Saturday, September 28, 2013

Shades of Pink Teaser - Harlequinade by Gill Taber

Every day until the end of September, I will post here the blurb for one of the stories from the Shades of Pink charity anthology, as well as a teaser, and a short bio for the author. The anthology will be available on October 1st, with all proceeds going to breast cancer research but you can donate today and get it 5 days early! I invite you to come back, share the links for these teasers, tell your friends about it... It's all for a good cause! And if you tweet about it, you can use the hashtag #shadesofpink :)

Today, a glimpse from Harlequinade by Gill Taber

Karen is about to discover a cure for her fear of clowns, but not in a way she could ever have imagined. Journey with her to the Circus of Wonderment.

Karen forced a grin in answer to her nephew’s evident glee. The sounds and smells were overwhelming, contributing to her pounding headache by the second. The swooping, repeating, calliope music was actually the least grating when compared to the pounding drum ‘n’ base pouring from the neon-lit rides, the constant cries of hawkers with their carefully cultivated dropped aitches and rough demeanour; eager to strip passers-by of every penny, and the shrieking calls of success and failure from said punters.

Carey turned a full circle, decided on the Waltzers and Karen dutifully gave him the fee, leaning against an iron railing, waving on each pass. Between, she let her gaze wander around the fair, studiously ignoring the red and white striped tent at its heart. Try as she might to believe otherwise, she knew it wouldn’t be much longer before the flaps parted and the terrors within drew more willing souls to them. Circus; even the name gave her the heebie-jeebies. At least it didn’t have any animals. As a child she’d been appalled at glorious tigers and sadly majestic elephants performing tricks for people they could stomp or crunch without a thought.

Movement caught her eye; a flicker of white, thin and ethereal, followed by several smears of colour, a veritable rainbow. The colours weaved through the edge of the crowd by the Ghost Train, slipped into an alley between it and the Flying Carpet, then disappeared from view. Performers perhaps? They’d been too distant to tell for sure. Something about their fluid, semi-visible movement made her stomach churn. Not clowns, not now. ‘Give me a minute to be ready for that’ she thought, but it was too late.

A loudspeaker on a pole behind her blared into violent voice.

‘The Circus of Wonderment is about to begin. Hurry, children young and old; don’t miss your chance to witness the most dazzling, enchanting, magical puzzlements in the universe. Come one, come all, but come now!’

A bit much for a tin-pot sideshow with a patched tent over a sawdust ring, Karen considered, but Carey was already leaping from the ride, grabbing her hand and sweeping them into the swelling flow of people heading for the circus tent.

A billowing red curtain hung between the raised tent flaps, spangled with stars, comets and, Karen was fairly certain, invented mystical signs. A purple-cloaked figure, with a deep hood frustrating any attempt to discern features, proffered a gloved hand to receive tickets. Karen supressed a shudder at the exchange. Those fingers were too realistic, too much like bone; amazing what technology could do now. Prosthetics at a cheap circus; who’d have thought it possible?

Moving through the low, dark tunnel beyond the curtain was a shock. A spectral candle seemed to hover in the darkness, unaided, floating forward, beckoning the audience on with occasional pauses and bobs. Karen could appreciate the childlike wonder which elicited breathless gasps from Carey. Emerging into the circus interior was a little like walking through a magic mirror, from reality to wonderland.

The ring was no more than twenty feet across, surrounded by banks of seating which sloped up from ringside to three levels high. The entire space was lit by more of the ghostly candles, the light barely enough to allow people to find their seats. The ushers were the next wonder to bring awed coos to Carey, and Karen had to admit, they were spectacular illusions. At first she thought they were dogs but, as one came to escort them to ringside, she realised they were something else entirely. They had the bodies of miniature ponies, dyed a myriad hues—their personal guide being a delicate shade of lilac—but the heads… Each usher had the head of a child. A laughing, smiling, giggling child, male and female, all seeming gleefully happy to be a part of what Karen couldn’t help thinking of as a freak show. How could such a small concern afford such amazing, and slightly distasteful, special effects?


Born a writer, Gill Taber cannot remember a time when words didn't instantly create stories in her head. She can be found, fingers glued to a keyboard mostly, living on the Welsh border, with family, friends and multiple cats. Between bouts of writing she likes to read, listen to music, cook, knit, play video games, grow vegetables and bee-friendly flowers and wander about in the great wide world. Although stories go up very intermittently, some of her work can be found at this site -, and more will probably go up when the sleet of inspiration strikes (and yes, she stole that from Terry Pratchett!). She has also been published in a variety of books including 'Passionate Pens:Rendezvous' and 'Elements of Dimension' published by Twin Trinity Media.

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