He sits upon his twisted tower of broken metal. Faded coils of fun spring from its wreathing metallic mass, memories of a forgotten time. He rules this island with its carnival of strange delights; this island of the mad.
They are drawn here; the crazed, the outcast, those society now spurned, drawn by his spirit. A home where no-one else would have them. Safe and accepted. He is a kind old man in their eyes, but to others a gruesome garish nightmare. ‘Don’t go to the island’ people would warn unknowing travellers. ‘He will curse you with his dark magic and you will never leave’.
The lost come now in the deep dark of winter, they traipse through shuttered and barred villages. The walk of the damned. The local children call it the ‘Jolly Jaunt’, the brightly coloured clothes and thick coloured makeup of the weary travellers serve only to enhance their wild appearance. The children sneak out and hide in bushes to stare. Perhaps once they would have laughed and ran to greet them in amazement. But civilisation has balked at their ways and turned young ones wonder to horror. The men now mutter to their wives or talk in hushed voices in the alehouse. Casting furtive glances at every tinkle and tap outside. The toot of a horn sends shivers down spines. Fear and hatred now drawn in equal measure with each breath.
Outside each doorstep the villagers leave some food or drink that they remember to be fitting; sometimes a cream pie or scones, ginger beer or ice cream. An offering that ensures this ragged troupe of unwelcome oddities keep tumbling onwards. They can travel through, but they are not allowed to stop. These unwanted are someone else's entertainment.
They are driven here by hatred. Haunted by the distant memory of their last clap. A longing in their sole to be accepted again, to be cheered, to be laughed at, to be loved. Some have travelled thousands of miles, their once song-filled voices silenced by animosity or indifference. Oversized shoes now threadbare and broken, spinning flowers dry of their last drop of water, black top hats faded to gray long since void of fluffy tailed life. A flight of fools, no longer needed with only one place left to go.
He greets them all. He knows the painted look on every face, each faded cloak, each broken wand. They will all find a place in his carnival.
If you listen carefully in the quiet of the night you can hear the music carried across on the wind, the playful haunting sounds of the tinkling music, the laughter, the creak of the machines whirring to life and bringing joy once more to those who once brought it to the world. Here on this island of Barry, their fairground salvation lies, one last show, one final bow.