The Depths of Eden

Reads: 386  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

University Assessment: Create a piece of fiction up to 2,500 words with reference/context in ideology/fairy-tale morals.

So weird, they said.

So wild and sick, they said.

You’d love it, they said.

They said, they said, they said.

Paper crinkled in Alice’s hands, rainbow and black peeking between her fingers. Quick! Wonderland is just past the gatesif you dare. She hovered at the back of a crowd, as other adults and children followed the current into the forest of tents and tepees. Several had the wide-eyed fear of the unknown as they passed through the gates, whilst others hurried to immerse themselves in this new world. Were they too invited by incessant mothers and friends?

On the precipice of the carnival, Alice hesitated. Disappear into the depths of Our Eden – nothing is the same we assure you. Chapelfield Gardens, once a patch of cultivated wildlife in Norwich, had changed at the stroke of dusk, tents and tepees popped up like overgrown mushrooms – poisonous or delicious? Old-fashioned oil lanterns and wooden torches lined the pathways, a haze of moths and midges blanketing the air.

The tang of paraffin coiled in Alice’s lungs, as sparks filtered through the shadows in the space between two beer tents. Sweat-slick jugglers performed for their audience, three men and two women clad in black pantaloons and vests. They fed on the cries of encouragement and coins tossed into their circle. Intricate tattoos crawled across their torsos and limbs, as they danced.

Climb out of your sketchbook for a moment, Alice and take a chance – they said.

Dusk lingered in the bloodshot sky, throwing harsh shadows across the fire-jugglers’ faces. Great swords slashed the air, leaving an after burn on her irises. Alice blinked and fumbled for her camera.

Go on, let the wonderment bloom and consume – wander a little further and find our secrets. She slithered through the crowd with a lens on her eye, the flyer banished to her pocket. A fireball expelled from a young man’s lips – CLICK! The pixie-girl dancing with her fiery lover – CLICK! Battle-roars froze on their faces as they arrested as one – CLICK.

Clapping and ‘Encore! Encore! Encore!’ brushed the shell of Alice’s ear and raised the hairs on her arms, as the midsummer breeze cut through her shorts and grey t-shirt. The five jugglers bowed again, before dousing their capricious partners in buckets set aside – there are a thousand spectacles to uncover.

Curiosity pulled Alice into the carnival, her eyes glued to the screen of her camera and the sky-blue eyes that appeared in each and every frame. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. Who are you – she wanted to ask and turn against the flow of bodies pressed around her in the hopes to catch the pixie girl.

Alice why not step that little bit more beyond…no. She carried on wandering and lost herself in the safety of the crowd, shielding herself behind brown curls and a black lens.

Shelters of all shapes and sizes loomed amongst the trees; tepees decorated in luminescent handprints and tents as big as houses adorned in red stars. Smoke drifted through gaps in the rooftops and coiled amongst lanterns strung up in the canopy; the scent of the spits and grills of barbequed meats filled her lungs with the tang of sweat and alcohol from the bar tents and the odour of paint, as children paraded wolfish snarls, or tiger roars.

Alice’s stomach rumbled. The ridges of bone where summer hadn’t quite filled out the gaps of last semester’s fasting rubbed against her tee. A bowl of scrambled tofu was never going to last till tomorrow. She sized up the closest barbeque tent, as the smoke of cooking sausages made her eyes water. How long since her last hotdog or hamburger? Her mouth watered. Any fast food really, when Mum stocked the clinically monochrome flat with vegan supplies.

Camera secured on her neck-strap, she fished a fiver out of her pocket and stepped closer to the barbeque. A grill of sausages swayed on chains a handbreadth above the fire, as an apron clad woman prodded them with a pair of tongs. The skin on her forearm was grizzled and corded in muscle, a cloud of grey hair silhouetting her face. 

“I wouldn’t, if I were you.” The voice drifted closer and tickled the shell of Alice’s ear, drowning out the cacophony of drunkards and screeching children. “Unless you want poisoning…of sorts.” Ash and cinnamon filled her nostrils, raising the hairs on the back of her neck.

Alice bit the inside of her cheek and side-eyed the girl. She was a fraction shorter and no older than her own twenty-two years with a shock of black hair framing her pixie-like face; a pert nose and sharp cheekbones, with slender, friendly lips.

“Poisoning?” She shifted backward, the heat of the coals pressing against her shoulders. “Isn’t that against a bunch of health and safety regulations?”

The girl’s eyes twinkled, as she offered her hand. “It’s a Carny thing. I’m Eva.”

“Alice.” She smiled, surprised by the firm grip and heat of the pale skin against her own. Remember what they said – let go a little. “So if the hotdogs are poisonous, what can I eat?”

“Nothing she’s cooking.” Eva tucked her hands away in her pockets, inclining her head at the pebbly path. “Come on, I know a better place to grab something to eat.”

“Evangeline, they’re meant to choose.” Alice jerked away from the barbeque as the cook’s gravelly voice snapped at her shoulders. She caught a glimpse of fiery eyes, then the woman leant back into the shadows and stoked the coals, sparks spitting at the hotdogs.

 “Choose is a light term, Daisy won’t care about one girl.” Eva glanced at Alice and added quietly, “and if you recall, tonight’s for the Feasting.”

Alice, you’d want to stay – they said.

Eva grasped Alice’s arm and tugged her away from the tantalising food and into the central plaza of the gardens. “Sorry,” she said, “but it’s safer if you don’t eat what we have to offer.”

“Who’s Daisy?” Alice’s brown eyes couldn’t keep up with the sights, itching to capture it all on her camera, as the teeming sea of sightseers and revellers consumed her – become a part of our world.

“Daisy is the Carny Queen,” Eva answered. “He keeps us safe and occasionally lets curious photographers like you wander our world.”

“Oh, I’m not a photographer, I’m a uni student,” Alice said. “I study art.”

Her eyebrows wriggled in what the student guessed as confused-amazement. “Young women study art at university? Never thought I’d see the day.”

“Don’t you have many girls in uni from where you’re from,” Alice enquired.

The fire-juggler grinned mischievously, as she replied, “whenever and not studying art, definitely not.”

Alice’s eyes strayed to a collapsing tower of gymnasts in solar-system leotards, supernovas bursting across their chests – CLICK! “Germany? Or somewhere further afield?”

Eva winked. “I’ve seen all walks of life, past and present.” She fished through the pockets of her pantaloons, producing a crumpled paper bag. “I did promise you nourishment and you shall have it, m’lady.”

One glance at the proffered bag made the artist frown. “I think I’ll need something bigger than sweets and water.” A puppeteer, jiggling six jesters on fishing wire, popped up amongst the mass – CLICK! “So what would’ve happened if I ate a hotdog?”

“One century of indentured service to our vivacious Queen Daisy.” Eva opened the paper bag and tipped a pinch of gold dust into her palm. “Here, have some of this.”

Alice dropped her camera against her chest and eyed the substance. “So you expect me to take drugs when I could’ve had a perfectly reasonable hotdog? You’re joking right?”

The carny licked her palm clean and offered the bag. “That reasonable hotdog was a path you don’t want to walk, Alice. And this isn’t a narcotic.”

“And if I eat the dust?” Alice took a closer look at her, the ivy coiled around her upper-left arm swaying in the breeze. “Won’t I be doing the same thing?”

Eva squinted at her with a lopsided smile. “You don’t like doing what people tell you, do you?”

“Well I’m here because some people told me to go,” Alice admitted. “But god forbid I don’t eat a hotdog in favour of drugs because you tell me to. What if you’re just doing what that woman would’ve done? Indentured service and all that.”

Eva gestured at the crowd surrounding them. “Look closely.”

Keeping an eye on the juggler, Alice observed the closest group of young men. They wore shirts and bellbottoms, laughing with their tankards raised. The glaze of alcohol dripped over their eyes and down sunken cheeks like wax, freeze-framing each expression in perpetual joy.

Everyone’s happy there, Alice, you should try it – they said.

“What…” Flaxen curls swirled in the air, as a girl pirouetted in front of her. Her irises were blotted by cataract’s grey film and cherub cheeks like worn papyrus, prune-lips stretching in a skeletal grin.

Eva shooed the girl away, her departing giggle dragging its claws down Alice’s throat. “It’s nothing like what people say.” Warm fingers and a trickle of fairy-dust alighted on the girl’s palm. “Here, eat. It’ll help calm your nerves.”

Sweat stung Alice’s lips, as she dutifully ate the dust. “Why are they like that?” The cotton-candy and apple flavour tickled her tongue and spread heat through her hysteria-chilled muscles. “What is this place?” Her eyelids drooped, softening the glare of cadaverous faces.

“It’s not wise to speak here.” Eva inclined her head at the little girl across the plaza. She was whispering in the ear of a woman clad in a shimmering blue dress, as two more stood watch. Burgundy horns coiled through their long black tresses, their faces pinched beneath their dark eyes in impish smiles; one caught Alice’s stare and licked her lips.

The student took the juggler’s hand and melt into the crowd. Sights and sounds distorted, as the air turned to soup and clogged Alice’s throat, her head filled with the drumbeat of her heart.

They meandered along the gravel paths until the crowds melted away and torches were few and far between. The tents surrounding them were hollow, lanterns above the only source of light, as the scent of the carnival lingered on their clothes and the catcall of the crowds drifted along the breeze.

A little patch of grass behind the juggler was occupied by a black lacquer alter, its surface overflowing with bouquets of lilies and red roses, bottles of tepid red wine and bowls of food. Eva refused to look at it, scrutinising every flicker of expression on Alice’s face, as she struggled back from the dust’s swampy-brain influence.

Before she could protest, Alice had snapped a picture of the offerings. “I don’t suppose you celebrate Day of the Dead?” The white sweets and minced meat glistened in the dim light. A chill dampened her palms.  

Eva plucked a handful of sweets from the wooden dish and weighed them in her hand. “No…Daisy’s Worship is older, if you would believe.” She turned then, tossing all but one sweet in her mouth and washing them down with the wine. “Perhaps they based it upon the Carnival. Here, see what he offers.”

Cold ivory sat in Alice’s palm. “Is it a…” She couldn’t force the words out around the bile in her throat. “You eat the…”

It’s not real, Alice, just to spook us – they said.

Crimson stained Eva’s lips. She stood passively, turmoil welling in her eyes. “It’s the price we pay to stay. The Picking and the Feasting, it’s hard to say no when it’s all you’ve ever wanted.”

A tremor raced from the student’s hammering heart, rippling through her body. “So you eat people? Their teeth, kids’ teeth and and…” She dropped the tooth into the grass, gagging. “For a century of cheap tricks?” She backed away, stumbling onto the grit path.

The fire-juggler stepped forward with imploring eyes. “We didn’t end up here by accident; you needed to see, Alice. To know and never make the same mistake I did.”

Curiosity, Alice, let it take over for once – they said.

“How cou—what was that?” Fire bloomed in the air, as a high pitched squeal pierced the night. Through the tents, Alice glimpsed a man staggering from the pursuit of baying, horned women.

Without waiting for Eva, she took off in pursuit, keeping parallel with their hunt, tripping over her trainers and ignoring the juggler’s imploring calls. Their paths merged in front of a golden tent, the man collapsing on his knees and throwing fistfuls of dirt at the snarling trio.

Alice gasped for air, as their arms twisted and lashed his flimsy clothes. He babbled unintelligibly; sweat glistening on his bald head and staining his blue shirt, the crotch of his khaki shorts dampened by the horror of the chase. She ignored Eva’s hand on her arm, urging her to leave and raised her camera. Someone had to know.

Whimpers emerged from the lump of scratched and hairy flesh, the man cowering beneath his podgy arms. Alice took a step forward, when a wraith figure emerged from the tent and stood over the abused man.

“Ah, my darlings, you’ve brought me a gift.” A deceptively deep voice escaped Queen Daisy’s rouge lips. He wore nothing more than a slip of white muslin, cut mid-thigh, with a bob of cerulean hair; bronze skin stretched over his slender arms and muscular legs tipped in white wedge-sandals.

The shadow of anatomy between his legs swayed, as he walked forward and embraced each of the horned women. They giggled and kissed his cheeks, one hand after the other caressing between his legs.

“Ah, and our sweet little Evangeline, you’ve brought a…” His cloud-grey eyes dropped to the flyer in Alice’s pocket, as her fingers slipped from her camera. “Guest.”

Eva grasped Alice’s vacant hand. “Who was about to leave, my Queen,” she said.

A smile softened Daisy’s sharp features, taking an almost motherly tone. “Oh, sweetheart, don’t you dare. Stay for the Feasting and should you choose to leave, then by the front gates you may go.” Alice flushed at the unspoken warning.

Carnies slipped like fog between the tents, hot bodies pressing all around Alice and Eva. Nobody spoke. Panting and moaning echoed in the charged air; hairs on the student’s arms stood on end and bile scorched the back of her throat. The fire-juggler tightened her grip, pressing shoulder-to-wrist with her.

Queen Daisy’s arms rose, a godlike aura banishing the breath from their chests. “Thus the Feasting begins!” He swooped down and captured the victim in a kiss, tongue lancing his slackened mouth before retreating.

On the first scream, Alice fled. The fat, twisted body and grotesque face seared into her eyelids. His skin had sagged from scull to toes and fingertips, as bones shrivelled and cracked, blood gushing from his lips and nostrils.

Footsteps followed but she daren’t look back. Not when she passed the barbeque tents. Not when she sighted the gates. Not when she felt the fingers snag and tear her shirt, creeping along her shoulders and over her throat and chin. Minced meat pressed through the gaps in her teeth and sank deeper and deeper…

It’s just what you need, Alice, they said.

Something you dream about, they said.

Trust us, they said.

They said, they said, they said

Submitted: May 30, 2014

© Copyright 2021 Skylar Youth. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

Facebook Comments

More Horror Short Stories

Other Content by Skylar Youth

Short Story / Fantasy

Book / Young Adult

Short Story / Fantasy