“Let’s stick with something nice and not deadly,” you say. “We’ll go check out the circus.”
“Hells yes,” Jim agrees. “Right now I’m seeing like 5 colors that I’m pretty don’t exist, so looking at that big top is going to be fucking tiiiiight.”
Victoria softly rolls her eyes, but begins walking off in the direction of the circus. You and Jim hurry to catch up. Once you’re clear of the entrance area, you notice the winding path is filled with fog. It slithers across the road, winding its way up your ankles, stopping about halfway to your knee. It’s hard to make out much detail in the swirling whiteness, but a few times you think you see the foggy outline of hands reaching up for you.
This would be impossibly creepy if it were just you three alone. Thankfully, loads of other people saw the advertisements and are filling up the town. Spooky as the fog is, you find it hard to be terrified when surrounded by other groups of loud, raucous college kids in costumes. Humans are pack animals, after all, and the larger the group you’re in the safer you feel.
After a few minutes of walking, you notice music floating faintly on the wind. It’s a light, twinkling tune that calls out to all faintly to all who hear it. The three of you turn a corner in the road, and suddenly the music is no longer faint. In fact, you can’t imagine how you didn’t hear it sooner. Standing in the middle of the road is a massive circus tent, red and white, with several smaller tents and shacks built around it. Even from where you are, you can make out various people in the same candy-cane striped uniforms directing guests about.
“Shouldn’t we have been able to see this from where we started?” You glance back the way you came, but between the fog and the darkness you can’t make out any of the buildings from the entrance. The walk wasn’t that long. Maybe five minutes. Tops.
“Oh, my sweet little Merlin. If you find such trickery as this maddening, how on earth do you expect to survive the night?” Victoria pats you once, then continues walking toward the giant circus tent.
You and Jim follow, keeping Victoria flanked on either side. As you draw near the circus, you begin to notice a strange thing happening. With most of the tourists, the staff show big, underpaid grins and offer to help them find any attraction they might fancy. However, when they catch sight of you three, they briefly but immediately bow their heads in your direction. Nothing else about them strikes you as otherwise off, and you’re pretty sure they aren’t magical constructs or imprisoned ghosts. They seem like people grabbing a seasonal job to score extra cash. So, if they aren’t really part of this world, then for them to act so uniformly must mean one thing: they are goddamned terrified of people who wear these passes.
A loud honking draws your attention, and you look away from the staff to find a clown on a unicycle staring down at the three of you. His make-up is done in more red and white paint, smeared about to make him look like he has big red lips. It’s not perfectly done though, leaving a few smudged drips of red trailing down his mouth. This creates the impression that his mouth isn’t painted at all, merely soaked in freshly consumed blood.
The clown honks his nose once more, then tilts at the waist to bow, eyes never leaving Victoria’s icy gaze. “Welcome Welcome! Such a pleasure to have an esteemed guest in our company. The Garrote family welcomes the representative of Willowbrook, on this most sacred of days.”
“Willowbrook recognizes your hospitality and thank you for it. Rise and speak your name.” Victoria’s speech draws strange looks from some of the regular people milling about, though she seems unbothered by them.
“Call me Sunshine, the merry clown who devours frowns.” Sunshine lifts himself up, eyes still fixed on Victoria as he does so. “Please, dear guest, explore and enjoy our festivities here at the circus. For one such as you, skip the smaller attractions and head right to the main events. We have a funhouse that will leaving you giggling with fright, a hall of mirrors guaranteed to delight, and a heart-stopping show put on several times a night. Of course, there may be some danger, but I’m sure a Willowbrook will be all right.”
“We’ll be sure to explore any attraction we test thoroughly.” Victoria makes it sound more like a threat than an acceptance.
“Of that, I had no doubt,” Sunshine replies. At long last he looks over at you and Jim, and for the first time you notice his eyes are red and white, just like the tent, his make-up… everything. “To you, dear attendant, let us know what your master desires and we shall endeavor to provide. To you, poor guardian, I wish luck in making it through the night.”
Then without explanation, Sunshine is off, pedaling his unicycle across the rough terrain, smiling and honking at other guests as he veers about.
“That dude was creeeeeepy,” Jim noted, watching him go. “I don’t know he could see with all those bugs on his face.”
You’re about to ask for clarification, then you remember that Jim decided to stuff who knew how many hallucinogens in his body before coming here. At the moment you’ll have to trust your own observations and nothing else.
“Well, my guardian, which attraction should we investigate?” Victoria asks.
“Don’t you mean visit?”
“I mean what I mean,” she shoots back. “It makes no difference to me. Any of them could contain what I’m looking for. Since it’s a matter of sheer chance, it seems most prudent to leave it in your hands?”
“You survived my father’s mayhem. Whether it’s instincts or luck, you have knack for not dying. Let’s see if it will be enough.”
Well, you heard the lady, now that you’re at the circus, you’re going to have to check out an attraction. Pick a good one.