John flipped the switch and the carousel slowly
hummed to life. Painted horses sprang forward on
a rotating platform of freshly stained oak. Organ
music filled the air, bringing a rush of memories
along for the ride. Molly clapped her hands.
"It's finally finished." She couldn't contain
her excitement any longer. "It looks exactly as
I remember it. I wish my father were alive to see
this, it's just so beautiful." Molly threw her
arms around her husband, John. "Thank you for
helping me." She kissed him on the cheek.
Memories of youth, and lazy days spent with her dad at Williams Park riding the carousel on sunny afternoons prompted Molly to buy the retired old relic. Along with her husband, they'd refurbished the antique, keeping most of its original components intact. Many of the wooden horses were rotted beyond repair, but the couple got lucky, and located a supplier with a dozen or so replacements sitting in an otherwise empty warehouse. They'd been there for so long he was willing to accept a reasonable fee just to get rid of them. Although they were old, they were in good shape and fit in perfectly with the others.
Finally the day had arrived to open it to the public. Vendors selling popcorn, candy apples and hot cider, lined the small road that lead to the carousel. Early autumn brought forth a chill, but the day was clear, and dappled sunlight danced among gold and crimson leaves.
Molly grabbed John's sleeve. "Come on let's take a ride." They jumped on the platform while it revolved in time with the music. Mosaic tiles, wrapped around large mirrors, afforded the carousel an enchanted air, all set against the backdrop of a perfect day.
Rides were being offered at half-price today in honor of the grand opening. Eager patrons, clutching blue tickets, hurried up the ramp as the carousel came to a stop. John and Molly remained seated, like two kids anxious to take another spin.
Children accompanied by parents, grandparents and friends sat high atop shiny ponies. A little girl with blonde pigtails rode a black stallion, and laughed as her father sat beside her on a much smaller horse. When the ride came around to where it had begun the girl waved to her mother who stood on the sidelines taking pictures.
"Grab the golden ring," her dad called to her. He stood up tall in the stirrups. She glared back at him with watery eyes.
"Daddy the horse just bit me." She held her leg, tears streamed down her face. Her father couldn’t hear her cries over the loud music. "DADDY," she screamed. "The horse bit me on the leg. It hurts. I want to get off right now.” She was becoming hysterical.
"Don't be scared. The horses aren’t real." He jumped down to comfort her.
An elderly woman sitting sidesaddle on a white horse in front of them, slumped over and slid onto the floor. She writhed in pain, curled up in the fetal position.
“What happened? You’re bleeding.” Molly and John raced towards her.
“I think something bit me,” she replied, in a barely audible voice. She pointed a trembling finger toward the horse.
A black mamba snake dashed out from inside the horse’s mouth. It slithered across the floor, and coiled itself around Molly’s ankle. “Get it off me.” She stood perfectly still. The serpeant rose up and reared its head. Jet black eyes set against dark brown scales searched Molly's face. She watched its forked tongue dart in and out of its mouth. The snake opened its jaws wide revealing an inky black interior, and with a quick snap, buried its fangs deep into Molly's calf muscle.
Hundreds of baby snakes ascended from cavities deep within the horse’s bellies; they poured out of orifices, pieces of shells still clung to their skin as they hatched, and dropped down on to the floor. The rancid smell of rotting eggs followed them as they bared their fangs and hunted the crowd.
“Stop the carousel,” John called to the attendant. But the ride never stopped. Snakes had lodged themselves inside the control panel, and disabled the switch. The snakes slithered inside the wooden box. The attendant's arm began to swell as venom coursed through his veins.
Snakes slid underfoot as hysterical patrons jumped from the carousel. Their screams resonated into the fall air.
John held Molly's head up, her breathing was labored. "You're gonna be fine." He wiped the sweat from her forehead.
The snake boldly curled its way between Molly and John. "I hope you enjoyed the ride." It slithered away as Molly's heart stopped beating.
Kathleen Gilbert lives with her husband and two children in Rhode Island. She has been published at MicroHorror, Six Sentences and Postcard Shorts.