The Dark Carnival: Into the Black by Jessi Esparza

Posted by on Oct 31, 2013 in Horror, Reading, The Dark Carnival, Writing | 1 comment

The Dark Carnival: Into the Black by Jessi Esparza

 

You’ve dared return to the Dark Carnival. How brave, yet foolish! Today, I can’t guarantee you’ll make it out alive.

You can see the live list of participants and their posts dates on this link.

 

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The Dark Carnival

Into the Black

 by Jessi Esparza

 

Coins clinked into the open canvas satchel in front of Bernard. He looked up and smiled at the elderly man and his granddaughter, who turned her face away once their eyes connected. Bernard understood. Seeing a man with his thighs thrown backwards over his shoulders could be unsettling the first time. After the man and child walked away, Bernard unfolded himself and grabbed the satchel before another crowd could form around him. He counted about five dollars in both coins and paper.

The sweet, greasy smell of funnel cake wafted past, drawing him to Tully’s cake stand. It’s purple and yellow striped banner fluttered in the autumn breeze. It would rain tonight. Bernard could feel it in his knees. He hovered near the corner of the stand, letting the patrons in line buy their fried floury goodness first.

“Hey Bernie, here for a cake?” Tully was a large man with a heart of equal size.

Bernard nodded, holding up the satchel.

“Been working the crowds again? You know how Jackson gets when you perform outside the tents.” Sweat dripped down his forehead and he wiped it away with the back of his hairy forearm.

Jackson, the boss-man, ran Zedler’s Wondrous Carnival like clockwork, with strict rules about performing that no one ever followed. But what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

Bernard dug out the bills, placing them in Tully’s jar. “For a new card reader.”

Tully rolled his eyes. He’d been talking about getting a new one for years, but somehow the money never lasted long enough.

“How’s it feel being back in your hometown? See anyone you recognize?”

Bernard shook his head and shrugged. Surprisingly, he felt almost nothing at all. It was just another stop on the tour. But he made it a point to not leave the campgrounds. Oaks Valley wasn’t a bad place to live. Actually it was a pleasant little town with warm summers, cool winters, and an extraordinary amount of cows. Bernard was eight when he left Oaks Valley and joined Zedler’s, already having a knack for fitting himself into tight spaces. No one came looking for him. And he never expected them to.

Bernard preferred to keep his past in the past. And Tully didn’t pester him about it.

“One funnel cake coming right up.” The big man turned his back and called out the order to his son who ran the fryers.

Bernard tapped a little rhythm on the counter and watched the crowd. He liked people watching, probably because unless he was twisting himself into the shape of a pretzel, Bernard was rather unremarkable. Average height, skinny, short dark hair, and a forgettable face. Except for his bright green eyes. Leaning against the booth in his cotton pants and grey shirt, no one noticed him.

“Hey, two cakes for me and my nephew here.”

A shiver crept up Bernard’s spine, his mind going blank and sharp. He zeroed in on the customer behind him.

“We just ran out of our first batch so it’ll take a few minutes,” Tully answered “And cash only.”

“Eh, fucking a…” the customer grumbled. “Only got a couple bucks. How much?”

Bernard curled his fingers into fist to keep them from shaking.

“Twelve dollars.”

“You kidding me! Matty, you still want this funnel cake?”

Bernard peaked over his shoulder. A man with a round face, red around the nose, stubble about his chin, caught the shoulder of a boy who was probably no older than twelve. “Whatever,” the boy said clicking away at his cell phone. Bernard swallowed hard, his mouth going dry.

My My, Hey Hey, rock and roll is here to stay…

“Forget it. Come on, shows about to start anyway.” The round faced man grabbed the boy by the scruff of his sweatshirt and tugged him towards the main tent.

Bernard watched the man’s back roll in his navy windbreaker as he limped away, favoring his right leg. The man wasn’t large but still round about the middle, his fair hair thinning in a circle at the back of his head. He walked straight-backed despite his lameness. For a second he paused at another vendor and turned back towards the funnel cakes stand. His eyes met Bernard’s and Bernard thought he would surely recognize him. He’d walk right back and say something. Smile even. But the round faced man broke their gaze a second later and took in the rest of the carnival.

“Bernie, you feeling all right?” Tully was staring at him, holding the funnel cake out on a flimsy paper plate.

“What?”

“You’re lookin’ pretty pale. Are you all right?”

“Oh,” Bernard let out a shaky laugh. “Yeah, just got a cramp.” He made a show of stretching out his side.

“Not as young as you used to be.” Tully handed him the cake but kept his skeptical expression.

Bernard nodded, taking the dessert, but no longer having an appetite to eat it. He pivoted on his heels and stalked back to his trailer. The sounds and smells and sights of the carnival faded into nothing, his mind swirling around a single point in his buried history.

Angus Shaw.

 

It was a twenty five year old nightmare Bernard wished wasn’t real. He’d blocked most of it out, tucked it all into a steel box in the back of his mind and threw away the key. But after seeing Angus Shaw that afternoon, the memory exploded and rushed back to him. He’d forgotten that she had blonde hair, that her jean shorts were frayed, and that her shirt had been sleeveless. A song floated out of the open window of the rust color Range Rover with dents in its side, mixing with the angry sound of the running engine.

Out of the blue and into the black. They give you this but you pay for that…

The headlights drained them of color, just two shapes fighting in the night. Angus Shaw slammed her into his Range Rover over and over, calling her a whore and other profanities. She fought back, her pleas frantic “No, daddy! I’m not keeping it! Stop!” and rammed her heel into his left knee. He roared, grabbed a fistful of her yellow hair and thrust her head backwards. Her skull made an ugly sound when it cracked against the truck frame. The next second she stopped moving. Angus let her crumple to the ground and cursed, not out of grief or shame but frustration, as if she’d died just to annoy him.

Bernard held his breath, clamping his hand over his mouth. His stomach twisted as Angus heaved the girl into the driver side of the Rover. At eight Bernard didn’t understand the mechanics of a car, but somehow Angus managed to send it over the embankment with the girl inside. No one ever thought it was anything more than a scared sixteen-year-old running away from home.

It made Bernard sick knowing that Angus Shaw, was still out there, that nothing had happened to him. He was never punished. Bernard’s skin burned with anger. He’d always felt fear, or utter helplessness when he thought about the night he had run away from one of his father’s drunken tirades only to end up huddled under a bush, watching Angus Shaw kill his own daughter. For the first time, he felt fierce anger. Because it was all so wrong.

 

Jimmy, the kid although he was twenty-one, shifted in the bunk above Bernard’s, whimpering like a puppy. Suzanne, who never went by Suzie, slept perfectly still in her bunk across from them, except for her expanding and compressing ribcage. They were a performing trio, a “family,” they didn’t have secrets from each other. But Bernard kept this one.

He needed some air. Silently he slipped out of his bunk, throwing a hoodie on and padding with bare feet through the trailer. The night was cold and damp. Rain had come down hard during the last performance, making the earth soft. His toes dug into the muddy pathway leading to the wooden archway at the entrance. Mist settled over the campground, making odd shaped creatures out of the tents, and cryptic omens out of the signs. Slowly the mist drifted out the archway and down to the main road to town. He followed it unconsciously, not realizing it until his feet met asphalt.

The sleeping town rose out of the fog around him. After twenty years, much of it had changed, but most of it had stayed the same. What he remembered as being small mom and pop stores were now chain stores with their large logos flashed across their windows. The layout of the town remained unchanged. Main Street still had gas lamps lining the sidewalk and a line of brick inlaid in the pavement. Bernard’s feet made no noise on the road, which was still damp from the earlier rain, sending a chill through his soles. He veered left at Fifth Street, right on Rosethorn, then travelled down a series of roads that had long ago lost their names and signs.

The silhouette of a massive oak, one for which the town was named, materialized out of the fog. Bernard delicately stepped onto the lawn it inhabited. As if by magic, the fog cleared and there stood the house of Angus Shaw, his father’s favorite drinking buddy.  A squat, one level house with blue panel siding, dark shutters, and a twisting, unkempt yard. On multiple occasions in his childhood, Bernard had accompanied his father to the house, only to ensure that his father didn’t end up in a ditch at the end of the night. He was still surprised that Angus didn’t recognize him.

Dull light flickered in the window farthest to the left. Possibly from a television. Creeping up to the darkest window, Bernard checked the pane and felt it give. Silently he slid it open and shimmied in. He had no clue what compelled him to enter the house, or what he would do now that he was inside. He began exploring the room. It was mid renovation, though renovation had come to a halt a while ago. Two of the walls were half painted, the others still in need of dry wall altogether, their beams exposed like ribs. Suddenly the sound of the television cut off and he was momentarily plunged into silence. His hearing adapted and he listened to Angus’s footsteps travel back into the house.

Bernard threaded himself through the naked beams. Silently, he slipped through the interior walls, adjusting his body when they became narrow, and relaxing when they widened again. It was stifling in the passages, and beads of sweat rolled down Bernard’s back. Cobwebs brushed his face and he felt a roach scuttled over his foot. At one point he came to another hole in the wall, a small bruise on an otherwise unblemished room. He peered through it. Angus kept his living room remarkably tidy. A single recliner flanked by two small tables with thin lamps poised on each, situated directly across from a large flat-screen television. Bernard always assumed that the man was a slob. His lack of clutter annoyed Bernard. He moved on, following the sounds of Angus readying himself for bed. A toilet flushed. A door clicked close.

Eventually Bernard came to a patch of wall and gently pressed his ear to it. A bed squeaked on the opposite side. Yes, Angus was definitely off to sleep. Eventually he quieted, his breathing becoming low and steady, edging on a snore. Until this point, Bernard had only a half formulated plan. Honestly, he wanted Angus to remember that night like he did. He wanted it to haunt him.

The melody floated back into his mind. And Bernard began to hum.

Angus rustled inside the room, his heavy breathing started abruptly. Bernard stopped. His heart pounded in his chest. What was he doing? Several long minutes passed before Angus fell back into his rhythmic snoring.

And again Bernard began to hum. The lyrics floated into his mind:

The king is gone but he’s not forgotten…

“Who’s there?” Angus grumbled into the dark. Immediately Bernard stopped. The floorboards creaked as Angus climbed out of bed and limped across the room. Bernard listened to the sound of the window opening, allowing the sounds of the night to enter the room. The chirping crickets were silenced soon after. Angus slammed the window closed, having found no one outside.

Bernard waited a beat longer before humming again. He elegantly drifted back the direction he came, bending backwards over a pipe in his way.

“Is someone there?” The smallest streak of fear lived in Angus’s voice.  It was exactly what Bernard had hope for, but somehow was not enough. Did Angus even recognize the song? Did he remember what it meant?

When he got no reply, Angus asked again, this time angrier. “Matty if you’re playing a prank it isn’t funny.”

Matty? Bernard wasn’t aware there was anyone else in the house!

“Stupid little shit,” Angus muttered. “Matty, are you here! I will whoop you and your daddy will too if you snuck out over here.”

Bernard exhaled silently with relief. No, it was just him and Angus. He shimmied a few feet over, coming to a sharp corner and twisting around it. Humming the tune as he went.

“Who’s there?” Angus whispered again, the fear seeping back into his voice.

Bernard paused, going stock still, then whispered back. “Good night, Angus Shaw.”

 

The cool air whipped past Bernard as he sprinted back towards the campgrounds. It was a harmless trick, he told himself. But it felt so satisfying. His skin was buzzing with excitement. Adrenaline pumped through his blood, fueling his bare feet to go faster. Laughter exploded from his mouth once he passed the wooden arch. To hear Angus’s shrill gasp when he spoke his name was too hilarious. He only wished he could’ve seen the man’s expression.

The carnival was still asleep but the mist had cleared. He calmed himself and walked quietly back to his trailer, snickering occasionally.

“Bernie? You still up?”

Bernard nearly leapt out of his skin. “Oh, Ed, you scared me.”

Ed ran several of the games and had a penchant for fine marijuana. He liked staying out late just to watch the stars go by. “Sorry. Pretty night.”

Bernard glanced up. The sky was a thick dark blanket of gray.

“Not getting into any trouble are you?” Ed knew trouble like the back of his hand.

Bernard shook his head.

“Just seeing the old haunts?”

Bernard shrugged.

“Enjoy it. We’ve only got three more nights here.” Ed gave him a cocked smile and kept on his way.

Yes. Three more nights.

 

It wasn’t long enough for a proper haunting but it would have to do. Bernard spent most of the next day planning. Mainly he just wanted to try again, for the thrill of it. Suzanne asked him why he was so distracted, and Bernard shrugged, but was more careful to conceal his thoughts. He again waited for his companions to sleep before slipping out and hoofing it to Angus’s house, his feet unadorned. The ground was less giving and the air significantly cooler now that the clouds had rolled out. Without the cover of mist and fog, Bernard felt exposed under the moon’s beams. It watched him accusingly as he slinked around town. He almost lost his nerve when he came to Angus’s lawn and saw the man climbing out of his obscenely large pick-up.

Bernard dove behind a neighbor’s bushed and watched Angus through the foliage. He was so sure the old man would be in bed by now. Instead Angus was swaying up to his front door, whistling off key. After fumbling around with his key, he finally got the door open and fell inside.

Bernard crept across the lawn to the window from the night before. It was again unlocked and slid open easily. Angus rustled around loudly throughout his house, slamming doors and stomping through the hallway. Finally he settled and turned on the television. Bernard wove through the beams inside the wall, curving his back over a pipe and slipping under a fallen beam. He was like vapor, effortlessly moving through the space. After some time he reached the living room, evident by the small hole he discovered last night. He peeked through it. Angus was sitting opposite the television in a worn brown leather chair that reclined back, propping up his swollen feet. He swigged his beer and belched.

Disgusting, Bernard thought as he shimmied through the wall, coming to a halt approximately behind Angus. Then he began to hum.

The leather recliner creaked. The volume of the television dropped suddenly. Bernard could hear Angus’s labored breathing.

“You still there?

He didn’t sound frightened. Just drunk.

“You still botherin’ me?” Angus slurred.

Bernard clenched his jaw. Angus wasn’t going to be easy to scare tonight. He continued to hum.

“Whaterya doin’ anyway? Got nothing better to do with your time?”

Angus was so good at pushing the right buttons. Bernard stopped humming. And the old man chuckled.

“You gave up quick.”

Not quite. Bernard shifted in the wall and came around to a gathering of electrical wires he assumed connected to the television. He made a mental note, and began humming again.

“What is that song you keep hummin’? Never heard it before.”

Every muscle in Bernard’s body froze. How could he not know the song? How could he not remember it? The bastard had no idea what this was about, not even a hint! This man, who did nothing but enable Bernard’s father and destroy his own daughter’s life, had no guilt, no shame!

Bernard scooped up a thick chip of wood and chucked it at a pipe extending across this space. It made a satisfying ping. But a second later, Angus just laughed, a wet, slurpy sound. It built upon itself until it was a soupy mess of cackles.

“Getting’ mad at me, eh?” His mocking laughter enflamed Bernard’s anger. Angus was just laughing for the sake of laughing now, totally taken by the drinks in his system.

The night was completely ruined. Bernard exited the house quickly and stormed back to the campground. He needed a new plan. Tomorrow night, Angus would know what the song was, what all of this meant. Bernard would make sure of it.

 

The weather had turned nasty again. And the wind swirled around the trailer angrily. It matched Bernard’s mood.

“Bernard, have you seen my new lipstick? The dark one with the gold ring around it?” Suzanne asked, digging through her make-up kit.

“Why would I?” Bernard shot back.

She looked at him and scoffed. “Well, excuse me!”

Immediately Bernard regretted what he said. “Sorry.”

She tilted her head, studying him. “Are you feeling ok?”

“I’m fine.”

“Obviously not. Is…is it being here, back in this town?” Suzanne knew a little about Bernard’s childhood, more than anyone else. “You’ve been really on edge lately and—“

“Just drop it, Suzanne. Please.” Bernard cut in. She was making him feel guilty about sneaking out at night. More than once did his lack of sleep affect his performance and his partners definitely noticed. He began to think that maybe he should tell them, or at least Suzanne.

No. He couldn’t. She didn’t need to be involved.

Her pretty blue eyes bore into him, as if she were trying to read his mind. She had been trying to figure Bernard out since the first day they met.

“Let’s just go to bed. I think I just need some sleep.” Bernard said softly.

She nodded, though the concern never left her face. Bernard pretended to sleep long enough for her and Jimmy to be completely out, and then crept into the night.

Bernard braced himself against the howling wind, but he barely felt it. His fingers fiddled with the Swiss army knife in one hand and the small cylinder in the other. Suzanne would be furious if she knew he’d taken her lipstick, but he couldn’t think of another option on such short notice.

His mind tumbled over the name of Angus Shaw’s daughter. It began with an “S” but that was the most he could remember.

Sarah, Sally, Sandra… no it was slightly uncommon, different. It was so long ago.

Then he remembered.

A smile crept across his face as he slipped in through the window. The massive truck sat in the driveway, and the television blared down the hall. Quickly Bernard crawled into the wall and navigated his way to the small opening in the living room. Angus was already seated but didn’t seem too inebriated.

Bernard snuck back to the room and carefully opened to door to the hallway. He listened to the buzzing of the television, the creak of Angus shifting in his chair, the hum of the heater. He was completely exposed, Angus could lean over slightly and spot him, but thankfully the television was too enthralling. Carefully, Bernard uncapped the lipstick and ran the soft waxy stick across the wallpaper. Once he was done, he stepped back, giving his work a quick glance and practically dove into the renovation room. The door closed with a soft click, but Bernard heart still pounded. He listened for Angus to come charging down the hallway, but all was still. The smile found its way back onto Bernard’s face when he dissolved into the darkness inside the walls.

The gathering of electrical wires behind the TV was easy to find. And the cords were even easier to cut. Bernard ears rang from the sudden silence when the TV went dead. Angus cursed, stomped up to the set, and Bernard could hear him fiddling with the buttons and settings. When nothing worked, Angus growled loudly like some animal and went off to the kitchen for probably more beer. Bernard made his way back to the hallway, tapping the knife against a few pipes along the way. It took a while, but Angus started to catch on.

“That you messing with me tonight?” He left the question in a prolonged silence. Bernard tapped another pipe in response. The floorboards creaked at Angus approached the hallway. Once he was close enough, Bernard began to hum.

My, my, hey, hey, rock and roll is here to stay…

Slowly Angus’s footsteps carried down the hallway. Bernard couldn’t tell if he had flipped on the light or not, if he would see what Bernard had left for him on the wall, but he continued to hum, luring Angus to him. He bent under a skewed beam in the wall and knew he was almost to the renovation room. He couldn’t let Angus go into it without revealing his secret entrance. He paused and waited.

The wind howled outside, shaking the outer walls. The house groaned in protest. “You still here?” Angus whispered. Bernard crawled away from the room, about to where he had left his message. He hummed once more.

And a strangled scream was his response.

Bernard rushed to the room and out the window, listening with satisfaction as Angus scrambled around his house in a panic. Rain began to fall as Bernard climbed out the window and dashed into the night.

Written across Angus Shaw’s hallway, in dark red, was one word:

SABRINA

 

Three late nights were wearing on Bernard. Suzanne and Jimmy both noted how tired he looked. He worried that Suzanne might make a fuss, hover around him to make sure he wasn’t ill. But she couldn’t know, even if he was going to dip into her make-up supply again tonight.

It was the last night that Zedler’s Wonderous Carnival would be in town. Their final performances were their best. And Bernard had something extra planned for his own special audience.

Now he just needed Jimmy to go to sleep. He just kept chattering like a monkey, hanging his freckled face over the edge of the bunk. He was still running off his performance high. Thankfully, Bernard was saved by Suzanne.

“Hey boys, all the performers are going out to get some drinks! Let’s go! You can show off your shiny new ID, Jimmy!”

The kid leapt off the bed and threw his jacket on. Bernard didn’t move an inch. Jimmy was already out the door when Suzanne turned back to Bernard. “Not coming?”

Bernard shook his head. “I’d rather not go into town.” Suzanne pursed her lips together, but dropped it, and left him alone. Once her footsteps faded, he sprung into action.

Quickly, but carefully, he settled down at Suzanne’s dressing table and began to apply a mask of make-up. One layer after another after another, just as his mentor had taught him. Eventually Bernard couldn’t recognize the face in the mirror. It was dark, with red streaked across it, highlighting the eyes and mouth, carving out the cheeks and brows. It was a demon’s face. And it smiled, white teeth against black lips.

Dressed in a simple, black uniform, skin-tight, was easier to move in. Covering himself with his hoodie and black warm-ups, he once again didn’t bother with shoes and slipped outside. He sunk down behind the trailer and watched the cloud covered sky. It was hours before his partners returned, giggling and stumbling. They hardly noticed that he wasn’t in bed. And if they did, they didn’t ask. Gradually the sounds of the carnival troupe faded as everyone fell asleep. Then, he moved.

Getting to Angus’s house was automatic. He paused only briefly at the row of bushes at the edge of the property to step out of his hood and pant. Creeping inside was instinct. Except he forwent the gaping hole in the wall and headed out into the hallway. The house was completely dark and Angus was asleep. Without a sound, he entered the man’s room, eerily calm. A dresser sat a few feet from the end on the bed. The nightstand by the bed had a few picture frames on it. None of which contained Sabrina Shaw. Angus had erased her from his history. But tonight he would remember.

He climbed onto the dresser, carefully to not knock anything over. Bracing his hands against the polished oak, he bent his hips back, up, and over until his thighs rested on his shoulders. Bending at the elbows, he lowered himself until his feet touched the dresser. Once he had a stable foundation, he curled his arms around his knees, and watched Angus’s sleeping form. And hummed.

Angus snorted awake. He moved sluggishly, lifting his head and looking across his bed. He yelped when he saw the thing poised on his dresser, his eyes growing wide and fearful. He covered his eyes with one hand and rubbed as if to clear the image from his mind. It took the moment and dove off the dresser, out of view. Angus panted heavily, making small frightened noises. The creature scuttled across the floor to the side of the bed, waiting for Angus to calm himself.

“What do you want?” Angus whimpered. “Where are you?”

It waited long enough to torture Angus with the answer, and crawled onto the bed, disjointed and twisted. The old man’s mouth gaped open but no noise came out. His eyes bulged as if they were going to pop out of his skull. He twitched and stiffened when it folded itself into a squat on Angus’s chest.

“Wh-wh-what do you want?”

Its head tilted to the left.

“Please…why … what did I do?”

Its hand reacted, grabbing the man’s round face. The demon hummed the familiar tune, but it came out as a growl.

“I’m sorry… Oh God… I didn’t mean to…she was my baby girl…”

Pathetic. The flesh under his fingers was soft and slightly moist with sweat. Disgusting. It’s gripped tightened and received at guttural whimper.

“No…no, please…”

What a blubbering waste of a human. Vile actually. Smelling of alcohol and gasoline. It would be so easy to dig in, to squeeze until he simply stopped making noise, stopped breathing, stopped existing. That’s what he deserved after all.

A jolt ran through Bernard. What was he doing? Looking down at Angus Shaw, he finally saw what this man really was. Old and sickly, with the weight alcohol and abuse on his body. He lived alone, in a half-dilapidated house with nothing but beer and TV to comfort him. He truly was pathetic.

Could Bernard really kill him?

No, he only meant to scare him! He just wanted Angus to remember!

In that moment of hesitation, Angus acted shoving Bernard off and throwing himself out of the bed. Bernard gracefully landed on his feet and shook his head, a shiver running through him thinking about what he had almost done. Angus clamored to the closet and a second later pulled out a double-barreled shotgun.

Shit.

Bernard saw him load it and turned toward the window. He made a split decision and went crashing through it just as a gunshot went off. His feet hit the ground and pain radiated up his right ankle. He yelped but kept going, fearing another gunshot would follow. He ducked behind the bushed, grabbed his clothes and raced into the dark. Three more shots echoed behind him, growing fainter as he put more distant between himself and that house. Tears and cold night air stung at his eyes but he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t stay in this town a moment longer.

Relief washed over him as he passed through the wooden archway of Zedler’s. He was safe. He was home. Tears were streaming down his face when he burst into the trailer and scrambled to the bathroom. He slammed the door shut and locked it. A second later Suzanne pounded on it, calling to him, begging for him to let her in.

Bernard leaned against the door, feeling the vibrations of her knocking. He glanced in the mirror and saw a face that wasn’t his own. Immediately he switched the water on, filling his hands, and rubbing furiously at his face. When he looked up, black and red was smeared over his skin. He attacked his face again until he found himself peeking through.

“Bernard! Baby, are you ok!”

His breath was unsteady. He inhaled deeply and slowly let it out, watching the water droplets running off his face. “I’m fine, Suzanne.”

His hand passed over his face one more time, smearing the paint away.

“I’m fine.”

 

The headline read “Deranged Man Claims Demons Exist.” The article was about an alcoholic old man in the next town over, who was found wailing in his house, shotgun in hand, saying that a demon was haunting him. The author of the article was sympathetic, weaving the story into a cautionary tale of drug abuse and the treatment of the mentally unstable. The story told of the old man’s past, how he had lost his wife and daughter only a few years apart, and that his brother still lived in the town. It was short, and sad, and buried deep in the paper where no one would ever read it. Except for one performer in the back area of the main tent at Zedler’s Wonderous Carnival.

The radio sang a classic rock tune, loud and driving, pumping the performers up. Or really, just Jimmy. Suzanne never cared for loud rock and roll. A moment later, the song ended and a new one began, just as loud and aggressive and nauseating.

Bernard shuddered and switched the radio off.

“Hey,” Jimmy whined, “that was a good song.”

Bernard simply shook his head.

“Come on boys, time to go on anyway.” Suzanne straightened out her costume and stood at the tent entrance, her head held high. Jimmy came to her side and rolled his shoulders out before taking her hand. They stood there a moment longer before looking back at the third member of their act. “Bernard?”

He looked at them, coming out of his daze. Suzanne’s hand extended towards him.  Her skin was soft and inviting. Bernard slid his palm into hers, standing up and coming to her side. Together, the three walked through the tent opening.

Bernard inhaled, scanning the unfamiliar crowd of faces. It was a new town, a new audience. Here, under their excited stares and elated expressions was where he belonged.

In the moment when the music began and the gasps of astonishment followed, another song entered Bernard’s mind. And quietly, under his breath, he hummed along.

Jessi_PicJessi is equal parts designer, writer, and nerd of all trades, who loves cuddly animals, witty people, and yummy food. Twitter: @jessimesparza Blog: http://jessiwritesthings.tumblr.com

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One Comment

  1. Very well written. I actually started to get chills towards the end. Keep up the good work.

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