Toy or Flesh

In the excellent country of Bast, there stands a toy shop known as Firebrand. Its shingles sparkle during the most important holidays, including Christmas, Bonwhop, and Skulni Day.

It is well-known that Scrippo, the owner of the shop, is a skilled craftsmen. He has made yo-yos out of pinewood, Jack-in-the-boxes out of yew, and marbles out of willow. He built the dollhouse that Ella's daughter, Areida of Frell, received for her seventh birthday. The plastic flamingoes in the queen's yard owe their existence to Scrippo. But at the present moment, he was hard at work on what he hoped would be his masterpiece.

Scrippo had never married. It is supposed that he loved a young woman in his youth, one Olympe. But she had run off with a king, and he was left desolated. Because of this loss, he was unable to have children. He figured that by creating his own boy, he could save the storks a trip to an old bachelor.

Using a jackhammer, he cut a few slices from a log he had obtained the day before. He molded it into arms and legs. Then he carved an oval shaped head, dabbing paint on it to create realistic eyes, an aquiline nose, and a visible mouth. Employing thumbscrews, he fastened the head to a torso, and added the ligaments. Once this had been done, he dressed the puppet as if it were his own son.

"If only you were real," he said, turning out the light and going upstairs to bed.

Two hours later, a fairy decked in blue graciously appeared on the first floor. "There must be something here; I feel like presenting something inanimate with the gift of life. Should it be a ball? I'm certain there's a good Hans Christian Anderson story with a talking ball. Or maybe a rocking horse? That's always fun. Wait, what's this?"

Her eyes had lighted on Scrippo's latest creation. "It's as if he wanted it to be real. I know, I'll grant his wish!"

She touched the puppet's arm, and a surgence of energy commenced in that spot where the blue fairy made contact. Then it flowed through all his atoms within seconds. He blinked.

"Wherefore am I?" he asked.

"You are Alphana, and you have just woken up."

He saw the fairy, gawked at her. "Alphana? What is that?"

"That is the name I have bestowed upon you."

"What's a name?"

"Oh, I forgot that, being a puppet, you'll have to learn everything from scratch. A name is what separates people, objects, and places from one another. For example, this is called a pencil," the blue fairy said, holding up a writing utensil marked "Faber."

"What is your name?"

"I am Kipheira, and my sister is Lucinda. We are called 'eccentric fairies,' although she is definitely more outrageously unorthodox than I."

Alphana then asked her what a sister was.

"Well, it's part of a family unit. This consists of father, mother, and possibly brothers or sisters. Every family initially has the former two, though siblings aren't always there. The parents (mother and father) bestow their values and beliefs on their children."

"Do Iā€¦have a family?"

"It is not for me to answer that. But I do have a gift to bestow upon you."

"A gift?"

"Something to be cherished. Here it is: whenever you tell a lie, your nose will grow a quarter of an inch. There is no limit to how long it can grow. The only way to shrink it is to retract the lie and tell the truth."

Lucinda could've imagined no worse gift than this one. The inability to hide the truth means the destruction of the individual. Ella had to obey ever command made, but she could still hate them and hope for retribution. But Alphana could keep no secrets. It was like having Veritaserum twenty-four seven. Of course, Alphana knew nothing of his torment yet, as he had just been born.

"Now you must sleep. Just close your eyes and think of peaceful thoughts."

Alphana complied, though not knowing why. Presently, he was snoring deeply for the first time in his life.

Kipheira vanished into the air.

Scrippo came down the rickety stairs promptly at seven the next morning. He heard the snoring. His first conclusion was that someone had been locked in the toy shop and decided to doze. Pulling the shutters apart, he began to search the cabinets for hidden person, little thinking to listen to the noise and find out where it was coming from. At last he tried that, and he approached the table where Alphana lay.

How could wood give off the deception of snoring? he wondered. He knocked on Alphana's belly to see how hollow it was, when the boy's eyes shot open and he stared up at his creator with an awe not unlike that which the monster must've given Dr. Frankenstein.

Scrippo was so startled that he fell over backward, tripping on a stuffed gingerbread man.

"Are you a mother?"

"Did you say something?"

"Apparently, I did. But are you my mother?"

"Mother? Heavens, no!" he said, placing his hands on either side of his head, as if he couldn't figure out what was going on. "I'm your creator, I think. Else, someone stole my puppet and replaced it with a boy."

"I'm Alphana."

"I always wanted a boy, and I suppose my prayers have been answered! Alphana, you call yourself, eh? Well, I'll have to get used to that, I suppose. Will you call me 'Dad'?"

"Why not? So your name is Dad?"

"No, my name is Strippo. But you are my son, and I want to be called Dad." Well, they've certainly given me an idiot boy. I suppose that's better than a wooden one, but I was hoping that he'd have more than straw for brains.

"Are we a family?"

"Indeed, we are, Alphana! And you are lucky enough to have a toymaker for a father; I can fashion anything your heart desires. Tin woodmen, white rabbits, Cheshire cats, dominoes, Magical 8 balls, plastic carriages, blocks, elves, dragons. Whatever you want, it shall be yours."

"What's a toy?"