'The Carnival' by Vera Armstead

We go to the carnival every year. Ever since we moved to this town, my dad takes me and whoever my friends are at the time, to the fire station 30 minutes away where hundreds of people gather in the parking lot to ride spinning swings, crunch on candy apples, and crash bumper cars.

This year a carnival opened up in the grassy field next to the forest behind my house. It had been cleared months before, abandoned by construction workers who lost funding for a strip mall.

Of course, someone mowed over the weeds and plopped down a few rusty rides and a cotton candy machine and knew it would make them money. My dad, always trying to save a buck, offered to take me there this year. “It’s five dollars less per person! Plus it’s close to home.” Yeah for good reason. There were half the amount of rides. What a way to ruin a good tradition.

“You need to find some better friends,” my dad comments as we’re on the way to pick up my new friend Frankie to go to the carnival. “They always seem to leave you for one idiotic reason or another.

“Kids are mean,” I point out the obvious. “Forever I will be seen as the new kid, I guess. Hopefully Frankie will be better.”

Frankie comes down his driveway wearing a leather jacket. It seems spiffy for the occasion, until I see who trails out the door after him: Jen Marsh, the blonde senior girl he’s been crushing on. He didn’t tell me she was coming. I only invited him.

“Make yourself comfortable kids,” my father says as they slide in the back. “I’ve got water and snacks in the cupholder.”

“Ay! Your old man is just like an uber driver!” Frankie grabs my shoulder from the back seat like he just made a funny joke. He didn’t.

“Yeah thanks for the ride Mr. Saylor!” Jane squeals in her pitchy voice. Saylor isn’t my dad’s name. Worms slog around in my stomach as we approach the carnival. I have a feeling that this night will be terrible before we even get out of the car.

“Thanks for the ride, catch up with you later?” Frankie asks, motioning to Jane as she’s turned around. My dad’s car is long gone. Looks like I’m stuck here, alone. Inaudibly Frankie mouths, “She’s freaking hot.”

I muster up a forced smile as they walk away, headed to the Ferris wheel. He was supposed to go with me. I could have walked here. We only drove to pick up him. I feel outraged, made a fool of. Not wanting to cry in front of the crowds of people, I lean against the side of a nearby game hut. Despite the lackluster scenery and rides, a sizeable population is at this new carnival. Anger wells up in me, making my eyes burn and I feel as if I might burst when I hear a loud screeching. I whip my head around to see the multiple bodies that have hit the ground, surrounded by a fallen arm of a spinning ride. Limbs, amongst other things, must have been broken. Screeching fills the air amongst sobs and calls for help. I hope my father is far away from this madness.

The screeching seems to have spread from the people to the machines. All of them around us seem to be creaking, bending, ready to break. Maybe it’s the rust. Those on the rides attempt to pry safety bars from over them to escape the noise.

A male teenage figure runs for the trees, looking for cover. I can tell it is Frankie. Jen is nowhere to be found. Humans are selfish, spiteful creatures. I never regret hurting them.

Before he reaches the safety of the trees, a wall of fire erupts, blocking his path. There were torches at the carnival. Perhaps they got loose in all of the chaos.

If only the fire station was near.


Vera Armstead is a writer aspiring to be a mental health counselor. Vera is currently pursuing a degree in Psychology with a minor in English at St. Mary's College of Maryland. She is the Managing Editor of The Point News and has publications in Teen Belle Magazine, along with Her Stry and Avatar literary magazine. You can reach Vera at @farmv8 on Twitter and Instagram.

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