Wednesday, January 30, 2013

You Damned Kids by Steve Ormosi

I've always been fascinated with dark carnival stories.  Thought I'd try my hand at a short one.  Turns out I like being able to come up with a few characters and just be able to plop them in some sort of situation that just makes no sense... and then giving them a really shitty guide through it.


We drank black wine and mumbled obscenities to each other as the day slunk away and the night blossomed.  Darius smoked a clove cigarette while we stood, the wisps of smoke curling away over our heads like escaping spirits.  Anka and Obsidia tittered amongst themselves, black makeup coating their faces.  And I.  I smiled the whole time.  Knowing what I knew, I couldn’t help it.  It was the carnival of sin, the carnival of souls, of death, of destruction.  It was darkness made real.  And though I did not know which of my friends might emerge whole, I could be sure we’d all understand each other better by the end.

The night began in earnest as we rushed through the gates, skillfully decorated to ward off the pure.  A midget dressed in a deep purple vest and top hat greeted us with vigor.

“Step right through, you lost, you damned,” he said, “The carnival begins tonight, and who knows how long it will be in town?”

We all but ignored the small man’s screeching and headed straight for the fun house.  Of all my friends, I was the only one who had been to the last carnival and they knew that I would be there to guide them.  What they could not know was that one cannot be guided through the carnival any more than one can be guided through their own soul.  I had tried to warn them, but I knew that they would not understand.  I didn’t begrudge them for their ignorance.  I’d been the same as them once.

Anka drew close to me as we neared the fun house, “What’s in there?” she asked with some trepidation.

I pointed to her chest and replied, “What’s in there?”

She withdrew coldly and linked arms with Darius, whispering to him, as they followed me through the inner threshold.

Obsidia was at the rear and I looked back at her, “Don’t stay there.  The back is always the worst.”

She quietly moved up next to me and slid her arm around mine.  That was not what I’d intended by the comment but I could not say that I didn’t enjoy the sensation of feeling her warmth on my side.  She looked up at me innocently and I returned the gesture, though I knew it was empty.

As we got to the mirrors, the world seemed to shift.  Things became gray and hazy, as though we had entered a fog.  Obsidia and I looked into the mirror before us as one, I can only imagine what she saw.  As for me, that image of us swallowing each other, Ouroboros-like, scrawled itself into my brain.  I tried to turn away, but the mirror would not let me.  Not until I heard the scream. 

At first I thought, it must be Anka, but I looked behind me and it was Darius on the ground clawing his way backwards, away from the mirror, eyes fixed on the place his reflection had been.  He was still letting out a glass-shattering scream, “TAKE HER, NOT ME!  NEVER AGAIN!” He was pointing at Anka.  Tears began to roll down her cheeks as she stared at him.

“What’s wrong with him?” Anka asked, “What did he see?”

“I don’t know,” I replied honestly.  “And I don’t think he’s going to tell us.”

Darius had finally scratched his way to the back wall and had gone fetal.  Anka walked up to me, “I don’t like this place,” she said, “We need to leave.”

“You’re being tested,” I told her, “We’re all being tested.”

I expected Obsidia to back Anka up, but she was conspicuously quiet.  She had let go of my arm and was simply staring into our mirror.  Her slack jawed expression reminded me of a mental patient in the grips of her medication.  I reached up to hold her, but her hand snatched mine from the air.

“Don’t touch me.”  She said quietly.  “Don’t ever touch me.”

I snatched my hand back, alarmed at first, but that swiftly turned into knowing acceptance.  Then I turned back to Anka, “See?  Obsidia understands.”  I put my arm around Anka’s shoulder’s gently, “Come on, let’s look together.”  I heard Darius softly weeping in the corner, but I ignored it.  He would be ok or he would not.  There was nothing I could do for him now.

Anka allowed me to guide her back to the mirror, but as soon as she pulled her chin up to look, she turned away.

“Look at it,” I whispered in her ear, “How will you see who you are if you don’t look?”

“I don’t want to know who I am anymore.” She protested.  “I want to go home.  Obsidia, let’s get out of here.”

“No,” Obsidia said, “I’m not going anywhere.  It’s my test.”

“Jenn,” Anka said, reverting to Obsidia’s mundane given name, “I’m scared.  Please.”

“No,” Obsidia said again.

“Well I’m leaving,” said Anka tearing herself out of my arms.  With that she ran out.  I never saw her again.  She wasn’t worthy of me.  Of us.

Obsidia remained glued to her mirror and I picked a new one to stare into for the rest of the night.

By the next morning we sprawled on the ground stone faced and exhausted from the previous night’s visions.  We picked ourselves up and walked out of the fun house with Darius in tow, mumbling obscenities only to himself now, barely audible and completely unintelligible.  The carnival workers were packing up, as though this whole production had been only for us and now that we had seen what we’d come to see, there was no reason for them to stay.

They took Darius to an asylum a few days later, when it was clear he’d had a breakdown.  Obsidia and I have spoken every day since, but never of what we saw in those mirrors.  Life has become increasingly boring.  These days all I can do is brood and wait for the next carnival.  

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