The Last Fair of the Summer

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
As I was heading home from work one hot summer evening, I passed a funfair. Something about it was intriguing but all was not as it seemed.

Submitted: August 21, 2013

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Submitted: August 21, 2013

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The train was packed. Nothing worse than then five o’clock train home in the summer. There was no air in the carriage and we were all sweltering. I could feel the sweat on my back. I undid one more button on my shirt. Tugged the collar away from my neck. Eventually my stop came. I pushed and shoved my way to the doors. Stepped out onto the platform. There was a slight breeze. The office where I worked had air conditioning so during these hot summer weeks it was like working in the freezer section at Tescos. But the journey home was awful. It had been another crappy day at work. Still, done now. One day nearer the weekend. I trudged down the sloping street from the station.

I sighed. The hot weather in this country turned me into a zombie. On your holidays in was different, all you had to do then was go to the pool, the beach and then to the bar. I plodded along the main road. Wondered what to have for my tea. Nothing hot, that was for sure. The oven wasn’t going on tonight. Might grab a bit of ham and a slice of pork pie from the fridge. And there was a couple of beers in there to go with it.

The people I passed were dressed for the heat, shorts, vests, summer dresses. Most people wore sunglasses, partly to protect the sun from the glare and partly to show off their latest designer purchases. I approached the park. It was called Princes Park, though I had no idea which prince the park had been named after and it was little more than a large field. Normally the field was empty apart from people walking their dogs but tonight there was a funfair pitched on the grass. I smiled. Seemed like a perfect evening for the fair. From the street it was a huddle of brightly painted vehicles. I couldn’t make out the individual rides themselves but the idea of a funfair right then sounded tempting. Not quite a cold pint in a beer garden but a close second.

I was drawn to the fair. Before I had really made up my mind I was stepping off the pavement and heading for the flashing lights. As I neared I could make out the rides more clearly. The paint work, the lights, the wailing sirens. There was the Waltzers, the speedway, and my childhood favourite, the cyclone. There was even a giant Ferris wheel and a roller coaster. The smells of pop corn, the fried onions of the hot dog and burger stands, the chip vans, made my mouth water. I could hear Sally Cinnamon by the Stone Roses coming from one of the nearby stalls. Well, I thought, this is what I’ll be doing with my evening.

 

As I walked between the rides, stalls and stands the smell of food became too much to resist. I had to get some of that. I went up to the white van which had the word chips daubed on the side in red paint. I ordered a portion of chips. The overweight guy behind the counter shovelled the golden chips onto newspaper. As he tossed the salt and vinegar I wondered if his size was because he took his work home with him. He handed me the cone of chips. I stuck a wooden fork in the top. Reached for my wallet. The guy waved a hand, told me it was fine. Before I could argue he turned his back, busied himself in his work. Part of me found it strange that he didn’t want my money but it was too hot to argue. I called thanks and left. I tried a chip. They were the best chips I’d ever tasted. They were perfect. Cooked just right, ideal amount of salt and vinegar. I was reminded of eating chips at the seaside in North Wales as a child. I would always remember this evening too but it wasn’t the food that would stay in my memory.

I mooched around the fair taking it all in. It had been years since I’d visited a funfair. Must have been at least ten years. I enjoyed strolling round as I ate my chips. I saw children trying to ‘hook the duck’ to win goldfish. I’d brought home many a fish home in those small clear bags.

‘I won a few of those in my day.’ a voice said.

I turned to see a woman standing beside me. She was a couple of years younger than me, somewhere around twenty years old. She wore a t-shirt with the old style Oasis logo on the front. Her dark curly hair reached her shoulders.

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Just what I was thinking.’

She smiled. I offered her a chip. She took one. Told me her name was Susan. I told her my name was Ray.

As we made our way between the attractions she told me that she loved the fair. Said that when she was a child she thought they were magical places.

‘Forget Disneyland or Alton bleeding Towers, give me the funfair any day.’

We passed the Dodgems. The small cars whizzed and banged into each other. Sparks flew from the overhead wires.

‘Want a go on the Bumper Cars?’ asked Susan.

‘My dad used to tell me they’re called Dodgems because the idea is to dodge, not to ram people.’

‘Where’s the fun in that?’

I shrugged.

‘C’mon.’

Susan took my hand, pulled me towards the cars. I managed to get into the bumper car. My knees stuck out at odd angles. I was sure that, like with a lot of things, Wagon Wheels for instance, these cars were bigger when I was a kid. Susan laughed as she squeezed in beside me. We crashed, bumped and banged around. I would try and swerve but Susan would drag the tiny steering wheel so we collided with the other cars.

It was strange but I really warmed to Susan. She had this wicked, mischievous glint in her eye. When she smiled I had a sensation in my stomach. But at the same time there was something about her that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I had an inkling that something was amiss.

We headed for the Waltzers. She held my hand. She confessed that the ride always made her feel sick. I told her I was the same when I was a kid. I used to come off there green and queasy, but I said, that was part of the fun.

Blur’s Girls and Boys blared out as we ‘waltzed’ around. We were spun this way and that, up and down. We were thrown around the carriage, cramped against each other. After the ride was over we staggered down the wooden steps in fits of laughter.

‘Right,’ Susan said. ‘Now we need Candy Floss.’

‘Really?’

‘Hey, I don’t make the rules.’

So that’s what we did. We grabbed bundles of candy floss the size of small hedges. We strolled through the fair eating the pink fluff.

‘We should go on the roller coaster.’ said Susan.

‘I don’t really do roller coasters. They’re in a different league to the Waltzers. I’m a bit of a wimp really.’

‘Come on, Ray. It’ll be fine.’

‘Maybe later.’

‘Later then.’

 

With her arm linking mine, we headed to the House of Mirrors. Went through the doors. We were surrounded by our reflections. As something of a film fan the first thing I thought of was Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. I could just see Lee fighting Mr Han in this corridor of mirrors. We made our way through the mirrors. It was really disorientating. Couldn’t tell which way was forward. I got a sick feeling in my stomach. I turned to Susan. She wasn’t there. I was alone. I looked around but saw nothing but my confused expression reflected back at me. I called her name. Nothing. Called out again. Still nothing. I could hear my breathing and the strains of No Limits from one of the rides nearby. I walked one way, bumped into the mirror. Swore. Tried another way. Worked my way slowly ahead. Susan appeared a few feet ahead of me. Her face was a mask of sadness. She turned away. Then was gone. The sensation that things were not right was stronger than ever. I walked quicker, arms out in front of me. Found more mirror than path. My face in the reflections was worried. I wound my way through the glass. I had knots in my stomach. This whole evening was like a dream. Everything had a strange surreal feeling to it. But in this house of mirrors the dream was turning into a nightmare.

Eventually, just as I was about to faint from the heat and the stress I saw the doorway. I could see bright flickering lights in the darkness of the night beyond.

I sighed. I might not even have a shave in the morning, didn’t want to see my reflection just yet. As I reached the door I felt fingers wrap around mine. I turned. She was by my side. She smiled at me but there was a strange look in her eye.

Back out side in the dark summer night I could hear Stay with Me by Shakespeare’s Sister. Susan pointed to the roller coaster. I was weirded out enough as it was without going on a ride that terrified me. I felt out of sorts. Just wanted to be at home with a brew. Still got the feeling that something wasn’t right. I shook my head.

‘I have to go.’

Susan was livid. Her eyes were dark pools of anger. I just wanted to be out of there. Leaving Susan with tears burning her cheeks, standing beside the roller coaster I walked away. Walked quicker and quicker. Pushed forward on the balls of my feet. I headed the way I was sure the way out lay. Walked as fast as I could. I felt rain on my head, felt it dampening my shoulders. I was too distracted to be grateful for the cooling rain. I rushed past bright rides. I should have reached the street by now surely. But I was still in the centre of the funfair. I stopped. Turned 360 degrees. There was no sign of the exit.

I asked a teenage couple if they knew the way out. Asked them to show me the way. They laughed. I walked away. I tried my luck with a man in his fifties. He just shook his head.

My heart was pounding in my chest. Panic gripped me. Would I ever leave this place? I started to run. There was a flash of lightning. Thunder growled overhead. Rain lashed down hard. I ran. My thighs burned with the effort, my shirt soaked from rain and sweat.

I arrived again at the roller coaster. Had I been running round in circles in my desperation?

Susan was standing by the ride. She looked sad and angry. She pointed a thin finger at the ride.

‘I just want to go home!’ I shouted.

She walked forward. Moved in slow strides. I couldn’t take my eyes from her. She reached out a pale hand. Touched my shoulder.  

 

Everything was gone. No Susan, no fair, even the storm had subsided. I was on the field in the darkness. A man was standing in front of me. He had his dog on a lead, his other hand was on my shoulder.

‘You okay?’

‘The funfair?’ I stammered.

‘There’s not been a fair here since the 90s when a girl died when a carriage came off the roller coaster.’


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