The Festival was held in the dying days of summer.
The personality of the Island changed during the Festival, opening the gates for all things to pass. All women were beautiful, and all men were prosperous. It was a time for magic. People found long lost brothers, great treasures and made dangerous promises. Not all who saw it start would see it end.
Melanie took a deep breath through her mouth to avoid smelling the rank stench of the water and almost choked when she tasted it instead. The boat tipped on the grey water, leaning as if to capsize before rolling back. Hanging over the railing Melanie spat out the bile that rose up. When she was confident that the sour taste and the burn in her throat were all that remained she leant back. The wind blew multi-coloured hair into her eyes and worked its way down her back, raising goosebumps. She pulled her artistically ripped leather jacket tighter around herself. It was big enough to fit around her and then some; it had belonged to her father before he had died and was nearly as old as she was. She pulled it up and buried her nose in its sweet smell of leather, perfume and an unknown scent that Melanie was confident was her dad. Her pocket buzzed. She reached in, felt the sweet wrappers and change for her phone, knowing full well who the message was from.
“You better be on the boat. I’ve promised Felix that you’d go with her on the coaster. We’ll meet you at the docks Luv Laura :)”
Melanie flicked back through her texts from Laura. A week of texts about how fantastic the Festival was, about how much fun she would have if she came. They had finally convinced her to join them for the weekend.
“I hear it’s haunted.” Melanie glanced up and looked at the boy who had spoken. He was entertaining his group of friends. “It’s got the record for the most accidents, it must be haunted.”
He was talking about the permanent fairground on the Island’s waterfront. Melanie always found it strange how the fact that it held the ‘fatal accident’ world record attracted people as well as repelled them. Melanie sighed to herself, she was positive she could come up with excuses to avoid the coaster once she was at the fairground.
The Island was close now; she could hear the music coming from the death trap fairground. The crowded boat became louder, kids became restless while mothers shouted and fathers scolded. Melanie reached into her pocket and pulled out her headphones. She slipped them in, turned up her music and tried to lose herself in the soft voice of the singer. The boat bumped against the dock and Melanie squeaked, lost her footing and tumbled into the back of a man. He turned and looked at her with irritation. Melanie lowered her eyes and rubbed her hands on her skirt.
Stepping onto solid ground, Melanie scanned the crowd for familiar faces. Even on the Island during the magic time of the Festival, when the strange and unique were commonplace, her friends would have stood out. Thin and pale, dressed in shredded black and bleeding scarlet, it was easy for her to realise they weren’t here. She considered waiting but the magic of the Island tugged at her and pulled her further in. She decided she would eat before looking properly and wandered down the promenade. Stalls and shops lined the street, their wares spilling out onto the road, their music spiralling out and up to the sky. She walked past stalls selling hotdogs and burgers, past one selling doughnuts. She wanted something richer, something special. The Island pulled her suddenly, and she turned off the promenade down an alley. The stink of salt water wasn’t quite so strong down here, something else permeated the air. Rich and thrilling: the smell of roasting meat.
The stall was so small she should have missed it. Painted a red so dark it was almost black. Lighter red paint spelt out the name Neifelhiem.
The small girl minding the stall was narrow and pale, her short dark hair teased into an artful mess. She watched Melanie the way a fox watches a rabbit.
“Hi,” Melanie said. The girl looked at her.She didn’t smile, and she didn’t speak. Melanie didn’t notice, she was too busy reading the posters behind the girl. The writing was faded, the letters swirled in strange ways, the words a confused jumble. A myriad of bottles lined the shelves under the notices. Shoes ran along the bottom of the stall. A collection of walkmans and personal music players hung from a hook on the wall. Phones were stacked on a shelf. One small wall was littered with overlapping posters; faces of missing people stared out with dead printed eyes.
“Do you want something?” The girl in the stall finally spoke. “Food?” Melanie nodded. The girl turned and opened an old oven. The smell of roasting meat poured out, wrapping itself around the stall, shielding it from the reek of sea water.
“You sell weird stuff,” Melanie said, relaxing into one of the high seats arranged haphazardly in front of the stall.
“We sell a lot of second-hand goods.” The booth girl agreed. She looked up from her oven and stared hard at Melanie. “My name is Nit; I run the stall for Balor.” She stood up and offered a thin, pale hand.
“I’m Melanie,” Melanie said, taking her hand. Self-control stopped her from flinching; Nit’s hand was clammy and bone cold. As she pulled back, Melanie could not resist the urge to wipe her hand on her skirt. “Where do you get all this stuff? “ Nit smiled again and for a second Melanie had the impression of teeth, too much time to fit into a human mouth. But the notion vanished as quickly as it had occurred and Nit was just a girl again.
Pick up your own copy
£0.99 on Kindle (Free on Kindle Unlimited)
$1.42 on Kindle