The bright lights and the shrill, whimsical music beckoned the townspeople as the first night of the week long carnival kicked off. The carnival pitched their tents and rides in the wide open acreage near the town limits of Templeton. It was a breezy, cool night in late March, and the townspeople paraded over to enjoy the amusement. The children dashed around their parents in excitement, boys held the hands of their girlfriends as they grinned nervously at each other and Templeton’s hooligans hooted and hollered as they pushed their way through to the entrance of the carnival.
Ray was pushed to the side and was leaning precariously on his tippy toes; almost toppling into Ginger. He blushed violently as he swung back away from her.
“Are you alright?” Ginger asked.
“Yes, thank you.” Ray said as he adjusted his sweater vest over his dress shirt.
He glanced at Ginger, hoping that his face was a normal color again. His forehead softened as he looked upon the angel in the shirtwaist dress who held his hand. He couldn’t believe that he was on a date with Ginger. She wasn’t like many of the other girls in 11th grade. Ginger was popular, yet she loved chess and reading H.P. Lovecraft. Ray on the other hand was not popular, he was considered a nerd who also loved chess. Playing chess was what brought them together.
Ray led Ginger through the carnival’s archway and was greeted with a charivari; the clowns honking and spraying water at the guests. There was flashing lights from the gaming kiosks and the fragrance of corn-dogs and cotton candy filled the air. For a moment, he didn’t know what to do first. Then, Ginger decided for the both of them.
“Look! A haunted house! Let’s ride it!” Ginger said as she pulled Ray along.
Ray shoved a finger into his collar, peering at the looming haunted house. They passed by a large dance floor where couples were dancing to the big band playing in the corner. Skirts were swooshing and hands were swaying to the beat. Ray and Ginger reached the end of the line for the haunted house, Ray had bought tickets at the downtown wagon earlier in the day. Ginger gave him a wide smile and squeezed his hand. Ray noticed there was a commotion near the front of the line, they both turned to look. The hooligans from before were bullying another couple to cut in line. Nobody in line got involved, only stared. It was five against two and the couple had to concede. They rushed past Ray and Ginger, their faces contorted in anger.
“That’s terrible. Allen and his friends can be so cruel.” Ginger said.
“You know Allan? I only know him by name and reputation. He’s always getting into trouble.” Ray said.
“Allen and I had gone to elementary school, but him and his parents moved away, then they came back when we started high school. There were rumors that he had been expelled and that the town didn’t want them living there.” Ginger said.
“Wow. That is something.” Ray said.
Ray glanced back at the hooligans and made the mistake of locking eyes with Allan. Allan smirked and patted his crew on the back, they all spun and Allan pointed in Ray’s direction. The group sauntered over.
“Ginger, howya doin?” Allan said, bumping into Ray.
“Good, thank you.” Ginger said as she pulled her cardigan closer.
“Who’s this?” One of the guys said.
“I’m Ray.” Ray said.
“Your boyfriend, Ginger?” Allan said.
“Oh.” Was all that Ginger managed to say as her face grew red.
Someone whistled from the front of the line. It was one of Allan’s friends. The group patted each other on the shoulders for momentum and trotted back to the front, but not before Allan gave them a wink. Ray’s breathing went back to normal and Ginger smiled.
The next few minutes found Ray and Ginger sitting in the last box car, the lap bar in place. Ray gripped the lap bar and glanced at Ginger. She had a wide grin and her blue eyes were twinkling underneath the dull Edison lights. It made Ray relax slightly. The box car buckled forward and they lurched slowly into an opening that was painted with a hideous toothy mouth. It was pitch black, Ray could hear in the distance women screaming and men chuckling loudly. He also heard Ginger giggling. The box car continued, jostling them lightly every now and then.
It felt like the box car was rounding a corner. Something touched Ray’s hand and he jumped. Ginger giggled and Ray felt her hand on top of his. A bright light flashed beside them and something lunged at them with a roar. Ginger screamed. The creature bounced back as the chain holding it held in place. Ray thought he saw a werewolf. It had a shaggy massive head with a long snout. Spittle hung on the sides of its mouth as it gnashed and barked. The werewolf stood on two legs and wore torn clothing.
The box car glided past the beast still wrestling with its chains. Ray’s knuckles began to ache, he realized that he was gripping the lap bar tightly. He released them and tried to find Ginger in the dark.
“Are you ok?” Ray said.
“Yes. That looked so real!” Ginger said.
“It did. It looked more realistic than Lon Chaney’s Wolf-Man.”
“I was thinking the same thing! I saw the movie last week at the Gables.”
Ray smiled as they were engulfed in darkness again. More screams could be heard up ahead. He found it strange that the men were also screaming this time. There was another sound that Ray couldn’t identify. He felt Ginger’s body move closer to his. The sound grew louder and then it was upon them. It was running footsteps and he heard it on both sides of the box car; he also felt the breeze from the bodies dashing by.
“What’s going on?” Ginger said.
“I-I don’t know.” Ray said.
The box car kept rolling on as it turned another corner. Ray grabbed Ginger’s hand to pull her out of the box car, he had a feeling that they should be following these people out. A bright light flashed and they were caught as if they were deer in headlights. Ginger screamed and Ray yelped as they stared at the monster that was strangling Allan. It stood taller than the average man and had scales for skin. Gills flapped near where its ears should be and a dorsal fin covered the length of his back. Allan squirmed and gasped in its iron grip. It peered at Ray and Ginger as it stepped backwards towards a large pool. It flung Allan into it and then dove in.
“W-was that a Dagon?” Ginger said holding on to Ray.
“A what?!” Ray said.
“A Dagon? H.P. Lovecraft?”
“It can’t be real. It has to be somebody in a costume. He’s killing Allan, we have to
go get help!”
A cacophony of whoops and barking began, it surrounded them in a sinister chorus. Ray grabbed hold of Ginger and rushed back towards the front of the ride. He tried to dodge the box car that they were sitting in. They rounded the corner and then the next one. A light flashed again and Ray barely missed being swiped in the face by the werewolf. Somehow it managed to free one of its arms. It hissed and barked; lashing out its razor sharp hand. Ginger screamed and stumbled; almost bringing Ray down. They ran and burst through the opening of the ride.
Outside there was mayhem near the ticket booth. Several people were explaining all at once what had happened inside. Ray saw the hooligans were returning back with two policemen. They were frantically telling their account of escaping the beast. Ginger tugged at Ray and pointed to the corner of the ride. A crew of six carnies were heading towards the back, they carried clubs and cuffs with long chains attached to them. The men were large and muscular; they wore metal plates over the front and helmets.
“They’re going inside to stop those people!” Ginger said.
“Maybe they’ll rescue Allan.” Ray said.
The policemen stopped at the ticket booth to talk to the seller. Ray and Ginger walked up to hear what was being said.
“What’s all this? I got these boys yelling about monsters in the ride.” One of the policemen said.
“Well, sir, this is a haunted house ride and there are monsters inside.” The ticket seller said, his mustache twitching as he spoke.
“They’re real monsters! They grabbed Allan!” One of the hooligans said.
“Maybe you’re just seeing things, kid.” The ticket seller said
“No! We all saw it! All these people saw it! That’s why we all ran out!” The hooligan said.
“My boss did say that he was making the ride scarier.” The ticket seller said, as he stacked a bunch of tickets together.
“See lad? Its not real. The carnies here made the ride scarier.” The policeman said.
“Alright, folks! Clear out! Go have your fun!” The other policeman said as he waved his arms towards the crowd.
The crowd started to thin out, the hooligans, Ray and Ginger were the only ones left. Ray approached the policemen.
“Sirs, please, I think you should take a look inside. We saw Allan being thrown into a pool by whatever that thing was.” Ray said.
“A Dagon.” Ginger said
“A what, miss? Look, he’s probably in on the gag. He was probably just trying to scare the lot of you.” The policeman said.
“He still hasn’t come out. He should have come out by now.” Ginger said.
The policemen glanced at the entrance of the ride and then at the ticket seller.
“We’re going in to take a look around.” The policeman said to the ticket seller.
The ticket seller nodded and as the policemen walked off, he narrowed his eyes at them. The four hooligans began to follow, but the policemen raised their hands, indicating for the four of them to stay. Ray and Ginger stood with the boys as they watched the policemen get swallowed by the darkness.
Ten minutes passed by, the six of them were growing weary; when laughter rang out from inside of the ride. The policemen along with the huge men that Ray and Ginger saw earlier walked out. The six carnies didn’t have their weapons and armor and were tossing their heads back laughing with the policemen.
They stopped in front of the hooligans, Ray and Ginger.
“Those are some real mean looking monsters. I can see why you all got scared. These men here tell me that they saw Allan sloshing wet and one of them took him to get himself dry. They also said that he was interested in joining the carnival, so looks like he may not be returning back to school. Now, you all should stay away from this ride if it’s going to be giving you nightmares.” The policeman said as he was joined by the others in laughter.
“Allan wouldn’t do that!” One of the hooligans said.
“Are you sure about that, lad? He is nothing but trouble. He was kicked out of the other town, was he not?” The other policeman said.
“Yes, sir, he was.” The hooligan said.
Ray glanced at the large men and noticed that one of them had a fresh gash on his arm.
“You’re hurt, mister.” Ray said pointing at his arm.
The man glanced at his arm and shrugged it off.
“There was a sharp piece of metal sticking out of the wall.” The injured man said.
“Get going the lot of you!” The policeman said.
The hooligans scurried away, glancing back at the haunted house. A line started to form again for the ride and the ticket seller was busy grabbing and selling tickets. Ray and Ginger walked away as the policemen headed back to the carnival entrance and the large men went to the back of the ride. Ginger pulled Ray in their direction.
“What are you doing?” Ray said.
“We’re going to get to the bottom of this.” Ginger said.
“It’s solved. You heard what they said.”
“Well, I don’t believe it. Do you?”
“Not entirely, but it makes sense. There’s no such thing as a werewolf or a Dougie.” Ray said.
“A Dagon! Don’t you read any H.P. Lovecraft?” Ginger said.
“Some. What do you expect to find?”
“I don’t know. Maybe we’ll find Allan – alive.”
“You think those things were real?” Ray said as they peered around the corner of the ride.
“I don’t know what I think, but it seems like something fishy is going on here.”
“Alright, Nancy Drew, what’s next?” Ray said.
“We’ll follow them.” Ginger said.
The six large men entered the forest which partly surrounded the carnival. Ray and Ginger tiptoed in, careful not to step on a twig. Several feet in, there was a clearing where there were RVs and some distance away was the train with the train boxes for the carnival. Ray and Ginger crouched behind a hedge and scanned the area.
They gasped as they noticed Allan slouched on a chair, his neck a deep purple and his eyes bulged out. Ginger swung away and covered her mouth to keep from screaming. Ray wrapped his arms around her and squeezed his eyes shut. The monster that killed him was on a leash being whipped by one of the large carny men. It whimpered.
“I told the boss that this was going to keep happening. These beasts aren’t meant to be kept in cages. No, he didn’t want to listen and now what are we? Babysitters of these disgusting monsters!” One of the men said.
“It’s good pay, Larry.” Another of them said.
“That it is, that it is.” The man whipping the creature said as he continued.
“We have to get those policemen back here.” Ginger whispered.
“Ginger, they won’t believe us. How do you explain this?” Ray said
Ginger looked at Ray, her blue eyes shimmering with tears. Ray knew that Ginger believed that he was right.