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Chapter 8: Marionette

Oh, so this is a corporeal form…

Cowplants are actually native to the fifth underworld, though their presence has become ubiquitous throughout all seven of the underworlds. This makes them very easy to summon. Like literally, you can get them on your first try. Someone should have mentioned this sooner. —The Book of the Dead, Revised Edition

“Alice.”

“Alice!”

“…Alice?”

Ben tried to stop Alice’s body from slumping forward but it had been over a millennia since he last had a corporeal form. It wasn’t that he was unfamiliar with bodies, though admittedly he hadn’t ever been in a 29-year-old woman. Still, maneuvering limbs and legs and hands was difficult and he couldn’t quite put his metaphysical finger on why.

Alice’s body continued drop to the ground and despite Ben flailing her arms around, the best he could do was tilt her slightly more towards the grass.

Even with these efforts, part of her slammed into the pavement with a force that knocked the wind out of her body. Ben panicked, gulping in air like a fish and writhing around.

He laid there for a moment but the crick in Alice’s neck told him that this was not the optimal position. 

Slowly, he got up, touching a hand to her forehead. He winced and then he remembered: It was the weight of the body. That’s why it was so hard to control. 

He stumbled a bit and then steadied himself. Alice wasn’t dead, he could still feel her spark of a soul. But she was unused to the outlay of power that magic required and so, summoning a few cowplants and one small fire was enough to knock her out cold. 

It was the weight of the body. That’s why it was so hard to control. 

He supposed it was his fault. When the first use of magic freaked her out, he didn’t push. Instead, he let her dole it out in fits and starts, small expenditures that she didn’t even notice. He shouldered most of the big magic: raising the dead, manipulating nature…harnessing lightning. He should have been preparing her, forcing her to take his training seriously! Especially if she was going to—

Ben silenced the thought by force. Alice was unconscious but they still shared a mind. He had to be careful. 

Slowly, in a shambling sort of fashion, he hauled Alice into the backyard. 

The trailer was so close. He could make it with just one more burst of energy. And it was a good thing too, after just a few yards of walking he was already exhausted. 

Alice did this every day? How did she not simply collapse under the sheer force of gravity?

He stumbled towards the door.

“Alice? Alice is that you? Why don’t you come in for dinner if you’re home?” a voice called. 

Ben kept shuffling toward the door of the trailer and reached for the handle. 

“Alice? Are you drunk?”

Of all the things! Why would Alice be drunk this early on a Friday evening? Honestly.

“Alice, correct these people. Your family has an incorrect assessment of your person. We don’t get drunk until after the final rose ceremony. We need our wits about us to assess which sim is the best match for Alistair.”

There was no answer. 

Was Alice ignoring him?

Was she…

wait

oh no. 

Oh no oh no oh no!

There was no Alice at the moment. Or rather, he was Alice. Who was calling her? Ben whirled around, which was not the most prudent move because it caused her head to spin.

“Alice doesn’t get drunk until the end of the TV show!” he announced. 

Wait, that was wrong.

“Er…I mean, I…who is Alice…doesn’t get drunk until the end of the TV show.”

Valeria Martin stood, arms folded and tapping her foot. She did not look amused.

“Alice Levitica Martin, that is enough. I told you Mayra would be home from school for cousin Betsy’s engagement party. And now it turns out you’re home and you didn’t even come in to say hello to your family?!”

Cousin Betsy’s Mayra Whatsa Who? Ben let Alice’s mouth fall open in shock but Valeria gave him an ice cold, possibly dangerous look, he promptly shut it. So it wasn’t just the body, he was expected to be in charge of Alice’s facial expressions too? 

This was madness.

He rearranged Alice’s face into a more pleasant mask. Valeria needed charming. He could be very charming! He smiled wide. 

“Of course! Just going to freshen up and then I will be in presently!” he used the same cheerful tone that Alice used on customers who asked about items being on sale. 

“Hmph. Don’t be too long, your dad just took the casserole out of the oven,” Valeria said. 

She gave Alice a long look. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Does a reaper’s scythe slice? Of course! Never better!” Ben promised.

There was another “hmph” and then Valeria walked back into the house. 

Ben hurtled Alice’s body through the front door of the trailer and looked frantically around the room. 

In this new corporeal form, he could feel the warm air being circulated by the fan, smell the floor stain that Alice tried to cover with bleach (which was concerning), as well as the oatmeal she had forgotten to clear out of the microwave. 

It was…overwhelming.

He swayed a little but managed to pull it together.

What did Alice need?

Well, she needed to go to dinner or else her mother might actually kill her. Wait? Did mortal mothers do that sort of thing? His own mother had threatened to smite he and his brother on a number of occasions, but that was mainly for show. Valeria Martin though? He had his doubts that she wasn’t an all-knowing, all-seeing deity.

Valeria Martin though? He had his doubts that she wasn’t an all-knowing, all-seeing deity.

Best not to cross her.

He looked down at Alice’s clothes. They were covered in grass stains from her encounter in the park. He walked over to the mirror by the bed.

Gods!

Alice’s face was streaked with soot and there was a small cut near the top of her forehead. She couldn’t go to dinner looking like this! He walked to the bathroom. She just needed a shower. Easy! He stripped down and grabbed a towel. Just a simple…er…well, a quick…uh…Ben paused in front of the shower. 

How in the seven underworlds did it work? 

It was then that Ben realized the problem. He had watched Alice do lots of things, but never paid the process much mind. When he first regained his godhood through his family’s sacrifice, he knew he had a set amount of time to find a worthy replacement. He had been arrogant back then. He was so sure that he could whip any mortal into shape that he spent a lot of time indulging in the world of sims. And at first, it was fun to learn new languages, new music, new styles of dress. 

He had watched her waste away and retreat. He saw her pain and her isolation and thought, vainly, that he would be enough.

But then sim after sim failed. He lost body after body. Decades passed, then centuries, one millennia and then nearly two. By the time he landed in Alice’s body he had nearly given up hope. Trying to understand the modern world didn’t seem worth it. He just coasted along, letting all the newness wash over him. 

A bead of moisture rolled down Alice’s face. What was it? He was sad…was this…a tear? Alice was crying? 

It was just as well. He had failed her. He didn’t teach her to use her magic, didn’t prepare her for taking up the mantle of godhood, and now, he didn’t even learn enough about the modern world to help her navigate it when she was knocked out and he was trapped in her body alone.

He had watched her waste away and retreat. He saw her pain and her isolation and thought, vainly, that he would be enough. The Owl of Undoing had finally reappeared in the world and he couldn’t do a thing about it. Alice had to be the one to get it and yet, here she was desperately trying to keep her life shackled to a trailer in some dry desert because he couldn’t deign to be truly helpful. 

He cried harder. It felt so soothing, like a valve being released. As the pressure eased, so too did his melancholy. 

He had failed Alice, sure. He had failed himself a little too, not to mention his family. 

But he was all she had. 

He clenched her fist and looked up. It would have to be enough.

Ben stormed Alice’s body out of the bathroom. He didn’t need a godsdamned shower. He was a mighty being in control of untold levels of power. Alice may not know how to use it, but he sure as hell did. He stood in the middle of the trailer and made a few gestures. “Scuberoo,” he yelled.

In seconds, Alice was squeaky clean. Now all he needed to do was get her a proper outfit, dine with her family, and secure enough funds to purchase a ticket to San Myshuno for the baking show auditions. 

Easy.

35 minutes later…

As Ben entered the dining room, everyone froze mid-sentence. Good. She needed to make an impression. They must be pleased with her new attire.

He sat Alice down at the dinner table. He had been practicing facial expressions, and he was pretty sure this look said: Here I am family! I am Alice, your daughter, and certainly not the ancient god who shares her mind using her body like marionette…temporarily.

“…is…uh…” Maverick stammered.

“Is that your? Uh….” Cyrus tried.

“Are you wearing your dress from the Military Ball?” Mayra squeaked, her eyebrows raised nearly to the ceiling.

“Benzi chibna looble bazebni gweb!” Ben replied.

Maverick’s eyes practically bulged out of his head. 

Gods! What was the language again? Simlish. Right. Simlish. He had already spoken it. It wasn’t hard.

He cleared Alice’s throat. “Nothing is impossible if you believe. I wanted to look my best and so I do!”

“Well, okay pumpkin, we are…uh…just glad to have you here with us,” Cyrus said with a warm smile. 

He elbowed Maverick who kicked Mayra under the table. 

“Uh yep. Glad to have you with us sis!” both siblings repeated in unison. 

Valeria narrowed her eyes, “Are you sure you’re not drunk?”

“Valeria!” Cyrus admonished.

“What? She’s an adult. I’ve seen the recycling. I know she loves her nectar. I’m just asking!” 

Cyrus gave Valeria a warning look. She sighed. “It’s good to have you at dinner and if you’re drunk it’s your business. We love you anyhow.”

Ben didn’t understand why Alice tried so hard to stay away from her family. They were delightful! Dinner was an altogether pleasant experience. They shared stories about their daytime activities and even laughed at his jokes. 

They were just about to wrap up and clear the table when Ben decided that it was time to make his announcement. He raised Alice’s glass in a toast.

“Mother, father, family. I know you’ve been worried about what I will do for a career but I wanted to let you know that I have found my calling: reality tv. The Unparalleled Windenburg Baking Show is having auditions in San Myshuno and it is my intention to travel there and wow the judges with my baking prowess!”

For a moment, they all looked stunned.

“You know how to bake?” Maverick asked, his tone skeptical.

Ben was about to explain to Alice’s brother that baking was but a small obstacle to overcome on the pathway to greatness, but Alice’s father beat him to it.

“I knew it! That’s what you’ve been working on all this time! You’ve been perfecting your baking and practicing your character! I mean, sure, I think the dress might be a bit difficult to move around in but it will certainly make you stand out from the other contestants.”

At that, everyone got excited and started talking and laughing all at once. 

“Oh my gosh! I will totally watch you with my roommates in the dorm!” Mayra exclaimed.

“Way to go big sis! I’ll make sure everyone in the barracks watches and roots for you!” Maverick agreed.

“You’ll need money for travel and a hotel. And pepper spray. San Myshuno is full of unsavory characters and Windenburg is probably worse,” Valeria chimed in, already reaching around for her pocketbook.

Ben just nodded at all of them and smiled weakly. They were all so supportive and loving and here he was lying to them. Alice hadn’t been working on her baking. She hadn’t been planning to try out a career and she certainly didn’t stay away because she was busy. They didn’t know why she had to compete in the contest, or that she wasn’t crazy, just crowded out in her own head by a God.

There were so many secrets and they didn’t know any of them.

He finally understood why Alice avoided her family.


Credits

Thanks to all the creators who made amazing stuff! These poses made my story (and kept me sane while working to get all these shots!).

Emotions by Simmerberlin

Emotion Poses 2 by Cassandra Grusel

Facial Expressions by JoanneBernice

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