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The Greatest Show on Earth – Horror Short Fiction

February 22, 2016


Picture Prompt from FB group Elements of Genre Writing

Deadly Playground

The Greatest Show on Earth

The tickets had been mailed. The Big Top rose above the park in all of its splendor. The circus performers had their tasks perfected. This would be their best performance yet. A private showing for a special crowd. Nothing would go wrong this night.

The three ticket holders arrived, each excited, but curious as to why they received the tickets in the first place. They hadn’t entered any contests or given their names to anyone. Still, the curiosity drove them and so they came.

They lined up at the entrance to the Big Top as instructed. In the distance, they saw the large Ferris Wheel, majestic in the fading light of dusk. Each wondered if they would have time for a ride before the evening was over.

They piled into the Big Top. Each waiting to be seated. They didn’t notice that the entrance sealed up after they were all inside. They were too excited. A clown appeared dressed in bright colors, his face painted with a large smile and a rosy nose. He honked a horn at them, then led them down the aisle to the center stage. They laughed, but each began to feel apprehension. Why the center stage? Why not the seating? But it was dark and so they followed the clown with his flashlight. The clown directed them to x-marked spots on the stage. Each took their place and waited.

Suddenly bright lights blared upon the stage. In the center stood the Ring Master in all of his glory – a brightly tailored suit, top hat and walking stick.

“Ladies and Gentlemen!” he roared.”Welcome to tonight’s show!”

Red and yellow lights swirled around the stage, then zoomed outward to the crowd. The ticket holders shivered as they looked out at the audience. Demons of all types and sizes sat in the seats. In the center aisle, upfront and prominent sat a cloaked figure. His face void, his hands mere bones.

The ticket holders tried to run, but they were frozen in their spots. They looked one to the other, frightened.

In an instance, a large wheel appeared. Leather straps flapped as it turned. Two at the top and two at the bottom. One of the three ticket holders suddenly found himself strapped to the wheel. As it spun round and round, he became dizzy, disoriented. The spot light shifted from him to a large man a few feet away from the wheel. His chest naked, his lower torso covered in black leather pants. His face brightly painted. His black hair slicked back. His handle-bar mustache twisted at the ends. He bowed to the audience. They cheered in ghastly voices. The cloaked figure gave a nod of approval. Glistening steel knives appeared in the man’s hands.

“Arnold Delaney, you have been found guilty of murder. You stabbed a man for his pocket change. Your sentence has been declared!” the Ring Master bellowed.

The wheel began to spin wildly. The knife thrower took aim. Forcefully tossed a knife. Arnold screamed, begged, pleaded. The knife struck his left thigh. The crowed cheered. Another knife was thrown, striking his right arm. Over and over again the knives whizzed toward Arnold and each time found a target – an arm, leg, ear.

“Finish him!” screamed the crowd of demonic minions.

With one final fling, the knife soared through the air and landed in Arnold’s chest, right into his heart. He moaned and his head slumped over. The crowd yelled in delight.

The remaining two ticket holders trembled. Tried again to move, but they could not. They wept, begged and pleaded. Their cries fell upon deaf ears.

Suddenly the lights shifted to the top of the Big Top. A wire-walker bowed and balanced successfully across the stretched wire. A female ticket holder found herself on the platform of the tight rope act. She shook with fear. She was terrified of heights.

“Margret Gibbons, you have walked a thin line between goodness and evil your entire life,” reported the Ring Master. “You finally crossed that line when you murdered your husband with cyanide. Your punishment has been declared!”

The lights swirled around the wire and the woman was forced out onto it. She tried to balance herself but kept tripping and nearly fell. She walked, one foot in front of the other, pushed along by some unnatural force. At the center of the wire, she cried and begged for mercy. Her body trembled.

“Walk! Walk!” the crowd yelled.

She moved forward, swaying. Then a whoosh of air hit her. She tried desperately to maintain her balance. Her arms flayed back and forth. In one moment, her body tumbled to the ground below. A loud thump resounded through the Big Top. Her body lay on the ground, twisted, broken. Blood oozed from a wound in her head and from her mouth.

The demons cheered and screamed. The remaining ticket holder quivered and begged.

“Fire eater. Fire eater!” the minions demanded over and over again.

The lights switched to center stage. A man appeared holding a flaming torch. He bent his head back, opened his mouth widely and swallowed the flaming torch. He lifted his head and bowed. The crowd roared.

“Now you!” one of them screamed as he pointed to the last remaining ticket holder.

“Darrel Johnson, you have been found guilty of arson and the murder of two young children. Your sentence has been declared!” the Ring Master shouted.

In an instance, Darrel found himself in the center of the stage. His body bound to a pole. His head tightly strapped against the pole. His mouth forced open. The fire eater walked in circles around Darrel, his flaming torch whipping fire and smoke. He stopped in front of Darrel, facing the crowd. He bowed to the cloaked figure who nodded his approval. The fire eater turned to Darrel and in one swift moment, he forced the flaming torch down Darrel’s mouth. Darrel tried to scream, but his sounds were muffled. His mouth burned, his throat burned and within seconds, his entire body burst into flames.

The minions jumped to their feet, clapping and hooting. This was the best show ever!

©2016 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.

(1030 words)

  1. madilynquinn01 permalink

    This is great! I think if people knew there were some justice enacting circus rolling around, they’d be less inclined to do dumb stuff. Really dug this!

  2. I’m sure this is a great story but I just couldn’t bring myself to read it 🙂

    • No worries, Raili… I think you’ve read more than your share of my horror stories… I’ve tortured you long enough 🙂 Thank you though for reading the ones you have ((hugs))

      • I’m sure I will be dipping my toe in again – i blame the picture! It stopped me 🙂

      • Ah… well if it stopped you, then you won’t be reading a few of my other upcoming stories because of the pictures …bloody they are. I understand hun.. this kind of stuff isn’t for everyone ((hugs))

      • I do like your story writing – just not some of the content 😦

      • I understand… next month may be a bit better.. will be doing a WhoDunIt in a Film Noir style… though, that may be disturbing too since it will be dark with sinister undertones.. but it will have a PI and a Femme Fatale in it.. this will be on my A Whispered Wind blog.. not sure if you follow that blog, but here is the URL: I post small stones there too which are generally more uplifting 🙂

      • My goodness,how many blogs do you have? And how do you find the time to do it all?! I’ll go and check it out 🙂

      • Well… I have Promptly Written, A Whispered Wind, As the Fates Would Have It, My Fat Loss Journey on LCHF, Mindful Living for a Healthy Mind, and an obscure blog called Ravyne’s Reviews which I have used for ages *laughs*

  3. juliathorley permalink


  4. When human justice fails, bring on the demon lawgivers!

  5. Justice, at last, but wow! such a jury, such punishments.
    Great concept.

    • Thank you, Patrick.. it was the most fun of all the horror stories I’ve written so far this month 🙂

  6. Wow! Very powerfully told – almost felt as if I was there!

    • Thank you, Dahlia… I am glad it was told so that you felt you were there.. it was a fun story to write 🙂

  7. Good tale! I loved the idea of them showing up, and then justice being served by a crazed mob in a fairground. Evoked memories of Something Wicked This Way Comes.

    • Thank you! Oh yes, now that you mention it, it does remind me of Something Wicked This Way Comes.. I hadn’t thought of that!

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