a month and a day

Ungulen bent himself through the small doorway and loomed inside the front rooms of The Emerald House.

“What unlawful bloodsport have you enacted on my property?!” screamed Lorelei. He was seated at his desk, clawing magnetized metal strips together, but rose instantaneously and sputtered around Ungulen in anger.

Lorelei gestured forcefully at the felled door. “Pick it up! Pick it up!” He jabbed his fingers at all relevant aspects: the door, the frame, Ungulen, and more.

Ungulen sloped past Lorelei in his starting fits. He approached Marrionetta. Or rather, he approached the fireplace where Marrionetta was crouching and gently rocking herself.

“Netta?” Ungulen sank lowly into his knees in order to see her face. She was covered head to toe in ash. It was in her hair as well. “Netta, you alright there?”

Marrionetta, for the first time days, responded to the sound of her own name. She squinted at Ungulen, recognizing him.

“Hmmm?” was all she said. It came out almost songlike, her mind was so occluded.

“Things seem a bit sideways around here.” Ungulen paused but Marrionetta didn’t say anything. “Have you just been sittin’ up here for a month a day?” He asked. Her face twitched. He could see that she wasn’t sure. Ungulen extended a hand and instinctively Marrionetta reached out for him too. Once attached though, he couldn’t persuade her to crawl out. She remained planted in the fireplace, holding onto him for no discernible reason.

“She’s perfectly alright.” Lorelei spat. “Have one of your toddlers sent up here immediately to fix my door.”

Ungulen, still holding Marrionetta’s hand, peered around The Emerald House very carefully. It was quite filthy. The doctor had all manner of printed material hung up on the walls. Something about this didn’t feel right in Ungulen’s multi-chambered stomach. Not waiting for an explanation, Ungulen cast the fireplace’s grate aside and dragged Marrionetta out of the fireplace and picked her up like a sack.

“Where are you taking her?”

“She’s a main attraction of this entertainment establishment and she’s needed at rehearsal. She can come back here on her own time.”

“No!” rasped Marrionetta, suddenly alive and striking like a viper. “Put me down!”

Her strength was feeble but their friendship demanded that he release her. Ungulen stooped her back on her feet. She wobbled around.

“I’ll come down,” she seethed, wiping drool off her face. “When I’m good and ready.”

Ungulen frowned at her. He threw a menacing look at Lorelei which was returned in kind.

“We’ve already had a showcase,” Ungulen addressed himself to his wilted colleague. “We need a major before the rains start.”

Marrionetta knew what this meant. Money was tight. If she didn’t perform, the coffers would go dry, probably even overnight. If the coffers went dry….well. The entire circus might disperse in the pioneering style of Ernt Rauchbaum. She knew, deep in her heart, that she would be fine if this happened. She could always stay here with the crooked doctor or, worst case scenario, go back to dancing in city traps. But as she looked at Ungulen she knew that it would be a wicked, evil blow to Drutherstone after all he’d worked to build and keep here. He wasn’t even here to prevent it. She felt ambivalent.

Ungulen arched an tufted eyebrow at her and made his way slowly back down the hill.

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