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Thursday, December 29, 2011

December short story contest runner-up

The Curse
by Carlie M A Cullen

Large colourful posters were everywhere; in store windows, on telegraph
poles, lampposts, at road junctions and railings. In fact, everywhere she looked there
were pictures of elephants adorned with tassels and hats with feather plumes,
trapeze artists in bright sparkly costumes, and clowns with massive shoes, oversized
trousers, painted smiles and curly green hair. There was no doubt about it – even if
you couldn’t read the words, the pictures said it all – the circus had come to town.
As she continued down the street, she read the show times on the poster
directly in front of her and realised that today was the first day of their visit.
Excitement gripped her. She’d always loved circuses, ever since she was a small
child. There was always a mystical air around the circus, it wove magic around
anyone that walked through their gates. She even dreamt that one day she might
learn to walk a tightrope or fly on a trapeze.
Glancing at her watch, she realised the gates would be opening in thirty
minutes. She walked much faster, wanting to arrive before then.
By the time she reached her destimation, she was panting. Pausing to catch
her breath at the gate, her eyes roved excitedly over the tableau before her. Directly
ahead was the famed big top; the expanse of off-white, decorated with multi-
coloured flags increased the exhilaration inside and a huge grin spread across her
The gate opened and she dashed through, wanting to see everything at once.
As her eyes swept over the sideshows and other tents, she did a double-take – there
in the very centre was a black tent. It looked so incongruous amongst the other
structures yet she couldn’t take her eyes off it. With the sun blazing down, the sheen
of the material glistened and the tent appeared to shimmer.
She was drawn towards it. As she approached, the drapes covering the
entrance parted, but there was no one there. She walked through, trepidation now
dogged her steps yet curiosity drove her on.
Once through, the second set of curtains opened revealing a massive space
full of light. She wandered in and her jaw dropped – it was like being inside a palace,
with huge vaulted ceilings, chandeliers and large ornate mirrors. Near the centre was
a wall with a door in it. Inquisitive, she walked over and knocked. A reedy voice
She pushed the door open and inside found a wizened old lady sitting behind
a small table, covered in white lace and featuring a large crystal ball in the centre.
The woman gestured to the chair in front of her.
“Sit, Alice!”
Alice sat, bewildered, as the woman gazed into the crystal.
“I see tremendous changes coming to you very soon. Everything will alter
dramatically. You will move home, leave your friends, and meet some new people.”
“Really?” Alice wasn’t sure whether to be excited or anxious and she fidgeted
in her seat.
“Yes dearie, the crystal never lies!” she stated, a small smile on her lips.
Alice sat quiet for a moment and stared at the old woman in wonder. She
looked about a hundred years old; very frail, with wispy white hair and a face as
wrinkled as an elephant’s hide. Clearing her throat, Alice said,
“Do you mind if I ask you something?”
“Not at all,” the woman replied.
“How long have you been sitting in that chair?” Alice looked a little sheepish.
There was a whooshing noise and the room started spinning. When it
stopped, Alice was facing the opposite way and the old lady stood before her. Only
she wasn’t so old anymore; she’d dropped thirty years and was growing younger
before Alice’s eyes.
Alice felt weary. She glanced down at her hands and was shocked to see the
skin dry and wrinkled. She brought one hand up to her face and, stroking her cheek,
found it to be lined and papery. She moaned in horror and closed her eyes.
“What’s happened to me, and you?” Alice cried, her voice breaking.
“Exactly what happened fifty years ago. The chairs have a curse on them.
Two hundred years ago, a beautiful seer unknowingly upset a witch. The witch was
so angry she cursed the seer, taking away her beauty and condemning her to sit in
the chair until one certain question was asked. Only then would she be freed and the
inquirer would take her place.
“The question could never be prompted and had to be asked spontaneously.
Once asked, the one released would regain her youth while the new prisoner would
lose theirs. Now it’s your turn. You now possess second sight and will be able to tell
fortunes, but you won’t leave that chair until the question is asked once again. By
the way, my name is Jessica,” she explained.
Alice was horrorstruck and silent. Jessica now appeared to be in her early
twenties and bore no resemblance to the old lady Alice had first encountered.
“I’m leaving now. I wish you luck and hope you won’t be stuck here as long
as I was. Goodbye, Alice,” and with that she turned and danced through the door.
Alice found her voice and cried,
It was too late, Jessica had gone. The door was shut.
Jessica walked out into the sunlight, grinning. Glancing back at her prison,
she watched it shimmer then vanish from sight.
Freedom beckoned.
Check out Carlie's blog HERE

This and other entries can be found on my website

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