This is the final entry of Todd’s story.
I drink from your tit
I sing your blues every day
Now give me the strength
To split the world in two yeah
I ate all the rest and now I’ve gotta eat you
Well I sing
Built in my nightmares and using my name
You’re stroking my cortex and you know I’m insane
I’m squeezed out in hump drive and drownin’ in love
Encompass them all to a position above
– Monster Magnet, “Space Lord”
No change registered in Dr. Celestine’s expression; his face was still stone. He lifted the snifter to his mouth, and drank the liquor in one go. He sat the glass down next to the bottle, and visibly relaxed back into the chair. “Continue, Todd. You’ve got my full attention, dangerous as such a thing is.”
“There is a jar that has been missing from your Carnival for a long time. It probably disappeared in the middle of the mess with your artist and when your Freak Show master left. Lots of hubub, lots of ups and downs during that whole thing.” Todd’s voice, as well as his vocabulary, kept cycling between teenager and old man. It didn’t seem to bug Celestine, but Thunk winced every time that it happened. “At least, that would be my guess after reading all of the stories that Ralph found on the internet. I have to admit that whatever you did to stop them from writing was very effective. A font of information, whether any of those things actually happened or not, about you.
“Anyway, that missing jar was pretty important. I mean, you took it out of the trailer, here, and gave it to Mary for a reason. You could have simply entrusted it to her care, but instead you literally gave it to her. She was even able to keep the fact that it was missing concealed from you for, well, a long time. Once you found out, though, it couldn’t have taken you very long to figure out that it had gone missing the very weekend that Old Ralph had visited your Carnival. The same exact time that it unlocked something in him that could undo you. Once you figured that out, it was even easier to figure out that he’d only visited one attraction.”
Dr. Celestine nodded, a slow smile creeping over his face. “Bloody Mary Black’s Freak Show.” He poured himself another glass of brandy, setting the bottle carefully back on his end table.
“Damn skippy. So, the next idea that makes sense is that Ralph lifted the jar from Mary, and used it to track you through space and time. But that’s the bitch of it, Doc. Old Ralph never stole the jar. Whatever was opened up in Ralph, and now me, was done by the cage in the Feak Show. Mary was waiting for him, with the jar, when he got out of that fuckin’ crazy cage. She gave it to him, told him something that scared the bejeezus out of him, and told him to run for his life. And he did. Only, he couldn’t get this place out of his head because as much as he was its un-maker or whatever, he was still a part of it. And now I am.”
Dr. Celestine stopped swirling his glass, and set it down. His smile was full-blown, now, and he didn’t bother to hide it. “You mean to tell me that you’ve come back here entirely for the selfless return of property stolen by one of my employees?”
Todd coughed and looked at the floor. “Yeah. I mean, well…”
Dr. Celestine laughed, just as he’d done in Ralph’s library, from the gut. It filled the trailer and bounced off of the jars. “It was certainly one of your reasons, young Todd. Of that I have no doubt. However.” He slowly and dramatically pulled an ID card from his vest pocket. It had a spot where you could attach a clip or a lanyard. It had Sheila’s picture on it, next to the words “Hot Topic Employee.” He placed the card next to the bottle, his smile never even flickering.
It was Todd’s turn to wear the stony expression.
“It seems that it was not your only reason. Sheila now holds the golden ticket. She’s wandering through the Hall of Mirrors at this very moment. It’s a very noble thing that you’ve done for her, Todd. As any others that walk under my sign, she’s got a chance at survival, a chance at madness, and a chance at death. Luckily, I’m not as blinded as Mary is. You know that I won’t offer her a home, or a job. What do you expect to get out of squeezing a life’s worth of risk into a day or two?”
Todd stood up, and Thunk followed suit. “If she hadn’t been pushed, she would have lived her entire life with her eyes closed, and would have thanked god for it. Now, she doesn’t have that option, and her pride won’t let her fail. Now, if she survives, she’ll at least be something more than that.” Todd scowled after spitting out the last word.
Dr. Celestine laughed again, and the world seemed to reel for a moment. “Playing at deity, even with the best intentions, is the surest way to disaster.” He raised his glass to Todd, and then to Thunk. He drank it all at once, as if it was a shot. “Except, of course, at Dr. Celestine’s Carnival of Souls.”
Todd reached into his jacket and slowly pulled out a mason jar. It gave off the murky light of storm clouds. The miniature palm trees inside were whipped by wind and lashed by rain. The hurricane inside was strong and angry, as it had always been. “What is this, Dr. Celestine?” He handed the jar over.
“This, my new adversary, is a jar full of destruction.”
End of Todd