Dream Tunnel by Emily Harrison

The clown’s bulky shoes squeak as it makes its way over the worn calcified land. The miniature bells sewed loosely to the faded periwinkle jacket jingle limply. Its face is a moon-white, its lips a dark cherry.

Eschewed, the clown pauses by the collection of candy-striped tents that contain the folk of the travelling carnival. Drunken whiskey laughter seeps from one, lewd songs from another. It hears women giggle at jokes, listens to men roar. To the patrons the clown is a spook – a haunting presence amongst the raucous entertainment. To the carnival folk the clown is a grotesque – a misfit to be ignored.

The clown slips away. The twilight is charcoal, the land outside the tents lonely. The perfect time for the Dream Tunnel. To ride alone in the dark.

Akin to a miniature roller coaster, the Dream Tunnel is famed for miles around. It twists along a single track, open and exposed up a modest incline, before plummeting into the aphotic namesake and creeping out to an abrupt end. The Dream Tunnel stands alone; a leviathan. A mystic spiral is ornamented to the entrance, its signage a blistering yellow.

The clown understands the mechanisms, knows how to ride without attracting attention. A lever here and a jimmy there and the clown climbs aboard. Settled in the singular carriage, it removes its miniature coral hat, lopsided and ill-fitting though it is. Shaven head exposed, the scars from a blade are clear.

The Dream Tunnel chugs upwards – chk, chk, chk – and the clown inhales and holds its breath. It grips the metal bars before descent, its once cream gloves now shades of ashen dirt grey. Then lonely night disappears and the dark bursts into rhapsodies.

Inside, arcane magic reveals technicolour visions of reverie. A could be an opiate – it manifests a secret nirvana. Another life of divergent potentiality.

The Dream Tunnel rolls, the metal tracks sparking. Here the clown is not the clown but the soul and image of could-be. The flesh tone rather than the caked acrylic. The incarnate smile rather than the carefully designed. No one cajoles the clown, fearful of the obscure forced joy. In the Dream Tunnel the need has never existed – the clown sans of the disguise. Sans of the compulsion for contrived, cultivated laughter.

There was a time, ephemeral though it was, when the clown contemplated a connection through its line of playful work – to bring silly happiness to those who sought it. The clown has since learnt it’s a foolish game; you cannot impart what you’ve never truly felt.

As the end nears – the ride never lasts long, and the pinhole of the sombre carnival looms large, the clown readjusts its crimson plastic nose and reaches for its hat, the material cheap and itchy. There are blemishes below the clown’s painted skin – ruptures and cicatrix. The clown will pick them idly at sunrise.

The Dream Tunnel reaches its final destination, shuddering to a halt. The clown exhales, its lungs contracting to lie listlessly. Fantasy departed, the clown is merely the clown again, its dreams tied only to the tunnel. It exits the singular carriage and shuffles away – wraps its shabby jacket tighter.

The carnival is reticent in the midnight, desolate and destitute in equal measure.

Emily uses writing as an escape from reality and doesn’t drink enough water. She can be found on Twitter @emily__harrison, and has had work published with Ellipsis Zine, Storgy, Soft Cartel, Retreat West and Riggwelter Press to name a few.

Image: unsplash.com