By Melissa L. Webb
The bright pennants rustled in the breeze as the dying sunlight lit the midway around me. I stepped out of the funhouse, squinting in the red glow of the fading light. The carnival was silent as I made my way down the steps and stood there, the fiery light adding to the confusion I was feeling.
Something wasn’t right.
When I had left my mother’s side, racing through the clown’s mouth into a world of mirrors, moving walkways, and things that pop up to startle you, it had been early morning. Now the sky suggested night was creeping in, the darkness waiting to wrap its arms around everything in its shadowy embrace.
I knew I couldn’t have been in there more than 10 minutes. Yet, here I was, standing in red sunlight, wondering what had happened to the day. But I couldn’t dwell on that too long. I had a bigger problem. One that caused worry to bubble up through my soul.
Where were all the people?
The midway had been clogged with children begging their parents for another ride, another game. It had been hard to even move, let alone drag my mother to the funhouse. Now the carnival stood eerily quiet. Only silence among the metal behemoths that so recently whirled with excitement.
I walked down the midway, looking for any sign of life. The carnival stayed open until midnight. It should have been packed until then. It was their last night in our small town and everyone would turn out for it. Yet, no one was here. Not even a carnie was in sight.
“Hello?” I called as I cut through the empty rides and made my way into a row of games. There was always someone in the games, barking away as they tried to scam you out of your hard-earned money. They would never miss out on chance like that. “Is anyone here?”
Nothing but the squeak of an unoiled sign answered my question. Loneliness was the theme of the evening as the carnival laid still around me. It was official. I was alone.
I slowly made my way around the park as fear grew thicker in my chest. The sun stayed where it was, never dipping lower, still giving off its blood red glow. It gave the place an other-worldly quality I didn’t like. A tear slipped from the corner of my eye. I didn’t want anything more to do with this place. I just wanted to find my mom and go home.
“What’s the matter, boy?” a voice asked from behind me.
I spun around, hoping for a sympathetic face.
A man stood there, tall and gaunt in black, looking like he belonged more in a funeral parlor than a carnival. He took a step forward, a gentle look on his face. “This is a place of laughter and joy. There is no room for tears here.”
I shook my head. I didn’t know what this place was, but it definitely didn’t inspire laughter and joy in me. ”What is going on? Where is everybody?”
“You’re lost, aren’t you?” the man spoke softly, hypnotizing me with his words. He stepped closer, looking down at me. “We can fix that.”
I looked around me, my fear of this place growing by the minute. If this man could get me out of here, I would gladly accept his help. “Please, sir, I just want to find my mom.”
He nodded sagely and looked over my head at something behind us.
I turned quickly and watched as a dark carriage came in through the front gate pulled by four very large black horses. It pulled up in front of us, the door opened, waiting silently for something.
“I can take you where you need to go,” the man said, motioning to the carriage.
I nodded. Yes, that’s what I needed. A way to get out of this place. He could take me where I needed to go. I let him usher me in, saying goodbye to the dying sunlight as he pulled the door shut. The horses turned around and pulled us silently out the gate.
The woman pushed through the crowd of children, frantically screaming for her son. He had wanted to go in the funhouse first thing, so she had taken him straight there. She stood outside, waiting for his return.
When 20 minutes had gone by and he still wasn’t out, she knew something was wrong. The people searched the ride. Her son was no longer in there.
He’d snuck out the back, or someone had taken him. As she glanced into the faces of the children she passed, she knew one thing for certain. Time was running out. Her son would soon be gone forever.
© 2012 Melissa L. Webb