Nightmare fuel, again.
No real introduction needed for this one, aside from the fact that I was inspired by the prompt rather than directly incorporating it.
This is horror. This is the stuff of nightmares.
"The Boy who Loved Carousels"
by L Czhorat Suskin
"More ride! Again! More" Billy was positively vibrating with excitement, with more energy than the carousel with which he was enamored. And what a carousel it was. This wasn't one of those shiny plastic things with electronically faked music, but a real antique carousel, whimsical horses and pigs and other beasts lovingly restored as they circled to the music of a genuine calliope. The day was nearly done, the crowds thinned to a sparse handful. This ride stood by itself, a little apart from the others. For some reason, Billy had been drawn to it. I lifted my son up to the bird-beast, his familiar weight easy in my hands. Fastened the strap (the once concession to modernity. Safety first!), and, after a moment's thought, hopped downward from the platform. Let the boy ride alone; toddlers aren't afforded all that much freedom these days.
The music started, the carousel started spinning spinning spinning. I snapped some cell-phone snapshots as Billy leaned forward, his arms around the beast's neck as his steed vanished across the other and reappeared, a manic-toddler grin on his face as it went around vanished and reappeared vanished and reappeared vanished and...
...the unpainted birdbeast came back around from the other side, its back bare. My heard pounding, I vaulted the little fence to run around to the other side. DId he fall off his perch? And the platform? Did I strap him in wrong? The damn calliope continued to belch out its happy tune, the world spun around me like a carousel I got to the other side and a bit of my world collapsed when I saw
Sickly grass, trampled by dozens of feet, the carousel carouselling, the operator looking at me with a quizzical look and... nothing.
They stopped the ride and searched behind and under (oh god under there was so little room and gears to crush a small boy, thank got he'd not been caught there, but where? Where?)
The rest happened around me, like some kind of out of body experience. The fair grounds closed, questions and incredulity from the cops, from the earnest man in khakis and a white polo shirt with the fairground logo, from the cops again. A knot in my stomach, dread, nausea.
The knowledge that I'd have to tell her.
She made me go through the story a dozen times, then another dozen.
It was always the same.
"I still don't understand. Where could he be?"
"I don't know."
"How the FUCK could you not know? You were fucking THERE."
"I don't know. He was there... and then he was gone."
"He can't just be gone. People don't just vanish. What happened?"
"I don't know."
We made phone calls together, posted up fliers with his picture, promising a reward we'd not be able to afford to give had anyone claimed it. I even snuck off to a storefront psychic, who was about as helpful as you'd expect. In crazy times you do crazy things.
I slept on the couch a lot. From there it wasn't too big a step to sleeping in a motel room, and in another apartment.
|Original source (?):|
We don't speak much anymore. I don't think she's ever stopped looking.
I've never stopped looking. Sometimes I just look at those last photos on my phone, those last few of him on the carousel. He's holding tight to the bird's neck, but then... he isn't. He's reaching forward toward something just out of frame, a look on his face that might be wonder. It seemed different than the last time around.
I wonder what he saw. I wonder where he is.
Sometimes I'll ride a carousel myself and look. I've not found it yet.