Bright blue poles skewered the horses, resplendent in liveries of red, green and orange, to the carousel. This rainbow of colts and mares seemed, to little Ellie, to stare longingly into the distance, desperate to run far away from here. Instead they were kept prisoner by the fairground folk, who sold tickets to grinning crowds who only wanted to ride in circles. She burst into tears and attempted to explain to her Mum how cruel all this was. Mum simply said ‘there, there, darling’ and ushered Ellie away while her big brother, James, laughed at her. In his eyes danced a familiar spark of joy and excitement as he shoved his red baseball cap higher up his mop of blonde hair and jumped onto the biggest stallion he could find.
Now the horses were twirling fast and the air had grown oppressive. Ellie, standing with Mum a few feet away, strained to keep track of James as he sat astride his mount, a huge white beast with a golden tail. Then horses and humans began to blur as the ride span even faster and Ellie could no longer distinguish one from the other. James was in that blur, but she didn’t know where. She bit her lip. Something wasn’t right. Dark clouds began to roll across the sky as the carousel slowly slid back into focus. What Ellie saw was impossible.
Horses were riding humans. Real horses, snorting with delight, sinews straining as they held on tightly and their manes unfurled behind them in the breeze, sat on hind legs astride dozens of plastic people. These were positioned on all fours and dressed in all manner of ways, and poles impaled each of them between the shoulders and through the chest.
The carousel ground to a halt and the equines disembarked, struggling to disentangle themselves from their steeds. The huge white horse with the golden tail detached itself from the crowd and clip-clopped towards her. Ellie screamed and buried her head in her Mum’s leg.
That was wrong too. Ellie looked up at Mum and found herself peering straight into the concerned gaze of another horse. She screamed again but realised this time how much her yell sounded like a neigh of her own. She stared down at the ground, saw her new candy pink sandals had been replaced by small brown hooves, then glanced back up just in time to see the white horse lowering its head to nuzzle her. A spark danced in its eyes. She tried to scream once more, but all she heard was neighing.
After a moment, James-Horse and Mum-Horse, whinnying for her to follow, span around and cantered towards the helter-skelter, which stretched up and up towards the black clouds that now filled the horizon. Stallions and fillies of all colours slid down it, braying with joy as their hooves flapped in the air. Elsewhere, ponies hurled colourful balls at the coconut shy, foals and geldings battled each other on the dodgems, and while the hook-a-duck stand was the only place she couldn’t see any horses, what was happening there was the most impossible thing of all. Bewildered, Ellie-Horse stared back at the carousel until she found what she was looking for.
A bright blue pole skewered a boy to the ride. Blonde hair protruded from beneath his red baseball cap. He seemed to stare longingly into the distance, desperate to run far away from here.
David Cook’s stories have been published in a number of print anthologies and online lit mags. Say hi on Twitter @davidcook100 or find more of his work at http://www.davewritesfiction.wordpress.com. He lives in Bridgend, Wales, UK, with his wife and daughter. He hadn’t had a problem with carousels before writing this story, but is nervous about them now.