Monday, March 21, 2016


Ladies and gentlemen, this is not your ordinary sideshow. No! This is a most unique display of the unusual acquired for your enjoyment. 


"… 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."




Phil Hickes 

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


A feint.

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.



S. MacLeod



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.

The Other.

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.


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

them back.

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

his words.

“A man, an air sign, is going to destroy you.” The words

were as sour as the stench that rolled into her with them.


Tina Swain

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.”

“Like what?”

“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

the boat.


Shawn Pfister

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

excitement obvious.


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



Melissa Stevens

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

introduce himself.

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.

The stage.


Carole Gill

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.


Lisamarie Lamb

“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.


Rob M. Miller
A Sideways Tale

The noblest art is that of making others happy.
P. T. Barnum


and pizza, damn straight. A wild man, a crazy man: and oh,

yeah, a magick man.

The Wizard.

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.

“Watcha doin’?”

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

it out.

“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.”


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


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

with Furnace.

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

with me.

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.

And Furnace.

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! 


will be setting up its tents at Amazon on March 22nd!






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