Aphelion Issue 277, Volume 26
October 2022
 
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Gumballs

by James Tatam




It hadn't been a good year.

In January, arsonists burned most of the cornfields down, and left the William family penniless. In May, Wendy Williams fell ill. Doctors had told Gabriel that it was terminal, and she wouldn't last the year. In August, Martin Williams, Gabriel's father, broke down under the stress of his wife's doom, and fled the house. In October, they lost their house and resorted to living in a caravan. So when the carnival came around in November, Gabriel saw it as salvation.

"I want you to go," Wendy had told him in ghostly whispers.

"But what if I want to stay here with you, Ma." Gabriel looked at his mother lying on the hospital bed, dressed in a sick-stained gown. The bed seemed to engulf her like a coffin to a corpse. Her once plump figure was now frail, and her skin, now a sickly white, had become a breeding ground for warts. He felt sorry for her, knowing she could go at any moment.

"You don't have a say in the matter, young man," She protested.

He twitched his high cheekbones and pursed his thin lips -- a stance of retaliation -- but then relaxed. It would be no good to argue.

"You are not living like any normal eight year old, Gabriel." She was only forty-five, yet her hair was as grey as granite. It crawled over her strained face as she pulled a few notes from a purse. "It's not far from here, and you will have a lot of fun!"

He took the money with a limp hand. "But--"

"No buts, Gabriel. Stop worrying about me and go and have fun!" With a stick-like hand, she ruffled his long blonde hair. "I'll still be here, you bet!"

He gave her a kiss and left the room, walking down the hospital corridor, dressed in a navy tee shirt, ripped jeans and torn sneakers. Clutching the money in one hand, he picked his pace up to a sprint, and dived down the hospital corridor like a bat out of hell.

He left the hospital, and his concerns vanished into the deep night sky. Above him, stars twinkled like jewels. Guided by their light, he ran through the car park and onto the neighbouring field. At the end of the field, the dancing lights of the carnival rivalled the stars.

Faint carnival music -- warm and festive -- chimed through the night, enticing the young boy to increase his pace again. He sprinted across the field, ignoring the stitch in his side.

Ahead, tall tents, coloured red and white, like over-sized popcorn bags, danced with hidden shadows, and laughter filled Gabriel's ears. It was like a paradise, a utopia, a break -- and Gabriel welcomed it. He dropped to his knees at its entrance like he was bowing to the gates of heaven.

"Well, what the hell are you doing down there, son?" A giggling, shrill voice said.

Gabriel looked up to see a pale, lanky man looming over him. The man fitted the carnival type well, almost like a stereotype, in his stripy red and white jacket, corresponding with a similar shirt, and trousers of the same fashion. A tall red hat sat atop his head so that he looked like a jester. In one hand, he held a long black stick that looked more like a staff than walking aid.

"Well? Ain't you gonna answer Old Rhyme? I'm here to give ya a good old time, my son. Something tells me that you need it." He wore a maddening grin on his face -- revealing so many white teeth -- that it looked like a mask. His green eyes beamed like emeralds.

"Is this the carnival?" Gabriel muttered, brushing his golden hair away from his face.

The man laughed. "It sure is, son!" He jumped up and down and skipped around the boy. "And you are here for a hell of a night! Come on, tell me: What's your name?"

"Gabriel," the boy answered. He stood up and scanned the area. Striped tents populated the field, bright lights hanging from them like vines. Strewn across the ground, litter looked like fallen leaves. Hundreds of people ambled around like walking trees.

"Gabriel, huh? Like the angel?"

The boy nodded and focussed back on the pale man.

"Well, I am Old Rhyme, and I'll be your guide this evening. Do you have money, mister Gabriel?" The man tapped the boy's clutched hand with his black staff.

"Yeah, I have money."

"Well, good, because you're in the wrong place if you don't. Now, tell me, where shall we go first?"

Gabriel stood clueless. "I...I don't know. What can I do?"

Old Rhyme slapped his staff into his stomach and howled with laughter. "Oh boy! Is this your first time at a carnival?"

Gabriel nodded.

"Well, don't be embarrassed, son. Here's what we will do. I'll take you around some places and you can get a...feel? Yeah, a feel for the place. Then maybe you can choose what you wanna do. How does that sound, young Gabriel?"

"Sounds good, I guess."

"He guesses! You hear that, he guesses! You watch, Gabriel, by the time you are done here, you will be positive that it sounds good. Come on, let's go and look around. It's a beautiful night, wouldn't you say?"

Old Rhyme held the boys hand and led him through the buzzing masses. They stopped at a bulbous ride, busy with people.

"This is the merry go round, Gabriel," Old Rhyme proclaimed. He used his stick to part the sea of people so that Gabriel could clearly see. "You see those pink horses attached to the ceiling with a metal rod? Those are what you ride, and look, you'll see what happens in a minute. There, see, they go round. That is why it's called a merry-go-round." He slapped himself again and bellowed.

"How much does it cost?"

"Not much. Look, I work here, so I can get you right at the front of the queue. Would you like that? Wanna go on the pink ponies?"

"Yes, please, Old Rhyme."

"All righty, son. Lisa, can we get Master Gabriel moved to the front of the line. He would like to ride the merry go round."

A thin black woman took Gabriel's hand and led him away from Old Rhyme. She smiled and said, "Do you have money?"

He showed her his handful. She took one note and patted him on the back. "All right, you can get on this round. Go and pick a horse and hold on tight to the handles."

He pocketed his money and did as she said. He picked the furthest horse away from the line so he did not have to see the glowering scowls from people in the queue.

"Go eat 'em alive, young Gabriel," Old Rhyme shouted. Gabriel turned around on his horse to see that the striped man was watching him intently, the same lunatic grin on his face.

The ride began. It was slow at first, and gentle like a boat ride. Gabriel smiled as the horse took him around in revelations. In his mind, it was like riding a real stallion. Old Rhyme laughed as Gabriel went around, and pretended to ride his own invisible horse, which made the young boy chuckle.

"Let's see if they can handle the higher speeds, Lisa. My young man Gabriel is too big for these baby speeds."

The ride began to increase in velocity. It was fun at first, as the horse galloped around the ringed ride at a fast pace, wind blowing through his hair, but the ride kept increasing. Kept increasing. Kept increasing.

Then the ride was like lighting. The surrounding crowd, the queue, Old Rhyme's lunatic smile, all merged into one blurry panorama. Thoughts entered and left Gabriel's mind like electricity through a wire; he felt like his head was ready to explode, and then, just when he was about to scream, no longer able to hold onto the pink horse, the ride stopped suddenly, almost throwing Gabriel off the ride.

Nobody seemed to notice it, as though it were a normality, but Old Rhyme was slapping his leg with his black cane, and laughing as loud as thunder. "God, damn, look at 'im. Poor old Gabriel. The angel can't handle the high speeds. Come here, Gabriel. We will walk around a bit more, so that your stomach can settle again."

Gabriel felt sick and dizzy, and so allowed Old Rhyme to pick him up and prop an arm around his shoulder to support him while they walked. The stripy man still wore that menacing smile. Gabriel didn't feel safe in his arms anymore, and gently pushed the striped arm off him.

"You can walk well enough now?" Rhyme asked.

"Yes, thank you. What was that?"

"The Merry Go Round, silly. Doesn't it make you go merry, and round and round, merry! Merry! Merry!" He whipped his legs with the cane again. "Say, are you still dizzy or sick?"

"Not really anymore. I feel much better." It was the truth and it scared Gabriel. Since when had motion sickness subsided so quickly?

"Good. Have you ever had cotton candy? No? Then I'll buy you some. My, it is a splendid night after all." He issued Gabriel to take a seat at an outside table, and skipped off to a nearby tent selling all kinds of confectionaries.

The man bounced back to the table, holding two cones of silky substance. They looked like spider webs in the starlight.

"Here you go, master Gabriel. Just eat that. It's real good, I tell you that; I have some at this time every day. Goes right to the sweet tooth, so it does."

They both ate their cotton candy, and made small talk. Hordes of people passed them by as though they did not exist. Gabriel didn't blame them. There was so much to do at this carnival.

"So," Old Rhyme said, scooping cotton candy off the stick with his cane, "What is up, master Gabriel?"

"What do you mean?" Gabriel asked with a mouth full of sweet.

"Well, you have a very serious expression on your face. Even under all that golden hair, I can see that you are very angry and very sad, young Gabriel. Please, tell Old Rhyme what bothers you so."

Gabriel shook his head slowly and bit into his snack again.

"Please, Gabriel. The Carnival should be a place to vent and relax, not sip on hatred as though it were liquor in a bottle. Come, let these emotions fly. I've got all night to listen."

Gabriel gave in. He needed someone to talk to, someone to listen. He couldn't carry this on his chest anymore. "My mother is dying. Cancer. It's bad."

Old Rhyme continued to grin, but his tone was one of sorrow and remorse. "Oh my! Young master Gabriel, you must be going through the hells right now. Is she in the local hospital?"

"Yeah, she gave me the money to come here. I used to look after her myself before she went to the hospital. Sometimes I miss school... just so that I can see her."

"A wise move. What does your father do to help?"

"He ran away when he found out she was ill. He hasn't come back since, although he sometimes phones the house to ask how I am and how mummy is."

"So he does care? Very strange way to handle the situation. The best of us are mad, I suppose. Whom are you living with currently?"

"My Grandpa. He looks after me. Apart from daddy, he is the only member of the family left."

"And your mother, of course. Don't count her out just now, as though she were already dead! Keep her in your thoughts, your memories. I guess your mother does not receive many gifts, locked up there in the hospital. Ghastly place."

"No she doesn't. I get her flowers, sometimes. If Grandpa gives me the money."

"Well, how about you give Grandpa the night off, and use your money there to get her a real gift. Flowers aren't a gift, son. Flowers die and wilt. Real gifts do not, and the Carnival is full of real gifts."

"Really? Where?"

"Well, come and follow me, master Gabriel. There is a shooting range up there. Its ever so much fun. You must try it! And the prizes are the cutest things. Come on, follow me."

Gabriel finished his cotton candy and followed the skipping man down the dirt path that led deeper into the Carnival.

"Here we are. You see that tent up there. It's my favorite. I'll tell you how to play and how to win the gifts for your dear mother." He took Gabriel's hand again and walked him to the tent. They stopped right in front of it so that Gabriel could see its qualities.

Three wooden planks, set apart by a few centimetres, were nailed to a wooden wall standing in the tent. Along each plank, three plastic ducks sped up and down, like yellow pendulums.

"The aim of the game, Gabriel, is to hit all nine of those ducks with a gun. When you hit them they go down, but you only have ten shots, so you can only afford to miss one. Want to play?"

"Sure. What are the prizes?"

"You will have to wait and see. I'll bet you will win, though. I have full confidence in you. Come on, let's play, sonny boy." He clapped his hands together and a large, grubby man appeared in a black and white shirt.

"Hey, Old Rhyme, this your new 'pprentice?" The man's teeth were yellow wedges, completely unlike Rhyme's pearly white grin.

"Sure is, Dave. Nice haircut too." Gabriel looked to the man's head to find that it was entirely bald. Dave and Rhyme watched him look and giggled.

"Aww, come on now, we is only fooling. I ain't had 'air since I was your age. Come on now, hand over the money and I'll give you the gun."

Gabriel placed two notes in the man's meaty hand. He deposited it in his trouser pocket and returned with the heavy gun. Gabriel could only just hold it.

"I'm guessing that Old Rhyme told ya how to play, yeah?"

He nodded and aimed the gun at the three planks.

"All right, I'll start it." The large man called Dave pressed a button on the side of the wooden wall and the nine ducks instantly began moving back and forward.

"Come on, little man. Eat 'em alive!" Old Rhyme quipped as he bounced on his staff in anticipation.

Gabriel pulled the trigger and missed. Old Rhyme hissed in disappointment but said, "Just hit all of 'em from now on, and you get the prize."

He aimed again and pulled the trigger. Missed.

"Oh, what a blow to the heart that is. Dave, how long does it normally take before one gets good?" Old Rhyme put a pallid hand on the boys shoulder to comfort him.

"Around two or three tries I think. Do you want to go again, son?"

Without responding, Gabriel forced two more notes into the man's hand. The gun was reloaded and the ducks were reset.

"All right, second try, here we go, son. Me and Rhyme are right behind ya." He pressed the button and the game burst into motion.

Gabriel felt more collected on this try. Aiming down the sight of the gun, he pulled the trigger and hit the first duck. It went down like a sun in the evening.

"Oh, a cracking shot!" Rhyme danced around in circles, throwing his stick in the air and catching it again. The man's mad revolutions put Gabriel off, but he tried to ignore them and focus on the ducks.

Firing another shot, he missed. In a frustrated rage, he pulled the trigger a number of times and sprayed the board with fire. Not one duck fell.

"I want to go again," Gabriel said calmly as he plastered more money into the owner's hand.

"But, Gabriel, that is your last amount of money!" Old Rhyme pleaded, trying to gesture Dave to hand the money back.

"Well, if the kid wants to play, the kid will play," Dave replied and pocketed the money before resetting the game. "Starting now," he later said, pressing the button.

Gabriel managed to hit three ducks with his first three shots. He took a deep breath and pulled the trigger again. Miss. It's all right, he thought, trying to stay calm, but inside, he knew that he was tearing up. He pulled the trigger again and the shot went astray. Gabriel threw the gun down on the table and walked away, his eyes filling up with tears.

He stumbled over to a nearby table and sat down, crying. Old Rhyme hopped over to him with that same grin, although his eyes twinkled with tears too. "Gabriel?"

"I lost all the money, and now I can't get her a real gift! She might d-d-die soon, and I'll never be able to get her a real gift."

"Don't say that, Gabriel. You are alive, isn't that gift enough for her. Part of her will live through you, you know that, don't you?"

The young boy spoke through his tears. "I guess."

"No, that is not good enough, Gabriel. I told you that you will be positive, not I guess, but I'm positive. Come on then, let's go to my office. I own this carnival you know. Come to my office, and I'll give you something there."

The boy looked up at the grinning man. "What is it?"

"Stop crying and I'll tell you."

The boy snorted and sniffed until the tears ceased from falling and welled in his eyes, turning them into two tiny blue lakes. "What?"

"It's a gamble, Gabriel, but then isn't all of life? I can give your mother a second chance, if you are willing to take the gamble."

Gabriel looked confused. "What do you mean?"

"Come with me to my office. It is quieter to talk of this stuff there than here. Come on, trust me. If you take this gamble, your mother may have a second chance. Come on." He dragged the boy down the dirt paths and past the popcorn-bag tents.

As they hurried through the Carnival, Gabriel noticed that nobody seemed to regard them. It was as though they were invisible. As though they were phantoms.

They stopped at smaller tent on the outskirts of the event. Only the wind was present as it parted the opening flaps of the tent. A powerful glow seeped through the red and white stripes.

"Come on, master Gabriel," Old Rhyme said as he led the young boy through the tent.

The interior was capacious, only occupied by an alchemical lantern hanging from a hook in the ceiling, a wooden desk with two chairs, and a strange contraption at the far end of the tent. Old Rhyme gestured him to sit one side of the desk, while he took the other.

"Do you believe in magic, master Gabriel?" The man said as he set his cane across the desk. He brushed a number of blank papers and pens to the edge of the desk.

"Not really," the boy replied, taking his seat.

"Well, my dear boy, magic is every bit real if we choose it to be. Do you believe that your mother could just shrug off her cancer and get up and walk home? Do you believe that?" Old Rhyme opened a draw on his side of the desk and took out a glass jar full of large coins. He set the jar on the desk, between them, and resumed smiling at Gabriel.

"I hope that she can, but the doctors told me that she won't. I pray for her sometimes."

"Forget what the doctors say; they are men of science, not men of magic. They have limits. Do you know why nobody could see us today, apart from those who work here?"

He shook his head. His eyes widened a little.

"That is because this is a magical place, Gabriel. I own this magical place, and all the magic stems from me. That is why people passed around us like we are stones in a river. Do you believe that now?"

Gabriel thought a while and said, "Yes, yes, I think so."

"Good. Now I know you are ready for the real magic." His milky hands popped the jar open. "Put your hand in and take a coin."

The boy did as instructed, grasping a coin as heavy as a medallion. He weighed it in his hand, and marvelled at the strange inscriptions across its surface. "What is it?" he asked.

"A magical coin. You need to write the name of who you wish to save." He handed Gabriel a colourful marker. Gabriel took it and wrote mummy in foul text. "Good," Rhyme continued, "Now take it over to the machine over there."

Gabriel left the chair and staggered over to the mechanical contraption behind the desk. It was a strange device, like a lottery machine or bubblegum dispenser. A glass globe sat atop a long metal pillar, filled with small balls of different colours. It looked like a rainbow in a bowl. Gabriel found a slot on the metal pillar and despotised the coin. The machine began to vibrate, and the various balls began to pop and bounce inside the glass. It was like the rainbow was trying to ascend to the sky.

"What is going on?" Gabriel asked.

"The machine is deciding your mothers fate. Each gumball has a fate written across it, so she will become whatever the fate-o-meter decides."

"D-does that mean that she may die?"

"Perhaps," Old Rhyme said coldly. His impish grin remained like a indelible scar.

Gabriel turned back to the machine, his face now a carving of horror. The balls bounced around and the machine vibrated. Air seemed to disappear. Fate was in the balance.

Then the machine stopped. The balls fell to the bottom of the glass dome, flooding the device with a sea of spectrum.

"What is her fate? What happened to my mother!?" Gabriel screamed. He shook the machine back and forward but nothing happened.

"Leave it, Gabriel. Her fate is coming."

He stepped backward and watched as a deep groan growled from the machine. A steel pipe extended from the bottom of the machine's column, sliced in half, to make it a curved opening. A rattle rang out and a small green gumball rolled down this exit, stopping at the end.

"Pick it up, master Gabriel, and read her fate."

Slowly, Gabriel plucked the sweet with two fingers and drew it up to his eyes. He scanned its shell. "What am I looking for," he said.

"Turn it around, and you will find her fate scribed on the gumball," Rhyme said, his eyes fixed on the boy's movements.

Gabriel turned it round and found the words scribed over its green shell in dark ink. Recovery, it read. Recovery.

"What does it say, master Gabriel," Rhyme asked.

"It says... recovery."

"Then the cancer has left your mother. She is well again. You must go and see her, Gabriel. She will be discharged from the hospital, and will remain a medical miracle from then on; do you understand?"

Gabriel stared at the small green ball with disbelief. "But it's just a gumball!" he awed. "Has it actually worked?"

"Go back to the hospital and find out, Gabriel." He picked up his black sceptre and gestured Gabriel toward the tent's exit. "You must leave now. Our business is done. Go on now. Toot. Toot."

Gabriel pocketed the gumball in his jean pocket and began walking, sluggishly, toward the tent. He gave Old Rhyme a final goodbye and left.

The cold air stroked his flesh like ghostly fingers. In the distance of the large field, the architecture of the hospital building loomed, looking more like a fortress then a medical ward.

The idea of his mother being well again -- cured of her pestilence -- filled Gabriel with a wonderful sensation. His legs moved like clockwork instruments, and he flew through the carnival, dashed across the field toward the hospital. Toward mother.

He arrived at the hospital in ten minutes and flung the front door open. Nothing else mattered now. He ran through the endless corridors, not caring who he hit. Taking the stairs, three at a time, he arrived at the corridor where his mother stayed. He felt a sense of trepidation as he jogged past the rooms and wards. Finally he came to her room. Poking the door open, he saw her standing up and well, looking out the window. His legs crumbled like bread and he bowed before her.

She turned round and saw him. "Gabriel!" She screamed, her voice pumping zeal.

He ran up to her and fell into her arms. They held the embrace for a few minutes until an awe-stricken doctor walked in. "M-Miss, you are to be discharged now."

"Now? You mean I can leave now?" the cured woman replied, holding Gabriel next to her.

"Yes, I am just as stunned as you are, believe me. I am still trying to work this all out. Why... it seems as if the tumours in your body just vanished in a few seconds. This is the strangest thing we have ever encountered. Could we bring you back for some tests next week, to see what happened?" He had a look of hope sketched into his face.

"Sure, that would be fine. Wednesday, shall we say? I'd also like to know what happened."

"Well, I will let you get dressed into your casual clothes. Remember to sign out downstairs. It seems that someone is looking out for you."

She smiled and watched him leave. "Give me some privacy now, Gabriel, I must get changed."

He left the room, reluctantly and waited outside. His mother came out soon, wearing a brown jacket and chinos -- the clothes she had worn when she first came to the hospital. "Come on, let's sign out and get out of this hellhole; it's no fit place for someone under God's protection."

They signed out and left the building for the last time.

The drive home was glum, despite of the celebrations, with only the slow drumbeat of the rain breaking the silence. They remained quiet, both too shocked to speak, until they arrived at their caravan, where Gabriel was instructed to help his mother settle in and tell granddad to go home.

"Now it is just us, like it should be," Gabriel's mother smiled. Her hair, once like paper icicles, now bounced with a radiant brown.

"What about daddy? He should know, he should get to see you."

"Oh my! What a good idea. This illness has ripped him apart, you know. If it carried on one more day, I believe he would go completely mental. Grab the phone, tell him the news. I'm going to have a bath, I think."

Gabriel picked up the phone and dialled the number for his father's mobile. Putting the device to his ear, he listened to the static rings, and waited for the next member of his family to come back.

The static rings continued, pealing like church bells, and he almost put the phone down. He would have ended the call had a deep voice not spoken. "Hello?"

"Daddy!" Gabriel enthused.

"Oh, hello, Gabriel. Is everything okay over there? Where is Granddad?"

"Granddad is at home."

"What!"

"We don't need him anymore. Mummy is better now. The cancer has left her; Doctors said so. She is back at home with me now."

The deep man's voice became a excited squeal. "Really? You're not pulling my leg here are you, Gabriel?"

"No, look I will show you." With the phone in hand, he walked to the bathroom door. "Mummy, say something for daddy," he shouted.

Wendy Williams opened the door, still dressed, with a rapturous smile on her face. She took the phone and said, "Hello, darling; I'm home."

Gabriel put the phone back to his ear to listen to his father's ecstasy. "God almighty! It is her, really her!" he enthused. "I don't believe it! I will be there, you bet. No more staying in this crappy apartment. I'm leaving now, sonny, I'll be there early tomorrow morning."

"I'll see you then," Gabriel said. The smile across his face grew and grew, till he grinned just like Old Rhyme.

"All right son. I'll say goodbye so that I can start packing my few things and get in the car. You've been a brilliant son, Gabriel. I love you, and I'll see you again tomorrow. We can be one big, happy family once again."

He put the phone down and suddenly felt exhausted. Probably from all the running and walking, he thought to himself. He entered his room and lay down on his small bed, setting the green gumball on his bedside table, so that its sacred words were facing him.

He closed his eyes, and sleep washed over him like a twilight ocean. Sweet dreams came to him like shooting stars.


* * *

Martin Williams pulled up outside the caravan before sunrise, parking his car next to his wife's. Using his key, he entered the caravan silently and slowly, trying to savour every moment.

He came to the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. An aged man with stark white hair, pale skin, bloodshot eyes and a warren of stress lines, looked back at him. He ran the tap and washed himself so that he could smell nice for his wife when she awoke.

He set his shabby rucksack down in the lounge area and crept into his son's room like a shadow in the night. In the darkness of the room, he could see his son's body, his little chest puffing and exhaling like a piston. He leant over the boy and planted a kiss on his cheek. "I love you, son," he said and then he drew back. A small green ball fell off the bedside table and rolled over the wooden floor.

What is this? Martin thought as he picked it up and held it to his strained eyes. He did not see the words inscribed on its back. "Oh it's a gumball," he whispered. "Well, I'm sure he won't mind if I have one." He popped the gumball in his mouth, chewed through its shell and into the soft flesh beneath. "Thanks, son," he said with a giddy smile as he swallowed the sweet.

Martin opened his wife's bedroom door and changed. He fell asleep next to her, lying in the moonlight like bodies in a tomb.


* * *

Gabriel awoke to his father's shrill sobs. Instantly throwing the covers from him, he bolted into his parents room.

Martin Williams crooned over his wife like a weed to a flower, weeping at her frail frame. All her blush and blossom had now faded, her brown hair curdling to white. Her skin was once again a pasty white, and her body emancipated. She looked up at her son as he walked in, shed a lone tear, and muttered something incomprehensible.

"M-m-mother?"

Martin thrashed his head around to face his son. A crimson flood had deluged both of his eyes, and his hair was now completely white. He smiled as though he was happy, but his voice spoke his hearts sadness. "You did this, boy! You took her out of the hospital! What made you think she was well enough to come out of the damned hospital?"

Gabriel said nothing. He away from the pain and suffering and shambled back to his room. Flicking on the light, he noticed that the gumball was missing, and began searching the entire room for it. "Where is it?" he cried. "God, where is it! The young boy tipped his bookshelf and bedside table over to see if it had burrowed into any nooks or crannies, but nothing. The gumball was gone.

Gabriel felt like crying. His whole body urged him to cry, to feel the emotional pain, but he felt nothing. He did not cry and he did not mourn. Calmly, he changed out of his pyjamas and into the same clothes he wore the days before.

Thunder cracked outside, parting the clouds like paper boats through a black sea. A sea of misery. Heavy rain hit the caravan like bullets.

"I'm going out," Gabriel said without falter. "I don't know when I will be back."

"Just go, you evil child. Leave us. Leave us and never come back!" His father screamed.

Gabriel slammed the door shut and welcomed the rain. He tucked his hands into his pockets as he had done before. "I'm coming, Old Rhyme." He shouted into the morning thunder. Not knowing the way to the carnival, he took off in a random direction, and hoped he would reach the magic carnival before it, too, disappeared.

All around him, rain hammered down from the sky like spilled gumballs.


THE END


2015 James Tatam

Bio: Mr. Tatam is an aspiring writer from Britain who loves to read and write a vast range of genres, especially the supernatural and the magical. He was previously published in the "Young Writers Literary Journal."

E-mail: James Tatam

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