The boy looked about six or seven but the grime encrusting his hands and face made it impossible to be sure. Between pinched finger and thumb, he held one end of a green string. The other end was tethered to the ankle of a wailing infant, equally grimy, that floated a few feet above the boy's head. The boy smiled with brilliant-white teeth.
"I won him at the funfair," he said, his voice old and gravelly. "You wanna come to the funfair? You can win all kinds of stuff."
The infant stopped wailing
"Don't listen," it said. It's voice neither male or female, was soft and chiming and I felt myself go weak at the sound of it.
"Don't listen to a word this lying toe-rag says. He's filth and dirt through and through. Don't listen."
"All kinds of stuff," the boy said.
But I did listen and whether the boy was lying or not, he had my undivided attention. I wanted to go to the funfair and see for myself what this strange boy was talking about, so I followed them back to the funfair. It was smaller than I expected, but just as horrific.
Everything in the carnival was backwards and upside down. The carousel horses spun around upside down as the riders screamed and some tried to get off the steeds, but they were stuck to the seats.
Strange music filtered up from a large cavern in the ground. It was sad and off key. Later, I discovered that the strangeness wasn't caused so much by the tone of the music as the fact that the music played backwards.
The grounds were dotted with game booths and as I left the boy with his human balloon and walked up to a booth, I understood how the boy had won his prize. The carousel was the only ride on the fair grounds. Everything else consisted of game booths and each booth had an assortment of grotesque prizes. What the boy said was true. A person could get all kinds of stuff, but who would want them? They weren't the usual cute teddy bear or cupid doll. All the prizes were either alive or had been alive at one time.
Looking at the squirming, screeching prizes, made me nauseous. At one of the booths, a man threw a ball at a spinning wheel, and instead of numbers, a Texas-sized cockroach was pinned to the wheel. All four of its legs kicked the air as he struggled to free itself. The man looked like a hunter and wore a plaid hunter's jacket. He might have been in his mid twenties or early thirties. He laughed loudly at something the man behind the booth said to another man drinking from a dark colored bottle
On another section of the wheel, a star fish had pins through its tentacles.
A woman skipped by me holding a string in her hand like the boy I had followed earlier. A disembodied voice floated above her in a gruesome parody of a bobble head. She sang out in a sing song voice, "Look at my Husband Head balloon. Look at my Husband Head balloon" to everyone she passed.
Darkness had fallen and suddenly more game booths popped up on the grounds along with some rides that hadn't been there earlier.
I cringed inside as I saw what looked like another game wheel only it was a kind of ride where people were strapped on it and as the wheel spun around, a contraption strapped onto the ride, slung daggers at them. Every so often the ride stopped at the top and whoever was pinned to that section of the wheel got stabbed with the dagger. Blood curdling screams pierced the night and my eardrums.
I had come to this macabre place at twilight and now in the full darkness, the game booths and rides were lit up with bright colored lights accompanied by the underground music.
I lost track of the boy and his infant balloon, but I knew they were around somewhere and I wasn't eager to encounter them again.
So far I had seen nothing I wanted to win. The things I saw turned my stomach and I vomited onto the dry ground more than once.
It hadn't taken long to see all the horrific sights of the funfair, and I wanted more than anything else to leave, but I lost track of time. Just a few minutes ago, it had been pitch black and then I saw the sky lighten in the East.
Searching for the exit gate was a journey in madness. The entire structure of the fair seemed to have reversed and I couldn't find my way out. The gates had disappeared.
Circling the grounds for the third time still looking for a way out, I noticed dawn was approaching quicker than I expected. While captivated by the lightening horizon, the ever present carousel music suddenly stopped. At the same time, one by one, the game booths melted into the ground as if they had never existed. An electrified fence surrounding the grounds sizzled once then disappeared. I didn't need the gate. I was finally free to leave.
As the last tendrils of night gave way to day, I stood outside what had been the funfair, but now was nothing but an empty lot. The boy with the infant balloon bobbing over his head, walked by still beckoning anyone who would listen. "Come to the funfair where you can get all kinds of stuff, what you want, not what you need." Then he too, vanished into the air and I was left standing in the same spot where I had first seen him.
The funfair hadn't been fun. It had eaten away at my mind so I didn't recognize my own thoughts, but the strangeness of a night fair that disappeared with the sunrise fascinated me. In spite of what I had seen and been through, I knew I'd be back the next night and the next and in spite of my revulsion, I knew I would not come home empty handed.
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