Sharon’s note: I am not a fan of the reluctant hero. I want a hero that is totally down for these shenanigans, and is ready to go out and slay some dragons. Or, you know, ride it like a real hero. Warning: Author’s birthday wish every year is to run away with Doctor Who.
There was a different clown at the booth. His makeup was less scary, more rounded lines and primary colors, but there was a quite smugness to him that made Jim uneasy. More unnerving was the fact that his only comment on the cleaver was ‘good luck’.
“Where are we going?” Everything about the carnival seemed a little more sinister in the dark. Or maybe it was his imagination and the fact he knew evil magic was afoot.
Wendy looked around, biting her lip, then lit up. “Oh, I remember! Let’s stop by the photo booth.”
“That guy seemed a little off to you too?” Jim nodded sagely.
“What? No, not really. I just want to get our pictures before things go sideways. I won’t remember after the battle.” Jim’s shoulders dropped, and she patted his back. “It’s okay. You’re just having jitters. Relax. Pay attention, but don’t get over excited. Getting too amped up is how you get friends impaled on forklifts.”
He frowned. “That’s really specific. Did that happed?”
Wendy shrugged. “I hope not, but probably.”
The woman at the photo booth kept licking her lips and watching the clock. “We’re about to close. Hurry up and get your picture.”
Jim looked at the time. “It’s only eight thirty. The sign says you close at nine.”
“Yeah, well, we’re closing early today, so hurry up.” The woman was hugging herself tightly, eyes darting around the crowd.
Wendy spoke while she dug through the pile of photos. “You know that there’s something going on here. When you close the booth, get far away. Things are going to get crazy, so take anyone you care about with you. Aha!”
With a flourish, Wendy pulled the picture out of a stack and held it out proudly to Jim. He looked at the photographic evidence that she’d kissed him, even just on the cheek, and couldn’t do anything but blush. She stuffed the picture in her pocket and grabbed his arm, tucking it against her side.
“Hey.” She poked his shoulder. “Where were we earlier where we smelled something wrong?”
Jim raised an eyebrow. “You mean the haunted house?”
“Yeah. I bet that’s a good place to start.” She pulled him along. He glanced back to see the woman at the booth leaving things where they were and running away.
“Well, she got the hell out of here.” Jim touched the cleaver hanging from his belt. “She’ll at least be safe.”
“I’m really proud of you.” Wendy hugged his arm. “You are being so brave, and finding out about magic didn’t even shake you.”
Jim dipped his head and grinned. “The whole magic and thing is just kind of cool. I’m even a little jazzed about battling real evil.”
Wendy patted his arm. “I’ll make sure I save someone for you. Me, I’m hoping to get this over with quick so we can get another funnel cake, then maybe I can go back to your place and sleep.”
“Do, um, do you want to stay the night?” Jim was quickly calculating how he could manage it. His dad got home at two, but he always went straight to bed, so if she slept in Jim’s room, and he got her out in the morning before his dad woke up. . .
“Probably not. I don’t sleep for long.” She flicked her bell so it jingled.
“Insomnia?” He asked, sympathetically. His dad had experienced really bad insomnia ever since his mom died.
“Kind of.” Her eyes narrowed, and she sniffed the air. Her voice changed, and her sweet smile turned predatory. It made her even prettier. “Fresh blood. Seems like the fun is starting. Come on. We don’t want to miss it.”