based on a dream i had a few yrs back…
… night was falling and it was raining… still. it was that time of the year again, when the big carnival came into town, and the weather has never stopped us from enjoying it before… so why should it now? of course, were i a psychic, i would have never took the trolley to the carnival that night… no, i would have locked my doors and windows, and prayed for the night to be over… but then, i’m not psychic.
… as is usual, i got off work a bit late, but that was okay… the night was still young, and there was plenty of fun to be had. i stood under the shelter at the trolley stop counting my change to make sure i had enough, old man peters was hard on my case for not having enough change the past few rides… but old man peters is sort of like a grandpa to me, it’s mostly bark with a little bite… i chance a peek out in the rain and see the trolley coming, happy in the knowledge that not only do i have enough change, but enough to pay for at least one of my shortages…
… as i pick up my umbrella, the trolley comes to full stop, the doors open, and i step up into the trolley… “good evening mr peters, i’ve got some good news for you… i have enough change for my ride, and at least one shortage!”
“i’m happy to hear that boy, now take a seat, and we can be off…”
… taking my seat about halfway down, i turn to look out the window, rain is just pelting the streets outside… i sure feel sorry for anyone who gets stuck out in this weather. the ride was fairly uneventful… the one incident was an old bum climbing into the trolley, wrapped in a dripping wet american flag… but that was old george for you… wonder where he managed to get the flag.
… as we neared 6th street and pike avenue, i pulled the rope for my stop… “don’t tell me you’re actually going out in that weather, it’ll be the death of you…”
“the carnival is town mr peters, and i might not get another chance…”
“well, suit yourself, but don’t say i didn’t warn you…”
… i should have listened to old man peters, but like i already said… i’m not psychic. after the trolley drove away, i opened up my umbrella, stepped into the crosswalk and crossed into what would later be remembered as one of the worst nights of my life… even with the rain, the people of ojai seemed in a festive mood, but then, this is the carnival… not just any carnival, but the biggest carnival in the world! this is only the second time the carnival has come to our humble town, the first time being over 80 years before…
… walking the booth lined streets i greeted both folks i knew, and didn’t know… “pardon me’s” whenever i bumped into someone… i latched onto the aroma of food, and made a beeline for the hotdog stand… reaching into my pocket, i grabbed some money, and paid the freckly red haired girl for a hotdog and medium soda… wandering about aimlessly, i scarf down my dinner while taking in the sights, the sounds, and the rain… i don’t remember the last time it rained this hard and long in ojai… i may not be a psychic, but i could tell we were going to be in for a long winter.
… as i wander from booth to booth, i find myself drawn to a huge purple tent… to either side of the flaps stand 2 burly looking men, i’d say gentle men, but there is nothing gentle looking about them… more animal, like they are on the hunt, looking for easy prey… little did i know, that i was soon to become that prey… in between them and directly in front of the flaps, stood a strikingly beautiful woman…. dressed in a purple shimmery gown, with gold necklaces, and her hair done up in a fashion that hearkened unto older days… days that no living soul has seen.
… as i drew nearer to the tent, this woman, who had been searching the crowd intently, turned her magickal gaze upon me… i’m not sure if she actually spoke, or if i heard her voice in my head calling out my name and telling me to come closer… as i put my foot upon the first step, i found my voice… “how did you know my name?”
… in a sweet, intoxicating voice, she replied, “silly boy… you still have your name tag on…”
“oh”, i said as i looked down to see my name tag sitting askew on my shirt…
“won’t you come in to the wonders this tent holds for you? even if you don’t buy anything, at the least, you’ll have a bit to get warm and dry…”, she cooed at me…
“s-sure…” i stuttered, “i guess so”…
… stepping through the flaps, i was greet warmth, aromas, and sites i had never seen… fabrics of a foreign weave, and trinkets of an intricate design… musicians played to dancers off in one of the back corners… the sounds of lutes and mandolins, flutes and piccolos, drums and tambourines filled the tent… the mysterious lady guided me over to the bar, “would you like something to drink? the first is on the house…”
“no thanks…” i said, a little distractedly, as my senses began to swim…
… with a pouty look that could break any man’s reserve, she said “are you sure? nothing to help warm you up? or calm your nerves?”
" w-well… maybe i’ll have one drink. but i’ll let you decide, something you know i haven’t had before…"
“brishen, be a dear and poor a glass of our special brew for this young boy”
“yes lady violca”
… brishen sets to making my drink with a fervor… he hands it to lady violca, who then hands it to me, “here you are skot, now drink up and then i’ll show you around”
“yes mam”, i replied…
“you can call me violca, it violet in romani…”
… as i drank we casually walked about the tent, which looked a lot bigger on the inside than the outside… there were plenty of beautiful silks and trinkets to gaze at, but that wasn’t what caught my eye… no, it was a table in the center of the tent with some weird contraption on it made up of all these golden cubes… the cubes were worn with age, but even so, the etchings stood out clearly… the symbols along the sides i couldn’t understand, but i figured they were in another language… romani, perhaps. but each cube had larger etchings of numbers on them, one number per side… the numbers were painted red.
“this,” said violca “is our main attraction… all the cubes must be properly arranged… only then can the prize be won… and since the prize is money, it costs money to play… the more money put in without a win, the higher the prize amount… there are four levels, four rows per level, four cubes per row, totaling sixty-four cubes… care to take a try?”
" how much does it cost?"
“the first try is free, but after that it’s fifty dollars… but for you, i’ll give a special deal… for every loss, you get one free try, sounds fare?”
“fifty dollars is an awful lot… why are you giving me a deal?”
“because there’s something special about you…” she purred…
… i took one last gulp of my drink, set my glass on an adjacent table, and said “okay, i’m game”
… 3 hrs later, and half my paycheck in lady violca’s pockets, and i’m starting to think i should’ve never come here… it’s too late for that, but it’s not too late to throw in the towel now… “i think i should probably go, i’ve spent more money than i should’ve…”
" okay… but don’t you want to take your free try before you leave? i have a feeling you’re going to be lucky this time around…"
… that’s funny, i thought i already took my free try. maybe it’s the drink that’s getting to me, maybe it’s too warm in here, or maybe it’s her perfume… but it’s getting harder for me to think straight… oh well, one try couldn’t hurt, i think to myself. at least it’s free… “okay, i’ll do it”
… and just like that, everything seemed to snap together, and all the cubes seemed to fall in their proper places… and before i knew it, the last cube fell into place. as i took a step back, i felt lady violca’s hand land on my shoulder… “well done, skot… so, are you ready for the prize?”
… something about her voice caught my attention… the soft alluring glaze now had a harder edge to it… “i must thank you for aligning all the cubes… without you, my brothers and sisters would still be captive…”
“w-what? what are you saying?”
“silly boy… this was more than just a carnival game… this is a centuries old puzzle that has kept my people in captivity and exile… and you, my sweet thing, were the key… we’ve been waiting a long time for someone with your abilities.”
“but i don’t have any abilities… i’m just a checker at the local grocer mart!”
“you have abilities, they were just locked away, and that ‘special’ drink i gave you, was the key to unlocking them! i gave you a gift with the drink, and you returned the favor with the cubes… but, i can’t very well let you go on your way, for what can be unlocked, can be locked again… but don’t worry, i’ll feed on your soul slowly enough that you’ll live for many years yet, and it will be painless… brishen, if you please escort this boy to his new home… i’ll be along shortly…”
“yes lady violca… come, let’s make ourselves comfortable…”
“never! i’m not going with either of you, and you’re certainly not going to feed off of my soul! i’m out of here!!”
“brishen, don’t let him get away!”
… i barely slip around brishen, knocking over a few tables in the progress… i make a mad dash to the flaps, praying i won’t get caught, and wishing i’d listened to old man peters… i can hear brishen huffing behind me, but he’s not as quick as me, and that drink is starting to wear off! i almost to the flaps, just a few more steps, when i feel a strong hand clasp on my shoulder and yank me to the side… “hey!”
“this way if you want to survive…”
“i can see see yo tolbard… there’s no where to escape to, so why not give up?”
“there’s always a way of escape, my dear violca… you just haven’t seen it yet! on the count of three, close your eyes… three!!”
… and just like that, we were surrounded by a ghastly smelling smoke… couldn’t see a hands breadth in front of me… and then, i felt the same strong hand of my mystery saviour pulling me along the tent wall, heading away from the flaps… but before i could question his sense of direction, i felt a sudden sense of dread and heard the flapping of wings… “if you want to make it out of this alive, i suggest you run a little faster!!”
“who are those people?!?”
“those ‘people’ aren’t exactly people… not like you, anyhow… they are weredemons, and they’ve been exiled to human form for seven centuries… and you, my boy, were their to key to freedom!”
“y-you mean they’re not human?”
“yes, i mean exactly that! but i don’t have time to explain, for we must hurry!” and with that, we came bustling out the far wall of the tent, through a slit that was obviously made by my rescuer… out, and into the crowd, with the shouts of our pursuers and a quickly panicking crowd behind us… after running for several blocks and zigzagging through back alleys, we finally stopped for a rest…
… after catching a bit of my breath, i asked “so… do you think we lost them?”
“i think you just may have… now, if you’ll excuse me for a minute…”… and with that, he reach into his long coat and pulled out a device about the size of a calculator… he flipped open the device, and started punching these buttons on it… before i knew it, it started coming to life with lights coming on followed by a beepbeepbeep-beep…
“uh, what are you doing?”
“shh, i need to concentrate.” beepbeepbeep-beep, beepbeepbeep-beep… the more the device beeped, the fuzzier my surroundings got… but funnily enough, i wasn’t worried or scared… and before i knew it, i was lying in my bed waking to the sound of my alarm clock… beepbeepbeep-beep, beepbeepbeep-beep!