This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Barely moving at fifteen miles an hour, the procession rolled slowly and steadily into town. Cold, gleaming hulks of metal attached to worn caravans inched along the road, holding up a stream of irate traffic.
The locals suppressed shivers as the throng moved past like a funeral service, drivers behind the wheels as still as stone and staring blankly ahead with cold, glassy eyes.
Children looked up from play, shuddering with anticipation as the procession moved through the town deliberately slowly. There was no gleeful excitement, just an ever-growing dread that spread from person to person like a virus.
The whole town was soon on edge as the fair arrived on a patch of wasteland and began to pull in to the deserted area with deliberate ease. People walking by watched as the vehicles parked side-by-side momentarily obstructing the view of the rides and the drivers emerged from their cabs, wan-faced and silent. They glanced around themselves at the wasteland, as if assessing the area for suitability. Appeased, they disappeared behind the vehicles and began to talk in hushed whispers.
Fairs often came to town and used this wasteland to sell their cotton candy and thrill rides. It was even, flat and rarely used for anything besides dog walking and the occasional gypsy camp, which were, more often than not, met with hostility from local people until they moved on. Now, the succession of caravans resembled a funeral procession all the more. Black vehicles, dark shady-looking caravans, and a couple of crosses hanging under the rear-view mirrors betrayed a dark assemblage. Local people were throwing the word ‘witchcraft’ around as great tons of metal were unhooked from the back of the motors.
Amy Pearson passed the wasteland on her way back from school. It was Thursday and Amy was looking forward to the weekend. The fair added yet another anticipatory event and she couldn’t wait for it to open. Bright and vivacious, Amy loved travelling fairs. She didn’t have many friends, almost lived peacefully within her own personal bubble. She had very pale skin and dark blue eyes, her blonde hair falling in waves down her back. Seeing the fair setting up gave her an extra spring in her step as she walked two more streets and arrived home just after half four.
Her mother was in the kitchen making dinner when Amy let herself in. Asking how school was, Amy prepared her customary response. She really wanted to say how awful and lonely it was, but, instead said all was fine. Then she went to her room and changed from her school uniform into more casual clothes; jeans and a t-shirt.
Amy’s mother, Felicity, was a cold, hard woman. Amy’s father, Daniel, had left home when she was just a baby, unable to take Felicity’s sudden mood changes and violent outbursts. Amy had been raised never seeing her father once. There were no hugs and kisses in her house and Amy was expected to behave and stay quiet. Felicity always made sure the child’s physical needs were met but didn’t offer any emotional support for her daughter. Amy had been raised in a cold house-hold, relying on her imagination for escape.
The fair was opening tomorrow evening, at 6:30pm, as she had read on the side of the caravans as they had parked flawlessly in the wasteland. Amy hoped that her mother would let her go.
“Dinner will be ready in half an hour!” Felicity barked as Amy appeared in the kitchen, “no snacks until then!”
“Okay, mum,” Amy agreed, her voice quiet and slightly tremulous. “Mum, can I ask you something?”
“It’s not about wanting money, is it Amy?” Felicity stopped stirring a giant pan of bolognaise and looked directly at her daughter, her eyes skimming the rims of her glasses in disapproval.
“There’s a new fair opening tomorrow at the wasteland up the road. Can I go?”
Felicity sighed and turned back to the pan, starting to stir the sauce deliberately slowly. Amy steeled herself for rejection. She knew ‘that look’ from her mother, knew the inevitable response she was going to get. Her mother’s whole posture was discouraging.
“How much will it cost?” Felicity asked, her manner unreceptive and cool.
“Not much. I’ve been saving my pocket money, I’ll just use that,” Amy knew better than to rely on her mother to stump up the cash. “I’ll be back before 9pm. I really want to go, mum!”
“I can see that, Amy!” her mother scolded, voice dipping to a sarcastic level. “You have chores to do, Amy. I can’t run this household alone, you know!”
“I’ll do them before I go, mum. Besides, I have the whole weekend to get them done.”
“I don’t know.” Felicity would draw this out for much of the evening. Maybe even through all of tomorrow, if she allowed Amy to go at all. Amy felt familiar tension and resentment roiling in her gut.
Across town, on a much rougher neighbourhood, Daniel Maycock stood smoking with his gang. He had watched the fair ease its slow way into town with a gleeful feeling pervading him with malicious abandon. Oh, the possibilities were endless for the whole gang, the trouble they generally caused was legendary in this neighbourhood.
They had been banned by some of the travelling fairs already, but he hadn’t recognised this new fair. The branding and logos seemed very old fashioned, as if the whole fair had been uprooted from another time and dropped into the current age. Daniel had practically been rubbing his hands together with excitement when he saw it was a fair he had never seen in the Wasteland before.
He was positive he would soon be banned anyway, intending to cause the maximum amount of mayhem and carnage before the Police turfed him out.
He was convinced, in his petty criminal soul, that it would be a night to remember for his entire gang. They would get there for when the fairground opened, barging past the queues if necessary and disturbing as many people as he could before he was banned once more.
Daniel finished his cigarette, flicking the stub into the drain, not bothering to snuff out the end. In his mind, he wanted to cause a fire, to hell with the consequences.
Barnaby Troughton had been looking after his younger brother for the past hour. In return, his parents had allowed him to attend the fair on opening night on the Wasteland. He was already sick to death of four-year-old Mikey, the annoying little pest that kept barking around his ankles like an eager terrier.
Their parents, Angela and David, had had a rare evening out, enjoying a meal together and watching a film at the cinema afterwards.
Barnaby was twelve years old, the giant age gap between brothers caused a lot of friction, and Barnaby wouldn’t normally look after Mikey at all if he had the choice. The fair had been too much of a temptation, however. He had volunteered his time for four hours of babysitting so his parents had agreed for him to go to the fair with some older friends.
He was regretting the trade already, the time ticking up unbearably slowly as Mikey wanted this and wanted that. His little brother was never satisfied, or so it seemed to Barnaby. The annoying little shit was unbearable and he didn’t think he could last for another three hours without hitting the brat.
The fair was mysteriously erected overnight, the lights flashing a mesmerising beat, enticing those who passed into thoughts of attendance the next day. White faced beings stood beside the rides, motionless, gazing at the flow of traffic on the road opposite. Cold eyed, spectral figures, they seemed. Dressed in black which accentuated the pallid facial features, making them seem even more ghostly. Maybe it was how expressionless they seemed, the lack of movement, no matter how small.
Hands were clasped in front of them as they gazed out at the people passing by. The ticket cabs held still, white-faced apparitions as if waiting for the first paying riders.
The rides themselves were majestic in their various sizes, coloured lights winking like stars. It remembled a graveyard in the stillness and quietness of the silent staff. The sombre nature of the spectacle held little joy as the spectres remained impassive and frighteningly quiet.
The fair was in town, but it was not the joyous affair it should have been.
That night, not a single dog walker braved the Wasteland to walk their dogs.
Kiz16: After a truly shocking start to the story, I found the style and content slowed down as the author introduced a varied group of characters who I thought were fleshed out very well. After a slow couple of chapters, I found this story difficult to leave with the tension growing within the house. Yo...
Jan Imonti: Loved the story, but didn't like the delivery...had to read this on my computer on line. Wasn't able to download it to my kindle. Excellent story, lots of twists and turns. Fairly quick read. Love the versitility of Mitchell's writing. Keep up with the great mysteries.
M. Drewery: I did think I would be reading just another Atlantis archaeological adventure story when I came across this book. However I think it's fresh and very different to other approaches to the same historical mystery. The first chapter drew me in brilliantly. I'm not great at spotting technical writing...
Deleted User: (A review in progress). I like this. It's sparse, gritty and atmospheric - reminiscent of the classic Golden Age of American detective fiction of the Thirties. I've only read the beginning, but I'll definitely be back. This writer knows their stuff and has done their homework on detective work. T...
Someone: This was a fun, entertaining read. Although the novel wasn’t stylistically polished, and although the first couple of chapters struggled to hold my attention, the rest of the novel was engaging and beautifully done. You had me fooled until the end. The rest of this review will contain spoilers fo...
Jacquie Walker: This is one of the best books I have had the pleasure to read. Claudio has created a very "real" world brought alive as his words paint a rich tapestry of the lives of his characters and the world they live in as they journey toward their destiny.I recommend this to all who love this genre.... it...
dragonswilleise: I loved this book, it was nearly impossible to put down from start to finish. It was fast passed without being overwhelming and slowed down where needed. Overall this was an amazing novel that I will definitely recommend to others.
FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"
Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."