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Author's note: Just so you know, this is my very first story and it kinda falls apart at the end. I got impatient.

I've lived in a few houses growing up, but out of all of them, only one of them remains in my mind. It was the house before my parents died.

When I was 14, we moved into a small, 2-bedroom house in a small town in Oregon. The house sat at the end of a half mile driveway that snaked its way through dense spruce trees. At the end was a clearing and in the center of that was our house, looking as if it had been pulled straight from a fairytale. Little did I know, it was the farthest thing from.

I was a bit of a loner at the time, the kid that would rather sit away from everyone at lunch. My only friend was my headphones. I would drown out everyone else. One day, I was sitting alone like usual, when a girl named Emma decided I would be a good friend. She walked up to me and started talking to me. It came as such a shock that all I could do was stare. Only after she asked me my name for the third time was I able to reply.

“Oh… I'm Toby,” I said, barely over a whisper.

“I'm Emma. You're new in town, right?” she nearly shouted. Her energy was always equal to that of a squirrel who just did a line of coke off a car battery.

“Yeah, I moved here from a small town down in California,” I said, still not sure why this living fireball of a human was talking to me.

She sat down next to me. “Cool, so what house did you move into?”

I hesitated before replying, “the small two-story one on the edge of town, with the really long driveway.”

Her face went pale as I mentioned the house. “You haven't gone into the woods, have you?” She delivered the question with all the seriousness of a eulogy.

“N-no… why?”

She looked over her shoulder, as if someone was listening in on our conversation.

“A long time ago, like before we were born, there was a carnival out there. It was run by a man named Edward Forest. Everyone referred to him as 'Edward the Ringmaster' or just 'the Ringmaster'. Well, one day, a few kids went missing. Who better to blame when no suspect was found than the owner of the creepy carnival at the edge of town? There was no evidence, but that didn't stop people from turning against poor Edward. One day, a group of three or four men went out there to “talk” to him. No one knows what happened out there, but Edward was never seen again, and the carnival was left to rot. Rumor has it that at night, lights can still be seen from there, and some people even claim to have heard music from that area of the woods.”

As Emma finished her story the bell rang, calling everyone back to class. Emma stood up, dusted herself off and said “Don't go into those woods at night.”

I flopped onto my bed. My parents were fighting downstairs. Anywhere else would be better than here. As I lay in bed, my mind drifted between thoughts until it managed to reach the conversation from school earlier. Me being… well, me, thought since it wasn't night, I could go check out the supposed haunted carnival behind the house. Luckily, my window was pointed in the general direction of where Emma had said it was.

I put my boots on and climbed out of the window, carefully lowering myself down to the ground floor. I snuck from the house to the treeline before making my way through. It took me about an hour of walking, but soon, I began to come across evidence of life. Well, where life used to be. Old lightbulb strings running between trees, some flyers half buried in the dirt, even an old railing like the ones police use. As I trekked farther and farther in, I began to see more and more evidence that there really was a carnival here.

Up ahead, I could see a clearing where a few metal structures still stood. There was some form of generic spinning ride you see in every carnival, rusted over and overgrown with vines, as well as an old drop tower, once again nearly rusted beyond recognition, and an old snack cart, knocked over and decaying. It was creepy, and yet, it felt almost warm and inviting. Like the memory of all the happy people coming through had seeped into the land itself. It was almost addicting. But as the sun began to set, I remembered Emma's warning. “Don't go there at night,” she had told me. It was enough to convince me to head home right then.

Coming back to the house, I could see my dad's car was gone, tire tracks confirming a speedy exit fueled by anger. It was likely that he wasn't coming back tonight. I climbed back through the window so my mom wouldn't know I'd left. As I left my room, I could hear sobs coming from the master bedroom. This was all too common.

I crept down the stairs and made a sandwich before deciding to go to bed. As I slept, my dreams took me back to the carnival, but in my dream, it was bright and colorful. The smell of fresh popcorn and various fried foods filled the air. A hand rested on my shoulder, and I turned to see who it was. Standing there was a tall man wearing a half white and half black tailcoat. On top of his head, coal black hair spilled out from under a black and white spiraled top hat. He had a gentle smile on his face. He gestured toward the carnival and said in a slight English accent, “Have fun, kid.” I spent the rest of the dream running around, riding rides, eating cotton candy and popcorn, and playing the games.

I woke up, the phantom flavor of carnival snacks still on my tongue. Annoyed that the dream was over, I crawled out of bed and got dressed for school. Luckily, I was enrolled during the middle of the week, meaning it was already Friday. The day flew by and next thing I knew it was lunch. I was eating in the same spot when Emma walked up and sat next to me.

“So, did you see Edward's carnival lights last night?”

Why did this girl think we were suddenly friends?

“No, I slept all night.”

At that answer, Emma seemed disappointed. “Were you expecting a different answer?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “I guess… Nothing weird at all?”

I thought back to the dream. “Well… I had a dream… about the carnival.”

At the mention of this, Emma perked up. “Really? What happened?” She almost yelled her reply out of excitement.

“Yeah… nothing too weird. A tall guy in a black and white suit greeted me and I spent my dream riding the rides, playing games, and eating snacks.”

The color drained from Emma’s face again. “You said you saw a man in a black and white suit, right?”

I was confused as to why she had latched onto this of all things, but I went along with it. “Yeah, black and white suit, black hair, black and white spiraled top hat.”

The more I talked the more I could see Emma getting uneasy. Without saying anything, she pulled out her phone, typed something, and waited before turning her phone to me.

“Is this who you saw?”

As I looked at the phone, my heart dropped. On the screen was the man I had seen in my dream. “That's exactly who I saw,” I said.

Emma put her phone away. “That’s Edward the ringmaster.”

I shook my head. “There is no way, it has to be a coincidence or something. I went there yesterday before nighttime. Maybe I saw a picture of him somewhere and didn't even notice.”

Emma’s eyes lit up. “You should stay up and see if you can see the lights. You might be close enough to hear music.” I thought for a second.

“I should. It will tell if this is all real.”

During my walk home, I stopped at a gas station to pick up some energy drinks. If I was going to do this, I had to make sure I could make it through the night. As I got home, I noticed my dad was still gone. I climbed up the stairs and set up for the night before I realized I probably didn't need the drinks; the excitement was more than enough to keep me well awake.

As the hours ticked by, nothing happened. More time passed and nothing happened. Finally, it was four in the morning when I saw it. A faint glow coming from the forest. As I stared, I could feel a warmth inviting me in. It felt almost as if I was being drawn in. What's the worst that could happen? I thought to myself. From Emma's story, Edward wasn't a killer. There was no evidence. He probably just wanted people to have fun. I decided I'd get closer. I mean, what's wrong with wanting to take a closer look?

I climbed out of my window and started the hike. As I walked, I saw the lights I had seen before. Only this time, they were shining bright. I kept walking, being drawn in. Soon I could hear faint music playing in the distance. I couldn't stop now, I had to know what was happening.

I kept walking. The music grew louder and I began smelling food. Popcorn, fried hot dogs, funnel cake. The smells only made it harder to turn back. Suddenly, I could see the carnival. All the rides shining bright, the smell of snacks being made, the games with prizes hanging. Not a speck of dust on any surface. As I walked, I heard a familiar voice. It was a man's voice with a faint English accent, and it rang out, “Good Morning young one, I am Edward the Ringmaster and this is my carnival. It has been quite some time since I've had a visitor. Please tell me, what is your name?”

Despite being face to face with a ghost or whatever Edward was, I didn't feel scared for some reason. “I'm Toby. I live in the house just that way.” I pointed back the way I had come.

Edward smiled. “Well, young Toby, if it is fun you're looking for, you've come to the right place. It appears no one else is coming. You have my carnival as your own little slice of heaven.”

Edward disappeared into a puff of purple smoke. A hand was placed on my shoulder, and from behind me, I heard him once more. “Go ahead, kiddo, it's all yours.” Behind every counter, a puff of purple smoke erupted, and as it cleared, in each spot stood a person. They each wore the same outfit as Edward, but with a mask. I walked up to one of the games and looked at the person. Their mask was black and white, split down the middle. A smile was painted across in gold. As the person leaned down, Edwards' voice came from behind the mask.

“Young Toby, want to win a prize?” The masked person held out four baseballs. “Just knock the bottles down and win one of these.” He raised a large raccoon plushie.

I had spent the whole night as I did in my dream, playing games, eating snacks, and riding rides. Before sunrise, Edward stopped me.

“I hope you had fun, kiddo, but I'm afraid the carnival is closing. I recommend you head home now, but don't cry, my carnival will be here for you tomorrow night”.

I already knew I was going to go back. For the first time in years, I was able to enjoy myself. The past few years have been me laying in my room listening to the increasingly violent fights between my mom and dad. After the last one, my mom had not left her room. I wanted an escape from that hellish reality.

I returned Saturday night, and Sunday night, as well as Monday night, Tuesday, and Wednesday. It was now Thursday, and the sun was starting to go down. I was waiting for the lights to show. Today, I saw them before the sun went down. Only these lights weren’t from the forest. They were coming from my dad's car coming down the driveway. He parked and sat in his car for a while. After the sun had been down for a while longer, he climbed out of the car, finished off his beer, and reached back in and pulled out a shotgun.

I will never know what my parents fought about that week before, but it was enough to drive my dad over the edge. I began putting on my boots as he stumbled to the front door. Once I heard the front door open and close, I began climbing out my window again. By the time I was halfway across the clearing to the forest line, I heard a sound that has been engraved in my head. A shotgun blast echoed out of the house. In the dark, I could see the muzzle flash in the window of the master bedroom.

I began sprinting. I didn't have long before my dad would know I was gone. I ran as fast as I could into the forest. I could hear my dad's voice screaming my name behind me. While I ran, I knew I was getting closer to the carnival. I could see the lights, hear the music, and smell the food. It was the only place I could go. Something deep in my mind told me I would be safe there. I entered the park, but Edward was nowhere to be seen. I hid behind one of the game stalls as my dad entered the clearing. I heard him yelling my name.

Then, suddenly, things went silent. I looked over the counter and saw Edward standing in front of my father, a scowl plastered across his face and all the hatred of hell behind his eyes.

“Who the fuck are you and where did you come from?” My dad leveled his shotgun with Edward's head.

“I am Edward the Ringmaster and you are in my carnival.” Edward mockingly bowed.

“Where is Toby, you circus freak?” Edward's scowl turned into a grin.

“You think I'm a freak, huh? Just watch this.”

Edward's mouth stretched open, showing hundreds of razor-sharp teeth. My dad pulled the trigger, but only succeeded in angering the beast I knew as Edward. The newly formed monster reached out and grabbed my dad by the head and bit through neck, severing his head. There was a sickening crunching sound as blood sprayed across the grass. Edward let go of my dad's body, letting it collapse to the ground.

Edward turned to me, not even trying to hide his true self. “Come, young one. You can stay forever. I can make you happy beyond eternity.”

I shook my head, backing away.

“Don't you want that?” Edward continued. “No pain, no fear, only this place you love so much?”

Without saying another word, I turned and ran. I heard a scream of frustration behind me, like a predator who'd lost its prey. Only now that the spell had been broken could I see the bodies all around in various states of decay. Some were skeletons, some still had meat on them. All were kids; they all looked to be ages 5 to 15.

I never looked back. I ran back into town and was picked up by police. They investigated my house and the surrounding forest. They found my mom's corpse in bed and my dad's body in pieces. But they never found the bodies of the children at that old abandoned carnival. They ruled it as a murder-suicide. They said my dad had lost it after a fight, killed my mom and then went out into the woods and killed himself. Then his body was ripped apart by local wildlife. I was sent to live with my aunt. I stayed with her until I was 18 and I moved as far from Oregon as I could. I don't ever want to go back.