The Carnival By Pent Ghelsburg
Disclaimer: The characters depicted in this work are purely fictional. Any resemblance to persons alive or dead is purely coincidental. They are the original and rightful intellectual property of their creators. I use them with permission and respect. This work involves underaged characters. You have been warned.
Around and Around we go. Where one stops, no one knows. Topsy Turvey, the world is amiss with mischief and delight. Laughter and a cheerful mood surround the delightful patrons who enjoy our veritable offerings. A carnival is a place of mystery and melodic musings. Its often high-pitched tones resonate through the ears of those who frequent it. For many, it is a place to escape the humdrum of everyday life while for others it is a place to indulge in the nostalgia of their youth.
Nait was a young lion who lived in the big city as a software developer. His every day was nothing short of repetition and very much epitomized the mundane. He was pretty happy with his job but that didn’t change that it was boring and constant stress on his life. All the same, he managed the make do as he was one of the hardest working and efficient employers at his workplace. Needless to say, he was always drained when he went home at the end of the day for he was often overworked and put to his limits.
The young lion was in his early 20’s and lived alone in a small apartment. The place was what one would expect from a single occupant residence with only the bare necessities to speak of. He was a quiet fur who generally kept to himself, except when he was approached by his superiors about one issue or another. As such he wasn’t the most social critter but when many considered him one of the most friendly people around.
Normally he wouldn’t go out of his way to go out and about on the town as that wasn’t his shindig. However, recently he had been hearing about the local fair which was to be frequenting his location in the coming weeks. It was an annual event that often returned this time of year every year. He had heard a lot about it in the past and decided it was about time he visited it since he wanted to see what the big deal was.
It was only a few days of waiting time before the commercials were shown much more often. Each time the day of opening was shown with the time remaining before the first day of the venue. Nait decided that he would go on the first day since they were having a giveaway for some car. It was nothing special but his vehicle was something that was way past its prime and he knows he needed to replace it.
He knew it was a small chance but the lottery was free in the sense it was being included with the pass itself. Nait figured he had nothing to lose since he was going anyways. The young lion continued to wait as the days passed, becoming increasingly more excited with each passing day. It wasn’t long before the day in question finally dawned and his excitement was paramount. His entire day at work was a distracted one that was entangled with thoughts of what the fair would be.
When work was over, he exploded out of his office chairs. His sudden show of exuberance caught some of his coworkers by surprise as he wasn’t one of the emotional individuals. They stared at him as he made his way out the door. His tail was gently wagging as if he was one of his canine brethren. He even shut the door rather loudly as he escaped from the confines of the tiny office and its overpopulation problem.
Nait made his way down the hall almost skipping since the combined thought of the weekend and the fair itself was almost too much for him to bear. The lion continued to his vehicle which was parked towards the back of the lot as he was one of the most junior of employees. Upon reaching his car, he opened the door and tossed his work bag inside. He jumped in and tried to start the engine. Each time he did so was met with the vehicle making a choking sound.
He kicked the pedal, feeling as if the car had finally met its end. Nait decided that this wouldn’t sour his day and grabbed his things before heading out to the bus stop. The lion looked at the map of the public transport system and found his home to be at the 4th stop. He made a quick call to his boss to let them know to tow the vehicle since it did not work anymore. Once he was done, he went about waiting for the bus.
It wasn’t long before it arrived at his stop. The vehicle hissed as it halted abruptly. He boarded it and the driver looked at him with a stare. Nait wondered why he was being stared at. He pulled some change out of his pocket and dropped it into a receptacle to the side of where the driver was sitting. Once he paid the drive no longer stared at him and Nait passed by without much thought about the previous issue.
The bus picked up the pace before he was sitting down and the sudden jolt sent him stumbling. Fortunately, his body catapulted into a nearby chair and he was able to transition into a sitting position. Nait waited patiently as the bus went through its round. Each stop was more or less equally spaced out from the last. Coincidentally on the stop before his own, the bus passed by the fairgrounds, which is where the carnival was being kept.
He couldn’t help but look at the window and figured since was going anyways, that he’d get off. He grabbed his things and pulled the cord over his head. The bus came to a stop and the door opened. Nait made his way out, as he was dropped off the bus didn’t wait for him to walk away and sped off. As it did so the tires picked up some water and splashed it over him. Nait flicked his arms in an effort feeling like the day had gone rather poorly at this point.
Picking up his head, Nait looked before him. The arch of the entrance to the carnival before him. A rainbow of lights decorated the neon sign that gave it its name. He brushed himself off with his paw and directly in front of him. There weren’t many people around so he made his way to the ticket booth and went to pay for his ticket. The person at the booth smiled at him and gave him a small pink ticket with a number.
“Make sure you keep this as the number will the same one used for the raffle later. It will be held in 2 hours, so make sure to be there.”
Nait took his ticket and began to walk towards the entrance of the carnival. He could hear the faint noise of corny music playing from speakers that were littered across the area. The young lion couldn’t help but smile as he began to walk around. He wondered what he should go on first and saw the bumper car attraction in front of him. The lion passed through the ticket receptacle and into the park itself.
Nait made his way to the bumper cars and filed into the line. There were a few other furs in front of him, most of which were cubs. They were giggling and pushing each other around. He didn’t see many adults at all, making him question where they could be. He didn’t think much about it as the line didn’t take very long. Within a few minutes, he was in the front and made his way to one of the empty cars.
The lion fit his tail behind him and squished himself into the seat. It was a tight fit and his body was more than cramped, even know he wasn’t that big of a guy. The siren in the station went off which signaled the beginning of the event. Nait pushed the pedal to the metal and the cart jolted to a stuttering start. Occasionally the little shuttle spattered out and each time he did so, he was hit by another car and his body was abruptly shaking. Still, he managed to find the joy of the simple activity and had a smile on his face when it was over.
He filed out of the bumper car area. Some of the nearby cubs eyed him warily as he made his way to the gaming area of the carnival. For the first time all night, he saw some adults, all of which were carnies who were operating several stands He looked over at one of them and saw a tall man in a top hat standing rather isolated in a stand with some pins situated in the back. His wardrobe was rather fancy for this place and he seemed rather out of place.
The man looked over at the potential patron and smiled as he approached. The zebra spun a walking cane in his hand as if he were trying to show off. Once he was in a more personal distance, the equine began to speak to Nait.
“Welcome, welcome. Are you here to try the game of skill? Everyone’s a winner and no one loses!”
Nait shrugged at the somewhat contradictory statement. “If everyone wins, then how is it a game of skill?”
“Well… it's based on how many pins you knockdown. Knockdown at least 3 and you win a smaller prize.
Knockdown all of them and you win whichever prize your heart desires.” The zebra opened his arms and pointed behind him.
Behind him were the prize selections, which varied between plush animals, plastic toys, sports memorabilia, and a wheel with various divisions on it.
The young lion shook his head. “Whatever I want? What is that even supposed to mean…”
“Play and find out, my man. You have nothing to lose. After all, you get to play for free if you give me your ticket and give up the raffle. If you knock down more than half then I will return it. If not, then it’s mine.” The lithe man folded his arms confidently and smirked with a roguish grin on his face.
Nait thought about it a second. He wanted to participate in the game but remembered the prize for the raffle was something he needed now more than ever. He also knew that the probability of winning the raffle was probably low. He looked over at the pins which were stationed on a small table and counted them. It seemed there were 10, similar to a bowling game. He then looked at the balls that were stationed in a small crevice in the wood just in front of where the man was standing.
The size of the ball was big and Nait was feeling confident that he could knock over at least half of them. He smiled back and fished his hand into his pocket before pulling out the small pink ticket that he was given at the entrance. The lion handed it to the Zebra who took it greedily and palmed it rather quickly. The equine then pointed to the balls and held up the number 2 with his fingers
“Take ten steps back. You get two tries to knock down the pins. Each time, I will reset the table pins. You may pay for additional tries. Try your luck and let’s see how good you are.”
The zebra moved to the side and Nait collected two balls before taking 10 casual strides backward. He looked to both sides to make sure no one was passing by and threw once he confirmed it was clear. The lion threw the ball as best he could, but he wasn’t an athlete, so it was more of a lob than an actual throw. The toss barely even reached the table and rolled into the pins, not even managing to budge them enough to shake their foundation.
The carnie smirked and held back a giggle, realizing that the cards were now more stacked in his favor than he first thought. Nait huffed as he noticed that he was being made fun of, bending over to pick up the second ball in preparation for his final throw. This time he roundhoused it similar to the way a softball pitcher would throw it. The ball catapulted from his hand and arched forward. The throw was much more on the straight and narrow and looked to be on a direct course for the pins.
Nait watched with interest as his tail perked up in excitement. The fur and hair on his body were standing on edge. The ball vaulted into the pins and through them at once. He watched as some of the pins fell but the force of the ball fell short of being able to knock them all over. When all was said and done, only 5 pins fell. He knew this wasn’t enough for the big prize but at least he would come out on top since he got his ticket back.
The zebra scowled at him and his temperament changed. He forced his hand into his pocket and handed back the pink voucher. Without a word he pointed at the plush animals behind him, indicating for the winning party to chose one. Nait looked and noticed most of them were animals of various species of colors. He noticed a lion cub and decided it was cute enough that he wanted it. He pointed at it and the carnie reluctantly handed the stuffed animal over.
Nait looked on it with delight. It reminded one he had when he was a cub. It made him feel even more nostalgic about the place and he couldn’t help but hug it. He held it out in front of him and looked at it. The young man decided to name it Lionel in commemoration of his old plushy, which his parents had named. Nait gazed upon it for a minute, feeling rather happy that he had won the game. He stashed the plush under his arm and began walking back towards the main portion of the park.
Now that he was at the main part of it again, he could hear the corny repetitive music of the more populated areas of the park. Cubs and kids alike were yelling, screaming, and otherwise just causing mischief. Nait looked around thinking what he could do next. He noticed a huge roller coaster dotting the skyline and decided to heads toward it. Unlike the bumper cars from before this one had a line and he filed into it, waiting his turn.
Just like before the only people around him were kids. The curiosity of the place continued to grow. He was still holding the plush lion rather tightly and by this point, the thing had become rather warm against his body. Still, he clutched it rather close to his body as it was making him feel rather whimsical. As he approached the entrance actual ride itself, he saw an older teen who eyed him warily as he entered. Strangely he said nothing, nor did he check against any regulations that the ride might have had.
Nait made his way into one of the carts and made his way into it. He was somewhat surprised no one came to make sure he was safely buckled in but he knew how to do it anyways. The size of this cart seemed roomier than the last and his legs had a bit more space. His shirt pooled a bit more as he sat down on the seat, making sure to keep his Lionel safe in his lap. He pulled down the bar and waited for the ride to start.
It wasn’t long before the small car pushed off from the starting point. Nait could hear the sound of chains grinding and wheels turning as it picked up the pace. They began climbing a steep hill as the young man watched himself slip ever further from ground level. Already he was nervous and he squeezed the bar rather tightly to provide himself with a little more support. Within a few seconds, he could see the car was coming on the pinnacle of where it was climbing.
A moment later it slowly crept over before beginning to sink ever downward. All at once, it picked up the pace, the rush of air pushed back past Nait as he threw his arms up. The kids beyond him screamed in a mixture of delight and fear. The young man's eyes watered as the brisk air of the autumn night pushed against him. The lion couldn't see much, everything was rushing by at speeds he wasn't exactly used to. The inertia and force of the machine pushed him back into the chair as he felt his body being jumbled around.
The little cart jolted left and right, doing some rather abruptly. Each time it did so the people inside the car was left reeling. By this point, Nait was feeling rather sore as the ride was far from gentle with its passengers. It wasn't much longer before the train of cars finally slowed down and came to a complete stop. Nait was feeling a bit dazed and even lightheaded as he sat there for a moment trying to recover from the rough trip he had just experienced. When he finally came around, he realized that he looked around and realized he was the only one left in the car.
Nait got up from the car, finding the bar much easier to release than to put down. He made sure not to forget his plush and clutched it. The warmth still emanated from it as he stood there wondering where everyone went. He looked over and saw the same teen staring at him but not saying a word. The lion wondered what the fur's problem was. It didn't even seem like he had moved. Nait shrugged and as he moved he noticed that his pants were a little bit baggy.
The hem on the leg of his jeans was dragging a bit on the floor as if they were too long for him. He tried to remember why the clothing was so big on him but his memory was proving to be blurry. Holding up the plush, the thing's eyes sparkled as he stared at it. He shrugged and clutched it once again, walking down the ramp that led off the ride itself. As he exited he noticed the height notification was much closer to his line of sight now.
He smirked, feeling like a big boy beginning to skip a bit. As he did so the shoes he was wearing flopped off his feet. Nait felt rather stupid and got up before brushing himself off. A nearby worker saw him struggling and approached him. It seemed to be the same zebra from earlier with a bundle of clothing in his hands. The equine held the small bundle of cloth in his grasp before offering it to the semi-standing lion.
The lion was much bigger than he was now and it didn't seem to alarm either of them. Nait didn't realize it but his pants had all but fallen off him from his stumble.
“Now you fit in just right.” The zebra grinned and his teeth glistened as he glared intently at the small feline before him.
Nait didn't say a word. The comment rang in his head through the fog of his confusion. The lion wasn't sure why he was being handed clothing. Looking down at himself, he could see he was essentially naked from the waist down and took the offering rather quickly after that.
The lion rushed himself into the new clothing, finding it to be a much better fit than the stuff he was wearing. Without a word the zebra took the shedded clothes into his care, they seemingly disappeared without him even making a move. The equine pointed to the house of mirrors. The boy looked at it and when he returned his gaze the man was gone. Nait was feeling a little lost for himself, wanting guidance so he decided to comply.
The young fur figured he might find the nice man there and began to run towards it without delay. Upon arriving, the only other people he could see were kids. They all seemed to be about the same size as he was now. Some were bigger and others smaller and yet he felt strangely in the right place. Yet another disinterested teen eyed him as he approached the entrance to the building labeled the “Fun House.”
The teen didn't ask for his ticket and simply allowed him inside. Once in the building, Nait found himself in a maze of mirrors. He could see his reflection at every turn. His image gazing upon him, seeing rather youthful and happy. The lion plush large enough to encompass much of his chest as he continued to clutch it. The thing was no longer as warm and yet he was still compelled to hold it for it offered him some solace from the sense of confusion he was dealing with.
Every so often he came across the image of the zebra. Each time he did so, the man's image was in the mirror pointing in a different direction, and yet he saw no other sign of him. Still, he followed each turn willingly feeling like he'd come to the end of the funhouse at any moment. When he finally did a bright light burned at the end of the hall and in the windows. Despite looking away from it, Nait found he could not alleviate the blinding light no matter how hard he tried.
Nait closed his eyes and felt an innate sense of warmth fill him. A vast field of green trees, grass, and foliage laid before him. He could see a carpet of flowers, all of which were sunflowers. Among them, he saw his mother. The young lion cub running towards her, having forgotten all about the fair and the lion who he had just frequented. The boy lept towards his mother and hugged her and she spun him around in the air with the breeze rushing against his fur.
When the boy opened his eyes, he awoke in a puddle of sweat. His bed damp from his perspiration and he looked around. A light blue wallpaper decorated with various superhero signs and images surrounds him. Overtop of him, an image of himself and his parents, reminding him he was at home. The lion plush still clutched at his chest as he hugged it tightly. Had it been a nightmare? He couldn't be sure so he slowly got out of bed to make sure everything was as it should be.
The boy slowly tread towards his parent's room and peeked inside. The light was off as it should be and the fan of the room was gently turning. Nait crept inside and slithered towards the bed before looking over his parents, who seemed asleep. The cub made his way between them slinking between a small space that separated them. The mother instinctively turning and cuddling him, the all-encompassing warmth giving him comfort once again. He allowed his mind to rest and sleep to take him once again, happy that everything was normal.