After the Gates Close

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Noir Creations
When Kathy and her family visit a travelling circus along the beach, things seem to go completely normal... until the next day comes and Kathy realises her brother had gone missing. Concerned and worried, Kathy entrusts the help of her uncle, who happens to be a police investigator. As soon as the case is open, Kathy and her uncle travel back to the circus, where they quickly learn that there is more there than they originally thought...

Submitted: March 29, 2019

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Submitted: March 28, 2019



Author's note: I would like to point out that this story is inspired by a dream that I had a while back. The storyline and basic characters have remained the same although certain aspects have been altered to allow the story to make more sense. With that said, please enjoy! :)


This whole mess started not too long ago when my family and I decided to go down to the pier to see the circus that had planted itself in the centre to attract everyone's attention. And attract attention this place did! From good reviews, word-of-mouth, news reports, and eventually... police reports. Now I'm stuck here in this tiny interrogation room, with an investigator sitting across from me at a bland, white, metal table. The only sound we heard was the minute ticking of the investigator's watch as it mindlessly counted the seconds that passed; the only thing giving me some semblance of order as I recounted the events that led up to my kid brother's disappearance and how I got him back.

"Okay..." I started, breaking the awful silence with the raspiness of my tired voice as I spoke. The investigator looked up at me, an exhausted expression written on his features.

"I think I can tell you what happened now," I continued, setting my palms against the cold metal of the table as if steadying myself. The investigator adjusted himself in his seat and took up the voice recorder that sat quietly on the table. Without a word, he pressed 'record' and the bright light signalled me to begin.

"It was about a week ago now... I think the 5th of September... Taylor, mom, and I decided to head out to the beach to look around and see everything. We were all pretty pumped. We had looked in a few shops, ate hotdogs and ice cream on the beach, and- I remember Taylor was throwing his leftover hotdog at seagulls- he suddenly pointed out at the pier in the distance and said he wanted to go see the big tent. Naturally, we were also interested because... well... there never have been carnivals on the pier and to see a whole amusement park, basically, set up and in full swing made us all curious. We got our things and walked along the shore; Taylor was a few ways ahead, carrying a large stick and stabbing it into the sand here and there. I asked Mom what she thought we might see in the circus and she answered me by telling me that all carnivals or sideshows tend to have the same things; she expected it to be sort of like a small fair. Vendors, rides, games that cheat you of your money, small shows, maybe even a few clowns. I agreed with her and I remember we had a short talk about money; if it was too expensive to buy a ticket, we wouldn't go... you can probably imagine I wish we didn't buy those damn tickets.

"Well, we got to the front gates, which were actually at the start of the pier and there was a fairly short line to get in. I waited with Taylor at the fountain while Mom bought the tickets. Taylor loves that fountain, I don't know why. I think it's because of all the pretty decorations that make it look like the ocean floor, either that or its the small slide that water flows down- I don't know- either way, it took a few moments to pull him away from the fountain so we could go in.

"I remember as soon as we entered, there was a sense of... 'unrealistic' happiness, I don't know how to describe it. It was just... so... 'circus utopia'. I wasn't complaining at the time because I hadn't noticed the strange aura and Mom and Taylor definitely didn't sense the mood. We just went along with our business, going on countless rides, playing the sketchy games, exploring the giant funhouse- slash- playground thing they had, and eventually, we took a break to eat a funnel cake and share a coke. I didn't drink any soda- I remember that clearly- I believe I didn't even eat the funnel cake partly because I was starting to feel queasy from all the previous food and rides.

"By nightfall, when people were starting to go home, Taylor began fussing at the idea of going home. We were all tired from the day's excitement and we lived just up the street so we continuously promised him that we would return very soon before the circus left. Mom ended up having to drag him as he screamed and wailed all the way to our car that was quite a distance away. I was irritated at this point and Taylor wouldn't shut up even as we were driving home.

"I was almost glad when we finally pulled up into the driveway and made our way inside. I made a B-line for my bedroom while mom took care of Taylor. That was the last time I saw him that night.

"The next morning, I went through my routine as per usual: wake up, check my phone, use the toilet, get breakfast, etc. I didn't notice anything was off until my mom came downstairs looking bewildered. I asked her what was wrong and she asked if I had seen Taylor this morning. I hadn't. Genuinely concerned, Mom checked the backyard, then the front yard, and even went to our neighbours to inquire about Taylor. Now I was beginning to get worried, and I started to help my mom search for Taylor. He was nowhere to be found anywhere and my mom was growing panicky by the second. She called the police, and they came and got our information to file a report. They asked us questions and, after deciding there wasn't much more to be done, they left after telling us they'd keep us in touch. Now, I knew instantly that they wouldn't be much help until later so I decided I would take matters into my own hands and consult my uncle, Detective Katzinksy.

"My uncle, I'm sure this department knows is one of the leading investigators on the team and he's pretty damn good at his job, and now that it was his nephew that was the subject of the investigation, best believe he was straight on the case as soon as I finished my story. He asked me where Taylor would most likely go and my mind first went to the park, which was one of his favourite spots since he was a toddler. We checked the place out and, after maybe a two-hour search that spread into the surrounding neighbourhoods, we concluded that he wasn't there. We went back to my house after that and my uncle decided to examine Taylor's room for any clues. He was in there for what felt like forever and I'm not sure how many hours passed but, by the time he came back down with his notepad full, I was about ready to just scream. He said, 'nothing seems out of place and there's no sign of any forced entry. The only things missing are his shoes and his backpack, which, I assume he took a few keepsakes and necessities for his trip.'

"Randomly, my mind was brought to the circus on the pier and, feeling as if it would give us a breakthrough, I told him everything that happened that night and how Taylor acted. My uncle agreed that it was a good possibility he'd be there and, without much delay, we got what we needed and headed off in my uncle's truck.

"The carnival was once again booming with excitement and I remember feeling my gut sink because I had this horrible feeling that my kid brother was kidnapped during his little scheme. My uncle reassured me that we would find him and we both got ourselves tickets to look around and question employees.

"Again... that same feeling of unrelenting happiness was overwhelming me and... this time, I felt it with my gloomy mood hanging over me like a protective cape. I noticed it first: all the employees had this undying, happy expression that never once left their faces... but it wasn't a creepy smile or even a fake smile, it seemed completely natural, but what set me off is that no matter where I went, all the employees were smiling that same smile. It was as if they were robots and I felt almost stupid for not noticing it before. Even while questioning them, the employees gave a pleasant, 'I'm sorry sir, I don't know anything about that. Have a nice day!' it was all the same! 'I don't know. Have a nice day!' It irritated me as much as it bothered me! My uncle had the idea to talk to a manager of the circus and, low and behold, after searching endlessly for anyone who knew his whereabouts, we found him in a trailer parked at the very tip of the pier, sitting at his desk with his fingers interlocked in front of his chest and that same pleasant smile on his face like everyone else.

"My uncle wasted no time in interrogating the man, asking him about a missing boy named Taylor Katzinsky, aged eight-and-a-half, with short black hair, brown eyes, and pale skin. And guess what?... 'I'm sorry, detective, I've never heard of nor seen a child of that description... but I hope you find him and have a nice day,'

"I was livid at that point and I made it my goal for my uncle to realise how weird everything was as soon as he was done questioning the manager. I told him after a few minutes and that was when my uncle began to notice the sheer strangeness of the circus as well. He worded it as, 'being too happy and not looking busy enough,' I had to agree, the employees did have a certain laid-back attitude as if they had either been smoking a ton of pot or meditating way too long. My uncle was doubly suspicious now and he wanted a more in-depth search without all the guests about. He didn't have a search warrant but he didn't let that stop him; Taylor is family and we'll both do anything to find him again!

"So my uncle had a small talk with me about how his plan was very risky and might end up getting us both in serious trouble. I understood completely and agreed to help him no matter what.

"We hid underneath the manager's trailer until nightfall, which, by that time, wasn't too far off. It was a very tediously long wait but we managed and, by the time the brightly coloured lights that lit up the pier shut off, we were ready to go.

"The pier was completely dark and the only light we had was from the moon. The only sounds we heard were the heavy creaking of the pier support beams and the waves crashing below us. It was completely abandoned and I remember thinking to myself about how eerie it was. My uncle and I pressed on, using flashlights to light our way while my uncle held his gun at the ready. We first checked the Big Top for any signs of life and, despite it being so big and spacious and filled with many places to hide, we found nothing but props and foldable chairs. The equipment was entirely alone and it made this place seem as if it had been abandoned for years.

"After checking the Big Top, we went further on and examined each ride and game vendor. It was quite odd to suddenly see the games empty and desolate. The rides stood like snake-like shadows against the light of the moon and they creaked and groaned as if they were alive and pleading for help... needless to say, I was pretty spooked and my skin was laced with goosebumps the whole time. My uncle seemed perfectly at ease, shining his flashlight on anything and everything he could and searching endlessly with his gun in his hand and at the ready. I suggested if it would be a good idea to call Taylor's name and see if he would answer us but my uncle answered that it would be a bad idea because we might alert lingering employees and we could get in trouble... like the employees would do anything with those stupid smiling faces though, right?

"It was around ten- o'clock by the time we reached the funhouse at the halfway-point on the pier. The funhouse is blue and red and its a good three stories tall but it's slim and it fits on the pier with just enough space between the walls and pier rails to allow adults to go past if they don't want to go through the funhouse- as intended. I went through it the night we first came with Taylor and I remember that it was actually really fun and not as cheesy as one would expect. The first floor was a majority of the funhouse, with cheap scares and a maze that was entirely lit with black lights and neon colours. While the second and third floors were more of a McDonald's playplace. Ya know? With the padded walls and floors, ball pits, and plastic tunnels that smell of sweet and sour sauce mixed with dirty socks? Yeah, well, this funhouse was way cooler and it ended with a giant slide that started on the third floor and twisted all the way back down to the pier.

"My uncle and I were searching a closed food stall that was near the funhouse and I remember I took a quick break to sit on a bench. I glanced up at the funhouse, which appeared more like a twisted forest cabin in the dark... My eyes were suddenly drawn to a window of the first floor... I saw two white specs staring back at me. At first, I thought it was the moon reflecting off of a weirdly-shaped window but then two more white specs appeared. And on the second floor where there were no glass windows; three more pairs of white glowing specs appeared. A chill ran up my spine and I called for my uncle, who came within a matter of seconds. He asked me what was wrong and I pointed up at the funhouse with the white dots, who stared back at us... unmoving.

"My uncle thought it was eerie and assured me it was probably nothing, but we approached the building anyway to search it. I felt sick to my stomach as I kept my eyes on the white specs that still stared down at us. And as we got closer, I began to see more peering out of the other windows as well. I clung to my uncle's sleeve; I didn't want to lose him as we made our way around to the entrance.

"This is where... my story becomes a little foggy... I can recall searching for my brother on the first floor, I remember the black light maze that leads upstairs via a spiral staircase... but I don't remember how long we searched the first floor. It must've been a while because I remember thinking to myself that there always seemed to be some unchecked corner in the place. It felt like the house was getting bigger and bigger the longer I searched and I don't even remember my uncle being around me anymore. He seemed to have disappeared entirely and it made me feel lost. But that was impossible! The house is extremely narrow! There was no way I managed to lose my uncle in such a place! But that's what happened! Unless he went upstairs without telling me and was now battling hanging, padded rods in a maze and swimming through plastic, multi-coloured balls, there was absolutely no way I managed to lose him!

"I decided, despite what he told me, to call his name to see where he was, turning every single turn I could think of to make sure I covered everything but the place was like a million times bigger! Every damn turn led to somewhere I had never seen before! I was beginning to lose my shit! I ran like a maniac around that place, screaming for uncle and cursing as I turned another corner, only to be greeted by another stupid room filled with cheap scares and padded floors!

"And that's when I began to hear it... laughter... it was quiet but it echoed everywhere I went, fluctuating between high-pitched and child-like to low and... demonic. I don't think I ever felt more fear in that instant and I fled as quickly as I could. The laughter followed me, turning into not one voice, but multiple. I could hear the mix of deep laughter and children's laughter as I ran and I was afraid of stopping to find out where that laughter was coming from. Finally, to my utter relief, I found the spiral staircase to the second floor and I never climbed a staircase so fast in my life! As soon as I reached the second floor, the laughter ceased and I was greeted to the sight of padded walls and floors, mesh windows and padded support beams. The light of the moon shone through one of the windows and illuminated three rows of benches and tables, all filled to the brim with all sorts of food and drinks... now... keep in mind, I had been inside the funhouse before... From what I remember, I don't recall this place at all! The second floor was an obstacle course for kids, it wasn't an open room for a bunch of kindergartners!

"Beyond confused and out of breath, I decided to take a seat on one of the benches to catch my breath and maybe wait for my uncle. An open box of pizza was in front of me and a large soda; goddamn it looked so tempting to just take a quick bite! But I knew better than that... but Jesus Christ, it looked so good! I was so close to grabbing a slice and taking a bite! A little voice in the back of my head was urging me to eat it. It kept persisting that I take a bite but I forced myself to refuse. I turned around to keep myself from staring at the pizza and... there was a kid! A human child! Sitting across from me with that same goddamn smile as the employees and with white glowing eyes like I saw before we entered this mess! He offered me a soda and urged me to drink some but... I was too terrified to move! Why was there a kid here!? A kid who wasn't Taylor, nonetheless!?

"He urged me to drink again and then gestured to all the food around us. That smile never faltered! I had to get out of there! I had to force myself to move and, without thinking, I bolted up out of my seat and ran straight for the second staircase that was just a few yards behind the kid. He got up and followed me! That smile never left and those damn eyes staying glued to me. I ran up the stairs so fast that the walls began to blur and warp. The designs disoriented and dizzied me to the point that I couldn't see anything until it was too late! Before I knew it, my feet lost the feeling of solid grown beneath them and I felt myself become weightless! I opened my eyes and saw that the sky around me was warping and blending in all sorts of strange colours; I couldn't even react! I didn't know how to comprehend anything! I was falling upwards! To the damn sky!

"At first, I thought I'd never come down when suddenly, I felt something beneath me and the world twisted and flipped again. I felt sick to my stomach and the bright colours gave me a damn headache! The laughing returned and it was closer now, so I looked over my shoulder and there was another child! He was wearing some sort of funky jester's suit. I was so surprised that I couldn't help but scream as I once again bounced off, what I presumed was a giant trampoline and slid against a floor. No amount of measuring could comprehend how relieved I felt! But no... it doesn't end there.

"When I finally recovered and stood up, I found myself staring out an open wall. I could still see the warped, water-coloured sky and the giant trampoline that was supported by two giant, curved, yellow beams. There were kids sitting on the trampoline, all sitting in the same manner, smiling the same way, and watching me. I called out for Taylor but none of the children answered. They all just laughed and the sound echoed into a deep, overwhelming, pulsing noise that shook my eardrums to the core. I could do nothing but turn the corner and run. I was running at an angle and what should've been the wall and ceiling were now just mesh windows that looked out that the psychedelic sky. There were figures in the clouds, swinging off of trapezes and doing acrobatics on nothing. I continued to run, to immersed in trying to find a way out to marvel out the sight.

"I came across a ladder and as soon as my hands gripped the first rung, I felt the whole world shifting again. I climbed up and it wasn't long before I was climbing horizontally and then upside down. It felt like I was climbing a curved ball and when I reached the end, I was on the ceiling. It was dark again and I couldn't see anything. I couldn't find my phone to use the flashlight and there was absolutely no sound anymore. Before I could hear the wind billowing past my ears and the sound of my yelling and harsh breathing... now, I couldn't even feel my heartbeat in my chest. It was as if time froze.

"I was still on the ceiling, although now, I couldn't tell because the ceiling had been set up to appear as the floor did. I wasn't even quite sure I was on the ceiling. The room was similar to the second floor, in that there were padded walls, floors, mesh windows, and padded beams. But what made this floor different was the presence of giant foam blocks and children's' tables that you could get at the store for a few bucks. Sitting in these tables or in other random areas of the room were more kids dressed in odd clown costumes. Some had face paint that was cracked, others didn't have face paint, and some had paint that looked new.

"I was honestly relieved when I saw that none of them were smiling, but they all sat in the same position with the same blank, empty-eyed stare. Their eyes didn't glow like that one kid's and none of them moved a muscle. I approached a young girl, who was done up to look like a porcelain doll and I waved a hand in front of her. She didn't do anything and I did the same to a young clown boy. He didn't respond either so... assuming nothing happened, I moved on to the next room...

"I was on the first floor again! I don't know how it happened but it did! I was on the first fucking floor! And guess what!? There were children down there now! All of them frozen in time as if they were playing and running around! I looked around at all their faces, trying to see if any one of them was Taylor. I was searching for what felt like an eternity but alas! I found him! I found my brother!

"He was wearing a magician's suit oddly enough and his hair was slicked back nicely. I was so happy to see him that I grabbed his arm and attempted to pull him with me.

"It happened so fast, I wasn't even sure what I did at first, but all the frozen children suddenly hissed in unison and their eyes lit up as if I had just started a car and their eyes were the headlights. They continued whatever they had previously been doing and the funhouse filled with the sound of joyous screaming and menacing laughter. It was almost chaotic as they leapt around like animals, growling, spitting, and baring their teeth at each other. Even Taylor had changed into one of the devils. His eyes glowed and he swiped at me angrily in an attempt to attack me. I screamed and backed away from him, causing my foot to lose its footing on a step and making me lose my balance and fall over. Taylor took that precious time to leap onto my chest and savagely attempt to bite at my throat. Normally I would be able to fight him off, but he seemed so much stronger now and I struggled till tears filled my eyes.

"Finally, in my desperation, I decided to bite Taylor back in his shoulder. He let out an agonised scream and reeled away from me, clutching his shoulder in pain and crying pitifully. The chaos in the funhouse abruptly slowed to a halt as the children turned to us in curiosity, their white eyes sending daggers into my soul and forcing my instincts to go into overdrive. I picked Taylor up without a second thought and sprinted to the entrance- I saw it in the corner of my eye while fighting my brother off- I never burst through a doorway so fast in my life and as soon as I felt that cool, ocean breeze on my face, I sighed in relief and began to cry... I never felt so free in my life and I wanted to keep it that way.

"As the sound was just beginning to reach my ears, I heard the muffled yelling of someone in the distance. I looked over and saw my uncle rushing towards me with a frightened look in his eyes. I exclaimed that I had found Taylor and my uncle's frightened expression melted into a smile as he hugged both of us. I... I felt so safe... I never wanted to experience what I had gone through again! Never!

"After we collected ourselves, we began to walk back to the start of the pier to go home. On either side of us, at each vendor was some sort of circus performer, holding some sort of food, or drink, or even a souvenir. My uncle and I both gave each other a horrified expression and we sped up our pace. I was holding Taylor's hand and I could feel him struggling to be free. I held onto him tightly but he continued to cry and whine; it was just like the night before when he didn't want to go home.

"A clown came up to us, his makeup cracking beyond repair and his costume smelling musty and old as if the clown himself hadn't performed since the Great Depression. He shoved a funnel cake under our noses and my uncle turned his head and pushed the clown to the floor, pulling us with him and jogging away. More performers came closer; an aerialist handed Taylor a soft drink, which he was about to take a sip of but I quickly slapped it out of his hand and yelled at him to not take anything from anybody.

"The circus artists persisted desperately now as we neared the entrance. They cried for us to come back and eat something, insisting that we must be starved after a 'night of fun'. We ignored them all; we had one goal in mind and nothing else: get to the entrance and leave!

"Finally, we made it... and the moment my feet left the pier, I felt a sense of peace fill me. It seemed to be night time all throughout the time we stayed within the circus but as soon as we had left, the morning sun appeared just above the horizon. Taylor returned to normal in that instant and he laughed as he saw that reef sculpture fountain. He played in it while my uncle called the police to report the odd occurrences of the carnival. I never felt happier to see my brother in all his years of existence and even when we piled into my mom's car when she came to pick us up- understandably relieved and overjoyed to see me and my brother- I still just wanted to stay close to him.

"I don't know what happened to the carnival after that but my uncle told me it was shut down and they were all apprehended... and that's what happened..." I finished my story by taking a much-needed drink of water from the plastic cup that sat nearby. The investigator across from me stopped the voice recorder and stared at me solemnly.

"That's one hell of a story... But you said earlier that you're not even sure it happened? Tell me... how does someone who's not sure what happened, think of such a story with that much detail and still not believe it yourself?" he wondered. I bit my lip nervously.

"I'm not sure what happened because it was just... so bizarre... it was almost like a dream but I remember it so vividly!" I answered, furrowing my brows as I questioned my own story.

The investigator huffed, "Maybe it was a dream."

"I know it wasn't!" I argued. "My brother disappeared, you know this! and he came back within a day!"

"Yes he came back, but how are you so sure he left in the first place?"

I remained silent after that, unsure how to take that response as it made my mind begin to wander. Maybe this is all just a lie... is it? That can't be right! I was there! My uncle was there! Taylor was there! They all experienced what happened!... did they? Maybe I'm the crazy one... am I? But... all the creepy performers offering food! My uncle saw them! Taylor saw them! Was all of that... a lie?

Was any of it real?

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