You have now arrived at your destination,” the tinny voice of the GPS blared into the silence that permeated the car.
“About damn time!” Adrian muttered.
“Just shut up, Adrian! I’m sick of your complaining,” Moira told him.
“I’m sick of you complaining about my complaining,” he shot back.
“Oooh, that was original.”
“Get off your damn computer so we can get the hell out of this car,” Adrian demanded.
“I would get off the damn computer if I could just find a damn WiFi hotspot so I could email my boyfriend! I haven’t heard from him in a little while,” Moira admitted.
“I’m sorry, Moira,” Lily said.
“Don’t feel sorry for me! There’s nothing to feel sorry for.” She was starting to feel a little hysterical. Not necessarily because she hadn’t heard from her boyfriend, but because she wasn’t exactly sure they were going to be facing at this carnival, and that was starting to scare her. She didn’t like carnivals to begin with, and this was probably going to make it worse.
“Sorry,” Lily said again as she climbed out of the front seat of the car and slammed the door behind her.
Moira gave up on trying to find an Internet connection. She sighed and shut down her laptop, carefully stowing it away in her bag. Everyone else had already gotten out of the car, and they were standing around waiting for her.
“So, now what?” Jesse asked once they had stowed their excess things in the trunk.
“Maybe someone’s here to tell us where to go?” Lily offered.
“Right you are, Ms. Rayne!” Chance Cagney, the host of the show, appeared as if out of nowhere.
“Crap, man! Where’d you come from?” Will yelled, jumping away from Chance.
“Oh, I was around. So, your challenge today is to make it through the fun house.”
“That’s it?” Adrian asked, skeptical.
“That’s it! However, you will meet with challenges while in the fun house, and of course you must evade the Hunters. There is a hidden door at one end of the fun house. You must find it, and then you will have the night off,” Chance explained.
Moira perked up at the idea of having the night off. Maybe she could try her boyfriend again. She really wanted to hear his voice. “Just get through the fun house, avoid the Hunters, and get out? Then we have the night off?” she repeated. It sounded almost too good to be true.
“Yes, but beware—in the fun house, things aren’t always what they seem. Good luck!” With that, the host walked off again.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lily asked with a frown.
“I think it means that we’re going to have a lot harder time in the ‘fun’ house than we think,” Jesse answered.
“Can we just go find the damn fun house and get this crap over with?” Will cut in.
“He’s right, let’s get this over with,” Moira said. She didn’t want to let on how scared she actually was about the prospect of being trapped in that fun house. She really hoped there wouldn’t be any clowns. She had been terrified of clowns ever since she had watched the movie “It”.
It took them a few minutes to locate the fun house. “I don’t know how we didn’t see this thing from across the carnival,” Adrian muttered. It was a huge, gaudy red and yellow striped tent. Music spilled over them in waves as they stood staring at the entrance. Strangely enough, no one else seemed to be around.
“What, did they reserve this thing specifically for us?” Moira wanted to know.
“Adrian, I’m scared!” Lily wailed.
As Adrian turned to comfort his sister, Moira rolled her eyes. She was scared too (hell, she was terrified!) but she couldn’t let it get to her. Just go in, get through it, and then you’ll be done, she told herself.
Will was giving her a strange look. “What do you want?” she demanded.
“Nothin’. You just don’t look so good,” he told her.
“Thanks,” she muttered, then raised her voice so the whole team could hear. “All right, let’s get in there and get this over with.” She marched inside, not bothering to see if anyone was following her.
Once inside, the music was even louder. The lights were dim, strobes flashing everywhere. An unnatural fog permeated the tent. Must be a fog machine, Moira thought to herself. The smell from the machine was already giving her a headache. There were mirrors everywhere, and she didn’t know which way to go. “Which way should we try first?” she tried to yell over the music and creepy sound effects.
There was no answer. She turned, thinking that maybe they hadn’t heard her . . . but her teammates were all gone. Moira swore violently. She hadn’t liked them, but this was the last place that she wanted to be left alone in.
She called out for her teammates, but received no answer. Finally, she thought she heard Lily’s voice calling for her. She could barely make it out over the din.
She ran toward where she thought Lily’s voice was coming from. She kept running into mirrors and dead ends. All the reflections of herself were beginning to make her feel a little crazy. She turned a corner, and instead of finding Lily, she found someone, something else . . . a clown. It wasn’t a garden-variety children’s birthday clown. No, this one had sharp, serrated teeth—and it was holding a knife that was dripping something steadily onto the floor.
Moira’s scream ripped from her lungs as she turned and fled as fast as she could.Oh God, did that thing kill Lily? She ran smack into a mirror, ricocheted off of it, and collapsed on the floor. The mirror had splintered where she hit it, and there were glass shards scattered all around her. She couldn’t stay on the floor! She picked herself up off the ground, slicing her palms on the glass fragments, and began to run again.
Something slammed into her from behind and she tripped, falling against a wall this time. She didn’t fall to the floor—something was keeping her up. She tried to turn, only to find a closed door behind her. She was trapped in some sort of metal cylinder. She jiggled the handle on the door, but it wouldn’t turn. She started pounding on the walls, screaming for someone, anyone to come and let her out. The walls were so close that she could barely lift her arms. It seemed like they were barely three inches away on all sides.
Adrian heard Moira screaming. “Hold onto us, Lil,” he ordered his sister. She complied, grabbing one of Adrian’s hands, and taking Jesse’s hand on the other side. Will had disappeared the minute they set foot into the tent.
“Wh-wha-what do you th-think is g-g-going on?” Lily asked, her voice quavering. Her whole body was shaking.
“I don’t know,” Jesse answered her. “But we need to stick together if we’re going to get out of here.”
“Did you hear that?” Adrian asked.
“Hear what?” Jesse wanted to know.
“It sounds like Moira calling for us.”
“Hold on just a minute.” Jesse held up his free hand, palm facing upward. He stared at it for a moment, until a small flame erupted, dancing merrily.
“Great idea, man. We need some light in here besides all these crazy strobes. I feel like I’m in a techno club,” Adrian told him. He started dancing until Lily elbowed him.
“Adrian! This is serious! We have to find Moira and Will and get out of here!” she chided him.
He winked at Jesse above her head. He had just been trying to take his sister’s mind off their situation. “Of course. Sorry, Lil. Let’s go.”
They began to move in unison, hunting for their other teammates. The mirrors were disorienting, and the fire rising from Jesse’s hand threw back strange reflections.
A loud whirring sound reached their ears. “What the hell?” Jesse asked.
It was coming closer. Adrian looked around for the source of the noise—and saw a chainsaw reflected in one of the mirrors. He caught a flash of a suit. It was one of the Hunters. He didn’t know if they were supposed to hurt them, or just scare them, but he wasn’t taking any chances. “Lily, don’t look. Just run!”
Still holding hands, they bolted through the maze of mirrors. They could hear footsteps behind them. Jesse tried to shoot some of the fire in his hand back at whatever was chasing them. It didn’t seem to reach. Adrian tried to pull some of the electricity from the strobe lights, but that just made the building darker.
“What the hell is that growling noise?” Jesse shouted over the sound of their flight.
“What growling noise?” Adrian slowed down. “Hey, I don’t hear the chainsaw anymore.”
“But do you hear that?” Jesse pointed, letting the fire go out.
Adrian looked where Jesse was pointing. There was a giant black panther clawing at a metal cylinder. They could hear Moira shrieking and banging inside. “Oh crap, it’s gonna kill her!” he yelled.
The panther stopped what it was doing briefly and looked at them, then it returned to trying to shred the metal.
It finally broke through and Moira came tumbling out. She ran over to where Adrian, Lily, and Jesse stood. The panther collapsed on the ground. It blurred, and then Will was lying on the ground in its place.
“What the hell?” Adrian exclaimed.
Will looked up from the ground. “It was the only way I could find her.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Moira leaned against the wall, trying to steady herself. She had worked herself into a frenzy inside that hollow tube, but she couldn’t let them know that. Suddenly, she felt herself falling. She landed on the ground once again, this time with sunlight spilling over her face.
“Oh my God, we’re free!” Lily shrieked excitedly.
“Right again,” Chance Cagney said, stepping around the corner. “You managed to get away from the Hunters, and you got out of the fun house. Great teamwork everyone!”
Will wanted to rip the stupid guy’s throat out, but he knew that wouldn’t help anything. “So we have the night off now?” he growled, his voice still thrumming with the aftermath of his shapechange.
“Yes, you are all free for the night,” Chance told them. “Further instructions will come in the morning.” He turned abruptly and walked away.
“Thank God that’s over,” Lily commented.
“Yep. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting the hell out of here!” Moira exclaimed and disappeared around the corner.
“Should we go after her?” Adrian asked.
“Nah, I’m sure she’ll be okay. We’ll find her later,” Jesse told him. “Let’s go find some food!”
Will wasn’t sure she would be okay. He had seen the look on her face when she came falling out of that tube. He made a note to keep an eye on her in the coming days to make sure she didn’t have a nervous breakdown or something.
TO BE CONTINUED . . .