By: Victor Nandi
Lucy looked around frantically. There were strangers everywhere. Where were her cousins? Where were her friends? The fifteen-year-old girl craned her neck and peered over the ocean of people. She was surrounded by unfamiliar faces and huge frightening rides everywhere.
The giant carousel was whirling like an enormous spinning top. The angry dragon on top of its centre pole glared up the sky and swayed from one side to another, reminding her of a messenger of the devil nodding at its master.
The passengers shrieked their excitement as the horses at the ends of the carousel's weakly arms tore through the air at breakneck speed.
Lucy pictured those parts suddenly breaking free and scattering everywhere. She envisioned those horses flying through the soft flesh of the surrounding cheerers, limbs and organs of the people smeared on their wooden bodies.
She flinched at the vision and jostled herself away.
"Watch it, girl"
"Are you blind?"
People grumbled as she pushed through the crowd.
"Where do you think you are going?" Someone grabbed her arm.
Lucy tried to run away, but could not free herself. She turned her head. A yellow-haired man peered at her over his half spectacles. Behind him, stood the heart of the fairground's attraction the Ferris wheel.
Lucy gaped at the dilapidated pods of the wheel spinning around in enormous vertical circles, like tiny seed-cases being lobbed around in huge arcs on slender bars. The hub at the centre of the wheel looked like a massive fist clasping the bars together.
Excited screams and sounds of nervous laughter emanated from the pods, but Lucy couldn't hear them. All she heard was the creaking and squeaking of worn-out hinges and joints. Her mind imagined a narrow crack somewhere along the hub. The next thing she visualised was the whole contraption coming down in pieces.
She tore away from the man's grasp and fled. But where could she go? There was no place to hide from those horrifying images. They were in her mind and that made running away from them impossible. She found herself surrounded by a morass of wounded men and women, as blood appeared to be everywhere.
"Get away from here," she cried at the people around her. "This place is cursed."
She elbowed her way past the banners reading Looping Starship, Teacups and Tumble Bug.
"The rides are going to crash, people will die," Lucy squeezed through the crowds.
She had no idea where she was going. She just wanted to escape from the demonic images flurrying in her mind.
People babbled all around her jubilant faces hustling in queues outside the ticket windows, pleasant-looking couples waiting for their turns on the rides, boisterous boys and girls revelling at dinner tables in the restaurants on both sides of the street. She paid no attention to anyone. Their happy chatter was disturbing to her; their laughter seemed like a nuisance.
Lucy shoved her way to the end of a block of eateries and turned to her right, searching for the exit. Her foot got entangled in something. Unable to hold her balance, she fell.
"Let go off me." she shook her foot and cried.
"Hey, calm down."
Lucy looked up. A young boy was standing over her. His golden hair and light green eyes on that chiselled face appeared as some fairy-tale character.
He bent down and held Lucy's foot. "Don't worry; it's just these gas pipes." He was no more than eighteen and his voice had the sensitivity and comfort of a mythical hero.
Lucy kept gazing at him as he held her foot, trying to free it from the mess. She wished for those twisted pipes to cling to her foot harder.
"These damned pipes run everywhere, you know."
Very carefully, he released her foot, and then stretched out his hand to Lucy.
She held his hand and shook it gently, "I'm Lucy."
"Nice to meet you, Lucy. Umm can you stand up now?" He looked beautiful when he smiled.
Lucy gave a mesmerised nod and before she knew what was happening, she was walking alongside him.
Wasn't that the most beautiful name she had ever heard?
"This is an old fairground," Ben informed her as they walked. "They have their own gas plant that side. These pipes supply cooking gas from the central plant to the restaurants."
Lucy went on listening to him, wondering how something so dull could sound so interesting to her.
Ben looked to her for a response. But she just remained, gazing at him without words.
"Why were you running, Lucy?" he asked after studying her a moment.
"I er I was lost and I saw " Her face dropped a little. How could she tell him about what she saw? He would think she was crazy. He wouldn't like her if he thought she was crazy. No one liked crazy.
Ben sensed her discomfort.
"It's fine if you don't want to tell me. I just "
"No," She didn't want him to think of her as one of those weird girls with silly secrets. "I want to tell you, Ben," she held his hand.
"Do you want to sit somewhere and talk?"
"Yes, but…" she hesitated and looked at the noisy crowd. How could she tell him she wanted to speak to him alone? What would he think of her? She hadn't even known him five minutes.
"Relax." He seemed to have read her thoughts. "I know a place."
Ben looked at Lucy, weaving the same magical charm with his smile once again and she could feel her heart pounding.
They walked past the queues at various rides and arcade games while holding hands and talking. The rush of people was huge and their bodies smacked against each other repeatedly.
They spoke about their hobbies and Lucy admitted with a blush that she liked to paint.
"That's great. I love cooking," Ben said as they walked. "Do you like steak, Lucy?"
Lucy hated steak but she found herself saying, "Yes."
"Great, you can tell me how you like it while I cook." Ben smiled again.
Lucy beamed back.
He took her to a quiet area away from the commotion of rides and gaming arcades. The place stood like the fairground's backyard, away from the crowded alleys.
"That's the powerhouse," Ben pointed to a small grid station surrounded by a raised metal fence. "It supplies electricity to the entire area."
"How do you know so much about this place?" Lucy couldn't help but marvel at his knowledge.
"I work here, Lucy," Ben held her hand tightly as the ground became rocky. "And this is where I come for a quick bite." He stopped outside a small shabby building. It looked like an old storehouse.
Ben read her mind, but didn't answer, as if he was holding on to the question. He opened the door, quickly ushered Lucy inside and closed the door behind them. She glanced behind her as the door shut. And suddenly, Lucy felt a cold shiver rushing up her spine.
Ben turned on the light. Amazed, Lucy saw piles of gas cylinders stacked up throughout the place. At the corner, there was a coffee machine and a small cabinet stuffed with chips and cookies.
"Yes, here" Ben answered following Lucy's gaze that was sweeping over the cookies.
Lucy felt a pang of guilt. How could she have doubted this wonderful guy?
"But when I was talking about food, I was referring to that," Ben pointed in another direction.
Lucy's eyes followed. A grill and oven sat there in the corner.
"It runs on gas." Ben walked over to it and patted it. "And cooks the best steak in town," he added with a wink.
"You run it here?" Lucy glanced over at the stack of cylinders.
"No, my uncle will have me roasted on this grill if I did," Ben replied. "I drag it outside and set it up in the open. He doesn't mind me using the gas line, though."
"But what about the meat? I don't see any here."
Ben studied her for a while, and then approached her. "You'll know," he held her hand warmly. "You'll know soon."
Lucy looked up at him, her mouth open and in the next moment found herself lost in his green eyes. The wind sweeping through the windows dishevelled his golden locks in a charming fashion. Suddenly, it all changed. His beautiful face was covered with blood. Flesh hung from his neck, and his shirt was soaking red under a gaping wound. Lucy drew back and closed her eyes.
"Hey," Ben whispered. "Weren't you going to tell me something?"
The demons. The visions.
She opened her eyes and just then, a hand hit on the side of Ben's neck with something pointy. Blood spurted out.
Lucy screamed and closed her eyes. This was no vision and she knew it.
The weapon went in and out of Ben's neck several times. Then, the blood-spattered boy collapsed on the floor.
A few minutes later, there was a deafening explosion and the fairground's central gas chamber erupted in a towering inferno. The grid station followed suit. A devastating fire broke out. It spread through the gas lines and engulfed the entire fairground in a matter of minutes. The rides fell apart with many still sitting in them, the gaming parlours went up in flames and hundreds of people at the restaurants were consumed by the raging fire. Screams blared out of the flames as people perished under the tumbling bars of steel and burning wood.
Far away, Lucy was walking down the road. Her visions had disappeared. The demons had left, at least for the day. She turned around to look at the fires in the distance. With a sigh, she tied her hair back, using the pointy blood-smeared hair clip and walked away.