemed to melt away like the wax of a candle, giving way to fresh skin, dotted with youthful freckles. Her red hair created from yarn was traded for wavy tendrils that cascaded over her sloping shoulders.
"Speak…" the spirit commanded.
"What am I to say?" replied Elnora obediently, under the impression that she was still speaking only in her mind.
"Anything you desire." Damiano whispered as his silhouette began to sink to the floor as easily as it had risen.
"Anything…" Elnora spoke, bringing her slender fingers to her peach lips, feeling the breath of life over her hand.
Letting her green eyes trace over the room she knew so well the once marionette realized that the dark form had vanished from sight as if it never existed; like a dream. A smile came to her lips, spreading across her face like paint had done before.
Walking silently through the puppet filled room, the youthful female approached the back hallway of the shop which branched off into the rooms where his master and brother lived. Her irises took in all the beauty that the real world offered. The hallway was dark, but the smell of freshly cut wood hung in the air like an ornament on a tree. Elnora took in the aroma, letting it fill her lungs. Never before had she known the sense of smell. Continuing on, she came to a room on the left side of the hallway. Without hesitation, she went inside.
Light filtered in through the lone window of the room from the moon's placid expression. These silver strands of light spilled like a waterfall over the room's amenities. The space was modestly filled and sparsely decorated. A quilted rug covered the center of the cold wood floor, an average sized bed standing in the corner with shelves and similar furniture spread throughout. The only furnishing that was elegant in appearance was a tall mirror in the opposite corner of the room.
The glass like a serene pond was covered with a thin layer of dust. Neither Luciano nor Macario took the time to look at themselves. The rim was silver, undoubtedly a priceless heirloom. However, this surface had been dulled by time, veiling the shining surface. Approaching it slowly, the now human girl let her fingers slide across the dingy surface, her irises fixed upon the individual who was staring back just as intently.
What Elnora saw was far beyond anything she could have imagined. The being staring back at him was willowy with shapely arms and legs. Moving her curious fingers to touch the reflection's face, the youth looked upon the freckled cheeks of her face which held a certain glow. Her hair was voluminous, yet tumbling about her shoulders messily. Her green eyes were alive and inquisitive.
"Me…" she uttered softly, in awe of the image before her, "I can't believe it…"
Before she could speak more on her predicament, a low movement was heard off to Elnora's side. Glancing over quickly, the girl rested her eyes on the meek bed at the opposite corner. There was someone sleeping in it. For the first time, she felt a twinge of excitement tug at her beating heart. Cautiously, she stepped towards the edge of the bed.
The alabaster light continued to float through the invisible air, resting gently on the sheets of the bed. Someone was lost in the world of dreams. Leaning closely to the individual, Elnora beheld the sight of her creator and master.
Luciano was resting peacefully beneath warm blankets. Unlike the harsh expressions when the young man was awake, the marionette maker's façade softened. However, worries plagued him in his sleep. The puppet was taken aback.
"Luciano…" Elnora whispered, letting the name roll off her tongue like a sacred word. She almost believed she was unworthy to speak such things. Reaching out, the once marionette caressed the cheek of her sleeping master. It was as soft as she had imagined it to be. Her fingers wandered from Luciano's cheek to his lips, touching the sensitive skin. As Elnora stood in admiration, a thickness entered the air; claustrophobic.
"However…" came a voice through the dark, echoing in the ears of the marionette, "In order to remain here with your master…"
"Yes?" Elnora replied softly, unable to pull her eyes away from the sleeping individual.
"You must take the life of the one he loves most…" the dark spirit muttered, its shadowy figure unable to be seen. "If not, you will return to your original form and all will be a figment of Luciano's imagination; nothing more."
"But…" Elnora protested. Worry crept into her heart. "Why?"
"You love him, do you not?" Damiano inquired sharply.
"Yes, I do!" she replied desperately.
"Then, you must do it. You have until night gives way to dawn…"
The heaviness had evaporated, the cool air once again light and fresh. Pulled against her initial desires, Elnora looked away from Luciano. Elnora had to destroy the light of her creator's world; take away a precious and innocent soul. Her heart was filled with dread and fear.
Leaving Luciano's simple room, the youth continued down the hallway, his feet making little if sound as she went. She continued until the end of the silent corridor to the final room. Taking in a deep breath, she entered.
Unlike the room of the marionette maker, Macario's room was filled with unique items and fantasy things. The space was covered with pictures the child had drawn himself. Many depicted fairytales of dragons, knights, and princesses, all of which would end in happiness. On the shelves were many kinds of marionettes and toys—all the workmanship of his elder brother. Luciano let his brother engage in fantasies rather than force him to be aware of the sorrows of the real world. In a small bed near the window of the room, the tiny child that Elnora had often seen was sleeping.
He was more at ease than his sibling in sleep, his raven hair spread across his pillow similar to that of a halo. On his face was a small smile; the boy was dreaming about something wonderful. Kneeling beside the bed, the marionette contemplated the actions of which she was about to commit.
"I must…" Elnora thought, her eyes scanning the innocent face of her soon to be victim. "If I do not, my chance…my only hope will never come to be. But if I do…I will be taking away the most meaningful part of Luciano's life…"
A voice near the back of Elnora's saddened thoughts began to speak.
"But you could make up for that loss; more than this child could ever achieve. Their love could not compare to the care, adoration, and passion you feel…"
"But this child means so much…" she spoke aloud.
Elnora did not know how long she knelt at Macario's side. Her soul was wracked with indecision. Her thoughts were uncontrollable; chaotically swirling round like an endless whirlpool inside his mind. Because the youth was so caught up in her thoughts, she had failed to notice the time fly away like it were a leaf on the breeze. Daybreak was nigh.
Looking through the glass of the window, the marionette noticed the stars were fading away into the thick abyss of sky. The shade was slowly turning gold at the sun's grand arrival. It was at that moment that the lowly puppet made up her mind.
Rising from the cold floor, the youth reached out for the child. Every limb was shaking, none more so than her hands. She was going to stop the child from breathing the sweet dewy air of morning. She was going to live forever with her master and never know sadness and longing's sting again. But just as her fingers were to clasp around the child's mouth, Elnora's fragile heart fell to pieces.
Tears came to her eyes. They were no longer filled with life, but death and despair. Crumbling to the floor as if her strings had been cut, the youth released the torrent of loss she had held locked within him for so long. The salty liquid burned her sight, causing her to shut eyelids tightly; to block out this small part of the world which she came so much to adore.
"I can't…" She gasped. "How could I think of doing -"
"Macario?" A voice spoke, concerned.
The puppet sat motionless, her voice faltering in her throat. The voice was Luciano's, ringing clear. Elnora did no reply. She had nowhere to hide herself, or her shame.
"Who are you?" Luciano spoke again, his voice rising in anger.
The creation stood once again, making no effort to wipe the tears from her jade eyes. Turning around sluggishly, she gazed straightforward. Elnora looked upon her creator, never tiring to look upon him. Tears continued to drip from her sights, though a smile found its way to her lips. She took a step forward. The corners of Luciano's eyes softened as he looked upon this strange visitor, who was in fact not a visitor at all. Realization struck as only it can in the wee hours of the morning.
"You are…" the master whispered.
"Familiar?" Elnora inquired, followed only by an affectionate chuckle.
The marionette continued to move towards her maker, drawing so close she could feel the other's breath on her cheeks. She closed her eyes in pure bliss. After years of sitting in silence upon the shelf surrounded by others more magnificent than she – she at last he had been noticed.
"I'm afraid…" she murmured, leaning towards Luciano's face. "I am nothing more than a figment of your imagination. But at least…"
Closing the empty space, Elnora let her lips caress her master's own lips, the touch tingling on contact. Too much joy for such a humble creation to experience. Luciano did not pull away, daring not to disturb this dream-like state. But just as quickly it had occurred, the feeling was gone. The puppet was gone. As before, the room was filled with childish things, the light of day apparent. The marionette maker stood still, unsure of what had happened. Perhaps it all was just a dream.
"Luciano?" Macario spoke, his voice heavy with sleep. Rubbing away the night's visions from his eyes, the boy turned on his side. "What are you doing?" The boy had strangely not awoken to the mysterious happenings.
"What do you mean, brother?" The child questioned, confused.
Shaking his head, the brother replied. "Nothing, Macario. It is nothing…" Nothing more than a dream.
"Or was it…" Luciano remarked in his mind.