The Italian Carousel Part II


I lost track of time, too many questions had been left unanswered. I arrived in a calmer part of town just as the stars began to appear. With Eira still not in sight, there was something eerie about the quietness that I couldn’t quite shake off. Music seemed to play indefinitely, but the songs around these parts sounded sickly sweet. 

Meandering through crowds of people along the sidelines, I searched for someone to talk to. Someone had to have some kind of useful information to relay. Two people bickering near me sharply silenced their shouts as I walked by, glaring my way with harsh eyes. Laughing elites chatted in brightly colored clumps of their silken coats. Past quaint commoners, shady strangers, I found a shadowed area beneath trees to sleep for the night. Attempting to get comfortable in the dry snow, I caught the attention of someone reading a book against another horse fountain. He approached me curiously.

“Who are you? I haven’t seen you around these parts?” he said.

“I’m…not from Lumik, and I don’t know what’s going on.”

“Oh,” he said with piqued intrigue. “Where are you from, exactly?”     

“Well, I don’t know how to explain it. Another world I guess. I was on a carousel with my friend, and suddenly I’m here, with no explanation. And don’t even know where she is or how to get home,” I sighed angrily, sitting down against the fountain. “I’m Ashwin, by the way.”
“A curious situation indeed. I’m Finley. ” I glanced at the book he had been reading, noticing it was the poetry collection Tulips and Chimneys by E. E. Cummings, unexpectedly one of Eira’s favorites.

“Funny, I gave that book to my friend a long time ago. She refused to read it at first but ended up loving it. It always reminded me of her,” I mused.

“I never knew such things could be transferred to other worlds,” Finley said.

“You don’t happen to know anything about other worlds, do you?” I asked solemnly.

“Not really, but there have certainly been foreigners here, for better or for worse,” he replied. “However, I know much about this world.”

“I’d be glad to hear about it, I don’t know very much so far.”

“Well, Lumik is the purest of kingdoms. We are surrounded by the natural beauty of the landscape and weather, and we celebrate our love for our land each day. We are ruled by the loving Queen and High Priestess, Regina Exalted, of course, who blesses us with an entrancing voice that connects straight to the Divine Source. Everything here is perfect, everyone is happy, nothing ever goes wrong,” Finley explained cheerfully. “In fact, you’ve arrived at a wonderful time, because tomorrow is a grand celebration where Regina will sing for all to hear!” 

“Wow, so this place really is perfect, isn’t it?”
“Absolutely! Lumik has always been perfect and always will be. In fact, wherever your friend is now, I’m positive she is safe.” Relief washed over me, this snowglobe-like world was as heavenly as I thought it was. Finley and I launched into a discussion about the book, lasting no more than half an hour before a commotion stirred in the street. A woman screamed at a man in front of her, all heads turning to watch the show.
“It’s like you don’t even care about me sometimes!” she yelled. “How can you constantly be so negative and sour?!”
“Me? Listen to yourself right now, you’re shouting at me in the middle of the town for all ears!”

“You’re the one who started this,” she snarled, suddenly pushing him forcefully, sending gasps through the town. 

“This is why I can’t live in this horrid kingdom any longer!” he retorted, fiercely grabbing her by the scarf in return. Just as the fight was becoming unsightly, citizens ran into the street to pull them away from each other. I turned to Finley in shock.

“But you said this place…”

“I know what I said,” Finley sighed. “I may not have been entirely honest about what goes on here. You see, this kingdom should be perfect, and it was; about a year or so ago. But that was before…” his voice shifted into a whisper. “…the Stranger showed up.”

“Who’s that?”

“No one is quite sure. An elusive foreigner, always around, but we can’t quite seem to catch him. But since his unprecedented arrival, he’s been stirring up trouble left and right, ruining all of our peaceful traditions. Now it seems there is always some kind of civil unrest, some fight, some rally against the Queen.” 

“For no reason at all?”
“It would seem so, it’s like some sort of spell. Lumik has never had a problem with the Queen, or fights, or anything of the sort. I’m quite honestly worried for the future of our kingdom,” Finley said gravely. “With the rising number of dissenters against Regina lately, some have even lost belief in music. It speaks right into their ears, but it’s like they can’t hear anymore.”         

I thanked Finley for his time when he rose to retire a few minutes following the fight. Further worry spread in my mind as I nestled back into the soft snow, having heard of the Stranger. I regretted my longing for adventure. Upon one of the stars that hung above like diamonds, I wished that Eira was safely tucked away in a crowd of trees, looking for me. 



I felt a light tap at my side when I opened my eyes. 

“Ashwin? What are you doing? Did you really sleep here all night?” Finley asked, glancing over me.

“Yes, but this snow is amazingly comfortable. I actually slept pretty well,” I said, rising to my feet and brushing the flakes away from my emerald coat.

“I had no idea you had no place to sleep, I would’ve invited you to stay at my lodge,” he said apologetically. 

“It’s really alright, I’m fine on my own.” 

“Well, the celebration is just about to commence, I suggest you come along and watch. Perhaps you’ll find your friend in the midst.” I followed Finley into the center of the kingdom, where I had been yesterday. Crowds gathered quickly, staring up at the palace balcony that had been decorated with draping wisteria. I stood beside an enchanting blue crystal statue of a rearing horse, thus far the largest I’d seen.

The town crier arrived on the balcony, beginning a speech to welcome the Queen’s performance.  As he continued the proclamation, a large group of people in coats of darker and duller colors emerged from behind, led seemingly by an isolated man who approached me. 

“You might want to get out of the way,” he said.


“We’re about to finally show all these people how delusional they are, thinking this world is perfect, ruled by this queen that they think is a goddess,” he whispered.

“Are you that Stranger people are talking about?” I asked, panicked.

“Me? No, but I know him. He isn’t all that horrid, you know. You should consider joining us in our call to action.” I shook my head and backed away in response, the man shrugging, and returning to his disorderly group. 

“Let us welcome our most passionate Queen to the stage, Regina Exalted!” At the sound of the town crier’s final call, a thundering crash halted the ceremony. The nearby horse statue was being demolished by the man and his band of rebels. Citizens screamed, running from the shattered blue crystal bursting from the site like diamond rain. 

“Wake up!” the man shouted. “Wake up!” the group echoed. I stood at a distance, watching the display, unable to move. The group continued chanting and destroying, while guards and officers on horseback poured into the scene. These people have gone absolutely insane. 

“There he is! We’ve finally caught him, the Stranger!” howled a palace guard to the others, busy pulling the dissenters apart forcefully. I turn around frantically, looking for this infamous Stranger.

“Are you sure he’s the one?” asked another.

“Yes, of course. I saw him talking to the leader of these dissenters. He was probably telling them to cause the uprising!” Suddenly, two guards rushed in my direction, firmly gripping me by the arms and dragging me along with the rest of the dissenters, through the crystal fractals skidding across the ground.

“No, no! You don’t understand, I’m not the Stranger! I’m not with these people!” I cried with panic coursing through me, nearly bringing tears to my eyes. “I’m not the Stranger!”

“I doubt you are a Stranger to yourself, but regardless, you have caused far too much trouble,” the guard on my left replied wittily. “You are under arrest.”