As a child I grew up in in a small town in Nebraska during the 1960s. It was one of those places where nothing ever happened out of the ordinary. The men went off to work in the mornings and the women stayed home and cleaned and cooked while the children were to school. Everyone went to church on Sunday and during the summer holidays we kids roamed the town and surrounding woods, playing and exploring without a care or worry because we didn't have any reason to worry; everybody knew everybody and our town was a safe place to live. Or so we thought.
It was the year 1964 on Halloween night that Lisa-Rose Williams disappeared without a trace. I had seen her that night as I had gone trick or treating with my friends Daniel, Courtney, Shane, and Annabelle.
Lisa was 9, if I recall correctly, and I was 12; she wasn't from my neighborhood, so I didn't personally know her, but she did go to my school, so I recognised her when I saw her trick or treating at Mrs. Sweeney's house across the street from us. We were both dressed as witches that night, her costume slightly nicer than mine due to her mother being a seamstress. I had noticed that she was trick or treating alone that night and I remember wondering where her friends were, but that thought hadn't lasted long before I had got swept back up in the excitement of trick or treating as my friends began dragging me towards the next house.
By the end of the night I had almost completely forgotten about seeing Lisa until around 10 pm. We had just hit our last house of the night, Mr. Paterson telling us to have a good night and not to eat too much candy before chuckling quietly to himself as we promised we wouldn't and closing the door. We had walked down the driveway excitedly chatting about all the candy we had collected and asking each other if anyone wanted to swap anything. Our chatter was immediately silenced by a piercing scream of "Lisa!"
We and the few remaining other trick or treaters turned to the end of the street where the scream had come from to see Lisa's mother. We must have caught her eye because she came running towards us. When she reached us she stopped, breathing heavily from running; her eyes scanned our group; a look of despair crossing her face when she realised that none of us were her daughter. "Have any of you seen my daughter?" she said frantically. We all glanced at each other nervously. Lisa's mother must have seen because she quickly added, "She was meant to be home two hours ago!" Tears welled up in her eyes and she let out a shaky breath.
"I saw her earlier," I mumbled quietly. "She was at Mrs. Sweeney's house."
"Was she with anybody?" Mrs. Williams asked.
"No she was by herself, I think," I mumbled.
"Where did she go after that? Did you see?"
"Um... no, I mean I don't know I lost sight of her," I stuttered.
Mrs. Williams sighed and addressed all of us. "All of you go home right now and ask your parents if they've seen Lisa and if you see her send her home immediately." With that she turned and carried on hurriedly down the street yelling for her daughter. I glanced over to Courtney and we shared a look.
"We had better just do what she says she seems pretty pissed," Daniel said as he began walking towards where we lived the rest of us following as the chatter started up again Shane happily exclaiming that when that kid got home she was going to get the worst beating of her life and the rest of us laughing as the Halloween spirit quickly returned and we went back to trading candy. Only Lisa didn't get home.
I had gone home and told my parents about Lisa disappearing and they had said that they hadn't seen her but assured me she was fine and must have just lost track of time while trick or treating. Only the next morning, while the man on the radio was asking anyone with information on Lisa-Rose Williams whereabouts to come forward, we realised that she hadn't just lost track of time. They had never found Lisa and after that our parents were a little more wary about letting us roam the streets during the weekends; there was an assembly in school about stranger danger and when we would see Mrs. Williams in the street or in church, pale faced with puffy eyes that looked like she hadn't slept in weeks, my mother would smack me over the back of the head and angrily hiss at me to "stop staring!"
But like a lot of things it was soon forgotten about and by the time the summer holidays began everything had gone back to normal. It was the second week of the summer holidays and we were beginning to get bored already having run out of things to do especially since mine and Anna's mothers had begun insisting that we bring our whiny younger siblings out with us. This caused problems, because we were all 11 and twelve and Tommy and Zoe my younger sister were 6 and 7 years old.
They would get bored and whine until we took them home or they would wonder off and get lost, causing all of us to fly into a panic and start frantically searching for them, but by far the worst thing they would do was tattle. They would come out with us and as soon as one of us did something that would warrant a punishment they would be off running down the street yelling "I'm telling! I'm telling!" So as you can probably tell Anna and I were not very popular at the time, so to avoid being saddled with the brats our friends wouldn't call at our houses, so in order to join our friends we would have to sneak out sometimes, even if that meant having to climb out a window because as soon as my mother would hear the front door creaking open she would holler, "take your sister with you!"
This actually worked, until one afternoon Daniel must have forgotten about the don't call at my house rule because I was pulled away from my Batman comics by him violently pounding at my door. I ran downstairs and opened the door shooting Daniel a furious glare when I heard my mother yell, "if you're going out, take your sister with you!" from the kitchen.
"Thanks for that," I sarcastically growled at Daniel, who clearly was too excited about something to give a shit. "What is it?" I asked.
"Can't tell you here; come out," was all he said as he stood on my doorstep practically vibrating with excitement.
"Fine, but I'm gonna have to bring shithead," I said making sure to whisper the last part so that my mother couldn't hear.
"That's fine just come on!" he replied.
"Zoe come on! We're going out," I yelled as I exited the house and made my way down the drive, asking Daniel what he was so hyped about. I heard Zoe come running out the door after us and slamming it behind her; she caught up to us in seconds and began clinging to my arm.
"Can we go to the park! I wanna go to the park!" she exclaimed.
"No, fuck off," I said angrily as I shook my arm, causing her to lose her grip on me. She stopped behind us and immediately said, "I'm telling!"
"Fine!" I yelled back. "See if I care, you little shit!"
"No no no wait," Daniel said grabbing her by the arm as she turned to run back to the house.
"Let go!" she wailed.
"Fine, but you're not allowed to come to the carnival with us then," Daniel said as he dropped her arm.
Zoe stood still, little brain working hard deciding if telling on me was worth it. Eventually she spoke. "What carnival?"
"Yeah, what carnival?" I asked as I glared over at Daniel. If there was a carnival I would have known about it, so he was either just saying that to stop my sister or there really was one and I would have to run home and beg my mother for money. "Well," Daniel began, "my brother told me that in the woods there's this abandoned carnival"
"Bullshit!" I cut him off.
"No it's real, listen, my brother and his friends go there to smoke up all the time. He told me how to get there."
"Either he's bullshitting or you are, there's no way," I said, but by the look on his face I could tell he was serious.
"Well there's no harm in going to check," Daniel said as we continued down the street towards Courtney's.
"Yeah can we go!" Zoe jumped up and down excitedly beside me.
"Only if the others come too," I replied looking over to Daniel.
"That's fine," he said as he opened the gate to Courtney's front garden. He walked up the little path to her front door and knocked three times. Courtney opened the door her and Daniel exchanged some words before she glanced behind him to look at me. I waved and she grinned at me. "I'll be two minutes," she said and disappeared back into her house. Daniel came back down the path and stood beside Zoe and I at the gate. A few minutes later my best friend came running down the path and out the gate to join us. Long black hair tied back in a bright red ribbon that matched her converse sneakers, she had always been a bit of a tomboy, which was the complete opposite to me who had never worn jeans in my life. Even our personalities were completely different, but somehow we ended up becoming inseparable; she even tolerated Zoe.
As we made our way to Shane's house, Daniel explained about the abandoned carnival and she seemed pretty excited to go, and when we called for Shane, who was the wildest out of all of us, he was even more excited than Zoe. Then we went to Anna's house. I went up to her green door and knocked. Her mother answered.
"Hi Mrs. Evans, is Anna here?"
"Yes dear, let me go get her," Mrs Evans said cheerily as she walked to the bottom of the stairs and shouted to Anna that her friends were here for her. Anna came running down the stairs, short blond bob immaculately styled as per usual. Just as she was about to walk out the door, her mother put a hand on her shoulder and whispered into her ear for her to bring Tommy with her before turning and going to the kitchen. Anna rolled her blue eyes at me before walking back upstairs and returning this time less enthusiastically with her little brother Tommy following behind her. She closed the door behind them and glared at me. "You guys know not to call for me, now look what you've done, we're stuck with him now!"
"It's fine, Zoe's here too," I said gesturing to the rest of the group where Zoe was standing with Courtney's hand tightly clasped in her own.
"What's going on then?" Anna asked as she joined the rest of the gang.
"We're going to a carnival!" Zoe yelled, hopping up and down excitedly.
"There is no carnival in town, idiots," Anna groaned.
"It's not in town, it's in the woods; Eddy went up with the guys, it's real I swear," Daniel said.
"That's the abandoned one, isn't it?" Anna said. "I've heard of it, it's only a legend though. Are you sure your brother and his friends didn't just smoke a little too much, Daniel?"
"Even if they did, it's still worth a shot going up and checking it out," Shane said.
"I suppose, and if we do find anything Zoe and Tommy had better not tell their moms because then we will never ever take them out again," said Anna as she glared at the two younger kids.
"We won't," they promised.
"Seriously if you tell you will get in trouble too" Anna said pointing at Tommy accusingly.
"I won't I swear!" he said.
"Good! Now can we hurry the fuck up please, I wanna see this place," Shane yelled impatiently.
"Yes come on!" said Daniel as he led the way. We followed him through the town chatting excitedly to each other until we reached the edge of the woods.
"Okay, so Eddy said to follow the main trail until we come to the stream, then we follow it until we find a path and that should take us to the carnival," Daniel said confidently as we made our way into the woods. As we walked, Courtney, Anna and I talked about school and other unimportant things that twelve year olds talk about while Shane and Daniel bickered in front of us. Zoe and Tommy ran around playing some game.
I zoned out and began viewing my surroundings. The tall pine trees towered above us, nearly blocking out the sun, the wind blowing and making them sway as the birds and other animals chirped and whistled. I remember thinking how beautiful it all was. Until I was forced out of my thoughts by Anna yelling, "Stay where I can see you! You hear me?" All she got in response was an "Ok" from Tommy as he and Zoe ran in and out of the trees shrieking and laughing and they chased each other.
"Jason Philips asked me out in 5th period yesterday," Courtney said as she came to walk beside me.
"No way!" I replied. "What did you say?"
"No, of course!" She giggled.
"Good, the guy's a creep. What kinda fifteen year old wants to date a twelve year old?" I said, looking over at Courtney.
"Seriously, Courtney, you can do better," Anna said as she pulled a compact mirror from her pocket and began fixing her hair.
"I know, I like someone else anyway," Courtney smirked before walking faster. I immediately began walking faster too, matching her pace.
"Who?" I demanded.
"Mind your own!" she shot back. I punched her arm and she laughed and I continued pestering her until Shane shouted to us, "Hey shitheads, we're going this way!" We looked back to see the rest of the group a couple meters back, walking along the edge of the stream.
Courtney let out a laugh and I yelled back, "That's no way to talk to ladies, asshole!"
"I don't see any ladies here!" Shane laughed as we caught up to them.
"Hey!" Anna said, punching Shane in the back as we walked single file along the stream.
"Oh right there is a lady here, sorry Daniel," Shane said before cackling to himself.
"Fuck off, Shane," Daniel said as we all laughed behind him.
We carried on down the side of the stream until Daniel stopped. "Holy shit here it is," he said.
"Here what is?" said Shane.
"The path Eddie told me about we follow this and it takes you right to the Carnival or at least he said it does anyway."
The "path" was more of a dear trail than anything else, it consisted of a little trail through the brush just big enough for us to walk single file. As we made our way down the trail our chatter eventually subsided until we were all silent. All of us anticipating what we were going to find. We didn't have to wait very long because only a few minutes later I heard Daniel yelling excitedly. "I told you! I fucking told you!"
"Holy shit," I heard Shane say.
"Hurry up," I said as I pushed Zoe to go faster, only for her to trip and fell out of the trail into a clearing, me landing on top of her and Courtney following soon after, the three of us a crumpled heap on the ground.
I pushed Courtney of me and rolled off a groaning Zoe sitting up and turning to look at Courtney who was too busy looking ahead of us to notice her eyes wide and mouth agape in awe. I turned to see what she was looking at and I can only think that my expression must have been the same, because in front of us was what can only be described as something out of a movie or dream. In front of us was a carnival, but it looked as if it had been frozen in time.
Empty game stalls stood everywhere, a big Ferris wheel stood to our left in the middle of the clearing stood a beautiful old carousel and to the left stood a building the entrance made to look like a huge clown face a sign beside the door said Mr Chuckles' Fun House! I must have been in shock because I was only pulled from my trance when Zoe got up from beside me and began sprinting towards the carousel running past Daniel who was grinning at me with an I told you so look in his eyes. I stood up and pulled Courtney to her feet and the two of us made our way over to Daniel.
"Holy shit, you were right," I muttered.
"This is fucking class, ahaha to be honest with you I thought Eddie was bullshitting I can't believe it's real," Daniel laughed ecstatically.
"Look at the carousel! I love carousels," Courtney exclaimed.
"What are we waiting for then?" Daniel asked before sprinting off to join the others on the carousel. Courtney and I shared an excited look before running to join him. We hopped on the carousel Courtney immediately hopping up beside Daniel on a big black horse while I continued to walk around.
Anna was sitting on a gold horse, compact mirror out as she picked leaves out of her hair from the brush, she stopped only to turn to Tommy who was climbing from horse to horse behind her and yell, "Be careful, if you fall off and break your leg I will leave you here for the wolves!" With that she turned back to her mirror and continued to prune herself.
Tommy took no notice and continued what he was doing, I sniggered as I walked past him. I turned to see Zoe sitting on a white horse with pink reins.
"Look at my horse isn't she pretty?" Zoe asked excitedly swinging her legs.
"Could be a boy," I said.
"Nu-uh she's a girl!" Zoe shot back defensively causing me to let out a snort of laughter.
"Whatever Zo, Where's Shane?" She pointed over to the control box. At first I couldn't see anybody through the dirty windows. I squinted and it soon became clear that there was in fact somebody in there; I giggled and made my way down to the control box. I opened the door and there was Shane, violently pressing buttons and pulling levers, so violently, in fact, that he didn't even notice me standing behind him.
"Shane?" He jumped and turned to face me.
"Don't fucking do that! You could trigger my epilepsy."
"Haha, sorry what are you doing?"
"The fuck's it look like? Trying to get this thing working duh!"
"Are you being serious?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing Shane, nothing, carry on, see where it gets you," I laughed and began walking away.
"I will and when I fix it you're not allowed on, see who's laughing then asshole!" Shane yelled after me.
I made my way over to Courtney and Daniel who were still on the black horse talking and laughing about something. "Hey, what's in there?" I asked Daniel, pointing to the building.
"Uh, some sort of soft play area I think," Daniel said.
"Sweet! Courtney let's go check it out," I said excitedly.
"I wanna come!" Zoe yelled hopping of her horse and running over to us.
"Fine, come on," I said, and the three of us began towards us, but we stopped when Daniel called for us to wait. He hopped of his horse and came up to us, blushing slightly.
"Hey... um Courtney, can we go over there and talk for a bit?" He asked gesturing towards one of the empty game stalls.
"Yeah sure, I'll catch up with you ok?" she said, turning to me.
"Alright see you in a bit," I replied before turning back around to Zoe. "Come on then!"
The two of us went up to the big clown doorway and pushed them open inside was indeed a soft play area.
(For those who don't know what that is, it's a big indoor play area with a bunch of levels for kids to climb around and play in. It's filled with tunnels, slides and ball pools and other kid's things.)
This play house seemed to be clown themed and was still in pretty good shape for somewhere that was abandoned.
The wall paper was peeling in places and the lights didn't work, but there was still a good amount of light coming from the windows so as far as I was concerned it was fine. Zoe immediately took off into the ball pool and I followed suit we made our way through the ball pool and into the play area Zoe running to the padded stairs to get to the next level probably to go down a slide. I, however, continued to explore the first level there was a bunch of clown themed stuff and a couple of tunnels. I went through one of the tunnels and came out at a slide that appeared to lead to a lower level. "Cool" I thought as without thinking I threw myself down the slide.
When I reached the bottom the first thing I noticed was the smell. It was, and is by far, the worst stench I have ever smelt in my entire life, and I couldn't explain it even if I tried so I won't. The second thing I noticed was how dark it was, the only source of light coming from a tiny filthy window high up on wall.
I stood up, trying not to gag as I looked around waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness so I could try to make out where the smell was coming from. I began to make out shapes in the darkness, propped up against the wall and slumped over on the ground in unnatural positions. It didn't take long for me to figure out what those shapes were, and the third thing I noticed was that there were four dead bodies in the lower level of Mr. Chuckles' Fun House. I stood there in shock too scared to move a muscle my eyes scanning over every crumpled broken body they all looked badly decomposed but could tell that none of them could be older than 10. As I stood there looking at the bodies there was one that caught my eye at first I couldn't figure out why but when it hit me even though I didn't think it possible the feeling of dread that I felt suddenly got ten times worse.
I recognised that Halloween costume. It was the same costume I had worn that Halloween, a witch, only this one was... or had been a little nicer because Lisa-Rose William's mother had been a seamstress.
I stood staring at the unrecognisable corpse of Lisa for what seemed like years but must have only been seconds before a shuffling in the corner brought me back to reality. I stiffened suddenly aware of my surroundings on the edge of hyperventilating the panic and fear I felt is indescribable as I stood there still too terrified to move. Listening to my pulse as it beat furiously in my ears and trying to convince myself to run but I couldn't no matter how I tried.
The shuffling stopped and everything was quiet apart from the sound of my heart beating violently. I tried to tell myself that it was just my imagination and that there was nothing there, but there was something there because when I finally summoned enough strength to look into the corner there it was. In the corner stood a clown. No a man dressed in a very old very dirty clown costume and he was staring right at me. Neither of us moved we just stood staring almost frozen until the man raised one of his filthy hands and whispered in a voice that I can only describe as a grown man trying to mimic the voice of a child.
At this I broke free from the paralysis and I sprinted. I heard the man let out a grunt as he immediately began following me. I had no idea where I was going and it was pitch black but it seemed to be laid out the same way as upstairs, I dived threw a tunnel and around a corner. I was a lot smaller than this man and that was my advantage, I could get through the tunnels a lot faster than him and I think that's what saved my life.
I continued to zigzag through the maze of tunnels and ball pools the man hot on my trail I went through yet another tunnel and suddenly I saw light and the source of that light was stairs. I almost cried out for joy as I immediately began running up them full speed. As I reached the top I heard the man cry out in fury as he ran after me.
I dove through the first tunnel I found which brought me back to the ball pool and I began running for the exit. Then I stopped.
"Zoe," I thought. Every muscle in my body was telling me to run for the door and I could hear the man stomping around panting and grunting. I couldn't leave her. With a sob I turned and dashed back into the ball pool through a tunnel and up the stairs. I could hear the man below me rushing through the ball pool. I prayed he hadn't seen where I had gone.
I ran through the second level looking around wildly for my sister and when I saw her peeking up at me from the ball pool I let out another choked sob. I grabbed Zoe by the arm; she was about to protest but the look on my face must have scared her and she let me drag her out of the ball pool. At that moment the man burst up the stairs and I threw both Zoe and myself into the first corner I could find.
At this point tears where streaming freely down my cheeks and I was trying to stifle sobs as the man stomped around looking for us. I could hear his panting as he searched and I looked down and locked eyes with an equally terrified Zoe. I heard the man dive into the ball pool, he began violently throwing balls in all directions. He's looking for us, I thought, when he doesn't find us he is gonna look over here and then we're dead. I began frantically scanning our surroundings, and then I saw it. The slide. I put my mouth to Zoe's ear and whispered. "Run to the slide. Go down it and get out and run. You understand" she nodded her head.
I shoved her towards the slide and I ran after her. The clown saw and immediately began making his way towards us. I pushed Zoe down the slide and frantically climbed in after her just as the clown was out of the ball pool and sprinting towards me. I slid down. I could hear his furious unintelligible yells as flew out of the slide to see Zoe standing waiting for me face streaked with tears. "Run!" I yelled fearing the clown was coming down after us.
I grabbed Zoe's arm and the two of us crashed out the doors. It was already beginning to get dark. How long had we been in there? For a second I thought our friends had forgotten about us, until I saw Courtney's concerned face watching me from the carousel. "Run!" I screamed as I sprinted for the trail we had come in through, Zoe's arm clasped tightly in my hand. I heard Anna scream and I can only assume the clown must have come running out the doors after us. I didn't bother to look back though because I had finally found the trail and had shoved Zoe in first pushing her along saying "Run, just run!" over and over again as if it was the only thing I knew how to say. We burst out the trail and along the stream me dragging Zoe by the arm refusing to stop running until we were out of the woods.
At some point Zoe fell she lay on the ground yellow dress covered in mud snot and tears and she cried. "Get up!" I yelled pulling her arm only for her to wail more. I looked around in despair and let out a frustrated sob the woods were pitch black now and we still had a long way to go. I dropped down.
"Get on" I hissed. She climbed on my back and I ran with her through the woods, and I fell over and over. Every time I would stagger to my feet and carry on.
After a while I was very dizzy and I couldn't see very well. The only thing I could focus on was to keep moving, I fell again and slowly but surely picked myself up and staggered to my feet again. I started running by now it hurt to breath and when I finally crashed through the tree line and on to the street lamp lit streets I collapsed again and I didn't get back up.
I lay there exhausted breathing heavily on the street knees oozing blood blue dress stained a brownish red while Zoe sobbed uncontrollably beside me, shaking me every now and again sobbing harder every time I didn't respond. Eventually someone must have come along because the next thing I remember is being lifted into a police car along with Zoe who was trying to the best of her seven year old ability to tell the police what had happened as we were whisked to the station to find a tearful Courtney waiting for us. The red ribbon was missing from her hair and it fell around her face tangled and messy.
She broke down when she saw the state I was in, we wrapped our arms around each other and cried for a while as a woman bandaged up my legs and gave us all some water to drink. "What happened in there?" Courtney asked as I sipped my water Zoe leaning against me fast asleep. I just shook my head at her before asking the only question I could think of.
"What did you and Daniel talk about?"
Courtney looked at me confused before replying, "He asked me out."
"What did you say?"
"I said yes."
"Good," I mumbled and I smiled slightly. So did she.
Suddenly the doors to the room opened and a cop walked in. He sat next to me and asked me to tell him what happened. I explained about the Carnival and the fun house and the clown and... Lisa, which immediately caught the cop's attention I finished my story and the cop thanked me and began saying some stuff down his radio that I wasn't paying any attention to. The cop left and a little while later the doors opened again but this time it was a clearly shaken Anna, Shane and Daniel led in by the woman who had bandaged my legs. Anna's face fell as she saw us.
"What?" I asked.
"Where's Tommy? He went in after you where is he?"
"Oh no," I said almost in a whisper, "Oh no, no, no."
"Oh my god my parents are gonna kill me," Anna began sobbing. She turned to the officer. "You have to go find my brother he's still up there, please he's only five!"
The doors burst open yet again; this time it was our frantic parents. I started crying again when I saw my mother. She scooped me and Zoe up in her arms and sobbed kissing our heads over and over and thanking God we were alright. I looked up to see my farther standing behind us he was also crying. Over the sound of our mother I could hear Mr Evans frantic shouts of "where is my son? Where's Tommy?" After making another statement I was allowed to go home.
On my way out of the station I could still hear Mr Evans asking "where the hell is my Tommy?" They found Tommy I learnt that the next morning when I had snuck down stairs to find a policeman in my kitchen, I had crouched behind the door and listened to the conversation he was having with my parents. They had found Tommy in the same place and state they had found Lisa-Rose Williams, in the basement level of Mr Chuckles' Fun House dead.
What they didn't find, though, was the clown, from the statements given it appeared that the outfit the man was wearing was the same found in the storage closet that the staff wore while the carnival was still open. The police have no idea who he is or where he went but they assumed that after losing sight of Zoe and me, he had come out and seen the rest of us, he had then chased Daniel who had out ran him. he must have then returned to the fun house to find Tommy.... who was oblivious to the danger he was in. What he did to Tommy after that I don't want to think about but whatever it was it killed him. The clown had then dumped Tommy with the rest of his victims and left.
I had snuck back to my room and sobbed until my mother came to check on me. Zoe and I both had terrible nightmares; Zoe's stopped after a few months, I still have them even now. My mother didn't allow me to go to Tommy's funeral in fear that it would mess me up even more... come to think of it, my mother didn't let me go anywhere alone for the rest of the holidays. Terrified that the moment we were out of her sight, we would end up like Tommy.
It was a relief when school started and life almost went back to normal. It was on the first day that I also learned from Shane that Anna and her family had moved away to live closer to her grandparents in Colorado. I was in all the same classes as Courtney that year which was great. And to say we were popular with the other kids would be an understatement, every lunch time for the first couple of weeks of school we were crowded with kids wanting to know about "the clown". They eventually lost interest though and life went back to normal. My mother even started letting me walk home from school with Daniel and Courtney again and eventually her grip on me lessened and lessened until I was allowed to roam the streets with the other kids again as long as I swore to stay out of the woods, which I had no intention of going near anyways.
Eventually everyone just forgot and life went back to the way it had been before the carnival. Until I was 16 years old.
It was the summer of 1968 and we were in Daniel's new truck at a deserted car park for some office, Shane and I sharing joint and a bottle of whisky from his dad's stash and trying to ignore Courtney and Daniel making out in the front seat. Suddenly Daniel pulled away from Courtney and put his truck into ignition and pulled out of the parking space.
"Heey weere youu goiing maaan?" slurred Shane.
"You'll see soon enough," Daniel replied as he drove through town. We came to the woods and Daniel drove the truck up the main trail, all the bumps from being of the road and the alcohol making me queasy.
"The fuck you doin man?" I slurred as we went over a particularly large pothole that caused the car to jolt and for me to nearly lose my grip on my whisky.
"You will see in a minute and please do not spill that!" was Daniel's reply as the truck came to a stop beside the stream.
"Oh no," Shane warned as Daniel got out of the truck.
"Look you Don't have to come, stay in the truck if you want but I just have to see," Daniel said before slamming the door and following the stream.
"Have to see what Daniel?" a drunken Shane hollered looking after him. Courtney and I shared a look before getting out of the truck and following Daniel. We could hear Shane's angry yells as he watched us from the truck, we then heard the door slam behind him as he ran to catch up with us apparently not wanting to be left alone.
It didn't take us long to find the trail through the brush. It was burned into my mind. It was not very like trail anymore now overgrown and hard to make out nature had begun to reclaim it. We pushed through not caring about the brambles getting snagged on out cloths or scratching our legs. I came to the clearing and joined Daniel where he stood, the feelings of dread from all those years ago hitting me full force all over again as Courtney came to stand behind me.
"It's still here," Daniel whispered as if afraid to say what we where all seeing. The place was exactly as it was four years ago from the carousel to the fun house. Nothing had changed. We stood there in shocked silence all reliving that night from all them years ago. The silence was broken by a very drunk very angry Shane bursting through the bush yelling "Mother fucker!" We turned to look at the soaking wet drunk before us and Courtney sniggered. "I fell in the stream," Shane clarified as he walked past us stopping beside the control box of the carousel.
"Hey guys, wanna bet I can get this to work?" Shane snickered pointing at the carousel. "No! Stay away," Daniel said firmly almost angrily before he turned and walked straight back into the brush the way we came, Courtney and I glancing at each over again before following him, Courtney turning around to tell Shane to "Come on" as we went back through the brush and along the stream to Daniel's car. He sat inside waiting for us and we drove back in silence.
Daniel stopped his car at the end of our street and sat staring ahead of him for a while before speaking. "I gotta go do some shit, but be here at seven on the dot and I'll pick you all up ok?" he said to us. We got out and he sped off.
"The fuck was all that about?" I said.
"No idea," Courtney replied. "You gonna be here at 7?"
"Yeah, you?" I asked Courtney nodded and we looked over to Shane.
"Haha, go fuck yourselves," he said before staggering off down the street.
At exactly 7 pm we came to the corner of the street to find Daniel's truck waiting with Shane already inside I chuckled at him as Courtney and I climbed into the back seats and he shot me a glare. Without saying a word Daniel drove us all back up to where we had parked last time, beside the stream. He opened his door and got out the rest of us doing the same, it was only when I followed him around to the back of his truck that I noticed the cans of Gasoline he had stored in the bed of the pickup.
"Grab one each," he said as he took one and made his way back towards the carnival. I did the same. I followed the path and came to the clearing, Courtney and Shane following soon after. I spotted Daniel over at the empty stands Courtney went over to join him while Shane with a sadistic grin on his face set to work on the carousel. I of course made my way over to Mr. Chuckles' Fun House. I unscrewed the lid to my gasoline can and began dousing the place in it. I kicked open the doors and threw as much gasoline as I could inside without actually having to set foot in there before going to town on the clown face around the door. I threw the empty container into the fun house hearing it clatter and pulled the lighter from my pocket and flicked it on.
The little flame dancing before my face reminded me of Tommy and Lisa, little flames blew out of existence far too soon, it also reminded me of Zoe who was 11 now it made me think about what could have happened if I had run out instead of going back for her. Would the police have found six dead bodies instead of five?
I was pulled back to reality as I felt tears beginning to slide down my face I wiped them on the back of my sleeve before staring Mr. Chuckles right into his cold dead painted on eyes. I stepped back and chucked my lighter onto the gasoline soaked ground which lit up immediately the fire taking only seconds to engulf the entire building.
"Fucking clowns," I spat turning around to see the burning carousel behind me Shane excitedly jumping around laughing and yelling, "burn pony burn!" I looked behind him to where all the empty stalls and Ferris wheel stood all of them too engulfed in flames. I could see Daniel and Courtney holding hands as they watched the fire roar together. But eventually the smoke became too much for us and we retreated back to Daniel's car and he drove us home. He parked his truck at the end of our street and we all sat in silence until Shane eventually spoke up.
"If the police show up at my door I'm gonna blame you, Daniel," he said calmly.
"Shane, get out of my car," was all Daniel said in reply before turning to face me. "I'll see you later, he said.
"Yeah man see you later," I said as I exited the car with Shane leaving Courtney and Daniel to talk about whatever as I made my way home.
I didn't see much of them after that I dropped out of high school and ended up getting pregnant and moving to Texas with my boyfriend to have a life together. I heard Courtney and Daniel went to college and moved in together I don't know if they stayed together, even though I kind of hope they did, and I have no idea what happened to Shane. If I had to guess I would say he's probably dead.
Zoe grew up went to college and became a vet. She made my parents proud, something I could never do. I'm still in Texas married now with four kids of my own and two grand kids and every year when the carnival comes to town they plead and beg and cry for me to take them but my answers always going to be the same. No.