Due to the length of this story, it is being posted in parts. I am unable to upload a new Word '97 document.
Carousel horses were running rampant through the park. Perhaps, running from the fire-breathing dragon on the roof of the Funhouse. Clouds made of cotton candy were raining blood. Screams of terror rung out from the empty rides. Blood, more blood splashing and flooding the carnival. The rides melted and then rose as granite tombstones. She found herself standing ankle-deep in blood at the center of a cemetery. Calliope music danced in the air and shrill laughter pierced her soul.
Violently, Heather Dietzen awoke from her dream. Her eyes darted around the room, looking for any evil that might have escaped while she awoke. After the carnival came to town, the twelve-year-old Heather suffered from severe nightmares.
She got up and padded barefoot to her window. Peeking outside, she could barely make out the skeletal frame of the Ferris wheel pinned against the dark sky.
((Carnival Nights is currently being overhauled and nearing its first completion...)) Lori
Every society has its tales of monsters and monstrosities. With the birth of each midnight fog, a birth of another horror tale graces its muddied shadows. Sometimes, that horror lies within the unknown of a terrible tragedy...or...sometimes, it lies within an elusive society.
I have seen many faces grow in pallor in the want of understanding. Such fools who dive head on into this world wishing to seek the answers to all that has ever been. In such trepidation, stories are born. Some souls will pass those stories on as truths while others will stretch the events and weave magnificent, fictional novels.
The writer of "The Never Ending Story" had it correct when said, "We are all a part of a never ending story." Though circumstances may change, or even end in this existence, the events live on. The tales will live on and take on life of their own. Mankind is obsessed with morbid details and thrives on horror. No one ever looks twice at a good deed being done for someone...but change the circumstances to those someones as being in a horrible accident...and traffic will slow down, radio DJs will announce a play by play account and news helicopters will record it for constant replay.
Mankind is inherently evil. Not hellfire evil - but the necessary amount that tweaks our intuition of survival. That primal fear that burns eternal in our bellies and readies our souls.
We are all a part of a twisted sideshow that stretches the world over. We are the performers, geeks and slime balls. We are the downtrodden, the short, the tall, the skinny and the fat. We are the pierced, the tattooed, the flexible and the deformed. We are the crooks, the smooth talkers, the mentally ill and the incredibly cunning.
Every society, indeed every generation, weaves its tales of monsters.
The greatest mother of monstrosities, is the carnival. Forever eluding the "normalness" that people associate with life, the carnival seeks the edge. It seeks the edge of reason and sometimes, the edge of sanity. It travels in packs as though feral animals seeking life. This is the greatest mystifier to Man. Shadows stretch and moan and locals retell the disappearance of their best friends, cousin’s, sister’s roommate in the Dark House.
Sometimes, this fear is completely unfounded and the lives of hardworking people are judged unfairly and fights erupt. Sometimes, the gossip is true .
There are towns out there that gravitate as though great black holes. The land long spoiled with hatred and intolerance. These towns lie in wait as though great spiders upon a web...ignoring certain souls that pass through...but pouncing when a ripe one tickles its fangs and desires. Windows serve as eyes and trees as teeth. Roads are the great tongue of a many tongued beast. Those who are unfortunate enough to find residency in these ruined towns become but mere damned souls. Trapped in lives that appear as normal, but secretly, their soul is lost to the dead and decaying. Rocky Creek is such a town. Paint peeling from businesses and roads cracking. This has always been a depressed place.
History books will only remember the history where blood has stained memory. No one will remember JFK’s first word, only his last breath...no one will remember Dahmer’s favorite sports team, only the horrors locked away in freezers. The fall of empires, the defeats and spoils of war and a series of unfortunate events line the pages of any history book on any library shelf. We raise our children up with this distant blood cry. Are we trying to teach them with these mistakes, or preparing them for future ones?
The endless, summer days in Hancock County, Indiana glow with the echoes of the past. The reddish tint of the waning sun and the memories of blood long dead, stretch across the yawning corn fields. Residents snake through the streets as though ants busy in their watched ant farm, unaware of the Watcher.
Nameless Creek winds through ancient woods and backyards alike. Forgotten resting places of gypsies and hobos dot the countryside where nature has grown too tall for man to remember. Ghosts of railways still moan as though waiting for a lover who will never arrive. Trains haven’t been down the Pennsy Trail in years; however, the memory of a train is real enough to sustain a peculiar ambiance.One can almost hear the hiss of a steam release and shrill of the whistle as the train lumbers to a stop.
Rocky Creek is a town trapped where folklore melds with reality. Not so much a real town, but a collection of several towns into one. This place has created itself and its life. This is the place where Mankind will eventually find its greatest trial.
Away from the bustle of Interstate 70 and the growling jake brakes of Highway 9, a ghost town will be awakened in a continuous loop of events of lives and decisions.
This is the tale of Rocky Creek - a virtual mirage of life among the dead. A town where the damned continue to live as though in a perfect era. It begins with the arrival of the carnival.
Driving down the endless concrete miles, bleary eyes rolled wishing for sleep. Reaching down to the center cup holder with his right hand, the driver fumbled for his oversized, canned energy drink. The radio hasn’t worked this whole summer, so the only noise to lull his ears, was the hiss of the road beneath him. The truck was running sluggishly and he could feel the weight of the trailer behind him. Rounding a left banked curve on the sleeping interstate, headlights reflected into his side view mirror from those behind his trailer. More drivers just like him. The day has already been 36 hours long and couldn’t end soon enough.
Leaving a small town in eastern Kentucky only to drive into central Indiana is very grueling when not for leisure. At least the traffic was manageable at this late hour... The convoy had finally found itself running in the slow lane of interstate 465 running an outside loop of Indianapolis. There wasn’t much traffic; however, what cars were out at this hour, passed at speeds comparable to the great race held there each May. Only about 25 miles left to go to the town of Rocky Creek and then each and every one of them would finally find rest. The sun was starting to tease the moon and would soon peek over the edge of the earth.
After nearly 40 minutes passed, the convoy found its way into Rocky Creek. The town was small and appeared to be dead. It didn’t seem as though this was going to be a top grossing spot. However, they were here last year and faired quite well. Sometimes these small towns could surprise you.
The streets of the town were empty for this hour. Slumbering houses seemed to huddle together in dreams. The darkest of the night was nearing its end as the sun was rising slightly through the darkness. The convoy of heavy trucks rumbled through this peaceful scene with throaty roars and hissing brakes. Weaving through the downtown area of a one stoplight town after turning from the highway, the park came into view. It was a small park, half hidden by cornfields, woods and a winding river. It was a nice out of the way spot on those nights that were so heavy, all anyone could do, is to sleep. Sometimes, the crickets even tucked in early in those hidden fields.
The driver turned his rig into the park...the last right on State Street after passing through the heart of downtown...which consisted of four buildings. The park looked as though no one had stepped foot onto the property since the carnival had last pulled out the year prior. There was a small concrete block building toward the back quarter of the park that served as rural restrooms. It was better than a port-o-pot only for the fact that it was genuine running water. Nothing could beat running water!
The night’s stillness was broken by the rhythmic song of diesel engines. One by one, the semis lumbered into the town fairgrounds, like beasts anxious to meet sleep… Their headlights piercing the summer haze in a kaleidoscope of dust and dim brightness. Kreeennn… A slight, high pitched whine broke the ritual as the first truck sputtered to a stop…followed by the next, until all of the carnival trucks were parked. Leaves suddenly began to rustle, as though trying to ward off the intruders.
The Rocky Creek Summer Fair was always a highly anticipated event. Every mind seemed to dream the romantic dream of the caravan. The small town of Rocky Creek loved having the large carnival set up, but loathed the carnies. To a small town, these people are seen as nothing but intruders to their land and ways of life. Hands clutched tighter around purses and held more securely around children’s hands. Storekeepers would eye them with the highest suspicions, while the youth would ponder newer and more clever ways to steal from the carnival. The carnival would continue to operate in its own world as it has done years before. Carnies have to live with the constant heckle of children to adults. They work long hours and dread every town that they rest in. …each side hating the other…
Darkness undressed into a pink sky as the last truck hauled the Tilt-o-Whirl in with its laughing and unique clowns. Travel trailers, folded midway rides, food and game joints huddled closely together in the park’s center. After seven hours of driving, the carnival workers all drifted to their trailers to catch a couple hours of sleep. Set up was scheduled for that afternoon.
The hot, afternoon sun beat down unmercifully on the un-air-conditioned trailers. Gasping for air, Susan shot up instantly from sleep. "Where are we now?" She thought aloud as she pulled the sweat-lined sheets off her body. After such a deep and short sleep, she had forgotten the drive into Rocky Creek. It was as though she had awakened a stranger to herself and surroundings. She had joined Rhinehardt Amusements after years of wandering and regret. The people on the show were friendly toward her and she loved the many chances she received to be someone new. This was a new chance at life for her. Clanking distracted her thoughts; flashing a view of mock reality. "The guys must already be setting up the rides," she thought in a dream-like manner.
Shifting her focus to the daunting task of waking up, Susan groaned as she stretched her body to its limits. Finding a pair of shorts and a t-shirt to wear, she casually looked out beyond the flimsy glass window of her travel trailer. It was always amazing to her to see the midway set up. Grabbing a cold pop out of her small cooler, she set foot into the hot blast of summer.
She squinted her eyes against the blazing mid-morning sun. As though a great dragon in the sky, its blinding flame was felt thickly upon her skin. Various shouts rose over the grassy park field. So much chaos always filled these mornings - as though trying to repair itself, the carnival was rising in slow waves. Fences were crawling across the grass as though robotic millipedes sent from a far off world. As her eyes were adjusting to the morning glare, Susan slowly started walking toward the midway.
Metallic limbs of the Octopus stretched and groaned as the tubs were being attached. Susan glided through the organized chaos, almost romanticizing. The carnival possessed a strange, subliminal beauty of inanimate life. Rides seemed to be slumbering and the constant hammering of their construction seemed more of a heart beating. It’s strange how this beauty goes undetected until one lives among it. When she finally made it across the reincarnated midway, she noticed a strange man watching her. That wasn’t unusual, she guessed because some people did like to watch set-ups. She didn’t like it though, because it always made her feel as though she were a zoo exhibit.
The hairs on the back of her neck slowly began to rise. At first, she didn’t even notice their mutiny until each hair stood as though a ready solider for battle. Chills issued down her spine as her gaze watched this stranger among them. He seemed so intent in whatever his mission was. He seemed as though a living ghost damned to haunt this ground. Nothing was rattling him...nothing distracting his gaze from watching the people of this carnival. Susan felt herself pick up her pace a little as she continued to walk through the construction. Damn, she hated being the watched monkey...the parading killer whale...the wobbling penguin...any animal that Man has tamed to perform for his entertainment. This was a zoo exhibit.
Out of the corner of her eye, she eyed Jake Plackard helping piece the Octopus together. She felt a sense of dread and remorse at that moment. It was almost as though she had committed a great sin and its ramifications had already touched Jake. Was he mad at her? That was such a silly thought, for she knew that was not true . She had not done anything to hurt anyone out on the show. She was new to this world and she was not apt to make quick enemies. Jake continued setting up the ride and shouting orders at the various green help that was hired in the town to help with this quick construction. The soldiers on the back of her neck started barking fighting orders and she quickly turned her head as though she was expecting to see a General on a great stallion wielding a sword. Instead, she seen the stranger again, his eyes were affixed on the Octopus. He appeared blurred in shadow though the sun was hitting him directly upon his white face.
"Look away..." she whispered to herself, "...just...look away."
He appeared to almost be an apparition...a faint hint of what a person once was. She felt certain that this stranger was a demon haunted by a coldness to cast such pallor about his face. The man looked away and focused his shadow infested gaze elsewhere on the midway. It appeared as though he was searching for something so immense, as to restore the very soul lost beyond his ribs. Susan felt a fear as thick as midnight around this new stranger.
Satisfied that she was no longer being watched, Susan continued on her trek across the growing midway.The rides were taking shape beneath the blazing sun.It was becoming difficult to breath the heavy, humid air.At this moment, Susan was wondering to herself as to why she was with a carnival.Exhaustion had found a way to stake a claim in her mind and set up camp there.All that she wanted to do at this point, was to set up her game and then find a nice, shady spot and catch a nap.
The August air was hot and thick. Tar could be more easily inhaled than the stale breeze. Hank gasped for more air as he lifted another limb of the Ferris wheel. The great beast was beginning to take shape and appeared to be clawing at the sky. He was glad that he didn’t have to climb the tower to pin the beast together. Though he only wore shorts, today, he felt as though many layers weighed him down. Some times, he wondered why he had joined the carnival. After ten years on the show, the gaudy glamour had worn off.
At the age of eight-teen, Hank Albreck had joined Rhinehardt Amusements in search of an exciting life. He wasn’t disappointed. He held countless stories in his heart from the absurd to the horrifying. Loves that he could never obtain and enemies that seemed to outnumber the souls in Heaven and Hell. Sometimes, he’d catch himself smiling at a memory that managed to kick its way into the front of his mind. Those little memories were the best - the unexpected treat of reliving something twice with the same anticipation. Remembering an event that was hilarious or just finding a smile was the best that any man could ask for. Especially out in this world, where if you are alone, you’re destined to be alone for some time. It’s not a world for hearts to meet that are genuine and not driven by just a fling-ish desire.
As the years passed, he grew tired of the same routine. He grew weary of the constant accusations from people who would see him as nothing more than a thief. The same old, same old, same old comments from different faces. Those who always wanted a ride for free or a game for free...those who "knew" how things were ran and those who were just sure that everything was rigged. Yes, this life was annoying at times and he was close to just walking away from everything. This year was different, however. Excitement once again returned to Hank’s world when 20-year-old Susan White became an employee. He wondered if the darkness would ruin her heart...if she could handle what society would dish out at her. She seemed so naive at times; however, she did have a smartness to her. This world absolutely amazed her...at least, that is what she had said once during a late night talk. A figure in his periphery disturbed his pleasant thoughts. When he glanced to his right, he viewed a man he’d never seen before. As though noticing the same person, Keith was the first to speak.
"Probably just some snooping locals," Keith said, taking minimal interest in Hank’s curiosity, "now, help me with this tub."
"Don’t you think that this one is odd though?" Hank asked to Keith as they pinned another seat onto the great wheel.
"Aren’t they all?" Keith asked. The sad realization in his voice didn’t quite tinge his words with sarcasm nor with hate...but, just a coldness that one would expect in the deepest Tundra.
"Maybe you’re right" Hank continued, "but, just look at the way that he’s watching everyone."
He could never figure out the appeal the carnival held for some people. It seemed as though the people who were the most infatuated with watching the life were the ones who hated this life the most. They were the people who brought their children into the fairgrounds to scare their children into staying in school or the people who came down to choose the weakest from the heard so that there could be a rumble in the local bar. They’re the ones who loathed everything about this life; and yet, they were ironically the ones who fought the hardest to get the carnival to set up for their event. Hank could see nothing fascinating about watching them...save for the handful who genuinely possessed a magical fascination of seeing a ride set up for the first time. It was almost as though some held the carnival in the light of a great alchemist who could touch the ground and great metallic monsters would rise. True, their limbs did not glitter with gold, but just to see such a beast rise from nothing held great wonders for some. Maybe there was a reason to watch, after all.
Hank shrugged off the many thoughts swimming through his mind and finished the assembly of the Ferris Wheel.
Once completed, Keith appeared to have something on his mind. His mouth half opened a dozen times only to issue silence. Hank knew... It has been a year. They looked at each other as though communicating through unspoken memories and shivers. It was as though their grave was walked over when a shutter issued from their bodies at the same time and a great cold chill befell them. Suddenly, the hot August sun was lost in a winter haze. Shaking off the coldness, Keith and Hank strode away from the, now standing, Ferris Wheel and walked over to the bunkhouses. It was time to get something cold to drink from the one small refrigerator that was installed in the bunkhouse.
"Mt. Dew or Water?" asked Keith.
"Dew" replied Hank.
"So, have you and Susan hooked up yet?"
The question caught Hank off guard, but he should have already seen this one question coming. As soon as a new woman comes out onto the midway, every guy suddenly thinks that he’s Casanova. It’s as though the carnival is full of peacocks who suddenly flash their large and colorful tail feathers to impress whatever female comes along. Hank wasn’t so afraid that Keith nor anyone else was going to end up with Susan. In fact, he didn’t even consider himself as having a chance.
Taking a long, hard drink from the cold bottle of water, Hank half sighed and half moaned with the satisfaction of cooling his body.
"No, no I haven’t."
Keith gave him a hard time and teased him harsher than an older brother would to a younger sibling. Keith knew that Hank had a crush on Susan. There aren’t many secrets that can be kept on the road.
They each turned to face the midway. There was much more to be done to bring this show up. It was far too damned hot to even be breathing outside. Each one was wishing for air conditioning at this moment.
He shuttered in anticipation as the jig saw puzzle midway began to take shape. The year had crept by too slowly and he was once sure that time had died. As long as time continued to breathe, his plan would be carried out. It would be the perfect crime. A woman caught his eye. She was walking swiftly through the construction toward the game trailers. Long, wavy dark hair swayed about her with every step and eyes that resembled those of a fawn looked wide-eyes round the surroundings. He wanted to get closer to her and learn all of her exotic secrets. He felt ashamed of himself; after all, he was there solely for business. Then, something wonderful and horrible happened, she saw him. He froze, half concealed by shadows and branches. The woman looked right at him for a matter of mere seconds before angrily looking away.
He continued to watch her as she picked up her pace. Had she seen him? She looked lost at that minute. Her eyes fluttered around the midway looking at this and that. He didn’t know why he was mesmerized at that moment. Walking against the background, he continued to watch from a distance. This was the day that he was waiting for this whole year. Suddenly, he decided to walk through the midway...to take everything into his imagination. Walking past young and old men working as though on a chain gang to assemble rides, he made mental note of each face. He fancied himself as their secret warden and the first time someone got out of line, he would know his force full strength.
He snaked through the construction and saw that girl again. She was talking to a blond at some sort of game trailer. It was the perfect opportunity to go up and talk to the woman. Surely his clothing would be sufficient enough. He was an Official after all.
Laughing at himself, he tried to keep a straight face as the game trailer drew closer and closer.
"Be official...be official..." he chanted to himself in a dream like tone. This had to be the best moment of his life. The moment that begins all other moments...the Alpha and he was certain to become the Omega. The Beginning and The End.
The summer heat was oppressive to the mind. Light phantoms traced the dancing shadows of near by Oak and Maple trees. This year had been too much for sanity to handle. Still, he continued.
Susan went straight to her assigned game trailer. Since she was still relatively new, most of the major work was already done for her. Fumbling for the silver key that would unlock the padlock, she felt eyes on her again. She turned to look, but there was no one behind her. The usual yelling and clanking of set-up filed the air. Although she was still on the midway, the noises suddenly seemed very distant. Finding the key, she went straight to the padlocks and set the heavy awning free from captivity. The trailer had two large awnings. Susan went to the right hand awning and reached her small hand behind the metal. She felt the astro-turf covered counter and the emptiness that lay beyond. Found it. She flipped the small lever to lift the hydraulic powered awnings. In a yawning groan, they shakily lifted. When they reached their summit, she let go of the lever and jumped onto the counter. Standing up, she placed pins through the awning bars. These pins were necessary incase the hydraulics should ever fail. Satisfied, she turned to face the back of her trailer. There seemed to be plenty of stock left hanging on the walls. More medium prizes had to be hung up on the right hand wall though.
"Hey, Susan! Did the sun finally get you up?"
Susan looked up startled and saw a petite blonde striding toward her. She remembered her as the Tilt-o-Whirl’s operator’s wife… Mary Plackard.
"Mary? Yeah, I was fast asleep and when I woke up, there was a carnival under my feet. I thought that I could get a job since the life is just so easy."
Mary Plackard replied, "Sarcasm will carry you nowhere."
"I’m still a little on edge from not sleeping very well. I was hoping that I could finish checking out the game joint and grab lunch at the café across the street."
"Be careful. The owner accused one of our guys last year of frightening off his business. It’s so hard to live on the road when you’re viewed as a thief or monster everywhere you go. All the guy wanted was a cup of coffee and the owner felt like he was going to be robbed. I’ll admit, the guy wasn’t very presentable. After working a ride all day and then having to work all night tearing the rides down, he was grease-covered and sleep-weary."
Hanging up a brown teddy bear, Susan replied, "I’ve noticed that if I do my hair all up and apply just the right amount of make up, these town people view me as ‘normal’."
"Hey, who’s that?" Just as Mary finished up her question, a police officer walked up to Susan’s counter. At first, she couldn’t distinguish him as a man of the law. He was well built and muscular, wearing all black clothing. Strange for such a hot day. A gold star shone brightly on his chest. A sheriff.
Mary held her breath and quickly looked around for anything that might have offended the officer. She found nothing. No rusty equipment, frayed wire… Nothing that anyone would complain about. Something had to be wrong. Clank…clank…screech… The carnival was still rebuilding itself around her. "Can I help you with anything?" She asked the officer.
"Good mornin’ ladies, I’m Officer Henderson. I’m just checking on the set-up. Looks like busy work to me."
"Sometimes." Mary replied, still uncertain of the identity of the stranger.
Henderson turned to look at Susan, who was still kneeling behind the counter. Susan tensed with the same uncertainty that she recognized in her friend’s eyes. She grasped another plush teddy bear beneath the counter and hung it on its proper hook. When she turned to the counter again, Officer Henderson was leaning over it, facing her. His gaze was as close as the distant horizon, and Susan wondered if he was looking for something to shut her down. Although she was new, she did know that small town people always looked for reasons to shut carnivals down. She thought it ridiculous when a town tried to sunder its only source of enjoyment. However, here she was, literally face-to-face with such an opportunity.
Approaching footsteps caught the officer’s attention. Mary’s husband, Jake, was quickly approaching. Jake, in no means, was a weak an. He stood 6’2" and had the body of a weight lifter. He had acquired such a body through the strenuous exertion of ride set-up and tear down. He had just finished helping with the Octopus and thought Mary was having problems. When Henderson saw the man coming toward him, he looked at both women and said, "Don’t start trouble in my town." Then he left as quietly as he arrived.
"What was that all about?" Jake asked puzzled.
"How the Hell should I know!" Snapped Mary, "He just came up here and told us he was watching."
Joining the conversations, Susan replied, "I didn’t like him. Why was he even close to my counter? I don’t keep my drugs in there anymore and I don’t pimp myself on the weekdays."
Angrily, Mary turned to Susan and said, "Don’t even make jokes like that in this town!"
"Why not? That’s all people like that expect. Every town I’ve been to, thus far, has not treated me like a human being. When people find out I’m a Carny, they make assumptions and ask questions such as, ‘Do you have all of your teeth?’, ‘Are you easy?’ Ironically, the worst insult ever said to me, was that I looked too lady-like!"
"Why’s that?" Jake asked, intrigued.
"Because, people have a Neanderthal belief that we’re supposed to be haunch back freaks uglier than any ghoul and lacking any emotions."
"Ah…you’ll get used to it," Mary said assuring, "that’s what makes us stronger than ordinary people. We learn to take the insults without crying discrimination. This is the life that we choose."
"Once you joined our world, Susan, you will never be satisfied with your old one." Jake promised, "Every job will seem boring and the days…endless.
Mary chimed in, "It’s like placing your bare feet into the white sands of a beach for the first time - you’ll always want to find yourself on that beach again. It’s just something that you’ll always remember and want to return each summer."
Susan finished stocking her game while Mary and Jake walked away. It was getting too hot for her and she couldn’t wait to find shade somewhere and sleep the heat of the afternoon away. Her little camper didn’t have air conditioning and there was no other relief that she knew. Finding a good shade tree, a cold pop and a nice little breeze was her new idea of a wonderful get away vacation.
Once finished, Susan closed the awnings of the game and went off to find her desired resting spot.
Craig Henderson saw the tall man walking toward him. He wanted to talk to the woman he now knew as Susan. However, if he stayed there at her counter, he knew there would be trouble. He wondered if his badge looked convincing enough. Deciding not to force authority he did not possess, he cowardly walked away.
The three carnies stood for a while talking. Craig was too far away to make out the words they used, but he could tell, through body language, that they were not happy. The August sun beat down unmercifully on Indiana. He turned his back to the carnival and walked into the nearby woods. The shade was a welcomed relief. He fell asleep beneath an Oak tree dreaming about the days to come. He had been anticipating the carnival’s arrival since the previous October. He wondered if the three people talking would remember him. If his plan was to succeed, no one can remember him in any detail. He found relief in his dreams and knew his dreams would come true .
As he slept, nightmares found him. His sanity slipped away to reveal the true monster at his heels.
The carnival rides wheezed and sputtered much life Frankenstein’s monster coming to life. Low growls and plumes of light smoke filled the air from the coughing diesel generator. In a sudden uproar of song and lights, the midway sprung to life. Scents of cotton candy floated through the air like lazy butterflies. Entrance gates yawned open as children clamored beyond their springs. Shouts lightly seasoned the air asking passer by to play a variety of games. This moment, of all others, was always magical to Susan. Opening Day.
Susan sat on her counter observing the herds of people push by. She wasn’t quite honed in to the ability to call people in, so she waited to learn what the people would want to hear. All types of people visited her at her game. Susan talked to a vast variety from children to stumbling drunks. She frequently laughed in secret at everyone she met. After all, they viewed her as a dirty gypsy who would even steal children from their homes. They were unaware of the freedom she could experience. To them, working forty hours a week for thirty years and struggling to maintain a home in one spot was the absolute and honest freedom in America.
Across the wood-chipped aisle was the Scrambler. She loved to watch the fast, swirling ride. Exaggerated screams were always heard hurtling from out its spinning void. A line consisting of approximately fifteen people waited for the ride to halt and anxiously pawing at their tickets to board. Beside the Scrambler, was the Tilt-o-Whirl that Jake Plackard operated. He loved running that ride so much because he could spin the people’s cars before he flipped the switch. When the ride convulsed into starting, Susan saw nothing but smiling faces. When she was a little girl, she and her father would ride the Tilt-o-Whirl at the Greene County Fair. Once, her father had her convinced, when they were in one of their wild spins, that when they stopped, they’d be in that land beyond the rainbows.
She loved her father so much. Her mother had died while giving birth to her, and she admired her father’s strength. Two years ago, while returning home from the fair, they were involved in a terrible auto accident. A man who celebrated his 21st birthday a little too much, decided to drive himself home. Eight-teen year old Susan and her 42 year old father had just driven through a green light at the intersection of Main Street and Madison Avenue. When Susan glanced over at her dad, who was driving, she spotted headlights rocketing toward them. Her father had never seen the lights; nor, would he ever know that his trip was interrupted. The drunk’s 1980 Chevy Malibu rammed the driver’s door of the 1986 Chevy S-10 with such force her father was killed instantly. She never figured why she lived. Perhaps, at that last second, her father was her guardian angel, much like he was in life. Fifteen seconds more… She was certain that was the amount of time needed to miss impact. With no family left to love, she wondered the darkness for two years. She allowed herself to come out of hiding when she joined Rhinehardt Amusements. Susan joined so that she could always be near the laughing Tilt-o-Whirl. Staring at the ride, she cried when she spotted a father getting on the ride with his small daughter.
"I love you daddy…" Susan whispered to herself and Heaven.
"Get with it lady!" A teenage girl spoke, "Are you going to run this game or do you not want to scam me?"
"I’m sorry, I got to thinking about something…"
"No! You’re probably just high."
Susan hated people like this most of all. People who rode in with a chip on their shoulder thinking their ignorant brutality was never felt by carnies. She sound it hard not to yell at those people; for doing so, would only mar the carnival’s reputation, not the town’s. The teen began pounding on her counter to prove to her friends how cool she considered herself to be.
"The game’s probably rigged." Spoke another teenage girl.
"Yeah…" thought the first girl, "let’s do something else instead."
As they strode away, Susan was very agitated. She realized she never said anything, nor had she called them out to play the game. This was how the town’s people tried to con. Except in their con, it wasn’t solely for monetary purposes. They were satisfied destroying the business and attitudes of carnies. This act of will made them feel superior to the people they would not understand. Susan always wondered what it was that people wanted. People loved attending carnivals, but hated those whose job it was to maintain it. Everyone has a job to do in this world. Often times, individuals may not like the job they end up performing, but it provides food. Not all jobs and lives are glamorous. Her job was just to bring joy into others. The money wasn’t great but the friendships and freedom were rewarding enough. On some days, she cold barely afford to feed herself. Therefore, it hurt when people like those two teenaged girls slowed her business.
Jumping down from her counter, Susan picked up a red dart. Rolling it in her hands, she examined every part of it. Satisfied, she threw the dart at the balloons on the corkboard hanging on the back wall. The loud pop startled some passer by. "See!" Susan exclaimed, "It’s that easy! Bust one and you win!"
No one listened to her and she was alone, again, at her game. The setting sun looked as though it was making love to the distant horizon. Shades of crimson and pink slipped into hues of lavender and violet. The stars and carnival lights lit in perfect harmony. Carnival nights were different from all others. Carnivals are night’s children. In the frenzy of twisted lights, prizes seemed larger and rides appeared faster. At nightfall was when the true crowd began. Susan loved the carnival nights and marveled at the sense of peace it sometimes instilled in her.
She looked at her watch; it was two hours until closing time. She anticipated sleep. It was amazing how tired this job could make someone. Susan brought in only $250.00 opening night. Not much at all. The money that she would be paid would amount to only $65.00. She, like most others, worked solely on commission. Sometimes, she wondered why she enjoyed working so much for so little. All the hours that she had put in this evening had hardly seemed worth $65.00. Not wanting to have such a small payday, she grabbed up more darts and began to talk to more people.
With darts in hand, she flashed them at people and encouraged them to play. Her skills as a talker have been growing and she found herself speaking with more ease to the total strangers who had hated her.
"All you gotta do, is pop one to win a prize...prize every time...win or lose...walk away with something in your arms...Step right up!"
A young man looked at her from out his gaggle of friends. This would be an easy sell and Susan knew it. She was young enough and attractive enough, that a man would play her game even if the prize was a year’s supply of tampons. True, men are pigs, but some are such good little piggies. Susan caught herself begin to giggle when she caught her composure and talked to the man.
"How’s it goin’?" he asked. He had the air about him as being too cocky for his own good. Maybe he considered Susan to be the prize.
"Ya gonna to play?" Susan looked at him and flashed a flirty smile his direction.
"How do you play? What’s the object of the game?"
The question had irritated Susan, but she kept her cool and directed his eyes from her breasts to the proper balloons hanging on the cork board. Then, she held a dart in front of his eyes and rocked it back and forth the way a cobra dances. Was he going to play or not? Finally, the man reached into his back, rear pocket and pulled out a well worn wallet that had definitely seen better days. He reached into its depths and pulled out two crisp one dollar bills. Oh wow - such big bills... Susan’s mind was already dulled into not caring much at this moment. For the two dollars, she gave him one dart. Yeah, the price was rather high; however, one must take into consideration the factors behind the game...the insurance and license plates for moving the game, the gas to do so, the cost of prizes, the cost of setting up and electricity and so forth. It seemed an uphill battle for carnival and game owners to find that ideal price that would make them money as well as keep the players playing.
The man looked down at his singular dart and then looked over at Susan as though she was going to reveal some great secret to him.
"Does it matter what color I bust?" the man asked.
"No, color doesn’t matter." Susan replied.
"If I bust a balloon on the top row, does that mean that I win a bigger prize?"
"No, the row doesn’t matter."
"If I pop one of the smaller balloons, does that mean that I get a bigger prize?"
By now, Susan was truly getting annoyed. She rolled her eyes, if only in her mind.
"There are tags behind every balloon," she began to explain. "The tag will tell you what prize you have won, or it might tell you that you have won the Choice prize. If you find that tag, then you can have your choice of any prize in this game."
"Does that mean that if I find the Choice tag, that I can pick you?"
OK, by now, Susan was agitated and pegged this guy as being scum.
"No Sir, but you do have your pick of stuffed animals, mirrors or little key chains."
The man smiled slightly and concentrated on the balloons tacked to the cork board. Drawing the dart to eye level with his right eye and squinting the left, he threw the dart. A loud pop issued from one of the green balloons on the third row. Susan walked to the now empty spot on the cork board and flipped the tag around for the man to see.... "Small"
"What does that mean? What do I do now?" The man asked, "Do I get to throw again?"
Answered Susan, "Nope, just won yourself a small" and she reached beneath the counter and pulled a small key chain up and handed it to him.
He looked at it in amusement and began chuckling to himself.
"Now, you can chose to play again and if you’re stuck with another small, I’ll trade the two in and give you something larger."
The man thought about it for a second but decided that he wanted to keep his current prize.
Right about that time, a young mother and father came up with their three small children to play the dart game. After all, the signs did say that kids got to play until they won. However, Susan really wished that parents would exercise the use of common sense in handing a very sharp metal dart to a toddler. They thought that it was cute to watch them try to throw while Susan usually ended up ducking and dodging to avoid being gouged by one of those darts. In addition, since children were more likely to throw the dart incorrectly, the dart usually bounced back out into the crowd. It was such a danger to let small children play and she was always on the lookout to stop a dart from hitting anyone else.
They looked at the game briefly and looked at the prizes.
Asked the father, "How much to buy that large Shrek doll?"
"Sorry sir, I can’t sell that."
"Why the hell not?"
"Because this is game, you pay for the experience and the chance. I cannot sell prizes."
The man was agitated and started naming off prices from Super Wal-Mart in Greenfield. People like this just sucked the fun out of anything. They ended walking away before Susan even got a chance to say anything else to them. She felt sorry for their small children, because they were going to grow up to be just like their parents. It’s learned behavior.
The crowd started to surge a little more as the night grew later. There was just something about a carnival at night that drew the crowds... She watched the wave of people ebb and flow around the aluminum fencing around the rides. The many conversations seemed to buzz louder than all the rides put together. Maybe this was going to be a good night for her after all. She looked around the busy midway between customers and looked at her friends. They were all busy too. Jake’s Tilt-o-Whirl never stopped tilting and whirling and Hank’s Ferris wheel seemed to be a permanent spinner. She was growing tired and her knees ached something horrible. Having to stand up for most of the time out there and jumping on and off this counter to talk to people and tend to the balloons and prizes...wow, it was excruciatingly tiring. Her throat was become hoarse and dry from all the talking and she began to wish people away. There comes that point at night that you’ve had enough...even if money is flowing in as though from a new found well...that you’ll find yourself wishing people to go away just so you could slink away and fall asleep.
While she was looking around, she noticed that the lights in the ticket booth had gone dark. She smiled to herself because that meant that the carnival would be open for only fifteen more minutes that night.
She picked up the stray balloon fragments and tidied her area. She was ready to leave her game for the night.
The generator died and came back to life again in sporadic coughs, and then died for the night. All of the lights faded out. A velvet blanket of darkness comforted the midway. Hank Albreck turned his ticket can into the office. He was satisfied with the amount of riders he had today. Hank ran the Ferris wheel. Though not an exciting ride, it never got to rest. The big wheel was always spinning over the metal plateau. After checking his silenced ride once more, he turned to find Susan. It looked as though she had a rough day and he was going to ask if she’d like to go for a short walk. She stood next to the door to the office holding her apron. A count of her money would be taken and she’d be paid her small percentage.
This routine was quite well known and performed with ballet accuracy and gracefulness. Rides were shut off and games were folded down and closed. A still peace befell the midway when abandoned. Strong stallions were silenced in mid-whinny and frozen on their poles; their eyes wide and glassy from the death they cheated every night. The Octopus stood as though it was a frightened spider with half of its body grasping at the air and the other balancing on the ground. Moonlight glistened off the painted rides and cast monstrous shadows.
Hank had long been immune to the humbling silence of the sleeping carnival. Yet, upon seeing Susan, he thought of the still midway as romantic. It’s funny how people feared a deserted midway, quickly becoming a place of fabled freaks and ghosts. Children dared one another to run down the vacant aisles at night. Ironic how a place so feared actually gave off a sense of peace and non-worry. When he saw that Susan was through with her nightly count, he walked toward her. He had known her for only a couple of months, but knew he was beginning to harbor feelings for her.
He walked up to the small show office and turned in his ticket can. The owner was pleased to see that it was overflowing with ripped ticket stubs. Hank opted to take a draw that night. A draw is a small portion of his weekly pay to get him through. Tonight’s draw was only $10. Enough to get a drink and something to eat tonight if he chose. What a simple life...
Susan handed in her rolled up apron. She was glad the night had ended. Her game was too slow and the people were too rude. She soon learned that she began to hate everyone that walked by. Society was dumb. Signs hung on every wall that stated the name of the game, its operations and price; yet, every person who walked up would ask the most obvious questions. She ran a balloon/dart game. Once, she was asked if it required cork guns. On one occasion, when asked what you threw at it, she replied "rocks." All the while, her darts laid in perfect view upon her counter.
"Whew! What a lousy day!" She exclaimed to whoever may have been listening. She began walking back to her small travel trailer when she saw Hank. She was so glad to see him. He was always ready to talk to her, and she supposed they had a mutual crush on each other. Hank stood 6’ 2", was muscular and had shoulder length dark, wavy hair. Though he had longer hair, he always kept it neat. It never looked as though he was the raggedy man. Most of the time, he’d keep the hair kept back in a neat ponytail and under a hat during operating hours.
"Hey Susan! How’d it go tonight for ya?" Exclaimed Hank, "My ride was packed!"
She replied, "Ah, it was too slow for me. I could have danced topless in the middle of the aisle and still no one would have seen me."
"It’ll get better tomorrow. We’re runnin’ bracelet."
"I hope," said Susan while kicking a small piece of bark. She began to feel a little foolish as though a school girl cornered by her crush on the playground. It was hard not to feel a slight sting of embarrassment and shyness when she was around Hank. Just when she thought that she had blown it by acting too foolishly, Hank began to speak to her again.
"Hey, would you like to go for a walk?" Asked Hank, guiding her by the small of her back.
She smiled, "Could I ever say no?" The weight of his hand felt so good upon her back. There was an instant warmth where he had touched her and she could feel herself begin to melt.
"I wouldn’t let you." He said with a flirtatious laugh.
They both laughed at the childishness of their discussion. Susan looked into Hank’s eyes for the first time and was surprised by what she saw. They were a perfect blue, but different somehow. Behind his eyes, the past meshed and tangled until she could no longer recognize herself in their depths. The dew condensed and slickened the grass, making their shoes slip. The mechanical beasts watched as they walked side by side through their world. Susan began to wonder where her life was leading and if she’d be happy when fate finally found her. As they walked past the merry-go-round, she ran her hand along the cool, damp railing. The horses looked as though pleading to be released from their poles so they could run free.
"It’s so beautiful here" Susan said. She continued to look at all of the silenced rides as though society was gone. Everything was done and these mechanical beings were nothing more than ghosts. The silence was deafening and the moonlight...the moonlight cast some of the eeriest shadows in this place. After walking past the merry-go-round, they strode past the Tilt-o-Whirl. The tubs seemed as though they would start spinning at any second. The clown looked as though it was hiding some absurd and dirty joke that only it found funny. After passing the Tilt-o-Whirl, the Kamikazee was passed as well as Scrambler. Game row was empty of all gawkers and soon after, the woods drew nigh.
They both knew that it wasn’t wise to leave the security of the carnival; however, they just wanted to get away somewhere quiet and didn’t feel like striding into town. Did this town even have a bar? Susan wasn’t old enough to drink and it was difficult in towns where only the bars were still open after carnival closing time. The woods did not seem like the grandest of ideas, but Susan felt safe. It was as though this large bubble had formed around them and that they would be safe from anything. She’d look up at him occasionally as they walked through the grassy field and the walk was spent in silence. Her heart felt so good during these moments. After so much pain in her life, Susan hadn’t thought that she’d ever allow her heart to feel this way...or just for the matter, didn’t think that it would ever function this way. She had believed that her heart was broken long ago. They continued to walk through the park.
After closing time, Craig Henderson prowled in the serpentine shadows. Swirls of colors and long deceased voices overflowed his aching brain. He was certain he had died years ago, and he was now living in Hell. His vision was clouded by a rage older than himself. He glided through the abandoned park with cat-like quickness. He was searching for something…was there for a reason…unsure of who he was. In the distance, two shadows focused to him. "Susan…" he whispered. There was a man with her. Hotter and more blinding the rage within him grew. The darkness was calling him. He must go.
He walked in crouched contortions to meld with the bodies of trailers and fencing. Craig had not wanted to be seen by anyone. His nostrils picked up the slightest odors from the park. These odors repulsed him. The stench of diesel fumes, oils, sweats and sweets was too much to bear even in their ghost forms last at night.
The hairs began to rise one by one all over Craig’s body and something tugged at his memory as he watched the two shadows recede from his vision. An animal cry wanted to issue from his throat and pierce the moon itself. It had taken all the energy that he could ever dream of to silence this cry. His flesh began to feel as though it was crawling on his skeleton and was ready to flee at any moment. At that thought, a small laugh issued from his throat as he imagined his skin running around the countryside naked as can be and without a skeleton...nor person. Boy, how the people in the town would totally freak. Then again, some dog would likely end up with his genitals clenched in rotted canines and shredded never to be found again. His body began to tighten and heat at the same time. Such strange urges tugging at his ever fiber of existence. His breathing sped and heartbeat sped. His vision became sharper as well as his other senses. His blood pressure was reaching record breaking highs. The animal within him started panting and wanted to run after those shadows. It wasn’t an erection of erotic fantasies, but one of primal rage...of control and blood lust.
It made it difficult for him to crouch in the shadows and stalk undetected. Beads of perspiration traced his brow and his heart rate had kept increasing. When it became obvious that it wasn’t going to go away, he reached down with his right hand and massaged the tension away. His lips peeled back to reveal a devil’s grin and his breathing became a broken symphony. His body crumpled and he found himself on his knees in the dew soaked grass. Then, he was lying on the ground on his back looking up at the spinning stars in the sky. During this topple, he had managed to tug his pants down thus exposing himself to the god or devil who had created him. In one surge, his concentration had returned and the animal within him was ready to run again. Run! Run!
Picking himself up, Craig slunk through the darkened carnival midway looking for his quarry. He didn’t know what he was going to do once he had them, but he knew that he wanted to catch up to them. He knew that the fates was leading him to this moment in all of their lives and it was he who played Father Time. He felt as though he was the great master to all that ever was. Walking through this emptied world, he felt more sure of himself than at any other moment in his life.
They believed that they were the only two humans in existence. Susan and Hank strode through the park where children once had laughed and where birds once had sang. It seemed as though a vast plague had washed the earth clean from the contamination of society. Amusement rides stood as the tombstones to all that once was, and the swaying trees stood as a constant reminder that life once prevailed. If they listened carefully to the still night, they could hear the faint whir of the earth’s rotation. Still, they walked through the peaceful world that no others would see.
Never had there shone as many stars as there was that night. Crickets were serenading the locusts and each creature seemed hunched in silence. Hank and Susan walked through the labyrinth. Suddenly, faint music swelled through the air, followed by disembodied voices. The party was in full swing at the bunkhouses. Hank wanted to go earlier, but now was lost in a world of silence. Danger tinged the air enough that its bittersweet taste caressed the lips. Just as the crickets finished their concerto, Hank lightly pulled on Susan’s wrists; gliding her to him. She gave no resistance and allowed herself to fall into his embrace. Their lips found each other in the darkness and for a moment, they were the only two in existence.
This kiss was a warm and passionate kiss that tingled as though electricity charged through the blood. Susan’s heart swooned as her eyes rolled up to see the stars. It was innocent enough, the first kiss of any relationship...just the first kiss before anything. She pulled herself away just long enough to look into his eyes. They held each other in a hugging embrace after that first kiss.
A sudden snap of a twig brought their attention back to the world currently around them..
"Oh my God! Someone’s been watching us!" Nervously exclaimed Susan.
"I’m sure it was an animal or something. We are in the woods. I’m sure we’re just tricking ourselves." Reassured Hank though he, himself, was uncertain and frightened.
Sitting in the grass, they held each other’s hand…waiting for the elusive noise to return.
Sobbed Susan, "Hank, I’m scared. Something’s not right in the air."
Another twig snapped followed by a quick rustle of leaves. Crickets silenced themselves, leaving the woods in unnatural quiet.
Suddenly, Hank fell face first onto the ground as a fist-sized rock fell down beside him. A shadow rushed from out the woods, grabbing Susan and bound her. She tried in vain to see her attacker; alas, tears blinded her eyes for Hank. The blow to her head was quick and unexpected, nearly bringing relief from life. Darkness oozed into her brain and she could feel herself drifting aimlessly upward.
well something good id say. id also say you should stick to the horror stories you seem very good at them. one thing i wanted you to know in case youve never been published though. there is a sight thats free called publishamerica.com they look at your stories and publish them and give you roylties for the books sold. just thought you might like to know this.
Damn, I like this one. I am waiting to see where you would take this story next. You are good in this genre -- stay with the horror genre because you got something here.
Reviewed by robeRt
I hate 'to be continued' lol,
Reviewed by casey
OMG ... I am totally mesmerized and truly was very pertubed with you when I got to the bottom of the page and realized the story was to be continued!!! LOL
WRITE GIRLFRIEND!!!!! Anticipation is killing me.
This is really an amazing story. Your words are descriptive and powerful and very very captivating. You need to be doing some books.
Keep going ... you have an exceptional one here ... I can't wait to read the ending.
Reviewed by Diana
Very good Lori, can't wait for the next chapter!
Reviewed by Freya
WOW! This is amazing, an absolutely incredible write Lori, I cannot imagine why no one has posted comments here about this story.
I can't wait to read more of this and I will keep checking back to see the segments as you write them.
I have only one complaint .... it is not finished ... and I hate waiting to see what happens next !