You stood silently on the withered yellow grass in front of the darkened tent. Impatience clawed at your insides, none of it showing on your stoic face as you shifted slightly from foot to foot. Seven more agonizingly slow minutes were spent waiting for the sign to light up and for the haunting melodies of the tent to begin playing.
The infamous “Dark Carnival” had finally arrived outside of your measly little town, and here you were, waiting for the show to begin. The Dark Carnival always turned up in the most random places, always far away from society. This time, the Dark Carnival had been set up about a mile from your town in the middle of a clearing deep in the forest. Something had always drawn you to this strange place, so it was no wonder that you’d even found the tent at all.
Finally, the sign lit up, illuminating the darkened forest area surrounding you, succeeding in halting your train of thought. Morbid excitement bubbled inside of you, feeling like a bubble in your stomach. You shuffled your feet, ready to dart into the dark and foreboding tent. You’ve heard a lot about this show and could hardly wait to see it for yourself.
“Come in! Welcome to the Dark Carnival, and may your eyes not deceive you!” The master of the show beckoned you and several other patrons to enter the tent.
If you had looked, you’d have seen the dark smirk sent your way from him.
Wasting no time, you wandered into the tent without the slightest bit of hesitation. You looked around the tent, eyes widening dramatically at the sights before you. All the stories had been true. All kinds of ghastly could’ve-been humans littered the area, trapped and hanging limply inside rusted cages. A shiver crawled down your spine like the legs of a spider as your vision zeroed in on one person in particular.
The girl sparked something in your memory, but you brushed it away. After all, how could you ever know someone from a freak show? As far you knew, you’d never met someone like this. The girl was covering in large gashes painfully closed up with zippers, the painful wounds still oozing the sickening red that ran through your veins. Even her mouth was stitched closed with a zipper, so she couldn’t utter a word unless someone undid the zipper. You grimaced, silently feeling bad for the poor soul. Some part of you just wished she died, because she looked like she was in so much pain.Upon glancing at you, her eyes suddenly bulged in panic and she sprang up, slamming heavily upon the creaky cage. She began gesturing wildly to what was left of her lips with mutilated hands. You drew back, startled, but after a moment, you figured out what she wanted you to do. Swallowing the bile that rose in your throat from the stench of the rotting blood dried on her skin, you shakily reached into her cage and unzipped her lips. She took several deep and gaspy breaths before she began speaking in a voice that was dry and cracked from disuse.
“My name is Natalia Faye…” She began so quietly that you had to strain to hear her.
You recognized that name. She was the girl from your town who’d mysteriously disappeared just months before.You felt the blood drain from your face and your heart drop down to your knees.
“What happened to you?” You croaked, suddenly feeling as though someone had shoved a handful of cotton balls down your throat, making it seemingly difficult to breathe.
“They took me away, and if you don’t get out of here now, they’ll take you too! They’ve been watching you! Go! HURRY!” She screamed at you hysterically.
“I don’t understand, who are they?!” You panicked, looking around wildly.
“It doesn’t matter! G-” She was cut off there as she began to choke.
You watched in horror as she let out a sickening gurgle and blood began seemingly endlessly dripping from her mouth. A blood-stained knife was sticking through her chest from behind. Tears of crimson splattered on the rusty metal beneath her, making a plip, plop sound that made the back of your neck prickle uncomfortably. Your breath caught in your throat as your hands flew to your mouth and you muffled a scream of horror when she slumped to the side, body rigid as she fell into shock.
What little life she had left in her eyes fully vanished and her brown eyes stared into yours, unseeing and dull as her body went limp on the bottom of her cage. Blood poured like a small stream from the gaping wound in her chest and dripped steadily to the ground, the horrible red pooling around your shoes, splattering on the white laces. Wasting not a second, you whirled around and with as much strength that you could muster after seeing something as awful as that, you sprinted across the tent, tears streaming down your face. But, you were only halfway across the god-awful tent when a cold and slimy hand closed around your wrist.
You whirled around to meet the crazed eyes of the ringmaster.
“Going somewhere?” He practically purred into your ear with a shiver-worthy voice.
You tried to rip your wrist from his unpleasantly cold hand but you bit back a cry of pain as his grip tightened, almost crushing your wrist. You opened your mouth to scream for help, but your words were caught in your throat when his grimy hand fitted over your mouth. You struggled futilely as he dragged you soundlessly to the back of the tent where no one could find you or hear you.
There, he bound you tightly with heavy chains and gagged you. You struggled against the chains in vain as they dug deep into your skin, leaving bloody red welts behind. Eventually, you gave up, accepting your gruesome fate. You sat there for what felt like hours until the tent had fallen silent. All too soon the ringmaster walked towards you and your eyes dilated in fear when you spotted the item he wielded menacingly in his left hand. A sickening grin stretched unnaturally across his face as cupped your cheek, brushing away dried tears.
“Oh, you needn’t worry, you’ll be just fine.” He whispered, a manic look creeping into his oddly purple eyes. “I know just what to do with you.”
Without warning, he wielded the rusted knife and violently sliced you open. You screamed through the gag as he relentlessly slashed at your pale skin. Hours passed as he ruthlessly mangled your once beautiful body, and soon enough, your screams were silenced.
3 months later…
“Step right up! Step right up! Come see the amazing, spectacular, astounding Circus Freak! Welcome to the Dark Carnival, and may your eyes not deceive you!” The ringmaster bellowed to the awaiting crowd outside.
You sat, hanging limply in your cage as people mobbed around you. You sat on the swing much like a caged bird, forever trapped within this hell. Your gnarled and spindly fingers clasped tightly into the fabric of your old, worn,and torn skirt, knuckles going white. Your soulless multi-color eyes bored into theirs as they shivered, viewing the many gnarled welt that danced across your cracked porcelain skin, some remnants of the chains that had bound you so long ago. Your entire body was dramatically disfigured from the ringmaster’s malicious abuse and dried blood caked the infected wounds that littered your huddled form.
Now you understood why Natalia had been crouched down in fear, why she’d glanced up. You knew it all too well. It was always in fear of the ring master.
“Run...while you still can…” You croaked, trying to warn all the people in front of you.
No one deserved the same fate as you, or Natalia. Not even the worst of killers or the creatures that lurked in the corners of everyone’s eyes. The ringmaster glanced at you and that was the only warning before the ringmaster whipped your back.
You yelped as the pain flashed through your body seeming to travel down every single nerve. You shied back into a corner and curled into a tight ball, trembling uncontrollably at the sight of your captor. Yes, you were the gem of this horrible, despicable show, the apple of the ringmaster’s eyes. You were the one that brought fame and fortune to the one, the only Dark Carnival. After all, you really did live up to your name, didn’t you….