Carnival of Carnage
by David Noonan
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As he clambered up the beams of the wooden roller coaster, Viktor paused to listen to the screams wafting up from the tangle of track below. Shouts and screams are an ordinary part of the background noise of an amusement park, mixing with the calliope music, the shouting barkers, and the laughter of children at play. But as he neared the top of the coaster, Viktor heard the character of the screams change. The screams drew themselves out and became shriller, then started to undulate as the screamers gasped briefly to draw breath, then continue their scream.

Those aren't roller-coaster screams, Viktor thought. That means the hunt has begun.

A brief wave of his hands allowed Viktor to make out the carnival below him clearly, as a reddish light only he could see limned every building. With a muttered incantation, Viktor -- or more accurately, Viktor's perceptive self -- hovered above the amusement park and witnessed the rampage of his latest creation.

The hulking figure shambling down the midway was once a monster of legend, Tamnnis the Dreamer. It took Viktor years of study to master the necessary dark pacts and conjurings to bring the hideous Tamnnis out of the primeval past. And that was just the beginning, Viktor mused.

Within his conjuration chambers, Viktor sacrificed several of his believers to Tamnnis, merging their essence with that of the reptilian horror. Using an Egyptian Ritual of the Ineffable Joining, he combined Tamnnis's strength with that of a creature beyond death: the skull swarm. The resulting abomination existed for one purpose: to hunt. In this case, to draw out another creature not unlike itself, thought Viktor.

As Viktor's eyes floated overhead, Tamnnis traced a bloody, wandering path through the amusement park. It smashed a shooting gallery to splinters, scooping up an old man in its claws and biting his torso completely through. Blood sprayed across Tamnnis's head and chest as it whipped its serpentine torso around. Amid the wreckage, the shooting gallery attendant raised a shaky arm, pointing one of the toy rifles at Tamnnis. A laugh whistled through the creature's crooked maw, then it leapt at the attendant, knocking away the rifle and locking its jaws on the man's neck. Then Tamnnis rose from a crouch to its full height and shook its head from side to side. Within its jaws, the attendant's body flopped and lolled hideously.

So my new beast has a sense of humor. How intriguing, Viktor thought. But this slaughter is pointless unless it reveals my foe.

The screams faded into the distance as the park's visitors fled. Only the calliope music from the rides' loudspeakers remained. Viktor touched the medallion on his slim chest and furrowed his brow in concentration, forming his thoughts with care. Below him, Tamnnis staggered briefly as it received new orders from its creator and master. Crouching low, it began to stalk through the amusement park, hunting anyone too frightened or foolish to flee.

Viktor left Tamnnis to its hunt, expanding his sorcerous perceptions to encompass the entire park. He sensed the auras of dozens of ordinary souls, some unconscious, some hysterical, some driven mad by the carnage of Tamnnis. But near the carousel, Viktor felt a dead spot -- a bit of gray amid the yellow and green auras of mortals frightened beyond comprehension.

Go, Tamnnis! Viktor thought as he clutched his medallion. That's an abomination -- and its master can't be far behind. Viktor began an incantation of defense, weaving eldritch tendrils around his body, then extending the red-black tentacles so they crept through the park like mist.

Tamnnis paused amid the bumper cars, its arms and face covered in gore. Then it shuffled toward the carousel, leaning forward on its forelimbs like a gorilla.

Lurching and swaying atop the carousel's spindle was Tamnnis's foe. Stitched together from multiple cadavers, the abomination had two complete torsos grafted to a squat pair of legs. Railroad spikes pierced all four arms, causing each wound to bleed profusely. One torso drooped forward, its hands scrambling atop the carousel, while the other gazed across the midway, uttering a keening wail as Tamnnis approached.

The twinned husk leapt from the carousel as Tamnnis charged. The two abominations clutched each other, and each one's claws and teeth found purchase in the flesh of the other. Crossing two of its arms in front of it, the cadaver-creature blocked Tamnnis's maw from reaching its neck. The two other arms battered Tamnnis's sides, the spikes penetrating deep within Tamnnis's ancient flesh.

Tamnnis broke the clinch with a twist of its torso and a shrug of its hulking shoulders, then rolled back toward the carousel. The twinned husk uttered a wail of triumph as it rose to its feet, bashing its spike-laden arms against one another. Tamnnis snapped the shafts of two carousel horses and hurled them at the dead thing, knocking it down to one knee.

Then Tamnnis leapt, extending its clawed hands and baring its fangs. Its claws found one torso while its maw found the other, and it tore away hunks of flesh, flinging them into the air. The two abominations rolled across the midway in a cloud of dust and blood. The twinned husk beat its arms against Tamnnis's scaly hide, rending deep gashes in its flesh.

Tamnnis tried to howl in pain, but only a gurgle emerged because so much undead flesh was in its mouth. The torso in its clawed arms had stopped struggling, but the one in its mouth was carving up Tamnnis's back, its spikes plunging into Tamnnis again and again. With supreme effort, Tamnnis clambered to one knee, then lurched upright. The reptilian abomination twisted its head to the left, then to the right as it held the twinned husk aloft. The undead creature started thrashing its limbs wildly, but the spikes found little more than air.

That's the death shake. Time to make my appearance and find the creature's master, Viktor thought. He clasped his hands, then whisked himself incorporeally along his misty tendrils to the carousel.

As Viktor rematerialized near the carousel, Tamnnis rent the twinned husk asunder. From its ruined form emerged a black cloud of crows that wheeled and circled into the sky, their guttural caws filling the air. Thousands of the ebon birds darkened the neon glare of the amusement park, rendering Viktor temporarily blind.

But with his aura sight, Viktor saw a bright red glow near the Tilt-A-Whirl, and this glow was fading into the distance. Tamnnis was too busy clawing at crows to move, so Viktor took a few steps toward the departing aura. With a flash of perception, he saw a red-haired woman in a trenchcoat, running toward a motorcycle.

Chasing a fleeing sorcerer is probably a bad idea, he thought. But my tendrils will capture a bit of her aura, so my magic can track her down later.

And I just know I've seen that red hair before. But where?

To be continued...

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