Today’s story takes us on a trip to the circus.
The Autumn Fair was the talk of the town as summer drew to a close. A week-long celebration of the changing of the season that heralded the run towards winter. It was an event marked on every calendar in every home in town, something children and adults alike looked forward to. Out on the edge of town, a huge green space was given over to acres of entertainment for all.
Bright lights and upbeat music filled the evening sky. Stalls selling candy floss, hotdogs and burgers enticed guests in with the delicious scents of food and treats. Carnival games rang out with laughter and bells and music. Grossly oversized stuffed toys hung tantalisingly as prizes for winning games almost impossible to beat. A rollercoaster, bumper cars and an enormous ferris wheel offered amusements to the assembled crowds. The chilly air did nothing to dissuade the people of the town from coming out to enjoy the fair.
Something new had joined the fair this year. An attraction never seen before, and yet everyone acted as though it had always been there. A mysterious tent, vast in size, covered in a red and white striped canvas. Whimsical music played from inside as an enigmatic voice called out, beckoning to all who would listen!
“Roll up! Roll up! Enter the Big Top for an evening of jolly japes and laughs galore! Roll up! Roll up!”
And roll up, they did. For the enormous tent had plenty enough seating for the whole town beneath its colourful covering. And night after night, many filed in. They purchased their beers and boxes of popcorn and took their seats. But this night was different. The final night of the fair promised a show like no other. The tent was filled with noise as the audience chattered excitedly. A silence fell suddenly. A man in a top hat and tails stood upon a plinth in the centre of the sawdust-covered space.
“Welcome one! Welcome all! Tonight we have a very special performance for you all. Something of a farewell from us to you. Now, without further ado, it’s on with the show!” He removed his hat and gave a theatrical bow. As he stood, few noticed something off about him. His eyes were entirely black, and his wide smile was filled with sharp, pointed teeth.
The tent was filled with exotic beasts, though each had something not entirely right. Winged monkeys, zebras with sharp teeth and rolling eyes, birds flying up leathery wings. Acrobats with red eyes and long tails swung, and swooped, and dived, and somersaulted through the air.
And the clowns. The clowns frolicked about, with gags and laughs aplenty. The squirted mysterious liquid from dead-looking flowers into the giggling faces of the onlooking audience. Their feet, too large, sprouted gnarled sharp claws from the toes of the beaten leather. Their big, jolly smiles were carved into the flesh of their faces. The skin puckered and twisted with knots of scars. Gaping holes in their cheeks ran with spiders darting in and out.
Yet none of it troubled the audience. The murky smoke in the tent seemed to lift their laughter to the point of delirium. The ringmaster stood once more upon his plinth. Feeding upon the laughter. Feeding upon the happiness. Feeding upon the souls.
And as mysteriously as the circus had arrived in town, by morning it was gone. The only sign it was ever there, the disembodied clothes of the audience, littering an empty plot. An autumnal wind stirred the dying leaves in the trees, as the town was shrouded in silence.