What is it about circuses that gives most of us chills? Read on about brand-new horror novel, Come One, Come All by E. Gilliland!
Come One, Come All
Publication Date: October 18th, 2022
Genre: Gothic Horror
Publisher: Bayou Wolf Press
The Pied Piper Circus lures in the lost, the lonely, people who wish to be stronger or faster or prettier…but once you join, you can never leave.
Louisa knows the dangers of the traveling carnival, but she cannot afford to stay away. Not if she wants to get rid of the white owl that’s been haunting her, invading her dreams. Not if she wants to know about the dark, sinister mark in her eyes that convinces people to follow her every whim, no matter how terrible. Not when she fears what she might do with that power.
Ringmaster Amos Cain has the answers Louisa seeks, but like everything else in the Pied Piper Circus, they won’t come without a price. And there’s something hungry living in the heart of the carnival that will never be satiated, no matter how many lost souls She consumes.
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Louisa had thought the Pied Piper Carnival looked surreal in the scant photographic evidence she’d managed to piece together in her search, but if anything, it was even more bizarrely gaudy in person, tinged with the smell of desperation. Look at me! the freaks and contortionists all but shouted from their faded, patched tents; and from the pretty girls with their barely there costumes fraying at the seams, Love us!; and underneath it all, a whisper so faint it could barely be noticed under the glitz of the peeling-painted signs and the shriek of the dissonant, jarring music: Come.
And people did. In droves, they answered the call of the traveling show, stumbling up to it as if they scarcely understood why they were there, but drawn all the same. Embarrassed, at first, but lured in by those too-bright lights.
At least all of her fears about sticking out like a sore thumb had been in vain. No one here seemed inclined to gawp at any of their fellow voyeurs—not even those, like she, with hair shorn so close to the scalp that bits of skin poked through. It had been an impulsive decision made once the adrenaline from nearly jumping off the roof had worn off and she’d decided, for better or worse, to come on this bizarre journey she could not quite explain, even to herself—that was, if there’d been anyone left to explain it to.
The owl made me do it, she thought wryly to herself, running a self-conscious hand over her freshly buzzed hair. The tinsel dress had been replaced with a flannel shirt two sizes too big, jean shorts, and a sensible, sturdy pair of boots so heavy that if the moon drifted off and took all the gravity with it, there she’d be, still rooted to the earth. The only concession to any kind of glamor was the heavily-coaled eyelids that were not so much an invitation as a warning. Come too close, and I’ll bite.
Despite the rather strange figure she cut, people were too caught up in the shoddy showmanship around them to notice or care. Something about the flashing lights and blaring music distracted them from the blatant disrepair: the signs hanging off their hinges, the pockmarks plastered over with pancake makeup. Simple minds, and all. Still, scoff all she liked, Louisa had to stop herself more than once from leaning in toward a shiny bauble or taking an outstretched palm.
“Pretty lady looking for a good time with a handsome fellow?” one of the popcorn vendors leered at her as she passed, scratching at the dark tendrils of hair protruding through his unbuttoned shirt.
Louisa knew she shouldn’t, but she couldn’t help herself, truly. “Yeah.” She took in a step closer, all big-eyed innocence. “You know any?”
At once the grin dissolved to a gleaming snarl. “Think you’re funny, huh? I’d watch my back if I were you.”
But Louisa only smirked to herself as she drifted back into the faceless crowd. Just try it, she dared him silently. We’ll see who walks away from it smiling.
She swiveled to see a woman sitting in a tassled, red velvet-upholstered booth, the hand-painted sign overhead reading ‘Madame Kassandra, Soothsayer.’ Underneath it sat a woman so ancient her skin had begun to shrink in on itself. Her eyes were a milky, unblinking white, her hair a platinum bob cut just below her chin. She stared straight ahead, not seeming to see anything, though Louisa could not shake the feeling that the old crone was looking straight through her.
Curiosity finally winning out, Louisa ventured another step closer. “You talking to me?”
Madame Kassandra beckoned her even closer with the crook of a gnarled, veined finger. Once Louisa was directly in front of her, she cupped a hand over her mouth, giving a hot, exaggerated whisper. “I know what you’re looking for.”
Oh, this ought to be good. “Do you, now?”
Despite herself, Louisa felt a chill course down her spine. But that was the way these shoddy carnival tellers worked, wasn’t it? Trail little breadcrumbs of generalities mixed with a healthy helping of bullshit, make people believe you could peer into their souls.
“Three what?” she bluffed as if the number meant nothing to her, though she caught herself holding her breath as she waited for the answer.
“One for each of the ones you took.” Madame Kassandra’s small, withered hand was surprisingly strong as it encircled her wrist. “But you should have kept running, Lovely Louie. This place is gonna gobble you up.”
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About the Author
Elizabeth Gilliland mostly believes in ghosts and other supernatural spooks, but she has a standing agreement with them to keep a respectful distance. When she isn’t writing, she is most likely sneaking classic Gothic novels into her class curriculum, or arguing why we need to value adaptations as art. She is also the author of the Austen University Mysteries, and she lives in Alabama with her husband and son.
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