Unfair ground

by Jenny

Fighting down instinctive panic you carefully scan the crowds. It’s overwhelming; the people, the noise, the colours, but you have to keep cool. You have lost visuals on the subjects and it is imperative that you relocate them as quickly as possible.

You’ve been in this situation before and your reflexes begin to kick in. You try to memorise your surroundings before beginning the search. To your left is the sausage vender, the smell of fatty meat and fried onions has drawn a sizable queue of people, but the subjects are not among them.

To the right is the string of loud, brightly coloured stalls - the Haunted House, Hook-a-Duck and something with rifles and unfeasibly large stuffed crocodiles. The heavy thud-thud of ten different basslines ricochets around you, distant screams of delight and terror fill the air and flashing swirling lights trace patterns across your vision.

You must stay focused.

Think. What do you know about the subjects? Where are they likely to head? She is warm and pretty, he is thin but strong. In the short time you’ve observed them tonight you know that he enjoys the faster rides, but she prefers to browse the market stalls. You close your eyes and head in the direction of the market.

Something is wrong. You look quickly about and realise that a greasy, unshaven man is staring at you from underneath the doughnut stall canopy. His eyes follow you - he knows something is different about you. You are in danger. You must blend in, appear normal.

Looking determinedly ahead you smile, wave and run towards an imaginary someone in the distance, like they told you. To your relief the man drops his eyes and melts back into the crowd.

The incident has shaken you. You've no idea which way the market is anymore. The subjects are lost and you’re vulnerable, an easy target. You consider approaching a fairground official, providing a description of the subjects. But then you remember the greasy man. Trust no-one.

You try to pull details of the subjects to mind. The woman's soft yellow hair, the bristle of dark stubble on the man's chin. You scan the crowd again but it remains a sea of anonymous faces. Your fear wells up again in your chest.

A waft of incense cuts through the sausage grease and cigarette smoke and you find yourself beneath a hand painted sign ‘Madam Destiny’s Tent of Truth’. You pull back the curtain and peer inside. It's dark and a woman’s voice croaks, beckoning you inside. You take a sleepwalker’s step towards her...

Then suddenly a familiar voice cuts through the chaos. You find yourself lifted high, high into the air, strong hands in your armpits and delighted, relieved voices gabbling platitudes into your ear. The well worn smell of home washes over you and you are nestled comfortably on a hip. You are no longer surrounded by the knees and handbags of strangers.

“Lucy, you naughty girl, where did you get to? We’ve been so worried. Remember - if you get lost, stay where you are and we'll come find you.”

A hearty kiss planted on your forehead, a sticky bundle of pink candy floss thrust into one hand and you are carried effortlessly through the crowds. The subjects have been located.