Ten Thousand Souls
Amanda Conner glanced towards the darkening sky, fear mirrored in her blue eyes, wondering if her brother would make it home before the storm stuck. Storms in Kansas can be brutal, and this had the makings of the worst of the season.
The wind began blowing, picking up dirt, the beginnings of a dust storm — stinging her skin as it struck her. Amanda pulled her shirt over her nose and went in search of her brother, barely reaching the carnival before the storm hit. It looked to be deserted, which made her worry even more about her brother.
She told him to stay home, but as usual he didn’t listen. Her parents had left her in charge and it’s gonna be hard to explain if she can’t find him.
Jerked from behind and pushed into a small shed. Amanda clenched her fist. Ready to inflict injury on whoever had pushed her inside, but turning, she saw her brother Luther’s ashen face. Luther is twelve-years-old, and she had never seen him look so visibly shaken before.
Thunder cracked within the clouds making it seem as if the sky had broken in two, causing them to both jump. Looking outside, they saw the clouds flashing from within, and one bolt of lightening struck the ground with a thunderous boom, deep in the thick underbrush.
Thump, thump, thump.
“What is that noise Amanda?” Luther asked, whispering into her ear.
Amanda put a finger to her mouth and turned her head to the side, listening intently. “It sounds like a drum,” Amanda said. The thumping continued and became deafening until suddenly it stopped. They saw the Ferris wheel begin to move and the lights of the carnival flickered on, showering them with light.
The wind still roared, and the dirt still blew, but only outside the area of the carnival.
A woman appeared out of the dust and made her way into the center of the carnival. She had a dark complexion like Amanda had never seen before. Gold chains encircled her body as clothing, and she wore a gold headdress with a ruby amulet, containing tentacles above her head.
Her red eyes lit up as she raised a silver sword high into the air, illuminating the once dark tent behind her. The cloth of the tent looked like a clown with yellow teeth, and it moved as if waiting for a helpless victim to stumble inside.
The woman moved to walk inside, pausing briefly; she glanced towards Amanda and Luther, sniffing the air. She smiled, revealing sharp teeth before disappearing inside the tent.
Amanda heard the sound of dripping water behind her, glancing at Luther she saw his urine slowly trickle down his leg, creating a puddle at his feet.
He seemed to be in a daze, and Amanda gave him a tug, trying to snap him out of it. His brown eyes once lost in the darkness of the shed began to glisten.
“Luther, you need to snap out of it. We need to get out of here before she comes back.”
“I came here with Paul and Martin. We heard a story about a woman from the sea that came onto land once every hundred years. She will appear at a carnival seeking souls.”
Amanda thought for a moment how ridiculous the story sounded at first, a local urban legend that originated during the dust bowl days when sideshow freaks traveled town to town.
“Where are Paul and Martin?” Amanda asked.
“I don’t know where they are, aren’t you listening? We took a look around and I saw something. We weren’t trying to hurt anything, I swear, but when we started poking around; things started happening.” Running his hands through his short hair, he pointed out a tent behind the Ferris wheel. “There is a tent over there, maybe that’s where they’re hiding.”
Amanda gave Luther a quick shake. “What did you see Luther?”
“I thought I saw a little girl, but her arms were so long, they dragged on the ground as she walked. She giggled, and I think she wanted me to follow her.”
“Are you sure they were arms, or tentacles like that woman?”
Luther began to cry. “I don’t know for sure. I didn’t get that close of a look, and I didn’t realize until later that Paul and Martin weren’t with me.” Luther stepped outside, but Amanda pulled him back.
“Luther, where in the hell are you going?”
“I know you don’t believe me. Let me show you,” he implored.
“Fine, but if that tentacle woman comes out and eats me, I’m not going to be happy.”
Casting an amused grin her way, Luther crouched down and crept back to a tent behind the Ferris wheel. Amanda followed, grabbing his hand as they walked inside.
It was a small tent, lit dimly, a lantern hanging on a post with a long tank of water directly in front of them. Tempted, Amanda gingerly touched the tank, bringing it to life. It was dark and murky, but there was movement within, forming bubbles and waves, slouching water over the top, splashing Amanda.
Amanda took the lantern off the hook, she then put it up to the tank to see more clearly, wanting to know what lie within. Luther pulled at her hand, trying to stop her, but it was too late.
Amanda gasped, and took a step backward, seeing a baby with gills and it had a tail as a serpent. The tiny face lit up within the glow of the raised lantern. She appeared to have an angelic face at first. Merely swimming within the glow of the light. Without warning, she slammed into the glass of the tank; revealing jagged teeth.
Amanda dropped the lantern, but Luther caught it just in time before it struck the ground. Amanda felt compelled to walk to a table and pulled the tarp aside when she heard a soft cry.
Underneath, a cage contained a small creature with a tail of an alligator, his head looked as a skull, with hardly any flesh on it. Instead of feeling fear, Amanda knelt, feeling sympathy for the mutant beast with huge doe like eyes.
“Who could do this? Put these poor creatures on display like this,” Amanda said.
“Poor creatures, give them a chance and they’ll rip you to shreds,” Luther insisted.
“How can you say that Luther?”
Without thinking, she knelt down and opened the door, and the alligator boy hobbled out towards Amanda. Screams pierced the air as the mutant bared its teeth. Luther kicked the creature, and it tumbled, disappearing under the tent and out of sight.
They ran outside, barely making it back into yet another tent, before they heard the pounding of feet.
Pulling a tarp aside that covered a table; Amanda crawled inside, pulling Luther in with her. It smelled musty and the smell of fish clung in the air so much so that Amanda had to put a hand over her nose, so she wouldn’t sneeze. Amanda then trembled as she saw something crawl past. The creature had a grotesque face covered with scales, and a serpent like body, slithering as it moved. Its small arms began to lift up items. Searching for them, Amanda feared.
When it turned in their direction, Amanda nearly fainted at the stench emitted from the beast. It pointed and squealing directly at them. Rolling out, Amanda kicked it, silencing its screams.
Luther followed Amanda and grabbed her hand as they ran into the center of the carnival, searching for a way out. Running towards the dust flying without. They fell to the ground when they connected with what seemed to be a brick wall, unable to leave. Trapped.
Amanda turned, feeling Luther’s hand slip from hers. One tentacle from the she-beast wound tightly around his ankle and lifted him off the ground.
Amanda froze, and before she could think, another tentacle snaked out for her. She kicked it away, but it wound itself around her leg.
Reaching inside her pants pocket, she pulled out a screwdriver, stabbing it deeply into the tentacle. Screaming, the woman released her, but Luther was held out of reach.
“That was a stupid thing to do girl. You have nowhere to go, nowhere to hide.” The woman walked into the tent with Luther still dangling out of reach.
Two albino men grabbed Amanda, and despite her struggles, they pulled her into the tent, too.
Once inside, Luther was nowhere to be found. What had that beast done to her brother?
“Who are you?” Amanda screamed, ejecting spittle from her mouth.
“My name is Mia. One thousand years ago, I was forced into the sea as a creature.” She smiled with an evil grin. “Every one hundred years, I have the opportunity to attain my release by acquire more souls.”
She held out the sword. “See, your friends are being transformed already.” Amanda approached the sword, not wanting to look, not wanting to know.
Paul and Martin’s faces were embedded on the sword. Their eyes were open and unblinking; they were breathing and alive. Oh god, Luther’s face too.
Amanda felt her tears begin to emerge as she could see the fear mirrored within their eyes. They knew what was happening to them!
The albino men dragged Amanda and tied her tightly to a pole.
“Why did you do that?” Amanda asked, trying to wiggle her way out of the ropes.
“I need ten thousand souls.” She tapped her silver sword.
Amanda could clearly see the skulls layered on it. Horrible faces, of anguish and misery, but not dead at all; trapped inside.
“Where are you going once you have all the souls?” Amanda asked.
Mia put her face close to Amanda. “Why you are a curious one.” She sneered with a sarcastic grin. “When I have enough souls, I will deliver them to Leviathan as a gift. He will then release me from the sea and transform me back into human form.”
“You have to be kidding. Even if you deliver him a sword with ten thousand souls attached. He will only banish you into the lake of fire.”
“There is a lake all right, but not of fire my girl. I have resided in the ocean trenches for many years, but I will remain there no longer”
“Why were you forced into the sea? Surely there is some crime you committed, a rule you broke.”
“Desiring more is my only crime. I was tricked into believing it was possible to slay Leviathan, betrayed by my own sister, Merussa.” She shook her fist in the air. “She now holds the favor of Leviathan, but when I’m returned to human form. That will change.”
“The only place you will be going is back to the sea,” Amanda insisted.
“I will enjoy watching you grow gills,” Mia retorted, tapping her sword.
Sliding her hands out of the ropes, Amanda leapt forward and grabbed the sword from the beast’s hands and ran from the tent.
Pulled backward by a tentacle, Amanda severed it with the sword. The beast screamed, rumbling the ground on which they stood. Transforming herself, with every step she took, and slime fell as her tentacles began to grow longer and longer.
Amanda continued to limp to where the dust blew outside.
“No,” the beast screamed!
“No more souls for you,” screamed Amanda as she took the sword and with both hands, swung it, pushing it through the dust, bringing the dust storm upon them all.