The Vintage Carousel
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I grew up in a pretty crummy town – Nowheresville; a real one-horse piece of crap with a small municipal park that housed a vintage carousel since time immemorial. The same elderly guy sat in his little booth in the center, no matter the weather. I would sometimes watch whilst the ornately painted wooden horses paraded by him for the billionth time. He would always stare back at me and smile a little.
Me and my friend Billy used to invent names for the old man when he was out of earshot; immature stuff like “Horse’s Ass” and “Prick-Draw McGraw.” There wasn’t much else to do around town; the park was essentially the only place for teenagers to hang out. Billy and I spent many a weekend hearing an endless loop of gaudy organ music, which more than likely drove old Prick-Draw insane long ago.
Late one Spring afternoon, we were in the park as usual, thinking up new monikers for old P.D. when he surprised us by emerging from his booth (this was a rare occurrence) and cheerfully waving us toward him.
“This carousel sure is a beauty, ain’t it? Say, did you cowboys ever hear the legend about why each horse is so darn pretty?”
“Naah.” Sneered Billy. “Enlighten us.”
P.D. Leaned back against one of his trusty steeds and stared wistfully at us. “Well, the story goes that each of these beasts is secretly alive, but you only see their true form if you switch on the power after sunset. Why else do you think I never operate the ol’ girl at night?”
“That’s a real big pile of horse-shit,” chuckled Billy, which made me blush a little. I was a punk, but I minded my manners.
P.D. gave us both his usual bland grin. “You fellas should mosey on home. It’s getting late and I’d best call it a day.”
But we stuck around, as Billy had decided to call the weird geezer’s bluff, especially since we’d noticed that he sometimes absent-mindedly left the key in the ignition of the ancient machinery, and that night was such an occasion.
We waited a couple of hours until it was good and dark, virtually pitch-black, and then crept into the booth and began hitting random buttons and fiddling with a rusty dial. Eventually, the thing sputtered to life, quite literally.
We didn’t notice the screams at first, as the organ ditty was almost deafening from where we were standing, but we could see clearly enough. On every post, where wooden horses had once stood, were human beings, impaled; some through the chest, some through other parts of their anatomy. Some wore old clothing; some had faces I recognized; locals who had vanished over the years. Their cacophony was unbearable. Billy and I hugged each other, trapped in the epicenter. Somehow, over that dreadful noise, we heard Prick-Draw’s cackling voice.
“Reckon there’s room for a couple more?”
CREDIT: James Hacking
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