Every year the Carnival of Charms, a collection of ancient amusements and sideshow wonders visits our village. Cindy and I rode the Ferris Wheel, a rusty antique. It creaked and groaned into the sky, wobbled precariously high above the Carnival of Charms, flickering tent show lights and the river running through our town. We held hands, kissed and made promises. Then she disappeared in the hustle & bustle of sideshow tents, cotton candy stands and corn dog smells.
Police searched and found nothing. Took me in for questioning. Beat me with an old telephone book until I pissed blood. I was suspect.
I loved her, I said. I had no motive.
Love is a motive, they retorted.
But they had nothing and let me go. Still, people suspected. I felt their whispers. Smelled their fear, hate and distrust.
Kidnapped? Murdered? Who knew? Two days later the Carnival of Charms disappeared but returned again the following year and every year since as it always does and always will.
And every year, hidden in shadow, I return. I watch young and old walk the midway. And I watch Heidi, younger than ever, wavy raven tresses, delicate waisted, creamy skinned. Voice low, whispery and sibilant, she charms and seduces, a melodious ear-worm in the shadows where I wait.
Lights dim. The Ferris Wheel creaks to a halt. The carousel goes quiet. The Carnival of Charms shuts down for the night. The smell of cotton candy and stale fat, cricket chirps and starlight dominate the realm of carny tents and caravans. Dressed in black I become one with shadows and jemmy the door to Heidi’s House of Mirrors.
I stand in silent darkness. Wait. Déjà vu. Flick on my torch. Mirrors swallow the beam into an endless maze of glass. Nothing reflects. I turn the light to the ceiling, but the beam remains trapped in mirrors. A figure swims towards the surface of countless reflections, a dress of flowing black lace, a head of cascading black tresses, a pale face of ethereal beauty and lips as red as blood. Heidi’s hand reaches out to impossible lengths from the mirrors, snake like, clutches my wrist and pulls me into labyrinths of dark glass. I fall into a maze of carnival tents, coloured lights and sideshows, see Cindy dart and weave through the canvassed alleyways. I run after her.
And every year, hidden in shadow, I return to the Carnival of Charms. Lights dim. The Ferris Wheel creaks to a halt. The carousel goes quiet. The Carnival of Charms shuts down for the night. The smell of cotton candy and stale fat, cricket and starlight dominate the realm of carny tents and caravans. Dressed in black I become one with shadows and jemmy the door to Heidi’s House of Mirrors.
Alpheus Williams, curmudgeon, pagan, pantheist, loves his wife, nature, good whisky and dogs, lives and writes in a small coastal village in Australia with his wonderful wife and their border collie. His works have appeared in The Molotov Cocktail Winners Anthology, Barren Magazine, Storgy, The Write Launch, The Fabulist Magazine, Shotgun Honey, Bristol Noir, Bath Flash Fiction, Hell Hound Magazine, et al. He has been long listed in Bath Flash Fiction, Retreat West Comp and Wigleaf and shortlisted in Barren Magazine Flash Contes. Two stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize 2021.