Carnival of Darkness (FaeTAL Series Book 1) (2 page)

Her screams of pain and her fear-filled eyes are one hundred percent real. They fill my dreams, turning them into nightmares I can never escape.

I’ve done my fair share of bad shit in my life. I’ve stolen cars. I’ve done and dealt drugs. I’ve been in a veritable shit ton of fights. I’ve even gone so far as to hold someone up at gunpoint. Needless to say, I’m far from an innocent man.

When my daddy passed and my momma moved us from our farm in Shady Dale to Atlanta, Georgia for work, my world fucking imploded. Everything changed way too damn fast, and my helpless teenage self just couldn’t figure out how to deal. I did what any hard-headed, stubborn ass teenage boy would do in my situation. I bottled that shit up, and eventually it exploded in ways my momma definitely didn’t approve of.

The day I went to jail for jacking a car is the day my life changed. Little did I know that the car I lifted belonged to a fucking bounty hunter.

What are the damn odds of that?

I haven’t a clue what Mac saw in me when he came down to the station. All I know is that once he talked with the cop and then with me, he decided not to press charges.

Oh no, that fucker had bigger plans for my stupid ass. He set it up with the sheriff's office and my momma. Instead of jail, I would work for him. If I stepped even one little toe out of line, my ass would be back behind bars.

He signed me up at a gym for MMA and hand-to-hand training. Then once I finished school, yet another requirement for keeping my happy ass out of jail for boosting his favorite car, he hired me on full time as a bounty hunter for Shadow Hunters, Inc.

Now, here I am, ten years later on another job with no end in sight. We got hired by a guy whose sister went missing after visiting the C.O.D. After doing some digging, we found that over the years there had been quite a few odd occurrences that seemed to revolve around the freaky carnival.

We had to act fast and get me in before they moved on to their next location. With Mac’s computer skills it was a simple thing to give me a new background. One involving a shit ton of crimes and a recent release from prison. Once he was done with me I was so attractive to them that I had no trouble getting hired on.

When Mac sent me out here, I sure as shit never expected all this.

The fucked-up-beyond-belief booths. The dense fog-oozing funhouse, that is anything but fun. The strange take on games and vendors. And let's not forget
about  the
damn clowns.

What is it with clowns anyways? Does anyone actually like these damn things?

I found the girl pretty quick. Wasn’t even hard if I’m being honest. Problem was, I couldn’t just take her and run. She wasn’t the only one being held. I needed more intel before I could pull her out. I couldn’t risk leaving the others at the mercy of the C.O.D while I was attempting to get her the hell out of there.

So, for the last six long-ass months, I have been playing my part. Being a douche to everyone and keeping up appearances. As far as these fuckers know, I’m a badass cowboy convict that doesn’t give a fuck about the kidnappings, beatings, or torture. I do what I’m told and keep my head down.

Tonight’s show went off without a hitch. I did what I was supposed to and managed not to kill anyone. On my walk through the C.O.D to my trailer, I can’t help but look around at the freak show that has become my life. I honestly can’t fucking decide if this place is worse crowded with people or, times like now, when everyone is gone. All that’s left is the silence that leads my mind on a continuous loop of the hellacious screams of tortured women as they beg for mercy that will never be granted.

Each booth and attraction I walk by is worse than the last. Each one causing the screams in my head to echo a little louder.

The ‘Live Puppet Show’ is creepy as fuck. People actually find it fun to sit in an audience and watch helpless women be forced to do shit against their will. The puppeteer takes requests and then uses rope that is tied uncomfortably tight around every available body part - including their neck and sometimes hair - to put on a show. This attraction often leads to dislocated arms and legs as well as a death or two when the men running it get a bit carried away. It’s not like these dicks can or will take the girls to the hospital afterwards. Fuck no. They just toss them back in their trailers, and if they’re lucky, another girl is allowed to tend to them.

The ‘Scary-Go-Round’ is filled with broken horses, cracked mirrors, and so much blood I’m almost scared someone is going to slip on the shit. The music pouring out of this thing consists of moans, groans, screams, and now and then, some actual music. Why anyone gets on any of these rides beats the hell out of me. They are all covered in rust and grime. I guess everyone thinks that they are just painted to look that way and not actually falling apart. Hah! Joke’s on them.

‘Stab N Grab’ is the definition of insane. They actually strap women to the wall, surround them with balloons, and let drunks throw darts at them. Yeah, that goes real well.

Then you have ‘Drown the Clown’. If only it were the guards that liked to dress like clowns up in that damn booth. Hell, I’d take a shot at them for sure. That’s not the case, though. Instead, one of the poor girls gets dressed up in the skimpiest clown costume possible and tossed on the bench. Again, if it ended there, it would be okay. These sick fucks make sure the water is literally ice cold, and the booth is so deep there is no chance of standing up. The girls have to tread water until the bastard running the booth stops laughing long enough to toss her a rope ladder so she can get up on the bench and do it all over again.

‘Ring Toss’ sounds innocent enough. Trust me, it ain’t what it sounds. For this one the women are trussed up like animals and forced to stay in one position for hours on end while carnival goers throw hard, heavy rings at their heads.

None of it compares to the horrors that take place in the ‘Fun House’. The things that take place inside those walls... Fuck me sideways man, I’m pretty sure specially trained military men have broken under less.

The list of fucked up attractions goes on and on. I can’t understand how the people visiting this damn place can’t see it for what it is.

The thing is, though, some of this shit just ain’t adding up anymore.

I’ve gotta get some time to myself, and soon, so that I can contact Mac with an update. I sure as shit hope he has figured out who we need to contact with all this. There has to be someone that can help shut this fucking place down once and for all.

 

 

Charlee

 

Why for the love of all that is holy did I let Samantha talk me into coming to this freaky carnival? I don’t even do haunted houses because they scare the bejesus out of me!

Go out with your friends
, she said.

It will be fun
, she said.

I’ll watch the baby, it’s no big deal at all.

Big sister or not. I am so kicking her tail when I get home. This place is freaking insane!

The only part of this place that is even remotely my style is the palm reader. That sounds like something I might actually enjoy. That is if I can get past the sign written in what looks way too much like real blood.

Ugh, why must everything in this place be so icky? So just plain creepy.

“Hey, guys, let's try out the fortune teller thing. That sounds like fun, right?” I urge.

“Uh, sure, Char. If that’s what you want to do. I don’t see why we can’t give it a go.” Rick agrees but looks at me as if I’ve lost my mind.

I know they don’t understand why I don’t enjoy this type of thing. Sara and Greg beg off to go check out the piercing booth while Rick takes my hand to lead the way.

Why do I get the feeling he thinks this is a date? None of my friends from work will accept that I’m just not ready to date yet. Losing Will is still too fresh. Too painful. No matter how long it has been.

No one gets it. No one understands that I don’t want to have guys pushed on me left and right. Besides, no guy wants to take on the kind of baggage I come with.

Maybe I should have said no and just stayed home tonight. The same as I have every day for the last eight months and twelve days.

Crap!

I shouldn’t have left her yet. Little Willow is only two months old. I’m not ready for this, heck maybe I never will be. It’s just too much. Being in crowds of people overwhelms my senses.

I pull away from Rick and take my phone out of my pocket to call Sam and check on the baby. Let her know I can come on home if they need me. Willow has never been away from me for this long. The manager at the firm I work for has been awesome. She lets me bring her to work with me so long as I can keep up with my filing and transcripts, she doesn’t seem to mind her being there. Having such an understanding boss makes working this soon after having her a lot easier.

Rick’s voice jerks me out of my thoughts.

“You want to do this or not, Char?”

“Yep, let's do this thing.” I force a grin and release my phone back into my pocket.

“Awesome, let’s go see what our future looks like. Then we can go watch the rodeo.”

Our future? Uh, yeah. No.

Keeping my eyes downcast and away from the gross sign and creepy entrance, I follow Rick inside.

“Welcome. Enter if you dare.”

A snort escapes me, and I couldn’t stop my eyes from rolling if I tried. How cheesy can they get with this baloney? At least it isn’t scary.

A man wearing gypsy-esque clothing sits at a round, cloth-covered table. His long, frizzy hair seems to be flying about his pointy head. His beady little eyes zero in on our clasped hands. Slightly yellowed teeth grin from behind a scraggly beard.

“Please, join me,” the odd little man adds with a hand flourish that has me struggling to hold in a giggle.

Rick pulls my chair out for me. Once we’re both seated, he reaches for my hand again. I quickly lay my hands in my lap and avoid his gaze.

“Trouble in paradise? Now that just won’t do. Not at all. Let’s see what the future holds for you two love birds, shall we?”

The smell of incense and candles is almost overwhelming. My eyes start to water.

“How does this work? You read palms or what?”

“That is it exactly, sir. I am highly trained in the art of reading palms. Especially those of someone as beautiful as this young lady.”

Oh puh-lease! Flattery will get you nowhere, especially in this creepy place. I swear, I’m going to burst a freaking blood vessel attempting to keep from rolling my eyes or snorting again.

“Uh yeah, man. Let’s see what you’ve got.” Rick chuckles.

The fortune teller reaches for my hand. The moment his fingers make contact, electricity shoots up my arm and my heart starts to race. Breathing becomes difficult. My pulse is erratic. My eyes jump to his and I can’t look away.

A nasty smirk, filled with longing and what looks an awful lot like hatred, fills his face. I start to pull my hand away but he tightens his hold. His rough, calloused finger rubs across my birthmark causing goosebumps to form and the little hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end. Thinking about the Irish trinity knot that marks me as different from everyone else brings back memories I would rather remain buried.

Why did my mark have to change? I miss the beautiful swirls of the Celtic triskele that used to sweep out from behind the trinity knot. I miss the deeper color that made it stand out on my hand.

“I can sense great things for you, my dear. Such... unique and delicious things.” His tongue darts out to wet his lips, and I jerk my hand roughly from his and stand abruptly. Ready to run.  I am absolutely, one hundred percent done with this.

“Now, now, my dear. That wasn’t very nice, I am far from done with your gorgeous self. Why don’t you come over here and sit a little closer so I can take a better look at your future.” He leers at me and I find myself stepping closer to Rick, farther from the table and the creepy little man sitting at it as if nothing strange has happened.

“What the fuck, man?” Rick demands as he takes my hand and pulls me from the tent.

“That shit was weird, and he didn’t even tell us our fucking future. Man, I am so sorry Char. That dude was creepy as fuck.” Pulling me tight against his chest, he runs his hand down my back in an attempt to comfort me.

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