From the author: A pair of siblings go to a carnival and take a trip on the log flumes. This was a poor choice. This story will be appearing in the Battle Goddess Productions upcoming Demonic Anthologies Volume III - Demonic Carnival, which will be available in early September on Amazon!
“It’s too goddamn warm,” Frankie said, puffing air up his face and knocking damp curls away for a beat. They returned, limp, to plaster against his forehead.
“It’s August, d’you want snow?” Sally snorted, biting into her candy floss. The woman spinning it had been an eyeful, all tattoos and acid green hair, and she kept stealing glances back at the sugar siren.
“No, I want to go on a water ride so I can cool down, dingus.”
“That’s a fair point,” Sally said, stuffing the last of her spun snack in her mouth. “What about that one?” She pointed to the remains of a decrepit castle in a dark lake at the far end of the carnival, the water almost purple with the overcast day. There was a patchy line beside the railings and the thunder crack of water rippled over the screams and noise of the other rides.
“I’ve not been on log flumes in ages, that’d be great,” Frankie said, nodding.
They plodded through the crowd, past giggling children and the hissing fat of the food frying stalls. Sally hummed her approval at the smell of candy apples and waffles, being dragged away by Frankie when she lingered too long at the donut selection.
“You can eat your heart out after the ride, no eating before swimming.”
“You’re not meant to dive into the water, Frankie,” Sally said, raising a brow at him.
“Best to be prepared,” he replied with a shrug.
They looked up at the edifice of the crumbling building soaking in the moat, tufts of shredded greenery poking out from cracks. A car splashed into the far side of the water, screams accompanying the crash, and they turned to wander into the gate house styled booth.
A skinny rail of a man peered at them from the admission booth, dressed in a dark green tunic and with a smear of fake blood going from lip to chin. Arcs of rust brown were smattered over his chest and his dirty blonde hair was mussed as if he had been in a brawl, while a fake sword sat precariously on the edge of the counter.
“Welcome to the tour of the battlefield,” he said, a purring lilt of an accent sparking Frankie’s eyes up. “This ride is not recommended for those under the influence of any substances, or too young to appreciate the tempers of war.”
“Well if there’s one thing my sister can do it’s fight her way to the food, I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe at the Christmas table,” Frankie said, leaning an elbow on the counter so he could show off his muscles.
“I’ve got to, otherwise you’d eat it all and then cry about it,” Sally said, swinging one hip into his to knock him off his ridiculous pose.
“It sounds like you’re well-seasoned, then,” the ticket keeper said, smirking at the pair. His eyes were coffee dark in the gloom of the little space, flicking over them in curiosity. “You can have a boat to yourselves, if you wish, or wait for others to join you.”
“It’s so dreadfully hot, I say we just go for our own,” Frankie said, batting his lashes at Sally. She rolled her eyes but nodded.
“Wonderful. You’re not permitted to put your hands outside of the boat, so no splashing, but I do recommend keeping an ear out for the waterfall: it’s a breath taking drop.”
He stepped out from behind the booth, leading them through a decaying arch towards glass diffused light and the slap of water. A small boat sat, tapping against its mooring in a disrupted stable with holes in the walls for the water way, and he offered them both a hand to get in. Frankie went first, locking fingers with their guide and grinning to Sally when she hopped in behind him.
“Can you come along with us?” Frankie asked as the guide put a foot against the side of their craft. “What if we get spooked?”
“Alas, I’ve already been through the battle,” he said, running a hand down his chest to show the fake blood. “Do come and let me know if you see anything worth a second tour, though.”
With that he shoved them off and they caught on the current of the dark water, clipping into the wooden sides here and there. They emerged from the stable into an ambling river, dappled with the low sunlight breaking through clouds. A short distance ahead the false castle approached, screams erupting inside.
“Do you think it’ll all be inside, like at Disney?” Frankie called, leaning back to be heard.
“Maybe? He mentioned a waterfall, they’re usually external!” Sally called back against the rush of air and bite of spray now starting to clip the sides of the boat. It bobbed and dipped in the current, speeding up at the corners that swung them to and fro in the boat, curls of white foam slipping under them as they bounced in their seats.
The castle was all dark stone and ominous music, the straining strings of some knock off classical rendition interspaced with creaking wood and the clashes of metal. They were tipped down a short drop, the water splashing up and soaking them both with a sudden bite. A wave darted ahead of them, curling round the path and disappearing into the gloom.
“Welcome to the remains of the battle,” a disembodied voice boomed, backed by groaning. “Their pitiful defences fell before our hordes as snow does before the righteous sun, and now we loot and finish our duty.”
They were submerged into the darkness inside the castle as a hiss of pressurised air shot down from above, cold as frost and making Sally shriek. Frankie cackled at her and swung one hand back to pat her knee.
“I’ll scare off anything that comes to get you, promise.”
“Yeah they’d take one look at your face and bolt,” she said, rubbing her arms with her hands to lift the chill. They could see a red tinged light up ahead, the peeking opening of a tunnel maybe, and the crash of weapons sounded behind them as they bumped along. Something splashed into the water beside the boat, drenching them, and then began to moan.
“The survivors are being hunted, they shall not escape their judgement,” the voice above intoned as they were pulled into the fiery area, “They will join their dead in the pit.”
The space was stuffed full of dioramas, bleeding light and sound and screams out over them as they bobbed past: massacres, soldiers fighting, fires raging in rooms with people trapped, giant cauldrons boiling out to spill their slick contents over the boat as it rushed away. A smell of rot and burning, like someone had thrown green wood on a fire, rolled over them as they whisked past the image of a king being quartered, head popping at jaunty angle that sent the crown tumbling with a metallic clink.
“What the shit is this?” Frankie yelped, flinging himself away hard and bouncing them off the side only to shudder towards the grotesques again. They were dragged through a chain and cobweb fence, the dull slap of things dropping behind them joining with the agonised groans drifting over.
“Our battle has been a long one,” the voice continued and they began to climb a steep hill, a slick rivulets of red trickling down at them. Flashes began to pop either side of them, green and white glimpses of bodies hanging: lynchings and gallows and cages with bones and more grasping out at them. Sally screamed as one of the eyeless faces turned to follow them, pops of light tracking its movement as it struggled to raise a mangled arm. “We will show no mercy and no quarter to those not worthy of our glory.”
They bumped through a wooden gate and levelled into a plateau, the water thicker and studded with lumps that knocked the boat but gave way as they rushed forward. Candlelight flickered into burning torches, showing red water running underneath and the lumps became bodies, floating face down with arrows and worse studded through their backs. The music had fallen away, just the sound of the current and Sally’s shaking breath bouncing back at them. A metallic smell blossomed, thick and cloying, as the way ahead began to choke with the scrum of limbs.
“Frankie, what the fuck?” Sally whispered, clinging to his shoulders as they slowed a little, the crunch of bones striking against them as their vessel ploughed on through. A struggling gurgle sounded ahead and one of the bodies wrenched itself up, a shuddering gasp ripping through the air.
“Please, help,” the figure screamed, voice hoarse, staggering towards the boat with the stunted gait of injury. “They’re coming for us, they’re hunting us like animals, please!” They tripped, chest thumping against the boat with a hollow thud and one hand landing on Frankie’s arm with a frozen, deathly grip. The face, bloody and torn from fighting, peered at him, fetid breath spilling out. “You have to help me, this must end.”
Frankie opened his mouth to shout but was cut short when a sword swung down, slicing through the head in front of him. Sally choked off a scream as Frankie jolted back in his seat, pushing himself as far away from the black blood flowing out of the body as he could. A foot landed on the shoulder, pushing it off into the water as the sword was pulled from the skull with a wet pop, and their guide peered over at them. Crouched low in the space and straddling Sally’s seat, those dark eyes glowed sapphire as he intoned with a wicked grin, “No mercy, no quarter.”
The sound of roaring drowned out the whimper Frankie made as they thrust under a waterfall, crimson and hot as blood, before they were shooting down a vicious slope and into the daylight again. They skidded into the dark pool, water flying up around them, before the boat ambled along to the dock.
Sally’s hands were like ice on Frankie’s shoulders, grinding his muscles to mince as he scrabbled for his seatbelt and wrenched at the fastener.
“Oh god, oh fuck,” he babbled, shaking with cold and shock.
“May I?” a smooth voice asked, the guide now stood on the dock and dry as a bone. There was a fresh smattering of faded blood along his side, like a sword had been wiped clean, but the blade was nowhere to be seen. He slipped his hand into the boat, unclipping the belt in one smooth movement before turning to Sally and doing the same.
“How are you here?” Sally asked, looking to the back of the craft and back again.
“There’s a secret door that lets me get between the stables and the gate, it’s so much easier than having two people man the ride,” he said, drawling the words with a lazy grin.
“You were on the ride though,” Frankie said, darting out of the boat and grabbing Sally’s hand in his to pull her after him.
“No, I told you I couldn’t go in again,” he said with a laugh, shaking his head at them. “Though if that’s your way of saying I look like one of those I should probably be offended.” Sally shook her head, tightening her grip on Frankie’s hand and tugging at him.
“We should go,” she said, half to him and half to the guide.
“Yes, plenty more rides to enjoy. I do recommend you go and get something to eat though, it can get awful chilly when you’re soaked through. Maybe something sweet, like some donuts? They always go down a treat.”
“Sounds good,” she said, nodding, and began to pull Frankie off to the gate.
“Oh, if I may?” the man called after them.
“Hm?” Frankie said, stopping to turn.
“Do feel free to come back for an uninterrupted ride. It’s more fun when it’s not interactive, I promise.”