I was walking down Hamilton Street, on my way to work, when a beetle the size of a fist scurried across my path. I leapt with a shriek at its appearance. It had ten little eyes balanced high on ten little stalks. They watched me, blinking and curious as I jumped back.
I looked to the yard from whence it came. There was an abandoned three story decrepit thing looming dark on the otherwise bright corner lot. Bushes and branches were tangled in knots, while crab grass overgrew the narrow path to the door.
Against my better judgement I was drawn to it, this grey and hulking house. I crept up the path and the crumbling steps. The door knob was warm to the touch. Was that music? Yes, music! I heard it through the door. I opened it, a crack at first, then all the way and I stepped in.
I squinted in the gloom. My eyes adjusted on a downward spiraling staircase before me. A lively chorus of pianos, violins, accordion, and drums echoed up to where I stood. I walked down, down, down to a door where colourful lights sprayed out at my feet from the gap near the floor. I twisted the knob and it creaked open to a velvet draped room. A theater! Rows of plush seats and a stage wearing bright neon letters:
THE GREATEST SHOW UNEARTHED
The door slammed shut behind me. A marionette puppet with wet human eyes plucked from sockets unseen pointed and laughed at me. Its strings disappeared into blackness above. I backed away from this ungodly thing, trembling from head to toe as the chorus rose.
My legs hit something and I tipped backward into a chair where plumes of dust puffed up like smoke. Hands lift the chair up high: human hands attached to human bodies without faces, but each with a gaping black maw whispering in tandem, “Please enjoy the show!”
I screamed. I tried to get up. The chair beneath me seemed to come alive, its arms warm, real, hairy, and clutching fast around my waist.
The music grew louder then. The lights on the stage grew brighter, flashed faster. The round black mouths of the faceless ones stood to either side of me and breathed into my ears, “watch this”. To my horror their cold, white, clammy hands held my face, peeling eyes wide open to view the stage.
The band was grotesque. A human skeleton: fleshless, moved inexplicably playing a violin made of flesh and bone. A hulking and tentacled pale creature with one giant rolling eye sat at a piano playing impossibly fast. A small group of beetles with stalked eyes like the one outside worked frantically together on a set of drums wet with spoiled meat and garbage. They jumped and pounded their sickly beat, moving bile up the back of my throat.
They hammered their harmony, working up to a frenzy as a tingling began in the tips of my fingers and toes. It spread like warm disease toward my center, relaxing me. I tried to look down at my body, but the black mouthed beasts held tight, staring at me now with their eyeless faces and they seemed to be smiling. The music grew faster and stronger. I could feel it moving all around me, through me. There was no more struggle. In fact, I no longer wanted to leave. I felt at peace with the horrors that flashed before me, all monsters and bodies and bits of meat. I couldn’t feel my arms or legs. The numbness took my body until I could feel nothing but warm, squelching oblivion. I fell into a blissful sleep, content to be a permanent part of The Greatest Show Unearthed.
Featured photo by Ján Jakub Naništa at Unsplash