Humans have their nerves, robots have their wires, and puppets have their strings. The last of these is the odd one out for two critical reasons: in addition to the lack of an animating force, puppets have the misfortune of their nervous systems existing outside their bodies. This nakedness prevents them from achieving true autonomy, as their motions must be granted to them by creatures of a higher order.

Strings can be implanted inside of puppets as well, but as one might expect, doing so prevents them from being pulled by an outside source. Because of this, it takes a special kind of string to make this configuration viable: the sort that can tug itself.

Such filaments come from a variety of manmade sources, yet their most important property cannot simply be manufactured. Some begin as broken fishing lines, whereas others are plucked from the bows of cellists mid-note. Although these strings remain static while isolated, they begin to writhe and twist once bound by knots to one another. Each such fiber carries within it an unresolved urge, which manifests itself as tension when forced to compete with the desires of another.

When only a handful of these knots have been made, the resulting structure is barely more complex than a wriggling mound of earthworms. Once several thousand have been made, however, the network starts to display integration, with bands and ribbons of its form behaving with singular interest. At this point, the Gordian creation can be incorporated into the puppet’s anatomy, joining nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems into a unified entity.

After several weeks of flailing, the puppet begins to familiarize itself with its new, more complete body. If constructed correctly, it can even learn to walk upright. Its apparent humanity is largely illusory, however; in this state, it has no senses of its own. All it knows and feels is an all-permeating itch caused by the compulsion to complete thousands of unfinishable tasks. It is entirely absorbed in the need to resolve this inner tension, which can only be relieved by tearing out the spools in its own vertebrae.

Puppets that attempt to snap their own wires are classified as gremlins.

When the wires tug themselves, who is in control?