The Carnival. Short Story.

So Florence and the Machine was amazing, as I expected. It was pretty awesome and we were really close, like 3-4 people away from the barrier, there were only two really bad things, one was a girl behind us that was screaming, but I hear you cry out that it’s a concert, everyone screams! Nope. Not like this. The first time I heard it I thought she was getting stabbed or raped. It wasn’t a concert scream, or an excited scream, it was one of pure fear and terror. Apparently, that’s how she shouts at concerts, as far as I and the people around her could tell, that’s just what she sounds like. The other was a drunk girl behind me who was jumping up and down, but basically using me as a wall to keep upright, I think she was too drunk to jump and not fall down. As I said she was using me as a wall, that is if you stood as close to a wall as possible, your entire body pressing against it, and began to jump up and down. Other than that thought the concert was awesome. In case you were wondering about the catsuit tweet (if you saw it) she was wearing a catsuit that was too tight for her to bend over to pick up some of the things the crowd were throwing, she apologised and assured us that she wasn’t actually joking, then asked the guitarist to pick them up for her.

I would definitely go see her again when she returns and I can buy a ticket/get someone to go with me. The two bands before her weren’t that great, The Specters were better than The Horrors, the lead singer really needed a haircut. I spent most of the time wondering how he could see and their last song was like ten minutes of instrumentals.

Also, a girl from the class below me in primary school was there and she recognised me, she came over and said hi (reassuring me that what she was going to saw was a little weird, but did I go to a school in x?).

Anyway, on with the show!


The Carnival.

The bright flashing lights of the circus reflected on the lakes gently rippling surface, glittering and shimmering in the water. She sat near the waters edge, listening to the laughs and screams and shouts of enjoyment as vendors called out to passer-by, the smell of cotton candy and frying foods gently wafted toward her. Bright explosions of colour as the rides lights rolled over their surfaces, igniting the great skeletal structures for scant seconds before plunging them into darkness again before once more rippling in fantastic and ever changing shapes. It was the same every year, every year they rolled into town and set up by the lake and after a few short weeks they were gone, leaving nothing behind but litter and trampled grass as proof that they were not just some fantastical memory. She had always been lured by the bright sounds and the warm, inviting smells, but this year it was different. It was cold. Cruel. Those glittering lights, tempting young and old alike cared little for anyone or anything but their own gratification, proving there is still use for them. Before she had dragged her parents here, begging and pleading in the weeks prior to the carnivals opening, both her and her parents knowing they would go no matter what, but not this year. This year she hadn’t mentioned it at all and her parents dragged her here, despite her protests, she didn’t want to go. She was too old for it now. Her parents had chided her, telling her she was just being a teenager, they believed she thought she was too cool to go with her parents, that it would be lame. She didn’t think that at all, she loved them both dearly and loved spending time with them. She knew that age wasn’t a factor when it came to circuses, lovers walked hand in hand, married couples celebrating decades together had the chance to fall in love all over again as the lights danced across their faces and laughter danced in their eyes.

She plucked a pebble from the shore and tossed it into the water. The reflection shattered into a thousand wavering images, distorting the carnival behind her. She knew that in a few moments the image would solidify, return to its mirror like state, but she was pleased it had disappeared for the moment. She herself did not know why she was so reluctant to return to what had been a source of amazement and wonder for so many years, the cavorting and capering clowns held no allure, seemed almost threatening in their thick, greasy make up, hiding their faces from the world. She could hear the vendors shouting, boasting prizes, but she knew they were false promises, designed to lure the gullible, naïve and hopeful. Some would leave with prizes tonight, large stuffed animals, small teddies, trinkets but many would not. She heard someone walking behind her in the darkness, the aura of light surrounding the carnival not reaching the lakes edge completely. She wasn’t worried, there were hundreds of people only a short distance away. Besides, they probably couldn’t see her, she would blend in with the stones. Why would they see her anyway, for she was no one. No one at all. The noise stopped a little way off, she glanced to her left and could make out a vague shadow of what might be a person standing, looking at the lake as she was. She dismissed them and went back to staring at the lake and its mirror surface. The moon was blocked by a bank of clouds, cutting off the night sky. The air was cold, but she knew the water would be colder, its deep, dark depths not yet warmed by the summer sun. Soon people would come, diving in and out of the water to escape the heavy heat, laughing and talking, having picnics and walks along the rocky shore. Beside her there was movement again, the person was coming closer, she could see them moving toward her from the corner of her eye. They kept coming, then stopped suddenly, letting out a squeak of surprise, they laughed, “you gave me a fright, I didn’t see you sitting there.” She didn’t answer. “Tryin to get some peace from the noise to eh?” “I suppose.” “Do you mind if I sit?” “I can’t stop you” they sat down beside her, a man, one she didn’t recognise. “You came here with the circus, didn’t you?” “That obvious huh?” He grinned, teeth glinting in the reflected light. “So what are you doing out here?” “I just wanted to sit for a moment.” They sat in silence, both looking at the water, as it gently lapped at the stones. “I get ya. Sometimes it can be a bit much. Imagine how I feel, having to live with it all year round.” she nodded slightly, not knowing if he could see it in the gloom. “So kiddo, what’s the matter?” “What do you mean?” “Everyone loves the circus.” “Not me.” “Didn’t win the prize you wanted? If you want, I could get it for you, talk to the stall owner.” “That’s not it.” “Then what?” “I don’t know. I just didn’t want to come.” “You should try enjoy it. Get in the spirit of things.” “I tired that but it didn’t work. I’m waiting here until it’s time to go.” “Come here with your parents?” “Yeah. I’m meeting them in a bit.” “Well, how much time do you have?” “What time is it?” he pressed a button on his watch, the watch front flaring to life, “It’s a half nine.” “I’m meeting them at ten.” “That’s loads of time.” “For what?” “For me to change your mind about the circus. C’mon I’ll show you something amazing.” “What?” “I don’t want to ruin the surprise” “I don’t want to.” “We’ll be going back to where everyone is, you’ll be safe, I promise. It will only take a few minutes.” She sighed, the heavy sigh of the world weary, “Ok” they stood and they began walking back towards the tents, the light, the noise. He walked slightly ahead of her, preventing her from seeing his face clearly. He walked through a gap between two tents, leading them into the main thoroughfare of the carnival. “This way” turning quickly, he brought her through the maze of tents, it seemed to go on and on, but he knew exactly where he was going. “We’re almost there.” They passed a man selling cotton candy, wrapping it around paper cones and handing it to bright eyed children. They passed a clown, leaping and frolicking, doing mocking impressions of those passing by. They passed games stands and attractions, her guide ignoring every single one. They began to pull away from the main carnival, moving deeper into a sea of tents, the noise of people fading behind them. Finally, he stopped in front of a tent. “It’s in there.” She looked around, they were alone. “Don’t worry, trust me.” He grinned, his teeth where white and large, crowding his mouth, though he was clean shaven, he looked scruffy, his clothes were slightly worn, his eyes dark from lack of sleep. He moved closer to the tent and lifted up a flap, pulling it away, he gestured with his free arm. She hesitated. “If you want, I can go in first, prove that it’s safe.” She shook her head, feeling scared and a little excited, she knew he was telling the truth, there would be something amazing inside. She took a step toward the inviting opening, a thousand wonders flitting through her mind, trying to decide what she was going to see. A scream pierced the air, making her jump, someone on one of the rides. she laughed nervously, the tension broken, he continued to smile.

She stopped at the opening, peering into the darkness, there was a lamp lit in the tent, but it didn’t provide much light, she looked at him questioningly and he nodded, “go on.” she stepped inside and the flap closed behind her, she looked around, he had stayed outside. Unease began to grow, what if she was attacked, the noise of revellers would drown out the sound, no one would hear her, if they did, they would think her screams were ones of excitement. She began to turn towards the door when she heard a noise, from the corner of the tent. A low rattle. Peering at the corner, she could see a shape, but not discern exactly what it was. Carefully she stepped closer, then, another few steps. It seemed to be an orb. A dull light began to shine from its centre, she realised it was glass. Stepping closer again, the light grew brighter, illuminating the room and her face, her eyes widened slightly as colours light flowed across her body. She was drawn to it, there was something inside, something playing. She walked to the orb, staring into its centre, watching as the swirling lights began to take shape. It was magnificent, glorious, she tried to take her eyes away but couldn’t, tried to move but she was frozen, then she realised she didn’t care. Something was pulling at her, something deep inside. Slowly, she could feel it draining away, but the sensation was dampened, obscured by the orb in front of her, she watched the dancing, morphing colours as something indefinable, but fundamentally important was taken from her. The orb went dark, the lights stopping. She straightened, then shook her head slightly. Something happened, but what she wasn’t sure. She looked around the dark tent, trying to figure out where she was. The carnival. That’s what she was. She moved slowly, groggily, toward the entrance. Once outside the man was gone. She began to walk towards the shouts and screams, following the noise until she was suddenly surrounded by people. She began to walk, feet moving on their own, carrying her toward something. Her parents. They met her at the entrance, just as planned, together, they walked to the car, her parents talking about what they had done. She felt different, changed, numb.

The got into the car and, after a few minutes the heating warmed it up, warm air blowing against her face, but deep down, she still felt cold. As the car pulled away she looked back at the carnival, the sparkling lights, the noise, the people, knowing something had changed, but unable to figure out what.. An image flared in her head, colours bright and exploding, but it faded as quickly as it came, its cause unknown and its source forgotten.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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