The Light of the Fair by Martin Sturrock

The fair came early this year, appearing overnight and bringing with it all the usual rides and attractions – not to mention the countless balloons, tied to every surface, so that the whole place seems to wallow within a multi-coloured sea.

Weary from the sound and motion, I’ve found a quiet spot away from the crowds: a bench lost amidst dozens of balloons. Usually I despise balloons, but I’m past caring. I think I’ve caught the sun; my overheated brain swollen to touch the inside of my skull; my burnt skin pulled so taught I’m worried it might tear.

Hours drift by like minutes and the string-lights begin to blink out; the tinny tunes falling silent. Still I sit, unmoving, as the sun sets and the balloons around me start to glow with a pulsing, ethereal light – a beautiful, but oddly poignant sight.

With the fair shutting down I wonder, briefly, why I’ve not seen any of the townsfolk leave. I hear screams somewhere, far away, but I don’t go to investigate: my head feels drained of conscious thought; so empty it’s actually buoyed up and wanting to break loose from my body.

Spotting a movement, I twist lazily in the breeze and spy – slinking through the dark – small figures, hunched and hooded. They’re gathering up the balloons, but occasionally they pluck one free and suck down its glowing gas, like children huffing helium.

Approaching my bench, one such being stares at me from hungry eyes that glitter and glow in its shadowed face. Bending in close, its long fingers fumble at my neck. I hear a childlike giggle; feel the pinch of teeth; and then a long inhaled breath.

My world is shrinking; my inner light fades; and yet I do nothing.

I would scream, but I have no mouth.

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