Sometimes They Get HungryJason K. Allen / Horror / Thrillers & Crime
Sometimes They Get Hungry
By Jason K. Allen
Copyright 2014 Jason K. Allen
It was the dog days of summer and the Tipton County Fair was winding down.
Friday and Saturday night had seen big crowds and bright lights on the carnival midway. But on this gray, lazy Sunday afternoon -- the final day of the fair -- attendance was sparse. Several rides remained idle, allowing a few of the carnies to get some shuteye.
Among those roaming the fairgrounds this day was Bobby Slater, who was now wishing he’d stayed home and played video games. The fair was even more lame than last year, he thought. Then again, he was 15 years old; to him, everything was lame.
Bobby finished off his corn dog, which thus far had been the highlight of his day. He wiped mustard from his mouth with the back of his hand. He glanced over and noticed Bobo the Clown in a water dunking booth, sadly awaiting customers.
Walking alongside Bobby was Rebecca Slater, his 18-year-old cheerleader sister, and Drew Frazier, her 20-year-old college preppie boyfriend. Bobby had missed an opportunity to attend the fair with his friends earlier in the week, so he accepted an invitation to attend with his sister. But now he regretted it. He thought of a thousand other things he’d rather be doing. Besides, his sister was giddily annoying. And her boyfriend was a jerk.
“Hey, check it out!” said Drew, pointing to a haunted house in the distance. The mechanical ride sat off in the corner of the fairgrounds, a bit off the beaten path. Drew headed off in that direction, pulling giddy Rebecca by the hand. Bobby sighed, following them begrudgingly.
Bobby had ridden the roller coaster earlier -- which he found to be “okay” -- but he had little interest in the other rides. He had already stood waiting impatiently while Rebecca and Drew rode the Ferris wheel, petted goats, played ski ball, and participated in countless other insufferable “fun” activities. Now it was off to the lame haunted house.
As they approached the ride, the recorded sounds of “scary” laughter and “terrifying” screams emanated out of the speakers in front of the building, which bore the name “Monster Mansion.”
Bobby examined the mural painting on the front outside wall of the attraction. The pictures showcased gnarly monsters, witches, demons and other menacing creatures scowling, while horrified humans screamed and fled. Bobby shook his head, thinking these cheesy, old-fashioned paintings were particularly lame -- even for a cheesy, old-fashioned fair such as this one.
Bobby then noticed the ticket-taker sitting in front of the ride. Haggard, tired-looking and grim, the carny stared stoically at the ground, not acknowledging their arrival.
Drew and Rebecca paused in front of the haunted house, studying the paintings, laughing.
“C’mon, we can’t not do this!” Drew said. Rebecca nodded in agreement.
Drew then eyed Bobby. “How ‘bout it?” he asked. “You ready to face the ultimate experience in terror?”
Bobby just sighed, irritated. “Just go -- and hurry up,” he said.
Drew shrugged and grabbed Rebecca’s hand, starting for the ticket taker. Rebecca paused, glancing back at Bobby.
“You need money for ice cream or anything?” she asked.
Bobby shook his head no. Rebecca nodded, then turned and excitedly followed Drew.
Bobby glanced all around, finding it odd that this particular ride was so isolated from the rest of the attractions.
A family of four walked in front of Bobby, gazing up at the haunted house.
“Let’s ride that!” cried out the little boy.
“No,” exclaimed the little girl. “That’s too scary!”
The parents chuckled, and the family moved on. Bobby watched them go.
Drew and Rebecca took their seats in the mechanical cart.
“Oh, wait...” said Rebecca with a straight face. “I just remembered: I’m afraid of the dark!”
“That’s okay,” said Drew, sticking his chest out. “I’ll protect you.” He put his arm around her and they both snickered.
The stoic carny walked over and pushed a button, and the cart began to move.
Bobby watched them from afar. Drew and Rebecca looked in his direction, making faces, feigning terror. They’re so lame, thought Bobby.
As the cart neared the darkened entrance, Drew and Rebecca noticed the sign above the entrance: “Please stay inside cart - For your own safety.”
Bobby watched as the cart disappeared inside the house, Rebecca and Drew giggling all the way. Then he glanced over at the carny, who was already back in his seat, staring at the ground.
Bobby sighed. He scanned the fairgrounds. A scattering of people roamed here and there. He wondered if another corn dog might help defeat the boredom. He turned back toward the haunted house, hoping this would be their final ride of the day. He’d had enough “fun” for one day.
Suddenly there was a slight whimpering sound near Bobby. He turned and noticed a stray dog standing nearby. The dog eyed the haunted house, bothered by something, its tail bending between its legs. Finally it turned, glanced at Bobby, whimpered some more, and ran away.
Bobby turned his attention back to the haunted house. The fake laughter emitting from the speakers was getting on his nerves. He wondered how the carny could stand it all day. But the carny seemed oblivious to it, lost in another world.
A few high-school kids approached and examined the haunted house, amused by it. Bobby watched them.
“Let’s ride it,” said one of the kids.
“Nah, it sucks big time,” said another. “It only lasts for about a minute. Let’s ride the Avalanche again.”
Finally the group of kids moved on.
Bobby looked back toward the haunted house, waiting, watching. It had now been several minutes since Rebecca and Drew’s cart had entered.
Bobby perused the fairgrounds some more, becoming restless. He glanced back at the haunted house.
Suddenly the exit door opened and the mechanized cart emerged on the tracks. Bobby’s day of misery was almost over. However, no one was in the cart. The empty cart rolled to a stop behind several other parked carts.
Puzzled, Bobby watched the exit door for another cart to emerge. The carny still hadn’t moved a muscle; he stared at the ground.
Finally Bobby wandered closer to the haunted house. He glanced up at the painted murals again, wondering who would pay good money to ride something so lame. He stepped toward the exit, expecting another cart to emerge. But none appeared.
Bobby eyed the carny. Perhaps there was a mechanical problem with the ride. He had no interest in communicating with the carny, but he was growing impatient. He stepped up and cleared his throat.
“Is, uh... there something wrong with the ride?” asked Bobby.
The carny showed no reaction as the recorded laughter and screams echoed throughout the fairgrounds. Bobby took another step closer.
“Um, excuse me,” said Bobby tentatively. “How long does this ride take?”
“One minute,” grumbled the carny without looking up.
Bobby figured it had more than five minutes since Rebecca and Drew’s cart had entered.
“Um, my sister and her friend have been in there for several minutes,” said Bobby. “They haven’t come out.”
The carny raised his head and methodically turned it toward Bobby. He stared blankly at Bobby, almost looking right through him. Then he calmly returned his gaze back to the ground.
A bit unnerved by this character, Bobby glanced back toward the exit. No activity anywhere -- only the recorded laughter and screaming. He again eyed the carny.
“I think there’s something wrong with the ride,” said Bobby. “Can you maybe check it out?”
“It’s working,” muttered the carny. “It works like it always has.”
Bobby turned and looked around to see if there was anyone else around he could confide in. A few people wandered in the distance, but no one close by.
Suddenly there was the faint, distant sound of a screaming girl. “Bobby!” she seemed to scream.
Bobby looked all around, stunned. It didn’t appear to be a recorded sound like the ones coming from the speakers. He couldn’t tell where the scream came from.
Then there was another distant scream, the girl’s voice again calling out “Bobby!”
The hair stood up on Bobby’s neck. It sounded like his sister. His mouth dropped open. He glanced up at the haunted house. The carny stared at the ground, showing no reaction.
As thoughts raced through Bobby’s head, suddenly he had a realization. Then he sighed, irritated. A prank. They were pulling another stupid prank. Although his sister wasn’t much of a trickster, Drew always enjoyed pulling one over on people -- especially on Bobby.
Finally Bobby shook his head, aggravated. They were so freakin’ lame. He didn’t know where they were or what they were doing, but he was not amused.
He stood, waiting, knowing they would eventually grow tired of their own cleverness.
Suddenly there was the faint, distant sound of Drew’s voice screaming: “Help! Somebody help us!”
Bobby rubbed his face and shook his head, annoyed. He glanced at the carny, who didn’t seem to be in on the joke.
Bobby crossed his arms and waited.
A young couple approached nearby. The guy checked out the haunted house, while the girl remained focused on her cotton candy.
“I haven’t been in one of those since I was a kid,” said the guy.
The girl seemed uninterested and they quickly departed.
Bobby glared at Monster Mansion, royally pissed off. If only he was old enough to drive and had a way to get home, he would leave Drew, Rebecca and their shenanigans far behind.
Finally he cupped his hands together and glared into the darkened entrance.
“Yeah, really funny guys,” yelled Bobby. “C’mon, let’s go!”
As Bobby dropped his hands, he noticed the carny was suddenly staring at him with a strange look.
“Uh, my sister and her boyfriend... they’re pulling a prank,” offered Bobby. “Where are they at in there anyway?”
The carny just glared at him. “There are no people inside,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Bobby was slightly unnerved by the manner in which the carny spoke and the tone of his voice. He said it as if he were, well, certain.
Bobby examined the haunted house a bit closer. Had they somehow exited from another door? Were they tormenting him from behind the building? He wandered around and looked for another exit. He walked to the side of the building and then behind it, but they were nowhere to be seen. He saw no doors or exits.
Unlike the front of the haunted house -- covered with paintings, monsters and more -- the back of the house was plain, black and dreary.
Glancing down, Bobby saw the skeletal remains of a small animal -- or something -- in the grass. Perhaps a possum or raccoon, he thought. He wasn’t too keen to learn much more about it. Just a few feet away he noticed something else on the ground -- a small glob of greenish slime. He studied it briefly, having no idea what it could be.
Feeling a bit weirded out, Bobby stepped away and returned toward the front of the haunted house. As he emerged from the side of the building, he noticed the carny staring at him.
“What do you think you’re doing?” asked the carny.
“Looking for my sister,” said Bobby. “I know they’re in there somewhere.”
“You must be mistaken,” said the carny, who then returned his gaze to the ground.
Confusion began to sweep over Bobby. Something wasn’t quite right about this carny. And this haunted house. He was ready to get the heck away from there.
Bobby glanced up at the paintings again, studying the wall of monsters. As he scanned the mural, he didn’t notice that one of the monsters pictured had something dribbling from its mouth -- some type of greenish slime.
Bobby finally decided it was time to end the fun and games. He approached the carny and gave him four of his ride tickets.
The carny, seeming surprised, took his tickets, stood and led him to a cart. Bobby was determined to find out where they were hiding, bust up their prank, and leave this miserable place behind once and for all.
As Bobby sat in the cart, the carny gave him a grave look, which for some reason caused Bobby to shudder. Then he turned, walked over and pushed a button, and set the cart in motion.
As the cart moved, Bobby looked out toward the midway. The fairgoers all seemed so far away. The stray dog had returned; it was looking directly at Bobby, whimpering, barking. Bobby found this unsettling. Then he turned and looked up as the haunted house doors opened and welcomed him into a tunnel of darkness.
The cart rolled down a dark hallway as Bobby curiously looked all around. Suddenly there was a loud buzzer sound and an explosion of light as a demon mask appeared in front of him, its eyes glowing red. Unfazed by the cheap looking mask, Bobby looked for Rebecca and Drew as the cart rolled on.
“Hey, where the heck are you guys?” called out Bobby.
He could make out very little in the darkness. He wondered how they were able to exit their cart and find their way around.
As the cart turned a corner, a loud siren sounded as a werewolf-like beast in a cage lit up in front of him. The rubber-looking, mechanized creature shook the bars, trying to get out. The cart quickly moved on to the next scene.
Bobby looked down toward the tracks, wondering if he could get out of the cart -- and wondering if he should. Surely his sister wouldn’t have gone along with jumping out of the cart in such a dark, foreign place. He started to wonder.
Suddenly a light flashed in front of him. A mechanical, plastic-looking wicked witch jumped out toward him, cackling vibrantly. Bobby paid it little attention. As the cart moved past the scene, the mechanized witch returned to its previous position, motionless.
As the cart turned another corner, there was the sound of a distant, muffled scream. “Bobby!”
Was it Drew’s voice? It certainly sounded like it, thought Bobby. They had to be nearby. Bobby was a little confused and a LOT irritated.
“You guys think you’re -- ” Before Bobby could finish, a blaring horn sounded as a large grotesque clown hovered over him, all lit up. It laughed with evil glee and honked its squeaky horn.
The cart then made another turn as Bobby heard another distant scream. “Bobby! Bobby, help us!” It was his sister’s voice, no doubt about it.
Bobby looked all around, trying to figure out where they were hiding. Were they under the floor somehow? She seemed close but her voice was muffled.
Then a growling sound and burst of light as a mechanical half-man/half-frog sprang out from the darkness, actually startling Bobby a bit. Then he heard his sister scream out again: “Bobby!”
Okay, Bobby thought, it was time to take action. A bit ill at ease in the darkness, he crawled under the arm bar and jumped out of the cart. Standing in the darkness, he watched up ahead as a white ghost-like sheet dropped from the ceiling, all lit up, while a loud whistle blared. Then he saw his now empty cart turn the corner and disappear.