This is part 8 of Todd’s story.
I will devour you
Take all the pain away
I cannot stay my hand
From reaching out so that I can
For all eternity
It seems to ease my mind
To know that you’ve brought
Meaning to my life
– Disturbed, “Devour”
Todd stands in the orange grove once more. The trees and fruit nearly glow with the sunlight that hits them, but the rest of the world is gray and drab. He wheels around, and all of the trees pulse with the light of life, the light of the sun. He tilts his head back, and the clouds of the hurricane swirl madly above him.
Florida. Florida is where oranges come from. Florida is being rocked by hurricane after hurricane. Todd knows that the hurricane seeks to devour him and forever close out the light of the sun.
Ahead of him, the beautiful rows of orange trees begin to sink into the mud. Rain begins to fall in earnest, and many of the trees tip over, sinking even faster. The mud reaches up, seeking to dull and drown the heartbeat of sunlight that makes the trees what they are. Lightning crashes somewhere. The wind whistles around him, and he can hear screams, laughing, and shouting. It feels as if the earth is trying to pull itself apart. Lightning crashes again, and the lake of mud begins to bubble. Things begin to rise from the mud, covered in it. But the rain is cleansing. The rain washes the mud free of its spawn. In the pool of mud sit tents, wagons, and shambling people. An arch, wooden and old, rises directly in front of him. Once more, the mud is washed free, and the sign becomes legible. Last, but certainly not least, ferris wheels and roller coasters pull themselves free of the mud. Finally, Todd allows his eyes to drift back to the text of the sign, and the carved face.
“Dr. Celestine’s Carnival of Souls.”
A voice, rich with command, authority, and a bit of madness, assaults Todd from behind him. “And who else? We’ve been looking for you for some time, Ralph.” Todd slowly turns around, and recognizes one of the freaks from the Oldsmobile. His top hat seems impossibly tall and intimidating. He has a walking stick that is topped by a writhing, hissing, metal dragon. The fires of hell shine in his eyes.
Which, for a moment, flutter wide in shock. Lightning crashes, and Dr. Celestine’s expression becomes enraged. “You have stepped into a pile of shit that is deeper than your beleaguered imaginings, son. You have no right and no place to assume Ralph’s role in this. Your trickery will soon come to an end. This, I assure you.”
Todd pats Uncle Ralph’s hat, making sure that it is still on his head. He says words in Ralph’s old voice, words that he doesn’t understand. “I am your undoing. I am your antithesis. You provided me a way to come into being, and your carnival causes me to continue. I will end you, or I won’t. Do not mistake me for one who wants to take your place.” Todd plucks an orange from a nearby tree. He tears a piece of peel away, and bites into sunlight made whole.
Dr. Celestine scowls. “This will not do.” He holds his walking stick high into the air. Swooping down low and fast, a dragon made of night grasps the stick and pulls Dr. Celestine up and back into the storm.
Todd turns slowly back to the Carnival’s entrance. Drifting faintly through the rain is the haunting melody of the calliope. He takes his time finishing the orange. It tastes very good.
When the orange was done, Todd could only feel the rain on his face. He blinked his eyes a few times, slowly realizing that he was in bed. A few more drops of water hit his face as thunder crashed outside. Fall thunderstorm. He’d left the basement window open. Cursing, he shut it, and went upstairs to find a towel.