Stromboli: A Horror Story
Dusk had arrived, replacing the warm summer air with a chili wind. The sky looked like it had been painted pink, white, yellow and orange, the colours fading into one another as the setting sun cast the little houses into shadow. Most people ate their supper, or made their children bathe after a long day spent playing on the cobbled streets - but one house remained still, with a fire lit inside that made the small windows glow and shadows dance upon the walls. One of the shadows belonged to a boy who was crying.
Pinocchio knelt down beside his father and rested his elbows on Geppetto's bed. He clasped his hands as if in prayer, and bowed his head to hide his tears. He felt a frail hand reach out for him and tap his head.
'Oh don't cry, Pinocchio,' Geppetto consoled. He withdrew his liver-spotted hand and smiled at his son. 'We knew this day would come.'
Pinocchio dried his eyes and muttered, 'Yes father.' He felt something soft brush his leg, and looked down to see a black and white cat, thin and with his bony rear sticking in the air.
'Hey Figaro,' Pinocchio sniffed. He stroked Figaro, whose bum went up even higher and his tail shook. He jumped onto the bed, his leaps more clumsy now that he'd aged, and curled up beside Geppetto. He looked up at his beloved owner and gave out a sad meow.
'There, there, Figaro,' Geppetto stroked Figaro's soft fur, breathing heavily. Pinocchio sniffed again. 'Don't be sad, Pinocchio. We're not meant to stay here forever. I'm ready.' Geppetto gently lifted Pinocchio's face and cupped it in his right hand. 'You have given me so much joy my boy, and because of you I've had a wonderful life. I'm ready because I have everything I've ever dreamed of. I will leave this world the happiest man ever. I feel complete, Pinocchio. What more could I want?'
'But I want you to stay,' Pinocchio said in between sobs. Jiminy Cricket watched from the fireplace, his gold badge glinting as the fire crackled. He turned away, wishing there was something he could do.
He had an idea.
'We'll meet again someday, Pinocchio - don't you worry. And don't forget,' Geppetto gently tapped Pinocchio's chest. 'I'll always be here. And every time you pray, I'll be listening. You'll always be mine to take care of.'
Pinocchio nodded. He grabbed Geppetto's hand with his own.
'Father?' he gasped.
Geppetto rolled his head and took one final exhale. Figaro looked up at him, confused and Pinocchio collapsed onto the bed, sobbing into the patchwork sheets. As his shoulders jerked up and down, his conscience scurried onto the window sill, hot and out of breath.
'Jiminy?' Pinocchio looked up, his eyes puffy and red. 'Jiminy, what are you doing?'
Jiminy pushed the window open with his tiny umbrella. It swung open, letting a cold breeze into the warm home. As each hand on the wooden cuckoo clocks reached the hour, the clocks went berserk, chiming and squawking and shouting seven times each.
Jiminy sat on the window sill, looking up at the sky and said, 'And now we wait.'
* * *
Pinocchio swept the creaky floors as darkness descended on the house. Jiminy watched, remembering fondly when Pinocchio was a small boy, happy and care-free - a boy who was still learning and needed a conscience. But now, Pinocchio had grown into a fine young man who had learned a lot of valuable lessons from Geppetto and Jiminy and he needed Jiminy Cricket even less as the days went by. It was hard to let go, but like a proud parent Jiminy knew that he had done his job and had done it well. With reluctance he would leave Pinocchio and find another little boy or girl who would benefit from his expertise. But first, he had one last thing to do for the boy.
Pinocchio lit candles around the house, his father's body still in his bed as if he was in a peaceful slumber. Pinocchio tried not to look. He was not ready to deal with it, or tell anyone that his father was dead.
'Look!' Jiminy yelled from the window sill. Pinocchio turned, blowing out a lit match. 'Look Pinocchio! Quick!'
Pinocchio hurried to the window. Jiminy was bouncing up and down, pointing up at the inky-blue sky at a star that seemed to shine much brighter than the others. Jiminy knelt down, clasped his hands together and begun to make a wish.
'Star of light, star bright, first star I see tonight,' said Jiminy. Finally understanding, Pinocchio clasped his hands together and looked up at the biggest and brightest star in the sky. 'I wish, I may, I wish, I might, have the wish I make tonight.' Pinocchio looked down at Jiminy, uncertain. 'It's worth a shot.' Jiminy shrugged his shoulders and Pinocchio nodded at him. They looked back up at the star. 'I wish that Geppetto could be saved. Please, ma'am, bring him back to us. Bring Geppetto back to life.'
The star glinted, but so did the others. There was no sign of movement in the peaceful sky accept for the clouds passing the full moon.
'Nothing!' Pinocchio burst out in stunned disappointment. Jiminy's small, pale green face screwed up into a confused frown. He tried again. Nothing.
What had happened? Could she not hear them? The Blue Fairy had never ignored Jiminy, Pinocchio or Geppetto in their time of need before. They hadn't seen the Blue Fairy in a long time, for years in fact, but had not needed her help for so long. They had been happy.
Despondent beyond words, Pinocchio left the window and picked the broom up. He swept the dusty floor as Figaro chased the bottom and tried to claw it with his right paw. This normally made Pinocchio laugh, reminding him of when Figaro was a kitten, but now it had no effect on him. His mind and heart was plagued with pain, grief, anger and thoughts of dealing with his father's body, something no boy should ever have to do.
'Give up, Jiminy,' Pinocchio said, leaning the broom against the wall and picking Figaro up. 'It's over.'
'Please ma'am,' Jiminy said, flashing the gold badge on his collar at the sky. The star glinted back. 'It's me, Jiminy! Please help us ma'am, any way you can.'
The large star shone brighter than before until it filled the sky with a blinding light, and after Pinocchio and Jiminy had stopped shielding their eyes they gaped at the Blue Fairy. She stood at the foot of Geppetto's bed, wearing a long blue dress which twinkled just like the stars in the candle light. She was radiant, and hadn't aged a single day since the last time Jiminy and Pinocchio had seen her.
Jiminy lowered his hat, watching the beautiful fairy make her way to Geppetto's side. She held the woodcarver's hand.
'Oh Geppetto,' she said somberly, tears filling her sapphire eyes. 'You kind and wonderful man. I'm afraid I cannot help you with your wish, Jiminy. I cannot save him. We all have to leave this world at some point, and Geppetto was ready. I have to take his wishes into account too. It's devastating what has happened, but it's right.'
'How is it right?!' Pinocchio retorted.
'You'll understand someday,' the Blue Fairy said kindly, covering Geppetto's face with the patchwork quilt. 'It's the way of the world. Let me just help your father get to where he belongs.' The Blue Fairy waved her wand, knowing that this was difficult for Pinocchio, and the quilt's raised lumps disappeared. The bed was made, like no one had ever laid in it. 'There. He is at peace now. He's in a better place. You'll be able to say your goodbyes in a fortnight at the funeral still, if you wish.'
Pinocchio looked away. The Blue Fairy peered at him with a sympathetic smile. 'I'm sorry that I cannot do more,' she said. 'However, there's a little something I can do for you both. Jiminy, come.'
Jiminy made his way down from the window sill, and the Blue Fairy didn’t speak until he was stood next to Pinocchio. Figaro approached him and sniffed his hat.
‘Pinocchio may be older,’ said the Blue Fairy, ‘but he still needs guidance. Even though he has developed a conscious of his own with the help of age and experience, he still needs you, Jiminy.’
Jiminy gazed up at her, confused. She waved her wand. In a flash of light, Jiminy floated and felt his body grow. The light dimmed. Pinocchio looked up at him with his mouth ajar and his eyes wide open, unable to say anything.
Jiminy looked down, still dressed in the same clothes and top hat, but he was much larger than before. The only thing that hadn’t changed was the gold badge on his collar, which was now the size of a button. Jiminy looked down at his hands.
‘Ha – ha – hands!’ he gasped. ‘I have hands!’
‘You’re now Pinocchio’s guardian, Mr Cricket, and the new wood carver in the village,’ the Blue Fairy said happily. Figaro looked up at Jiminy’s new human form; he had never looked so confused.
‘Wood carver?! I don’t know how to carve wood!’
‘You’d better get practicing then,’ the Blue Fairy laughed. ‘Pinocchio is still young and needs a responsible parent. I trust you will take care of him like always and do your job well.’
‘Why yes, of course,’ Jiminy said, removing his hat and bowing.
‘Take care. You too, Pinocchio.’
The Blue Fairy disappeared in a flash of blinding light, shining once again in the inky-blue sky. Pinocchio turned to Jiminy.
‘You’re human,’ Pinocchio said aghast, trying to take in Jiminy’s new form.
‘Yes!’ said Jiminy, looking at his long legs. ‘It’s quite the transformation.’ He felt his face with his big unfamiliar hands, then spotted his reflection in Cleo’s empty fish bowl. Gepetto had never had the heart to replace Cleo.
Jiminy now had a pale complexion, thick locks of wavy brown hair beneath his top hat, a small button nose and big coffee coloured eyes.
‘Say Pinocch,’ he said, pushing his nose up until it looked like a pig’s snout, then stretching his mouth with his fingers to reveal straight white teeth. ‘How old do you think I am?’
‘Thirty, perhaps?’ said Pinocchio, also looking at Jiminy’s reflection in the fishbowl.
‘Well I say,’ said Jiminy, impressed. ‘I don’t look too bad, do I? Well, we better get some rest. It’s been a long day. And I suppose I’d better get carving tomorrow too!’ Jiminy looked around at the hand carved cuckoo clocks on the walls. ‘Well, night Pinoch.’
‘You’ll need a bed,’ said Pinocchio, watching Jiminy walk away.
‘Oh of course,’ said Jiminy. ‘Right you are.’ Jiminy looked at Gepetto’s bed.
‘Take mine,’ Pinocchio insisted.
‘Are you sure?’
Pinocchio nodded, avoiding eye contact with Jiminy.
‘Goodnight,’ Jiminy said as he got into Pinocchio’s bed.
Pinocchio closed the window after blowing out the candles and extinguishing the crackling fire. He peeled back his father’s quilt, the sheets cold and crisp, and he snuggled his father’s pillow, the scent being both a comfort and something that bought hot stinging tears to his eyes. Gepetto was gone, and it made every fibre of his son's body ache.
Eight years earlier...
Rain poured over the carriage as it moved slowly over the bumpy lanes, thunder roaring and lightening illuminating the road ahead. The carriage dipped, and the horses started to neigh loudly, already spooked by the weather and now stuck in the middle of no where. Disgruntled, the driver got off his seat and started to slam the side of the carriage with his hands.
'What is this!' he yelled in a thick accent. His voice alone was enough to frighten people, let alone his intimidating appearance. He was a tall, heavy set man with thick eyebrows and a bushy black beard. His huge stomach hung over his trousers and his hands were so big that they looked like they could crush a fully grown man like a tooth pic. The driver looked down at his back wheel. It was stuck in the mud. He growled and slammed the carriage again.
He went to the back of the carriage, yelled at the horses to calm down, then stopped. He couldn't hear anything, just the horses huffing and puffing at the front. He hammered on the carriage door.
'Decided to be a good little wooden puppet have you?' the driver chuckled, and was surprised at being ignored. 'Pinocchio!' the puppet didn't reply. Stromboli opened the door. 'We're stuck!' he yelled once inside the carriage. 'I'm going to give the carriage a big push, then we'll be on our way. Almost there, my little wooden friend.' Stromboli laughed, putting his large hands on his stomach and tilting his head back as he did so. He sighed and dried his eyes, then looked at the cage in which he had trapped the puppet. 'Hold on tight -'
Pinocchio was gone.
'Pinocchio!' the driver yelled! 'Pinocchio!... Oh!' the driver chuckled. 'No one escapes Stromboli. Come out, little puppet!'
Stromboli grabbed the large axe from the table. Its sharp blade glinted in the dimly lit carriage. Another roar of thunder, followed by another flash of lightening, and the horses started to leap in the air again, making the carriage rock.
'Shut up!' Stromboli bawled inside the carriage. 'PINOCCHIO! Do not hide from me!' Stromboli picked up one of the hanging puppets and put the axe to her neck.
'Come out, come out! Wherever you are! Or this'll be you!' Stromboli chopped the puppet's neck off and dropped its head. It rolled across the floor. Stromboli frowned. Why wasn't Pinocchio afraid? Where was he?
Stromboli searched the carriage, slamming things about, chucking things at the walls, and destroyed some of his possessions with his sharp axe. Pinocchio was no where to be seen.
'He's escaped,' Stromboli muttered to himself. 'How? HOW?!'
Stromboli stepped out of the carriage and slammed its doors shut. He heaved the carriage out of the mud and sat back down at the front. He grabbed his whip and hit the horses' behinds with more force that was necessary, so much that he drew blood. The horses galloped as Stromboli screamed and bawled. He vowed to find the puppet, and when he did, the puppet would wish that he had never been made. Once Pinocchio had made Stromboli rich beyond his wildest dreams, he would torture the little wooden puppet and burn him alive.
Pinocchio was walking back from the bakery with a fresh loaf of bread. The news of the wood carver’s death had traveled fast around the town, and people constantly stopped Pinocchio on his way home to offer condolences and to promise that they would attend the funeral. Everybody loved Gepetto, and the downcast weather seemed to reflect the feel of the town at the news of Gepetto’s passing.
Pinocchio stopped, his thoughts interrupted by something brightly coloured that had caught his eye. There was a poster on the wall, with big writing on it announcing something that Pinocchio wished wasn’t true. Beautiful marionettes surrounded the boarder, beckoning people to come see the show that had returned to town, and in the middle was the terrifying face of the puppet master himself, with dark manic eyes, bushy eyebrows and a sinister smile that gave Pinocchio a sickening shiver down his spine.
Stromboli was back.
Thanks for reading! Follow me and keep a lookout for Part II, coming soon to Creators.co - choose what happens next!
Click here to read the Author's Note.