The Fortune Teller Part III The Funhouse

Special Note: This is the third part in a four part series. If you haven’t read Part I and Part II scroll to the bottom of this page and click the link to find the beginning of “The Fortune Teller”.

“I don’t want to do this,” Selena whispers as she enters the Funhouse. She passes through the double doors that resemble a giant clown’s mouth and lets the Funhouse swallow her whole.

Inside, she sees crazy black and white stripes scattering in every direction on the walls, floor, and ceiling. It’s a dizzying combination of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines running amok. Nothing makes sense. It’s like an awful B-rated black and white movie sprung to life.

Up ahead, across from her, she spots the opening to the next room. Selena takes a few steps forward, but the stripes makes her feel off-balance like she’s walking on a ship at sea. Just keep going, she commands her clumsy legs.

“Aaah!”A high-pitched, blood-curdling scream shakes the room. Everything goes black. Electric fear shoots through her. She can’t even see an inch in front of her. No moonlight shining through the window curtains to soften the blackness. It is pitch dark.

“Ha, ha, ha! Scared you!” An annoying disembodied voice that sounds like a wind up doll yells out. Horrible laughter fills the room. The laughter bounces off the walls in every direction, behind her, in front, from all sides. A terrible thought rises up, “What if I’m not alone?” She swings her arms around violently trying to feel the space surrounding her.

Then she sees it. A blue light flickers above the entrance of the next room. Anything is better than this darkness, Selena reasons, as she rushes towards it.

Selena walks into a nightmare. It is a hallway of clowns. Life-size clown mannequins line the passageway on both sides. There must be a dozen standing still and quiet.

Selena can see the opening to the next room laughing at her from the end of the hallway. What are the chances she’ll make it through without one of them grabbing her?

She studies them carefully, half expecting one to turn its head. Each clown looks the same; chalky white face plastered with makeup, rosy cheeks, bulbous nose, and an exaggerated smile. Fluffs of red hair surround a bald white cap like a friar Tuck. Each have ruffled Taffeta around the neck and are stuffed into a black and white polka dotted clown suit finished with shiny red shoes.

I don’t trust clowns, she thinks. Nothing about them is real. How can you trust something that smiles all the time?

The clowns are motionless. She walks swiftly trying to avoid the eyes. At the same time, she scans for movement and checks behind hoping there is nothing following her. It’s hard to breathe with fear gripping her lungs, but she makes her way.

“Stay with us!” A clown screams out as he lunges from her right side with over-sized hands. Selena escapes his grip and runs past him leaving him laughing behind her.

Selena steals a quick glance behind and sees him there frozen in place with his outstretched hands. A mechanized doll triggered to give a good fright. She breathes easier.

She enters a mirrored maze. Trapping her are passageways of glass and mirrors. Selena runs her fingers along the clear panels to try to get the feel of the maze. She scans around for hidden clowns. A nasty fear of a clown grabbing her by the shoulder creeps along with her as she moves about the maze.

As she twists and turns about the labyrinth, she’s given choices. She wanders each passageway until she reaches a dead end, a distorted reflection of herself staring back blocking the path.

She sees herself skinny, chunky, tall, fatheaded, and wavy; a dozen possible lives she could have lived. Each falsehood reflects an ugliness in the distortion. She starts to long to see herself as she truly looks, just to be sure her face hasn’t changed.

And then she comes upon the mirror that stops her heart. White flakey makeup, red clumps of hair, fat nose, and painted smile staring back with her own eyes underneath. Another Selena dressed in a black and white polka-dotted clown suit, wrapped up in a red taffeta ring around her neck. Selena moves, and it moves as if they are one.

“Oh, crap!” Selena says out loud. Fear wants her to turn away, but she can’t. She keeps looking at it until the fear dies down. Something about this image speaks to her. Seeing herself this way stirs compassion. What have I been doing to myself? She thinks.

“This is who I have been for the past five years,” she says to her image. Painting on a fake smile every day, trying to be the perfect girlfriend, going along with things she knew wasn’t right for her. Trying to stuff herself into a costume to fit in with the other clowns around her.

The only thing left that is real is her eyes and whatever lies inside watching and waiting to be let free. She has done this to herself, chosen this dead end. Hiding away what she loves, her writing, for fear of ridicule from the other clowns. Scared to be herself, if it means being rejected.

And this is what has happened, she has become a caricature of herself. Her eyes plead with her, as if saying, “I’d rather be alone and laughed at than to be stuck in this hideous image. Set me free. I want to see myself.”

Selena touches her image as if to comfort the eyes, and for a moment the clown suit disappears. She sees herself just as she is, her true face. But it quickly disappears, as the mirror opens and Selena finds herself staring at the carnival outside. The bright lights and music rushing to her as she exits the Funhouse.

“There you are! I’ve been waiting for you,” a man in overalls calls out. He heads towards her with his plump belly jiggling his toolbelt as he walks.

“I’m Joe,” he holds out a hand to shake hers. Selena stares up at him taking in his gold-rimmed glasses and blue bandana wrapped around his head.

“I’m Selena,” she answers still a little shaken. He seems nice, she thinks to herself.

“Do you have something for me?” Joe asks and smiles.

“I do,” Selena says as she rummages in her pocket and finds the token. She offers it to Joe.

“I hate those damn clowns. Don’t you?” The mechanic looks at the gold coin in his hands and laughs.

“More than you can imagine!” Selena laughs with him. It feels good to laugh again.

“Okay, my dear. Let’s take you to the Keeper of Odds and Ends,” Joe announces and motions for Selena to follow.

Selena takes one last look at the Funhouse. Inside, she thanks it for tucking away the clowns, preventing them from haunting her any further. She says goodbye to them in her heart, and walks forward more herself than she has ever been.

The Fortune Teller Part II Search for the Tall Man

Special Note: This is the second part in a four part series. If you haven’t read Part I scroll to the bottom of this page and click on the link, “The Fortune Teller Part I”.

We continue on where we left off, Selena is looking for the Tall Man. Madame Zofina has told her to find three guides who can help Selena retrieve a very wise and very old box. The box contains what Selena needs to learn about the future so she can be happy. So far, Selena isn’t having much luck in her search.

“This is impossible!” She grumbles to herself. Selena has circled the carnival three times and has yet to see anyone she would consider to be abnormally tall. She toys with the thought of asking the people around her if they’ve seen the Tall Man, but nixes the idea. It’s bad enough she’s on a fool’s errand, she’s not about to start sharing this silliness with strangers. So, she makes a deal with herself. One last loop. I will try one more time and that’s it. I’m giving up if I don’t see him.

She passes by the game booths. Carnies call out trying to attract anyone willing to spend money for the chance to win a prize. Pop three balloons with a dart and win a gigantic pink bear. Knock down three milk cans with a baseball and impress your date. Parade around all night with your prize to show everyone you are a winner.

Oh well, no Tall Man here, she tells herself as she turns to head towards the amusement rides. She stops when a shadow of movement catches the corner of her vision.

A man with a top hat rises from a park bench, and he’s taller than any man she’s ever seen. He has to be at least eight and a half feet tall! The man is slender and lanky. He is dressed in long black pants, a bright red coat, and has a Walrus moustache so large it must be fake. His hands are covered with white gloves. Selena catches herself staring at him and turns away in embarrassment. That’s awfully rude of me, she scolds herself. Gathering her courage, she makes her way towards the Tall Man.

As she gets closer, Selena tries to think of a way to make the introduction less awkward. The Tall Man simply watches her as she approaches. Selena tilts her head upward to meet his gaze.

“Hello, my name is Selena. Madame Zofina gave me this key,” she holds the key up so he can see it. “She said to find you and ask if you would open the gate for me. I’d really appreciate your help.”

“Hmmm,” the Tall Man says while cupping his chin with one hand. “You’d like my help? What would you be willing to offer in return?”

“You want something in return?’ Selena asks. Her first reaction is surprise which swiftly gives way to skepticism. Just what kind of offer is this guy expecting?

Noticing Selena’s narrowed eyes and straight-lined mouth, the Tall Man quickly asks, “What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a barista at a coffee shop,” Selena answers, unsure of his intentions.

“Now, a cup of coffee would be a mighty nice trade. I can’t think of anything I’d like better than a cup of coffee, but it’s night time. If I drink coffee at this hour, I won’t sleep at all. So, that won’t work. What else do you do? Any hobbies?”

“Not much. I dance and write. That’s about it.”

“Dance? I like that! What kind of dancing do you do?” The Tall Man asks.

“I’m a Salsa dancer. It’s just for fun, though. I don’t do it professionally,” Selena answers feeling a little embarrassed.

“Salsa? I love the Latin dances. To dance with a lovely lady like yourself would be a fine trade. But alas, I have only one partner and she’s waiting for me at home. So, that won’t work either. But you said that you’re a writer?” The Tall Man’s eyes shine in the moonlight as he stares down at her. He leans forward a little more as if curious to hear her answer.

“Yes, I’m a writer. I love to write, but I haven’t published anything yet,” Selena feels nervous calling herself a writer.

“What have you written?” The Tall Man’s smile puts her at ease. He seems to be genuine in his curiosity.

“Mostly short stories, but I did just finish the rough draft of my first book,” Selena answers. She’s surprised that she’s telling this to a stranger. It’s been her most guarded secret for the past year. But his smile makes her feel that he is truly interested, and that feels incredibly good.

“Fiction or non-fiction?” He probes.

“Fiction. I love to spin a good tale,” Selena can feel herself start to smile as she says the words out loud.

“I’ll make you a deal. I’ll open the gate for you, if you make me a character in one of your stories. I love the idea of myself out there somewhere doing something made up.” After presenting the offer, the Tall Man bends down to look her in the eye.

“Okay, I’ll do it! I’d love to have you as a character in one of my stories,” Selena answers. Just the thought gives her goosebumps. No one has ever asked to be part of her stories before. The Tall Man extends his hand and they shake on it.

“Let’s walk over to the gate, and I’ll share a little about myself on the way. You can’t write my character if you don’t know something about me, right?” He smiles, stands tall, and smooths his moustache.

“I’d like that,” Selena laughs.

“Promise me you’ll make me a foot taller than I am and that you will give me a top hat, okay?” He says as they walk slowly together.

“I promise,” Selena replies. She can already feel the words of his character wanting to be written on the page. If only she had a pen she would stop everything and capture it all, especially that Walrus moustache. But for now, she keeps walking and listening.

As they walk, Selena notices the reaction of the crowd to the Tall Man. Much like her own initial reaction, many can’t help but stare. She even overhears one drunk man shout out, “Hey! How’s the weather up there?” She hears people talk about him as they pass by.

“Do you know my official job title?” The Tall Man asks.

“No, what is it?”

“Security Guard,” the Tall Man laughs. “Can you believe it? It’s actually rather clever. While the crowd is watching me, I am paid to watch them.”

“It makes a lot of sense,” Selena laughs with him. “You’d make the ideal Security Guard. Nobody would suspect it,” Selena observes.

“You wouldn’t believe the things I’ve seen.” the Tall Man shakes his head as if trying to clear away unpleasant memories. “At first, I didn’t like the job. The looks, finger-pointing, and murmurs behind my back. It bothered me. I felt like I didn’t belong. I used to whisper to myself, “If only I wasn’t so tall.” Until one day, I figured out a valuable truth,” the Tall Man stops moving and looks down at Selena.

“What’s that?” She asks.

“We all belong. Nobody’s life here is perfect. I’ve seen people you wouldn’t expect lie, cheat and steal. I’ve seen couples dress and act like rich people and then argue when they don’t have enough gas money to make it home. But mostly, I see ordinary folk like yourself wandering about feeling out of place.” Catching the change in her expression, he adds, “Yes, I watched you circling around looking for me. What I’m saying is true, right? You don’t feel like you belong,” the Tall Man continues to look at her.

Instead of feeling defensive, Selena feels understood. She lets down her guard. “Yes, that’s exactly how I feel. Everyone here has someone who loves them, except me. There must be something wrong with me. Look at that girl over there,” Selena points to a woman close by. “Do you see that ring on her finger? She’s engaged. That man holding her hand loves her enough to want to spend the rest of his life with her.”

“Do you think so?” He asks.

“Yes, of course! Do you see how happy they are?” Selena responds back louder than she intends.

“What if I told you last night I saw him here with another girl, and they looked just as happy?”

“I’d say you’re lying,” Selena answers.

“Unfortunately, I’m not. I really wish I were. It’s the one thing I hate about my job. I see more than I want to sometimes,” as the Tall man says this he starts moving again.

Selena has no reason to believe him, and yet she does. She continues walking with him.

“You know, I’d be happier alone than with a man like that,” Selena announces. As her words escape her she feels the weight of them drop to the ground, and in return she feels lighter and freer.

“You see, we all belong. Everyone’s life here is screwed up in one way or another, even if some don’t realize it yet. It is the one thing we all have in common. Nobody’s life is perfect. Selena, my dear, these are your people,” he takes a gloved hand and shows her the crowd like a Ringmaster introducing the circus troop.

“We’ve finally reached our destination,” the Tall Man says as they stop in front of a massive wrought iron gate. He extends his hand for the key. Selena places it in his white glove.

The Tall man unlocks the gate and then tucks the key safely in his pocket. He then hands Selena a token, a bronze-colored coin etched with a clown’s face.

“Give this to Joe, the Mechanic. Up ahead, around the corner, you will see the Funhouse. It’s closed for repairs, but Joe’s expecting you. So, go inside. Once you find your way out, give this token to Joe. He’ll show you what to do next.” At the end of his instructions, the Tall Man holds the gate open for Selena like a true gentleman. After she passes through, he closes it behind her.

“You’re not coming with me?” She asks.

“No, some things you have to do on your own,” he sighs. “But I have enjoyed my talk with you, and truly wish you the best,” with a bit of flair he nods his head and tips his hat to her with one gloved hand.

“Thank you, I enjoyed talking to you too,” Selena answers. She wants to say more, but can’t find the right words, so she leaves it at that. The Tall Man turns and walks away. His long strides carry him off quickly.

She heads towards the Funhouse. Being alone seems to color the night darker. How many horror movies revolve around a creepy Funhouse? They’re cheesy in the daylight with friends, but alone? She’s not so sure about this.

The Funhouse emerges as soon as she turns the corner. It’s visage is a gigantic clown face with its double doors open wide for the clown’s mouth. It’s wild red hair stretches out along the front wall in both directions. A carnival attraction usually has blaring music, but this one stands silent. It is the silence that is unnerving.

She runs. It’s silly, and she would be embarrassed if anyone saw her, but she doesn’t care. If she hurries and screams loud enough, the Tall Man might hear her and return. Selena reaches the gate and tries to open it, but the wrought iron just groans in her hands refusing to budge. It’s locked. The Tall Man is no where to be seen.

She cries. There’s no going back, she tells herself, as both of her hands grip the gate. After the tears start to subside, the words, “There’s no going back,” repeat in her head until she feels another meaning coming from them.

She remembers the girl at the carnival. The one about to be married to a cheat and a liar.

There is no going back to my old life, she thinks. I’m happier alone than with a man like that.

She releases her grip on the wrought iron gate. It won’t budge. Her only choice is to continue on.

Even though the logic makes sense, it’s still scary, especially when facing the unknown alone. But what other choice does she have? When you can’t go backwards, you have to go forward, right?

This is what Selena tells herself as she slowly walks towards the Funhouse. The gigantic clown face watches her approach and smiles.