“Try ventriloquism!” the book said. “It will be fun,” the book said. Now I know it’s not normal for ventriloquist dummies to start talking on their own, I get that. However, being strangled to death by one doesn’t fall under what I call “fun.”
Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. My name is Jeremy Storm, and I nearly lost my mind during the COVID-19 lockdowns. I know some people can sit motionless in one room for hours on end, but that’s not me. I need to be moving around and doing stuff! Otherwise I feel like I’m completely wasting my life. My friends kept telling me I was only 25 and I had plenty of time to waste. Not to sound like a downer, but it must be fun to not to consider dying literally at any time. If I could accomplish anything, whether it be finishing a chapter or performing a good day’s work, I could rest with ease.
Ever since I moved out of my parent’s house, I was in desperate need of a hobby. I dabbled in a few things like model planes, remote control cars, bird watching, but I never really stuck to them. During the lockdowns I found a book titled Ventriloquism for Beginners. The book looked ancient. The pages were brown and felt crusty. I don’t remember when I bought it, but I must have gotten it from a thrift store or at a yard sale.
The cover of the book was a dark yellow color, almost orange but not quite. The cover had a cartoon illustration of a man with a dummy on his lap. Upon opening the book I realized all the letters, including the page numbers, were all in bold. This made the text an absolute pain to decipher. I even restored to squinting my eyes to read it properly. But I didn’t mind the book's age or the poor quality of the typeface, my interest was piqued. Maybe ventriloquism was just right for me.
I began practicing right away. I followed the instructions down to a T. I even learned how to pronounce letters like b, p and w without moving my lips. The only problem was that I didn’t have a ventriloquist dummy to practice on. Now, I did use a sock as a cheap substitute, but I wanted the real thing.
So when my stimulus check came in I placed half it towards my rent and groceries and the other half to purchase a genuine dummy. I could have cheesed it and bought a felt puppet for much less, but I wanted one made of wood; just to add that authentic flair to it. I combed through countless sites, since the ones listed on eBay and Etsy were way out of my price range. Finally, I found a site that had exactly what I was looking for.
The site looked old and cheap, as if it were made in the pre-Google days and never updated since. The site’s name read Magical Anomalies and Oddities. I browsed through the site's catalog, which contained props used for amateur magic acts. These props included; a wand with a secret compartment, metal rings, magician’s top hats, poker decks, robes, etc. Nothing looked too out of the ordinary, except for the ancient and clunkiness of the site’s layout.
The wooden dummy on sale had dark hair, sharp blue eyes, big rosy lips and cheeks, a small pointy mustache, and decked out in a suit, tie, black pants, and shoes. The puppet’s name was Sir Reginald Chuckles. It was less than $300 and they only had one left in stock. I couldn’t believe my luck! Without missing a beat I clicked the Buy Now button, and filled out all the information faster than the site could handle at once.
I thought the dummy would arrive at my apartment within a few days. When I saw it would take four to five months to deliver, I nearly lost it. I only calmed down when I reminded myself this store was probably some mom-and-pop business in the middle of nowhere. They couldn’t compete with speedy services like Amazon Prime. I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they would do their best to send me the dummy as fast as possible. Maybe the posted delivery time was just an estimate in case it actually took five months to deliver the thing.
Three and a half months later. I wish I was joking but it really did take that long. I nearly forgot I even ordered the thing, until I went out for a run. A large cardboard box stood on my WELCOME mat blocking my path. Did I say big? I meant ginormous! I had to push the box inside. To lift the thing up would snap my back in two.
On top of the package was an envelope.
FROM: MAGICAL OBJECTS AND ANOMELES INC
TO: JEREMY STORM
I tore the envelope up first. The paper inside felt odd. It felt close to the crusty paper in my ventriloquism book but with a few smooth spots here and there. The letter didn’t contain any useful information, just a standard “thank you for your purchase” and “quality assurance” message. I tossed the letter aside and drew my attention to the package itself. After a few jabs and tares with a pair of heavy metal scissors, I eventually got the thing open.
There he was, in all his glory. Sir Reginald Chuckles lied inside a blue box with cartoony stars behind him. Opening the box was simple. I didn’t even have to use the scissors even once. I held the dummy in my arms like a mother would hold her newly born infant. He wasn’t that tall at all, maybe about 2ft and a half at most. I found out he wasn’t a puppet where I could just stuff my hand in. This guy had a wooden pole protruding from the back of his suit. On the pole were three tiny wooden levers. The bottom one moved his mouth open and shut, the middle made his eyes turn side to side, and the top one made his eyebrows jump up and down.
I was pretty impressed with the craftsmanship and detail that went into it. I would have given the site five stars if there was an option to rate or give reviews. I finally had a real ventriloquist dummy to practice with, and that was good enough for me. Without a moment's hesitation, I picked the dummy up and headed straight to my bathroom.
I gave the dummy one look and realized the perfect voice for him.
“How are you doing Reginald Chuckles?” I asked the wooden doll.
“Oh, I’m doing quite splendid my good sir!” I gave Reginald Chuckles a stereotypical British accent.
I couldn’t believe how easy Reginald Chuckle’s character came to me. There wasn’t one thing I didn’t know about him. I even created the puppet’s entire life story right on the spot.
“So, Reginald Chuckles what do you think of my apartment?” I asked him.
“This is your apartment?” he gasped. “I thought this was your hotel room!”
I laughed but Reginald was shaking with anger.
“This is ludicrous!” he shouted. “Me, an aristocrat, hanging around with a rapscallion like you? What rubbish!”
“Now, Sir Reginald…”
“Don’t you ‘now Sir Reginald’ me, you riffraff!”
Shame I didn’t have a notebook around. This banter was going to lead to comedy gold!
I placed Reginald Chuckles onto the couch and headed straight for my laptop. I started working on a routine straight away. Not once did I have to stop and think a piece of dialogue through. I didn’t even come across the dreaded writer's block. Everything just flowed straight out of me, I couldn’t stop. My fingers were flying across the keyboard.
After an hour, I had already written at least 45 minutes of material. A little voice in my head told me this was a good stopping point, but I didn’t want to stop. The same voice told me this wasn’t natural and I needed to take a break. I just brushed it aside. How could I take a break? I was on the verge of comedy gold! My fingers began to ace and my wrists started to feel numb but I couldn’t let that slow me down.
Another hour passed. My eyes felt dry and my stomach began to ache. I needed to take a break. A hundred fifty pages seemed like a good stopping point. If I could just finish one line of Reginald Chuckle’s dialogue then I would take a breather. I kept telling myself I would quit, I kept telling myself I just needed to finish one more line. I glanced at the time. I was stunned. Maybe the clock was wrong. I looked at the page count and my heart nearly stopped. Maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me. Maybe a virus came and messed everything up. I had been writing for four hours straight with a whopping total of over two hundred pages!
I had had enough. I had no desire to write anymore. So, why were my fingers still typing? I tried to stop them, but they kept hitting one key after the other. It was like my hands were no longer part of my body anymore. I felt trapped. I tried moving my arms one way and then the other, but my hands would not budge. Maybe if I walked away, then my hands would finally leave the keyboard. I pushed my chair away and stood up straight. I took two steps and collapsed to the ground. I didn’t understand it, it shouldn’t have been possible. My hands kept typing away as if I had done nothing at all!
Suddenly, an idea came to me. I leaned my head against the keyboard and swept it off the desk. My eyes widened. It actually worked! It hurt like crazy, but my fingers finally flew off the keys! The weird thing about it, was that my fingers kept moving! It was almost like they were pressing invisible keys in the air. Why were my hands doing this?
I thought if I walked away they would stop. And for a couple of minutes, they actually did! I finally regained control of my own two hands!
Suddenly, my right hand snatched a pen off my desk and it pulled my body directly to the wall! It felt like an invisible force grabbed my hand and threw me against the wall. My hand started scribbling down paragraphs upon paragraphs of dialogue. The first thing that came to mind was how ticked my landlord would be once he saw the mess I made. The second thought that came to me was that I needed to find a way to stop my hand from writing anything else. At least this time I had complete control of my other arm.
Using all the strength I could muster, I grabbed my right hand with my left and pulled. After three or four tugs I finally wrenched my right hand away from the wall. My fingers still held on to the pen. Even when I pried the pen loose with the other hand, my fingers acted as if it were still there. In a minute or two my hand finally gave up, and I miraculously regained control.
“Why won’t you let me write, Jeremy?”
I froze. I’d like to believe the voice came from across the room, but no. The voice came from me! I spoke in Reginald Chuckle’s voice, but the words didn’t even enter my mind. They just came out of the mouth with no thought or effort at all. I know it sounds crazy, but you have to believe me. Reginald Chuckles was speaking through me!
“What seems to be the matter ole chap?”
“Are you serious?” I asked him. “This can’t be real, it can’t!”
“I would be glad to disappoint you my fine vagabond. I am serious and it is indeed real!”
Never in my life did I feel so sick to my stomach. I never felt like going insane before, and I never dreamed I would get the chance.I pinched myself hoping it could snap me back to reality. For a moment I thought it worked.
I nearly screamed out of fright, but I didn’t want to disturb any of my neighbors. Getting their attention was the last thing I wanted to do.
Reginald Chuckle laid lifeless on the couch, his mouth open agape. I secretly wanted him to spring to life just like in the movies. I wanted some confirmation that this all was just a dream and it would all be over when I woke up. But the doll did not move, not even an inch.
“Why me? What do you want?” I asked it.
“Why me? What do you want?” Reginald Chuckle said in a mocking tone. “You street rats are all the same. You all ask the same questions and behave the exact same way. It’s utterly ridiculous I tell you.”
I hated hearing the puppet’s voice coming out of my mouth. It felt like I was vomiting. My head would suddenly go down, I would feel something run through my throat, and out would come the dummy’s voice.
“Since we're going to be partners I might as well answer your annoying questions,” it said. “First off, why you? I don’t know. You’re just some random urchin I never met. Now the second question, what do I want? Well, that’s simple. I want what all people want, fame, fortune and the particular benefits that accompany it!”
“Were you forcing me to write all that stuff?” I asked, my knees feeling weak. Talking in his voice for long periods seemed to be taking a lot out of me.
“But of course! I can’t get fame and fortune without material! And since I have been out of the game for a few hundred years, I have a lot of it!” he explained. “Now, chop, chop!”
I felt my hands being pulled back to the keyboard, but I forced myself to resist.
“Not this time!” I shouted then lunged for the dummy. Before Reginald Chuckles could react I snatched him up and headed towards my trash can.
“And what do you think you’re doing?” he asked out of shock and anger. Suddenly, my hands reached for both of the puppet’s arms. They took the arms and wrapped them around my neck, strangling me. It’s a good thing my apartment door was locked, otherwise I would have looked like a mad man. I saw myself in the papers right then and there.
MAD MAN STRANGLES HIMSELF TO DEATH WITH VENTRILOQUIST DUMMY
“What are you doing?” I asked gasping for breath. “You can’t have fame and fortune if I’m dead!”
“Oh, but I can!” the dummy’s voice was now rough and raspy. “Once you’re dead it won’t be long till some other hooligan gets his dirty hands on me. I’ll be back on track.”
I leaped towards the trashcan and dunked the little guy right in with the rest of my garbage. He was so horrified to be near trash, he loosened his power over me. It didn’t last long, but it was just enough for me to free myself from his grip and drop him in. I picked the trashcan up and headed straight to the garbage bin in the alley. All the way down I screamed in his voice. He begged me to let him out, said we could come to some understanding. I must have looked like a mental patient running down the stairs, thankfully no one called the cops on me.
I chucked the trash bag into the garbage bin and he stopped talking completely.
I haven’t heard him since. Sometimes I catch myself speaking in Reginald’s voice or writing some of his dialogue, but that’s pretty much it. I tried to find a mailing or an e-mail address to Magical Objects and Anomalies, but my search has come empty-handed. For now, I’m looking into a new hobby, something simple and basic like model boats or adult coloring books. I never want to see that dummy again for as long as I live.
However, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night talking in Reginald’s voice. It’s become unbearable, I can’t sleep like I used to anymore.
“I’m coming for you Jeremy...and we’re going to have so much fun together!”