Dangers of the Trade
Mitchell G. Roshannon
For many years now I have made my living creating joy from thin air, at a carousel. Giggling children grin at their mothers while traveling in circles on horseback. This may be the only time any of them set foot on a stirrup or saddle.
I have often wondered if there is something horrifically magical about all carousels, or if it is only this one. It’s an old carousel, horses carved in the 19th century entombed inside a protective building with a long sloping ceiling. Supportive bars push upwards towards a spade-like decorative hanger that encompasses the contrived internal structure. It’s much like standing underneath a spider.
During its day, the carousel was much to behold. “The last beating heart of an era,” it was called, beautiful and awe-inspiring with brass furnishings that sparkled in the sunlight, bright colors spun pleasantly. When the sunset and the brightly colored bulbs were all extinguished for the night, the darkness of the carousel allowed a different view. The horses’ eyes followed me and their mouths seemed to scream in pain, the reigns pulled too tightly. The carvings seemed almost sinister. That scene followed me to my dreams.
I dreamt of watching the carousel from across a covered bridge. The carousel was ablaze, spinning, and the screeching whinnies of hooved creatures echoed, the silhouettes licked by oranges, yellows, and blues. Some of them itched slightly and changed in position as if they were trying to escape. But they were still wood, their hooves still nailed to the floor for children’s pleasure. Children could be heard giggling, dreaded giggling at the pain of other living things for their own amusement.
The dark side of joy, I thought to myself. I meant to say out loud but in this world, my lips wouldn’t move, they were forced silent. I was meant to watch, not participate. The horses quickly turned to ash and a heart murmured, stuttered, and stopped.
I awoke. Drenched in sweat, I checked my surroundings and listened closely for whinnying. I heard nothing but the normal ticking of the clock on the wall of my small loft, placed near my bed to lull me to sleep. I remained up, drinking tea and listening to the Victrola until dawn.
“Just comes with the trade,” I said to the rising sun. I continued onto another day at the grandest of rides, the carousel.