Supernatural Fiction posted December 28, 2014


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It's One Hell of a Carnival

Freaks & Geeks

by Dean Kuch

Ghost Story Contest Winner 



































Juniper Springs New Jersey

October 28, 1944

“C'mon, you idgit, a'fore anyone sees us. You can't go sneaking into a place if yer gonna be slow about it. Hurry up. Move your ass and get in here.”

Against my better judgment I did as Mickey Miller asked. After all, I was only twelve, and Mickey was a man of the world. He was also a far sight meaner than I was. He was sixteen — had even been “with” a girl on two separate occasions, as rumor had it. Besides, Mickey's top two incisors were pure gold, a result of a particularly bad biking accident he'd gotten into when he was fourteen. He'd decided he was going to play chicken with Dex Hester and his gang of thugs on Fuller Street one day. Only problem was, Dex was driving a car, and Mickey was riding his bike. Mickey never backed off either.

Dex won that round, hands down.

Based on pure guts alone, plus the fact he looked down right sinister with all that metal in his yapper, Mickey Miller definitely had dibs on being the leader of our small group.

“Where's Billy and Frankie – boy, Mick? Ain't they comin'?” I asked. Billy Swartz and Frankie Martin had both been contributing members to our quartet since a'fore I could remember. I thought it a little odd that Mickey hadn't asked them to be there too.

Mick just gave me that “I ought'ta throttle you stupid” look, then squeezed through the hole in the chain link fence surrounding the Fayette County fairgrounds.

“Lenny, them two snot-wipes would'a just got our asses caught. They ain't gonna be comin'. Tonight, it's just you, and me, bucko.”

Within minutes he'd located the Freak Show tent and ducked inside. It was the only banner lit up in the entire damn place, so it weren't too difficult.
 


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That fall evening was crystal clear outside, and pretty warm for October in Jersey, as I recall. A full moon hung over the roiling Atlantic. Elongated shadows crawled along the large red and white-striped seaside circus tents like slithering shit stains, while a brisk breeze carrying scents of seaweed and dead fish spurred us along. Everything was already set up for the following day's show. Mickey decided he'd wanted a free peek — you know, to see if it was worth coming back and plunking down a hard-earned quarter for later? We sneaked out of our respective houses, then made the mile-long journey to the seashore by bicycle. It wasn't the entire carnival Mickey'd wanted to take a gander at either, no sir. To be more specific, it was the Geeks & Freaks tent that had his interests piqued. He'd caught a glimpse of the carnival as him and his mom were making their way back home after she'd picked him up from school.

I had an uneasy feeling crawl up my spine and lodge in my brain-pan almost as soon as I'd plowed through the hay lining on the floor beneath the tent. Not Mickey, though. He was smiling just as broadly as if he'd touched one of Carole Lombard's tits. The air inside was musty, and felt very moist. The odors of piss and... something else — something foul, fetid; the rotten stench of uncleanliness —  permeated everything within the canvas enclosure.

“Hurry up an' get yer sorry ass over here, pipsqueak," Mickey hissed. He didn't have'ta tell me twice.

 

We no sooner started lookin' around — raising the corners of some of the flaps that was covering different displays and what-not — when we heard his voice. It was deep and resonating, like one of them narrator types you heard on the radio. But there was more to it than that. It was a voice that made my hair stand on end. By the looks of him, Mickey wasn't faring much better. Prob'ly had somethin' to do with the huge wet spot fanning and spreading out around the crotch of Mickey's jeans which caused me to think that'a way.

“Ah, how nice. Guests... and at this late hour, too.”

Thunder rolled far-off somewhere in the distance, and a brief flash of lightening snaked its way beneath the narrow gap that ran the length around the bottom of the tent.

“My name is Rosewell Benninger. I am the proprietor of this particular attraction. You can call me Mr. Razor. It's so wonderful of you both to drop in. I apologize for not having everything in order. But you see, the show doesn't actually begin until tomorrow evening at six. However, we'll simply have to make do.”

His eyes gleamed a deep red in the relative darkness of the inside of that tent, and the more scared we became, the brighter that gleam seemed to get. His teeth were filed to razor sharp points, and they glistened unnaturally white in the dim light.

Mickey shot me a furtive glance as Mr. Razor seemed to have all of his attention focused on me at the moment.

When suddenly out of nowhere — it came...

“Run, Lenny... r-u-u-u-u-u-n!

I did. I ran like I'd never run before in my life. Once I was through the tear in the chain link and near the path through the woods, I turned, laughing to tell Mickey how scared shitless I'd been. But Mickey wasn't there. In fact, no one ever saw Mickey Miller again, not until many years later.

It was me that found him.
 


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Juniper River, New Jersey

August 13, 1946
 

Now, don't go gettin' your panties in a wad. I never moved away from this God-forsaken town because of what happened to Mickey. But believe me when I tell you this, I wanted to about a hundred times. After WWII ended and all the boys came home, the town council decided to rename our town, Juniper River. Towns named after rivers is big business in Jersey, and the Juniper River (which fed the aforementioned Juniper Springs) was nestled snugly along the town's southern-most bank.

I felt guilty about leavin' Mickey the way I did. But see, you gotta understand, I didn't realize I'd left him at the time. Especially not with that Mr. Razor fella, not until it was too late. I heard Mickey's screamin' for about a half a mile or better out in them woods as I ran home that night. As God is my witness, I can't get that sound out of my head to this day.

I wanted to go straight to the cops; tell them what happened. But then, I'd have to explain what I was doin' out of my house at that late hour, in a carnival that hadn't been opened up to the public... well, you get the picture. I couldn't tell my folks either, not outright. My daddy would skin me alive. 'Sides, they wouldn't 'a believed me any more'n you probably do now as I'm telling you this. All I knew was that Mickey wasn't ever comin' home again, and I was partly responsible for it.

I made an anonymous call to the Juniper River Police from a phone booth on Vine Street the following morning as I made my way to school. I used one of my dad's old handkerchiefs to cover the mouthpiece — something I'd seen done in one 'a those Dick Tracey detective comics — and made my voice as deep as possible for a twelve-year-old kid. I told them I'd seen a boy prowling around the fairgrounds the previous night, and it looked to me like he might be up to no good. They said they'd check it out. When the guy on the other end — a Sergeant Jensen — asked me where I could be reached, I hung up the phone.

Turns out the cops never found Mickey Miller or anything else at the fairgrounds that day. No tents or midway. No circus wagons or sideshow freaks. Nothin'. Everything simply vanished into the ocean air as if it never existed. Oh, but it existed all right. I know, 'cause I went back there two nights later. I had to know 'cause it kept eatin' away at me, see? I had to find out what happened to Mickey. I held out little hope that he was doin' Jim dandy, based on all that hollering I'd heard him doin'. But if nothing else, I could find out what we were up against and warn the proper authorities.

I climbed the fence this time 'round 'stead 'a goin' through the gap, way on the other side of the fairgrounds. You know, just in case he was keeping an eye out for me to return for Mick? All of the other tents that had been there that night were gone...except one. Yep, you guessed it. The freak show tent was still standin' there loud and proud. I pressed my ear up against the clammy canvas soaked from all of the ocean spray, and heard nothing but quiet comin' from the other side. I crawled in.

All of the displays were uncovered now. A two headed fetus in a large glass jar was the first horrific sight that greeted me, but there was more to come. Some...thing that looked like a shark with a human face and arms stared out at me from behind a glass enclosure filled to the brim with water. It's black, doll-like eyes were partially rolled back into it's cone-shaped skull, and I knew it was sleeping...or dead. Two shrunken heads from Burma was danglin' by another display which told of the previous owners gruesome story. Last, I came upon a display case labeled “Snake Boy”. A dim, low-wattage bulb lit up the insides, and there he was, pretty as you please. He had an enlarged throat, a lot like one 'a them cobras, and two jagged fangs protruded from his mouth. His eyes were nothin' but white slits, and he was covered head to toe with leaf-sized, olive-colored scales. I knew he was still alive 'cause his forked pink tongue kept darting in and out, like it was searching the air for something. I recall hoping that “something” weren't me.

I could hear that Mr. Razor prayin' — at least that's what it sounded like to me — off somewhere on the other side of the partition, but I never seen him, nor him me. After everything I'd already seen that night, I was truly thankful for that.

 

Juniper River, New Jersey

October 31, 2013

A couple of years ago, I finally figured it all out. I'd been paying a visit to the Fayette County fairgrounds every evening a'fore Halloween from 1947 until then, with the exception of '57 through '62. Them years, Ringling Brother's / Barnum & Bailey Circus came to town puttin' on one hell of a show. It must'a been a package deal for the town or somethin'. No matter, 'cause wherever I was or whatever I was involved in, I'd go, just to see if I could figure out what happened to Mick — to try and make sense of it all. I'd always managed to locate the freak show tent with no trouble, even though none of the other tents was ever there after Mickey went missing. Just Mr. Razor and his ragtag bunch'a ghouls.

They was the only game in town now.

I've done some research at the local library and on the internet over the years. Turns out Sire Rosewell Benninger, aka; “Mr. Razor”, was beheaded then burned back in the late 1600's, when Juniper Springs was known as Jasper Creek. Now, I know what yer thinkin' This town's had more names than your average one-year-old has their diapers changed. There's probably a couple of good reasons for that, too. Turns out Mr. Razor was reputed to be a powerful warlock, and he and his band of mutant misfits had appeared in other places across the country, not just here in Juniper River. Always on the same damn night, too... the night a'fore Halloween. The Glenn River International Paranormal Society — G.R.I.P.S. as they liked to call themselves — here in Jersey wrote a three page article about the “Ghost Carnival” on their website. Much of what they wrote was speculation, just an educated guess. I could tell by what I'd read that none of them pantie wastes had the balls to actually go there.

So, why am I telling you all this? Well, a couple of reasons, actually. One; I know Mr. Razor and his gang of geeks will be back again this season. So, I'm leaving this behind as sort of documentation. You know, proof that I actually existed, and about what I've seen. And, I've seen plenty, too.  Some of it I've already made mention of here, while others I'd just as soon forget.

 

Juniper River, New Jersey

December 31, 2014

I took to running marathons in 1976, our nation's bicentennial year. I may be eighty-three, but I'm still fit as a fiddle and can run with the best of 'em. I've been training, see, for when the time comes for me to do in Mr. Razor once and for all, and do away with his gang of ghastly freaks forever. I may need to get away quick. Who knows how it'll all pan out in the end?

When I sneaked my way into his terror tent this last time, I made a bee-line straight for the snake boy's display. See, every year I began to notice slight changes in the thing's appearance. Nothin' major, mind you, but ones you'd plainly notice if you knew what you was lookin' for, like I do. What I seen there this past year is burned into my memory forever — like a hot branding iron into cows hide.

The freak behind the glass had the same pale green, scaly skin and pink darting tongue he'd had all the years before, that's true. But, there was something different about its eyes; there was something... more there now. I seen recognition in those eyes — like it remembered me in another time and place. When it opened it's mouth to hiss at me, bearin' them long, pointed fangs — they was pure polished gold. They gleamed in the darkness like sunshine as they reflected light off that dim, single bulb dangling above the display case. I'd swear on a stack of King James Bibles I heard it hiss the word 'stay'.

I know now what happened to Mickey Miller, and I know that Hell's own Mr. Razor knows I know about it, too. He'll be back in, oh, say another ten months or so, looking for more souls to swallow up for his hellish sideshow attraction. Hundreds of kids come up missin' every year. Just take a gander at a milk carton once in a while.

And when he does come back, you can bet your ass that this time I'll be ready for him.

 

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I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. It will be my last post of 2014, contest or otherwise. I'd wanted to go exit 2014 with a bang. Hopefully I've succeeded.

As always, thank you very much for reading and supporting my work.
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