On the drive to school, William kept thinking back to his dream the previous night. It was funny, he remembered being scared, but he only felt happy when he thought of it. The fun he had with his friends completely blotted out the fear he felt at the end. When he thought of Mister Fumplestink, he could only smile. Then, the strangest thing happened when he got to school. Everyone in his class was talking about Mister Fumplestink and his Fun Emporium. It was as if they all had the same dream.
“Mr. Rupert, what is an emporium?” asked Carl Harris.
“What a great question, does anyone know?”
Sure enough, Betty Smith’s hand shot in the air.
“An emporium is like a business or market that provides people with many goods!”
“Very good Betty,” Mr. Rupert said, always feeding into her know it all tendencies.
“So a fun emporium would provide lots of fun?” Carl asked.
“Um sure, I suppose so,” replied Mr. Rupert, “Where did you hear about a fun emporium?”
The class exploded with excited explanation about Mister Finnegan Fumplestink and his Fun Emporium. They all yelled over one another about the games and rides and snacks. Mr. Rupert was taken aback by this disruption, and he did not know what to make of their story, besides crediting it to some TV show or movie.
That night at dinner, William finally decided to tell his parents about the dreams. He was too excited not to. All he wanted to do was climb into bed and go back to the large tent.
“I lied to you guys the other night,” his parents turned and looked at him questioningly, “When I said I didn’t go into the tent in my dream, I was lying. I did go into the tent.”
The questioning looks on their faces vanished, and William’s father smiled.
“Well don’t keep us in suspense pal, what happened?”
“At first it was dark and quiet and scary. There was someone crying under the bleachers, named Wimbelwoan. Wimbelwoan grabbed me, and I woke up. Then last night, all the kids from my class were in the tent playing games and eating snacks. Mike and Neil were there, and we had so much fun! Then Mister Fumplestink came out and rode around on a unicycle. He apologized to me about the night before and said Wimbelwoan was naughty and had to be put in timeout. Then I woke up, and at school today, everyone was talking about it like they had the same dream!”
His parents gave each other strange looks. His mother then turned to him and gave an uneasy smile.
“I’m glad you are having a good time in your dreams again. Make sure you keep taking your medicine and be sure to tell Dr. Jacob all about it at your appointment on Monday.”
“I will Mom!”
William finished his dinner and rushed upstairs to get ready for bed. It was early, but he did not want to miss out on a second of fun with Mister Fumplestink at the Fun Emporium.
For the remainder of the week and through the weekend, the children spent their nights with Fumplestink at his Fun Emporium. They played the games and rode the rides and ate the snacks, and near the end of the night, Mister Fumplestink would ride out of the flap marked “Dreamland” on his unicycle and address the crowd. Then he would play games with them until morning. The real fun didn’t start until Fumplestink joined in, and it was always so late in the night that the children only had a short amount of time with him. Despite all the fun they had, by the end of the night, they were always left wanting more. The days became an endless routine of waiting for the night. Children told their parents about their dreams, and stories of Fumplestink’s Fun Emporium spread all throughout Rempstone.
Every night was the same for William; he would have a great time with his friends, but then at the end of the night, after Fumplestink came out, he would feel a terrible sensation of fear sweep over him. The next morning, the feeling would be gone, and he would only think about the fun. Then Sunday night came and with it, trouble.
The children had been playing like they did every night. The music stopped, and the drum roll began, so they made their way to the bleachers and awaited Fumplestink. He came out and rode around on the unicycle. The children cheered, and when he started to speak, he was interrupted by Betty Smith. She ran from the bleachers toward him and gave him a great big hug. She barely came up to his waist, but he reached down and returned the hug. Betty was in tears when she began to speak.
“Mister Fumplestink, Carl Harris pulled my hair in the cotton candy line!”
“Well that was awfully naughty of him was it not? Carl come here.”
Carl Harris slowly stood up and made his way over to Fumplestink in the middle of the circular clearing. Fumplestink’s expression was calm and comforting.
“Carl, why did you pull Betty’s hair?”
Carl couldn’t answer, he was absolutely petrified. The color in his face had left, and he just stared into Fumplestink’s hypnotic gaze as he walked towards them.
“That was awfully naughty of you Carl.”
Carl’s gaze shifted from Fumplestink to a section of bleachers to his left. It was the same section of bleachers that Mister Fumplestink lead William behind. The same section of bleachers with the metal door with the sign reading “Timeout”.
Carl’s mouth opened with shock and disbelief. He turned to Mister Fumplestink and began begging him.
“Please! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to!”
“I am sorry Carl, but naughty children must be punished.”
William could not see anything other than the children on the bleachers, but Carl saw something. Judging from the look on his face, it was something terrible. He fell to his knees in front of Fumplestink, sobbing and begging and looking to the left at whatever invisible horror he saw. Fumplestink gave him the same response.
“Naughty children must be punished.”
All of a sudden, Carl stood upright, straight as an arrow. He let out a horrible shriek as his body flew across the tent towards the bleachers with the timeout door behind them. The timeout door moved along the wall of the tent until it was out from behind the bleachers. The chains fell off, and the large metal door swung open. Carl flew inside, and the door immediately shut behind him. The chains relocked themselves, and the door slid back behind the bleachers. It was dead silent in the tent.
William felt that horrible feeling of fear he felt every night, but this time it was much more intense. It was paralyzing, and he could not move. He could only sit there with his eyes fixed on Mister Fumplestink.
Betty Smith eventually broke the silence.
“Mister Fumplestink, I wish I could stay here with you forever. I don’t want to go back to school anymore.”
A large smile spread the length of Mister Fumplestink’s face, and he stared down at Betty.
“Are you sure that is what you want Betty?”
Mister Fumplestink looked up at the crowd in the bleachers.
“You all can stay with me forever if that is what you want. You have to come with me to Dreamland. We can play forever. We will have so much fun.”
Nobody in the bleachers moved. They all stared at Fumplestink and Betty with uneasy looks on their faces. William tried to yell to Betty and tell her not to go, but he couldn’t move or speak. Mister Fumplestink took Betty by the hand and lead her towards the flap with the sign reading “Dreamland”. The buzzing and nausea returned to William. As the two walked to the flap, the closer they got, the more intense the buzzing got. As Mister Fumplestink lifted the flap, the buzzing became unbearable. All around William there was buzzing. He was drowning in it. He screamed for help, but no one heard him. The nausea overtook him, and he threw up. The buzzing was gone, and he was sitting up straight in his bed, covered in vomit. He looked up and saw both his parents in the doorway. They had worried looks on their faces.
William’s father took off work to stay home with him. His parents wouldn’t let him go to school that day. They called Dr. Jacob to see if they could move his appointment to earlier, and after explaining he had woken them by screaming and then threw up on himself, Dr. Jacob agreed. His mother left for work, and his dad cleaned up his bed and came downstairs.
“What happened William?”
“Mister Fumplestink did something to Betty and Carl.”
“I know it may seem scary but remember that it is only a dream.”
“But it feels real.”
“You will feel better after you get some food in your belly. Then afterwards, we will go pay Dr. Jacob a visit.”
William ate his breakfast, but it did not make him feel better. Unlike the previous nights, the feeling of fear did not leave him this time. All he could think about was Carl Harris’s face as he stared at the invisible entity.
As they drove through the Tree Tunnel, William noticed that the branches of the trees were almost completely barren. In one week’s time, they had lost all their leaves, giving them a haunting look of gnarled hands stretching overhead, meeting each other at their crooked fingertips. Quite fitting, since Halloween was Thursday of that very same week.
All the children had been so caught up with Mister Fumplestink that no one had even talked about what they planned to dress up as for Halloween. William’s parents usually helped him put together a costume from miscellaneous items and articles of clothing from around the house. The previous year he had been a squid, wearing a red cone on his head and stuffing long red socks with paper to wear around his waist. A red sweatshirt and a pair of red sweatpants completed the look. Maybe he could be Santa Claus and use the same theme of red clothing. It may be nice to dress up as a jolly figure to alleviate some of the fear from Mister Fumplestink.
The car pulled up to Dr. Jacob’s office, and William and his father went inside. Dr. Jacob was waiting to greet them. He smiled and led William into his office. William’s father sat down in the waiting area and took out his laptop to do some work.
“So, William, I hear you finally went inside the tent. Tell me about it.”
“Well at first it was scary, and this naughty child named Wimbelwoan grabbed me. Mister Fumplestink, the ringmaster of the circus, put Wimbelwoan in timeout as a punishment.”
“My wife told me that some of the children at school had been talking about this Mister Fumplestink person. What can you tell me about him?”
Dr. Jacob’s wife, Mrs. Wilmington, was the principal of St. Michael the Archangel Elementary School. She was mean and strict at school, but whenever William ran into her outside of school, she had always been very nice to him, especially when Dr. Jacob was around. Maybe to run a school, one has to be strict and mean.
“He is tall and wears purple clothes, and at first he seemed really nice and fun. But last night, he punished Carl Harris by putting him in the timeout room, and he took Betty Smith with him into Dreamland.”
“What is Dreamland?”
William shrugged, “I don’t know. Mister Fumplestink said if we went there, we could play with him forever. Dr. Jacob, all the other kids in school seem to have the same dream about Mister Fumplestink, is it possible for people to share a dream?”
Dr. Jacob leaned back and rubbed his chin, “Hmm, now I know there has been research in the past into group dreaming, but I don’t think any hard evidence ever came up. I suppose anything is possible, but I have never encountered anyone who could share dreams with someone else.”
William was sure that he and his classmates were group dreaming. Unless…then a terrible thought came over William. What is it wasn’t a dream at all? What if it was all real?
Dr. Jacob continued to question William about the dream and the emotions it provoked in him for the remainder of their session. As always, Dr. Jacob gave William a treat, once again a giant chocolate bar. William thanked him, and he and his father got in the car to drive home.
The whole drive, William kept thinking about whether the dreams were real or not. He had to know for sure.
“Dad, could we maybe drive by Warwick Field?”
His father let out a sigh, “That’s on the other side of town, pal,” he looked at William through the rearview mirror, and when he saw how distressed his son looked, he said, “Okay, we can swing by if it will make you feel any better.”
The town of Rempstone was not very large, so to drive from one end to the other could be done quite easily in about twenty minutes. Warwick Field was a good way outside of the town, and one had to drive on Highway 321 to get there. The field had been used for many events, most notably The Southern Cookin’ Music Festival, when people from all over would come together and prepare traditional southern dishes. There was always music, usually smaller, lesser known bands, but sometimes a well-known artist would make an appearance. Then, some kind of incident happened at the festival ten years back, and ever since, the field has sat empty.
The car pulled up to the edge of the field and parked. The field was hardly even a field anymore. Long, stringy grass had grown up all over. There were shrubs and even small trees growing. There was so much vegetation that it was hard to enter the field. William’s father lifted him up onto his shoulders so he could see farther out. There was no tent. In fact, the only structure visible was a dilapidated white shack, cracked and overgrown with vines.
“What is that building, Dad?”
“I think it used to be a supply shed or something back in the days of the festival. There used to be more buildings around it, but they were knocked down around the time of the incident.”
“What was the incident?”
“Oh, you don’t want to hear about that son. It was not a pretty time in this town’s history. I’m not even sure of exactly what happened. I wasn’t at the festival. I only heard about it on the news, and even then, I couldn’t believe it. Now let’s get out of here. There is no tent, and your mother will be getting home soon. We wouldn’t want to worry her by not being there.”
They got into the car and drove home. William’s mother arrived a few minutes after. She asked about their day, and so they told her about it. They all sat down for dinner, ate, and then William joined them on the couch to watch TV. He felt better after going to the field, but he was not excited to go to sleep that night. He munched on the chocolate bar that Dr. Jacob gave him while they watched the news.
“In other news, local child, Betty Smith has gone missing. Her parents reported that when they came to wake her up this morning, she was nowhere to be found. Only a pile of a white powdery substance was in her bed. Before disappearing, Betty had mentioned coming into contact with a man by the name of Finnegan Fumplestink. The children of a local elementary school all claimed to encounter this Fumplestink in their dreams. Whether he is a real person or not is unknown at this point. Anyone with any information on Betty or Fumplestink is encouraged to come forward immediately.”
William froze with horror as he stared at the picture of Betty on the TV screen. His parents looked at each other with unease. Any relief that he had felt after going to Warwick Field was gone. All he felt was terror, and when it came time to go to sleep, he begged his parents to let him stay up.
“William, I know you are pretty shaken up, but keep taking your medicine. You will be fine.”
He lay in bed, staring at his ceiling. He was fighting so hard to stay awake. The medicine was taking effect, making it ever so difficult, but he was determined. He would not fall asleep that night. Then he was in Warwick Field, and the tent was in front of him. He heard the same familiar sounds of laughter from inside, and when he entered, he saw all the children playing around like nothing had happened, all except Carl and Betty of course.
Mister Fumplestink usually did not come out until later in the night, but he was already out and about, mingling with the children, playing games with them. He kept glancing over at William, giving him a large smile each time that made William shudder.
William went and found Mike and Neil and tried to make it seem like he was having a good time in hopes that Mister Fumplestink would stop looking at him. It did not work, and all night Mister Fumplestink’s hypnotic green eyes followed William from game to game. When it came time for Mister Fumplestink to address the crowd, he did not ride around on his unicycle. Instead, he just walked to the center pedestal, and the silencing of the music signaled for the children to find their seats.
“I know everyone must be concerned about Betty and Carl. You should not be. Betty and I have been playing all day together in Dreamland, having more fun than imaginable. Carl is a naughty child. Naughty children must be punished. I hope you all can go on having a fun time. I would hate to see any one of you ruin the fun for anyone else. That would be very naughty,” he looked directly at William while he said this, “And remember, everyone is welcome to join me in Dreamland. All you have to do is ask.”
With that, Mister Fumplestink turned and vanished behind the flap marked “Dreamland”. The children cheered and went back to playing. William sat in the bleachers. He didn’t feel like playing. He wanted this dream to stop. He wanted to know what happened to Betty. He wanted to know if Carl was okay. He wanted to know why all the other children were playing like nothing happened. He wanted to wake up.
William sat in the bleachers for the rest of the night, but it felt like forever. Mike and Neil tried to get him to come play with them and gave him funny looks when he said he didn’t want to. Even though Fumplestink had gone behind the flap, William still felt as if he was being watched by someone or something.
The next day William was back at school and planned to ask Carl if he was alright. Carl was nowhere to be found, and when he asked Mr. Rupert about it, Mr. Rupert told him that Carl had been absent the previous day as well. This concerned William greatly. What concerned him even more was his classmates’ attitudes on the situation. None of them even acknowledged that something wasn’t right.
Carl lived close to the school, so at the end of the day, William decided to walk over to his house and check in on him. When he arrived, he was greeted by Carl’s parents.
“Oh, hello William. It’s good to see you.”
“Hello Mrs. Harris. Is Carl home?”
“Yes, he has been up in his room for the past couple of days. He seems very sick, but I’m not sure with what. His skin has lost all color, and he keeps babbling incoherently. I plan to have a doctor come by the house tomorrow and check on him. You can go up and visit him if you want. It may do him some good to see a friend.”
William made his way up the stairs to Carl’s room. The door was already open, so William walked in and stood by the entrance. Carl was sitting in his bed. He was upright and staring at the wall next to the door. His skin was drained of color, and his eyes were bloodshot with large bags beneath them, indicating a lack of sleep. The expression on his face was one of great fear.
“Hey Carl. How are you doing?”
“H-hi William,” Carl did not look at William when he spoke. Instead he kept his eyes trained on the same spot on the wall by the door.
“Are you feeling alright?”
“C-can’t talk. It doesn’t like it when I talk.”
A chill ran up William’s spine at this, “Who doesn’t like it when you talk?”
Carl just nodded at the spot on the wall where he was staring. William looked, but he couldn’t see anything there.
“Carl, there isn’t anything there.”
“It is. It just stands there and watches me. It doesn’t let me leave.”
Then a thought entered William’s mind. Carl had been thrown into the timeout room. Wimbelwoan was in the timeout room. Mister Fumplestink claimed that both were “naughty children”, but was Wimbelwoan even a child? Or was Wimbelwoan just another ploy created by Fumplestink like the games and the rides? And was Wimbelwoan the thing that Carl saw? William never got a good look at Wimbelwoan to see any defining features…besides that terrible four fingered hand that grabbed his face.
“Carl…is it Wimbelwoan?”
Carl’s eyes grew wide, but they remained fixed on the spot on the wall.
“It’s looking at you now William.”
The hairs stood on the back of William’s neck. He began to feel a light buzzing in his head.
“William, you have to leave now. It is reaching for you.”
The buzzing intensified, and William ran out of the room. He sprinted all the way downstairs and out the front door. When he got out into the yard, he turned around and looked up into Carl’s bedroom window. In the window was a round pale face staring back at him. Not Carl’s face. It was too far away for him to make out much detail, but the face did not look human. The buzzing became so intense that William fell to the ground, clutching his head. Then it stopped. When he looked back up in the window, the pale face was gone.