Hello, my Freaky Darlings!
It’s Friday. Here’s a short story for you…
Hey you! Yes, I’m talking to you. Don’t pretend you don’t see me. There is no way you could possibly miss a woman locked in a box in the middle of a field. You’re not completely blind, are you? Please don’t just walk away. I need your help. Come a little closer. I won’t hurt you. Can’t you see I’m trapped in here?
Okay, I can see from your expression that you think this is some sort of hoax. There are no hidden cameras. No one’s going to jump out from behind a bush and scream “surprise”. Have a look around; it’s just you and me. Yes, I feel it too. It feels like we’re being watched, but I’m sure it’s nothing. Please just get me out of this thing. Sorry! I shouldn’t have yelled at you. I’m a little frustrated. Being locked in a box for a night and all day will do that to a girl. They’ve all gone. Packed up and left in the middle of the night like something was chasing them. Hopefully whatever was chasing them isn’t here. Don’t worry. I’m sure it’s not.
Those freaks from Dark’s Carnival left in such a hurry they left this field scarred by their caravan wheels. It’ll take the earth a while to recover from their destruction. And that god awful smell, in case you’re wondering, is elephant and horse shit. It’ll be dark soon and if I don’t get out of here before then something terrible is going to happen to me. Don’t pull that face. This is no joke. I’m being serious. Look, I’m still not sure how it happened or why she did this to me. I didn’t insult her, or at least I don’t think I did. Did I? Okay, so I might have told her that her tarot reading was the biggest load of crap. And maybe I did freak out a little, but if she’d told you the things she told me, you would also have freaked out. Anybody would. I’m not some homicidal demon stuck in human form. The woman is clearly off her rocker. Tarot readings are supposed to be fun. They’re not supposed to be all gloom and doom, are they? I’d never had one before. Have you?
Anyway, Madam Zinzi and the rest of her tribe of unwashed carnie folk left me here, stuck in this bloody box stage magicians use to saw people in half, with only my head, hands, and feet sticking out. They wrapped that chain around the top and the bottom and the padlocks are out of reach. They also didn’t leave me a key to unlock them. I don’t suppose you have any tools in your car? I’m not an escape artist for fuck’s sake. It doesn’t matter how hard I bang around in here, I can’t get out. And now thanks to the constant rain my head is also soaking wet. I just know I’m going to get a cold. Those bastards told me I had until sundown then he would come for me. You’re not him, are you? It’s not an unreasonable question. You are a he, aren’t you? And it’s almost sundown, and you’re here in this field. So it’s not completely beyond the realms of possibility that you’re him. So … are you him? No. You sure? Okay. I believe you.
Sorry. I’m rambling. I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself and forgotten my manners. Let me take a breath and a virtual step back so I can tell you the story as calmly as possible. I’m Josephine. If you take a step over this way, I can shake your hand. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I don’t suppose you can move your umbrella to cover my head as well as yours. I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.
So … This mess started last night when my friends decided that a trip to Dark’s Carnival would be a good laugh. Boy were they wrong. It certainly started off as a fun night out. Who doesn’t enjoy candy floss, toffee apples, and carousels? I know I certainly do. We even met a few attractive guys from town who bought us a couple drinks at the beer tent. Some of the men from the carnival were also rather cute, although there were a few freaks as well. The elephant man scared the crap out of me. Don’t get me started on what some of the women looked like. If I had a face like some of them I don’t think I’d have a mirror anywhere in my house. Were you here last night? Did you see what the bearded lady looked like? Talk about being hit by the ugly stick. Sorry! I’m digressing. I tend to do that when I’m freaking out.
It was shaping up to be such a promising night. Jeff, I think his name was Jeff, asked me if I’d have dinner with him next week. I even gave him my number. I don’t normally do that but it’s been such a long time since I went on a proper date. I was actually feeling a little giddy. I haven’t felt like that since I was a teenager. Jeff took me up on the Ferris wheel. I hadn’t done that in years. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I’m afraid of heights, but I think he guessed that I was scared and held my hand the whole time. We kissed right at the top and, for a few moments, I forgot all about my fears. For that moment in time, I was just a girl enjoying her first kiss with a boy. It was all so very romantic.
The hall of mirrors was a little creepy. A sign of things to come. I always thought that those mirrors were only supposed to make your body look a bit funny, but this one was different. Jeff said it was just trick lighting, but I’m not so sure. I kept seeing a shadowy figure just at the edge of the reflection, but when I turned around to see if anybody was behind me, there was nothing there. When I turned back to look at the mirror, my reflection was different. My eyes seemed to change. It was slight, almost imperceptible. My eyes went from brown to red then back to brown. I would probably have thought it was a pretty cool trick if it hadn’t been for that shadow giving me the creeps.
I was already feeling a little on edge when Jodi came up with that hare-brained scheme. Stupid bloody woman. She decided that we all had to go have our fortunes read. Madam Zinzi was at the edge of their encampment. The bright red caravan stood out of the dark like a beacon in the night. Mist from the river swirled around our feet, giving the whole place an otherworldly feel. Although she may also have had one of those fog machines they use in nightclubs. I wouldn’t put it past that bitch. We all took turns to have our fortunes told. Jodi went first and came out in tears. Apparently, Madam Zinzi had seen death in Jodi’s near future. I mean, everybody dies at some point or another. Nobody gets out alive. Why death was such a shock to her system was beyond me. But then the rest of the gang had similar experiences. Which was a little strange, I grant you. They all came running out one by one, with these horrified expressions then they all gawked at me as though I’d killed their dogs. From the looks they gave me, one could have sworn that I was pointing a gun at them and threatening to pull the trigger then and there. It was completely nuts.
Madame Zinzi’s voice came from inside her blood red camper, calling my name. I must admit the sound of her voice gave me a shiver up my spine. One of my so-called friends must have told her my name. There’s no other explanation for it, is there? She couldn’t have known it by herself. She couldn’t have plucked it out of the ether, could she?
My heart was thumping up a storm as I walked up those steps to her caravan. Candles were burning all over the place. A real fire hazard if you ask me. She sat in the corner behind a small makeshift camping table which looked like it would buckle under the weight of her ample breasts. They had to be a double D at the very least. After I recovered from my cleavage envy and got my heart to stop racing I managed to observe more. A crystal ball rested on the counter. I was mesmerized by the smoke churning inside. The smoke formed into a huge eye and as I watched, I felt as though I was being pulled towards it. The eye was staring at me, into me, and examining my soul. Judging by what happened next, I think my soul came up wanting.
The candle flames flickered in the breeze, but I couldn’t figure out where the air was coming from, the door and windows were all closed. Madame Zinzi’s eyes went pitch black. My throat tightened and my palms got sweaty. The hair on my nape stood on end. I’ve always heard that expression but never actually experienced it until last night, and I hope never to experience it again. My heart still hasn’t recovered. My ears itched and felt blocked. You know how your ears get blocked up when the cabin pressure changes in an aeroplane? Like that. I didn’t think things could get stranger, but I was wrong.
Madame Zinzi shuffled her deck of cards and grinned at me. Her teeth were skew and yellowing from smoking too many cigarettes. A cigarette smouldered in a dirty ashtray that was already filled with butts. The smoke mingled with that from the candles, the small space filled up with smoke quickly and I struggled to breathe. I’ve never suffered from claustrophobia, but last night I did. I wanted to run. I needed to get out of that tiny, smoke-filled caravan, but the door was locked. I know I didn’t lock it when I went in. I know I didn’t. No matter how hard I tried, the damn door wouldn’t open. I even tried kicking it, but it wouldn’t budge.
‘Calm yourself.’ Her voice was sharp and heavily accented. She sounded Russian. I couldn’t help but do as she commanded. I was transfixed. I had to obey her. ‘Come. Sit.’ The cards flew through her fingers as she shuffled. The Tower, Death, and The Hanged Man landed on the table in front of me.
‘A sacrifice is required.’
‘What is that supposed to mean?’ I asked. I thought it was a perfectly acceptable question, but she didn’t seem to think so. She just ignored me
‘He is coming.’ She sounded like one of those cryptic oracles foretelling death and destruction.
‘Who is coming?’ I asked. Once again she ignored me. It took me a while, but I eventually realised that she was channelling something. Madame Zinzi had left the building. Okay, the caravan. Same thing. You know what I mean. There was something else inside that camper, and I don’t think it was human.
‘He comes on the wind calling for Josephine. All will die who stand in his way. He searches for his mate, his other half trapped inside the human. She must be given to him. Death will follow swiftly unless he is reunited with his love.’
The next thing I knew I was in this box and everybody was gone. My friends abandoned me. I can’t believe they left me here to die. How could they believe that fortune teller? Don’t look at me like that. Not you too? It’s ridiculous. I’m not some demoness trapped in human form. I told you the crazy bitch was off her rocker. I’m not some great evils long lost love. I know that crap is all romantic in the movies, but when you’re the one shoved in the box waiting to be sacrificed, it’s not so romantic. Trust me.
What are you looking at? Do you see something?
Shit! The sun is setting. I have to get out of here. Please. Help me. What was that? Did you hear that?
No. Please don’t leave me here alone. Come on. Be a man. Where’s a hero when you need one. I’m sorry I didn’t mean that. Please come back. Fuck! Please don’t leave me here. I’ll do anything. Oh! Come on. This is so not fair. And now I’m talking to myself. Great. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, it goes pitch black. Oh my god! What the hell is that thing? No!
This story was originally published in Noir Carnival
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