A little while ago I wrote a short story for the L. Ron Hubbard "Writers of the Future Contest". I did not win, and I know why, my story is really more horror than Science Fiction or Fantasy. But I decided that I will post each chapter here on my blog. There are 37 very short chapters, for a total of 15,000 words, about a fifth of a modern novel. Here is the start.
(This is also when the story goes full on bananas...)
As mentioned before, innocuous things (in illogical enough context) can trigger fearful reactions. Maxwell was about to experience this.
Maxwell turned the corner, moving past the other two to take in the full sight, and was shaken by it. His nerves were not rattled by the insanely massive dome of hewn stone that the cavern had entered into, that was a perfectly reasonable underground structure, what was not perfectly reasonable was what covered the ground floor under the dome. What covered the ground, and as was quickly deduced to be the source of the light, was a carnival. “Are we looking at--?”
“Yes,” Milton answered.
“How--?” Maxwell started again.
“I would like to know myself, Max.” Clair stood not exactly squinting, and not exactly glaring at the scene, as if hoping to will it away.
“Any ideas as to… this!?” Maxwell spread his hands out in a gesture to the whole of the cavern. Mentally, he had reached his depth, and then found himself immediately out of it.
“Let me just put it all together,” Wilton began. “We are in an underground passageway, stripped of our gear, and left to wander toward a giant underground carnival event. There seems to be only one conclusion in my mind.”
Milton paused for a period of time that left the other two in a bit of suspense.
“Would you care to elaborate?”
“Certainly, Max. I have come to the conclusion that I am in some sort of dream state after having fallen down a hole in a cornfield, and now, I am dreaming of a carnival.”
“Wilton," said Clair. "I think I see some holes in your theory.”
“Yes, Clair," said Wilton. "What is it?”
“Wil… Do you ever dream of carnivals?” said Clair.
“Ever been to a carnival?”
“No," said Wilton. "I do not believe I have.”
“Have you--?” Clair said before being interrupted.
“Wait, let me try one," said Maxwell, deciding to get in on the dream analysis front. "Wil, have you any idea why you would be dreaming of a carnival now?”
“No, Max. I don’t.”
“So,” Maxwell continued, “why do you think you are dreaming?”
“I don’t really,” Wilton conceded. “But honestly, I really do not want to be awake and looking at a subterranean carnival.”
“Wil, honey, I have some bad news.”
“What is that, Clair?”
“You really are looking at an underground carnival, in the most literal sense possible.”
After Wilton sighed, rubbed his head and said, “Yeah, I know,” silence and confusion returned to the party as they each internally wondered what the next move should be, each with more than a little bit of fear nestling up inside them, but none wishing to burden the others with their individual concerns.
"At least my headache is gone," said Clair.
"Well," said Wilton, pausing and sort of half-shrugging in defeat of his better, saner judgment. "That's good."
Then the silence returned, leaving each to collect their thoughts.
Wilton was out of theories. He had never read anything similar to this, and had not run into anything so off-the-wall before. He had met some people and things which were not normal by any means, but this was backward. Shouldn't, having fallen into a pit, he be greeted by a more traditional vision? A big door made of fire or pearl maybe. This was akin to entering a hotel and finding out that it was actually a hanger for fighter jets without a transition in between. This did not fit into his mental filing system.
Clair looked the place over and found that she couldn't see a back end of the cavern or a clear horizon to where the carnival stopped existing and the darkness started again. It simply went on forever. She sank back again into her haze, trying to tempt from the shadows some intuition that would tell her what was going to happen next, but the more haze she tried to cover herself in the more her head just started hurting again, so she backed off, rubbing her temples again. Had she looked at her fingertips she would have seen a red sheen as her scalp was seemingly bleeding from an unseen source.
Maxwell decided to stop giving anymore thought to it than they already had and broke the silence with the simple inquiry, “So… Who wants to go see if it’s open?”