For the A to Z Challenge, I’ll be writing flash fiction pieces based in the world featured in my upcoming novel, Where the Carnies Are. You’ll meet some of the characters and learn their back stories. These stories are completely original and are not part of the book.
An Advancer’s Wish
Bull stumbled into his tent. Traveling back and forth between the outside world and this one had drained him. Home, sweet home, was exactly where he wanted to be, but the job of an advancer was never done. The wrinkles that had begun to show on his face taunted him.
A thought popped into his mind. Alex. The newest member of the carnival that Bull worked for had found an age and weight man that stopped his aging. Why couldn’t Bull do the same?
The next morning, Bull barely waited for the sun to come up before he hopped out of bed and went in search of Alex.
As Bull walked towards Alex’s tent, he found the young-looking man doing some routine maintenance on his tent.
“Alex! Can I talk to you for a second?”
“Hey, Bull. What can I do for you?”
“I was wondering if we could talk in private.”
“Uh, sure. Step right in,” Alex replied as he opened the flap on his tent.
Tables of knives lined one side of the area and target boards lined the other. Bull looked around nervously as Alex pulled out two chairs and two water bottles. The two men sat down in a cloud of awkward silence.
“You’re up early,” Bull said.
“I’m always up early. Part of the forever young thing, I guess.”
“That’s what I came here to talk to you about.”
“Yeah. See, I feel myself getting older. The life of an advancer is always fast-paced and it takes its toll on an old guy like me. I was wondering if you could help me find an age and weight man who could help me with this problem. I’m not ready to slow down. I feel like I’ve barely lived.”
Alex tilted his head downwards. “I see,” he said.
Then he stood up and paced around for a moment before stopping and staring right into Bull’s eyes.
“You’re sure this is what you want?” Alex asked.
“Yes. I’ve thought about it all night.”
“Well, your head isn’t the one you have to worry about. It’s your heart.”
“Yep. If your heart isn’t in it, there is nothing the age and weight man can do. Usually they ask for favors, so if you do them a favor and it turns out your heart doesn’t want it, you’ll have done it for nothing.”
“I can live with that. A chance is all I need.”
“His name is Sam and he lives in the textile district. He helps them make costumes for people over there. Find him and tell him I sent you.”
Bull thanked Alex and headed to the train station that would take him to the textile district. After an hour of asking around, he finally found Sam the Age and Weight Man.
“Hello, I’m Bull and Alex Preston told me I could find you here.”
“Alex, eh? I haven’t seen that man in ages,” he said before letting out a hearty laugh.
“I want to be young again,” Bull said.
“I see that,” Sam said. “I can do that for you. Unfortunately, I don’t have the need for a favor right now.”
“Isn’t there some sort of arrangement we can make?”
“Here is the deal I offer. If it doesn’t work and your heart doesn’t want it, you’ll owe me a favor. If it does work, you owe me two.”
Bull thought it over. He was desperate, and without much thought, he stuck his hand out for a shake. Sam grinned and took hold of Bull’s hand, but he didn’t shake it and he didn’t let go. Instead, a red smoke came out from under his sleeve and crept up Bull’s arm and then went under his shirt and seemed to bore into his chest. It didn’t hurt him, but it felt like a rush of adrenaline.
After a moment, the smoke receded and went back into Sam’s sleeve. Bull caught his reflection in the mirror outside Sam’s tent. His wrinkles had disappeared.
“Thank you, Sam. Thank you very much.”
“You’re welcome. Just don’t forget about our deal. I’ll let you know when I need you. To have an advancer owe you is something one doesn’t forget.”
Where the Carnies Are blurb:
Olive is having a very bad day. She caught her boyfriend cheating on her, she lost her job, and she stumbled into a portal leading to a secret carnival kingdom which she can’t escape. The good news is she meets an eccentric, but stunningly handsome knife thrower. The bad news is she can’t go home for another two months.
The world she lands in is full of sideshow characters, terrifying amusement rides and her biological parents’ past. She was born a carny, but raised as a normal human. Magic lives in her blood, but it hasn’t reached her heart. To find out who she really is, and why carnies are disappearing, Olive must deceive the king with the help of Alex the knife thrower.
Olive and Alex play a dangerous game with their emotions when they decide to have a fling during Olive’s stay. They both lead very different lives and decide that being together for the rest of their lives is not possible, but a short affair is certainly on the menu. Will they make it through the annual festival with both their hearts and lives intact or will the king take matters into his own hands?