“I loved this place,” Carrie sighed. “It was the happiest time of my life.”
The sun slowly continued to set as they walked, setting the sky ablaze with orange light. The carousel stood, a dark silhouette against the fiery sky. Michael was silent beside her, for all appearances lost in thought. Occasionally, he would scan the abandoned carnival area, his face scrunched into a confused expression. He seemed lost still, as though he was trying to piece together the fragments of a fast fading dream.
“Why did we ever leave?” Carrie said.
Michael paused for a moment. “We couldn’t stay here forever,” he said gently. “It was always going to be a temporary home.”
“I guess so. But we truly were happy, weren’t we?”
“I think we were.”
They had almost reached the carousel. If they had paused to consider it, they would have realised that they had no idea why they were drawn to it.
Small blue lights, evenly spaced across the carousel, slowly flickered into life. They flared brighter and brighter as the sun dipped behind the horizon.
“What’s happening?” Carrie’s voice was high. “Michael, I thought this place closed down.”
“So did I…”
“Shh! Can you hear that?”
Carrie listened. “No, I don’t. Michael?” He waved his hand at her, gesturing for her to be silent. They had stopped walking now, just a meter or two short of the carousel. Carrie saw the blue lights reflecting off the plastic horses, some still half rearing as they had all those years ago. The lights flickered once more, then went out as darkness set in.
There was a rustling sound to their left. It was then that Carrie felt a hot breath upon her shoulder. She screamed and spun around.
Her assailant was ebony black, a horse unlike any she’d ever seen. Or so she thought, until the memories began to return, a small trickle that grew and grew, until finally, she remembered everything.
She turned to face the creature, and its brown eyes met hers. “Droberj,” she said.
And suddenly, she was a child again, looking up at the tall dark creature that had stepped down from the carousel every night, long after the circus performers had packed away their tents and stalls. The clowns took off their painted smiles, the flying trapeze workers packed away their ropes, and the lion trainers guided their animals back into their cages. It was then that Drauberg and the others had stepped down from the painted carousel.
Carrie put a hand on Droberj’s mane. After the carnival grounds closed, she had forgotten everything.
She had been merely a snotty-nosed child with no home, but plenty of fear. The circus had taken her in, and she, along with Michael, who had been only two or so years older than her, became the performers’ general dogsbodies.
“Hey, quit daydreamin’, kiddo! Have you fetched the lions’ dinner yet?” And she had gripped the slippery, bloody meat, throwing chunks into a bucket.
“Chalk! Come on, Carrie!” And she would scurry over, bringing the small bags of chalk to the acrobats who would clap the chalk about their hands and feet because heading over the the trapezes.
Droberj nuzzled her shoulder and she hesitantly approached his side. She hoisted herself into the saddle and held on tightly as he began to trot back towards the carousel. They leapt onto the platform and it began to circle. The blue lights came on again and a space opened in the center of the pillar. It yawned open and golden light filtered through. Droberj stepped through first, followed by Ada and the remaining carousel horses. Carrie knew that they had been waiting for this moment, waiting for her and Michael so that they could go on one last adventure.