Carnival of the Dead

Carnival_at_Night,_Saint-Pal_de_Leon by Ferdinand du Puigaudeau (1895–98)

Carnival at Night, Saint-Pal de Leon” by Ferdinand du Puigaudeau (1895-98)

Influenced by the idea of karma, sin and punishment, this is the story of a sinister travelling carnival which serves one purpose and one purpose only.  Originally written on the 14th April 2016.


Carnival of the Dead

The autumn night was cool, calm and soothingly quiet. It was the witching hour and the small town lay peacefully in silent slumber. Most were dreaming in their beds, though a few were still lingering in that warm place between sleeping and waking. It was these people who were shaken first from their comfortable daze by a sound. It was a strange sound, almost like the ringing of distant bells, though somewhat masked and distorted by the filter of autumnal gloom. A presence was creeping towards them, out in the darkness.

As the unusual melody grew steadily louder, more people awoke from their dreams. The questioning marks upon their faces strengthened as still, the sounds increased. Something ominous was drawing ever nearer, under the cloak of night. Whatever it was, it would soon cross paths with their unsuspecting town.

Out in the wilderness, the mass crept forward. It was old. Ancient in fact. It had travelled the world since time began and would only rest once the last living man took his final breath. It was a carnival. A carnival of the dead. The slithering train of horrors had always existed, it made stops wherever men lived. For wherever they lived, they sinned. The carnival was judgement.

Consisting of a long, meandering line of wagons, performers and exhibits, it stretched out for miles as it snaked its way across the sands of mortal man. There were ringmasters and jesters, clowns and dancers, shows and games. All danced and swayed to the ethereal sounds of a haunting melody. The carnival was nameless, soulless and without cessation in its mission. This was man’s final verdict. Otherworldly, vibrant and thrilling, the unholy procession was nearing its next stop.

From a bedroom window, a man peered into the night. Straining in the gloom, he witnessed the first lights of the carnival as it emerged from the blackness. He climbed from his bed and stared in disbelief as the parade of sights and sounds poured into the slumbering town. It was amazing, such a sight he had never seen before, nor imagined could exist. It was surrounded by a thin, luminescent mist and almost seemed to float through the streets like a phantom. Strangely, the man felt no fear. Far from it. The visage seemed to beckon to his very soul. He roused his sleeping wife and pointed out the window as the opaque jesters and jokers danced into view before them. The couple went to their front door for a closer look. Soon others began walking out of their homes too, eager to witness this mysterious spectacle.

The ancient wagons were arranged in a circle, with a small opening as to let people inside. Long-dead clowns on stilts waved and beckoned the bedazzled townsfolk inside. They happily obliged, and hurriedly entered the large circle like giddy children. Soon the carnival was full of people, mesmerised by its rich sights, sounds and smells. And what wonders there were to behold within its dead realm. The silent strangers had erected tents and stalls, there were thrilling rides and sensational sideshows, games and exhibits. The workers themselves were all transparent, existing somewhere between the realm of the living and that of the dead. Their mouths would move, yet no sound did emerge from their black lips. Despite this, the air was thick with the deafening shrieks, laughter and hooting of persons unseen. Though none of these oddities disturbed the hypnotised townsfolk. Not one peculiar detail did they question, for the power that the carnival held over them was strong.

As the people wandered the grounds, admiring the captivating performers and enthralling exhibitions, a presence was suddenly felt. Without knowing why, everyone suddenly vacated the central core of the carnival’s circle. All eyes were fixed upon it in eager anticipation. The area was empty, but something was nearing. A black fog began to materialise out of the air, and from it emerged a ringmaster. The sinister being was translucent, much like his brethren. Unlike the others though, he was much larger and emitted a dull yellow glow which cast no shadows. His imposing frame terminated at the waist and his torso tapered off below into a billowing wisp of vapour. Upon his featureless head he wore a top hat of black, and in his hand he held a wand.

He was there for their souls, for the townspeople were sinners. Every last one of them. Each man and woman who had wandered unthinkingly into the great carnival of the dead had lived a life of wickedness. Only those who were pure of soul remained outwith the circle. In fact, the uncorrupted were still in their cosy beds, fast asleep and unaware of what was about to unfold outside. The carnival had come for the damned, and they were none the wiser to their visitor’s true purpose. With his enticing wand, the great ringmaster beckoned the heathens closer. They willingly obliged.

With a sinister grin, invisible on his featureless face, and a wave of his magical wand, the entire carnival was suddenly engulfed in a dazzling white light. The screams of a thousand doomed souls were unleashed and silenced in the same catastrophic moment. The searing light obliterated them all in an instant. The townsfolk were no more, and only the carnival remained.

The freak shows, the jesters, the jokers and the clowns packed up their wagons and dismantled their tents. The show was over. Silent wheels were put into motion once more and the circle was unravelled. The carnival of the dead was on the road again. On it’s way to the next town.

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