Several weeks ago, I wrote this post about Ray Bradbury for his birthday. In celebration of the anniversary of his birth I treated myself to a stack of his books which I had not read before, chief among them being Something Wicked This Way Comes. I just finished it Saturday night (October 12).
This is an astounding book, the prose is poetry. If you haven’t read it, treat yourself. It’s creepy in the way horror stories should be creepy. The menace to the townsfolk is insidious, without resorting to the slasher/gore that’s so nauseatingly overdone these days. Mr. Dark, the Illustrated Man; Cooger, Mr. Electrico; the Dust Witch with her eyes sewn shut; The Skeleton; the Dwarf; all the freaks in the carnival are macabre and evil. Before people know what they’re doing, they’ve lost their souls to the carnival. One of my favorite lines in it is the last line of Chapter 37 (about halfway through):
Waiting, his flesh took paleness from his bones.
In my other post about Ray I described my dream of him and how he was laughing and talking excitedly, seemingly full of joy. This is a key plot point in the book for the characters. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, so I won’t go into detail. Somehow it ties back to the dream of Ray and his mirth and joy as he talked to me. If only I could remember what he was saying. I suppose it doesn’t matter, though. The laughter is what’s important. Everything was ok, was all I can really remember, it’s all as it should be, there’s nothing to fear, be joyful. The dream was just a few days before his birthday, which I didn’t know at the time. I looked up his birthday after I had the dream, which was what inspired me to get this book and read it. Despite my professed atheist leanings, things like this happen from time to time, and make me pause and consider.
The thing that stopped me in my tracks, though, was in the ‘Afterword: Carnivals, Near and Far.” He talks about his experiences as a child with carnivals and merry-go-rounds, and the freaks he actually met. When he was twelve-years-old, he met a Mr. Electrico, but he was nothing like the terrifying villain of the book. In fact he seems to have been a dear old soul, and Ray calls him a ‘Christian mystic.’ He had a profound influence on young Ray. Here’s the part of his conversation with him that he recounted in the book:
Mr. Electrico introduced me to all the carnival freaks behind the scenes, including the Hippo Lady, the Human Skeleton, and the Illustrated Man. We sat on the bench and he listened to my grand ideas about my irresistible future.
When I had run out of gas, Mr. Electrico said, “We’ve met before.” “Oh, no, sir,” I said, “this is the first time I’ve ever talked to you.” “No, no,” he said, “you were my best friend at the Battle of the Ardennes Forest outside Paris in October 1918, were wounded, and died in my arms. And there you are with a new name, a new face, but the light coming from your eyes is the soul of my lost friend. Welcome back to the world.”
Why is this making my heart beat faster? Ray’s laughter in my dream, Charles Halloway’s epiphany in the book, the real Mr. Electrico and his reincarnated friend in the form of Ray Bradbury… It’s all looping together in my brain, the connections and intertwinings. I wonder if Mr. Electrico is back in another guise now, out there somewhere looking for his lost friend. I feel like I’m being led to something, being handed a message. I hesitate to jump to conclusions, especially when it involves this much ‘woo,’ but I think the message is pretty clear. That said, I think I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.