I’m very grateful to Speculate This Magazine for publishing this tiny tale in their 2020 Halloween issue…
The radio signals from That Place Over There entranced her. The stories they told.
A quick visit, she thought. No-one need know. I’ll land in a secluded spot. I’ll visit the fairgrounds, the freak shows. Just a visit, that’s all. I’ll learn their ways. They’ll think I’m one of them.
She grew quiet, reserved. Her friends could never find her. She never returned their calls.
She hid herself in research of things most alien to her, in the making of cloth, in the learning of vowelsand consonants and taste and sight – wonderful, unimaginable things she’d discovered only through scientific outlets proclaiming breathlessly their discoveries of The Place Over There.
Increasingly secretive, she immersed herself deeply in her preparations. The place she’d grown up in began to feel more distant than the place those radio signals made her dream of every night. Over time, she lost her friends and previously-satisfying work. However, she amassed a secret and most treasured collection. Of knowledge, of made things. She learned of toffee apples, of candyfloss, of geeks. She learned of Enola Gay and Little Boy, of Darwin, of Kinder-Kirche-Kuche.
Some things horrified her. Some delighted her. But mostly she dreamed of Big Tops and dancing girls. She stored her precious learnings in a dark chamber where no-one ever went.
Finally – friends forgotten, everyday doings forgotten – she went to That Place Over There, and landed in a secluded spot, just as she’d promised herself. She pulled on attire she thought becoming of the age – floppy white collar, peacock hues in the dress.
So many new words to learn: Floppy, peacock.
Such an amount to learn.
She fashioned her hair into something approaching a hat and kept its brim low to hide her blank face as she navigated through the heaving crowds of a fairground in Kentucky, entranced yet repelled by the shrill cries, the mass of faces spilling their all in a brutish display of gaping maws – the wide ‘oh’ mouths, the moist eyes.
She was doing so well, till they found her. They shrieked when they tugged her hair from her face.
Fear? Delight? The shrieks held a nuance she couldn’t discern. They thrust her into a cage. She trundles with them now, from town to town.
Never to return, shown nightly to gawping bystanders with sticky mouths.