Read The Ninth Nightmare Online

Authors: Graham Masterton

Tags: #Fiction, #Horror, #Serial Murderers, #Circus, #Crime, #Supernatural, #Freak Shows, #Horror Fiction, #Occult & Supernatural

The Ninth Nightmare (9 page)

BOOK: The Ninth Nightmare
10.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Kieran walked out on to the stage and circled around. ‘Anybody here?' he called out. ‘Hallo there! Anybody here?'
Kiera said, ‘For God's sake, Kieran. Supposing there
is
somebody here? We're trespassing!'
‘I know – but they're not going to be mad at us, are they? Circus folk, they're always real friendly.'
‘Oh, yes? And how do you know? You've never been to a circus in your life.'
‘I saw
Toby Tyler
.'
‘Oh, sure. And I saw
Something Wicked This Way Comes
.'
Kieran called out again. ‘Halloo! Anybody here?' But again there was no reply.
‘Come on, let's go,' Kiera urged him. ‘This place really creeps me out. And don't forget that we have a rehearsal first thing tomorrow. We have to get at least a couple hours' sleep.'
‘OK, OK. But I want to take a quick look around outside.' They were about to leave the marquee when they heard a sudden clattering of feet behind the tiers of seats. They turned around – just in time to see a diminutive figure in a yellow coat running across the other side of the marquee, a figure no taller than a six-year-old boy. It disappeared almost immediately behind a fold in the canvas.
Kieran seized Kiera's hand and pulled her across the stage and up the aisle between the seats.
‘
No
!' Kiera protested.
But Kieran said, ‘Think about it! He must know where Mom is!'
‘Kieran, Mom's
dead
! This is crazy!'
‘Don't tell me that you don't feel her!'
They reached the far side of the marquee and Kieran ran along the canvas wall, pulling it and thumping at it with the flat of his hand, trying to find the fold into which the figure in the yellow coat had disappeared. Kiera stood watching him, exhausted and afraid, but she knew better than to try and persuade him to give it up and come back to her hotel room. Once Kieran had his mind set on doing something, he always pursued it to the bitter end.
‘Here!' he called out, lifting up the canvas to reveal an opening.
‘
Kieran
—'
‘Come on! Hurry!'
He pushed his way into the opening and Kiera followed him. They had a brief moment of battling with the canvas, and then they were out in the open again, amongst the trailers and the caravans, with the wind and the rain in their faces.
‘Can you see him?' Kieran shouted. ‘I can't see him anywhere!'
They walked quickly between the lines of trailers, looking left and right – even ducking down now and again to see if the figure in the yellow coat was crouching underneath. They reached the last trailer, and they were about to turn back when a dazzling flash of lightning lit up the whole encampment, and in that bleached-out flash they saw the figure in the yellow coat running toward one of the caravans and scaling the ladder at the back of it. The figure knocked frantically at the stable door, and the lower half of the door was immediately opened up. Before the figure scuttled inside, however, it turned its head toward them for a split second so that Kieran and Kiera caught a glimpse of it.
‘
Jesus
,' said Kieran, and Kiera felt a terrible thrill of shock.
Although he was dressed as a boy, in his yellow tweed coat, the figure looked more like a giant rodent. His face was covered in brindled hair, even his cheeks and his forehead, and he had a long pointed snout rather than a nose, and protruding brown teeth. His eyes glittered as black as buttons.
He vanished into the stable door, and slammed it shut behind him, and as he did so there was a shattering burst of thunder, as if the whole sky above their heads were collapsing.
‘What the hell was
that
thing?' asked Kieran.
‘I guess he must be one of the freaks. Rat Man, or something like that. My God. We should really get out of here, Kieran. I mean it.'
‘But Mom's here, Kiera. I
know
she is. What if we go back to your bedroom and this place disappears and we can never find it again?'
‘You said it was somebody's dream.'
‘I know, and I'm pretty sure that it is. But sooner or later they're going to wake up and it's all going to vanish. And what are the chances that they will never have the same dream again – like,
ever
? What's going to happen to Mom then? How will we ever find her then?'
Kiera squeezed her eyes tight shut and covered her face with her hands. This was all madness. How could the two of them be in somebody else's dream? How could their dead mother be in somebody else's dream?
Kieran laid his hands on her shoulders and said, ‘Let's give it one last try, OK? Let's go over to that caravan and knock on the door and ask them if they know where mom is. If they don't know what the hell we're talking about, we'll go right back to your room and close the door and try to forget this ever happened. Is that a deal?'
Kiera lowered her hands and opened her eyes. Kieran looked so much like her that she almost felt as if she were appealing to herself.
‘All right,' she said. ‘But be really careful, won't you? That Rat Man might bite you.'
‘Oh, come on. The way he skedaddled off like that, he's probably a whole lot scareder of us than we are of him.'
They crossed over to the caravan into which the figure in the yellow coat had just disappeared. It reminded Kiera of Professor Marvel's caravan in
The Wizard of Oz
, except that it was varnished black and it had a frieze of carved wooden faces all the way around the overhanging roof – some of them leering, some of them scowling, some of them screaming. The rain dripped from every face as if they were all weeping, either with rage or disappointment or fear.
Kieran climbed the three steps up to the stable door. He glanced back at Kiera and then he knocked.
He waited, but there was no answer, and so he knocked again, harder this time. ‘Is there anybody in there? We only want to ask you something, that's all! We're not going to hurt you or nothing!'
He waited again. He was just about to try knocking a third time when the shuttered windows in the stable door were both opened up. A bald, white-faced man appeared, wearing tiny wire-rimmed spectacles with mirror lenses. He had a silver ring through his nose and silver hoop earrings in each ear. He was wearing what looked like a silver satin cloak.
‘What do you want?' he demanded, in a tired, impatient tone. He had an accent that sounded Eastern European. Czech, maybe.
Kieran said, ‘We don't want to disturb you, sir, but we think our mom may be here someplace. In fact, we're sure that she is.'
The bald man looked Kieran up and down, and then looked at Kiera.
‘What if she is?' he asked them.
‘What do you think? We'd like to see her, of course.'
‘And you think that this would do either of you any good?'
‘Well, sure. We thought that she died when we were born, but if she didn't – I mean, we have seventeen years to catch up on.'
‘You thought that she died?'
‘That's what we've always been told.'
The bald man pursed his lips for a moment, as if he were sucking a very sour candy, or thinking. Then he said, ‘I suppose it depends on your definition of dying.'
‘What do you mean? Either she's dead or she isn't.'
‘You think so? You don't know too much about dying then.'
Kiera was shivering and wetter than ever. ‘Is our mom here or not?' she called out.
The bald man nodded. ‘Yes, she's here OK. But I don't know if you'll be very glad to see her.'
‘Just tell us where she is,' said Kieran. ‘We'll decide if we're glad to see her when we see her.'
‘Very well,' the bald man agreed, with a sigh. He turned back toward the interior of the caravan and said, sharply, ‘Stay here, will you? I'm taking these young people to see Demi.'
Kiera couldn't hear the reply clearly, but it sounded harsh and guttural. She looked at Kieran as he climbed down from the back of the caravan but Kieran could only shrug and pull a face to show that he didn't understand what the Rat Man was saying, either.
The bald man closed the two windows in the stable door but reappeared a few moments later wearing a black ankle-length raincoat and a wide-brimmed waterproof hat. He came down the steps and approached them. He wasn't tall, but there was a strongman solidity about him which Kiera found quite intimidating. She felt that you would need to hit him very hard, over and over again, with something like a ball-peen hammer, before he would even blink.
‘You're certain you want to do this?' he asked them. He pronounced it ‘vont'.
‘Yes, we do vont,' said Kieran, trying to sound challenging.
Without another word, the bald man turned and started to walk away, beckoning them to follow him. He led them between the trailers and the caravans, past a fenced-off corral in which twenty or thirty miserable-looking horses were standing in the rain, their heads down and their manes dripping, and a line of massive black Diamond-T trucks, pre-World War Two vintage by the look of them.
They came at last to a small black pavilion, with an awning in front of it which had filled up with so much rainwater that it was sagging between its poles. The bald man drew back the entrance flap and Kieran and Kiera could see that the interior was illuminated by an oil-lamp with a dim green glass shade.
‘Demi!' the bald man called out. ‘Demi, it's Zachary!'
Kiera looked at Kieran and said, under her breath, ‘Mom's name was Jenyfer. Why is he calling her “Demi”?'
Kieran shook his head. ‘Maybe it's like a stage name.'
‘Demi, you're not sleeping are you? I brung two young people to see you. I think you might recognize them.'
Kiera heard a faint, sibilant voice saying ‘What time is it?'
‘It's ten minutes of two. You weren't sleeping, were you?'
‘No. You know me. I haven't slept in days.'
‘You want to see these young people or not? It's up to you, my darling. You don't have to if you don't want to.'
‘No . . . all right. I'll see them.'
The bald man pulled back the flap and said to Kieran and Kiera, ‘Go on. You can go inside. But remember that she is very delicate. I don't want you to upset her, no matter what you think.'
Kiera ducked her head and went inside the pavilion, with Kieran right behind her. They found themselves in an airless living area lined with moth-eaten velvet drapes in faded maroon. On the right-hand side of the pavilion there was a gilded couch with maroon velvet cushions to match the drapes, and a gilded table with a bowl of black grapes on it. A ghostly-looking gray cat was sleeping on the couch, but as they came into the pavilion it opened its eyes and stared at them with suspicion.
But it was the tall gilded chair on the left-hand side of the pavilion that riveted their attention. It was more like a royal throne than a chair, and the woman who was sitting in it was wearing a coronet of dried flowers. She was startlingly pale, and very thin, and her hair was dead white instead of blonde, but there was no mistaking her resemblance to Kieran and Kiera. She had the same sea-green eyes and the same straight nose and the same sensual curve to her lips.
She was wearing a tight black velvet dress with a high collar and a row of small jet buttons all the way down the front. Her thin, bony hands were resting on the arms of the chair, with long black-varnished fingernails and silver rings on every finger.
The bald man joined them inside the pavilion and took off his hat, deliberately shaking the raindrops over the cat so that it flinched and hissed at him.
‘Here is Demi,' he announced. ‘Demi, here is your twins.'
‘My
twins
?' asked the woman. Her voice was weak but it was very clear. ‘How could I have children?'
Kiera could hardly breathe. The interior of the pavilion was very stuffy and here she was, face-to-face with the mother she had always believed to be dead.
‘Mom?' she said. ‘It's Kiera – Kiera and Kieran.'
The woman frowned at her. ‘My
twins
?' she repeated.
‘That's right, Mom. You had twins but they said you had a stroke and died.'
‘How could I have children?'
‘Because you had a husband who loved you, Mom. You had a husband who loved you and he's been grieving for you all of this time.'
‘But, my dear,' the woman insisted. ‘I
can't
have children.'
With that, she started to unbutton the front of her dress, from the hem upward. As she did so, Kiera suddenly realized with a deep, cold feeling of dread that the woman had no legs. The lower half of her dress which was hanging over the seat of the chair was empty and flat.
She stared at the woman in alarm and said, ‘What are you doing? Mom – what's happened to you? What are you doing?'
Kieran said, ‘Stop, Mom! Stop! We don't need to see!' But the woman carried on unbuttoning her dress, higher and higher, one small button after another.
Kiera turned to the bald man and said, ‘Stop her, please!'
The bald man remained impassive. ‘She is a sideshow. She is doing what sideshows always do. They show you what you paid to see.'
‘But we didn't pay to see this, for Christ's sake! We're her children! Stop her!'
‘I cannot. I would not. She is explaining what she is. She needs to. And you need to understand.'
Now the woman had unfastened her dress all the way up to her breastbone. She was still staring at Kieran and Kiera – not defiantly, not truculently, but with a terrible look of pride in her eyes that almost made Kiera faint with horror.
BOOK: The Ninth Nightmare
10.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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