The Autumn Equinox Fair
“Emmy! They have palm readers here!” My best friend from childhood, Brad, has been in love with this fair gathering for as long as I can remember. Now, this fair isn’t your typical ‘Ferris wheel riding with your crush, funnel cake stands, and face painting’ kind of fairs. No, this was the ‘haunted houses, bobbing for apples, and psychic readings’ kind and they put it on every year during the fall season.
The autumn equinox is almost upon us, which meant I was going to be pulled into telling ghost stories, playing wicked games, and attending haunted gatherings for a good solid month, all thanks to my best friend who couldn’t get enough of this stuff during the Halloween season. I, on the other hand, hated this time of year. It had a lot to do with the fact that my parents loved dressing me up in the most ridiculous costumes they could find before toting me around the neighborhood while the older kids pointed and laughed at me. Ever since then, Halloween was so not my jam. Throw in the fact that I didn’t believe in ghosts and goblins and it was a double whammy.
“Really, Brad? A palm reader? I can tell you about your future right now without even touching you.” I obviously couldn’t, but I was trying to stop him from wasting his time and money. All of these people were a joke and out to make a quick buck.
Brad rolled his eyes at me. “Don’t be such a drag, Emmy. These things are fun and harmless. What’s the worst that she can say?”
“Um, that you’re going to die in a horrific accident in a few years; and because you believe in this crap, you’re going to believe in her words and worry yourself sick until that day passes,” I replied with a snarl. I love Brad, don’t get me wrong, but the kid seriously needed to put his energy into things that were real. He spent entirely too much time in this fantasy world of witches and warlocks with psychic powers.
“At least I believe in something.”
Now I was the one to roll my eyes. “Whatever, Brad. I’m thirsty- do you want something?”
“No, go ahead,” he solemnly replied with his head hung low. I know I probably hurt his feelings, but I was just trying to help him.
I walked away from him and headed towards all the booths and tents that held food and drinks. It was a warm, dark autumn night and the stars above my head were twinkling brightly as the tempting aroma of kettle corn invaded my senses. As I walked, I could hear snatches of conversations around me: whining children wanting to go back into the haunted house, small groups of people discussing their psychic readings, others discussing what they wanted to eat. Screams from the haunted house just beyond the food tents could be heard above everything else, making me roll my eyes. None of that stuff scared me, mostly because I knew it was all fake with actors and actresses dressing up to give people a cheap thrill. Lame.
“What can I get you, little lady?”
I pulled my gaze from two girls I recognized from school, flirting and laughing with two guys I had never seen before. They were actually pretty cute, but you’d never catch me acting like a fool like those girls. It was when I caught the attention of the taller looking guy that made me feel strange. When our eyes connected, it felt like a connection was made between us that I hadn’t recognized before and he was staring at me like I was the only person in the world. I tore my eyes away and looked up at the worker in the food truck.
“Hi- yeah, can I just get a water?” I pulled my wad of cash from my back pocket and handed the man a few dollar bills before he handed me a bottle of ice-cold water, freezing my fingers almost immediately. I cracked it open and took a greedy drink as I turned back towards the girls I recognized from school, but they were no longer making fools of themselves with the two cute strangers. My eyes scanned the immediate area, hoping to spot the two guys again, but they were gone. Why was I even looking for them anyway? It’s not like I would actually go up and talk to them, but I have to admit that they were nice to look at.
“Hey, I know you…”
An unfamiliar voice broke me from my thoughts as I spun on my heel and came face to face with a gypsy looking woman who clearly stepped out of one of the side-show tents, perhaps to take a break, but I didn’t recognize this woman at all.
“You must have me confused for someone else,” I suggested, looking around for Brad but he was gone. Where the hell does he keep going?!
“No, I definitely know who you are, but…” she paused as she studied my face, “but you look different.” Her head cocked to the side as if she were contemplating what her own words meant. “Emersyn?”
A cold chill swept over my body as I began to shiver, but not from actually being cold. No, this was a nervous shiver and one that wasn’t welcomed.
“How do you know my name?” I whispered.
Her face contorted to pure confusion. “Do you not recognize me? I was hoping you’d give me a little insight into my moment of déjà vu.” She now looked as confused as I felt, but I know without a doubt that I have never met this woman in my life.
“I’m sorry ma’am, but I don’t know who you are. Maybe you remember me from the fair from a previous year? I come here every year with my best friend.” My arms came up and wrapped around my chest as the shivering became almost unbearable. Why was I telling this strange woman so much? She wasn’t asking any of these details and they just kept spewing from my mouth involuntarily.
She looked completely taken aback but shook her head anyway. “Perhaps you’re right. I’m sorry for scaring you.” Her head nodded towards my shaking body that was obviously visibly noticeable to her. “Come see me at my tent.” My eyes watched her delicate fingers slip into the small pouch hanging around her neck before she retrieved a card from within it and handed it to me.
I looked down at the card in my hand and read her information and it was just what I had predicted. Her business card had a crystal ball in the center with a single eye drawn over it while her name and title were neatly printed just below it:
Tarot Card Reader
Past Life Regression
“Perhaps I can help you remember who you are,” she added, still eyeing me suspiciously.
I had no idea what the hell she was talking about, but I nodded at her anyway and shoved the card into my back pocket. She was definitely making me uncomfortable; so, I turned on my heel and headed back towards the area I had left Brad at and hoped I would find him around. I’m not sure what happened, but the night air no longer felt warm and the shift in my energy was making me nauseous.
Fair-goers were still lined up at each tent I passed, no doubt hoping to get in quickly for their reading when I noticed that the pathways were no longer lit by solar lights but were now old-looking wax candles. Or, perhaps I was just losing my mind. Were they always candles? In previous years they had always used solar lighting, but maybe they were trying to be more realistic this year.
My heart was slamming against my ribcage with each step I took as my eyes scanned the area for Brad. He wasn’t where I had left him and I cursed under my breath. Why does he always do this to me?! I spun in a circle trying to find the tent for the palm reader, knowing that’s where I’d most likely find him, but that’s when I noticed all the tents had changed as well. Gone were the tidy canvas tents that all looked relatively the same; now there were tents of varying shapes and sizes, with large tattered rugs hung over ropes as if they were teleported from the 17th century.
“What the fu…” I breathed out, losing my words when I finally spotted Brad standing in line for the palm reader. “Brad!”
Thankfully he heard me as I watched him spin towards my voice and wave me over with an enormous grin on his face. I quickly made my way over towards him as the wind swept across my body, chilling the sweat that had built around my forehead and neck. I went from being freezing to sweaty? What’s going on with me?
“Are you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” Brad brought his hand up to my face, studying me. “Wait, you didn’t actually see a ghost did you?!” He looked beyond my shoulder with a silly smile on his face.
I playfully smacked him in the chest. “No, Brad, I didn’t see a ghost.” I looked around at the unfamiliar tents and candles lining the pathways before looking back up into Brad’s eyes, wondering if he noticed the change too. “Do you notice anything different?”
“No? Am I missing something?”
Damn, I really am losing my mind. “Nothing, don’t worry about it.”
Brad chuckled before he wrapped his arm around my neck and pulled me into line with him.
“By the way, I met some new friends.” Two guys turned around and looked down at me and I felt my mouth go dry as I stared up at them. They were the two cute guys I saw talking with the girls from our school just a few minutes ago. “This is Kit and Tristan. They’re brothers and new to the area.”
I timidly looked between the two brothers but it was the taller one who caught my attention the most as his gaze pierced into mine. His crystal blue eyes twinkled on a face that had a five o’clock shadow and a chiseled jaw. Chocolate brown hair sat unkempt on the top of his head as my eyes traveled towards his torso. It was clear that he was hiding a muscular and powerful body beneath his sweater and jeans, but he didn’t seem like he cared much about showing off his assets. There was just something so familiar- yet not- about this guy. Have I met him or crossed paths with him before tonight? Because that’s the only explanation I have for this fleeting moment of déjà vu.
The other brother, however, was equally familiar to me, but I wasn’t as drawn to him as I was to the taller brother. Tristan’s eyes were more of a golden color and his hair was buzzed to his skull, although I could see just enough growth to tell me that he was a light brunette. He also sported a five o’clock shadow and I couldn’t help but notice how much the brothers looked alike. They could be twins!
“It’s nice to meet you,” I finally replied before clearing my throat. “What brings you to Baton Rouge?”
“The past,” Tristan supplied with a grin on his lips.
Well, that’s not a strange answer, is it? I nodded as if I knew what he was talking about. “Did you two grow up here?” I know I’d never seen them before tonight, but it was a large city; perhaps I just never crossed paths with them, but this feeling deep inside of me told me that I had. How do I know them?! It’s driving me mad!
The taller brother, Kit, shook his head. “We’ve never been to Baton Rouge before. We came to see someone, but it’s clear to us that we might have made a mistake. The person we came here for doesn’t exactly remember who we are.”
I looked between Brad and the brothers with confusion. This conversation was getting weirder by the second and now I felt a bit awkward, not sure what to say or do.
“Sorry, folks, but this tent is closed for the evening!” A tall, bulky man with a huge beard emerged from said tent and roared above the chatter of the growing line, to which he was met with moans of displeasure. The man went back into the tent, tightly closing the fabric to keep the public out.
“Ah, man! I really wanted to get my palm read!” Brad whined and pouted like a five-year-old that didn’t get a wand of cotton candy when he asked for one at the circus.
I patted him on the back. “Don’t worry, buddy, you know we’ll be back before the fair leaves town.” To be exact, I knew if I wasn’t leaving for New Orleans soon that we’d probably be back every single night until they all packed up and left; I never looked forward to it, but I did it for my best friend.
“Now what are we going to do?” Brad asked.
“I know of something,” Tristan replied and completely threw me off guard. I had almost forgotten the two brothers were standing here with us in line. “It’s no palm reading, but I know of a game we can play. Have you ever heard of light as a feather, stiff as a board?”
“Tristan,” Kit warned with a growl in his tone.
“Yes! I’ve heard of it but I’ve never played,” Brad answered as he pointed in my direction with his thumb, “This little tart won’t play with me.”
Both of the brothers stared at me as I rolled my eyes. Okay, here we go again. Why am I rolling my eyes so much tonight? “It’s a stupid children’s game and a total waste of time.”
“Is that so?” Tristan questioned with a smirk. “It might be a stupid children’s game, but what else do you suggest we do?”
I wanted to suggest that we all say goodnight and go home, but I knew Brad wasn’t ready for that. He hated going home for reasons I couldn’t blame him for and knew he’d want to stay out and play.
“Please, Emmy?” Brad pouted his bottom lip when I looked at him and knew I couldn’t tell him no. I’ve never been able to.
“Alright, fine,” I groaned out, “but where are we going to do this?”
Tristan nodded behind me. “Just over that hill. There’s a nice area within the tree line that will give us some privacy and block the chill of the wind.”
We all followed behind Tristan as he led us out of the fair and up the steep hill towards the tree line he had indicated. I hated this. I really didn’t want to do this, but I knew Brad would do anything for me, so I went along for now.
When we reached the top of the hill, I turned to look out over the fairgrounds and had to admit it looked very magical and welcoming from up here. The twinkle lights that hung from several of the gypsy tents gave a nice glow along with the lit candles along the walking trails. Light jazz music could be heard off in the distance from the kettle corn booth and people still milled about, going from one tent to the next. And just beyond all of that was the makeshift market that held all kinds of metaphysical goodies that could be used as decor or for more deviant activities. Brad had a bag in his hand from that very market that held several objects he claimed he’d use for decor, but nobody is putting a stick of sage and several talismans up as decor. He genuinely worried me sometimes.
“Who’s going to be the one lying down?” Brad’s question pulled me back from gawking at the fair as I turned to gaze at him. My eyes then traveled to the brothers who were both looking back at me.
“You.” Tristan pointed at me as he cocked his head and grinned.
I shook my head and guffawed. “Me?! Why me? He’s the one who wants to do this!” I pointed at Brad, totally throwing him under the bus.
“You’re going to lie down because he wants to do this,” Kit snapped out, causing me to glare at him. Does he have a problem with me? Why the hostility all of a sudden? “Besides,” he added, “you don’t believe in this, right? This only works if the people kneeling believe.”
I snorted. “Oh, here we go.”
“Emmy,” Brad pleaded, “Do this for me?” His bottom lip pouted out again and I wanted to snatch it with my fingers and rip it off. If he pouts at me one more time tonight, I’m going to leave him here.
“Don’t I have to believe as well? I would imagine the person lying down has to believe just as much as the people kneeling around them.” I was trying to make a point. Would they stop these shenanigans if I didn’t believe?
“Nah. We’ll make a believer out of you yet.” Tristan came up and wrapped an arm around my neck but when he did so I felt a zap of electricity pass between us and it was almost painful. I jumped away from him, noticing that he must have felt it, too, because his lashes fluttered while a bewildered look swept across his face.
“What the hell was that?” I asked, rubbing my neck where the electric shock connected between us.
“I’m not sure…” Tristan’s tone told me otherwise and when I looked up at him, he looked up at Kit as relief suffused his features.
I desperately wanted to ask what that exchange was all about, but I didn’t have the chance when Brad stepped up and eagerly wanted to get the game started.
“Let’s do this already!” Brad grabbed my arm and pulled me towards a patch of grass that was plush and plentiful, giving me a soft place to lie down. “Alright, what do we do next?”
As I awkwardly sat cross-legged in the grass, the three of them knelt beside me. Kit’s eyes never left mine and it felt like he was trying to see straight into my soul. He hadn’t looked at me like this at all tonight and it was a bit unsettling. His gaze told me that he knew who I was. A look of recognition flashed through his eyes and even though I had a strong moment of recognition and déjà vu before, I knew that I didn’t know either of them. However, Kit was looking at me as if we did indeed know each other and he was willing me to remember.
“Just lay back, Emmy. Try to get comfortable,” Tristan instructed as he reached out and grabbed my arm. Thankfully this time he didn’t shock me and I was grateful for that.
I pulled my gaze from Kit’s and lied back in the grass, stretching my legs out while placing my hands gently on the chilled grass blades. “Now what?” I asked.
“Close your eyes,” Kit replied as he knelt to my left, as close to me as he could get without actually touching me.
Before I closed my eyes, I looked to see where everyone was. Kit was to my left while Brad and Tristan knelt at my right, both sitting close without touching me as well. My eyes drifted closed as I tried to focus on what this game actually meant. I remember some of the girls I was friends with in junior high wanted to play this, but I was always a stick in the mud and refused to join in; that ended with me downstairs, eating cookies and hanging out with the host’s mom.
Tristan explained the rules of the game. They each had to place two fingers from each hand just beneath me, thinking in their heads what they wanted to accomplish, and then start chanting, “Light as a feather, stiff as a board.” Even though my eyes were closed, I still rolled them, thinking to myself that I’d rather be at home right now, listening to my mom discuss my upcoming birthday party than lying here in the cold, wet grass with several fingers touching me. Four fingers from two guys I didn’t know. Creepy.
I heard Kit mumble something next to me in a strange language that I wasn’t familiar with as I whipped my eyes open and looked over at him. His eyes were closed while his lips moved, whispering something unintelligible. I couldn’t help but watch him and memorize the planes of his features: his plump lips, high cheekbones, and long lashes. Kit was a very attractive guy and I never really noticed just how much until now.
His eyes opened and his gaze found mine right away. The corners of his mouth tried to form a smile but he pushed it away, turning his lips into a scowl instead.
“You need to close your eyes,” he instructed, cocking an eyebrow at me.
I quickly closed my eyes once more and turned my face back towards the night sky, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the words Kit had just spoken and what they could possibly mean. The events from tonight just kept getting weirder and weirder and I wanted to go home now more than ever.
“Light as a feather, stiff as a board,” they began chanting in unison, over and over.
As their voices drifted around me, I began to let my mind wander, thinking of the most random thoughts as they came and went. I wonder what Brad’s going to get me for my birthday. Is Dad going to record the entire thing like he did every year? My grandma Ruth will probably be there again, squeezing my cheeks until they stung.
My eyes whipped open when I became annoyed and impatient. I was sick of lying here playing this ridiculous game. But when I opened my eyes, it was then that I noticed I was no longer touching the ground. All three of them still had their eyes closed, continuing to chant the phrase over and over, all while my heart began to wildly pound in my chest.
“Uh, guys?” Anxiety consumed me unlike anything before and I wanted to run but my body was frozen. I feared that if I moved, I’d fall hard to the ground.
When I looked back over at Kit, his eyes were now open and he was staring at me, his lips still moving to the words of the chant but I could no longer hear him speaking them.
His eyebrows lifted amusingly as he cocked his head and licked his lips. “Still don’t believe?” A cold chill swam over my body while I found that I couldn’t pull my gaze from his. “There are things in this world that you’ll never know exist unless you open your eyes, Emersyn.”