Chapter 7

Written by: MatClarke
Clarke chuckled. "Art, I got you this far, now your debt must be repaid."
Art tensed. He turned away from Mandy, while on his knees by her side.
"For doing something to Paul? No. You can go to hell."
Clarke sighed. Look past our chance meeting on the train and understand why we are both here. Search your mind, when were you last in Roverhampton?"
"What?" Art said. 
Clarke held up a toffee apple so red it mimicked the fresh blood trickling down Mandy’s cheek. Art shivered as the sweet toffee flavour dressed his tongue. He had tasted similar when in a large colourful tent with clowns and jugglers. He saw himself with his two best friends as they laughed and screamed with joy while riding the spinning rides and playing the carnival games. He had desperately wanted to see the circus and had begged his parents to allow him and his friends to go on their first big trip without any adults.
It was the magic show where everything had gone bad.
Another figure appeared next to Clarke. Someone much taller and so thin that he could not possibly be real. Then a clown on the other side of Clarke with an insanely happy grin stretching her bleached face. More characters appeared until the entire circus stood before Art, all much different from how he had remembered them, all seemingly expectantly waiting for what would happen next.
Art smelt smoke, although it was not real, instead inside his memory. He fell deeper into a forgotten corner of his mind and relived the moments before he had sworn to pay an impossible debt. 
"I didn’t mean to, I... it was an accident, I was only twelve. No, no, you made it happen!" Art slammed his fist into the fuel sodden earth. "It wasn’t my fault everything burned, it wasn’t my fault." 
Even as Art spoke, he knew it did not matter to the magician. As the only survivors, Clarke had forced Art to swear to help him bring everyone back. Art had agreed. From then on Clarke had always been a part of Art’s life, nudging him in certain directions, urging him onto this moment so that he would eventually bring the magician what he wanted. 
Clarke gave the toffee apple to a boy Art had not noticed before, and a fairy floss to another boy.
Tears filled Art’s eyes and his throat burned.
"I’m sorry, I’ll do it, just don’t hurt them."
"Your company has confirmed that the experiments have been successful, bring the chemicals here tomorrow. Paul will not return, and Mandy will do as you say. Go to Brettamol, talk to them, bring me what I want. Then the debt will be paid."
Art’s two best friends faded to become wispy shadows. Clarke turned and walked back into the shadows with the circus folk. Mandy whimpered and Art helped her to her feet just as his phone rang. Charlotte’s name showed on the display.


Wow, this has gone in an interesting direction. Clowns and circus folk are always scary. I think of Stephen King's book called 'IT'. Great stuff, Mat!
This chapter has added to the element of fantasy in the story. So now there is a debt to pay and the enigmatic Clarke will be a shadowy memory...perhaps? Great to have your storytelling back Mat. Your characters push the boundaries and yet are believable which is the strength of the way you cast them.
I also liked the way you made the link with Brettamol. There was a risk with would get lost yet you brought it in naturally and smoothly.