The Dark Carnival: The Strong Man by Mari Wells

Posted by on Oct 25, 2013 in Writing | 6 comments

The Dark Carnival: The Strong Man by Mari Wells


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The Dark Carnival

The Strong Man

 by Mari Wells


The performers’ mouths water as they looked over the audience. A man dressed in a fur loincloth and nothing else takes his place when the Ringmaster announces him as “John, the strongest man in the world”. His greedy belly grumbles, as he scans the crowd. This audience would bring in lots of meals. That was the only thing the strong man cared about, how full he could keep his belly. The Ringmaster could overwork him without fear of retaliation as long as his appetite was satisfied, well two appetites were satisfied, but the ringmaster only had to worry about one. The women of this show cared for the other one.

The strong man begins his part of the show, lifting barbells above his head as the ringmaster comments on the weight of each barbell. The largest ones are bent in half. Those seated don’t see the cruel looks John aims towards the ringmaster as he imagines snapping the puny man’s neck. John’s thoughts are brought back to the moment, when the acrobat girls wrap their tiny delicate hands around the thick bands of muscles in his extended arms. The two girls in white tutus hang from John’s arms for a moment before they start to swing, in a blink of an eye and a gasp of the crowd; they are doing handstands on John’s arms. The girls do a flip in the air, landing in a bended curtsy.

“Now, John will perform a feat of strength like no other,” the ringmaster began. John takes his place at the far end of the ring. A group of clowns roll out a cannon and positions it on the opposite side of John. The men and women in the crowd gasp, excitement murmurs through them. This is what they’ve come to see. John roars with laughter causing his body to tremble. One of the clowns rolls a cannon ball from the cannon to John, three other clowns struggle to pick up the heavy sphere and drop it into the cannon.

Bending down, John picks up the cannonball and tosses it into the air a few times before letting it fall to the ground.  The clown pulls some gloves from his back pocket and hands them to John before scurrying away.  His arms swing across his chest twice, shoulders lifting up and down as the ringmaster prepares the audience. Pulling on the gloves, and rising his hands to those seated, showing them the perfect leather palms. John nods once at the two clowns standing by the cannon.

The tallest clown strikes the match across the side of the cannon, and lights the wick. A blast shakes through the tent. Some of the audience covers their ears with their hands. John’s hands wrap around the lead ball, for a brief second before slamming it on the ground. Palms in the air again, showing burned leather. He bows then runs out of the ring to his next task of the night.

John ducks out of the tent and walks in large strides to the strength meter game on the other side of the fairgrounds. His deep voice bellows over the noises filling the dark night. “Win a diamond for your girl.” His voice trails off as he searches for someone to take a chance. Swinging the sledgehammer over his shoulder. His wide shoulders and tall frame look formidable even beside the fifteen-foot tall tower. A tall young man stops in front of the strength meter. The girl his arm is wrapped around presses into his arm, as she eyes John cautiously. “Hit the light and win a diamond for your girl.”

The sledgehammer moves from John’s hands to the young man’s. John looks over the young man; he was tall with broad shoulders. Muscles flex in his arms as he hoists the hammer into the air. The young woman is plump and curvy with warm hazel eyes. As the hammer slams into the pedestal, the puck moves higher and higher into the air. Not hitting the top and ringing the bell. John looks over them both one more time, “Three tries son.” The young man tests his grip on the handle then takes another swing. The puck glides up the meter ringing the bell.

A sly smile spreads across John’s face. He takes the man’s hand in his and pumps them, as he congratulates them. A clown runs towards them.

“I take you to your prize.”

“Bart will take care of ya.” John says smiling. He watches carefully as Bart leads the couple to a tent farther behind them.  Inhaling deeply John’s voice fills the air as he calls for someone else to test their luck, covering the screams coming from the tent behind him.

A smile curls at his lips as he hears one more muffled scream fade. Three tall lanky teenage boys near his game. They hold out papers to him. Gladly he signs the photographs and waits patiently as each boy takes a turn slamming the platform with the hammer. He waves as the boys walk away and his voice echoes his call. Two men stumble along the path. John spotted them a few steps away and has watched them carefully; he slides his left hand across the back of the meter’s tower. Stepping out in front of the two men, his arms go around their shoulders as he leads them towards his game.

“You both look like strong men,” he flatters.

The men mumble to each other as John hands one the sledgehammer.

The first drunk spits on his hands and lifts the handle into the air, letting it fall he startles when the bell rings. His friend slaps him on the back in congratulations and pulls the hammer away. As he picks up the sledgehammer, he stumbles backwards before righting himself. His chest rises as he hefts the hammer up over his head and brings it down with such force, the platform cracks. The puck shoots straight to the bell.

“You both won,” John says as he begins to shake each one’s hand. “Burt will take you back to get your prize.”

Burt glances at the two drunkards; a crooked smile reveals a line of sharp teeth. “I thinks we out of prizes John.”

John nods once and slides his hand behind the tower again.

A step in front of the strength meter John’s voice moves through the air. Pushing anyone walking in this back area of the fairgrounds towards the front.

“Ralph, our lion is eating.” He says.

Pulling the fabric gate across the back area, he closes off the strength game and the old train car behind it.

John opens the door and steps inside the old railway car. Ralph the lion rests inside of the iron bars at the far corner of the rectangle room. Bound at the hands and ankles, rags shoved in their mouths are four bodies. The three men have bloody spot on their heads. The first young man’s wound on the right side of his forehead has dried, clumps of blood stick to his hair. The drunkest of the last two men has a gaping wound at the back of his head. John pulls the other drunk from the pile, once he’s moved the body a few feet from the others, he plummets his fist into the man’s face. There’s little movement from him. Allowing him to fall to the ground, John accepts the knife Jared the small clown holds out to him.

Shoving the knife into the drunk’s chest, John makes a cut big enough for his hands. He pushes his hands into the man’s chest and pulls, snapping the rib cage in half.

“I get dibs!” the small man bounces up and down.

Large hands dripping of blood remove the heart and lungs. Dropping them into a bucket Burt has placed beside the bleeding corpse, John digs back inside the open chest bringing out more insides.

Two more handfuls have cleaned out the cavity. With skill only seen by a surgeon John cuts into the shoulder, using his strength to snap the bones apart, he removes the arm from the torso. A quick bend backwards he breaks the elbow before tossing the broken severed arm at Bart the clown. Bart begins to cut the skin and tendons at the elbow. John repeats the process with the other arm, then the legs.

Jared sits beside the head, waiting patiently.

John looks up from severing the neck, “What’ll it be Midget.”

The small man looks the head over licking his lips. “Eyes, eyes. That be my prize.”

John roars with laughter before prying the eyes from their sockets. Jared takes them from the skull and pops them in his mouth before anyone can take them from him.

“You?” John asks the clown.

“I’ll take what I want.” He says pulling the head and torso towards him. “Start the next one.” He nods towards the pile in the corner.

John pulls the second drunk to where the first was separated and begins again. He looks up at Bart to see him in the process of cutting out the tongue.

“I’d thought you’d want her tongue not his.” He laughed.

“I’ll take it too.” He said before taking a bite of the tongue.

They work silently dismembering the bodies, until they came to the woman’s body.

The three men looked at each other, nod, and pull her by the ankles to the centre of the room. “Midget,” John whispered holding his hand out.

Jared places a syringe in his hand. John injects the contents of the syringe into her right arm. The three wait a few moments before ripping her clothes off. The clown brings a few more buckets to John. A little more tenderly, John cuts into her chest. The small man cuts the shoulder length light brown hair from her head. The clown begins to separate her arms from the shoulders.

John carefully removes the breasts from the torso and drops them into a new bucket. He snaps her ribs open and begins to remove what’s inside. A knock at the door calls all three men from their work. Another three quick knocks sound. Jared stands up. Two more knocks. He begins to move towards the door when one knock sounds.

“Mama Grey?” He asks.

“Boy, open this door before I feed your midget ass to Ralph.”

Before the small man can open the door, the fat woman with a grey beard pushes her way into the train car. Her eyes move over the lines of buckets.

“I knew this audience would bring in enough to eat.” She licks her plump red lips. “And she stew too, don’t eat it all this time John. Or we won’t have enough until the next show.”

Mari Wells

Mari’s love of the paranormal goes back to her tween years with origins in vampirology. In recent years, she has increased her vampire knowledge, and expanded it to other paranormal beings. Mari is a wife, and mom of four. Her writing is balanced around homeschooling all four children and keeping house. She burns the candle at both ends in order to write, adding to the ambiance of her paranormal stories. Her paranormal pieces have been included in supernatural magazines, websites and blogs. Other stories are published in other Medias online and in print. Twitter Blog



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  1. whoa hohohohohohoho that was grueseome!! *shivers* that was scary. Nicely done!!

  2. Thank you, Muses for running my story.
    Thnaks Kristin, I really tried for scary this time. :D

  3. Bleh – chilling!! The description of dismembering the bodies was particularly gruesome. In the best way possible. ;*)

  4. Niiiice, Mari, I knew you had it in you!! :)

    • Thanks Joe, it was a hard one to write.

  5. Thanks Sione.

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