Howdy hey! I’d like to start this off by telling you what this is and how I plan to format this. This is the tale of three seemingly random people who are brought together through a particularly shady carnival (aka, this is the origin story of three of my ocs). This is going to be a three-chapter story, with each chapter focusing on a different character. I also plan to add little doodles of each character at the end of each chapter.
The first chapter takes place a couple years in the past, the second chapter takes place modern day, and the 3rd chapter takes place a couple years in the future (I’m just saying this for the sake of continuity, I don’t think it has any real effect on the story). Also I’m writing this with a keyboard that has keys that are ever so slightly too hard to press, so there could possibly be minor errors
Content warning: Brief paragraph about religion, mild infrequent swearing. Also this story is just generally edgy + dark; death is one of the main themes
Inspirations: Empty Smiles by Katherine Arden (it’s the 4th book in a series so I won’t put a link), the short film Alma, and the youtube series Welcome to Dreamworld
Alistair was certain he hit all the checkmarks for being an adult; he wasn’t a jerk, he kept his ego in check, and he called people back (well, people didn’t call him in the first place, but he still gave himself the points for that).
However, he did a lot of things that were usually considered “childish;” he only watched cartoons, he slept with stuffed animals, and his house was full of colorful little animal figurines. He was very passionate about these kinds of things; if you so much as mention something like Pokémon or Invader Zim, you will hear him ramble about it for at least 2 hours. So when he saw an ad on TV for Beau Bowie’s Totally Amaze-Tastic Traveling Carnival of Awesomeness, he knew he had to go. How could he not be excited? It was one of the biggest traveling carnivals in the history of forever!
The smells of cotton candy and friend food wafted through the air as he stepped foot into the clown-shaped gate. He looked around the carnival in awe, his eyes drifting from the games (which were themes after popular franchises), to the gargantuan glowing ferris wheel, to the food trucks which screamed heart disease and high blood pressure. He was reminded of times he went to carnivals as a child—but they were never quite like this. He went to the striped ticket stand and walked around the carnival, trying to decide what to do first. It was only the afternoon; he’d have plenty of time to do things.
He gasped when he spotted a ring toss game themed after one of his most recent obsessions: Hatsune Miku. Her cyan pigtails were pointed upwards so that you could throw rings onto them, with VOCALOID themed prizes hanging from the ceiling. A couple of tickets could get you 5 rings.
“5 rings, please!” Alistair exclaimed, holding out his tickets. For a brief moment, the carney gave him a weird look. Alistair realized it must have looked strange for a grown man to be playing a ring toss game of some virtual popstar. it didn’t help that he looked like a stereotypical nerd; he was a tall skinny white boy with brown hair, glasses, and a t-shirt with a periodic table joke. He gave a small awkward chuckle and he looked away from the carney. But luckily he didn’t linger on it for too long and got him his 5 rings. They were pink and square, like the hoops around Miku’s pigtails. Wow, he thought, they really went all out with this, didn’t they?
Alistair was a master at ring toss—well actually, he just watched a 6 minute “How to Always Win at Ring Toss” video that one time. It seemed to pay off, though; he landed every single ring. The carney grabbed a figurine from a shelf way in the back.
He took it excitedly, looking at it for a while. Although he certainly felt happy about winning the doll, there was something… strange about it that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. It must’ve been the eyes; it had those eyes that always seemed to follow you. Yeah, that’s what it is, he reassured himself.
He played a couple more games (and won every single one). He had tons of different prizes: a collector’s set of Care Bear plushies, a buildable lego Pikachu, a My Little Pony yo-yo with a Rarity figurine included, and even a Keroppi hat with plastic eyes (don’t worry, he won a huge Gravity Falls tote bag to hold all the stuff). All of the prizes had something about them that seemed a little off, but again he couldn’t figure out what it was.
At some point, though, he saw a food stand selling Beau Bowie’s Absolutely Sugar-Loaded Cotton Candy Swirl Delight. He knew it wasn’t very healthy, but it was so tempting that he went against his better judgement.
Everything after that became a blur, and all of his worries became irrelevant. He became a being of pure energy with no weakness, running every inch of the carnival—twice! Time seemed to pass by slowly and incredibly fast all at once, and standing still for even a millisecond was an impossible feat. It felt like he was at the peak of hyperactivity and about to pass out simultaneously. He probably could have killed a god in a Wendy’s parking lot of he wanted to.
After a few more rides (and misplacing his prizes along the way), he found his way into a circus tent where they were holding a performance. He didn’t really remember anything that happened, except that it involved lots of clowns. No, wait, he remembered something else—the grand finale. It was done by Beau himself, the owner of the carnival. He remembered Beau’s performance a little better than the rest; it was a super spooky light show. Some of the stunts he pulled seemed rather impossible; it was almost magical. Alistair wondered what kind of special effects were used.
It took a couple more hours for the sugar to completely wear off. When Alistair was sober again, he found himself sitting against a barricade. He slowly opened his eyes, his head pounding and his whole body aching. They shot open, though, as he realized he didn’t know where he was! After a quick look around, he remembered he was at Beau Bowie’s carnival, but that didn’t make things any better; the sky was pitch black, and there was nobody in sight!
Okay, don’t panic, he thought to himself as he pulled out his phone to use the flashlight. He soon ditched that plan, though, as he noticed it was midnight!
He scrambled to find the exit, meanwhile trying to ignore the pain he felt all over. He had no sense of where he was, but that didn’t seem to slow him down. Where could it possibly be?
The carnival felt… wrong at night. A carnival should be full of people, full of life, full of chatter and laughter and excited screams. But this place didn’t have any of those things. It felt like a parallel universe, almost.
He saw something moving in the corner of his eye. He shone his light in that direction, and saw a short, stout janitor sweeping up the ground. “Oh thank the heavens,” he said under his breath.
“Excuse me,” he spoke up, “so sorry to bother you, but it appears I’ve gotten lost. Do you think… uh, hello?” The man didn’t look up or stop sweeping. Alistair walked a little closer.
He froze as he noticed a small squeaking sound coming from the man as he swept; it was the kind of sound a creaky hinge makes. Upon further inspection, he discovered that the janitor was, in fact, a robot! Whoever disguised it was definitely on a tight budget; its gray metal skin was painted sloppily with a tan color, and its hair was just a cheap Party City wig.
Everything about this situation screamed “get the hell out of here!” But he was startled as the robot janitor’s eyes flashed red all of a sudden. “INTRUDER DETECTED! INTRUDER DETECTED!” It screamed.
There was no time to run. A split second after the alarm, Alistair heard two feet hit the ground right behind him—as if someone had teleported. A thin, spindly hand seized his neck. Another hand covered his mouth, four more held his arms and another four held his legs. He struggled and screamed and fought against the hands, but it was no use; they kept on multiplying somehow. Where were all these hands coming from?
He felt a sudden but excruciating pain in his back, and everything went dark.
Almost immediately afterwards, Alistair regained consciousness. Everything was incredibly loud—even louder than the carnival was normally—although it was definitely still nighttime. All he could hear were shouts and swears directed at someone. His body no longer ached, but he felt wrong; it felt as if he were trapped in some sort of hard, thick wrapping.
He couldn’t see clearly at first, but after a minute it cleared up. To his horror, he discovered that his eyes made a plastic creaking noise when he looked around. He was elevated off the ground, and around him were stands with games. Right in front of him, he saw a man with long, blonde hair, dressed in clothes only a Disney villain would wear. He was holding a brown paper bag.
It was Beau Bowie, of course.
All the noise was coming from the toy sin the stands, who thrashed against the zip ties that held them in place. Beau seemed to have no reaction to this. In fact, he seemed quite amused. “Why hello there, my little friends!” He said with a fancy flourish of his hands. The toys yelled louder.
Alistair went to cover his ears, only to find that his hands weren’t hands at all. They were robotic claw grabbers. Internally, it felt as if his normal, human fingers were being forced to fit the shape of the claws. He looked further to find that his feet were made of the same tube-like metal, and that his torso was a green plastic.
Like anybody would, he began to panic. He shook and whimpered, not having any idea of what was going on. He naturally would have started hyperventilating, but he couldn’t breathe—as if he didn’t even have lungs.
Beau suddenly looked in his direction. “Oh, it seems our new friend has woken up already!” He said with a sinister grin.
He turned away, and took a My Little Pony yo-yo out of his bag—the same one Alistair had won earlier that day. “It seems some of your friends escaped… or were left by someone.” He watched as every toy he had lost was put back into their respective stands. Unlike all the other toys though, they didn’t move, but he could see their eyes darting around frantically. Beau muttered something under his breath, but Alistair couldn’t hear what it was.
“Well, I must take my leave now. Farewell friends!” He took a bow before exiting in a puff of smoke.
Alistair was still shaking and scared. “What’s going on?!” He shouted without meaning to. Most everyone went silent and looked in his direction. Oops. Unable to blush, he cowered a bit in embarrassment.
A Funtime Freddy plush from the Five Nights at Freddy’s game across from him spoke up. “Well, to put it simply to you, we’re in Hell.” He had an old man’s voice.
This didn’t help at all. “W-what?” Alistair muttered. He felt like he was on the verge of tears, but he somehow couldn’t cry. His noodly, robotic limbs flailed about. He believed in God and the afterlife, although he didn’t label himself as anything in particular; he just tried to be a good person and hoped for the best. Were his efforts not enough?
“Harold!” Scolded a Roxanne Wolf plush. She had the voice of an old lady.
“What, Margaret? Its true!”
“Sigh,” she said (she didn’t actually sigh; she just said the word). She picked up where Harold left off. “Well, yes, it certainly feels like Hell, but it’s not exactly Hell—not in the traditional sense, at least. Tell me, do you remember having any interaction with…” she shuddered, “Beau?” Many of the other toys also shuddered hearing the name.
Alistair didn’t really want to say anything; he was still too shocked.
Margaret new she should just get to the point and tell him what was up, but she avoided eye contact and fidgeted with her stump hands. “Alright, so…”
“Oh for God’s sake, Margaret, let me tell him: you’ve died!” Harold interrupted. “And now you’re trapped in a carnival toy just like the rest of us, all because of that filthy, wretched excuse of a man!”
Alistair was absolutely mortified. Everything was happening all at once and he was starting to become overwhelmed. He was in a state of disbelief. How could this kind of thing even happen?
At the same time, though, everything seemed to click into place. Why did all of his prizes seem to give him a strange feeling? Because they were alive. Why did he feel so much pain in his back before blacking out? Because he was murdered.
“Stop it Harold, you’re scaring him!” Margaret scolded once more.
“I will not! He deserves to know the truth!”
Margaret sighed once more. “Well, yes, you’ve… died. We all have. But don’t you worry, dear, everything’s gonna be just—“
“Damn it, Margaret, stop sugar coating everything!” Harold interrupted once more. He turned to Alistair. “Look, we’re trapped in these plastic and plush prisons for what we can assume to be all eternity. That man has trapped us here—only God knows what for! And now we must sit here and watch helplessly as time marches on; as normal people go about their normal lives; as people fall victim to this carnival and become one of us!” He said all of this as if he had been holding it in for a long time. Margaret started bickering with him once again.
Alistair panicked more, squirming and wriggling, trying to escape the zip ties that he was tied to the stand with. He whimpered and made crying sounds, even though he couldn’t actually cry anymore. He looked down at his new hands. He realized that he may never see his loved ones again. He realized that they may never know what happened to him. He pictured himself 1,000 years into the future, going crazy here.
Margaret tried to calm him. “What’s your name, dear?”
This snapped him out of his thoughts for a moment. “A-A-Alistair,” he stuttered.
“Why, that’s such a lovely name you have!”
“Uh, thanks,” he replied. How were you even supposed to respond if someone complimented your name?
Their conversation didn’t really do anywhere. Alistair fell silent for a while. This was just a lot to take in all at once. Most of the other toys tried to comfort him, but he didn’t really listen to them.
After his mind cleared up just a bit, the logical part of his brain started to kick in. There were still some things about this whole situation that needed clarification. He tried to talk to Margaret again. “Umm, Miss Margaret, is it okay if I ask a few things?”
“Sure dear! Oh, and you can just call me Margaret.”
“First of all, how have people not noticed…uh…” he was struggling to think of a respectful way to ask the question. “Umm, how have they not noticed… how many people have… gone missing?”
“It’s because they’re not looking hard enough!” Squawked Harold.
“He wasn’t talking to you, Harold! Anyways, I personally think there’s some sort of underlying magical cause, but we don’t know anything for sure.”
“Hmm, okay,” Alistair said. “I also want to know: what happened to…” he gestured towards the My Little Pony game, “them?”
“Oh, you mean Stacy?” Whispered Margaret, as if she didn’t want anyone to hear. “A real nice young lady. It’s a shame a guest left her on the ground; now… he did something to her— froze her, made her eyes creak louder, filled her head with bad thoughts, who knows? The same thing happened to all the others that were left.” Her very casual tone while saying this scared Alistair.
Now he felt guilty. He was the one that accidentally left them. He caused them to suffer. If everybody found out, would they hate him?
“Oh, one more thing, dear,” said Margaret,” we can’t move during the day. It has something to do with him.” Alistair nodded, not really hearing what she was saying.
He couldn’t close his eyes to sleep, and he had nothing more to say to Margaret and Harold, so he decided to take a look at the stand he was in. Unlike other stands, this one didn’t seem to be themed after a game or show, but rather a concept: science. There were no other living toys, just things like bubbles in test-tube containers and instant snow.
The stand across from him was shiny, and he could see himself. He had been trapped in a green robot toy. He had huge glasses and cartoony black pupils, and there was a pink painted-on brain on top of his head.
He sat there and watched the sun rise. He watched Beau open the gate to let people in. He watched as more and more people came. He heard roller coasters woosh above him, and the excited screams of the people on it. He saw the looming ferris wheel make its rotations.
As Margaret had said, he couldn’t move during the day. He had almost forgotten about it. From where he was tied, he could see people playing the game below him. It was a balloon pop game, except it was very clearly rigged; the balloons moved around too fast for anybody to win anything. Only a few people actually won anything, and they won very small prizes; it must’ve been pretty difficult (or maybe these people just weren’t good at it). He saw people winning prizes from other stands, and it was then that he wondered what happened to toys who were taken from the carnival. Were they still able to move at night? Were they still conscious? The carneys seemed to be in on the secret. These were dark thoughts, so he decided that he didn’t want to think about it any longer.
It had been about a year since Alistair was trapped at Beau’s carnival. Although it was a traveling carnival, he had never actually seen anything being packed up; the entire place seemed to simply teleport to different places. There was never a time that the carnival wasn’t around, as it traveled all over the world.
He watched old toys go and new toys come. He shouted at Beau when he appeared each night, just like everyone else. Sometimes he wasn’t even there to introduce a new toy; he just wanted to make sure everyone was suffering.
Margaret and Harold had been good company. They told Alistair all about their ives as humans, about their past experiences and their grandchild. Harold was quite grumpy at first, but it turned out he was just under a lot of stress. Their company didn’t last as long as he would have liked, though; they were each won by different people, never to be seen again (and never to see each other again). A couple of new toys were hung up at Alistair’s stand, but he hadn’t had time to get to know them. However, all of the toys seemed to care about him; they all cared for each other like this.
It was on a sweltering summer day that it happened.
A woman with a baby in a stroller played the balloon pop game. Alistair didn’t really pay attention; he had seen this a billion times before. But something was different this time. The woman hit every single balloon. She didn’t seem to be trying particularly hard, but she hit every single one, even the special golden balloon.
“Congratulations, you’ve won the mega prize,” the carney said flatly. He untied Alistair from the wall of the stand—all while looking him straight in the eyes and giving him a small smirk—handing him to the woman, who then handed him to her child. “Here you go, Charlie!” She said. “This is for you!”
In all his time of being a toy, he had never been untied. It currently didn’t feel any different than being tied up, though, since it way day time and he was still frozen. His thoughts began to race. What would happen when he left the carnival? What would happen to hi if he was accidentally left behind?
The mom pushed the stroller around the carnival for a bit, going to the different child-centered rides. Charlie didn’t seem all that interested in Alistair; he just held him, not really knowing what to do with him.
Alistair wasn’t really paying attention, as he was lost in his own thoughts. So he almost didn’t notice when he was suddenly thrown out of the stroller, right underneath the Sweet Tarnation Spinning Wheel ride. He saw Charlie point and laugh at him. That little sucker did it on purpose! He thought. Charlie’s mom seemed a little panicked at first, but overall just seemed annoyed. She sighed and walked away. “The thing was probably made of cheap plastic, anyways,” she said. Alistair felt oddly insulted
Now he was really screwed. He might be torn up by the underside of the ride—or worse, caught by Beau.
Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you looked at it) he was untouched. As soon as the carnival closed down, he could move again. He couldn’t walk properly, as he had no prior experience with walking on such noodly legs. He crawled to the edge of the roller coaster, but crawled right back when he heard footsteps.
Beau Bowie’s footsteps were slow and dramatic. “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” he said in a drawn out sing-song voice. Alistair shimmied further, towards the middle of the ride. He was shaking harder than he ever had before.
Surely Beau wouldn’t be able to reach him from this far away. Right?
An impossibly long and spindly hand suddenly reached underneath the ride and grabbed him by the leg. He screamed, trying desperately to grip at the ground—or anything. Alas, his claw-arms were useless.
He was dragged along the ground and soon came face-to-face with Beau—hanging upside down, that is. Alistair had never seen him look like this before. He had huge, flesh-colored horns protruding from his forehead, and a couple extra pairs of arms, each one coming from his back. His pupils were like little black slits in a sea of gold.
He immediately began to plead. “Please don’t hurt me! I promise I didn’t do this on purpose! I promise I’ll be quiet all the time and—”
“Enough,” Beau snapped.
He seized Alistair’s head, and suddenly his entire world changed forever. It felt like 10 jumper cables were hooked up to his brain all at once. All of his thoughts became a mish-mashed incomprehensible blur. He saw violent swirls of colors that weren’t visible to him before. He could taste sounds and hear sights. He saw tall shadowy figures and dogs with human teeth and all sorts of scary hallucinations. He could hear whispers of ancient languages only spoken by beings far beyond his comprehension. There was absolutely no way to tell how long had passed; what felt like a single moment could very well have been months, or what felt like a couple of months could have just been a couple of seconds.
Without warning, everything suddenly stopped. It was daytime now, and he was back up in the stand. He was frozen, as always, but his head was still full of half-thoughts that melded together and didn’t really make any sense, like a bowl of Spaghetti-Os mixed with McDonald's Sprite and battery acid.
Knowledge of himself was lost among this mess. Who was he? What was his name? What was he doing here? He certainly didn’t know. He listened to the chatter amongst people, hearing many small snippets of conversations. Upon overhearing a conversation about asthma, it suddenly struck him, as if by a god: he was Asthma Man. Of course! Who else could he be? It might not have made sense to anybody else’s normal brain, but it made perfect sense to his scrambled-egg brain.
Time seemed to flow normally from this point on, and he didn’t hallucinate anymore (although his mind was still quite muddled). The day went on just as every other day went; people came and people went, nobody won his game. As soon as night had fallen, all the other toys immediately wanted to check on him, to see what damage Beau had done. They said things like “Alistair, are you okay?” and “Alistair, what did he do to you?” and “Alistair, what happened to your eyes?”
Who was this Alistair they spoke of? Who were these toys? He certainly didn’t know. He saw their concerned faces twist into faces of horror and sorrow when he told them he didn’t know who Alistair was. He thought their faces were quite funny, so he responded to their looks with unhinged giggling.
And, then, for just a brief moment, he stopped laughing and seemed to come out of this strange state. For just a brief moment, he remembered: he was Alistair. His mind had been messed with by Beau. They were concerned for him.
But that brief moment soon ended, and his laughter continued. Who was Alistair? He was Asthma Man.
Nobody knew how it happened, but Asthma Man escaped. Saying that Beau was infuriated was an understatement. He made his carneys—a.k.a his henchmen—search every inch of the carnival twenty times. And yet nobody was able to find him. Why did he care so much, anyways? None of the toys could figure it out. Did he just like to see people suffer, or was it something deeper?
Asthma Man hid in the ceiling of the attic of the Scream-Tacular Haunted House, which sat at the very edge of the carnival and always seemed to be out of order for some reason.
And there he stayed, rocking back and forth with his knees to his chest, giggling and cackling at nothing, scribbling incomprehensible things on the walls with stolen crayons, and learning to walk on his wobbly legs. He found a piece of paper and some tape, and he made a heart and taped it to his chest. He had never come out of the place for anything, and nobody came up there for anything.
To him, this whole ordeal was like a game of hide-and-seek. Everyone must be really bad at this game! he thought. They’ll never be able to find me!
Okay, sorry to break immersion here, but I just feel like I should clarify why exactly I named the character Asthma Man, of all things. Sometimes I’ll make a character and not know what to name them, so I’ll say “you know what, let’s just call them something stupid for now until I can think of a better name.” But ever single time, I get attached to the stupid name and physically can’t call the character anything else. Thus, his name is Asthma Man.
Thanks for reading!!
Chapter 2: https://www.youngwriterssociety.com/work/GengarIsBestBoy/The-Spooky-Squad-Chapter-2-Giggling-Fit-154949