Ladies and gentlemen, this is not your ordinary sideshow. No! This is a most unique display of the unusual acquired for your enjoyment.
ALL PECULIAR TASTES CATERED FOR!
"… found on the boardwalk, set up on a grassy field, a Detroit rave, a darkened alley, or on the plains of a blasted future America, tantalizing, forbidden, electrifying beyond imagination. It is everywhere and every-when. And at some point, everyone gets a ticket.
The Sideshow …a mirror to the blackness inside the human soul."
THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE!
THE LAST SHOW OF THE DAY
The lady with the white frilly cap
The lady with the white frilly cap
crumples as the cudgel is smashed down on top of her head.
Her attacker pauses, black eyes glinting with malicious
glee. She cowers in a corner, shielding her face with her
tiny hands. He emerges from the shadows, a huge scarlet
grin spread across his face. Relishing her terror, he slowly
advances. Then, a second later, he hits again. Harder this
time, across her lower jaw. He raises the stick one more
Then he strikes again, into the ribs, then another across
the ear. Faster the blows come, accelerating like a piston,
until the cudgel becomes a vicious blur.
Strike. Strike, strike.
DEATH IS MUTE.
Time and memory rise, shift, fall over each other like
ocean waves. Even tranquil death brings no release from desire.
Longing to touch skin not covered in grotesque hair, longing to
be touched, to be loved and warm.
My motionless hands cradle my child, the way I never
could when he was alive. He died too soon. He’s not here, just
the dried husk, and I miss him so, the way he felt when he lived
inside of me.
Lewis held back the curtain and looked out over the
midway. Though it was still early, a crowd had gathered
before the row of freakish attractions, their faces turned
up, eager. Lewis and his traveling exhibit, the Ape Woman
or Missing Link and Child (depending on the day), had
just joined the show after two years with traveling fairs in
Europe and America.
IT'S ALL IN THE CARDS
Leigh M. Lane
Sandra watched as the smelly, middle-aged man reached
into his jacket pocket and produced his own deck of Tarot
cards. She opened her mouth to tell him she was done, but the
words wouldn’t come.
He began to shuffle the cards. “When was the last time
someone gave you a reading?”
She shrugged, the sense of intimidation she felt over the
idea nearly stealing her air.
He set the cards down on the counter between them. “I’d
like to give you a reading.”
She stared at the deck for a moment. She knew she couldn’t
refuse him, but she feared what he might tell her. Taking the
cards into her shaking hands, she decided she would focus on
a benign question. She shuffled the cards, mentally choosing
the old standby, Tell me about the men in my future, and handed
The man breathed on the cards as he placed the top eleven
into a spread Sandra had never seen. He pointed to the first
card, the Tower, and then glanced at her with a dire face. “Your
world is getting ready to crumble.”
Sandra nodded, knowing that the Tower often did forecast
great loss or hardship. The idea that her world might soon
“crumble” might have been an exaggeration, but not knowing
the layout, she could only guess at the card’s full meaning. The
Devil, the Eight of Wands, the Two of Cups, and the King
of Swords surrounded the Tower card. She knew that, if the
configuration had been in a Celtic cross, with the Tower in the
centre, she would interpret it as a signal to avoid the scenario.
She watched Ed as he assessed the cards and carefully chose
“A man, an air sign, is going to destroy you.” The words
were as sour as the stench that rolled into her with them.
DAUGHTERS OF BIMINI
It was her stare. All engrossing. And next he knew, there
was this sudden urge to untangle her bodice, his desire to
bring her on board outweighing any logic. Making sure the
gag was yanked secure, he brought her out of the water. As the
wind blew and her scales dried, her transformation began. In
a matter of moments, the sea hag became heavenly: luscious
long locks replaced the baldness, supple flesh supplanted the
leathery skin, and her tail had morphed into two stunningly
smooth legs. Malone couldn’t take his eyes off her—even as
her rusty, nail-like teeth sliced through the gag as if it were
“What are your intentions?”
Stunned, Malone backed towards the captain’s chair. “You
“I do a lot of things.”
“I’m going to stand on my legs; I am going to walk towards
you; I’m going to caress your neck and lean in for a kiss. And
when I do, I’m going to eat the face off your body. Then I’m
going to feed bits of you to my sisters. I haven’t had human in
eons, and my sisters are only now learning to hunt.” Her hiss
sent his hair to stand on end.
She stood unaware of the crew of two closing in from
Malone came out of the trance as quick as he’d fallen in.
“You stupid barracuda. You should have kept that to yourself.”
The machete was swift. Her torn torso began to gush.
Malone reached out for the death blade as he stood over the
woman’s nude body. No words were spoken. With a single
slash, her head was severed and rolling towards the side of
Lydia pushed her hair behind her left ear and winked. Her
long, sinuous tattoo shifted and rearranged itself slowly on her
The boy stepped back in fear, but then bravely moved
forward to touch the new shape.
Noticing he’d lingered, his mother grabbed his hand.
“Don’t touch her, Mark. You don’t know where she’s been.”
Turning on her heels, she quickly pulled him along, the boy
stumbling to keep up.
Lydia smiled and waved goodbye to Mark, who was
happily waving back.
Then her tattoo shifted again, waving its own farewell.
Mark’s eyes grew at the sight of the excited tattoo.
Glancing away, Lydia muttered, “He’s just a child, leave
him alone. I don’t even know him.”
But it’s been so long since you gave me something to play with,
a voice that only Lydia could hear whispered back.
She could feel the tattoo shifting all over her body, its
THE KARMA CARNIVALE
C. B. Doyle
The woman looked at the girl. “You sure you want to go,
Lori? Carnivals can be scary.”
The girl nodded.
“The both of you had better mind—”
“I know, I know,” Henry broke in, “keep a close eye on Lori.
Don’t let her walk away by herself. Stay by the stall when she
goes to the bathroom, and be a good and protective friend or
I will be grounded.”
The mother’s voice rose: “And do NOT touch any of them
animals ... not unless somebody is right there saying it’s okay.
Are we clear, children?”
“Yes, ma’am!” Henry and Lori answered together.
They dashed off as Sarah called after them, “Henry! You
*the karma carnivale*
hold that child’s hand if she needs it, and be home before
A visit to the Freakshow on a whim almost four years
before left him with an inextinguishable need to learn more
about the woman known as Raggedy Ann, or The Living Doll.
After watching her move about the stage with such fluid
grace, he was enamored. When she stepped fully into the light
and removed her cowl, the audience was repulsed, but he’d
been ready to leap onto the stage and protect her from such
malevolent behavior. Instead, he went home to his humid, ill-
furnished apartment in the city and began devising a plan to
Thomas visited twice more the week the show was in
town, but never did he see her again. Then, the Freakshow
For three years Thomas returned to the same area
at roughly the same time, hoping the traveling show had
returned as the enamored feelings began to dim. The fourth
year promised to be his last, and he expected nothing more
than what he’d received the previous three.
To his astonishment, however, when he arrived at the
tiny field on the outskirts of the city, a small village was being
erected. Fabric tents of every size and color spilled from the
ground to the sky, with narrow alleys creating extravagant
mazes leading all to the largest tent in the center.
She was reclining in her usual way, atop the display
structure they had built especially for her. All of the exhibits
were shown off in the best way possible. They had to be. They
had to satisfy the audience, you see: the gawkers and jerk offs
that came to gloat. Feeling superior, many of them on the
rare occasions that they saw something more monstrous than
For the most part, they were losers, stuck in low paying
jobs with little or no prospects. They tended to be without
dreams or hope or respect, either for themselves or others.
Their own looks ranged from unremarkable to homely to
worse. They were wallflowers and dopes, people that had been
passed over and passed by, ignored and bullied.
Often they were bullies themselves with little or no self-
Psychological compensation was their middle name.
Of course, there were also present among the gawkers,
nice-looking men and women who relished feeling superior.
It was a great feeling, sauntering amongst the hideous as it
boosted their self-image even further.
How lovely it was to think of oneself as perfect.
There were also those who were genuinely curious.
Neither bad nor evil people, per se, although what positive
experience could have resulted from a jaunt to a sideshow was
Generally, most of the ‘exhibits’ knew this to be a fact, even
if it couldn’t be proven. They knew that most of the lookers
were there to satisfy a need, a prurient need to gaze upon the
most dramatic examples of unfortunate human beings they
could possibly find.
AMAZING MIRROR MAZE
“Look over there, Jemima, it’s a funhouse.” The girl’s father
pointed, and Jemima looked, even though she had seen it as
soon as she had reached the top of the hill. Seen it and been
She dutifully looked, and pretended it was for the first
time. “What’s a funhouse?” The cat puppet in her hands, over
her mouth, masked her voice and muffled the words.
Her mother rolled her eyes: at the question, at the toy, at
the girl. “It’s a place where you have fun.” She nudged Jemima
forward. “Fun, you know. Laughing and stuff. Fun.”
Tracey had made her point, and Jemima felt her bottom
lip trembling in anticipation and expectation of soon being
told off. She rubbed her face with the cat and inhaled its
scent. Home. Comfort. Love. The three things she wanted and
wished she could have more than anything else.
“Want to go in?” Connor’s voice was deep and rattley,
phlegmy, like someone was shaking a pair of maracas in his
Desperately wanting to go inside, she smiled and squeezed
her daddy’s hand. “Yes, please!”
The big man looked around. No one. There was no one to
give money to, which was one thing, but as a bonus, there was
also no one to tell them they couldn’t send their four-year-old
daughter in on her own. “Off you go, then.”
Connor released his grip and pushed the girl forward,
through the heavy double doors, and in, into the place made
of glass and fear, where it was cold and strange and really not
all that much fun, at all.
THE ONE AND ONLY
Rob M. Miller
A Sideways Tale
The noblest art is that of making others happy.
P. T. Barnum
FROM DAY ONE, HE BLEW ME AWAY. Peanuts
and pizza, damn straight. A wild man, a crazy man: and oh,
yeah, a magick man.
He was tall, lanky, and old—waaay old, but with a
kid’s set of eyes, and a smile that could best-friend a grizzly.
Others saw him different. Most, anyway. Not all, but
most. Too much prejudice jading their vision, making ’em
walk around blind. I might have been that way, too ... at
But peanuts and pizza, Grams taught me to always
give-a-chance to people, to at least be kind, polite, to be ...
swift to hear, slow to speak, slow in getting pissed off.
Can’t say I’ve always been successful, but that day, that
God-blessed Saturday afternoon playing-in-the-sunshine,
at the park on the swings, the slide, the teeter on one side,
the totter on the other, I did all right. Especially when he
first came up to me, wrinkled, a stranger (and therefore,
quite scary), but with that little-boy smile that I grew to love.
I’d taken a break and was sitting on a bench, alone, not
involved with any of the older teenagers hanging out on the
merry-go-round with their cigarettes, spiked hair, and what
Grams called sassy mouths.
Staring down, enjoying the breeze taking the edge off
the summer heat, I suddenly saw a pair of jeans in front of
me covered in yellow, blue, red, and even plaid iron-ons. The
denims ended in one highly-glossed, black dress shoe, and one
old left-footed once-white Nike, with a dirty swoosh.
Then I looked up.
I had to squint, for the man was standing back-lit by the
sun, a bright halo of light circling the man’s crazy Einsteinian
hairdo, and backdropping his white dress shirt underneath a
blue- and red-striped vest covered in flair: Ren and Stimpy
buttons, Flintstone characters, all the Looney Tunes, and an
assortment of this-and-that, and with all of the pins mixed up,
no like pieces grouped together. They looked randomly placed,
and yet ... there was a pattern—kinda sorta. I couldn’t figure
“Up here, young man.”
I looked at his face, still squinting, and saw age. Real age.
Gaunt cheeks full of lined canyons and wisdom and perhaps
even something unnameable, maybe even terrifying, if caught
at the right angle, and at the right time of day (or night). And
I saw no stubble—no, not even a single grayed-out whisker.
I almost took off running, but then I caught the invitation
of his smile.
“Sorry ... I, uh—”
“It’s the sun, isn’t it?”
He didn’t wait for an answer but moved a bit. I couldn’t
tell if it was to the left or right, at an angle or what. Maybe he
didn’t really move at all. But he seemed to. Perhaps just the
tiniest fraction needed. A degree or so. Whatever ... it was
enough that I could look right at him, eye-to-piercing-blue-
eye, without the sun nearly blinding me. And what I saw now,
clear-crystal, was just a smiling, friendly old man. Someone
who had probably caught the bus here from Kook Street, but a
nice guy just the same. Least he had all his teeth. “I’m Ronald.
Ronald Trower. What can I do for you?”
“Ah, now that’s a surprise. A young gentleman with
manners. A rare find; that’s my reward.”
THE HUMAN ILLUMINE
E. A. Irwin
Twilight twitched upon the lips
of the moon. Shadows danced and stretched to claim
the secrets of glaring day, only to then lull them into the
false security provided by darkness. An eventide blanket
to cover all sins, each perfect stitch sewn creating an ever-
changing blueprint on which the masterpiece of night lay
built—fantasy with promise at its core.
A blush first felt as a tingle of intrigue which
blossomed into the unknown as it wound through the
senses, overwhelmed and enveloped, until hunger and need
possessed from head to groin, and toyed with the knowledge
the blanket held something more. Something powerful.
Life changing. Something denied, unless one could lift
the blanket’s corner and peer into the depths of true
dark and dwell within the homeland of hidden delicacies.
A vast stretch of space beneath authentic and mechanical
stars, where the patina of the city’s veneer shone brightly in
the eyes of the seeker.
To wonder and wander. To dream and descend beneath
the blanket’s comforting midnight.
A cover of protection, or a cloak to hide within.
Shadows stilled their dance now daylight lay firmly within
the deep pockets of their pitch-black overcoats. A flick of a
switch. The hum begins. Enchanted—colorful glows—mystic
melodies cast upon winsome winds, lured, exotic and erotic
scents heightening the ever-growing frenzy to slip inside the
Leathery flaps of wings entice to come forward. Distant,
yet still inside one’s ear—of a truth, inside of yours. The sounds
grow louder with every step. Forward. You must go forward.
But then ... hesitation.
A step back.
Sounds increase inside your head, no, outside your body,
the lure of wild things in the distant future drawing you into
their inner sanctum. Standing on the precipice of indecision,
you wait, wonder if it’s your heart pounding out some kind of
Morse code stating you should continue, or is that flapping the
caged bird frantically banging against the gilded cage inside
you yearning to break free?
You hear it call—No one will know what you do once you
enter the gates.
The shadows are the guardians, each secret held tightly
within their voluminous folds of night. Whatever whispers in
this place escapes and is muffled by the comfort of the blanket.
It appears before you, the incessant noise finally making
sense. Canvas brightly decorated with language indiscernible,
yet you understand their questions. Murmurings of cloth
match that of the caged bird’s singing. You must know why
you know. Must lift a corner of this enticing blanket and peer
inside. Just one look at the city and then you’ll understand.
Jody Neil Ruth
LOOK AT ME, DRESSED IN YELLOW FLAMES
made out of felt, and wearing a sunburst headpiece, looking
like something a child threw together. Heck, I’m only 14
and a cripple, but even I could have done better, if only
someone had let me.
Still, I don’t mind wearing it as long as it lets me work
She doesn’t speak. At least I’ve never heard her. But she
always seems to listen when I talk ... something that no
one else ever does. Instead, they treat me as the disabled
kid who cleans up the animal shit ... which, I s’pose, I am.
At least our act serves as a distraction, makes me realize
there are nicer things in life. We travel across the Free Lands
putting out shows almost every day, which means I get to
work with Furnace all the time.
I don’t know where she came from, or even her real
name. The other kids sure aren’t talking. Whenever I ask,
they just shrug. Once I brought it up with the Ringmaster,
stupidly caught him at the end of an all-night drinking
session with some of the other acts. He split my lip and
gave me a black eye. For a week, having to borrow a make-
up kit from one of the clowns, I looked even a bigger fool than
normal during our performance.
The Ringmaster often hides Furnace in his own caravan,
sometimes for an hour, sometimes longer. Not sure what
they do, but I’ve seen Maurice, otherwise known as Atlas, the
Strongman, going inside and giving money to him.
Once I knocked on the door to see if she was alright,
but the Ringmaster kicked me off the step ... said they were
rehearsing an act. It’s strange, because the only act she does is
The day after, the Ringmaster came to my trailer, grabbed
me by my collar, and lifted me off the ground. I could smell the
beer and cigars on his breath as he held his face inches away
from mine, and made it clear I was to stay out of his business
and ignore whatever it was going on inside the trailer—his
I told him I didn’t know what was happening, which was
why I’d asked.
Then came my first real beating. Not just the odd clip or
punch I usually received, but a mud-stomping full of punches
and kicks that made the whole day go away. Later, I came to in
bed, deep in the night, awake and feeling every lump.
Right now, I’m sitting outside the Ringmaster’s van, sewing
up a rip in my outfit. I’m not very good with needle and thread,
and the tear isn’t fixed straight, but it’ll do. It’s under my arm,
so no one’s gonna notice. That’s a good thing. These days, even
the smallest offence earns a beating.
But then, most things I do seem to end in a beating.
The door of the Ringmaster’s caravan opens and he comes
stumbling out into the mud, kicking beer cans and magazines
full of naked girls.
His hand’s holding her hair, and her shirt and jeans are
hanging loose off her small body. Her brown eyes are wide and
fearful ... and staring straight at me.
Well there's, your taster!
Remember, SIDESHOW: HOW DARK IS YOUR SHADOW?
Remember, SIDESHOW: HOW DARK IS YOUR SHADOW?
will be setting up its tents at Amazon on March 22nd!
GO ON! YOU WON'T EVER FORGET IT!