Autumn brought the travelling carnival to town. The queue for entry stretched and folded deep into the car park, constricting around the fringe of cars closest to the ticket booth. Adults and teenagers alike stood with pockets of hidden flasks, giggling conspiratorially. Drink driving in dodgem cars was always more fun. The lights of the rides awaiting within flashed in the evening sky, luring thrill-seekers.
The amps dotted around the carnival played happy-go-lucky barbershop pop. Mr Sandman was accented by adrenaline-fuelled screams fading in and out as the pendulum ride swung. Clown heads, mouths frozen permanently in o’s of shock, turned from side to side in a vain attempt to avoid being force-fed ping pong balls. The sharp ringing of metal sounded out as a mallet smashed the button for the Hit-the-Bell and the puck rocketed to the top of the metre. At the hoopla a kid threw his first hoop and promptly vomited up the cup of lemonade he’d sculled only minutes before, tinted pink with fairy floss.
‘Dude,’ the hoopla booth employee groaned.
7pm. A girl ushered her boyfriend into the house of mirrors, standing before the first mirror, their reflections dwarfed and widened. The girl giggled and moved onto the next mirror, her boyfriend rolling his eyes.
‘Can we hurry it up? This place is breeding ground for germs,’ he complained for the fifth time that night. The girl absentmindedly agreed, if only to placate him. Still, she continued, wandering down the hall as she twisted and turned to admire her distorted self in the convex glass.
After five minutes, she beckoned her boyfriend over, only to see him gone.
‘Babe?’ she called out, turning to only see herself extended to six-and-a-half feet tall in a rippling reflection. She chuckled, distracted for a moment, until she saw movement behind her.
‘Babe, is that you?’
Silence answered her, the winding hall of mirrors displaying herself in various heights and sizes. Her form was stretched like a tree one minute, then squished her to half her size. She moved further in the labyrinth, calling her boyfriend’s name. Three reflections of herself stared back at her in confusion, reaching towards her as she held out a hand. She felt along the glass, searching for the path.
‘There you are,’ she said exasperatedly as she passed the corner, spotting her boyfriend at the end of the hall. He stood facing away from her, swaying slightly as if he hadn’t heard her. His arms hung by his sides like dead weight. She approached him, growing annoyed with his hiding.
Close enough to touch him, the girl stopped short as she saw his reflection. His eyes looked weird, like they had flattened in their sockets, but maybe it was just the distortion. She grabbed his shoulder.
The scream blended in with the euphoric cries of the other carnival-goers.
7:10pm. Checking the watch on his wrist, the attendant of the Orbiter ride spoke into the microphone at the control booth, dully instructing riders to hold onto any loose items. His shift would be over in fifteen minutes, about five more repetitions of the spiel.
As he pressed the go button, he watched the cluster of cars swinging in a blur of neon lights. His eyes zeroed in his watch again, counting the minutes. A person stood at the open door of the booth, knocking into the frame clumsily and grasping at the Orbiter attendant.
‘Bro, what the fu—’ the attendant exclaimed as he was yanked from the control panel by a bloodied girl, who proceeded to bite a chunk out of him.
The riders of the Orbiter spun for one, then three more minutes. As the minutes passed, they noticed that the world around them wasn’t slowing down, and their whoops and laughs became confused shouts for help. Still, they spun around the ride’s axis, trapped in their seats by the metal bars across their laps.
Passers-by noticed the increasing panic emanating from the ride and paused to look. From the darkness of the control booth, two figures stumbled out, faces and throats covered in blood. One in scarlet-painted carnival uniform snatched the nearest person and sunk his teeth into her forearm, viciously ripping the meat from the bone. The result was instant, the victim’s howl of agony dying down to inhumane gurgles as she hungrily snapped her teeth at another passer-by. The suspended disbelief of the crowd switched to terror as they erupted into screams, scrambling to escape.
The Ferris wheel rolled languidly, the passengers noticing the stampede roiling across the carnival grounds from high in the sky. They peered from the safety of their caged cars as they descended from rotation. Monstrous-looking people the group waiting in line, growling and biting and ripping body parts from the carnival-goers. The passengers began screaming, banging their fists on the metal bars of the car, begging for the wheel to stop.
A fleeing man knocked into one of the amps, interrupting the crooning of the barbershop quartet. He shrieked bloody murder as his wife descended on him. She tore into his face with blunt teeth, ravenous. The speaker, still pulsing with barbershop tunes, was splattered with fresh blood.
A trio of teenagers dove onto the merry-go-round, attempting to hide behind the mounted wooden horses. The bitten monsters were clumsy and struggled to climb aboard the whirling ride, but their savage insatiability drove them to clamber on and give chase.
The wave of escaping civilians was overcome by the pursuing undead. Those who weren’t devoured turned into beasts starving for human flesh within seconds of being bitten. Body after body fell, those trapped on rides forced to watch the carnage.
The clown heads continued to whirr from side to side, red-caked mouths wide with horror.
Author: Kyrah H is a fourth-year creative writing student of the Wiri and Luritja First Nations. She like to experiment with horror-themed fiction. Expect to see more of her work in ScratchThat, GLASS magazine, and online.
Artist: SaBelle Pobjoy-Sherriff is a third year fine arts visual arts student. Her art practice uses narrative and mythology to create obscure illustrations and sculptures. Using acrylic paint and coloured pencils she creates vibrant worlds and creatures. Her current work focuses on the current climate crisis and the idea of corrupting escapism. You can find more on her Instagram @SaBelleeee.
Editors: David Farr and Grace Harvey