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Fiction

When the carnival came to town

Written by Indee Watson

A piece of ribbon running through her fingers. A candle flickering in the corner of her eye. Her fingers trembling, milky tea spilling out of the top of the mug. Her eyes darted round the room, trying to source the reason for her feeling of unease. She hadn’t felt this way since she was 11 and her father had become unwell. Most nights were filled with terror and dread, never knowing what was going to happen. Never knowing why. It had all stopped when she was 17, however, when her father fell victim to a coma. She was the one who found him; passed out on his bed, vomit staining his dry lips, an empty bottle of pills in his hand. It hadn’t worked. In his coma, she knew he was trapped, though she couldn’t help but feel a sigh of relief; at least he was safe. She felt so selfish. Every Friday, after her shift at the quaint café on the edge of town, she would shuffle through the hospital entrance to visit her father. She spoke to him of current events and gossip about local folk, hoping he’d one day respond. Though somewhere inside her, she knew such methods would never work.

Her mind too occupied by the sinking feeling in her stomach, she didn’t notice the candle flame die out, or the smoke that swirled into the air following this. Just like that, her shadowy silhouette that flickered on the wall, was gone. This only made the atmosphere more daunting, seeing everything just as dark shapes. Lifeless. Lifeless, but watching. The only light came from the window, where the moon was full, above a sleeping town. She tried to put her mind at ease, taking a seat by the window, where rain was drizzling down. Even on rainy days, she often spent hours perched on the windowsill, strumming melodies on her guitar, as though she were the modern Holly Golightly. She enjoyed being Holly. It was someone different. She began to play, the moon reflecting on the recently polished wood of her father’s old guitar. The chords sounded peculiar, unlike the way her father used to play them. Discouraged by these unfamiliar sounds, she glanced out of the window, desperate to pluck some inspiration from somewhere. It was at this moment she noticed something moving in her garden. This wasn’t something unfamiliar to her, as she frequently observed small animals roaming around at night. Yet, this seemed different. She’d seen the horror movies before; knew to lock her door and stay away from what may or may not be dangerous, but she had always been a curious child — something her father had often said would someday get the better of her — and instead decided to investigate.

Hesitantly, she stepped into her garden, blades of grass itching her bare feet. The rain was slowing down, though still heavy enough that curls of brown hair now hung damply by her ears. Although cars could occasionally be heard drifting by in the distance, the silence in between was endless. Almost as suddenly as the stillness fell upon her garden, the silence was smothered by the chime of the grandfather clock. Midnight. October 17th.

*

The week her father became ill was the week her only brother — sweet little Noah — went missing. When her father slipped into a coma, she tried putting that life behind her. Though she still resided in the family home, all the photographs were stored in the attic and the only glimpse of her father was echoed in the melodies she played on his guitar. Fear of what may have happened to her brother prevented her from letting grief take over, so no trace of him was seen in the house. That was the only way to handle the pain; the anxiety and sorrow left along with her father. ‘Repression’, some people may call it. That’s what Mrs Mills, the overly-sympathetic-but-hopeless school therapist had always told her. But she liked to call it ‘coping’. There was nobody around to remind her of Noah. Yet every year, when the clock struck midnight, she felt the pain. Alone in the garden, her eyes welled with a year’s worth of tears. Slowly flowing to the corners of her eyes, a dam of grief about to burst open, tears blurred her vision and the garden became distorted. Streams of sadness suddenly tumbled down her cheeks, over her ever-present dimples -whether smiling or crying- leaving her cheeks pink. Her brother had dimples too. Her father said they were kisses from their mother.

*

The sky was peppered with more stars, when she finally came around, and night had finally set in. As she gazed into the darkness, faint footsteps could be heard. Leaves rustling, a twig snapping, a quiet mumbling. It didn’t sound like any animal she’d heard before. From the darkness emerged two little feet, wearing mud stained socks. Stepping forwards, torn trousers were revealed, knees grazed under the rips, and an off-white dinosaur t-shirt, where blood poppies had bloomed. As he stumbled out of the shadows, arms stretched out in front of him, the moon finally lit up his face. His skin was perfect; round rosy cheeks with freckles scattered across his button nose. Auburn hair curled round his ears and above his eyes, which he brushed to the side with his tiny hands. Gleaming at her were two bright blue eyes; her brother’s eyes. She always felt as though she were staring into the ocean whenever she looked into Noah’s eyes. She didn’t know if this was her imagination or insanity, but she could feel the ocean again. It was him. Exactly as she remembered him.

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