Sample – Funhouse



We climbed a slight set of stairs, painted red to further suggest the tongue of the clown, unfurled to welcome us. Just inside, the walls were covered with cheap carnival mirrors, bent and twisted to distort the images reflected. I only glanced at these reflections, seeing myself as shorter and fatter, then taller and thin, then twisted like a pretzel at my torso. Anna was lingering, more infatuated than I was, but that was her way. She was a creature of beauty and knew it, fostered it. I had to stop and wait for her, as Anna had stopped before the final mirror before we ventured into the dark and narrow hallway that led deeper inside the funhouse. Her hand climbed to her cheek, as if she were inspecting the reality of her flesh in the mirror.
“Something wrong?” I asked, doubling back to take her hand.
“What? No. I just thought I looked different for a second. Come on.”
She moved past me, into the gloom of the hallway, while the sounds of bells and voices and the roller coaster zooming along its metal rails faded as we left. I was puzzling over Anna’s strange reaction, turning to follow her, when I got a glimpse of someone in my periphery. I looked at the mirror, examining my seemingly normal reflection. I would have sworn that, for an instant, I saw someone else… someone with twisting vines wrapped around a seductively feminine body.
We moved through a passage to the proper interior of the funhouse, one of those things with railed paths with neon colors spinning as you walk through it, disorienting me to the point I had to release Anna’s hand and hold onto the rails, the metal warmed by the summer heat beyond. The walk through the whirling tube of colors seemed to take hours, my steps shuffling and short behind Anna’s as we aimed for the darkness beyond the exit. The whir of air as it turned in the tube was loud, louder even than the thumping carnival music, and, for an instant, I felt like I was falling. I remembered something from being a kid, Lewis Carroll and his Alice as she fell down the rabbit hole. Something about not knowing where you’re going…
And then we were out, the air cooler outside the spinning cylinder, and we were among people again, huddled in a waiting area as we were escorted to a stream of clacking and bucking cars, designed for up to four people with lap bars that locked in place.
I found Anna’s hand again, and I held it surprisingly hard, hard enough for her to look at me, but I could see a distracted, almost hazy, look on her face that I felt on my own expression. I opened my mouth to say something, maybe just to ask if she felt as strange as I did, but we were being shuffled into our car and then the bar was settling down, pressed against the tops of my thighs while Anna’s were loose, and then there was a jerk of motion and we were being ushered around a corner and into the dark.
“Danny,” Anna whispered, as if she were sharing some deep secret instead of just chatting on a child’s ride, “Do you see other riders?”
I craned my neck behind us, then again ahead, and I realized she was right. I couldn’t hear another car, heaving its way along its eternal path, or the sounds of other riders laughing or screaming. It felt like we were alone, and the darkness was heavy now, draped over us like a blanket and hiding everything good and normal from view.
“The tickets,” Anna whispered again, “maybe something about the tickets.”
Even her voice, seated in the scraped and battered red car, was far away, like the small space between us was growing and growing until I could only just make out Anna in the darkness. Despite the panic that brought, I couldn’t move. I sat and watched as Anna seemed to shrink into the horizon, still visible but out of reach, too for now for me to help her or her to help me. All the while, the dark silence was around us, closing in until it had divided us and now I was alone. Somehow, in this ridiculous, ancient artifact of local fairs, I was separated from my girlfriend and entombed in warm blackness.
A giggle. A high and mischievous sound from my left.
“Guess again.”
I turned to my right and she was there. Not Anna, not the young woman whose body I’d first delighted in the night before. It was the harlequin, she of the eerily transparent mask and muscled legs.
“Where’s Anna?” I asked, hiding the near-immediate arousal I felt at being so near to her. The tights she wore could not conceal the strength of her thighs and highlighted the slim curve of her waist.
She shrugged, but before I could complain again, she was leaning into me, kissing me with her thin lips that burned against mine, lips exposed by the cut-out in her mask. When her fingers touched my cheeks, I closed my eyes and melted into the sensation, forgetting all about the beautiful girl who had been with me, lost somewhere in the dark.


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