The carnival rides’ bright lights gleamed in the summer night like a sea of swirling, twirling, multicolored gemstones. Laughter filled the evening sky above the festive lot as adults and children alike took part in all of the fair’s amusing attractions. The smell of buttery popcorn danced in the air, pirouetting with the sweet aromatic fragrances rising up from the carts of cotton candy vendors. But amongst all the revelry and merriment, no one seemed to notice a young girl holding a pink balloon, and wandering through the crowd all by herself.
It was Elle’s first time at the fair. The little girl was only seven-years-old and had tagged along with her older brother and his group of friends. From the moment she arrived, she had found herself mesmerized by a myriad of enchanting sights and sounds. The place was unlike anything she had ever seen before and she wanted to experience all of it. Elle’s teenage chaperones, on the other hand, were only interested in flirting with every pretty girl they happened to come across so she snuck away when they weren’t paying attention, hoping to take in as much of the carnival as possible.
Finally free from her boring brother, Elle explored the lot, her pink balloon trailing behind her while she bounced from one spectacle to another. She rode on the carousel, watched a clown preform magic tricks, she even fed a sugar cube to a pony at the petting zoo. To Elle, the fair was the most magical place on the planet.
After an hour or so the little girl parked herself on a bench to rest her legs. She watched with a smile on her face as a group of thrill-seekers staggered off a flashy spinning ride called The Cyclone. It wasn’t until the last of them had stumbled away that a small tent caught her eye.
The nondescript little tent was easy to miss, sandwiched between two massive whirling rides decorated in dazzling lights. Curiosity beckoned Elle off the bench, taking her by the hand and leading her over to it. She stopped in front of the entrance and looked at the wooden sign hanging above her head. The words sent a shudder throughout the child’s body.
Elle had heard of carnival freaks before, but never thought she’d get the opportunity to actually see one in person. Intrigue and fear waged a war inside of the little girl’s head as she contemplated whether or not to go inside. When the dust had settled, it was intrigue that had won out. Elle pushed the flap of the entrance to the side and ducked into the tent, followed closely behind by her pink balloon.
The inside of the tent was darker than she had expected. Off to the left, a tiny candle flickered on a table providing the only source of light. It took a moment for Elle’s eyes to adjust, but once they did, she could feel the air escape her lungs as a sense of dread gushed through her veins. The little girl was staring at the most hideous boy she had ever seen before in her life.
He appeared to be suffering from some sort of terrible deformity that rendered his body a grotesque, tangled, bedridden mass of flesh and bones. His disfigured face, warped and misshapen, looked like a Picasso painting as the candle light flickered off of his malformed features. He opened his mouth to speak, but only a few raspy breaths escaped from his crooked lips.
“That means he likes you.”
Elle spun around to see an old woman covered head to toe in tattoos. The hundreds of piercings in her face jingled like a pocket full of change as she continued to talk.
“Oh don’t be alarmed. His name is The Human Pile and he’s a member of our little family. I know we’re not as pretty as you are, but we’re just people and there’s certainly nothing to be afraid of. I’m Tattoo Lady. It’s nice to meet you.”
“F-family?” asked Elle.
“Of course. There are more of us freaks than just The Human Pile and myself. Come on out everybody. The little girl wants to see you.”
Elle swallowed the scream in her throat as more horribly disfigured people slinked out of the shadows and into the light. The old tattooed woman pointed to a man with grey scaly skin. When he smiled at Elle she noticed that his teeth were as sharp as a carnivorous predator’s.
“That’s The African Snake Man,” whispered Tattoo Lady. “He joined our family two years ago. Travelled all the way from Syria to be with us. Do you know where that is?”
Elle shook her head. The old tatted up woman let out a chuckle. The piercings in her face clanked loudly as it mixed with her laughter, making it sound almost mechanical.
“That’s ok. Over there is The Tumor Woman."
The tattooed freak pulled a pocketknife from her waistband and pointed the blade towards a woman in a sundress. Monstrous cysts were growing from her unsightly face. She waved a swollen hand, covered in lumps and growths, at Elle, causing the little girl to wince.
“I think I wanna go home now,” mumbled Elle.
Tattoo Lady jabbed her pocketknife above the little girl’s head. A loud POP boomed throughout the tent. The ribbon attached to Elle’s balloon went limp in her hand. Her balloon was now nothing but a mangled piece of pink latex lying in the dirt at her feet.
“Come now,” said Tattoo Lady. “There are more members of our family you must meet. Over there is The Lobster Boy.”
A sneering teenage boy around the same age as her brother waved a pair of claw like hands in the air. The little girl could feel her heart beginning to race.
“And there,” the old tattooed woman put her arm around Elle and pointed her knife at a man whose body was completely covered in fur. “They call him The Mongrel.” A crooked smile crept its way across the old woman’s pierced lips as she spoke again.
“Now there’s one more member of our family. Her name is The Little No Face Girl.”
Elle shifted her eyes around the tent, but couldn’t figure out whom Tattoo Lady was referring to.
“B-but there’s nobody else here?” stuttered Elle. “Where is she?”
The old tattooed woman placed the edge of her blade at the top of Elle’s hairline. A trickle of blood ran down her brow.
“Don’t worry, child,” she snickered. “The Little No Face Girl will be here really soon.”
Credited to Vincent Vena Cava