The Pooka Problem
by ROY LeBAY

Chapter 3

I tried to stammer out an explanation (when in doubt, mumble). "Look, I'm sorry--but I had slipped & there was...& then I accidentally nicked the table, but the rest were just chance that I was there & ...this has never happened to me before!" She trembled in rage as she took a step closer. "Save it! I have staff members who were present at the various 'accidents', & they all remember seeing you there! Now, I can't prove that you purposely tried to sabotage anything, but I can have you escorted off the property! I have an excellent memory for faces, so if I see you again I'll...well, you'll see. Absinthe! Escort this 'jinx' to the exit while I clean this up!" "Sure sis!" Absinthe motioned for me to follow her, & together we made a beeline for the exit. I waited until we were a safe distance from the gift shop before I tried to plead my case again. "I'm serious, everything simply went wrong around me, like what happened in the shop! I'm mostly harmless. I would never intentionally do anything like that! I just pray to St. Klutzus, patron saint of klutzes & jinxes that it doesn't follow me home! The worst part is I only toured a 1/4 of this place. Is there any chance I can come back & see the rest of it?" She glanced at me from the corner of her eye, a slight grin curling 1 corner of her mouth. "I'll admit that what happened in the shop was an accident, but you have to admit that your being present at the other incidents is very suspicious. I suppose you could try to visit again, but you should wait for at least a month. When you return, keep a careful eye out for Circe." I shot a quick glance back over my shoulder. "That was Circe? As in, the classic enchantress, or she took the name as a hook for this theme park?" Absinthe simply smiled in response, & we had arrived at the exit. I suffered a sudden flashback to Circe's burning eyes. "Then again, a month doesn't seem nearly long enough!" I thanked her for the escort, & headed out towards the truck.

I was walking away w/ my back to the entrance when I barely heard a stealthy "Pssst!" behind me, & mistook it as being meant for someone else. "Pssst! Hey bud!" The hail was more insistent this time, so I turned in response. Aside from Absinthe's shapely, rapidly retreating backside--no-one was there! There was also nothing to hide behind. Plus, there was no response to my cautious "Hello?" as I completed my paranoid, panoramic glance. I prepared to resume my trip to the parking lot when something caught my eye. Just inside the park entry, flapping in the fitful breeze, was the unmistakable color of money. I hesitated a moment, & took a 2nd look around to see if anyone was in the area who might have lost it. Being the opportunist that I am, I rarely miss any small, legitimate treasures that may lie in my path. If it was a large enough denomination, I could always hand it over to the Funhouse's Lost & Found--directly in front of the still simmering Circe--especially after the accusation of causing such costly damage. Not that it would give me any pleasure to do so...GOOD! She feels GUILTY! No one was around, so I stepped back through the entry, & bent to pick up the bill. A closer look revealed it to be a crisp $2.00 bill. For whatever reason, these used to be considered bad luck, & whoever owned one would tear the 2s off the corners to protect themselves! I picked it up, & got up off my knee to straighten up, when a blinding green flash & a sharp nausea suddenly struck me. Shaking my head as the nausea faded, I realized I was on my hands & knees. All the junk food from the past 2 weeks must have caught up w/ me. Oh well, back to tuna & yogurt for a while. My concerns may have suddenly shifted, but my memory hadn't! I quickly scanned the ground around me for the cash, but it was nowhere to be seen. Thus, I slowly pulled myself erect, & resumed the trip to my truck. What looked like a college student passed me, headed for the entry w/ his headphones blaring. It was Lo Fidelity All Stars, Battle Flag. Now don't get me wrong, I love the edited version, but this time it conjured up an odd vision. I saw a cross between Animal House & When Animals Attack! coming at me in mob form! They were carrying torches, pitchforks, & electric shears. The shears were to trim MY hide to replace whatever of theirs had been burned or torn out in the accidents! This served to double my speed to reach the truck, & as a result, I missed the strange phenominon that took place behind me.

A transparent, vaguely humanoid shape, unseen by either the student or Absinthe; stood under the exit/entry arch. Its' indistinct form pulsed w/ a green glow like a St. Elmo's fire. Two hazel points followed my retreating form w/ quiet intensity, & then the whole image faded out. Suddenly, it reappeared--running towards the exit. Just as it reached the arch, however, it bounced off an invisible barrier, throwing it back several feet. It continued to stare even as my truck pulled out of sight, & then it turned, & started walking towards the Funhouse, again fading from sight. Luckily, no 'accidents' occured at work or at home. However, I did have a number of odd, memorable dreams; which is new to me since I hven't had any dreams I can remember for the past 15 years. They all involved the Funhouse. I'd taken a break from writing again, still trying to make sense of the very real events from the funhouse. Two weeks after I'd left, my job location had been switched to the other side of the county, & my next 8 hours at the old site would be my last. Considering the travel time involved, I knew this would be my last chance to visit the Funhouse, & I was willing to risk being 2 weeks early. As I pulled into their parking lot, I recieved something of a surprise. The lot was nearly empty, & on a Saturday no less. The only vehicles present were several long bed trucks in the process of being unloaded of their cargo of lumber & hardware. An even bigger surprise was that all of the park staff hauling the equipment were still wearing their animal costumes! Keeping an eye out for white togas, I examined the sign by the entrance. It simply stated, CLOSED DUE TO REPAIRS. From the sounds coming from within the park, it sounded like demolition in progress. An especially loud crash was followed by a voice behind me, "There goes the other set of bleachers!" I turned to discover a raccoon staff member pulling a dolly full of equipment behind him. He glanced at my face, & then did a double take. "Holy Smoke, it's you! I'll never forget your face after that bull you fed those 2 squirrels! What's your name?" He extended his hand to shake my own, & I readily shook it as I grinned at the memory of the laughable event.

"Roy LeBay! It's nice to be visiting again!" The raccoon leaned in close. "Listen, I never thanked you for helping us like that, but you really saved us a lot of trouble, so Thanks!" I shook my head, & kicked a loose screw to the side. "Don't thank me, it was an obligation, & there were lives at stake. Besides, I happened to be around a couple of other strange accidents that day. When your boss found me, she had me escorted out of the park as a 'jinx'. I can't say I blame her, because I couldn't prove I didn't cause them." Wishing to change the subject, I asked, "What's been happening in the Funhouse?" The mascot scratched his ear & turned a puzzled stare over the entire park. "Hard to say. Everything's been falling apart like it's the day after the warranty expired. This has been going on for 2 weeks now...wait a minute." He directed an openly suspicious stare at me. "It all started to snowball right after that roller coaster adventure!" I shook my head. "Oh, not you too. I haven't been near this place for 2 weeks!" I started to walk back to the truck. "Wait, I'm not blaming you, but you said yourself that 'strange' accidents were happening around you while you were here. There might be a connection that neither you nor Circe are aware of!" I nodded, & walked slowly back to face him. "I suppose it's possible, but you must realize you're talking about something paranormal. Are you sure you want to risk investigating this?" He took me by the shoulder & said, "Absolutely! Come w/ me & we'll talk to Circe." With that, he started steering me through the entrance. I esitated. "On one condition. Remembering the last time I met her, you WILL be standing between Circe & I!" He laughed & nodded. "Deal!" He led me through the fairway as he contacted Circe on his radio, & explained his idea to her. She seemed to think the idea had merit, & gave a location where she would meet us. As we walked towards the rendezvous point, I gaped at the wide variety of destruction around us. Almost every 3rd attraction, food cart, booth, etc. had either been damaged in some small way, or completely demolished. Half a dozen trails of black smoke hinted at fire damage just out of sight.

We stopped at the Squirrel Rocket ride, where Circe was waiting for us along w/ 2 other women. She got right to the point, & gestured to the other women. "Why, hello again! I believe you've met at least 2 of my sisters?" I did a double take. "Your sisters? I didn't...yes, we've met, but not under the best of circumstances." The sisters paid me no heed, & seemed to be posted as sentinels, listening & watching for more destruction to come. "Did Rocky tell you what's been happening here?" Circe tilted her head towards the raccoon. I glanced at him as well. "'Rocky?'" He shrugged & nodded. "He said things have been mysteriously falling apart for 2 weeks. From what I've seen just on the way in, I still have no Idea of what's going on here." At this point, a loose balloon rolled & bounced its' way across the fairway in front of us, stopping next to a humming generator. It popped, & it's rubber carcass was sucked against the air intake grate, covering it neatly. Circe sighed, walked over, & retrieved the scrap of rubber. She waved the scrap & gestured to the park in general. "Little things like this, & much bigger 'coincidences' have been happening all over the park day & night, but only 1 at a time. I met you here because the 'trail' was headed this way. This balloon is proof of that, so keep an eye out, because something else should happen close by!" By now, 10 more mascots had joined our group. We all turned our attention out from a loose circle in the middle of the small clearing. I suddenly noticed a brief green flash by the dart booth. I took a few hesitant steps towards it, but I couldn't see anyone. I did, however, hear a loud TWANG! followed by a hollow THUNK! I ducked, expecting the worst. There was sudden movement, but in the form of a pelting rain of plush from the dart booth. I approached the booth, w/ Circe's group following me from a safe distance. The steel cable supporting the stuffed animal display above the dart game had snapped. Just behind the broken cable, a dart had sunk into the wooden frame behind it--halfway past its' weighted shaft! The cable was 1/4 of an inch thick, so...Wow! This thing must have quite an arm! "So?" Circe approached me & eyed the dart. "What did you see?" I started inching towards the exit, & said, "I saw a green flash by the booth & headed towards it. You saw the rest. I still don't know what it is, but it's invisible, fairly strong; & incredibly dangerous! On that note, since I can't tell you any more, I'll show myself out!" I made a more obvious effort to move past her towards the exit, but she grabbed me by the shoulder.

"Hold it! This carnage has been going on for the past 2 weeks, but not a single person has been hurt. It seems intelligent enough to know not to." She released her grip & pointed at the booth. "I was looking in the same direction as you, but I didn't see a green flash. Perhaps only you can see it. Look again, & maybe you'll spot it again." I looked around carefully, & didn't have to wait long. "There!" I pointed to a row of coin-operated vending machines. The green flash had briefly appeared at the end of the row--as an old-fashioned gumball machine seemed to tip over on its' own. The glass globe shattered, & the gumballs exploded in all directions, yet they surrendered to the gravity of the downhill path leading to the Hall of Mirrors entrance. Circe bit her lip. "Now that would be a true disaster if customers were going in & out at the time! Why don't you try calling it to you? If it works, we can either stop it, or at least get some answers!" I stared incredulously at her. "Stop it!? With what, a oijee board? Do you have a plan that stops gremlins, poltergeists, & demons? You've been dealing w/ this for weeks now, & I've got to say--you're handling this very well!" I took a deep breath. "While I'm on a roll, I might as well ask you a question that's been pestering me since my last visit here. Either way, I don't think I'll be surprised by the answer. Are you the true Circe the enchantress, & these your transformees?" Circe looked skyward & rolled her eyes. "I was wondering when this would come up. Yes, I'm the true Circe of not-so-mythic enchantment, & these are a few of my victims. This 'force' causing the damage isn't a gremlin, demon, or poltergeist. I've tried those spells already, so this may be something new. Finally, I have no choice but to handle the situation, even if I am loosing customers & money, as my reputation is at stake! Now, is there anything else?" My eyebrows must have disappeared into my hairline (a neat trick in itself) as I gazed at the semi-circle of 'mascots'. Claws were revealed & retracted. Some tails wagged, while others curled prehensile style. Pant legs were pulled up to reveal distinctly animal legs. All the while, their ears twitched & danced--seemingly of their own accord. I managed a slow wave. "Uh...hello folks!" They waved back.

Onward to Chapter 4

Return to "The Funhouse - As Seen By Others"