Walking through the carnival

04 Jun 2009

I was going through the carnival, feeling slightly nauseous, trying to get away from that alley where lurked that burning-eyed young man with a cross of gold on his lapel --- the one that had held me against the wall and whispered, like toughs whisper "Yer money or yer life!" that I had to either repent or burn.

Nearby his brother had sat, and when I ran away and later stumbled to that same spot, the tough was gone but his brother was still there, sitting behind a cardboard box, a collection of colorful bottles in front of him. When I asked why he had done nothing to help me he looked troubled and then whispered, "Well, you were in the wrong, weren't you" --- and when he then tried to sell me a phial of love and I refused, he sniffed and said it was curious I should be so dismissive of him when his brother was, after all, much worse.

On I walked, past two kids rolling in a holy row on the dusty ground, the genesis of their biting, clawing contest apparently an ice-cream cone, once shaped like some temple dome, but now squished flat under their squirming little bodies. I couldn't stop their fight --- when I inquired which had started it, they stopped for a while, and then began to fight again over what had been the first insult, and what the first just reaction.

A second tough approached me --- this a more polished and smiling sort, with tanned skin and shining-white teeth. He gave me a few hints on how I should behave here, most of them nonsensical, one actually a distasteful and hateful little thing no sane man would do, but when I pointed this out to him, his eyes narrowed and he muttered that I might notice that while "my kind" was tolerated here, that toleration wouldn't go very far if I went around flaunting my "perversions" and my "futile intellectual pride".

I stepped quickly away from him, past a crying child who muttered evil shadows had stolen his cap and made him lose his way --- he raised his eyes at me and whispered a Benefactor would come, drive away the shadows, make everything all right again, forever --- and he was only waiting, only waiting because his coming had been told to be tomorrow for many years already.

A gaudy tent caught my attention, and I stepped inside, to the smell of incense and burning candles. A tall man in festive foreign garb sat behind an intricately carved table: he, too, had a great selection of colored, curious bottles full of mixtures he was selling --- he told me, all smiles and bows, that they contained magical potions of the far Orient: tears-of-angels and urine-of-cows and oils-of-snakes, and with a final bow and a flourish begged me to try one for the betterment of my karma. When I demurred, not particularly approving of the list of ingredients, and asked how his wares differed from those of others,  his smile slid away, his features twisted into a mask of hatred, and he drove me out, crying that if I was one of his people, I would never have been allowed to desecrate the memory of his ancestors in such a way.

Getting near to the gate, I passed two more inhabitants of this carnival: a boy and a girl, sitting together on a bench while a rusty weathervane creaked above them. The girl had a blanket over her, covering her to her toes: a tremulous voice issued from under it, asking shy questions about the world outside --- questions the boy inevitably answered with sly hints of monsters (all quite imaginary) lurking and coiling around them, the weathervane's creak becoming the joints of an iron dragon that only the boy's fierce glare supposedly kept at bay.

When the girl whispered her thanks, the boy patted her blanket-covered head like a man would pet a dog --- and in a sudden rage I stepped to them, tore the blanket away, and strode out of the carnival, leaving behind a crying girl with eyes tightly squeezed shut, and a furious boy hurling curses at me, and promises of a new cover, much snugger, at his girl.

I strode out of the Carnival of Religion, tossed the blanket aside, and kept going until the smell of the madhouse was no longer in my nostrils.

Christians, fundamentalist and moderate alike, holy warriors, moral majorities, blamers of demons and waiters for the Second Coming, Hindus and Muslims and all --- all madness and trickery for those afraid to face this godless world as it is.

last updated: (Mar 15 2011)