10:00 A.M. (Tuesday Morning)
“When you’re workin’ in a way that I do you might be able to be called somethin’ like the King of Wall Street, the brand new Andrew Carnegie, that guy at your local bar who turned one dollar bills into cigars… When you go lookin’ for the scoop like I do for so long, you only get the deep and gritty stuff for a while, and then it dries up. It’s like being on a train drinkin’ some of that imported wine only to find some fat high-roller took the last of it while you were still in the middle of a cup; it’s like when you meet a nice girl for a short time, and after you order the lobster, the bill you pay makes the already-eaten lobster spill back all over the table! I tell you, if you wanna make it nowadays… you gotta play dirty. You gotta take the shots that no one else’ll take. You gotta dig down so deeply through the dark until you find the shining light at the end of the damn tunnel. And sometimes you should just probably stay where you are… considering you may end up deficatin’ yourself.”
The old man adjusted his red spectacles and threw down the papers in front of him in disgust. He rolled back in his office chair as if he had been hit by a massive blow.
Before him stood a young man with slicked blond hair and a stubble that could make the ladies crawl as well as a white business suit and bolo tie that showed he meant business, but only when it meant business.
“I can’t believe this filth you just brought into my office, Nathan!” the old man sneered.
The young man shrugged. “Hey now, I only bring the dirtiest of the dirt.”
The old man hurled a stapler at the young man, but the young man dodged, falling back in response. “Nathan, Nathan, Nathan, if I was your father, I would throw you over this damn table and give you the beating of your life! Be serious with me now; is this crap some kind of joke?!”
“No,” the young man groaned as he stood up. “It’s supposed to be the latest scoop!”
The old man scoffed. “If this crap is scandalous, then the crap I leave in my toilet must be some ancient treasure.”
“Look now, you told me to go up to the old house and look for some signs of a ghost, and that is exactly what I did,” Nathan smiled in assurance. He made motions with his hands. “There was, y’know, rickety stairs when I walked up and down ‘em, there was some unmentionable goop leakin’ off the walls, and worst of all, there may have been the scariest thing anyone could’ve ever seen… blood.”
The old man frowned and tore up the papers. “Look… Nathan Anthony Lars… lemme explain a few things about my business. We… are a vanity press. Our readers read us because they want juicy bites they can sink their teeth into. They want the real deal, the complete shebang! If I printed this paper based off of just speculation, then everyone would think I was a joke! Old, haunted houses; ghosts; goop on the walls—that garbage is old, Mr. Lars!” The old man sighed and turned around. “I’m afraid I can only offer you one more chance if you wanna continue working for my vanity press, Mr. Lars.” He raised a finger. “You go out, and you find me something real. If you find something real and scandalous and add that ol’ Lars touch I know you got inside ya, I’ll give you a second chance. And just because I see ya like a son… I’ll even tell ya where to start.” He took out a file and threw down a flier in front of the young man.
“‘Dewey’s Funland’,” the young man read aloud. “That sounds more like one of those weird playground-type deals.”
“Well, none o’ my other boys’ll report on it, so it’s either that, or you walk outta here without a job, Mr. Lars. This is the only chance you got. Go there, and find something real, or walk out right now. What’s your choice?”
The young man smiled and put on his cap. “I think that I have a date set tonight for good ol’ Dewey’s Funland, Mr. Percy. Maybe I might even propose at the top of the ferris wheel by next morning—who knows?”
“Well, even if you do, you had better not write about it. Just you even mentioning something stupid like that makes me wanna fire you.”
The young man turned and left. “By tomorrow afternoon, I’ll make you throw up all over your own desk; I promise it.”
The old man chuckled. “Well, Mr. Lars, we’ll just have to wait and see for now.”
2:00 P.M. (Tuesday)
“I spent the next couple hours lookin’ ‘round the best I could. I visited all my old feeding grounds and then even more just to get even a simple lead. But whenever I asked even the most simplest of questions, people would usually just get all sweaty and tense, and then I would have a door shut on me faster than if I was askin’ out some other guy’s girlfriend. But I still kept digging… and when my mole in the police department told me about Frankie the guy down at the motel… I knew that was where I needed to head next.”
The Gilman Motel was a dark, old building that had been a business for over three entire generations, with Frankie’s grandfather being the first proprietor and Frankie’s father turning it into a successful business. Frankie himself looked after it, and it stayed in a decent condition as far as most places go, but for some reason, light was always a bit scarce. Frankie Gilman himself was a middle-aged, hunchbacked man with dead eyes and a small scrap of black hair on his head; he wore a white dress shirt and red suspenders. His slender legs made his pants look much too large for him.
Nathan Lars entered the Gilman Motel with a smile on his face and a notepad in his hand. “Frankie, old boy! Remember me?”
Frankie simply stared.
“Come on, Frankie, don’t be like that!” Nathan chuckled. “Remember the good ol’ days?”
Frankie sneered, “There were never any with you.”
“Alright, since it looks like you’re busy, I’ll just get down to the bitter business, ol’ Frank… So, uh, I have a friend named Wyatt down at the police department, and he, uh…”
Frankie snorted. “Maybe I should call that friend of yours if you’re going to start poking into business you shouldn’t get into.” He frowned a monstrous frown.
Nathan smirked. “I haven’t even begun asking questions yet, and I’ve already struck a chord.”
Frankie growled and turned, pushing Nathan back. “No, no… I’m just tired after a long day. Just leave me and my business alone.” He turned to leave, but Nathan leapt over his desk.
Nathan pressed himself against Frankie until he pushed Frankie against the wall. “Alright, Mr. Gilman, I’m not exactly too fond of your little game of dodging my urges and just expectin’ me to leave here empty-handed. Back in the ol’ high school, you and me were like best buds.”
Frankie quickly shook his head. “No. You were just an asshole who kept picking on me!”
Nathan pressed the old man back again, and Frankie yelped. “Alright, let’s get straight to the point, Mr. Gilman. Wyatt down at the police department says you got some juicy information down on the new Dewey’s Funland that just opened up in town. And since my career and even my damn life depend on this, you had better tell me, or I swear to God, I will do some nasty things to you.”
Frankie gulped. “Get off of me, and I will explain.”
Nathan stepped back, and Frankie took a deep breath.
“First of all, you are insane,” the middle-aged man growled. “Secondly, Dewey’s Funland is not something new.” He walked over to the motel desk and pulled open a drawer, showing Nathan various posters. “It dates back even sixty years, even to when my dear granddad was running the Gilman Motel. My father had been a kid at the time… and neither he nor my granddad knew what it was. Apparently, it only came to town once every couple o’ decades, at least from what a man at a drugstore told my granddad. At some point every couple o’ decades, the moon would start showing some eerie glow… like some big ol’ ornament in the sky, and then the Dewey crew would immediately set up shop early on in the day. For some reason, no one even knew what the Dewey crew was up to since they had been so secretive—not even constant calls to the police department on false charges could get them to budge. I’ll just say that… that night…” He bit his lip. “That night…”
“That night, what, Mr. Gilman?” Nathan pushed.
Frankie broke out in tears. “It was the last night my father ever saw my grandfather. And after that night, my father never could speak about the damn place no matter how many times I asked! Discussing it always made him so… so… furious! He couldn’t even hear the name Dewey without throwing a tantrum!”
Nathan’s eyes widened. “Interesting. Might that be the reason he was put in jail?”
Frankie roared a bestial roar. “Get out of my hotel right now, or I will call the goddamn police, you egomaniacal little bastard!”
Nathan tipped his hat. “Good day then… Mr. Gilman.” Nathan turned and departed from the Gilman Motel.
6:00 P.M. (Tuesday)
“Well, apparently, the ol’ Gilman Iron Will just wasn’t enough for poor Frankie. Since I had spent so long tryin’ to get leads, and since Mr. Gilman sang like a little bird, I decided that I had enough information. As for what I knew, one, this place gave people the creeps. Two, the moon coming out tonight happened to just be the same light up that Frankie had been talkin’ about. And three, the evening hours is when they open up their doors, and only the bravest o’ the brave in town end up goin’. Sometimes people got so tense they would lock up their doors and windows and turn off all the lights as if they were going to hit the hay super early… Mr. Gilman might be one of ‘em… Even Jerry back at the vanity press, even he the big bad war veteran, would probably be stayin’ indoors tonight.”
Nathan strolled down the empty streets with his hands in his pockets and a pick in his mouth as well as a smirk on his face. The streetlights were dimly lit, and the normally-active town was now dead silent, as if it were abandoned. Nathan could only hear the rustling of wind, something he hadn’t heard in the night his entire life. “Time to find out, I guess.”
A pair of black, dreary gates stood in front of Nathan, leading into the Dewey crew’s base of operations—the courtyard of an estate that belonged to a really rich family in the town. A stand was set up right next to the gate, and when Nathan approached it, he almost stepped back.
A lean, bird-like woman that looked like an ancient relic peered out of the stand, extending her neck like an ostrich and staring at Nathan with spectacled eyes that looked like empty husks. “Are you here for the Funland?”
“Geez, I thought I would get a young little belle to greet me here, not my great grandma.”
The bird-like woman scoffed. “I’ve been working here for over sixty years, young man; I’ve seen plenty of more handsome men than you.” She coughed. “Alright, since you’re here, does this mean that you are going to be attending the nightly festivities?”
Nathan nodded and withdrew his wallet. “Yup, and I got the bank I need to make sure I get what I want.”
The bird-like woman stared at the wallet and scoffed. “Oh, no, dear child, you won’t be needing that here.”
Nathan raised an eyebrow. “Then how in the hell am I supposed to pay to get in?”
The bird-like woman glowered at him, sending chills down the young man’s spine. “Well, it mostly depends on how much you…” She bared her teeth and spoke from the bottom of her throat, “How much do you want it?”
Nathan shrugged and chuckled. “A lot, I guess. I do have a career to look into, after all.”
The woman’s face did not change. “That is not an answer.” She again repeated it, more sharply, “How much do you want to get in?!”
Nathan’s entire spine felt as though it had fell cold. “I, uh… I…”
The old woman turned her head. “Maybe I should rephrase it. Would you be willing to give up something if I were to give you entrance?”
Nathan began to sweat and shudder. “Yes,” he blurted. He regained his ground. “I would give up anything to get in here.”
“Anything?” the woman darted.
Nathan nodded eagerly. “Yes, you stupid flamingo, anything! My job depends on this night, and I need to get in there! I will do anything!”
The bird-like woman paused and smiled. “And you are once more sure you would be willing to do anything?”
Nathan spat. “What in the hell did I just tell you?!”
The bird-like woman raised a hand. “Hold now, I was just making sure. Give me your hand.”
Nathan extended his hand to her, and the old woman pulled up Nathan’s sleeve. “You may want to look away,” she warned him. Nathan rolled his eyes and did as she asked. Suddenly Nathan felt a tremendous amount of pain and let out a scream. The pain drew so sharply that tears manifested in his eyes. He looked down to see a symbol etched into his palm—a black-lined, upside-down, five-sided star. The old woman wiped the blood off of his hand, and Nathan groaned, “What in the hell is this supposed to be?”
“You said you were willing to do anything to get in, and I just wanted to make sure you were a man of your word,” the bird-like woman chuckled. “This mark is your ticket, and when you wish to participate in any of the festivities, you will show it to any of the tent-holders, and they will allow you to go about your business. You are free to wander the courtyard as long as you wish at your own leisure, but when morning comes, Dewey’s Funland will close down, and your mark shall be completely worthless.” She turned and pulled a mechanism.
The two massive gates burst right open, and the old woman smiled at Nathan. “Please enjoy your stay at Dewey’s Funland… Mr. Lars.”
Nathan’s eyes widened at her, and he frowned, sweating nervously. He shook his head then and simply walked past the gates, gripping his pained hands. As he entered, the gates closed, and the night could finally begin…
6:10 P.M. (Tuesday…still)
“That woman felt like what happens when you get a visit from that aunt you know never gets out too much. She tries kissing you on the cheek and leaves some disgusting mess of make-up and spit on you once she’s down… like a damn leech. That woman, though… she was no aunt, I am sure. My aunt as least had a bunch of cats, but that woman… That woman looked as though she hadn’t left that single place in several decades. Maybe that sixty years thing wasn’t a… wasn’t a joke?”
Nathan walked down a dark trail for a long time until he finally came to a place that had been lit up. Before him stood a long, black pole that shot upward into the sky. The light at the top was round and orange like a sun, almost a contrast to the shiny moon that glowed behind Nathan. Beside the pole stood the first of what might be several tents, but this was more of a carriage, and it looked as though it had been covered in dark foliage. Nathan walked up a small wooden stair and opened the door to the carriage. As he did, his palm began to burn slightly, and he groaned from irritation. He switched to his other hand and opened the door, walking into the crimson-walled carriage with white floorboards that creaked under his weight.
“I ask, I ask, who is there? Who is there?”
Nathan walked into the main room of the carriage that was lit by a small candle. A round, wooden table was set up with a figure sitting at it, eating what Nathan saw as a dead rat. The figure wore a dark violet cloak and hid most of its features in the shadows, so hidden that Nathan could not even tell the gender of this figure.
“Ah…” the figure cooed, finally turning toward Nathan. “I’ve been expecting you…”
Nathan smirked. “I assume you are an employee of the Funland here?” He pulled up a chair and sat down.
The figure chuckled. “I guess you could say that.”
Nathan glowered at the figure. “The name is Nathan Lars; I work down at the local paper in a vanity column. And from what I have heard about this place, it sounds like a pretty interesting place to be.”
“Oh, you heard right, friend. It is definitely an interesting place.”
Nathan smirked. “I see you can see things the way I do. You mind answering a few questions for me, then?”
The figure waved its hands. “Ask away.”
“What is Dewey’s Funland, exactly?” Nathan asked immediately. “What makes this place tick?”
“Two questions at once, you are quite the eager little rabbit, aren’t you? I guess I will have to humor you…” The figure moved the candle away from its plate so that a picture of a circus tent could be shown on the wall. “Dewey’s Funland was founded more than many decades ago; our founder desired to make a place for the whole family—a place where fathers, mothers, and children could find entertainment without having to resort to… less-than-savory content. The good founder scoured the globe, looking for only the best entertainers that the world had to offer… and when he found them, they were the poorest little folk you could ever see; society had rejected them… spat on their faces just for being born.
“The founder extended a hand to them… He told them that if they came to work for him, then he would give them a chance to finally make the people who shunned them so harshly to finally see them as human beings just like everyone around them. I bet a fast-talking man like you would have made our follower so happy…”
After a momentary pause, Nathan continued, “So what do you mean then? Is this place supposed to be a… a… freak show?”
The figure nodded. “In simple terms, yes. But… in truth… Dewey’s Funland was founded upon the basis of being housing to those that even God himself had at one point forgotten… and he never picked them back up.” The figure muttered a curse.
Nathan coughed, his throat having become dry, and he pulled the collar of his shirt. “Alright then… Then just let me ask one more thing, and I will gladly be on my way. Tell me… Who are you, and why are you here?”
The figure stared up at Nathan with its shadowed expressions, showing a pair of light yellow eyes through the darkness. “I lost my name many years ago when I was denounced by my own father… I lost who I was when I gave everything to a man who offered me so much more than what the world could ever offer… I lost all purpose being here when I lost everything else that I ever had.” The figure sighed. “As you go about your way tonight… make sure that what choice you made at the gate was something that you were so truly sure about making. Make sure that no one on the outside will ever cry if something were to ever happen to you. Make sure… that you have no regrets.”
Nathan stood up and turned away to depart. “Alright, then… I, uh… Please have a pleasant evening then.”
When Nathan got to the door, the figure chuckled. “You too, Mr. Lars… You have an excellent night. After all… things may only get worse from here, I’m afraid.”
Nathan exited the carriage.
“I still don’t know whether that thing was a man or even a woman, but what I do know is, is at least I know that the rumors about this place being something to look into were definitely true. I could just write about a woman like an ostrich and an androgynous shadow-person, but ol’ Jerry won’t like that one bit… I’m deep into this now, and I need to find out… I need to find out exactly what happened to Frankie’s granddad… What happened to make Mr. Gilman so angry? What was so secret about this place?”
Nathan walked by many tents, and when he looked into them, they were bare and empty. Nathan spat as he walked by the third empty tent and moved on again. As he did, his palm began to burn once again… this time with a little bit more oomph. Nathan shook the pain away and looked up to see another pole with an orange orb at the top of it. Before him stood a yellow-and-green-lined tent that seemed normal enough. Nathan took a deep breath, sighed, and entered in.
Nathan looked to see that many signs in front of him were in the form of arrows painted white. He shrugged and decided to follow them through the tent’s maze. Eventually, they led to a small opening, and Nathan entered through, pulling the drape behind him. When he entered, he chuckled.
Before him was a large, round amphitheater with stands all circled around a small dirt floor. Lights lit up all over the top of the tent, and a spotlight blasted Nathan, causing the man’s palm to burn with even more pain than ever before. The man screamed and fell to his knees, groaning in agony.
“Welcome, everyone, to your main event of the entire evening!” someone shouted.
Nathan struggled to stand as he tried to look up.
“Please enjoy the singing stylings of our fair and beautiful maiden… all the way from an island near Samoa…!”
Nathan looked up to see a woman in a white dress appear in the dirt pit at the base of the tent, and he vomited right then and there. His stomach burned like fire, and he coughed.
The woman stood still, staring with large, blue-filled eyes of sympathy, like a young rabbit staring up into the sky. She had long, ragged, blond hair covered in many stains and ruffles. Her long dress had been torn and ripped, and various colored stains painted it as well, with two blackened feet protruding out of the dress’ bottom. The woman’s face was the defining feature that made Nathan so disgusted and sickened—
Her cheeks were like two abnormal growths protruding out of her face. They were dry and withered like raisins, but their size rivaled that of a pair of potatoes. Her lips protruded forward, big and puffy, and her mouth moved as if she were chomping on something. As she sang, she sounded as though her mouth was full, and occasionally, food dripped out of her mouth like a sloppy beast violently chewing its grub. Her cheeks were full of food that had been stuffed in her mouth, and for some reason, it wouldn’t just come out. Her voice rang through Nathan’s ears like an eerie church bell, and Nathan shook his head, being able to take no more.
Nathan stood up and ran out of the amphitheater as quickly as he could. He rushed past the drape and back to the tent entrance, wiping some of the vomit off of his shirt and jacket. He took several deep breaths, fanning himself with his cap. “Goddammit, goddammit,” he groaned.
Not even being able to take any more of the thought about what he had just witnessed, the man marched on further, muttering curses to himself and trying to think of other things.
“I don’t know how much more of this garbage I can’t freaking take… That woman, that thing, I… Pardon me, I had to wretch again just from the thought of that… that… I don’t even know what is going on any more. That alone should be enough to be the content of my article, but this place has been only pissing me off more and more ever since the moment I walked in… All this pain, all this anonymity—I swear that I am gonna write this damn scoop and then give up on journalism entirely! I guess I know what kinda crap put Mr. Gilman’s dad in jail to begin with, having to see crap like what I just saw!”
Nathan continued down another empty path, down a small wood that had been in the courtyard for quite some time. Insects stared at him and chirped their songs of the night, marking the early onset of the evening. Eventually, Nathan stopped and pulled out a cigarette, smoking his troubles away. The man sighed and stood up against a tree.
Nathan jumped back, flinching and yelping. He dropped his cigarette into a bush. “What?!” He looked down.
A little girl with long, red curls smiled at him. She wore a red cape and a blue dress, and she swayed back and forth like she was full of energy. “Hello, Mister!”
Nathan groaned. “Look, kid, I’m here on business; I ain’t got time to be wasting my time.”
The little girl giggled.
“I don’t have time for you, kid! Do me a favor, and take a hike!”
“Ooh, you’re so grumpy! The grumpy man with nice pants!” The little girl cackled and sang, “Mr. Grumpy Pants! Mr. Grumpy Pants! Mr. Grumpy Pants!”
Nathan got so angry he bonked the child on the head. “Look, kid, I am tired of everything that has been going on tonight! I have seen too much weird crap, and all I wanna do now is just go home, dammit!”
“Oh, gee, Mister, I’m so sorry,” the little girl moaned. “I didn’t know you were that grumpy. I just wanted to show you somethin’ interestin’ is all!”
Nathan sighed. “Fine. You can show me, but if I go, you’ll leave me alone afterward… Do we have a deal?”
The little girl smiled widely. “We sure do, Mister! Also…” She pointed to Nathan’s hand. “You might wanna be careful about that.” She grabbed Nathan’s other hand and pulled him along, running quickly down a side trail. They ran around many curves, twists, and paths until finally they came to an orange ball atop a post. “Here’s the last stop, Mister!” She whistled loudly, and many birds began soaring out of the bushes.
When Nathan saw what peeked out of the bushes, his palm burned with the most pain it had ever burned. He screamed as his hand began to twist and turn like the trail he had walked, and his stomach had once again began to feel as though it were crushing in on itself.
A creature stepped out before Nathan. It had a stitched-together face of a man and a woman with a bald head on one side and long, brown fuzz on the other. The creature had animal heads protruding out of either shoulder, and it had the hooves of a horse. Protruding out of its chest was the head of a smiling bald man that laughed as the creature withdrew a butcher knife more than half the size of Nathan’s own body. Worst of all, protruding out of the creature’s back were several decrepit heads that drooped off of the creature like abnormal growths. Nathan was mostly surprised to see one of them… looked like Frankie Gilman.
“We hope you enjoyed your time at the Dewey Funland, Mr. Lars,” the creature’s chest-head spoke. “My name is Alfonso Dewey, and I am the proprietor of this wonderful place. And because you have said you are willing to give anything to find out what happens behind the gates of my wonderful home, I am afraid it is now time for you to repay your half of the debt. That little mark on your palm…”
Nathan stared at the mark that glowed like the burn of a cattle prod.
“That mark means you belong to me now,” Alfonso chuckled. “You had plenty of chances to leave… But I’m afraid you didn’t take a single one.”
The little girl giggled as Alfonso transformed into a monster much larger and grosser, and all that could be heard of Nathan then were his final screams that ended his reporting career.
Frankie Gilman looked over at the estate’s closed gates and sighed. The moon was still there, yet morning had come, and his motel was just opening now for business. Even in disappearance, Nathan Lars would be a thorn in the poor innkeeper’s side… as now the booking for his motel was now completely full, after Jerry of the local paper had spread Nathan’s story throughout the entire nation. The moon felt to Frankie like a living insult and his grandfather frowning in sadness right at him. The innkeeper simply closed the shades to his window, no longer able to look at the disgusting thing.