The Crossroads Carnival

Wheels of Fate, carousels of time; past lives and karmic ties. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by Wheeler Scion » Fri Oct 25, 2019 10:51 pm

The backyard of the carnival, where all those who worked at the carnival had their trailers, was a complex and chaotic arrangement of trailers, trucks, tents and storage areas. In sharp contrast to the precise and designed layout of the carnival proper, the living lot looked as if a child had set up a boneyard maze of toy cars in haphazard fashion which created twisting foot paths between them along with random and confusing dead ends which proved difficult to navigate, at times, even for a carnival veteran.

There was, however, a certain method to the madness. The back of the reptile tent opened up alongside Fia’s trailer and a storage area which allowed easy and unimpeded access for water and food to be run to the various tanks within on an as needed basis. It was here that Isaac and Boomer had ended up shortly after breakfast.

“Cmon boy.” Isaac grunted as he picked up a large tank and pulled it from its stand. Boomer trotted ahead, oblivious to the many dangerous predators, reptiles and amphibians lining the shelves. Isaac followed, sinewy muscles taught as he kept the tank steady so as not to disturb the large constrictor held within.

A shoulder easily pushed aside the coarse, olive drab canvas of the back entrance; allowing Isaac to step into the cool autumn morning. The crisp air caused a certain sluggishness within the serpent and thus made him easier to handle. Isaac appreciated such moments of solitude, rare as they were amongst a bustling carnival.

“Hey Isaac.” The salutary words cracked through Isaac’s pacific moment like a hammer through glass as he set the tank down on a beat up wooden table.

Boomer picked his head up from the dirt and made a low sound that was halfway between a bark and a growl. Isaac shot the mutt an amused glance without turning to face the owner of the intruding voice.

“Hey man. Whatcha doin?” Mouse asked as he came up alongside Isaac and drummed his fingers on the worn wooden table Isaac had set the tank on.

“Working.” The succinct answer drawled out without elaboration as Isaac shifted his glance from the tank to Mouse.

“Oh yeah? Changing the tank or something?” Mouse asked. Why was it always so difficult to talk to Isaac? “He looks like he could use a fresh one.” Added in the gulf of silence as the Dunk Bozo sought to fill it. He reached out to wrap a knuckle on the glass to try and elicit some movement from the constrictor.

Isaac snapped a hand out to grip Mouse’s wrist and shove his hand away from the tank. “They don’t like that.” Calm words coupled with a menacing stab of slate for Mouse. “Imagine if every time someone saw you they came up and boxed your ears.”

“Hey…damn man. That hurt.” Mouse yelped and jerked his hand away from Isaac’s grasp. “Most times people want to dunk me when they see me.” Mouse continued, attempting to inject a little humor into the conversation while rubbing the throbbing pain from his wrist courtesy of Isaac’s sudden grip. His chuckle died a quick death when he saw Isaac didn’t share the humor. “Sorry. I didn’t know.”

“Something you want Mouse?” Isaac asked as he pulled the cigarette from between his lips and exhaled into the space between them. Granite colored eyes read the uncomfortable posture, the obvious need to talk about something other than the constrictor’s tank on Mouse’s diminutive frame. It was as easy to read as one of Mouse’s many books he always toted along.

“Just saw you over here alone and thought I’d come say hey.” Mouse began, fingernails scratching against the flecked paint of the table top. “You seen Fia lately?” The sudden pivot of topics switching to the one which had weighed on Mouse since Fia had literally blown up on him the other day. “I think she’s been ducking me since…” Mouse hesitated, unsure if he should tell Isaac what had transpired.

“Nah.” Isaac answered amidst another gray exhale of smoke. “Then again I don’t go looking for people who don’t want company.” Isaac answered and tapped his cigarette to knock free the accumulated ash on the tip. “Probably best to leave that one alone till she wants to talk…all things considered.” Isaac had seen the blow up and the resulting inferno during his walk back to his tent from breakfast.

“All things considered?” Mouse asked as eyes narrowed in thought for a moment. “You saw what happened didn’t you?” Though he was the carnival’s resident Bozo Mouse was quite the perceptive one…he had to be in order to call out the perfect insult that would keep the townie spending money.

“Hard to miss.” Isaac’s antebellum accent slipping around the half smoked cigarette handing precariously between his lips. The simple observation made, Isaac returned his attention to the tank.

“I was just trying to help her to read.” Mouse began as he hopped up into a seated position at the opposite end of the table. “I mean, she’s had a rough couple of days and I thought it would be good to help ya know? I didn’t know she’d react that way…with the fire and stuff.” Mouse continued unabated; his tendency to ramble when excited on full display. “We’ve been working on different books every now and then and she’s been making good progress…until today that is.”

Isaac blew out an irritated sigh of blue-gray smoke as he eyed Mouse hop onto the table and verbally vomit every thought which ran through his head. He flicked the cigarette to the loose gravel of the lot and ground it beneath the toe of his boot. He turned back to the tank and eyed the mottled constrictor coiled up at one end while trying to ignore the continuing outpouring of speech from the other end of the table.

“…and then she just almost vaporized it…with a single touch. She’s never been that way before. I mean there was that one time on stage but that wasn’t her fault. That guy…” Mouse continued unconsciously ruining Isaac’s wished for silence with his voice.

“You pushed her too hard.” Dogwood drawl wedging a knife into Mouse’s words and slicing him off midsentence. Calloused hands reached up to unfasten the screen top of the tank and then remove it. The constrictor within made little movement, merely watched with unblinking vertical slits of interest.

“Huh? What does that mean?” Mouse asked, looking to the side to watch Isaac reach into the tank with both hands. “What do you mean I pushed her too hard? I was just trying to help.” Mouse added with a defensive jut of his chin. “She always puts up a fight…sometimes you just gotta push through that sometimes.”

“How’d that work out?” Isaac asked as he tapped his fingers along the body of the snake to let it know he was there and meant no harm. He gently gripped the constrictor behind the head with one hand and lifted with the other to pull the snake from its tank. There was no fear in Isaac’s movements, no tentativeness in how he gripped the constrictor. Fear only heightened their senses and made one vulnerable to nature’s inevitable course. Isaac watched, fascinated, as the snake slowly began to coil around his arm, finding purchase with its scales and evolutionary talent.

Mouse watched in silence as Isaac lifted the snake from its tank, sure that the thing was going to strike or at least try and get away now that it was out of its confinement. “Obviously you saw it didn’t work out very well. But that’s just fear on her part.” Mouse reasoned. “I’ll get another book and we’ll try again later.” Said more for himself than for Isaac as Mouse was determined to show Fia that this could be done.

“I wouldn’t.” Isaac spoke while rubbing the back of the snake’s head with his thumb. He turned to Mouse while the snake continued to move and twist around his limbs. “Go in the tent and fetch me one of the burlap sacks on the back shelf.”

“Why not?” Mouse asked before brows shot up at Isaac’s order, the previous question momentarily forgotten. “What? I aint your assistant. What are you even doing?”

“You rather hold him?” Isaac asked and stretched his arms out to offer the six foot constrictor to Mouse. “Favor for Lucille.” Though in reality Isaac enjoyed what he was doing. “We’re letting him go today. Now go get the sack.” Isaac repeated, a curving Savannah smirk forming on his lips as the color briefly drained from Mouse’s face at the offer.

Mouse hopped off the table and scurried into the tent. He emerged a moment later with a large burlap sack in one hand and came trotting back over to the table. “You do favors for people now?” Mouse asked as he followed Isaac’s bidding and held the sack open. The dunk bozo leaned back as Isaac leaned forward to smoothly deposit the snake into the sack.

“In exchange for her talking to Dixie…and getting her to stay outta my business.” Letting go of the snake and pulling his hands out from the burlap.

“Good luck with that.” Mouse laughed as he handed the sack to Isaac. “I thought Lucille kept all the animals?”

“Nah. Not right to keep em caged up for their whole life.” Isaac answered as he cinched the knot down on the sack and took it from Mouse. “Kills their spirit.”

“What about Rufus? He’s been here forever and Lucille seems like she’s never going to let him go.” Mouse willing to be distracted from the events with Fia for the moment.

A rockslide of slate came crashing down on Mouse as Isaac slid that narrowed gaze away from the writhing burlap. He fished a fresh cigarette from a pocket and struck a flame to the end. “Rufus can’t ever go back to the wild. The people me and Lucille saved him from saw to that.” The words spat out with a degree of prejudice rarely seen from Isaac. “We did the best we could when we found him.” Regret now bleeding into that anger, softening it despite the brutality of that place where he and Lucille had rescued Rufus. What went unsaid, and what was unknown is that Isaac had gone back to that place and ensured the people involved in that barbarous road side circus never worked again. “Besides,” a slow exhale of smoke as Isaac forced his blood to cool, “Rufus is happy where he is. They don’t have a problem expressing their dislike.”

Isaac gave a twist at the hips to look for Boomer. He saw a flash of fur as the mutt darted between trailers, evidently on the trail of some fascinating scent. Content to let the dog enjoy his pursuit, Isaac bent down to pull a hose off the gravel. A twist at the spigot allowing water to spill from the end. He began to spray out the tank, cleaning it for the next rescue they found.

“Oh.” Mouse answered, not exactly knowing what to say regarding Rufus. Unable to remain quiet, however, Mouse eventually asked the question again regarding Fia. Never accused of knowing when to let things be, Mouse found it impossible to stay quiet for long. “So why isn’t it a good idea to try again with Fia?”

Isaac continued to spray the tank out in silence. The water splashed and ripped along the glass, swirled around the branches and floated the leaves to the surface. The hose was tossed aside so the tank could be dumped out with one hand, the other pulling the cigarette free for an exhale.

“Not wise to corner her again. Might get more than your lil book burned if you do.” Isaac spoke, remembering the look on Fia’s face as she had shouted no and pushed against the book. That desperate for freedom kind of look. He admired such honest ferocity, could relate to the burning desire to be free and the fear of the alternative.

“But I didn’t corner her.” Mouse came back, a cross of his arms over his chest. “I was trying to help her realize that it’s not as hard as it seems. That she’s her own worst enemy when it comes to this stuff.” Mouse digging his heels in on the concept of help trumping another’s resistance to it. “Maybe if I apologized first and then brought up the book…” The ying and yang of Mouse’s existence on full display. He’d cross a line and the apologize thinking that made everything and everyone instantly copasetic only to cross the same line later and the apologize again.

“Do what you gotta do then.” Isaac’s uncaring drawl wrapping around his cigarette, gun metal grays focused on drying off the freshly clean tank with a rag. “Cornering a wild thing like Fia though…weren’t gonna be no other end than the one you got.” A pause to ash the cigarette and fix Mouse with a leaden look. “Just know that if there’s a next time…it’s all on you.”

“You done preaching?” Mouse asked, anger mushrooming up within him. “Or do I need to take notes on this lecture?” Biting sarcasm dripping off those clipped words.

The bifurcated exhale of smoke came through his nose, the breath tinged with a hint of anger now. “I aint my daddy’s Baptist preacher. Sides…sermonizing only works on the willing.” Laconic tongue laced with latent resentment of a personal history. “Let Fia be.” Isaac cautioned as he picked the empty tank up and pressed into Mouse’s diminutive chest. “Then go tell Lucille that I took care of Charlie. Make yourself useful instead of being the problem.”

Spoken as he dipped to pick up the burlap sack and hang it over his shoulder. He gave a look for Boomer before digging his teeth into his lower lip and eliciting a sharp whistle. A distant woof answered the sound and a moment or two later Boomer could be seen belly crawling out from under a trailer.

“C’mon boy… “ Isaac called as Boomer fell into step alongside the knife thrower, the pair heading out to the Midway and leaving a rather surprised and silent Mouse behind to contemplate both past actions and future thoughts simultaneously.
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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by Wheeler Scion » Fri Oct 25, 2019 10:53 pm

The walk out of the carnival had been a cathartic one for Isaac. Away from the sickly strands which connected so much of humanity together, away from the incessant chattering of Mouse and away from people in general. For a man who had never really called any place home, out here in the untainted stretches beyond the reach of concrete and glass…this was the closest thing to home.

The several mile walk had eaten up most of the morning though in that time the temperature had climbed enough to put just enough warmth in the air that the constrictor hanging in its burlap sack from Isaac’s shoulder had recently begun to stir. Isaac enjoyed these moments of newly realized freedom the most.

He’d walked until he had found a suitable environment for the constrictor to be released into. Not native to these parts, Isaac had settled on marshy area which provided plenty of cover from predators as well as ample prey opportunities. Isaac set the sack down on the ground and pulled the heavy constrictor free of the last confines it would hopefully ever know.

“This look like a good spot?” Isaac asked while holding the constrictor. He stepped several feet out into the muddy water of the marsh before bending his knees and crouched down. He gently uncoiled the snake from his arm and set it down in the shallow water. Ever a capable swimmer, the constrictor remained motionless for a moment, undoubtedly gaining a sense of its new surroundings, before it slithered away through the water.

Isaac watched until the body of the snake disappeared amongst a tangle of roots and the ripples of its passing died away to be replaced by the stillness of the marsh. He washed his hands off in the water, Mouse’s words still echoing within his head about Rufus. The waters of the marsh so similar to the ones where he and Lucille had found Rufus…

Over a year ago…

“Come on…come on…come on…” Lacquered nails tapped out a nervous tune upon the cracked and worn steering wheel as Lucille waited for Isaac to return. “Where are you?” She asked the night air, thick with humid expectation while brewing a thunderstorm of fear and apprehension. All around her the denizens of the night sounded their existence upon the warm air, each creature adding its own unique notes to the symphony of a slowly dying ecosystem. Denim eyes shot to the rear view mirror of the beat up 54 Ford before looking over her shoulder as if she didn’t trust the reflection in the rearview. “Come on Isaac.” Lucille silently pleaded to the inky darkness of the surrounding swamp.

Hands squeezed the wheel repeatedly in a vain exorcism of edgy energy. She knew this was the right place; seen it in faded Polaroid snap shots of the carousel’s images from her first and only ride. The forked cypress towering into the night at the turn off, the hard packed single lane road along with the pocked and dented red and white air boat tied up alongside the rickety dock advertising “Billy’s Gator Tours.” Each scene a one for one reproduction of the sights the carousel had first produced.

Lucille gave a covetous look to the pack of cigarettes perched tantalizingly close upon the dash. “Screw it.” She hissed to herself and snatched the pack from its perch. He’d cautioned her not to smoke, the light and smell could give them away, but Lucille couldn’t resist the need to try and calm her nerves. The flare of the lighter momentarily scorched her night vision though that first scratching bite of nicotine carved out a small island of serenity in an otherwise precarious position.

“I told you no.” The hushed drawl suddenly accompanied by the looming shadow at the driver’s side door. A snakebite thrust of a hand through the open window snatched the cigarette from her lips to pitch it into the murky waters waiting just a step or two beyond the one lane track of road.

“Jesus Isaac.” Lucille hissed as she swallowed hard in a doomed effort to force her heart back down into her chest. Cerulean eyes ticked over his lithe frame as her night vision slowly resurfaced. He was spattered with mud and the evidence of difficult labor married to the stress of the night dripped from his temples and jaw. “What did you see?” Curiosity tinged with equal slices of hope and dread; the hope springing from the desire that they were at the right place, the dread that the visions had been correct and they’d been guided to a place of suffering.

“You were right.” Isaac confirmed as he glanced back towards the tourist trap. The tip of his tongue sawed back and forth along an incisor, Isaac lost in momentary thought. “Lots of sick animals, hurt ones too.” Slate swung back to Lucille, the grim expression partially occluded by the nebulous shadows cast by ancient cypress trunks.

“What can we do?” The carousel had given her the vision though she’d given over the execution to Isaac once he’d been enlisted by description of the place, its dreadful conditions and the possibility of ailing wildness. She felt suddenly impotent as if the task before them was too great to be accomplished, azure eyes flagging as the first thoughts of defeat crept forth. Her insides were a Gordian knot of tension as she feared she had misinterpreted the carousel’s promise.

“Hey.” Speech subdued beneath an easy whisper, calloused hand possessing the smooth line of her jaw and chin in order to give her face a resilient lift. The softness of the gesture belying the tempest within; the last bit of gentle calm before the unleashed storm. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.” Reassuring her, he tucked a finger beneath her chin as he released her, the moment gone in a flash as gray met blue and found a common cause. “Back the truck up close as you can to the pen.” Plantation prose giving purpose and direction to their reasons.

“Okay.” Lucille gave a nod, the gritty heat of his touch taking a long moment to evaporate from her cheek. Resolve replaced defeat as she dropped the truck into reverse while Isaac stepped onto the running board for the ride.

“How many of those bastards are here?” Lucille snarled as they passed several empty paddocks obviously too small to contain anything older than a juvenile. Even then the fences made it impossible to get to the water beneath a roasting summer sun.

“Here’s good.” Isaac held up a staying hand and hopped from the truck.

“Best guess is three. All inside and a handful of beers into their evening.” Words a crushed whisper of drawled velvet now that their truck was only a stone’s throw from the dilapidated house which served as home base for Billy and his crew. As if to confirm the lack of action the only man made sounds which cut through the night were a gas powered generator and hollow noise of a television projected through a screened in window. Though distance distorted the noise, it sounded like a baseball game…bottom of the sixth.

“Gimme one of your knives and I’ll go in and cut a bitch.” Lucille growled while heaving the driver’s side door open and stalked forward. Isaac hastily slid his lithe frame in front of her, blocked her with his body and stymied her progress with a hand anchored to her hip and shoulder.

“Easy girl.” The beginning vowel elongated beyond the normal boundaries of accented speech as Isaac seized the dominant role, overcoming and inhuming her will beneath his. He pressed his body against her before walking her back a step, could feel the visceral vibrations of anger rippling along her warm flesh. The awareness elicited a savage sensation within him, gave rise to the genetic desire to defend and protect as if she were kin; a desire present within creatures like him since prehistoric times. The light gray of granite joined the calming words, injecting an unspoken forcefulness which fused itself to the press of hands. “You aint cutting anyone in those heels.” Wit desert dry as he sat her back down on the driver’s seat. Lips twisted in the darkness, a ghosting twitch of a smirk for her sudden and fierce outburst.

Lucille had been surprised at the strength contained within Isaac’s willowy frame and though she hungered to exact any form of revenge she found herself suddenly bending to his words and wishes. She pushed back as arms crossed defensively over her chest, chin jutting out in a pin up pout. “I’m not just going to stay with the car.” Defiant words blunted beneath the whisper.

“You aren’t going to get yourself hurt neither.” Prideful tone the calling card of a southern gentleman living out the cavalier code of the defunct gentry class. He’d tangled with the drunken good ole boy type before and wouldn’t allow Lucille to fall within their crosshairs. Isaac stole a glance over his shoulder to the house before nodding towards the bed of the truck. “He’s a big boy…no way we can lift him. Get the boards down and make a ramp.” Crisp instructions before he slipped around the hood of the truck, sure Lucille would do as she was told.

“I would have too.” Lucille muttered a promise to herself, stabbing at the air as she moved towards the tail gate.

Isaac arced out around the diffused curve of artificial light. Hunched frame that of a wild thing as it loped towards the alligator pen and vaulted over the rail. Boots landed lightly and sank into the mud along the edge of the swamp. He prowled forward, footfalls landing toe to heel to shackle any noise which might give away his presence. The surrounding calls of cicadas, the croaks of bullfrogs along with the entire host of biology did not skip a note in their nightly sounds. The advent of Isaac, used to prowling through such settings since boyhood raised nary a notice from the surrounding wildlife.

That other, equally dangerous creatures already knew he was there was not lost upon Isaac. They announced their presence as he crept through their pen, one by one turning predatory eyes upon him. A sound akin to a handful of pebbles thrown upon the water crept forth from unseen darkness, the alligator declaring its dominance and territory through its water dance. The eerie, disembodied sound continued for several moments, dominating the senses and blotting out the surrounding natural sounds of the swamp.

From another direction an intermittent, deep toned roar of a second alligator answered the water dance of the first, a showy and vocal dance for domination playing itself out as a soundtrack for Isaac’s trek. Isaac saw the cotton mouth of an open and waiting maw to one side and continued to move to the far end of the pen, footfalls fearlessly placed in front of one another. He was no threat to these apex predators and trusted that they would respond accordingly.

The pen was too small for so many gators. Isaac knew that Billy and his coworkers performed such acts, polluted the swamps to take other would be thrill seekers into nature’s jagged jaws for a few dollars so that the tourists could tell a tall tale of facing down the glades. And when they’d served their usefulness, they’d be unceremoniously shot and skinned, their hides going to some Fifth Avenue boutique in the form of a purse or a pair of boots. Isaac approached the far side where the largest alligator lay, its once proud body now listing despondently to the side. By natural rights this one should have been the dominant one of the bunch. Instead he was malnourished, cast to the side and only able to snatch what few scraps the others left. Eons of evolutionary perfection undone by capture and captivity.

He made no move nor signaled any sign that he noted Isaac’s approach.

As Isaac knelt in front of the massive head and noted the tangled nest of numerous protruding teeth, he saw the reason for the beast’s lethargy. Where the left eye should have been a gnarled, knotted tendon colored scar protruded and glistened beneath the milky sheen of moonlight. Isaac saw that the wound was too fine to have come from a grand battle for a mate…no…this one had lost his eye to passing prop on a boat or some other unnatural cause.

The two predators locked eyes for several moments. Had this contest of will, this quest for a show and acceptance of dominance occurred in the wild Isaac would have been dragged to the deep, churned in a death roll and become part of the food chain. Instead the large alligator blinked and looked away, quickly accepting defeat and exposing its neck for a merciful killing blow in the process. Fingers curled into white knuckled fists at such a showing, blood pumping like lava through the quickly mounting Krakatoa of Isaac’s temper. In taking the gator’s eye, in caging him for cell phone photographs Billy and his ilk had robbed this alligator of its pride, of its natural role within the wild and of its very will to thrive and survive. Such a cost demanded a repayment in kind.

Isaac shifted, locking eyes with the alligator again. Once sure that the alligator understood his intent, Isaac slowly reached out to place his hand upon the beast’s snout. The alligator gave a rumble of approval going so far as to lift its mighty head from the sand and give a quiet exhale.

“Mmmhmm…” Isaac growled back. “You haven’t forgotten who you are. Cmon boy.” Isaac whispered, rubbing the palm of his hand against the alligator’s nose and then along the side of its dangerous mouth. Had it been so inclined, the alligator could have splintered Isaac’s arm with enough foot pounds of force to lift a moving van.

“Rufus.” Lucille blurted out as Isaac materialized from the gloom of the swamp, the 700 pound alligator trotting in front of him, its belly off the ground and head swaying side to side as it moved towards the truck. She had no idea where the name had come from only that it fit perfectly upon first sight of the alligator.

Rufus climbed up the wooden ramp as if trained or guided to accomplish such a feat, the bed of the pick-up truck sagging dangerously low with the added weight. Lucille threw her arms around the suddenly surprised Isaac who patted her back before extricating himself from her entangling arms.

“Thank me when we’re all free.” Isaac grunted as he pushed the tail gate shut on the truck and motioned for Lucille to get behind the wheel. “Go on and get out of here.” Isaac ordering while tarrying at the tail end of the truck.

“What?” Lucille asked, steps faltering as Isaac indicated he wouldn’t be coming with. “We’ve got to get out of here…they could come out at any…” Lucille’s words trailed off as she saw the look upon Isaac’s face.

Granite tumbled down the sheer cliff of sharp features, the hardened expression conveying a silent message. Isaac had no intention of leaving unfinished business in the echo of the rearview mirror. “Just going to take a walk, clear my head.” Serpentine lies coiling themselves within a mask of honesty. Chief among the reasons he appreciated such creatures as Rufus is that they were incapable of guile, incapable of cruelty. He himself fell short on both qualities. “Go on now.” Stern advisement for Lucille’s questioning look as she inched towards the driver’s side door.

She needn’t say another word, willing to take Isaac at his word considering the other alternative of why he wished to stay behind was too grizzly to contemplate. “Be safe.” Lucille offered as she started the truck engine, depressed the brake and dropped the pick-up into drive.

Isaac had already turned by the time the brake lights illuminated. Shackles of reservation falling away as the time approached for the controlled, civilized and quiet half of him to recede to the shadows and be replaced by the brutal and uncontrolled savage. As the brake lights momentarily shone they revealed within their wrathful flare the wickedly edged hunting knife held within skilled hands which now had purpose.

* * * * * * *

The single exposed bulb barely illuminated the industrial sized plastic sink behind Buford’s carnival kitchen. It twisted and swung on the breeze, cast wild shadows which splintered and warped, reformed and grew in a never ending dance above the sink. Isaac stood beneath the bulb; arms plunged to the elbows into the deep sink, freshly calloused hands splashing water along stained forearms.

“I’m telling ya we’re pulling stakes soon.” Boz’s barbarian brogue tumbled from around the corner, the sound growing louder as he approached.

“Boss mon be makin too much profit to move, Boz-mon.” Andre’s deep, easy going Caribbean tongue clashing with the strident sound of Boz. The two Ride Jocks returning from enjoying a few adult beverages at the cook tent with a few of the other carneys after they’d shut down for the night.

The pair rounded the corner behind the kitchen and saw Isaac methodically washing his hands and arms at the sink. The two shared a look, their previous conversation forgotten as were their bunks at the curious sight of the resident knife thrower washing something…a lot of something off his arms at such a late hour.

“Isaac-mon…you been tinking we going to be moving to a new horizon anytime soon?” Andre asked and then finished off his Red Strip bottle. Benign question tossed out to Isaac’s unmoving back.

“Is that blood?” Boz asked, scarred face twisting in confusion at the crimson stains along the top and back of the sink.

“You be hurt Isaac?” Andre asked, Boz’s question keying him on the fact that something was quite off. The evening had been warm, soaked in humidity with little turning air for comfort which caused Andre to blink away dripping sweat from his eyes.

“Aint mine.” Isaac finally spoke, the sound of rushing water competing with that lazy drawl. At once confirming that it was in fact blood and that it belonged to something or someone else. Hands continued to slide down forearms, washing the coppery streaks and congealing masses from his flesh.

“Then who’s…”

Both men, much larger than Isaac, stepped back in unison as Isaac pulled the carbonized blade from the edge of the sink, its razor’s edge cast downward to cut the air as he spoke. “It aint my blood.” Repeated words measured as a miser would his gold with somnolent speech drawled out at a do it tomorrow pace. A menacing flash glinted within liquid pools of quicksilver as the primordial within stared back at the two ride operators.

Boz’ question dying in his throat as he realized the ramifications. Isaac wasn’t known for killing animals. “Aint your blood.” The warrior Boz confirmed, hands up in surrender as he suddenly wanted no piece of Isaac. Winner of hundreds of fights along life’s crooked path, Boz was backing away as he spoke.

“Dat blood be gotten an evil tint, Isaac-mon. Don’t be leaving no drops nowhere round you.” Andre advised, equally taken aback at the sight, mind trying and failing to divine the journey which bloodied Isaac and placed that burning light within his eyes.

Andre’s prescient words were received with a sibylline smirk. Hands and arms mopped up with a towel before the hunting knife was tucked away at the small of his back. “Any more questions, gentlemen?” The rhetorical query tossed away alongside the towel as Isaac pressed forward to cleave a path between the pair en route to his tent.
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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by Wheeler Scion » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:21 am

It was the month of February. With the whirlwind of the holidays finally ebbing and the resolutions made in the New Year fading from memory, hearts were usually cracked open a little wider this month to reveal the essence of what ran wild and dominated the soul. Love cyclically entangled within sheets of Lust. Envy spiked the cocktails of Bitterness that had bellied up to the bar with its old pal Misery (He loved company you know). Then there was Loss who couldn't quite resist dipping her toes in the shallow waters of Regret (that always left something to be desired); only to wade even deeper into the darkened pools of Sorrow.

Fia attempted to outrace them all. Immune to the chill and speeding on a motorcycle won at a high stakes poker game outside of Barstow. Freedom, adrenaline, speed and an endless open road of possibility were the only things that appealed to her at times like these. When she was trying to outrun something that kept hammering at her heart. On this, the day of hearts, she was a gifted if somewhat fractured Psyche, earning the eye of Eros and the ire of Aphrodite.

Winter had come with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and the Carnival had pulled stakes for the last time of the season. All the tents were taken down, the venues closed and the rides boxed up like expectant presents. The carnival workers had gone their separate ways; scattered like leaves in a wintry breeze. Where each went was anyone’s guess, but the good money was placed on most of them reuniting when the weather warmed and the touring season kicked off in the spring of the New Year.

Having no family of her own, Fia had spent her time during the off season traveling the Main Street of America on her new bike. What few possessions she chose to carry with her held in a beat up messenger bag. Having to fend for herself from a young age, she was savvy enough in the ways of survival to always be able to meet her basic needs. Material possessions were never things she placed a high value upon. They were as transient to her as whatever state she found herself in. This restless, wild heart craved adventure, new experiences, and new stories spoken to her from the lips of strangers that always opened different doors.

Finding a cheap roadside motel connected to a diner, she’d fallen asleep as soon as her head hit the pillows. She slept for what felt like days. When Fia awoke, she was famished and had a great need for some strong coffee. The diner connected to the cheap motel smelled like grease, home fries, maple syrup and all sorts of savory delights that called to her in a way made Fia’s stomach grumble. She soon found herself hurrying to throw on some clothes to partake in a stack of pancakes.

She slipped into a booth and moments later one of the waitresses brought a mug, napkin and silverware for her as soon as she was settled. “You look like you could use some coffee, hon." Setting the mug down, she waved the pot with an orange top in question. “Regular ok?”

“More than Ok. You’re an angel,” Fia gave the woman a grateful smile and casually observed her face without the intrusion of truly staring as she poured. There were dark circles under the woman’s eyes that she had tried to hide with a pseudo brave face of makeup and a distracted sweep of powder.

“I’ll be right back to get your order.” The woman gave her a smile before moving away from the table to the counter.

Fia’s mismatched gaze of peridot and amber tracked the woman as she moved back around the counter to tie an apron on. Another waitress approached her with a murmur that was not low enough in volume to escape being overheard from where Fia was sitting.

“Deb…go home. Get some rest. I can cover your shift. You look exhausted. Have you slept?”

Deb sighed as she tucked a few straws into her apron. “Matthew had a bad night last night.” It looked like it physically pained her to say the words. “Thank you so much for the offer, but I can’t afford to be at home. Donna is there with him. The rent is due in a few days and the hospital bills keep coming…”

“Are they still running tests? I can lend you some money. It’s not much…but with John back at work now….”

“No Connie. You have your own worries with the house.” Deb clasped her friend’s hand in a manner that could only be described as fierce gratitude as she met the other woman’s eyes. “But I thank you for the offer. Truly. I better get back to get this lady's order.” A glance over her shoulder to Fia.

When their eyes connected, the sorrow she saw there gave Fia a pang in the center of her chest. A rattle behind the cage of her ribs as if what she saw in the woman’s eyes just disturbed whatever it was that had been slumbering. Ripples of energy fanned out from that initial pang and a wave of dizziness came over her. She touched her fingers to her temple, her brows drawing together.

“You ok hon?” She heard the woman’s voice, cautious and hedging, but it felt like she was hearing it from under water. The waitress placed a tentative hand on Fia’s shoulder.

“I’m ok.” Fia heard herself say. Assuring the woman she was fine as she gripped the table as if it were a lifeline. “I think I’m just hungr…..”

As soon as she felt the woman’s hand touch her shoulder, there was a flash of heat radiating between her brows and the room suddenly seemed to spin off its axis before Fia slumped against the table, her gaze on the blackness of her coffee before there was a clatter of tableware falling to the floor. Alarmed voices and scuffling footsteps faded from her ears before she fell into the blackness of unconsciousness.

When the darkness receded, she found herself standing in a long hallway with a blade in her right hand a candle held in the other. A door on the right side of the hall opened slowly to reveal the waitress from the diner holding her son.

The boy could not have been older than four and was shaking violently on the ground. His Mother held him, whispering soothing words against him, telling him it would pass, it would all be over soon. Holding him close as if she could absorb the shock waves tearing through his body with her own.

“My boy…my sweet boy….my son.” Why does he have to carry this… burden? He’s so small. Why? Give it to me. Let me take it. Give me the pain. Let me take it. Let me carry it for him. Let me take it. She pleaded over and over endlessly in her mind.

Fia could feel her helplessness, the anguish that all her endless love for her son could do nothing to stop the coming wave of tremors; nothing but provide the warmth of her presence and comfort. The comfort of not being alone. Fia gripped the blade as if she wished to tear out the anguish, or to fight whatever was causing the tremors within the boy.

“Why is this happening? Why are you doing this?” The Mother asked helplessly, groping for an unseen presence she had called to in endless hospitals, had looked to for answers in the corners of the ceiling during sleepless nights at her son’s bedside. “Why are you doing this?” Whispered dangerously low once again. A quiet thing, a slow gathering storm that gathered its fury and indignation across the expanse of her psyche. Shredding through all of her maternal patience and seeping through the exhaustion after endless nights of sleep deprivation. “Why are you doing this?!” A primal anger releasing as the anguish tore at her chest and throat like claws trying to release its scream that was just as quickly swallowed by silent sobs that were shoved down to the depths of her being.

Perhaps she would release them later, let them wash away with the merciful hot water of the shower when he was finally asleep. She would not scare her son for he had endured enough. He needed her to be strong for him, to be his comfort. She rocked her boy until the tremors eased, humming his favorite songs that seemed to make it all better. If only for a little while.

Tears filled Fia’s eyes for the woman. It seeped into the cracks of her heart as that door slowly closed on the Mother and Son and she was drawn down even further into a long, long hallway of impossible brightness. She walked further and found that she stood in front of another door. One that went back two thousand years ago.

Fia began to tremble as she stood in front of the door, to shake as violently as the boy had.

My son….my Son…

The words kept echoing over and over. Words that had touched her ears years so many lifetimes ago as she stood by the side of another Mother who held her son in anguish and helplessness. A soul who had carried a burden that few would ever truly understand in its magnitude.

“Don’t.” The single word brought up as if it was a shield, she gripped the blade she held in her right hand as if it would protect her from what was behind that door. Suddenly like a feral, injured animal with an instinct to protect itself, her whole body tensed. “I’m not ready. Please don’t.” She pleaded, softer now as those tremors rocked through the very core of her being and she tried to pull against the riptide of memory to keep it from pulling her under.

She had been holding this pain for so long and she knew exactly what was on the other side of that door. There was nothing that could speed her away from it this time. She could not run away, she could not shut it out or drown it out. She knew that the woman and her son were the catalyst, the trigger to guide her to this moment and ask her to open it. To give her one more chance to look at it and release it finally.

She felt His presence all around her before she heard His voice. That same Son with the breathtaking blue eyes from so many years ago. His energy held a strength that leveled her. It cut through every shield she had left, exposing raw layers of vulnerability but always with an impossible gentleness.

The golden warmth she felt before flooded through the hallway they were currently standing in. The one with no visible walls, only the walls she held within her. She was intimate with them. She had constructed each one herself. The shaking ceased as He lay a hand on her shoulder and the tenderness of the touch brought her to her knees. As if the burden from what she had been holding was too great to carry any longer on her own. The pure love of his touch caused her knees to buckle. There was nothing to do but to surrender to it.

“Would you lay the blade down?” He asked as she felt him kneel right beside her. Always beside her. “It is not needed now. Not here with me. Nothing will harm you. You are safe. The door will not open until you are ready.”

He asked her. He always asked her. Always let it be her choice in the end. Never ordered, never commanded, never guilted, judged or shamed her. He still wore his power so lightly if only so that others would feel completely at ease in his presence and always reminded others of their own. “I have nothing that is not already within you,” He often told her.

Perhaps the only soul that could get her to lay down her defenses, Fia rested the blade on the ground as the tremors finally eased from her hands. She felt vulnerable without it, impossibly fragile, the candle still held in her left hand was clutched tightly as if she could absorb some strength from the light of that little flame. Her namesake.

“You have opened doors for so many and cannot bring yourself to open such an important one for yourself? I have always told you it was my choice. You could not have taken that from me. You could not have changed it. It was mine to carry. Just as you were chosen to be by my side. You gave me comfort. You brought me peace. I told you I would always be with you. I have never lied to you. I can bring you to the door, I can take the pain behind it, but you have to be the one to open it and let it go. I cannot open that door for you. Hanging onto the pain is not the same as hanging on to me. You will not lose me if you lay it down. You will not have to face it alone. I am right here.”

Fia spoke softly, a vulnerability shown to him alone as the sob worked its way up the slender column of her spine. “When I feel you like this…it’s like exposing a wound. It gets harder to close every time I wake up.”

“You are creating that wound with the thought that I am leaving you. You have created that divide between us that I would see you overcome. You must realize I am a part of you. You are a part of me. I have never left you. See. First you must learn to See. Release your pain. Forgive and see through the illusion that has distorted your vision. Have you wondered why you struggle with reading? Why the letters consistently rearrange themselves for you? The disconnect remains within your perception. It angered you what they wrote of our history. You felt it was a betrayal to our connection and to our Love. You no longer wished to read lies. That anger has distorted your vision in this lifetime. You must release it. Others will never be able to tarnish what we have with false perceptions. It is eternal.

“I am… not ready. Not yet,” she confessed. So afraid she would disappoint him with her admission.

“I will be here when you are.” There was not an ounce of judgment in his tone, only acceptance…only Love.

A thought came to Fia, she asked her question in a rush. She was afraid their time together was soon growing short, for the walls soon began to close in around her, the hallway beginning to shorten in length. “The man…who approached me in the church. Who is he?” She knew he would know who she meant.

There was a long silence before he answered her, so long that she feared he had not heard her. “I cannot tell you. You have unfinished business with this soul. He is still within your wheel. I cannot interfere, but I will be here for you. I was there with you that day in the church. I am with you always. Pick up the blade if you must. I will be here when you are ready to truly lay it down. There is another you know who has also carved his path with it. He is an old friend from long ago. Do you know who I speak of? Do you feel when I am with you? I am all around you. See. Learn to See and Listen. Can you hear me? Can you?”

“Can you hear me? Miss? Can you hear me? Miss are you ok?”

When Fia awoke she found herself on the floor of the diner, looking into the face of the waitress, seeing the worry and the concern. The same worry and concern she had seen when she was holding her son.

There comes a moment in every lifetime when each soul looks into the eyes of another and there is a choice. A choice to look away, ignore the pain that is seen there. To push it away, distract from it or run from it because it makes one uncomfortable, or reminds one of their own pain.

Or to make the choice to embrace each other, the pain, all of it. For once in her life, Fia chose not to run and extended her hand to the woman and grasped it. “I am sorry. I am so sorry about your Son. You are an amazing Mother. You might not be able to carry it for him, but you have no idea how much your Love has done for him. You are doing everything you can for him and more. ” She squeezed her hand when she spoke as if it were vital because she needed to hear it and her gaze never wavered.

The woman was taken aback at first, confusion clear as she tried to wrap her head around what Fia said before her chin quivered, and her face crumpled. Just hearing those words. That she was doing enough that she was enough when so often she felt she was nothing. That she had failed to protect her son. She began to sob. “I….”She had no words, they weren’t needed. She saw in the woman’s eyes that she understood, had felt her pain…had been there. “Thank you.” Gratitude was all she could find and grasp when she sifted through the broken pieces of glass and shared experience between them.

Ironically enough, awkward silences seemed to be where Fia felt most comfortable. When words failed and there was nothing to do but be in the thick of the moment. She had enough ease within her own skin to let the silence stretch on for miles. Always keeping her eye on the horizon in the gaze of another for the dawn of something true.

She finally released the woman’s hand when she saw she understood and then realized she had been clenching another object in her right hand. She looked down to see her hand closed around one of the knives that had clattered from the table.

Set down the blade. There is another you know who has also carved his path with it. He is an old friend from long ago. Do you know who I speak of?

Uncurling her fingers from the knife, she set it down and knew who she needed to call.

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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by Wheeler Scion » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:27 am

Man-made light shimmered atop a sea of blackness, unconsciously mirroring the God forged tapestry set above in the heavens. A twisting warren of streets and highways raced out in all directions with such mass that it obfuscated the individual; transformed the singular one into the ubiquitous many. Such sprawl had a tendency to erase the humanity within each and every soul; caused the righteous, what few there were, to ignore the needs and sins of their fellow man. The City of Angels had long ago fallen; willingly tore its virtuous halo from a brow and replaced it with the smear of Greed and Lust, with the taint of Envy and Pride.

The Hedonist watched from a balcony in the hills, caliginous gaze stretching out over the light filled valley as it raced towards the black line of the coast in the distance. A city of millions, each soul crying out for salvation and finding that cry falling on deaf ears. He smiled a lascivious smile, the irony not lost upon him; His absence from their lives made it so easy to corrupt and tease, to spill into such pleasurable sin. Such a place had a smell all its own, wearing its wantonness like a rich perfume, it called to him, stirred a certain carnality within him as if all the souls in the valley below beckoned with a single note of need. The Hedonist watched…but he did not see.

His Queen, once so close that he had actually touched her, had scattered herself to the wind, still content to play their ancient game it would seem, to test his patience and see how much longer he could wait. But that touch…it had ignited a burning need within him, a lush oasis in the distance which had, upon arrival, yielded but a drop upon millennia of thirst. And so he had followed her to the fallen city, watched as his once regal consort walked amongst unwashed masses before traveling east again. A glimpse of a hallway, a tightly held knife and then a blinding flash of pure light had sent him recoiling, skulking back to the darkness. Yeshua's divine presence had stymied the pursuit. The Hedonist had lost her in the desert, a terrain where temptation would always fail it seemed. He had taken her into the light of His embrace and in so doing put out the Scorpion’s eyes.

“What are you doing out there?” A throaty purr crept from behind him, issued out of the bedroom which opened upon the balcony. “The view is in here.” Spoken as she stepped lightly upon his perch and tainted his solitude with her presence.

He felt her hands slide around his sides, felt the cool drag of nails upon exposed flesh as she pulled at the unbuttoned shirt which hung from his shoulders. The Hedonist could taste her want; smell her desire as she sought to bring him back inside with the siren’s call of her touch.

“I am looking.” Giving voice to his actions, the urbane tenor of the Hedonist’s prurient prose enough to incite arousal in even the most devoutly celibate of Sisters.

“At what?” She asked as fingers smoothed up his chest, the woman vainly attempting to share his gaze and thoughts, misunderstanding that such a thing, were it to happen, would undoubtedly drive her to madness. She resisted the urge to pout, wisely realizing that the Scorpion had little patience for such banality.

“Urbs angelicorum.” Answered in that ancient tongue.

“Orbs what?” Her mispronunciation merely adding to her confusion as she stepped from behind to stand alongside him and followed his gaze towards the city below.

“The City of Angels.” He translated for her while still not gifting her with a look.

“Ahh…” Slightly annoyed that such a mundane thing had pulled his delicious attentions from her. “Am I one of the angels?” She asked coyly…she had been dressed as one, feathered wings and all upon a catwalk just a few hours previous.

“No.” Answered before the breath of her question could die upon the cool breeze which blew between them. He finally turned to face her, the aristocratic planes of his face proving as pleasing to look upon now as when she had first seen them from the stage. “But then…you wouldn’t want to be such a creature.” Using his thumb to trace a single honey colored strand of hair from her face as he placed at the center of a sybaritic stare. “You have a hedonic bent to your soul that no halo can outshine.”

She felt her breath catch in her chest when he pinned her with that stare while his description of her soul sent her mind to primrose places. She would do anything for him; grant innumerable wishes, however impure, so long as he continued to look at her in such a way. “What am I then?" She turned her face into that tracing gesture, sighed when he graced her with his touch.

“A convenient indulgence.” Hypnotic tones lulling her into a place where wickedness and depravity reigned.

“Do you enjoy making me wait?” Whispered as she closed her eyes and bathed within the debauchery of his touch. She didn’t care that he had described her as such. His touch and words created such a profligate need deep within her.

“What do you know of waiting?” Asked as her question sent his mind back to his Queen, the games he’d been forced to play because of His rules. His hand gave a sumptuous caress to her cheek, slid down to hook a thumb beneath her jaw and hold her by the throat. For a moment it was his Queen that he caressed; impossible for the Hedonist to be immune to such temptations himself. He could feel her pulse quicken, hammering against the cage of incontinent fingers, it pulled him from the visions of both past and future.

“It is said that patience is a virtue,” spoken while stroking a thumb along her pulse.

Fingers closed over the tiny golden crucifix which dangled from her throat. A sharp jerk snapped the slender chain and tore it free from her body. She gave a squeak of surprise as he held it between them, the little cross twisting on a breath of air. He’d been of a mind to allow it to stay around her throat, so He could witness the coming corruption. Yet such things were too great a reminder, even to him. The cross was pitched over the rail of the balcony, a singular flash as it caught the light before it disappeared into the darkness below.

“All virtue is vice…and I have waited long enough to claim what is mine.”
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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by Wheeler Scion » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:32 am

“We are all born believing. A man bears beliefs as a tree bears apples.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

New Orleans, The City That Care Forgot, teemed with a plethora of debauched possibilities. Long a den of vice and iniquity, the city had a charm all its own if one would but pull back the veneer of beads and parades. Owning a long and storied history of loose morals, the beating heart of this place was undoubtedly the Vieux Carré, the French Quarter.

The Hedonist languidly strolled along one of the narrow streets within the Quarter, undoubtedly attracted to the place for its open and uncaring embrace of miscreants and licentiousness. Desires blunted ever since He took her into his light, the Hedonist had sought distraction while he worked out how to find her once more. He knew the carnival would make its swing to the south soon. He would wait like a crocodile in the Nile just beneath the surface for her to come to him.

Teems of humanity flowed like a river on either side of the centuries old cobble-stoned street seeking to purposefully lower their inhibitions through drink and drug. Such a place practically did his work for him. The rhythmic tapping of his cane kept the beat like a metronome, deciphering the Morse code messages of desire and lusts such a place barely contained. The raucous sound of a live jazz band spilled out from a nearby bar, its improvised notes shooting its own rhythmic beat into the veins of those who listened…the Quarter’s very own drug of choice.

That leonine gaze prowled about, lazy like a great cat in afternoon heat, for amusement. Unlike the multitudes around him, the Hedonist was not in search of alcoholic distraction. His drink of choice was far superior to anything which came from grain or barley, his preferred intoxicant was temptation. The night was sweltering, humid and swollen with unrestrained wantonness; just begging for a pin prick to unleash all its energy like a sudden and powerful storm of salacity.

The Scorpion slowed his leisurely stroll to a stop at an intersection, chartreuse colored eyes glancing to and fro…each direction pregnant with opportunity and desire. The flood of flesh continued unabated around him, the dizzying attractions and colors an opiate for those seeking distractions from the mundane.

“We should go to this bar down here...”

“Did you see that girl? I’d have given her all my beads just for another..."

"I have the answer you seek. I see it here in the bones.”

The passing snippets of conversation added to the buzz, to the vibration of possibility all about him. He watched as two law officials on horseback played Little Dutch Boy, a smooth lined sneer for their vain attempt to hold back the spate of desires. Dismissing them, his attentions finally settled on an uneven line of street vendors and would be soothsayers. Each had set up shop for the night, preying on the desire to know the future, the need to know if he or she truly loved them.

The Hedonist crossed the street in their direction, intrigued by those who offered a definite snapshot of an indefinite world. Various groups clustered around these men and women like moths to a flame. One table was occupied by a woman, a snow globe ornament containing a wolf whom she kept indicating as her special friend. Another, a dark skinned man claiming island heritage, was intimating secrets of coming sickness to a worried looking elderly woman. Each table had gathered a crowd of onlookers and participants…all but one.

That golden green smear of color settled on the one with no crowd interest, the lack there of drawing the Hedonist’s. He sat at the end of the line, the slender figure reclining with no potential customers in sight. The man’s face had been meticulously covered with a mask in the shape of a skull, the jaw and teeth exposed in a glistening white which had the sheen of wetness about it, the eye sockets empty and black as they hid the true eyes behind, the temple and brow decorative with gold and artistic swirls of silvery filigree.

He stopped opposite the seated man, the two merely staring at one another for a long moment before the masked figure broke the silence and spoke first,

“Do you wish to know?” The baritone voice a cocktail of rich tones spiked with just a hint of Creole patois.

“What knowledge do you offer?” Sensing that the masked figure was no mere street vendor, the Hedonist canted his head to the side, clearly amused by the man’s opening salvo.

“Everything.” The answer came as the figure leaned forward to rest his elbows on the table before him, his right hand twisting at the wrist to present his palm facing upwards. “Nothing.” The gesture was mirrored with his left hand.

“What do you call yourself Soothsayer? And why wear the mask?” The Hedonist’s gaze shifted away from the skull like mask to the various trinkets and items which decorated the table, which hung from its edges. A ubiquitous voodoo doll hung directly next to a silver Christian crucifix, a Muslim crescent turned on its golden chain in a slow breeze to clink against a Star of David and so on; the man seemingly having every religious icon on display.

“You seek a way in.” The figure answered, easing a wooden bowl towards him, a clear indication that knowledge towards such a path would come at a price.

The Scorpion gave a slow forming smile, generous lips curving upwards to cleave proud lines through aristocratic features. Where there was esurience there was also avarice. “So I see. Everything has its price, no?" Dropping several coins into the bowl.

“No, the trouble is you don't see and that is what is disturbing you. For our purposes here, you may call me La Roque.” The masked figure rumbled. “We all have masks do we not? Not merely the physical such as this.” Lifting a hand to lightly touch the cheek of the skull with a certain reverence, but refusing to elaborate further at the moment.

“A contradictory collection, La Roque.” The Hedonist observed, his words in reference to the eclectic assortment of iconography, willing to believe the reason for the mask was nothing more than street vendor style. “Which do you think has the true power?” A far more important matter.

“All.” La Roque seemed to smile beneath his mask, the muscles of his tattooed neck shifting as he lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “...And None. They are as contradictory as they are complimentary." A pause as he gave a distracted wave behind him. "They are, for all intents and purposes, merely ornaments and symbols for those who wish to pick their particular poison. For that is what all beliefs are. At once poison and panacea." He raised his palms, alternating them up and down as if they were balancing scales. "A lovely paradox, no?"

The Hedonist’s fingers were drawn to the crucifix, lightly lifting it to inspect its craftsman ship, noting the small details of the nailed figure upon it. “Is that so?” Releasing the cross from his touch, he returned that leonine gaze to the seated man.

“The power comes not from the icons, not from the stories, but from the belief in them. ” The answer coming only after the cross had been released. “Take the doll for instance.” The figure reached forward to pluck the voodoo doll up from the table. “Tell me. Do you feel pain when I stick it?” A hand took a long, slender needle, a crimson feather on its end, and struck the doll in the midsection.

The Hedonist wore a smirk as La Roque twisted the needle through the doll’s midsection until its gleaming point erupted from its back. A chartreuse glance down his chest and abdomen before looking back into the hollow eyes of the mask. “No.”

“No. Because you choose not to believe. And yet so many minds across the world, more than you might imagine, believe that a simple woven doll of burlap and buttons can inflict pain and suffering to another. Another soul who has bought into a belief that such a thing is possible might crumple up in agony simply for believing they are vulnerable to such an attack, and so they pay for protection. It is the same with voodoo kings and queens, acolytes and priests with their rituals, sacrifices, blood magic, black magic, and every other type of magic they've conjured up to create the ultimate illusion for control; Fear. It is a worthless paradigm until it is given power through belief. But..." A raise of a shoulder.

"They choose to believe the illusion." A soft chuckle. "They literally create their own demons and then seek me for protection and wards from them. It is an amusing sort of irony, I suppose. The trick and the challenge is to get them to buy in."

The Scorpion gave a nod towards the more crowded tables. “Perhaps that is why you are vacant with an empty bowl, La Roque.” The Hedonist smiled a lascivious smile. “Because you merely offer an illusion, when they seek the real thing.” Prurient prose offering a contradiction to the street vendor’s words; a contradiction far more in line with his own view.

La Roque sat in silence for a long moment, those black vacant eyes studied the Scorpion. There was great energy roiling from this one’s frame, he could almost see it like heat wafting upwards off asphalt. Such power was tempting. Especially to one such as La Roque. This piper had many mice trailing behind him with his tune. “My table is vacant because I have been waiting for you. You can't get someone to buy in, can you? Well, I will help you weave the illusion you seek. And then we will see if you still seek your—distractions.”
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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by Wheeler Scion » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:35 am

There was a belch of black smoke as the flatbed truck found its gear and lurched forward. The driver had one hand out the window, waving it in a circle as if urging the big rig on with sheer willpower. After a moment or two of indecision the engine gave a growl and sent up another plume of smoke and the truck lumbered forward, its precious cargo, the Gravitron, tied securely down on the bed.

Isaac strolled alongside Boomer as the Carnival slowly came to life around him. Every now and then Benny would get an idea stuck in his craw about a winter swing through some of the southern states to try and squeeze a few more bucks out of the rubes. Ordinarily a lot of the Carnies bitched and moaned about such a trip…the money was rarely good, the nights were cold and slow, but this was one trip Isaac didn’t mind.

He and Boomer walked alongside the convoy of trucks stuck in idle, each one waiting for their assigned load. The riders were all contract guys…hired to load and move the Crossroads to their next intersection but weren’t a part of the Carnival and so Isaac paid them little attention.

“Easy now Boz mon…” Isaac heard the familiar island breeze of an accent as he came around the back of one of the trucks, ignoring the hot beat of exhaust as it pumped across his legs. “Be careful wit ma baybee now…” Andre was upon the side of the crane, dreadlocks held in place by a sweat stained bandana.

“I hear ya... I hear ya. Keep yer hair on.” Grizzled and scarred, Boz clenched a cigar between his teeth as he worked the multiple handles of the cane, swung it out to the side where a team of roughies waited to catch the hook and tie it off so Andre’s baby, also known as the Zipper, could be lifted and placed on the next waiting truck.

“You boys on schedule?” Isaac nearly shouted over the din of the crane, that antebellum accent pulling at the words, stretching out the syllables. Thunderstorm of gray took a quick note of the bustling activity all around. Trucks moved about the grassy lot, teams of men and women moved like ants in a kicked over mound as they all worked to get their things packed and ready. The Carnival stored all its big items (rides, tents, attractions and the like) in several large warehouses during the off season. It meant a little more rent but protected everything from the weather and, in the long run, saved money.

“Isaac mon,” Andre answered with a flash of pearly white as he glanced over his shoulder and down at the slender knife thrower. “Whad you be doin out 'ere wit us ride jocks, eh?” Andre turning back to ensure Boz was indeed being careful with his baby before turning back to Isaac.

“Benny.” Isaac answered in a flat tone while watching the roughies loop several strands of cable around the massive crane hook. It was clear that Isaac was annoyed for a variety of reasons which merely had Andre nodding and laughing.

“You don need ta be sayin anymore Isaac mon. Me knownin all wit dat one word. You tell da boss mon dat me an' Boz be right on schedule.” Andre assured Isaac, knowing Benny had stuck Isaac with the job because the knife thrower had been tardy in showing up for the pack up.

Isaac gave a two fingered salute before lifting the clipboard he’d been carrying to scribble down which ride Boz and Andre were loading and the time. Truth be told Isaac didn’t care one way or another; he’d have pencil whipped the time just to keep Benny off everyone’s back. Isaac might struggle to play nice with others,but he definitely knew which side of the management line he was on.

“C’mon boy.” Isaac drawled, drawing Boomer’s attention away from the group working on the Zipper. Isaac steered them both away from the crane, the grind of the engine rising as Isaac turned away. Inwardly, the showman would be glad to get on the road and get to their destination. Sounds of feminine protest and tears still echoed around his ears when he paused to give it thought. Putting Josie on that flight back to France had been the second hardest thing he’d ever done but it had been silly to think that she would have enjoyed herself out here on the road. Sleeping in a new place every few nights, up at dawn, late nights, the works. She belonged back in France with her mother and her doctors. Not out roughing it with a bunch of showmen and carnies. Sooner they got on the road, sooner he could put some real distance between that and that acrid taste he got in his mouth whenever he thought about how his sister’s face had look when he flat out refused her.

“What you lookin at?” Spoken for Boomer as the mutt just stared up at Isaac and gave a low woof of diapproval. “What? You too?” Feeling that Boomer’s look was more than a little accusatory. “It ain’t a good place for her.” Isaac fell short, not wanting to speak about her condition aloud. It’d been a good visit despite how it had started. The two of them just walking around old Savannah like old times. The world had a rare way of feeling right when he and Josie were together, but Isaac wouldn’t put that selfish desire ahead of her well-being--so it’d been a plane back to France.

“Hey Isaac!” The shout coming from behind the knife thrower had the slender showman tensing. “Hey Isaac…wait up man.” Mouse shouted again as he hurried to catch up. “Didn’t think we’d see you man. Last we heard you were up on Idaho or something.” Mouse said breathlessly as he caught up with Isaac amidst a maze of crates stacked taller than both men combined.

“Montana.” Isaac corrected as he tucked his pencil behind an ear and glanced down at his wristwatch. He settled that cool thunderstorm of a gaze on Mouse and waited in silence for the loquacious dunk bozo to keep rattling out words like a slot machine does coins.

“Huh. That’s cool. Say, you seen Fia anywhere?” Mouse asked with a fearful look on his face…as if he was hoping Isaac hadn’t seen her.

“Not since Savannah.” Isaac drawled, fair brow arching in question for the look Mouse had. “Why you lookin for her?” Aware of the sweet scent of pine and sawdust on the air as a breeze picked up upwind of all the crates.

“Savannah?” Confused, Mouse grabbed at the back of his neck as Isaac settled those heavy eyes on him. “You two ah..."Mouse scissored his two index and middle fingers back and forth.

Isaac crossed his arms over his chest as Mouse began to insinuate.
“Right. Not my business." Didn't matter anyway. Dixie would dig up that bit of dirt in no time. " I was looking for her cause some of the boys wanna start loading her carousel onto the flatbeds and I know how she is about anyone touching her ride so I just wanted to clear it from her before anyone starts loading the crates because you know how she can get. I mean if there’s one scratch anywhere, she’d probably burn the whole place down and I…”

Isaac exhaled slowly as Mouse’s mouth ran without interruption. He actually found himself watching how Mouse talked, curious to see if the champion of the dunk tank ever took a breath.

“You know how she can be. Just Whooof…up in flames. Crazy right? Isaac?”

“No.” Isaac answered as Mouse began to realize Isaac had switched off whatever channel he’d been broadcasting nonstop on. “I haven’t seen her. Though I’d tell the roughies ta jus leave her ride alone. We ain’t got the time to be packin' rides and diggin' graves at the same time.”

“Right…right…totally…totally my thoughts too.” Mouse replied as he unclipped a walkie-talkie from a pocket of his cargo pants. “Hey uh…let’s just leave the carousel as is boys. Switch over to swings alright?”

”But you said to start on the carousel, I thought we were…” Came the crackling reply over the walkie before Mouse quickly switched off the radio and prevented the roughies from further confirming they were already working on the carousel.

“Our secret?” Mouse hedged.

“Your funeral.” Isaac answered and began to turn away from the soon to be retired dunk bozo.

He’d spoken the truth about not seeing Fia since Savannah. She’d shown up after talking to him on the phone. That distant voice sounding at once so close and so far away. She’d gone with him and Josie to Bonaventure cemetery to visit Jonathan Wheeler’s grave. Josie had wanted to go to pay her last respects. Isaac had gone because he couldn’t tell her no…not about that.

The letter--his father’s letter--had felt like lead in his pocket. Pulling him down like in his dreams so he’d given it to Fia when his lighter refused to spark. Gave her the letter with a gesture that said do your thing.

And just like that, he’d let go.

She’d been at the airport with him as well and bore witness to that heart wrenching argument of tears versus stoicism. Isaac wasn’t sure how Fia had felt about the whole thing--course he hadn’t asked either. Maybe he didn't want to know what she thought. She’d have her opinions no doubt, but what she’d witnessed was family--something Isaac was mighty private about. Didn’t matter that it had gone down in a crowded airport terminal. Even if Isaac was sure some the TSA boys were on the verge of breaking it up. Didn’t matter. They’d agreed to meet back up at the Carnival and that had been it.

“You hear about the new guy Benny hired?” Mouse was asking, falling into step alongside Isaac and Boomer as the three negotiated the crate maze.

Nah.” Isaac answered, aware Mouse was trying to wiggle himself out of his troubles by trying to get in good with him, trying to share some gossip in hopes he’d put in a word for him with Fia.

“Some guy he met down in New Orleans. Supposed to meet us in Mobile. Said he’s some kind of illusionist or something.” Mouse continued on, the two of them approaching a four way path amidst the crates which ran towards several of the warehouses. “

“Not sure I really care,” Isaac turning and interrupting Mouse for the last time. He’d been through a lot in the last few days and was quickly red lining the extreme edge of his patience. As he spoke, Boomer lifted his head and trotted off behind Isaac, stump of a tail wagging happily.

“Wow." Mouse whistled. "Who’s the skirt eh? This one of your new assistants? Is it just me or are they gettin' younger?” Mouse interrupted, mouth hanging open just a bit as he stared behind Isaac.

“What?” Isaac turned to glance over his shoulder to see his sister standing there, multiple bags of luggage stacked around her with Boomer running excitedly around her feet. She was supposed to be on a plane. She was supposed to be halfway over the god damn Atlantic right now.

“Aw hell…”
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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by Wheeler Scion » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:36 am

Summer was right around the corner, its arrival hinted at with the longer days and rising mercury in the few thermometers scattered about the dusty lot that the Crossroads Carnival had staked out for itself on the outskirts of town. Rides were going up with rapid effectiveness, colorful tents pulled from the backs of big rigs and dusted off before being thrown up like the feathers of some wild peacock advertising to any who might take notice while the sounds of power saws growled through the air to join the scent of freshly cut wood for the gaming booths, the pounding of hammers adding their staccato and making the entire lot feel alive, as if the carnival was some giant, living organism coming to life after a long winter's hibernation.

Big rig trucks loitered in a long line, their engines rumbling in idle while air conditioners blew a little cool air into the cabs in a vain attempt to chill both the temperature and the drivers’ tempers. Time was money and both were being wasted.

“What’s the hold up, Mick? Ya jamming me way up. We wait any longer an Lucille’s gonna go ballistic about Rufus.” A lean figure shouted as he approached the lead truck. Eyes were tucked away beneath a Trilby hat, though even at a glance Mick knew who the figure was.

“Whaddya want from me eh?” The driver shouted back and gestured through the windshield at a gaggle of back yard boys and gazoonies milling around with hands in their pockets. “I got no clue what these jokers are doin…say they ain’t lettin no trucks through till they talk to Benny.”

Patch pulled himself up onto the side of the rig by the side-view mirror and leaned forward to get a better view of the problem. “What you hauling, Mick?” Patch asked with a glance of antique bronze colored eyes back at the flatbed.

He'd had a real name at some point but it'd been traded in like tickets at the frog toss in exchange for the nickname that everyone knew him by. Patch was the carnival's fixer...didn't matter the problem, he had the solution whether it was paying cops to the look the other way, cooling down townies after getting burned on a hot game and all the way down to managing the different personalities within the eclectic group of carnies. Consequently, Patch had a lot of juice amongst the carnival workers and served as a kind of go between with Benny and management on one end and the actual workers on the other.

“Bunch o pig iron for the Dragon.” Mick answered and reached up to adjust his ball cap. “God damn Benny…I bet they’re thinking this is a red light job…that Benny’s gonna stiff em.” Grumbled as he picked up a Styrofoam cup to spit a healthy amount of dip from his mouth and then tugged on the line for the horn which blared its angry blast at the crowd. “Thought you had us staked out already, Patch?” Mick asked with a look over to Patch after a moment more of scowling at the assembly of day laborers and new workers blocking his convoy’s way.

“Easy now.” Patch drawled as the horn blared a second time. “It’s already burning out…ain’t gonna get any cooler with you blowin steam like this. You’re been staked out since before the jump, Mick.” Patch answered with a reassuring nod, an indication that Mick had already been given his spot within the carnival. Patch’s easy going croon combined with those heavy lidded eyes to give the appearance of a man who was never rattled, never knocked off his game. “Your loc’s set up just past Big Eli over there.” Pointing though the windshield to a large area of vacant space marked off with wooden stakes and neon construction ribbon fluttering in the hot breeze. Big Eli, the carnival’s Ferris Wheel, was already up and used as a visual reference for everything else within the grounds of the carnival.

“Tell you what…how bout I have a talk with Jingles…let your cut in on the gennys for a couple nights no charge?” Patch referencing the carnival’s juice man, Jingles, who controlled all the generators and power supply. Each carny cut into the power supply for a fee with the bigger pulls, like the Dragon, requiring bigger fees.

“Oh yeah?” Mick asked with a glance back Patch’s way, a little tick at the corner of his grizzled mouth threatening to bloom into a grin. That it didn’t was because Mick was a hard bitten former bail bondsman from Norfolk who’d traded in chasing skips to travel the roads with the Carnival. The way Mick told it was that getting shot at a second time was more than enough warning to move on and find something new.

“Yeah…you’d be doing me a favor by not running over my work force.” Patch answered with a grin of his own. The Dragon was a big draw for the carnival and Mick already had a short fuse to begin with. Patch didn’t need him or his crew simmering before the first townie even queued up. So if it meant shuffling one favor for another then so be it. That was the name of the game at the end of the day anyway.

“Sounds good.” Mick spoke and spit another load of dip into his cup…his way of saying thank you without actually using the words.

Patch gave a nod and hopped down from the side of the rig and Mick watched the fixer stroll forward towards the gaggle of workers. He didn’t hear the words but saw Patch give a few sharp gestures and the gaggle exploded with movement, workers scurrying in all directions to scatter like sheep from the wolf. Mick reached up to give a tug on the horn, the double blare a sign to his crew as well as another show of thanks. Mick’s lead truck groaned as he downshifted and tapped the accelerator, a cloud of sooty smoke billowing up from the stacks as he pulled forward and wheeled around Big Eli to his assigned location.

"You certainly be puttin da ghosts in dem boys, Patch.” Andre’s booming timbre shot through with that unique Caribbean patois sounding from in front of his own ride, the large man watching Patch at work and puling the fixer’s attention his way. “You be tinkin we have a good season, Patch-mon?" Andre asked while dabbing at his brow with his handkerchief. It promised to be a hot one and already sweat was forming on the islander's brow. He tucked the cloth away into a back pocket of his jeans before wiping a hand across his white tank top, ebony skinned muscles rippling within the large frame as he lifted a bottle of Red Stripe beer to his lips.

"We're on the lot...not quite in the air yet. First stop always sets the tone for the season." Patch answered as he joined Andre on the railing . He reached up to tip the brim of his Trilby back up his brow with a thumb, heavy lidded bedroom eyes rolling up the growing skeleton of Andre's ride, the yardies crawling all over it like angry ants to drive pins into place and leverage heavy pieces of steel into their proper arrangement. "So here's hopin so." Patch lifted a hand rolled cigarette and ran the paper back and forth along his tongue before sealing it tightly and placing it between his lips.

“Bitch’ll be done by dusk.” Boz’ almost feral growl announcing his arrival and that his ride, the Tilt-A-Whirl, would be assembled while making the duo of Patch and Andre a triumvirate. The giant gave a glance towards Andre’s ride and smirked. “Slow goin eh, Dre?” The two ride jocks had a healthy competition going in almost everything.

“Dats cause you been poachin da best yardies.” Andre answered with a teeth gleaming grin. “Been meanin ta tell dat to da Patch.”

“You boys settle your own disputes for once, eh?” Patch joked with the carnival veterans, that cigarette dangling from between his lips as he fished a book of matches from his shirt pocket.

“Don be meanin nothing, Boz mon…da gates open at da same tick tock…den we be seein who havin da long lines.” Andre lifting his bottle to his lips for a healthy pull as Boz reached into the cooler and grabbed two for himself.

“Lots of fresh faces this year.” Boz observed while turning that scarred visage over the flurry of activity out on the Midway while twisting the top off one of his bottles.

Carnival life could be transient with new faces appearing at dawn only to disappear by twilight, the decision made that the work was too hard, the pay wasn’t enough. Others might last a season and never show up in the new year having decided that life on the road just wasn’t as romantic or adventurous as the movies made it seem. Consequently, those like Patch who were with it and for it, those that had made this life their own saw tremendous turnover over the years.

“Mmmhm.” Patch sounded through pursed lips as he pulled the matchbook free and struck a match only to see it get snuffed out in a gust of wind. He peeled another free and struck it against the book, touching the burgeoning flame to the end of the cigarette and sucked down an initial drag. “We lost a couple geeks, Birdie that ran one of the flat joints…she got knocked up…Thump…apparently doing a couple of years hard time…” Patch gave a shrug as he listed a few more names Boz and Andre might know. His loyalty didn’t extend beyond the lot and the fixer had little time for those no longer with the life. “So Benny’s got a weed up about staffing…you know the drill…money this, overhead that…” Patch’s drawl was a bored as the look in his sleepy eyes.

“Someone actually knocked up Birdie?” Boz asked, an incredulous look bordering on disgusted on his face which he promptly tried to wash down with a quaff of Red Stripe.

“Thought it mighta been you after Benny had us burn down the lot once those do-gooders came out to protest.” Patch chuckled around another drag from his smoke, his reference to a rather infamous incident within the carnival that saw Benny giving the green light on all sorts of rigged games and other shenanigans in response to heavy heat from the locals. Andre joined in, the deep rhythm of mirth making it impossible for Boz to scowl too long.

“We were all ripped that night.” Boz tried vainly to defend himself.

“Aint being enough Red Stripe in all da world for dat, Boz mon.” Andre adding through his laughter.

“So Benny’s got you looking for new faces eh?” Boz, now red faced, attempted to steer the conversation back away from his past antics.

“Got us a new fortune teller up from New Orleans…goes by La Roque.” Patch confirmed, a nod towards the black tent already up in Big Eli’s shadow. The other two glanced that way as well, all three of the life-long carnys sharing similar looks of varying uncertainty. They’d only caught glimpses of the soothsayer as he went about his business alone and apart from the other carnys.

"Speakin of dem fresh faces, I been hearin dem rumors...dey flyin round a Midway like jay birds..." Andre nodding towards Patch, the topic purposefully shifting away from La Roque and to a carny’s favorite: gossip.

"Yeah?" The antique shine of Patch's eyes shifted to Andre as he blew an exhale out away from the group. "What are the birds sayin now?" Patch always had a moment to listen to rumors and hearsays, especially if it was coming from those he trusted.

"Dat we be takin on a special someone new dis year. A lil filly be joinin her brotha."

“I heard that one too, Dre.” Boz commented, his first bottle already half empty as he turned to judge Patch’s reaction.

Patch remained quiet for a moment, a seemingly annoyed flicker glinting across the almost lazy look of his eyes. He'd already heard this rumor from the boss' mouth directly. Isaac's sister was joining the carnival and Benny had nominated Patch to be her caretaker; Benny’s simple instruction: Find a place for her. "Heard that one..." Blowing an exhale of smoke and reaching down into the Styrofoam cooler for a beer himself.

Andre watched as the almost always affable Patch seemed annoyed and shared a look with Boz.

"Benny wants me to take her under my her the grounds." Patch’s answer was true enough. There was no need to go throwing dirt in Benny’s eye by letting it slip that the boss was pushing things on Patch that the fixer didn’t necessarily agree with.

"Benny no be wantin da knife mon for dat?" Andre asked, curious and thirsty for gossip as the next carny. Patch threw Andre a look as he asked about Isaac. He was one of the Showmen and their attractions were enough to get the carnival off the nut in no time...consequently they had a tendency to run their own show within the show.

"You wanna tell Isaac to take time from his show?” Patch asked while sipping his beer, the bronzed gaze returning to the rising skeleton of Andre's ride. “Aint no way Benny’s gonna mess with the tip Isaac gets outside his stage.” Patch confirming that Isaac’s routine was a big draw, grossed a heavy percentage of the carnival’s total take a night. Patch and Isaac had a quiet understanding…Isaac didn’t make waves and Patch wouldn’t have to swing by his tent. The unspoken arrangement worked well for both men. “Don’t matter…I got her booked for two weeks fore she bails the counter and quits.”

“I’ll take that bet.” Boz gave a low whistle of approval before elbowing Patch and then nodded over towards where Dixie had set up her floss stand. "Got nice stems. I'd take a whirl if Isaac wouldn't cut my throat."

The carnival’s resident gossip queen had established her court along what would become the main drag of the Midway, best way to make a few ducats as well as keep an eye on any juicy developments. Dixie was famous for two things: cotton candy…known as floss amongst the carnys and knowing everything about everyone no matter the subject or secrecy. No doubt she was already keeping tabs on the trio across the way. Dixie’s floss cart was already hot and spinning sugary strands for any of the carnival workers who might fancy a bit of spun sugar. Her blue gray hair was tied down under a colorful babushka, her eyes enigmatically hidden behind a pair of large, dark sunglasses. But what drew Patch’s attention was the diminutive brunette in a yellow sundress casually pulling a bit of sugary sweetness to her lips.

“Cho,” Andre exclaimed and looked to Boz. “Dah breddah be crushin…don be ah goin dere else you gonna end up skewered on knife mon’s shiny blades.” Andre chuckling and shaking his head, that handkerchief dabbing at his brow again as he took a pull from his bottle. Boz seemed to bristle at being called out for staring and puffed his size up a notch or two in response to Andre’s jabs. “Whatcha be tinkin, Patch…”

Patch continued to watch the girl, eyes squinted with little white creases forming at the corners of his eyes from a life spent in the sun as he studied her, reading her from head to toe from the way she moved and interacted, noting all the little flairs and ticks that made each soul unique.

“I think she looks like the first of May.” Patch drawled after a moment, heavy lidded bedroom eyes roaming back to Andre and Boz as he pushed an exhale through both nose and mouth; the moniker denoting someone who was brand new to the carnival but could, on occasion, carry a few other meanings as well. Patch put the cigarette up to his lips for another drag, seeming to dismiss the two women for the moment. "I give her two weeks."

“True…True…she be greener den Eden, but dat only cause she dun have Patch showin' her da ropes jus yet. Who bedda den you ta be showin her how we be doin tings here on da Midway?" Andre teased, knowing Patch was about as slick as they came and didn’t like to be slowed down in any way.

Patch’s smirk formed in response to Andre’s words, a lopsided affair that hung for a moment before evaporating into something harder. “Break’s just about over, no?” Patch’s croon carrying a bit of implied warning there. Nothing too serious, just a reset of boundaries and expectations that came as easily as the lazy back and forth of before. “Lemme know if you boys need something...I’m gonna make some rounds…Gunner’s no doubt got himself tied up in knots over at the Glass House…they break another mirror and he might just keel over.” Clinking bottles with Andre and Boz before pushing off the railing to drift down the Midway.
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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by Wheeler Scion » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:37 am

The Hedonist’s gait was that of a slow stroll as he prowled along the empty streets of the West End. Its run-down thoroughfares dotted here and there with stubborn signs of life, the depressed and downtrodden nature of its neighborhoods standing silent sentinel to the slow strangulation of hope and opportunity. Ah…but what a rich vein such a place was. Where others saw only dwindling and drain he saw profit and gain, chaos and enjoyment.

A covetous smile tugged at the corners of his generous mouth as he gave himself over to such thoughts. The settings changed but the story remained the same…so many were so willing to indulge when finally faced with the prospect of ruin. Distraction was the drug of choice in such a place and the Hedonist peddled the purest forms of such addictions. It was on that razor’s edge between hope and finality that he played his carnal games, indulged in and crafted fantasies so wanton that the grand board upon which all the pieces moved was often obscured behind a libertine mask of constant and manufactured bliss.

He promenaded through the fog as the old bell tower sounded the arrival of the witching hour with its successive clanging reaching out across the night to announce the passage of time to an empty audience. The onyx cane capped with a leering lupine bust sounded its own faineant message as the Hedonist paused at a wide intersection. The West End had a peculiar way of blurring his Sight. The myopic return sparking a certain inquisitiveness within him that had caused him to tarry and learn the lay of the land on foot.

There was no true path before him with one direction as good as another. The illusionist La Roque having made contact, an abstruse message requesting a meeting in the West End. A rueful glance skyward as he chose left as opposed to right and resumed the gentlemanly stroll until he heard a rattling sound drifting towards him, its sound within the fog like that of a song whose name stayed just out of the mind’s reach…ever present but never truly possessed. His curiosity piqued, the Hedonist continued to drift towards the sounds while taking note of the tremors which seemed to silently vibrate through the rare pane of glass. He was aware of the rules though they chafed against him like a too heavy yolk. He was just satisfying his own temptations…could one such as he truly be blamed for such a thing?

“A rather curious location for a meeting.” Prurient prose tinged with amusement announcing his arrival as the Hedonist stood at the opening of an alley, the wan light devoured with a sense of gluttony just a few feet within the alley’s depths as if the darkness itself possessed an unsatisfied and gnawing hunger. One could sympathize as his own hunger continued unabated, one temptation satisfied split into a desire for two and so forth to form an exponential chain of desires. Chartreuse colored eyes prowled beyond the terminator of light and darkness, peered into the abyss to make out a hooded figure standing alone at the back of the alley.

“The carnival has too many prying eyes.” The figure spoke and cast his right hand out over the metal, the vibrating sound filling the negative space between the two figures, rattled like the tail of a warning serpent. “Both natural and otherwise.” The voice gravelly and disembodied as it sounded from behind a macabre gossamer mask that, when viewed a certain way, transposed a ghostly, seemingly holographic skull which obscured his true features.

“I have seen the darkened Carousel, its lacquered menagerie still and silent.” Leonine eyes glancing about the alley, the collection of refuse and detritus standing as silent evidence of the disrepair common to this part of the city. The Hedonist answered as he stopped short of La Roque’s position and cast his eyes downward to see a collection of bones glistening upon a metal pan in the twilight of the narrow alley. “You were supposed to be my eyes within the carnival. I have yet see a return on that investment, Illusionist.” The Hedonist’s temper beginning to simmer just beneath the surface in the face of such a delay.

“The world turns on its own timetable…not yours.” La Roque’s chimerical baritone sounding as he gathered the bones into his hand and cast them back across the metal, the bleached white rawness clashing against the blackened metal. Masked eyes were sent downward in study, La Roque seemingly reading their orientation as if it was guided by something other than physics and chance.

“Then you must also know that this sudden departure and sequestration are of great inconvenience to me.” There was a spark of annoyance within that wanton timbre, a subtle vibration rippling through the few panes of glass remaining in a nearby shop window. “As are cryptic words in dark alleys.” A dismissive flick of golden green eyes back to the masked figure, the Hedonist beginning to turn the iron band along a finger, fingers tracing over the etched scorpion design laid within the metal. “Where has she gone?”

“The fires throughout the city proved too great a temptation for what is housed within her.” The bones cast again, the pattern the same as the last throw and the one before that. “I am forbidden from answering that question.” La Roque intoned, the vibration of his voice unchanging in the face of the Hedonist’s obvious annoyance. “There are rules more ancient than anyone walking this plane which must be followed. The balance must be maintained.”

“Rules are for those too weak to forge their own path, for those too blinded by belief in things larger than themselves.” Heterodox words of one who knew better but had made his choice long ago. “If it weren’t so, it wouldn’t feel so good to break them.” The Hedonist’s libertine words meant to tempt La Roque, entice the figure with the promise that the prohibited was nothing more than fantasy, self-made shackles of weak and rusted chain that could so easily shatter.

“Rules are meant to be understood.” The Illusionist corrected. “It is in your nature to resist such sentiments yet it does not alter the Truth.” La Roque countered and scattered the bones again. “You fail to find that whom you seek because you have blind spots, places that even you cannot peer into…not without assistance.

“Mmm…” The Hedonist’s tone one of sensed opportunity as he deciphered the Illusionist’s words. “One only needs an understanding if they wish to circumvent them.” The golden green smear of his eyes led his hand to the metal, scattered the bones into a new pattern. “There are always exceptions…even in the most ancient of books.”

“There are doorways able to transcend this world for the other, loopholes to peer beyond the limitations of flesh and blood.” La Roque agreed, his masked face slowly turning to interpret the new pattern, the change in orientation reflecting the changes being wrought by this very conversation. “Though I caution against them.”

“And you’ve found such a…loophole.” The Hedonist surmised, unwittingly falling victim to his own nature as he leaned forward in servitude of his own temptation while ignoring the warning in its entirety. “What is it…this loophole?”

“You ask the wrong question…” The deep, soporific cadence of La Roque’s voice pulling even the Hedonist into its dreamscape. La Roque produced a playbill from the Shanachie Theater. The illusionist handed it to the Hedonist. “The question is whom?”
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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by Wheeler Scion » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:38 am

"What are you doin back here, Sweeps?" Patch's croon a slow drawl of curiosity rather than accusation as he came into the canvas tent which housed the carousel. The fixer's burnt bronze gaze falling upon the elderly man as he sat on the floor of the carousel only after the sweet smell of the man's pipe had given him away.

When alive, the carousel held a certain hypnotic power over those who ventured past it. The dazzling lights and music combining with the uniquely carved and painted animals to create an almost mesmeric if the carousel itself was beckoning. Even dark as it was and had been, it still held a faint, raw magnetism about it. Patch could feel it, the restrained, dormant energy almost humming within the brass and iron, the polished and painted wood.

"Huh? Oh..." Sweeps looked up with a startled look and fumbled with the pipe he'd been puffing on. "Al-A-Ga-Zam, Patch." The use of such a venerable catch phrase revealing that Sweeps had been with it far longer than Patch had been alive. "Like ta come here...puff me pipe and sit with the beautiful beasts." Placing the pipe back in his mouth before he reached up to give a deferential pat to the lion which silently roared above him, the lacquer still shining despite the wan light which snuck through the gaps in the tent covering the carousel.

"It's a fine attraction." Patch agreed. He'd been out supervising the loading of the various rides and amusements the yardies had assembled for the flat beds. He'd ventured into the tent for a bit of shade and a few moments reflection on the morning meeting with Benny. The groan of engines and shouts as cranes swung whole sections of pig iron about could still be heard beyond the canvas rustling of the tent walls. Patch's eyes roamed over the menagerie, their hooded gaze drawn towards the black wolf which seemed forever frozen in a powerful, slinking stalk of some unseen prey. It reminded him of a story his grandfather once told him...

"No word from Fia eh?" A quiet puff. "Miss that girl." Sweeps' words pulling Patch's attention back to the present.

"Not yet." Patch answered as he fished out some rolling papers and a little bag containing his own special blend of tobacco. "You know the life, Sweeps." Speaking while sprinkling and filling the paper. "Fia's a trouper...she'll always have a spot here once she's sorted out whatever needed sortin." Licking and rolling the paper as he, too, wondered where the Firestarter had gotten off to. She'd tried to get Patch to ride the carousel more than once, those mismatched eyes almost challenging the fixer, though he'd always deferred with a drawled promise of 'next time'.

"Shame." Was all Sweeps had to say and quietly puffed his pipe before clearing his throat and glancing up at Patch. "But since you're here...was wonderin if you be havin a job for me this jump?" The old timer's voice almost cracked, that hopeful little lilt protecting a nugget of pride that no amount of bad luck or time could ever wear down.

Sweeps was an old timer in every sense of the word. That white beard stained with just a bit of yellow from the pipe tobacco was always quick to part and reveal a gap toothed smile of grandfatherly gentility. He'd been an agent at one point running a two way joint that could be run fairly or rigged. Sweeps was too ducky to gaff it and the beef it caused got him fired. By then, time had taken its toll, bent his body over and gnarled his fingers to the point that any all day and night kind of work taxed him to the brink. As a result it was almost impossible for him to pull a full time gig these days. He'd earned the name Sweeps at the Crossroads as he spent most nights walking the midway with head down, spectacled eyes sweeping the ground for loose change.

"What kind of work you lookin to do?" Patch's lethargic croon sounding as he lit his cigarette with a strike of a match and tipped his trilby up on his brow with a thumb. He'd brought Sweeps to the Crossroads out of respect for the man and his career; had ignored Benny's bellyaching about it for the last few seasons too.

"Whatever's available." Sweeps answered, aware Patch had a job to do and wouldn't carry his weight even if Sweeps would have allowed it.

"Finch is always needin help with the Zamps. Ain't exactly strong...but it beats carrying the banner." Patch offered and was greeted with a nod and a smile from Sweeps.

"Them punk rides always push a carny nice ta get back in the game. Me and Finch go back a bit too. Thanks Patch." Lifting his pipe in a little salute before standing with a bit of a groan and a dusting off his tweed vet and making an adjustment to a bow tie that never would stay straight. "Ain't true what the others be sayin about ya." The joke offered with a little wink.

"Don't be thinking you're gonna slick me having a bit of sympathy, Sweeps." Patch answered with a dilatory smile, a turn of his head over his shoulder when he heard the tent flap get pushed aside.

"How we doin, Patch?" The question launched from behind the fixer's lazy lean against the carousel pole. Its owner another old timer who'd been with Patch for years and the show even longer...a real with it and for it trouper.

"Any better and we'd be twins." The indolent drawl matched the movement of the fixer's hooded eyes as he gave a nod to the man who came to join him and Sweeps at the carousel.

"Sweeps...ya old gig artist." Said with a grin for the grey beard as he teased.

"Be cool now, Rooster." Sweeps answered in kind with a mock warning. A little puff on his pipe revealed that gap toothed grin. "Gonna go find some ideas for them flat rides he runs. Stay on that grind Rooster." A parting shot of humor for Rooster as Sweeps gave Patch another nod turned for the tent flap, his parting words implying Rooster lacked the skill to be a true talker.

The humor came from the fact that Rooster was arguably the best talker the carnival had. Man could build and freeze a masterful tip with a bally that would clean the Midway and leave even the most stubborn of rubes parted with their cash. And that was why he worked almost exclusively for Isaac's routine...Rooster got a percentage of the gross from the show and Isaac's show was often the biggest draw. The man was also a notorious story teller; his ability to cut up jackpots was legion amongst the carnies. Sure, such war stories were full of tall tales and embellishments but it didn't matter when the liquor was flowing and the pockets full after a strong day.

Rooster gave a grunt and leaned forward to spit his tobacco on the dirt floor and gestured with a tattooed finger towards Patch's cigarette. "Those things'll kill ya." Grinning and turning a weathered face with permanent crows feet up over the carousel. "Haven't been barnstormin in ages." Referring to the off-season jump Benny seemed hell bent on making. "Didn't know I missed it till I got yer call." Another spat of tobacco to the dirt and Rooster was wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand.

Sharp eyes missed nothing as they roamed over the carousel and her wild things. "Ain't right ta keep her boxed up like this." The rounding boards, the carousel's panels which made the famous crown, were stacked up off to the side. The highly decorative boards added the flash with painted scenes, mirrors and lights...but now all they seemed to do was collect dust and leave the old girl's guts exposed up above.

"Wasn't expected." Patch answered, the two words answering the barnstorming and the carousel comments. Patch gave a bit of a wistful smirk for the cigarette bit, appreciative of such an ironic sense of humor. "Think Benny's still bit about last season...said we barely got off the nut." It was a guarded line from the fixer.

He'd met with the boss earlier that morning and Benny had been a bit more excitable than usual. Pacing back and forth in his trailer, a stack of ABAs on his desk. The commercial traveler's cheques were often used in the carnival world...often purchased under an assumed name and carried in place of cash to slip the bank's eagle eye on transactions. Not out of the ordinary, but something had made Patch's blood itch hearing Benny press on the need to turn money quickly. His grandfather had cautioned him during his days on the reservation to always be mindful of such a feeling...would say the spirits were dancing in his blood for a reason and they'd keep doing so, more and more, till they were listened to.

It had seemed like Benny was running from something...and taking his carnival with him.

"That a fact?" Rooster asked, blading his body towards Patch after stepping up onto the carousel to lean against the rump of a beautiful chestnut stallion. Fingers which sported several other tattoos which bled up to his hands and beyond tracing the intricate lines of the horse's tail. Man had more tattoos than some of the freaks at the sideshow.

Patch knew Rooster knew a yarn when he heard one and gave the man a measured look. The fixer was aware at how superstitious all carnies tended to be and knew if he expressed any misgivings he had to Rooster they'd inevitably spread like the Clap throughout the show. "That's what the man said." Patch answered honestly and gestured to the tent flap where the shouts and hollers of the roughies and yardies continued unabated. "Hence the smaller, greener crew...tryin to keep the burr small for this short run."

Patch's drawl made enough sense for Rooster not to press the issue. Man had been around long enough to know some things were best left to those at other levels. Truth of the matter was he trusted Patch far more than anyone else. "You heard from the Lil General yet?" Asking about the advance man who was responsible for making sure everything was ready when the convoy rolled into town. Rooster asking for both he and Isaac as he knew the knife thrower would have certain expectations.

"Yeah...called me bout an hour ago. Says he's got a spot picked out and a couple of cake eating sponsors to back us." Patch pulling on a slow drag from the last bit of his cigarette and dropping the remnants beneath the toe of his boot.

"I do love me the church groups." Rooster grinned and pushed off the stallion. "I'm off to go see if Lucille needs any help with Rufus. Big boy ain't be liking tha heat an Red'll be in a twist."

Patch chuckled and gave a bow of his head as he reached up to adjust the trilby. "Don't get bit." The slow croon holding a lick of implication within its timbre as the caution was meant to warn against Rufus and Lucille.

Patch watched as Rooster spat his tobacco and just grinned before turning to out to where the trucks were lining up. He felt that itch in his blood again and cleared his throat to call after Rooster. "Hey Rooster...fifth of your favorite bottle for any heads up out there." Patch alluding to any sense of trouble which might be picked up out on the Midway.

"You worried bout beef?" Rooster asked. "Anything I see'll come straight to you." Reassuring the fixer with a two fingered salute from his brow.

"Always...why none of you cappers want my job." Patch smirked and returned the salute, eyes roaming over the wolf once again while he tried to source that blood itch and put it to rest once and for all.
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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by Wheeler Scion » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:40 am

"Gonna be a great the dates all lined up, sponsors in our pockets...already gave the boys the okay to burn the lot fore we jump to the next town." Benny pitched his own version of a bally quickly. He always did when he was nervous. "Got my advance man and fixer already supervising the set up. Yes sir...gonna be a real red one." The pitch was meant to reassure the three men who sat opposite the carnival boss. "I gotta tell you...finding you guys was like mana from want anything to drink?"

The three men were positioned opposite Benny's cluttered and disorganized desk, two standing though the important one sat in the worn out, age faded chair...the other two were there only to keep watch. An amused smirk developed upon macerated features as Benny mentioned the realm above; fingers absently picking at a flaking piece of old, worn pleather on the arm of Benny's good chair as he listened. He glanced up as the carnival boss finished speaking, a certain lambent polish lighting aurelian colored eyes. "Is that so?" He coveted a drink but instinctively knew whatever swill the carnival boss had on hand would hardly satisfy. "You had numerous debtors..." Fingers returning to picking at the chair as if the peeling, sun dried covering were a recalcitrant scab. "Consolidating them into a single debenture was no small feat." The man produced an esurient smile as he paused, the expression rising to the halcyon glint within eyes that sparked with malicious avarice. "Fortunate that I am as persuasive as I am generous. You would be wise not to conflate such traits with tolerance or leniency. You will be turning a profit soon, yes?" The word, one of his favorites, oozing like molten gold from the mouth of the modern-day Croesus.

Benny cleared his throat as the man spoke, noted the way the man's canines showed when he smiled like a stalking wolf, forever hungry. "Of course." Benny reassuring the first question while feeling a thin sheen of sweat breaking out on his bald scalp. He had been desperate...running from loan sharks and bookies who meted out a kind of justice that Benny didn't have the pain tolerance to withstand. So, when the money had been offered with a promise for Benny to retain ownership of the carnival he'd leapt without looking.

Now he looked though. Looked and saw the lean figure sitting opposite him as one who might be worse than all of those loan sharks put together. A life long carny, Benny could read people when not blinded by desperation or...greed. The man looked almost if something had gnawed upon him incessantly from the inside yet Benny felt that rawboned appearance merely skinned something much more potent and forceful.

" no time. We get off the nut, file down the burr with a smaller crew and you'll get your end in no time." Benny blinked and sat back in his chair with a reassuring nod and smile.

The Wolf didn't know nor care to learn what any of that lingo meant. His ravenousness lay in different territory. Auriferous eyes had narrowed in on the word profit. "We both will get our end." Correcting the carnival boss. And there was the hook. The Wolf produced that bewitching smile once more as he dangled the promise of fortune and clover before the man.

"I like the sound of that." Benny grinned, feeling the pressure seemingly lift just a bit and be replaced with the promise of more cash.

"Don't we all." The Wolf answered in kind and gave a glance up to his associates, a small inclination of his head to indicate they were done here. "We will speak again soon...perhaps after your first stop." Rising as one of his associates moved to open the door of the trailer, little golden motes of dust illuminated within the rays to dance like tumbling coins upon the air. The Wolf exited the trailer without another word, a debt paid and a more important rendezvous on the horizon.

"Tell me." The prompting words guiding the admission with the light touch of a shepherd's crook stroke of knuckles along the woman's delicate cheek. The lost little lamb had the Hedonist's full attention as they sat together in the dim light of an empty bar. Such early hours called only to the committed and the desperate it would seem...rather like another hallowed place though locations such as these welcomed their flock on all days...not simply Sundays.

"Why?" The woman coyly asked as she cheated her face away from the Hedonist though struggled to keep celeste colored eyes under control as his fingers moved from cheek to sable strands of hair. The sensation was magnetic and thrilling in its dynamism as he never seemed to part his skin from hers.

"Because I want to hear you confess." The expectation made sotto voce against the shell of her ear just recently exposed by brushing fingers. The Hedonist's eyes alighted upon the rise of primrose flush within the woman's cheeks as his words had their desired effect.

Chartreuse eyes blinked as he felt the sudden and invisible vibration in the air, keen eyes catching the unseen ripples announcing another's arrival within his sphere of influence. The tingling birr upon the web enough to draw both eyes and attention away from the blossoming of carmine and the raven-haired woman entirely. That she wilted like a flower absent the sun once his attention moved towards the door was not missed nor lamented. The Hedonist watched as the Wolf entered the vacant bar, the man's slender frame and angular face a poor mask for those who had the gift to look beyond the skin and taste the marrow.

The wanton smirk which formed upon seeing the Wolf had nothing to do what the Hedonist saw...but what he knew his presence portended. "Shhh...I enjoy deferred pleasures." Turning back to the woman as he lightly pressed his finger to pouty lips. "This will only be moments." Susurrate words promising a return even as he parted from her company with a libertine pinch of her chin.

The Hedonist strode with skulking purpose towards the Wolf who had left his bannermen outside to watch the door. Theirs was to be a private conversation. The golden green smear of leonine eyes prowled over the Wolf who leaned to the side to put eyes upon the woman.

"Must you always?" He asked though the smirk which formed was born of familiarity.

"It is my nature." The answer that of the scorpion upon the turtle's back. "Idle hands..." Mockingly quoted.

"I agree." The Wolf answered, the golden hue of eyes returning to the Hedonist. "Tis why I spent the morning acquiring you a carnival." A feigned put-upon sigh accompanying canines becoming visible as that cunning smirk formed a crescent across his face. "The carnival will continue to operate...with my backing of course. Its owner was more than agreeable to my terms. One more plucked from your tempest to be placed upon my battlefield beneath Plutus' watchful eye." An incult chuckle for they were always in competition with one another. "I consider my debt paid." The sobering addition added after a moment of enjoyment.

"Always wanting more." The Hedonist chided though the rich laugh the Wolf's words enticed from his chest sounded his understanding of the never-ending game. "Such cupidity plucks out the eye and leaves one blind to the finer things in this world." A licentious lick of words for he knew the game still had time left on the clock. "Your debt is paid." Granting that which the Wolf sought more than anything else.

The Wolf gave the acquiescence a shallow nod of his head, a comfortable silence settling upon the pair for several moments. "Do you still plan to follow the advice of your soothsayer?" The Wolf finally asked, a certain appetency for information on display despite the subtle mockery when uttering that last word. His was a more direct approach.

"In a way." Admitted. "It is time to employ a bit of leverage." Answering as much as he dared. Though they worked well together, their particular talents enjoying a certain synergy when mutual interests aligned, they were still in competition with one another.

"Ahh..." The Wolf purred, enjoying the machinations as they played out in real time. "You seek to force her to return then?" Asking though doubting he would get an answer. "A dangerous gambit, but it makes sense. The triduum approaches at the end of the month..."

"Perhaps you'd care for a drink..." Shifting both body and conversation so that the Wolf put hunting eyes upon the woman at the bar. Not even they were immune from one another's influences...a fact the Hedonist intended on using to bring the Wolf once more into his debt.


"I've been desiring one all day. You’re doing, I wonder?" The Wolf answered with a smirk after a moment appraising the woman and moved past the Hedonist and further into the bar.

The Hedonist lingered alone for a moment. His compulsion required Josette to be a part of the carnival before the Hallowtide. He smirked at the irony of him requiring faith. "You certainly move in mysterious ways." A derisive lift of his eyes towards the ceiling. Those golden green eyes lowered once more and he was watching the Wolf order a drink, the Hedonist absently drifting their way to introduce the woman and earn yet another debt from his brother.
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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by Wheeler Scion » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:41 am

"Certain small ways and observances sometimes have connection with large and more profound ideas."
~ Chief Standing Bear, Ponca Native American chief

Weather worn and calloused hands reached down to claim a handful of hardpacked soil. The gritty clumps of earth gave way between the palms as the hands rubbed together with the remnants staining the skin, it's color joining that of tawny hands. Burnt bronze eyes watched as the foundation of the transient location became a part of him; the site fusing with the man.

The remainder of the dirt was released to blow free upon the wind. His grandfather had taught him on the Res that a man might hold the earth for a moment, but only the foolish or arrogant would try and claim ownership over something with so much power.

Patch crouched in the middle of the midway and tipped that trilby hat up high on his brow with a thumb, the hand rolled cigarette dangling from his lips as he collected another handful of dirt. What had once been sacred to a people nearly forgotten had become ritual for the man who had run from the reservation. He needed to get a feel for the spot...not just the placement of rides and booths but the very foundation upon which it all was fixed and built. The fixer glanced about the carnival and noted every hole had been filled whether it was a 20x20 loke or a center joint octopus. All had their banners out, the brightly colored canvas announcing the attractions from the line up at the front end to the major and spectacular rides at the back end. Multicolored lights flashed while the agents polished their cracks on one another and the music from Jingles' battered PA system crackled and popped through prewar speakers. They were on the precipice of high grass here as Benny had made good on his promise to set them up with a good first gig.

"Think the ground'll give its blessing?" Boz called down to Andre, Nails and a green jointee he hadn't bothered to learn the name of. Jerry? Johnny? Jimmy? Boz didn't know and didn't care...let the kid make it a couple of joints, maybe earn a nickname and then he'd bother.

Boz leaned on the open window of the dog house of his ride, the enclosed both keeping the operating controls out of the elements. The Ride Jock squinted his eyes against the sun to eye the fixer still crouched in the distance. "Toss me up one of them Stripes while you're at it eh?"

"What's he doing?" The kid asked while eyeing the bottles but knowing better than to ask. He had yet to earn the right to drink with the veterans and looked to Nails as she spoke up.

"Don't let the calm fool ya." Nails answered and tossed one of Andre's Red Stripes from the foam cooler up to Boz. Nails was one of the carnival's top agents. Known for the best flash and could gaff a game as well as any of the boys. She stroked a hand over her half shaved head, blonde bangs hanging low over one side of her face and a golden nose ring bragged of bad girl toughness to any who laid eyes on her. The kid was her responsibility...she was hoping to turn him into a jointee that could hold his own at a no skill dime pitch and then they'd see about promoting him. "Patch been doing that for years. Needs to feel the spot."

"A mi fi tell yu," Andre clinked his bottle with Nails' and chuckled through that expression of agreement. That Jamaican patois could be hard to pick up on sometimes though Boz and Nails didn't seem to struggle with it. "Da Patch-mon be havin dem heavy spirits dem tons weightin him down...enough fi stone dawg." The booming baritone falling quiet as he sipped from his own bottle.

Word ha gotten round, spread just as Patch thought it might. Quick as a wink, news of Benny's new backers had flown round the grounds. The carnival's resident candy flosser spun pure sugar and gossip as sweet as you could find, and she'd seen the slender looking fellow leaving Benny's trailer with those other two. Stories of new money, stories of Benny selling the carnival coming back to life like the zombies used to scare children in the dark house...never ending rumors always swirled about such a close group.

Patch could feel the diverse vibrations of power radiating on his hands, the fixer sensing the disparate meanings within the tremors. He still had that itch in his blood, the ground just confirming it wasn't a fleeting thing. Something was coming. Spinning beyond his control. His grandfather often talked about the People would have them...powerful things that gifted windows into the future or the spirit world. The fixer had never had such an experience though he felt premonitions like little echoes of their big brothers.

The music picked up several notches, the sound jarring and sudden as it jerked him from his private reverie. The Arch had just opened up and already Patch could hear the squeals of children and rising barrage of voices as people spilled through the turnstiles. He dusted his hands off and pulled his cigarette from his lips. As if feeling a few sets of eyes upon him the fixer turned towards the trio and even at that distance the imagined look from those hooded eyes had the four of them scattering to get back to work.

Something was coming. Spinning beyond his control.
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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by Wheeler Scion » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:44 am

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.
~ Pericles


The spinning blade whirled through the air with a hum of efficiency and precision that belied the storm swirling within the man that had loosed the blade.


The next was chosen at random though the target remained the same...ever the same. Scrupulous attention was paid to the finest detail of the grip, the angle of release, the throw itself. End over end it tumbled, tightly flung chaos spinning with potentially deadly outcome...yet Isaac knew the outcome before the knife ever left his fingers. Knew it so well, the results replicated with such accuracy, that it was more science than chance.


The board was filling up with blades. Each one having dug deeply into the red painted bullseye of the target some twenty feet away. There was a calming sensation to throwing the knives, claiming them from the board and then repeating again and again. It was something he craved in the moment, that mindless repetition and mental focus leaving no room for other thoughts which might distract. Thoughts which might sour his aim or retard the necessary rhythm.


He'd been at it for so long that the record playing now spun with only a crackle of intermittent static, the needle having lost its circular path once the disc played itself out. A mason jar of sweet tea slowly perspired as it sat untouched on a stack of old newspapers, the moist ring at the bottom slowly growing larger as the drops ran down the glass to soak into a story about an increase in crime from years ago. Even Boomer lay stretched out in his bed, eyes closed and no doubt dreaming of something more interesting than Isaac throwing and throwing and throwing.


The last knife was drawn and held, the silvery blade laid flat across a weathered palm as the thunderstorm gray of eyes inspected its point and edges. Pulled away from the blade as he drew it back, his eyes went not to the bullseye but the stack of mail on the table alongside the target. Pulled there as if drawn by some magnetic force he could not resist.


The knife was loosed and clanged against the others as that single word intruded upon his thoughts and skittered to the floor the tent, the sharp singular note of metal on metal enough to cause Boomer to pop his head up with a start and look first towards the source of the intrusive, alien noise and then to Isaac before he lowered his head back down upon the dogwood drawled invective.

Isaac hesitated for a moment and simply stared. Not at the target or the knife but at the stack of mail, specifically the letter sitting atop the rubber banded stack. Mail was always a precarious thing for the carnival. Making so many jumps, one town to the next, it was hard for the postman to keep up. Course some of the carnys preferred it that way...can't pay a bill if you don't get it, can't get served with a warrant if the lawman's always a day and a city behind. But like most things, delivery was inevitable and Isaac's stack had been dropped off earlier that morning while he was overseeing the stage assembly.

He finally moved, slower than a month of Sundays, to the board and began to work the blades free though he eyed the stack of mail with a wary glance. The top letter hadn't been addressed or mailed...instead it had his name written on the envelope in the neatly scrawled print of a dead man: his father. It'd been given to him at the will reading when his father had passed away...and then been given to Fia to torch not too long after that without ever being opened. Truth was Isaac hadn't cared what his father had written...what the man had to say when he didn't have to answer for any of it. There just weren't any words which could be written that could replace the gulf of silence which had existed when both father and son had walked the earth.

Yet there it sat. Same envelope. Same handwriting. It even bore a few singe marks and smears of soot across the otherwise pristine paper. He'd have thought Fia or someone else was trying to get one over on him if he hadn't seen the Firestarter do her thing. He'd tried himself but his lighter wouldn't take...Fia didn't seem to have such a problem...and up it went before his very eyes.

Eyes saw a lot of strange things when working for a carnival...things which went beyond explanation or understanding. He'd seen it himself with Fia...had experienced it with his sister and their connection which defied time and space. And yet he still eyed the letter with a degree of antithetic trepidation which ran contrary to his typical, even-keeled disposition.


The word sounding in his head again as if put there by another voice. He reached for the envelope as if by compulsion and held it, turned it and inspected the back to find it still sealed. The slate gray of eyes fell upon Boomer as if in silent question, a tinge of unease as he tapped the tip of the knife blade against the envelope. Isaac gave a shrug, at a loss to explain the letter's reappearance but couldn't dispute its presence in the moment...rational mind attempting to wrest control of an unknowable scenario. A flick of the wrist brought the knife through the envelope to open it and spill its contents onto the table.

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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by Wheeler Scion » Sat Oct 26, 2019 12:00 pm

For those of you that are following along, the following took place at the RDI on the evening of October 24

Isaac squinted as he gained the top of the stairs, the ascent from the Red Dragon Inn’s common room accomplished with a leaden lassitude that saw shoulders slumped and dark circles beneath the slate colored eyes. The preceding twenty-four hours had challenged the Showman’s endurance and patience in equal measure. Yet he was only a few steps from blissful, dreamless rest…finally.

There was a narrowing of eyes as he noted the object dangling from the door knob of his room, a black leather cord with an emblem or pendant dangling from the opposite end. Isaac noted the pendant was in the shape of a shield, its metal hand worked and pitted with age and looked Christian in nature with the white background and crimson cross. Time had been unkind, its unabated gluttony a ravenousness void of consumption. Colors had faded and once smoothly hammered and shaped edges had gained nicks and cuts. Isaac peered at the item, a slight sway to its hang beginning as his presence disrupted the air. “Tha hell?” He asked and gave an avian cock of his head before glancing up and down the hall as if the placer of the item would suddenly appear.

When none obliged the query, Isaac would reach to claim and remove the item. The knife thrower ignored that same tremor he’d felt before, the ripple of skepticism and hesitancy trampled by an ingrained impatience for games and puzzles combined with that weary quest for quietude. As flesh made contact with the ancient emblem there was a notable ripple like that of a stone thrown into a still pond. A second reciprocally pulsed behind the former…Isaac’s touch having triggered the Illusionist’s devious and subtle sorcery.

Isaac tried to jerk his hand back, a sudden panic welling up within him like the time he’d gotten feet in an old cypress tree’s roots and thought he’d drown after letting go too late from the rope swing. He found it impossible to release the talisman, eyes widening as the walls of the Inn began to flake and peel apart as if a sudden, accelerated aging had been foisted upon them. The splinters and pieces drifted upward, the entire world turned upside down as the Inn disintegrated around him and Isaac began to fall into an abyss…

“Hurry…they’re not far behind…” Isaac awoke with the perspective of another. He heard running water in the darkness as the small group of men negotiated the uneven terrain of the hard stone passage they were in. He could smell the cloying scent of decay as they moved, instinctively knew they smuggled their precious cargo through a crypt. Distantly, the part of him that had remained Isaac Wheeler knew the language being spoken was foreign, innately ancient…yet when he went to respond in English he answered in the same tongue.

“We’ll make it…we’re not the important ones.” He said as he scrambled over a rock polished slick from dripping, running water. The torch fizzled a bit, its small aura of light allowing a small sphere of effulgence to illuminate a shaken, yet determined woman’s face. Both hands held a swollen and very pregnant stomach before reaching one forward to take his hand. “Come, Mary…the boat awaits.” Spoken softly as he gently ushered her forward while distant shouts echoed down through the darkness and heralded their wrathful pursuit.

A blink of eye and Isaac found himself not in the tunnel but in a stone room and barring a heavy door with a beam of stout oak. There was a chill in the air and the acrid scent of fire on the air. Distant shouts and screams, the chaotic clang of melee combat rising from below. He was garbed not in the simple threads and cowl from the subterranean passage but in tunic and chain mail…a distinct feeling of claustrophobia as he stared from a great helm. He twisted away from the door which had immediately come under heavy barrage from an attacking force on the other side. In fact, Isaac became distinctly aware that the entire castle had fallen under relentless siege and attack. “Go.” The language he spoke this time was different than before, the white tunic fluttering as he moved across the room, the crimson cross looking like so much spilled blood. Isaac grabbed another knight to guide him and the young noble boy towards the narrow passage opposite the room. “There is no time…as long as one of us still draws breath then our purpose still lives. Take what we know, what we protect and flee this place.” Isaac was saying as the door began to give way at the hinges. “Now.”

A final parting push, a ruffle of the lad’s hair and a reassuring tuck to his chin to chase away the fear in the boy’s eyes, a final good bye from father to son, and salute to his brother before drawing the cleverly hidden door shut, walling himself off from the pair who were now secreted behind its construction. He shrugged from the fur lined white cloak and glanced through the open alcove window to see a fresh snow just beginning to fall as arrows and flaming balls of pitch streaked through the air. A crash came at the door, the wood groaning and cracking, finally splintering to disgorge a half dozen men armed with spiked cudgels, maces and axes. “Where’s the boy, traitor?” One of them growled.

Isaac’s answer came in the form of his sword scraping along its scabbard as he drew the blade free, his off hand pulling a viciously sharp dagger from his belt before being rushed.

The image shifted again; Isaac yanked from medieval France to more present day. Armor had been traded for a modern suit…he was sitting among a small group of people…all of them watching the ceremony before them.

“In hoc signo vinces, Veritas vos liberabit, Sicut umbra transeunt dies, Testis sum agni.” The man was repeating to the ritualized robed leader of the group. “Welcome Jonathan Wheeler…” He spoke to the man who had recited in Latin, the man who happened to be Isaac’s father. He was younger in this version, less worn down than Isaac remembered. “You are truly are a fearless knight, and secure on every side, for your soul is protected by the armor of faith, just as your body is protected by the armor of steel. You are thus doubly armed and need fear neither demons nor men.”
Jonathan was smiling as he was embraced by the robed man, turned to take the hand of the others as the came to welcome him. As he turned to face Isaac there was a knowing look upon his father’s face…a look of approval and acceptance, of love and patience. And just before he was to be embraced by his father Isaac found himself snapped back to the present moment, his hand holding the emblem which had matched the knight’s tunic, the emblem which had matched his father’s lapel pin.

His world was spinning, blackness threatening like bat’s wings at the peripheral of his vision. He managed to get the door open, Isaac staggering in a step before the darkness claimed him…this time the melanoid bloom was all too real, Isaac collapsing back against the door, unconscious and alone.
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The Hedonist
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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by The Hedonist » Wed Nov 06, 2019 10:28 pm

The Hedonist watched as the tenebrous liquid rippled from the slightest vibration, its bruised luminosity shimmering through the darkest shades of blacks, blues and purples. A tap to the silver bowl which housed the opaque fluid sent arcing ripples across the glossy, oil slick sheen yet no reflection surfaced as he peered into the liquid, not a single wavelength allowed to refract or escape.

“So it is true...” A voice prowled from behind the Hedonist’s inquisitive posture. The Wolf skulked from the shadows to admire the golden skull mask which lay, haphazardly discarded upon the desk. Gloved fingers traced reverently along its contours, an exploratory lifting of slight weight revealing its true nature. No fool, the Wolf discarded the mask and any interest in it and instead turned gilded eyes back to the Hedonist. “I was under the impression that All Souls Day would have fetched us…a soul?”

“Not everything is about acquiring.” A vainglorious smirk putting a serpentine’s curl upon generous lips though chartreuse colored eyes continued their scan of immutable liquid. “Not that you would be sated regardless.” Tumescent tone as he gave the bowl another rap.

“No more than temptation…” An indifferent absence finding its way into his tone as he was informed the Masquerade had not been about procurement though the additional words brought a wizened chuckle of amusement from the Wolf’s gaunt mouth. “And do not speak to me of satiation. Neither of us has known such a sensation in some time.” Joining the Hedonist at the marble plinth and pillar which supported the silver bowl.

The Wolf bred an edacious growl from deep within his chest as he eyed the liquid and produced a oddly shaped coin. “You must first make an offering.” Holding out the coin which had been cut in the shape of a figure 8, the sign of infinity. Etched upon its surface and slithering about the curves was a snake. The ouroboros seemed to shift and move as it consumed its own tail before the Wolf dropped the coin into the fluid. Its weight was momentarily supported, the surface tension of the liquid preventing the coin from sinking.

Leonine eyes of the Hedonist fell upon the coin as it bobbed on the surface of the liquid, watched as the fluid considered the offering and, at last, found it pleasing. The coin slowly sank beneath the caliginous surface, its silver glittering for the briefest of moments before winking out like a distant star. “A lavish purchase.” Observed as eyes lifted to the lean face of the Wolf.

“I hunger for your temptation.” His yen for satisfaction palpable in the way he eyed the changing surface of the silver bowl. “As much, if not more, than I desire to be debt free.” He had not forgotten how the Hedonist had snared him in yet another debt, taken advantage of his greed with tantalizing ease.

The fluid vibrated as the coin was consumed, smooth points rising from its surface like chimerical spines of some cadaverous phantom. The eidolic movements appeared ferrous in nature, pulling and shifting, rolling about the pool of liquid before flattening and reshaping into a nebulous map of the city, refocusing multiple times till a single point pulsed within the Shanachie Theater.

“There you are.” The Hedonist purred. He had touched her…the single caress along her chin had marked her and she him with that explosive blast, intertwined their existences like tangled lovers. The golden green smear of the Hedonist’s eyes returned to the pulsing liquid. The little French Dauphine all done up in her regality to rival the Sun King’s Versailles danced behind the gaze. Her little goldfinch clutch far more significant to him than simply a golden accoutrement. He had been there when Raphael had placed the bird in John’s hand upon the canvas of the Madonna del cardellino just as he had wept on the mount alongside Him…the bird coming to represent that ultimate sacrifice. It was as if she taunted him.

The Wolf watched in silent appreciation as the ballerina’s location thrummed on the surface of the liquid. “The sibling might prove a larger thorn than expected. He is beginning to awaken. He’s had help.” Speaking with a certain longing gleaming within ravenous eyes.

“The Illusionist no doubt.” He did not seem surprised. “The Scion is as ignorant as he is renitent.” The Hedonist answered with little concern.

“He long ago rejected what his father was…and what his lineage had been.” Theirs was an ancient opposition that had chased and fought its way throughout the ages. “A knight reduced to a pawn.” Smirking as he cast eyes away from the bowl and towards the Wolf once more. “The girl will come around…I am as responsible for her existence as her own father…I gifted him with the licentious desires which caused him to stray…”

“You wander towards pride.” The Wolf cautioned. “Perhaps you desire the seven crowns? The Morningstar will be moved…”

“You presume too much.” The Hedonist interrupted, the wanton carnality glissading into and around his words. “I desire only what I desire.”
The Wolf nodded, aware that he hadn’t truly answered the accusation. Be it on his own head. The vacancy would present an opportunity for him to have more regardless.

“Tell your half breed a winter season is in order. And tell him to see that the carousel is to be assembled.” The Hedonist added. “My little French maid has one more service to perform.” After her display of thunderous energy, he knew she could be the dynamo to power the machine and power the return of the one he sought.
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La Roque
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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by La Roque » Sun Nov 24, 2019 1:17 pm

La Roque traversed the Dreamscape as easily he would the common, material streets which led towards the Shanachie theater. The Dreamscape was nothing more than his own personal name for the space which existed between this world and the next, between the light and the dark, between good and evil, between the moment and the infinite yet for those who knew and respected its power, The Between, as it was also whispered, provided a more secretive and exposed version of the world.

Shadowy tendrils and wisps of atramentous smoke occluded the periphery of the Soothsayer’s vision as he progressed through Rhydin’s beating heart…the natural by-product and limitation of earthly senses in a realm where they were not to be so heavily relied upon. Structures appeared the same though colors were, perhaps, a bit more muted yet it was the people which La Roque passed that revealed the true nature of such a place.

Flesh and bone had been stripped away; the crude matter a useless encasement in this realm. In its place where chimerical shapes which resembled the basic form of their mirror on the other side yet were as unsubstantial as morning fog rolling in off the distant water. Contained within, however, was the glowing nature of the immortal soul…its color and vibrancy revealing its quiddity even if such truths were carefully hidden in the physical world. Vibrant hues and swirling vortexes of vitality spoke of honor and integrity, bravery and virtue while sickly hues and phlegmatic vibrations whispered of cancerous malignancy of spirit and ill intent. In fact, La Roque, should he choose, could simply pass through their essence, a momentary disturbance in the swirling eddies of his wake yet no real damage done save for a briefly chilling sensation within the chest of the corporeal body. That he chose not to do such things spoke more of patience than compassion.

Such colorful distractions passed the time for the Soothsayer for each step in The Dreamscape was precisely equal to its pairing in the physical. He was not observing this evening, not preserving the Balance from behind the scenes as he most often did. His fortune telling act at the carnival had, because of his tenuous connections with the owners, remained open though few trickled in for few had the constitution to see what lay beyond. La Roque had business beyond the Between tonight and he had precisely timed his arrival outside of the Shanachie Theater to coincide with the final showing of Beauty and the Beast when the one dancing The Bluebird pas de deux would be focused upon her performance on stage.

His delivery was meant to be consumed when no distractions would limit the impact of its importance.

The ring he wore was his talisman, the open, all seeing eye the key to the conduit which connected the physical to The Dreamscape. A press against its engraved surface caused a warping effect, the air thickening and stretching around him like the perspective of a dream until he stepped from an unremarkable alleyway and crossed the open street towards the Shanachie Theater.

In one hand La Roque carried a folded and wax sealed piece of parchment. Foregoing the traditional signet ring marking the wax, La Roque had, instead, pressed a single Georgia Blue flower atop the wax. His flowing script had penned the poetic words himself even he could not claim credit for their origination with the intent of nudging not one but two into action. In his other hand twirled the stem of a Desert Bluebell, the rich blue-violent bloom was aptly named having been plucked from a sandy, gravely bed deep within a southwest desert.

“For Josette Wheeler.” The opiates of La Roque’s rich baritone announcing his arrival at the ticket window. For a moment he had considered entering the theater from the Between but possessed no desire to upset the Balance and violate any protective wards which might be in place. “It is most important she receive both.” The soporific quality of rich words helping to ensure that the delivery would indeed make it to Josette’s hands before she left for the night.

“You have my gratitude.” La Roque would look after them from the Dreamscape. A favor done is a favored earned.
The Soothsayer would offer a slight bow of his head before stepping away from the ticket window and returning back the way he had arrived, retracing his steps precisely. Another touch of the all-seeing eye upon his ring and he would disappear yet again back whence he had come.
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