Carnival

An ink stained night and a canopy of silver stars welcomed the rumble and clank of trucks and the smoking smell of diesel engines. Headlights slithered through the darkness as the line of ramshackle vehicles lumbered onto the fairgrounds and split the silence with belching exhaust fumes and the whine of old gears.

From the shadows I watched, under an old oak tree. My favourite type of tree. It’s a bit like me, a constant in a strange and evolving world. Much like this parade of carnival trucks. Old souls in a world passing them over.

Remnants clinging to hope against death and obscurity.

Perhaps that’s why I come, why I seek out these bits of forgotten eras. Nostalgic indulgence. So much of this world is loud and frantic, full of stress and panic. While I enjoyed those whispers of fear, sometimes I needed quiet reflection. Time to savour the memories, and contemplate my future.

Movement caught my attention, and dispersed my musing. I inhaled the pungent smell of animals and listened to the chatter as the carnies raised their tents and bolted the amusement booths together. I relished the clanging music of the hammers and the hoarse shouts, waiting for it all to blossom into a garish, colour-filled extravaganza. A wonder, this overnight eruption of nomadic fair, this constructed arena of entertainment. Perhaps a bit faded around the edges, or tattered by too many days on the road, but still such a treat.

I love their camaraderie and tradition. So human. So unmindful of the darkness.

I lifted my hand and let the starlight play against the skin. Fingers trembled slightly, a warning. A battering heartbeat fluttered, thumping erratically inside this chest. I sighed. My time was nearly done with this one. Regret mingled with anticipation. A new life about to begin, built on the death of the old one. I’ve worn many guises over my lifetime, been many people. Male, female, child, elderly.

A shame the hosts don’t last longer. Still, we had a good run, he and I.

I let the memory of our first encounter play out in his mind. Two towns west of here, at a harvest fair. The moonlight bathed the amusement rides the night before and the sun rose on a beautiful fall day. I wore a younger skin then; a restless, awkward teenager that accepted his fate too easily.

I never fit that host. I prefer them with more fight.

Perhaps that caused the difficult time in choosing that year; it took me hours to find a new skin. Searching among the rides and games, lingering, appraising, breathing in the smell of cotton candy and funnel cake. A fruitless hunt until I ventured past the noise and wandered near the edge of the carnival grounds. I knew the moment I spied him, he was the one.

Blond, blue-eyed, rugged. A perfect specimen enjoying a smoke behind a tree.

I left my failing host in a surge of black fire and passion, strangely heedless of chance observation. I swarmed him, possessed him, and the touch of his skin sang of salt and sweat. His soul rose to meet my attack in an agony of desperation as I burned through his defenses, but he fell to me as they all do. My invasion pierced through his thoughts and memories, shredded his control, and bound his mind and spirit into my will. He was a cornucopia of terror and defiance, and I feasted on those emotions.

Oh, how I feasted.

He fought until the end, until I boxed him safe and sound, making each moment I destroyed who he was a savoured delicacy. I hadn’t taken a host with such enjoyment in decades, and his agony, fear, and misery kept me gratifyingly fed this past year. I relished living his life, corrupting all he cherished. Listening to him scream from the prison I made for him inside his own body. Feeling his despair as death crept closer with each passing day.

He was special. I’ll miss this face.

I smiled at the memories, dark excitement rising through his borrowed blood. He served me well, my stimulating skin; a flawless mask to hide behind. An ideal life to steal. Yet, I can feel him dissolving, his flesh decaying. He is dying.

Yes, time to move on. Maybe a woman this year…

 

~ A. F. Stewart

© Copyright 2017 A. F. Stewart. All Rights Reserved.

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About afstewart

A writer of speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, horror) and an indie author of such books as Ruined City, Killers and Demons and Chronicles of the Undead. Also a contributor to the anthology, Mechanized Masterpieces.

19 responses to “Carnival”

  1. jenanita01 says :

    Imagine my surprise when I discovered you are a woman! I have read and enjoyed your stories before, and always imagined a man wrote them. Silly really, as if all women write far more gentle stories.
    Your stories are deliciously dark, written with such empathy of the evil entities that share our souls…
    My apologies…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lee Andrew Forman says :

    Fantastic story, Anita! Love the carnival theme!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brian Moreland says :

    Absolutely wonderful! This story both gave me the nostalgia of past carnivals and treated me to delightful a new horror.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Brian Moreland says :

    Reblogged this on THE CRYPT OF HORROR and commented:
    Here’s a new horror short story “Carnival” by A.F. Stewart from Pen of the Damned.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Veronica Magenta Nero says :

    Very evocative AF, I really enjoyed this tale

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Joseph Pinto says :

    Wonderful tale, Anita!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. John Potts Jr says :

    Quite the sinister tale you wrote, Anita. The creature’s melancholy was shown so well and paced perfectly. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Nina D'Arcangela says :

    Love this piece, Anita! You have a way of enthralling the reader and pulling them into your prose that is almost a bit of voodoo in itself! My favorite line ‘…the touch of his skin sang of salt and sweat.’ Beautifully written, scribe77! 🙂

    Like

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