Chester arrived home close to ten and parked on the small driveway. He turned off the engine and got out of the van. Stretching his aching limbs, he noticed how cold the autumn nights were now getting.
He walked to the bungalow’s front door and unlocked it. He turned the hall light on and put the numbers into the alarm’s panel to turn the security system off. He was half tempted to leave everything in the van but it had broken into a few times and it wasn’t worth the risk. He had been lucky every time that the thieves hadn’t taken the puppets or the show equipment, clearly they didn’t know the value of things.
Chester unpacked. He put things into the no longer used dinning room. By the time he had done a few trips and was on the last box, he was so tried he could feel it in his legs. Making sure everything was locked up, he went into the living room and sank onto the sofa.
Sprawling out, he told himself he should get up to bed but he found his body was too heavy to move.
Quietness and darkness pressed upon Chester. He could hear the wind picking up outside and rain tapping on the window. The pressure on his ears and head was too much, so he put the TV on. He channel flicked until he found the news. He also put on the lights before getting back on the sofa.
Deciding he would go to bed as soon as the news finished, he caught up on the reports he had missed. Then the weather forecast came on.
A knocking noise came over tomorrow’s weather report.
Cheater dragged himself up and staggered to the front door. Who’d be calling so late? he wondered.
He looked through the spy hole, saw no one but still cracked open the door. There was nothing there. A gust of wind dragged a few rain drops onto his face and Chester felt a chill across his skin.
‘Kids messing around again! You stay away! Leave an old man be!’ Chester shouted.
He slammed the door, locked things again and went back to the sofa. Wide awake now, he huffed at the TV and crossed his arms tightly over his chest.
Chester looked up then around. That sound hadn’t come from the front door but from the back one.
‘Blast those kids!’
Chester got up and stormed into the kitchen. He turned the light, unlocked the door and flung it open. He screamed into the night, long and loud. As his voice faded, he dragged in deep breaths and looked around. There was nothing on the step or in the garden, just the wind shaking the bare branches of the dead apple tree and the back gate.
He prowled around, looking for an access point and signs of someone being here. The gate was lock and like the fences too tall to climb over. No lights came from his neighbours’ houses and as he paused the only other sound was a cat meowing.
Chester went back inside. He rubbed his chest, feeling pain burning him. He turned everything off and got into bed. He was too tried to play games and the cold was clearly starting to effect him.
He got ready for bed but Chester heard the knocking once more. This time because he was closer, he realised it was coming from the dining room. He got up and went to investigate.
Glancing at the show stuff, he heard the knocking again. It was coming from one of the cases! How could that be? He opened each case till he came to the last one.
‘Hello, Punch,’ he whispered, ‘were you knocking?’
Chester picked the puppet up. There was the soft clicking of wood on wood and the rustle of clothes. Chester slipped the puppet onto his right hand like a well fitted glove. Then he clapped Punch’s hands together and said in that high pitched, nasal voice, ‘well done, you’ve found me!’
Punch laughed a long haha.
Sighing, Chester closed the case and went back to his bedroom with the puppet still on his hand.
‘I’m sorry things have come to this, Mr. Punch,’ Chester said, ‘I would be passing you on to my son now just like my father and grandfather did. But times have changed and there’s no longer a place for you and Judy in this technology world now.’
Chester slipped Punch off his hand and arranged the puppet on the bedside table. He finished getting ready and got into bed. Leaving the lamp on as he did every night, Chester began to doze off.
‘Such a shame, that,’ Punch’s voice whispered.
Chester open an eye and looked at the puppet who was strangely lit in the glow of the lamp. There was an eeriness to the painted features, a wicked twist to the red painted lips and an evil glint in those blue eyes.
‘Yes, it is,’ Chester replied.
‘What you going to do about it?’
There was a clicking noise then a drumming wood on wood sound as Punch swung his legs against the bedside table. The puppet’s hands gripped the edge and the head turned fully towards Chester.
‘What,’ Punch hissed, ‘are you going to do?’
‘I…don’t know…’ Chester trailed.
‘So, I’m locked in a box forever?’ Punch snapped.
‘Well, no. I’d get you out sometimes. Maybe leave you around the house for company. We can still have our conversations….and on Halloween we can scare the children together! Just like we always do,’ Chester suggested.
Punch scoffed and began climbing down the bedside table.
Chester sat up but stayed huddled in the bedding. He watched as the puppet reached the floor then began clambering up the bed by using fist fulls of duvet to do so.
‘What is going on here?’ Chester muttered, ‘is this a dream? You can’t talk without me.’
Punch swung himself up onto the bed and sat in Chester’s lap like an elf on Santa’s knee.
‘This isn’t a dream,’ Punch squeaked, ‘I’ve always been able to talk and move without a hand up my back side! You just never choose to notice until now….And ain’t that always the way? The master needs help from his puppet. Bah!’
Chester felt lost for words, he struggled to deal with his whirl of thoughts. He shut his eyes and decided this was a bad dream. He was sad at the loss of his show and his mind was trying to get him to come up with ideas to save it.
‘I’m too tried and too old for this!’ Chester shouted.
He pulled the bedding up and waved it so that the little puppet went flying through the air. Chester buried himself under the duvet, muttering about nightmares and forcing himself into actual sleep.
Punch had let out a startled cry at being thrown about. Luckily, he had managed to grab some of a blanket and use it to slide down to the floor with. Now seated, he looked up at his ‘master’ and decided something had to be done.
‘I won’t be locked away forever!’
Wooden feet tapped on the floor and Chester listened as his door was opened and sounds like someone grunted. The footsteps carried on towards the dining room and there were noises of something moving about and a high pitched voice swearing.
‘Go to sleep, go to sleep,’ Chester uttered, ‘this is all a dream. Punch hasn’t come to life! What a crazy idea!’
The sounds carried on and Chester fell asleep. That was until something slapped Chester across the face.
‘What the-?’ Chester roared as he shot out of bed.
‘Haha!’ Punch laughed.
Chester looked and saw the puppet with his wood slap-stick in-between his hands.
‘What are you doing with that?’ Chester yelled.
Punched giggled and brought the slap-stick down onto Chester’s face again. Chester raised his arms and felt the stick hitting there instead.
‘Give me that!’ Chester snapped and tried to grip the stick.
Punch danced out of the way and began waving the slap-stick around trying to hit any part of Chester he could.
Cheater shouted and cried, he tossed around in the bed, trying to catch the puppet. Punch was laughing his head off but then his wooded foot slipped on the duvet and he tumbled to the floor.
‘Right!’ Chester said and made to jump off the bed after him.
The bedding had twisted around him and as Chester struggled to free himself, he tumbled from the bed and banged into the bedside table. The lamp went flying and the bulb smashed on the floor, sending the bedroom into darkness.
Chester, sprawled across the floor, felt a shocking, shooting pain in his chest and arms. He gasped desperately, unable to breath and felt dizzy.
‘Do you give up?’ Punch’s voice’s sounded from above him.
Chester tried to move his head but the pain was too much and he could only groan.
‘I can’t hear you!’ Punch yelled.
‘No,’ Chester croaked.
Chester mumbled something into the floor and then despite the pain coursing through him he reached out and fumbled for the puppet.
There was a clicking of wood, a muffled laugh then Chester felt the slap-stick on his back.
He roared in pain and tried to move but found the pain in his chest too much. Tears came to his eyes, ‘stop, stop stop!’ he cried.
Nothing but laughter came back to him and more of the slap-stick which hit him repeatedly.
Red then black filled Chester’s vision. The pain grew too intense for him to handle anymore and then a last thing came to him, a voice in his ear whispering, ‘that’s the way to do it!’