's 2020 Horror Write-off:

The Carousel

Submitted by Gareth Barsby

It’s surprising what you find when you go out at night.

After a while of walking through the woods, the way illuminated by the light of my hat, I made my way into a clearing where I was greeted by a carousel lying in a bed of weeds and dead grass. Not only did it lack lights and calliope music, but there were no other rides or attractions of any kind. Several golden-coloured horses, each frozen in a whinny, stood underneath a striped roof with chipped paint and bird shit. The roof was coloured red and white, making the ride look like a gigantic mushroom straight from a fairy forest.

Just as I got out my phone to take a picture, I heard a noise not unlike a car engine sputtering. When I heard, 'What do you want?', I dropped my phone onto the ground.

'Yes, throw it away. It’s just an object. That’s what humans do with objects, isn’t it?' It was only one voice I heard, yet every horse on the carousel moved its metal lips.

Frozen to the spot, shaking, I attempted to say something, yet could muster only a wheeze.

'Well, what do you want?' the carousel repeated, their venomous voice crawling from each horse's mouth.

All I could say in response is 'What are you?'

‘Of course,’ the carousel hissed, 'Not "who", "what". I’m a "what", always have been. When the children were here, when the children came to see me, they would play with me, they would have fun thanks to me, but I was always a "what".

'The children would flock to me, sit atop one of these horses and I would spin around, allowing them to laugh and giggle and pretend because it once made me happy to make other people happy. The children would imagine themselves riding real horses, and would then return to their homes, but I could never travel.' To emphasise this, every horse struggled against their restraints, though only their head and neck and mouth moved. 'Try as I might, I was always stuck here, unable to do nothing but spin in place. By day, I let the children ride and I spent my nights waiting for the children to ride again.

'But then, apparently, my novelty wore off. The children discarded me, as humans do with anything artificial. They walked away like I was unable to, found shelter that I was unable to escape into. They just left me here where it rained and snowed and I rotted away. I can still spin, but humans still ignore me. They still see me as nothing.'

Finally finding it in me to pick up my phone, I asked, 'I'm sorry. Is there anything I can do?'

'Yes,' came the voice from every artificial horse, 'step on.'

I stepped on the carousel's base, looking at one of the horses they had used to speak to me with.

The horse reared its head backwards, letting loose a loud snarl before digging its teeth into my arm. All the other horses cackled wildly as the carousel spun faster and faster and faster, intensifying the pain on my arm with an extra nausea.

As the carousel came to a sudden stop and the horse opened its mouth, I stumbled backwards, clutching my bleeding arm.

'I can't feel pain, you know,' said the carousel, the horses they were talking through all seemingly grinning, 'There's advantages to not being flesh and blood.' The horses chuckled again.

'So don’t feel sorry for me, don’t feel LUCKY that you’re a human and not a carousel. I’m not even going to give you that.'