The carnival. A place of happiness and carefree laughter. The place where children and parents laugh and ride the carnival rides while getting a thrill of a lifetime. It is also a place where the degenerate and creepy hide so that others may not find them.
We all know the stories about clowns and carnies. Well, we think we know the stories of clowns and carnies. Most of the tales are made up of lies. MOST of them. Some of the clowns and carnies are different. Usually derelicts in their time. Anyone will hire a carnie because they can travel and move on with the fair. Most of them have a past and cannot find a normal job or career.
I know a lot about carnivals because I grew up with one. I moved from city to city with my father–watching the other kids play with their friends and parents while I sat alone without friends. There weren’t many kids who traveled with us so I was all alone. My dad taught me reading, writing, and math. He was really good with history. When high school rolled around I was able to stay and attend so I could go off to college. Dad said that the carnie lifestyle was no place for a woman–and he was right.
He didn’t smoke and drink a lot like the other carnies and clowns as he said he had to keep his head clear for his projects and jobs. His projects. THOSE projects he was so proud of and bragged about. I thought they were normal at the time. I had no idea what was going on until much later in life. It’s almost like a dream and it never happened except the screaming never stops in my head.
He always parked our trailer away from the camp or the fair. Normally we are supposed to stay with the group, but he loved to fish so we would find a lake to camp out at nearby if possible. If there were no lakes he would find a campground or other completely legal area. It had to be legal because God forbid someone searches his truck or trailer for any pot or other paraphernalia. God forbid if his projects were found.
He was always a good dad to me. He never raised a hand to me–well, he never had to either. He never swore in front of me. I wasn’t allowed to smoke or drink. He homeschooled me and he must have done a pretty damn good job because I aced all of the exams to get into an excellent college. So he was a carnie, and I soon found out why.
It wasn’t because he was a known derelict or criminal. He didn’t have a criminal background. He didn’t rob people. He had never been to jail. I don’t even think he has ever had a speeding ticket. So why did he stay out of a normal lifestyle for the both of us?
Oh right. His projects.
The very first project I ever walked in on terrified me. It was the same week mom had disappeared. She traveled with us until I was about 4 years old. I can talk about it because I remember all of it now. years of therapy did that for me. For so long I wanted to pretend it was all a nightmare that I forgot what he did to her. He was hovering over a lifeless body when I walked in on the part of the trailer he called “the shop.” Our trailer was pretty big. He had the whole back area which had a small office I was never allowed in that he called “the shop.” Of course, there was a little kitchenette in the middle with the dining room and living room in one. Then the hall area. My “room” was a little area with the bed above the truck cab, a closet, and a small table. I also had a drape for privacy–which he never invaded. Privacy was very important to him.
That one night I was scared. I had heard something outside–someone screaming. Mom was gone for about a week by then and couldn’t comfort me. It was late, about 3 in the morning. I crawled down my ladder as I was too small to jump down still and walked through the dark trailer to the back. The door to his office was open a crack and the light was on so I peeked in. There, lying on a table was a woman. I could only see her naked body and the back of her head, but I swear it was her hair. I watched, knowing the person had to be sleeping or something. I didn’t understand death yet, I didn’t know what it was.
I watched as he cut her skin down the middle of her arm and through her sides, down her hip and to her ankles. She had no feet. He continued up her inner thigh and to the other side then back up to her other armpit. I couldn’t see how he cut around her shoulders and head, but after he was done, he used some tools to loosen the skin from the woman’s body. He took the skin out his back door. Eyes wide and in a state of shock and confusion, I watched him hang the bloody mess outside the window on our laundry line that was hidden within a small group of trees.
Tears welled in my eyes as I stared at the horrifying mess of clotting blood, muscle, and fat–still in human form but for me not recognizably human at all. Blood dripped down from the fingertip slowly to the floor. I didn’t want the mess on the floor. I hated it. The skinned head fell to the side and stared at me with the dead, drying eyes almost falling out of its eye sockets. I cried hard as I grabbed a wet cloth from the bathroom and began cleaning the blood off of the floor.
The tears flowed harder as daddy picked me up in his arms and held me. “Drop the cloth,” he demanded.
I did, fearful that he might do the same to me if I disobeyed. He wiped my tears as he brought me into my room and calmed me with my bedtime song. “It’s all a bad dream,” he said. Go back to sleep, you were dreaming.
I awoke the next morning–fearful of what I might find. It must have been a really bad dream–a nightmare. There was nothing. His office was all clean and there was nothing hanging out back on the laundry line. I called out for mom, but of course, she didn’t answer. She was still gone. Dad and I went to the police station that day to report her missing. The cops still came over and checked out the place. They were pretty thorough. I so wanted to believe it was a dream, but I didn’t dare say anything or daddy might get mad.
We spent the remaining days at the fair as happy as ever. I missed mom, but kids kind of adapt quickly I suppose. He made sure I was having a lot of fun then we moved on to the next town. I know he did spend a lot of time in his office, but he never invited me in and he never had any women over that I knew of. Something always held me back from opening the door to see if he was there.
When we arrived at the next town, he brought out a little present for me. “Look darling, a new pair of gloves for you!” he sounded so happy. He caressed them while holding them up to his cheek. A glint of sadness hit his face for a brief moment then he smiled real big and pressed them up to my face.
“Look baby, almost as smooth as your mom’s touch.”
They were beautiful, etched with a special silky thread that reminded me of the color of mom’s hair. They were smooth and comfortable. I wore them every day until I grew out of them. Then, one day when dad and I were playing softball out back, the cops came. They grabbed me and took me away. I was about 9 years old. I screamed out his name and cried while still trying to jump out of their arms. I watched as they knocked him to his knees and handcuffed him.
Years later, when I was old enough to see him again, I went to visit him in prison. He just smiled and asked if I still had them and wondered if I thought a lot about Mom. That is when I knew for sure what he had done. Tears filled my eyes as I walked out of the jail without a word. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t dare speak to him ever again. I don’t know how many women he had killed…murdered and given me their leather. Every week it was always something new and beautiful. I suddenly hated myself for enjoying the clothes and purses he gave to me. All of the pieces I handed over to the police. Pants, shirts, skirts, necklaces, it was endless. I didn’t know how many women these came from, and neither did they. Most could not be identified, but they were human skin. The only pieces I didn’t give were the gloves that I cradle next to me before I fall asleep every night.
Video music performed and copyright of Myuu. Used with permission.
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