Merry Go When by Tonia Brown
Beast: Horse… (Any equine incarnation)
Blessing: Time Displacement Device
Curse: Chrononaut’s Ague
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Merry Go When
By Tonia Brown
Father had the carousel brought in special, all the way from Germany. The purchase was the result of a successful auction, in which he claimed to have outbid at least one hundred other buyers from all over the world. Why he wanted the thing was quite beyond me. My father wasn’t normally given to such childish proclivity, which made the purchase seem all the more out of place. Thankfully, he hid the thing in the garden behind our Kentucky home, where one had to travel down the field and past a small copse of trees in order to find it.
A few days after he had it in place, I inquired about the carousel’s state of being, to which my father sharply assured me it was none of my concern and commanded me not to revisit the matter. He surprised me with his gruff tone and unexpected anger. I hadn’t heard him use such a voice since mother left him for a much younger man.
Father never quite recovered from her abandonment.
The night after his outburst, I awoke to sudden movements just outside our quiet home. I stepped to the window, pulling aside the curtain and peering into the moonlit yard beyond, where a strange sight greeted me. The shadowy form of my father making his way to the garden in the middle of the night.
At first I thought he had taken to somnambulism, and I decided to go after him. I caught up with him just before he reached the carousel and I called out his name. My father turned to me with his mouth agape, as if shocked by my intrusion. This softened into a look of uneasy embarrassment. I demanded to know what was going on. With an unusual candor, he took my hand in his own and explained that the carousel was special. It was said to possess certain rejuvenating powers. That according to legend, the machine acted as a kind of time displacement device, removing years off of one’s life, and restoring the rider to an unbelievable degree of youth. He called it a blessing. A gift from God.
I couldn’t believe what my father was driving at. He was so desperate to be young again, he had fallen for a childish fairy tale. Some outlandish occult legend. To make matters worse, I knew it was all in an attempt to win back my mother’s heart. I begged my father to leave off this odd behavior and return with me to the house at once. He grew angry at me, pushed me aside and stormed off toward the carousel, hell bent on proving his words.
Even by moonlight, the machine was a breathtaking work of art. A large affair, at least thirty feet across, the carousel consisted of an intricately woven pattern of wrought iron, wood and brass. To the left of the entry ramp there extended an arm from the base of the thing, reaching away from the platform then doubling back once more toward the carousel proper; a delivery system equipped with brass rings, ready for the grasping. There were thirteen horses in all, each as large as a real stallion, and each bound by a post that ran the length from the roof to the floor, spearing each animal through their back.
I spied my father inside of the inner ring, manning the console. At his attention, the carousel sprang to life and light. The horses set into an up and down motion as the platform began a slow and steady rotation. This movement was accompanied by a cheery calliope played by an organ hidden somewhere about the mechanism.
My father stepped onto the moving stage, mounted one of the rising and falling steeds, and settled into place. Though he did so with the same aloof severity he reserved for business matters and other affairs of import. He didn’t smile, didn’t speak, didn’t seem to enjoy himself at all. He just held onto the steed and remained silent, as if concentrating on something other than the experience of the ride.
As the carousel turned, the platform spun faster and faster, and I began to grow concerned about my father’s safety. The music rose in pitch, to match the quicker rotations, driving into a wild orgy of wheezes and strained notes. And the horses … I know how this sounds, but the horses came alive! Their nostrils flared and steamed, heavy with breath. They kicked out, bucking against their poles, chomping at their bits and tossing their feral heads. Without warning, my father reached out and in a blur of motion, snatched one of the brass rings from the holder near the ramp.
At this the music lifted into a single, high pitched note, screaming into the wild night. The horses changed with this shriek, melting into nightmarish black steeds, each with matching crimson eyes, gnashing fangs and whipping forked tongues. They roared out, as one, in a single identical note as loud and chilling as the screaming music. I was filled with an utter dread for my father’s life, one that said should those beasts break free from this carousel, the town below our home would suffer in the most horrid of ways.
As the unnatural horses howled and bucked, the carousel’s lights grew to a blinding degree, and I had to shield my eyes.
When I was able to look again, the light dimmed and faded, and the carousel slowed to an eventual halt. The horses were normal once more, both stationary and plain. There was no sign of my father. I called out his name and searched about, worried that he had been flung from his demonic mount in the frenzy of the ride. Instead of my father’s voice, I heard the low croaking growl of something inhuman. I froze in place, worried some wild animal had been attracted by father’s carousel, and was now poised to attack.
In the thin moonlight, a creature emerged from behind the very horse my father had chosen as his mount. It crouched, at almost half my height, and was covered in a dark, leathery skin. Its mouth was stuffed with twisted, yellowing fangs, and nearly bisected its face with an abnormal width. The unholy thing clambered up to squat on the horse, looking out over the garden with wide glassy eyes that rested upon the top of its head. It grabbed at the air with wretched webbed paws and let out another soft, weird croak.
I screamed. I couldn’t help it.
Of course once I did, the thing whipped about to face me, that large, fang filled mouth snapping closed with a resounding click. It then lunged for me, leaping down from the carousel horse and almost atop me. It reached out for me, clawing the emptiness between us. I backed up a few nervous steps then took off in a run, heading for the safety of the house. Thankfully, the beast was slow, hopping in stunted bursts as if it had forgotten how to move its own webbed feet. Once I reached the house, I locked and barred the door, and headed immediately for father’s study, seeking father’s elephant gun—the single weapon he held onto from his younger, more adventurous days.
The beast was not far behind me, and began to scratch and beat on the front door. I loaded father’s gun, returned to the foyer, took aim for the front door, and fired. The door splintered into fragments as the shot tore the wood apart. With the blast of the weapon, the clawing and banging ceased. I switched on the electric porch light and stepped up, peering beyond the ruined wood to find my prey in a slump at bottom step. I reloaded the gun and, holding it before me, I stepped through the ruined door and made my way down the stairs, intending to finish the beast once and for all.
As I approached the creature, it gave a pained croak and flopped onto its back. With the added illumination of the porch light burning behind us, I was able to see the creature’s eyes more clearly. I gazed into those oversized orbs when a strange sensation befell me. I clearly recognized the beast’s eyes as my own kin. But how? Answer my silent question, the beast relaxed a webbed hand, and from it rolled a brass ring, spinning across the pavement between us until it came to rest at my feet.
It was then I understood what had happened.
Father was wrong. The carousel wasn’t a blessing. The machine, this time displacement device, did exactly as the legends proposed it would. It had displaced time from my father, only, it took too much. An unbelievable degree of youth, indeed! He thought he would step off the carousel a young man, but instead, in some kind of weird time traveling side effect, a type of crononaut’s ague, he came back a de-evolved monster.
A monster I had just slain.
With tear filled eyes, I lowered myself to his side, cradled my dying father’s head in my lap, and held him to me as he shuddered and exhaled his last breath.
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