Ella squeezed through a gap in the chicken wire fence and entered the fairground. She had not been allowed to go to the fair in the daytime. All her friends had gone and she had heard stories of its marvels and wonders from them when they paused by her woeful figure drooping on her front steps. At this point in her life she hated her parents for having refused her request to join them, citing a waste of money. She also hated her friends for having gone. Bubbles of misery effervesced through her body but she refused to cry.
Clouds raced across the sky and covered the moon and stars. The fairground had none of the gaiety of its daytime persona. Faded paint peeled off its wooden buildings and booths. The ground was covered by a detritus of food containers and pop cans. It was sad and a little scary. A lot scary if she was truthful. The worst was the silence. No music or stall holders barking out their encouragement to passers-by to try their luck. None of the whirring and grinding of things mechanical. No smells of greasy food, no stickiness of cotton candy.
She crept around close to the perimeter buildings. She felt a little safer that way, but not much. There in the middle was the Ferris wheel. Empty and forlorn. Seats swinging in the slight breeze. Chains creaking softly as the seats moved back and forth as though filled with ghost riders. She shivered, a little with cold but mostly with fear. She slowly walked towards it. It had been her fervent wish to ride the huge wheel. At the bottom was a fallen sandwich board announcing that on the next ride each child would be accompanied by a clown. She smiled, wishing that she had been there and done just that.
She crawled through the barricades and unhooked the safety bar on the lowest seat. Sitting, she felt some of the daytime excitement. Suddenly, the wheel started to move and an eerie tuneless music seemed to come from far away. She gripped the side rails. How had this happened? Who had started the wheel? There was no one in sight. She panicked, vowing to jump off when the chair came back to the ground. It didn't. A soon as she was at the highest point, it stopped. Silence all around her. She turned and sitting next to her was the clown. This was not the jolly clown of storybooks or circuses. This one had the portent of evil.
He was tall and thin. He wore a blue curly wig, a chequered blue shirt with solid blue sleeves. His very thin legs were encased in mended blue tights topped by a red and yellow polka dotted pair of bloomers and ending in a pair of green shoes about two feet long. A tiny top hat sat on his curls and under his chin was a red bowtie. What struck Ella the most was a pair of dirty white gloves whose fingers waggled in the breeze as if they contained no fingers.
His face was deathly white with huge black eyebrows and eyes rimmed with circles of black. His mouth was bright scarlet and downturned. No happy clown was this. His tiny eyes glittered with malice. Ella cried out for the clown to take her down to safety but he shook his head and a mirthless laugh came from behind his closed lips. Slowly, from his evil eyes, seeped tears of blood which ran down his cheeks. His mouth opened to reveal black stumps of teeth and his tongue shot out to lap up the tears. Ella screamed as the clown grabbed her and swung her up above his shoulders into the black night sky. Grabbing her ankles he held her upside down over the side of the chair. The ground seemed miles away.
Very, very slowly his hands loosened their grip on her ankles which slipped out of his grasp and upside down she hurtled, numb with terror, towards the earth.
She opened her eyes as she hit the ground and recognized her bedroom carpet.
Her father scooped her up in his arms holding her close. Her voice tiny and high whispered, "Sorry Daddy, I didn't really want to go to the fair".