Welcome to Rose Colline / by Josh Stricklin

What do you hear?

The whirring of machinery? Can you hear the crunching gravel behind you? That sound that tells you people are coming toward you, but their laughter is a sign that there’s nothing to worry about.

What do you feel?

The wind on your face? The dirt path under your feet? Then the smell of corndogs and funnel cakes fills the air. A carney beckons passers-by.

“Step up! Step up! I got your prizes right here! Shoot the ball in the hoop! Win yourself the giant Teddy bear!”

Behind it all, the drone of buzzing cicadas promises there will never be total silence.

Open your eyes. You can see it all, all the way up the midway from where you stand at the foot of the marquee. “Johnny D’s Carnival Funland” it reads with flashing lights.

The barker waves you forward. His face is friendly, and his voice is welcoming. His hair is black and combed back beneath his red, white, and blue skimmer hat. He’s joined by a woman in a black dress that sparkles with every subtle move of her body. They’re holding hands and smiling like teenagers. They look stuck out of time, like people from the sixties that had lost their way and never found it.

You continue through the entrance and everything changes. Suddenly the pinks are pinker, and the blues are bluer. Everything is just…better here.

You walk between the rows of concession stands. All the smells of a deep-fried menu tickle your nose. On the other side of them, a carousel spins, sending its flickering lights in all directions. It’s a never-ending parade of cheerful kids riding animals of all kinds. You feel your gaze shifting from it though. Leading you down the midway. The sight of it pulls you past the Ferris wheel and the Tilt-a-Whirl. The lines were getting a little too long anyway.

You continue down the midway, and you really see the enormous house. Its black paint is cracked and peeling. The windows are boarded up. You don’t want to go in by yourself, you couldn’t. Not by yourself. You glance around.

Beyond Johnny D’s Carnival Funland you can see the sun falling below the horizon. There’s a tree on a hill. The elusive way the sun peeks through its leaves creates an image of flames on the limbs.

You walk up the steps to the door and read the sign.

Leave now or encounter The Horrors of Rose Colline

You open the door and enter.

It calls for you from inside the house.