I dreamt of puppets and toys.

I came to life in the countryside, standing in front of a large wooden house. The house stood two stories high and warm light pulsed through each window. I could hear the faint tinkling of a piano from the upper floor. The front door was also wooden, with a golden doorknob, and had a simple pattern of lines and dots around the border. I found the door to be unlocked, and I pulled it open and stepped inside the house.

My feet sank slightly into the plush carpet as I walked through the living room, examining the sunlit interior. There was a couch against the wall, facing a table with a half finished jigsaw puzzle on it. A few pieces had fallen off of the table, and I picked them up and put them on the table.

I paused for a second, looking at the puzzle, and the loose pieces, after a moment of thought, I picked up one of the pieces and put it into the correct place in the puzzle. A cheery tune began playing to my left and I turned to look. The song was coming from a small light blue, box, decorated with an intricate design of clouds and birds, with a drawing of the sun emblazoned on top.

I crouched down, putting my hands on my knees, and examined the box. The song looped once more and ended with a snap. The lid quickly opened and the smiling clown that had been coiled inside sprung out, leering at me. I chuckled lightly and put my hand on its head, easing it back into the box until I felt it snag into place with an audible click. Standing, I closed the lid and left the room, following the sound of voices coming from another room.

A faint yellow light filled the room, emanating from an old tv in the corner. The sound of static was coming from the tv, with short clips of indecipherable speech coming through. I sat down on the child sized stool in front of the tv and started adjusting the antenna, seeing if I could fix the signal. After a few seconds, the snow cleared from the tv and I was watching a show I recalled seeing as a child. The main characters were all puppets, given life by the men manipulating the strings off screen. I watched a little bit, not remembering this particular episode. A small boy was lost in the woods, and puppets were falling, hanging from the trees, their long, lanky bodies entirely black except for their eyes. They scared him this way and that through the forest, telling that he could never go back, and he could never go home.

I stretched and stood up off the tiny stool, leaving the tv on. I exited the room, following my nose, which had picked up the scent of something fresh baked. I walked through the dining room, which contained only a child’s play table and chair, with a cushion on the ground next to the chair, and entered the kitchen. The oven was off, and next to the stove was a plate of chocolate chip cookies, a slight vapor rose off of them and the smell overwhelmed me. A small place card rested in front of the plate, reading “Eat me.”

I walked forward and did just that, biting off half of a cookie, it was pleasantly warm, and the gooey chocolate coated my tongue. I swallowed, savoring the taste, and waited to see if anything of great importance would happen. Nothing did, and I finished the cookie. I turned to grab another one but the plate was gone. I walked out of the kitchen and exited into the next room.

This room seemed to be a model of a city. Model buildings stood in the center of a rug displaying roads and scenery. A wide variety of life like dolls were scattered about the scene, milling about in front of buildings, some positioned to appear as if they were talking to each other, others were inside model cars placed on the road, driving to work, or other areas of interest. Train tracks gave the entire scene a circular border, with an electric train ceaselessly looping around the track, as if acting as a sentry for the miniature city. I looked up and saw an array of model planes hanging from the ceiling, almost exclusively different makes of fighter jets, positioned as if dogfighting with each other. A single bomber hung lower than the rest, with three bombs all hanging at slightly lower degrees behind it, forever suspended on their way to the city below.

I located a flight of stairs at the other end of the room, and skirted around the outside of the train track, making sure not to disrupt the city or its inhabitants, whose poses and facial expressions had changed to a soundless scream of terror as they looked up at the bombs. Leaving the scene behind, I ascended the stairs. As I went up I heard music, and recognized it as the song that I heard on the piano while outside the house. I reached the top of the stairs, ending in a single door, which I opened and stepped into the room beyond.

The music resonated throughout the room, its point of origin being the perfectly tuned piano standing alone in the center of the room. A small girl with pure white hair sat on the bench, playing the lower notes with her left hand, while the ventriloquists puppet on her right hand played the higher ones with both hands, a slight clunking sound to be heard as he brought his entire hands down on the black and white keys, moving them perfectly in time to keep pace with the bass line played by the girl’s other hand.

I sat down on a chair behind them to watch and waited patiently for them to finish playing, enjoying the music. It was a melancholy tune, the girls left hand playing jarring minor chords and arpeggios in a slow tempo, while the puppet played mournful melody, rich with sounds of loves lost and wars fought. I relaxed back in my seat and listened to them play.

Eventually the song ended, and I sat up, opening my eyes, and clapped politely for them. They turned on the bench to face me, and I saw that though she had the body of one below the age of ten, her face was aged with the lines and wrinkles of one who has been on the earth much longer. They spoke to me then, and though the girl’s mouth moved, and sound came out, the puppet’s lips never moved.

“Oh, good, a new one, I’m glad you’re here, this one doesn’t have much life left in her. Did you enjoy the house?” The girl said in an airy voice that didn’t match her features. I nodded at the puppet, and it inclined its head slightly at me, showing it approved.

“Excellent, then you will agree to live here?” The girl asked. I nodded again. Satisfied, the puppet stretched its arms up into the air, then detached itself from the girl’s wrist with a wet squelching sound, leaving the bloody stump of her wrist behind. The girl slouched and slid off the bench, making an almost inaudible thud as she landed lifeless on the carpet. The puppet stood up off the ground and walked over to me, wordlessly offering its back.

I stuck my hand in, and felt a slight pulling motion from myself to the puppet as invisible strings wrapped themselves around my hand, securing it into place. Through the newly formed connection with my hand, the puppet commanded me to stand and then sit at the piano. I smiled and did so, adjusting the bench underneath me with my free hand so I could easily reach the pedals, and we began to play.

Then I woke up, and began my day.