Saint Odd Excerpt (Dean Koontz) – The carnival

This specific section of the book moved me. Kudos to Mr. Koontz for so skillfully capturing what draws us to amusement parks and for so perfectly describing it to us. Quote is from Saint Odd (from the Odd Thomas Series). The book is really good and I’ll post a full review when finished.

I walked the fairground midway, where the Whip lashed its riders this way and that, where the Caterpillar enveloped screaming patrons in darkness as it slung them around a track a thousand times faster than any real caterpillar could move, where the Big Drop lifted its gondola two hundred feet into the night and then released it in what seemed to be an uncontrolled free fall, and where the Ferris wheel carried its passengers high and brought them low and raised them high and brought them low again, as if it were not merely a carnival ride but also a metaphor for the basic pattern of human experience.

It’s difficult to spend time in any carnival or amusement park and not realize that a repressed fear of death may be the one emotion that is constant in the human heart even if, most of the time, it is confined to the unconscious as we go about our business. Thrill rides offer us a chance to acknowledge our ever-present dread, to release the tension that arises from repression of it, and to subtly delude ourselves with the illusion of invulnerability that surviving the Big Drop can provide.

The carnival blazed, every ride and many other attractions decorated with low-watt bulbs, neon tubes, blinkers, and twinklers. Strings of colored lights overhung the U-shaped concourse. At the curve of the U, mounted on a flatbed truck and reliant on a chugging gasoline-powered generator, two massive swiveling spotlights threw their beams into the heavens, revealing the bellies of an armada of clouds, like dirigibles, invading silently from the southwest.

In spite of all the colorful lighting that had been crafted to attract patrons and to put them in a celebratory mood, the carnival had an air of hostility and menace that, I felt sure, was not merely my perception.

Within all the dazzle and glitter and bright fake glamor, a hidden presence lurked, a watchful darkness that observed and hated and waited, a presence I had not sensed six suddenly soured. For just a moment, cinnamon had a sulfurous edge and the popcorn butter smelled rancid, as if under all its pretense of good healthy fun, the carnival was a dangerous swamp in which moldered and festered things too horrific to contemplate. The fun house featured the giant face of an ogre, twenty feet from chin to crown, nearly that wide, a dimensional sculpture of such imaginative detail that it managed to be scary at the same time that it was pure hokum.

Periodically a roar issued from its open mouth, and with the roar came a forceful blast of air that traveled about twenty feet into the promenade, surprising people who encountered it for the first time, mussing their hair and startling them so that popcorn was dropped halfway from box to mouth. The ogre’s crazed eyes rolled in their sockets, but I knew that I was being paranoid to think that it was watching me in particular.

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