Authors: Becca Moree
My breathing is still coming in short bursts and I can’t seem to form a full, complete thought.
What in the world just happened in there?
It’s like the moment his hand touched mine all the air was sucked out of the room.
Realizing that I’m still wrapped tightly in Rick’s arms, I push against his chest gently and step back.
“Well, that was strange and unsettling to say the least. What now?” I ask.
“How about we go to the rodeo thing?”
“Sure. Sitting down for a bit sounds like a good idea. Besides, I’ve never seen a rodeo before.”
Finding seats near the top of the bleachers, we sit down with popcorn and drinks to enjoy the show. Not knowing what to expect, I start to look around and examine the ring below.
Other than a few barrels and some rope hanging on a fence post, there isn’t a lot to see. Just a bunch of dirt in a ring and a gate.
Huh. Guess the animals come later.
A man stands at the opposite end of the ring. An odd hat, not quite cowboy but close, is precariously perched on his head with a black bandana peeking out from underneath. He has one foot propped up on the lowest rung of the fence. His arms are draped loosely over the top rung, shoulders hunched as if the weight of the world were resting on them. His bulging - mouth watering - muscles are on display in his unbuttoned, sleeveless plaid flannel shirt. His low riding jeans giving me a delicious view of those V things that make women stupid.
His head is lowered to his forearms. The tenseness of his body giving off a vibe of pissed off man mixed with an odd feeling of acceptance.
My eyes closed, I reach out toward him with my mind to see if I can learn more. Unsure of why I want, no
, to learn more about this stranger, I can’t seem to stop myself from delving into his mind.
Or trying to.
A wall of darkness.
Opening my eyes, I focus on him and nudge harder to see if I can break through.
His head pops up and his eyes roam every face in the stands. Our eyes lock when his gaze lands on me. It’s as if he
it was me trying to get into his head. I’ve never had someone sense me in their thoughts before.
A rodeo clown, well it’s at least a clown that’s for sure, walks up behind him. His head jerks back as if a rubber band had been holding us together and suddenly snapped. Shaking his head, he turns to the clown.
Taking a deep breath I pull my focus back to what’s going on around me. Rick is talking about something, clearly he didn’t realize that my mind was elsewhere. Literally.
“-don’t care what they say. Don’t you think?”
“Uh, what? Sorry, I zoned out for a minute there.” I look at him sheepishly.
“Nevermind. I-it’s not a big deal. Hey look; looks like they are starting.”
Out in the ring, the man, riding a stunning tan and white stallion, flies around the ring. Watching him ride is mesmerizing. His hips rising and falling gracefully with the movement of the powerful beast between his legs. The flannel shirt he is wearing flows behind him with the slight breeze his ride forms. His abdominal muscles contracting and releasing with each rise and fall. Powerful thighs wrapped snuggly around the horse.
My mind immediately slides into the gutter. Easily picturing my body making the very same movements. Only, instead of a horse, I’m riding his delectable body.
What the heck? I seriously need to get myself under control. I haven’t had dirty thoughts about anyone since I lost Will. But if anything was ever going to make me want to get back on that horse, so to speak, it would be the perfection that is this man.
He grins to the women in the stands, clearly in his element in the ring. His devastating smile leaves me drooling.
Coming to a stop in the center of the ring, he jumps from the horse and pulls a microphone from the back of his oh-so-deliciously tight and torn Wranglers.
“Welcome y’all! We’ll be doing a few of the traditional tricks and rides for ya tonight, but don’t go gettin’ disappointed just yet. Y’all know we here at the Carnival of Darkness don’t do anything half-way. We add a twist or two and keep things interesting. Now, there are a few rules ya need to keep in mind during the show. Only workers in the rodeo ring, don’t throw ya trash where it don’t belong, and have fun! Y’all ready for some fun? Let me hear ya yell!”
The uproar of the crowd leaves my ears ringing. Grinning at Rick, I join in on the ruckus. The rodeo is something else! The energy level never once dropped, and the crowd stayed on their feet for the majority of the show. Seeing the man doing tricks on his horse had my heart pounding so hard I thought I would break a rib. Thankful that part of the show is over, I watch with bated breath as he rides around the ring, sweat dripping down his chest, one more time. A woman suddenly appears in the ring.
Her eyes huge in her porcelain face. Chest rising and falling rapidly with each gasp for breath. She stares aimlessly around the ring, looking for what I’m not sure. Tears stream down her cheeks when her eyes freeze on the far side of the ring. A blood covered clown wearing jeans and a ripped white t-shirt walks out. The maniacal grin beneath his big red nose will surely play a part in my nightmares later tonight.
The woman’s eyes somehow manage to grow wider and her complexion pales even more. The terror pouring off of her is so intense, so real that the crowd goes silent in anticipation.
The clown pulls a large butcher knife from behind his back and my eyes join the woman’s in size. I hold my breath waiting to see what will happen next.
Surely, the cowboy will rescue the girl from the clown. Right?
The clown stalks slowly, dangerously, towards the defenseless woman who is now openly sobbing.
Run! You have to run!
I don’t know if I spoke aloud or through my mind. All I know for sure is that the woman’s eyes bounce between the cowboy, the clown, the stands and the exit.
The one and only means of escape.
That just so happens to be the same way the clown entered the ring.
Her arms and legs tremble so strongly that I can see it from my seat. Her entire body is shaking in fear.
The clown is within a few feet of her now. The woman turns and sprints in the opposite direction of the exit.
The cowboy sits still as a statue atop his mount. His knuckles white, his jaw clenched, he looks pissed. He looks like a man on the verge of breaking. A man with a decision to make. A decision he clearly doesn’t like the answer to.
The woman runs fast. But the clown is faster. He cuts her off, tripping her in the process. A scream erupts so loudly I’m not sure I will ever be able to erase it from my memory. Instead of going after her he backs away laughing while slashing his knife through the air. He’s toying with her.
The cowboy still sits in the exact same position. Heck, I’m not even sure the man is breathing at this point.
The woman gets to her feet, blood dripping from her skinned knees and elbows.
“Please! Please, someone h-h-elp me! Please!” she pleads through her sobs.
This act is so freaking real. Many people in the crowd are on their feet. Some seemingly struggling with the pull to help the woman. I have never seen something like this. How can this be fake and yet feel so real?
As she starts to limp-run her way to the exit, the clown walks slowly behind her. Slicing out with his knife, he aims for her back. She screeches in pain and a red line forms on her ripped shirt. The clowns mocking laughter fills the ring.
The cowboy eyes the woman with anger, yet his eyes are almost filled with pity or sadness. Removing a lasso from the saddle horn he digs his thighs into the horse and moves toward the scene playing out before him.
Finally, he’s going to help her. He’ll rope the clown and this demented scene will be over. My sigh of relief is quickly cut off when his rope wraps around the woman just before she reaches the gate that marked her freedom. Jumping from his horse he quickly and efficiently hog ties the woman, turns his back and walks his horse from the ring. Leaving the woman helplessly waiting for whatever the clown has planned.
His eye gleaming with joy, he kicks the woman before bending down and whispering something meant only for her ears. His knife glides along her exposed body as if he is letting it choose where to start.
Gulping back a sob, I turn my head into Rick’s shoulder and refuse to watch anymore of this sick show. His fingers run soothingly through my hair. After a few minutes, he pulls away and I find the ring empty. The only thing left behind are a few drag marks and a small pool of red liquid sitting peacefully in the middle of the ring.
“Come on, Char. Let’s get you out of here, huh?”
“Yeah. Yeah, that sounds good. I think I’m done.”
He looks disappointed at my announcement, but I just can’t find it in me to care. I can’t stand to stay in the place a minute more.
“I’ll walk you to your car. I don-”
Sensing his growing protest to me leaving alone, I interrupt.
“You don’t have to walk me out, Rick. You stay and hang out with Greg and Sara a little longer. I’ll see you at work on Monday.”
Flashing him the most sincere smile I can muster, I stand and start the trek back to my car. Rick stays with me until we find our friends standing in line to ride something called the Zipper where I encourage him to join them.
“I promise, I’m okay guys. I have just had my fill of horror for a while. Thanks again for inviting me. It was... nice.”
After saying our goodbyes, I wander through the back side of the vendor tents trying to avoid the crowd and creeps on the way to the parking lot. It’s well lit and there are workers everywhere, so I feel safe enough.
Before I have time to protest or even think through what is happening, a hand holding a rag is pressed into my face. My body is being pulled away from the tents and my eyes are getting heavy. I can’t find the umph to struggle. To scream for the help I so clearly need.
My head pounds in time with my heart. My breathing slows. My limbs feel numb and useless. My vision blurs just before everything goes black.
“Hey, Brett. Get ya ass over here and help me with this would ya?”
At the sound of my name, I jerk my head in the direction the husky voice came from to see one of the vendors dragging a sack across the grime covered dirt.
What the fuck? Remind me not to eat at any of these damn nasty-ass booths anymore.
“Whatcha got there, man?”
On closer inspection I see that the bag is moving.
“What’s it matter to you?” He delivers a swift kick to the bag and smirks when it goes still. “Just come help me get her into the back trailer where Fred wants her, damn it. Bitch is making it harder than shit.”
Damn it! Looks like they got another one. How many fucking girls are they going to take before enough is enough?
Shaking my head, I swagger over to where he stands, wiping sweat off his chubby brow, huffing for breath. I bend down and grab the bag, tossing it gently over my shoulder. I wrap my arms around what is clearly a set of legs and allow her head to rest on my back.