Considering Steve Dembo‘s StoryWars entry, A Funny Thing Happened on Way to Funeral, I couldn’t resist putting some of my recent reading into a Chapter 2 of his story. Note that his story had nothing to do with where I took the story next, and that was a part of the fun.
Chapter 2 – Kansas Carnies
“Oh frozen hells!” screamed the voice that echoed across the highway.
Isabelle took off at a run, her boots crunching lightly on the frost wrapped around the blades of grass in a frozen vise. She crossed the distance in just a few seconds, but then slowed to a halt as she saw what had crushed the school bus her husband had buried his truck into. A fraggin’ Ferris wheel. Only in her husband’s wild imagination would this actually happen. “Ted?” Isabelle said, her voice cautious, as if it could push back the danger spreading like a pool of car gas sliding joyfully towards the grass fire.
“Let’s get you out of there!” Isabelle said as she arrived at the silver Nissan Frontier truck he had been driving for a few years, reaching for her Smith & Wesson Border Knife, a rescue blade she had just gotten herself from Amazon. Not only did it look cool, in sleek black, but it featured a built-in seatbelt cutter. She put the cutter to use, freeing her geek husband from the unlikely situation he found himself in. His Nissan had crashed into the back of a school bus leaving the carnival, spinning to the side, leaving his rearview mirror aimed at the jolly big tents of Kansas’ State Carnivalfest. Carnivalfest, the invention of the local town council to distract farmers from irrigation woes in a drought year, had been in town for a few days.
Ted, an assistant principal, had met the school bus to sign the check, then attend the funeral of a colleague. But Ted had never been a fan of funerals and ended up staying longer than he should have. Count on Ted to jump from the frying pan into the fire. Her gaze focused on Ted’s eyes, blank.
Ted stared dumbfounded at the rearview mirror, his face white from shock, and Isabelle’s voice spun his head around. Looking at her, he realized that the vision in the rearview mirror had forced his yell. The shambling figures, staggering on legs flopping like stilts on drunk ankles, moved closer from the carnival. What the heck? Their clown paint, a miasma of red and yellow clung to their faces and clothes. Why were they coming towards him?
“Are you alright?” asked Isabelle, her voice letting her fear and excitement out, in spite of the stoic expression on her face. Today, Officer Isabelle was off-duty and seeing her husband in a traffic incident made her blood run cold. Over his shoulder, she caught a glimpse of the carnies, a rag-tag collection of costumed actors from some devil’s nightmare, smeared in blood with human entrails clutched in their hands and jaws.
“Here,” she said, grabbing the sandwich oozing Diablo sauce from one corner onto his shirt, “let me have that.” She tossed it into the field sans wrapper, hoping no one would notice her husband had rear-ended a school bus while driving distracted with a Thundercloud meatball sub drenched in Ted’s favorite Taco Bell Diablo sauce. He carried those sauce packets everywhere, and a few of them littered the seat next to him.
Then, she did a double-take. “What the hell?” she muttered as she stared out the rear window of the Nissan Frontier, its glass crack stretching like a long finger. “Ted,” she gulped, “are those clowns for real?”
Ted, his head falling back, hit the origin point for the crack in the rear glass. Isabelle felt fingers on her shoulder, and she spun, her rescue knife swinging towards the owner of those fingers. She flicked the blade out as she twisted in place, hoping her Danzan Ryu jujitsu training would serve her well. “Stop,” she said in a low growl, reaching for her police badge, before realizing it was back in her car.
The grip tightened.