You’ve dared return to the Dark Carnival. How brave, yet foolish! Today, I can’t guarantee you’ll make it out alive.
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The twins exit the carnival tent thrilled by what they had just seen. Acrobatics that made the performers look like they flew, really flew across the tent. Every spectacle was narrated by the Ringmaster, which the girls could not help but take a peek at every now and then. He was tall and well-built because when he moved muscled ripple underneath his leather outfit. White hair spilled around his broad shoulders and he had charisma about him, clinging to him like an aurora.
It was intoxicating.
Never before had they seen so many different types of animals in one place. Huge elephants with long ivory tusks, wild cats from Africa and even bears on tricycles! A carnival never has come to Nome because, well, Nome is far north with little travel but by plane. So a carnival suddenly appearing out of nowhere brings excitement, outweighing the questions.
Daisy runs her fingers against the cold metal bars of the lion’s cage. The lion merely looks up and gives a lazy yawn, showing sharp ivory fangs. It flaps its head back and forth causing its dark mane to whip about.
“Daisy! Don’t get too close. He could bite your fingers off!” Lilly shouts. She rushes forward pulling her sister back.
“Hey! He’s lazy. He didn’t eye me once,” Daisy huffs crossing her arms. She rolls her eyes in exasperation.
“We are going to miss everything if you keep standing here gawking. I want to play some of the games! Don’t you want to see more?” Lilly inquires, moving past the huge yellow tent’s entrance, her blue flowered dress billowing from the light breeze. She looks over her shoulder ushering for Daisy to follow.
Daisy glances back at the lion. She wants to pet his fur and feel it course through her fingers. Sighing, she runs after Lilly, looping her arm around her sister. Daisy rests her head on Lilly’s shoulder. “Don’t you feel like running away with the circus? I mean what’s holding us here? Our parents are gone and we have a bitch of an aunt who does little to take care of us.”
Nodding, Lilly glances sideways at Daisy. The bruises on her arm attests to Aunt Regina’s caring ability. “We should leave. It doesn’t matter that we’re sixteen. Nome is too small for us. We need bigger things! Let’s do it. If we have a chance to go with this carnival, let’s take it!”
“No one likes us here. They don’t understand that we don’t want to be apart.” Daisy pats Lilly’s hand. “Why does Aunt Regina want to separate us? I don’t want to live with Uncle Scotty.”
“Never!” Lilly clutches her. “You can’t leave me. You are my other half!”
They stare at each other for a moment. The corner of their mouths twitch.
“Together, forever!” they both cry in unison.
“Excuse me ladies. I couldn’t help but overhear that you wanted to run away?” a soft deep velvet voice comes from the tent’s dark entrance.
The twins halt to a stop. Daisy clutches Lilly as they both turn to look toward the unknown voice.
“You see, I think it is your lucky day.” Stepping out into the light is the Ringmaster. He wears his long top hat and dark leather jacket. He’s tall making the twins crane their neck up the closer he gets. He has wicked blue eyes specked with gold.
The twins could only stare. Boy, he was more gorgeous up close.
Lilly reaches over to snap Daisy’s mouth shut.
“The Rose twins. I have heard about you all across Alaska. Quite some escapades you have caused. First burning down your Aunt’s greenhouse. Second, pretending to be each other to kiss the other’s boyfriend?Third, always speaking your mind even in church. Very impressive. I have been searching for the right acts because I only need two more to complete my collection of exotic performers. You two are what I need. My name is Barnibus ,” He bows lifting his cap off his head causing his white hair to spill across his shoulders.
Daisy gives a shy giggle while Lilly curtsies. They never once let go of each other. In fact, Daisy clings tighter to Lilly.
Barnibus straightens putting his hat back on.
“Why us?” Lilly inquires with a raised brow, twirling a strand of her raven black hair.
“Because I don’t have twin performers, especially ones as beautiful as you.” He steps closer, his eyes sparkling. He reaches out to take hold of Daisy’s chin turning her about. His eyes scrutinizes her tan skin and amber eyes. He then caresses Lilly’s cheek with the other hand. “Why don’t I show you my collection? Uniqueness is what I look for.”
Lilly shivers at the mere contact of Barnibus. Daisy could only stare, unable to think of anything to say. She just stares at his eyes and then his porcelain face.
“Come, let me show you something that few have seen.” He spreads his arms leading the girls toward a special black tent in the back. It’s small, only five feet across and six feet height Nothing grand could possibly fit in it.
However,inside the tent iscolossal with tall pillars wrapped in gold leaf and sunlit orbs hovering like fireflies. The floor is checkered marble with a thin band of fog rolling about. The air is cool flickering the candles strung about on trees like holders six feet tall.
The twins gasped at the pure magnitude of the tent.
Daisy clutched her chest in awe. Lilly held her breath trying to take it all in.
There are seven glass cases with curtains drawn on the inside. Each one at least twenty feet wide.
“This is my collection. I have five performers but need two more for my Cardinal Sins to be complete.” The Ringmaster stopps at the first one. “Would you like to see them?”
Both girls nod but there was a sense of urgency in the air. A thick feeling of dread envelops them like a blanket. Lilly balls her hands into fists. A lump forms in her throat.
They move closer to the first glass case with an inscription “Lust” and a date of 1914.
The curtains draws back to show a beautiful woman with long crimson hair in a tight leather corset. She’s lying on a bed kicking her feet in the air. She wears spiked heels that glittered with diamonds. Both her arms are covered in tattoos of exotic animals that moved up, down and around her arms. When she turns her face, she wears a feathered mask encrusted with rubies. Her eyes glowed softly pink as she licks her plump bloody lips. She smiles showing fangs.
Daisy backs into Lilly grabbing for her hand.
“This is Lolita. She came to us from Amsterdam. She loves men and women. Don’t get too close because she lusts for anything and anyone.” The Ringmaster moved to the second display with the words “Gluttony 323 BC.”
“Did you see her tattoos? They were moving!” Daisy hisses.
The curtains part to reveal an obese man in a white toga trimmed with silver. His fat rolls out of the cloth in clumps where maggots crawled. Flies buzz around him while he eats. His face is smooth and round smudged with grease and food. When his eyes look up they glow green. He ravishes a turkey leg and moves on to something else in the buffet that covers his entire room.
“I think I am going to puke,” Lilly inhales sharply.
“That is Alexander the Great. He wasn’t great for conquering battles. That was not why he was named. Never cross paths with him because he will eat anything.” Barnibas takes his top hat off throwing his hands behind his back. He seemed to be growing taller, towering over them. His skin was turning a light pink.
“This one I call Scrooge.”
Sitting on a throne at the center of mounds of gold coins is a king with ruby crowns. His beard is silver and skin gray. He has no eyes save for two glowing golden marbles. He only grimaces each time a coin falls through his fingers. He keeps reaching over to plunge a hand into the coins to pull out a fist full of gold. His mouth keeps moving but the twins can’t hear anything. Above the throne reads “Greed 1545”
“He doesn’t have eyes! What is going on,” Lilly squeaked. She pulls Daisy to her side.
The next case contains a large woman lying on a canopy bed. She wears a long silk night gown that clings like second skin to her curves. Instead of legs she has a long snake tail with a rattle on the end wrapped around the bed post. Her ruby hair flows down the pillows to spiral around the room. She is slowly brushing her hair but that in itself is a task.
She looks over at the twins with glowing blue eyes and reaches out for them. Her hands wave about only to plop back on the bed.
Etched on the glass above them is “Sloth, 1856.”
The last case is full of vegetation. Shrubs and dirt litter the floor. Above the glass is “Rage, 2001”
“Now I just acquired this one last year. He was an angry man on the inside but now his anger matches on the outside.” Barnibas’s voice is weird, a little slurred. Saliva pools out of his mouth and his cheeks puff out.
The bushes rustle and out bursts a beast slamming against the glass with a thud.
The girls scream clinging to each other while the Ringmaster roars with laughter.
A huge muscular monster stands before them. Shaggy silver hair covers its entire body with a long tail flipping about. Its long muzzle filled with serrated teeth snapped at the glass throwing bloody saliva everywhere. Its eyes glowed yellow.
Lilly looks away, burring her face into Daisy’s shoulder. Daisy’s can’t help but stare.
“Ever since the day his brother died in the two towers he has been filled with such a hate that he took it out on others. He would find any victimsthat could help devour his rage.” Barnibas touches the glass not balking once as the beast snapsits claws at him. He ushers the girls to the next case.
Daisy pauses looking at the hideous monster. Its long ears are pinned back and lips curled in a snarl. It keeps pawing at the glass. Each step the girls take toward the last case it becomes more frenzied.
Above the glass on a beautifully carved wooden signis “Envy, 2013”
“I have heard talk about the beauty of the Rose twins. Of their beautiful amber eyes glowing against their copper skin. Your Eskimo heritage precedes you.” He puts his top hat back on reaching in his back pocket for a scroll. “All the men of Nome want you while the women envy and hate you. Your aunt does not love you and only took you in for the money left behind by your Mother. I have searched the world for you two. I have searched through time for the perfect Envy. I wish to have you part of my special performers.”
“What’s in it for us?” Daisy inquires.
“To be free of your small life in this rural town. To be worshiped as goddesses by men who want nothing but the both of you. To never worry of food or money. I will shower you with all the riches you need.” Barnibas reaches out for them. He brings each of their hands to his lips, leaving a light wet kiss.
Lilly glances at Daisy, goosebumps flowing up her arms. “Well, should we? I have a bad feeling..”
“Don’t think Lilly. Just for once let go. Don’t you want to see the world? Leave this place? We need to leave or we will be stuck here either pregnant, a drunk or drug addict. I am tired of petty jealousy. Let’s do this!” Daisy shakes Lilly. She turns and snatches the scroll out of Barnibas’s hands.
Lilly leans over, watching Daisy unravel the scroll. Weird language filled the page except for the spaces for two signature at the bottom. “What do we sign it with?”
“Your blood.” A hiss escapes his lips, which are now cracked and peeling.
“Really?” Lilly squeals.
“Of course not silly. A red pen will suffice.” Barnibas hands her a golden pen.
Lilly hurriedlysigns the document. Crimson ink spills out on the parchment veining with each scribble.
Barnibas clapped his hands together, his eyes glowing like rubies.
Lilly hands Daisy the pen. “Do it. Together forever. Born together, live together and die together.”
Cringing at their motto, Daisy signs with her face looking away. She can’t breathe. Every swoosh of her hand made the room become dimmer.
A wind picks up within the tent. Pounding can be heard along all the glass panels. The beast goes crazy next door, watching the last sweep of Daisy’s finger signing her name.
A roaring sound like a train comes between the girls. They try to lunge in the opposite directions but they’re forced back, colliding together. Each time they try to part a sucking vacuumed pulls them back together.
“What’s happening?” they cry in unison.
“You signed the contract in your own blood. Now you are mine but first I must morph you into something much more beautiful, like I have the others.”He waves his hands to the other cases. Claws began to unsheathe from his fingers. Horns spiral from the side of his temples causing his top hat to fall.
Clothes tear, bones and muscle crack as the vacuum sucks the twins closer and closer together. The pain is extreme. Their entire bodies are on fire coursing with hundreds of needle like pain. Flesh rip and stretch. The pain was like knives cutting their entire abdomen open. Daisy screams while Lilly moans. Their bodies were melting together becoming one.
Suddenly everything is quiet. The pain gone.
Barnibas leans over the fallen girls. “Beautiful,” he hisses with a mouth full of fangs. His skin is marbled red with white. His long beautiful hair falls over horns and pointed ears.
“No,” Lilly hisses.
He continues to laugh. Lilly has a hard time keeping her eyes open. His features are fading until all goes black.
The boy held his satchel close, protecting the contents within; a paint brush, paints, charcoal chalk and other art supplies he may need for the trip.
The Ringmaster babbled on and on about each glass case but he couldn’t move when he saw the last one with the twins assigned to Envy.
They were sitting on a chair playing with some kind of small white cards on the table. They looked up in unison, amber eyes blinking. Their long raven black hair pulled to the sides in braids. They were beautiful but that was not why he was starring. No, it was the fact that they shared the same body. Two legs, two arms and two heads. One twin leaned against her hand while the other tapped the table with the opposite hand.
The boyhas never seen conjoined twins before. They were monstrously beautiful. His heart palpitated against is chest when he touched the glass with one hand.
In a blink of an eye they were out of their seat pounding at the glass, screaming and kicking. Their golden glowing eyes filled with tears that sparkled like diamonds.
“Don’t pay any mind to the Rose twins. They love attention. Men dream of them which envious women hate. Now, boy, you are my last performer I need. I have searched through time to find you. Your art is wonderful, and you take pride in that. I just need you to sign the dotted line right here and we can get started.” Barnibas hisses, his tongue running along his fangs.
The twins pound and pound the glass but to no avail. Michelangelo signs his life away to the devil.
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Anyone may enter the giveaway. This includes the artist and writers contributing to the Dark Carnival, as well as the readers of the stories. Enjoy!