THE CAKEWALK

As he took Sarah by the hand and helped her up the steps, she felt as though she was boarding the Cakewalk all over again. This was a fairground ride from her childhood. The machine threw the riders upwards a little as they moved along a narrow moving causeway, and it gave a bounce and an undulating glide to their gait: it was like walking on air. She could remember it. There it was, just round the next corner of her mind. He had never been on the real Cakewalk with her: he belonged to her adult life, not her childhood. And yet the grace and the surprise of the ride was the same.

 

It was as though he had somehow oiled Sarah’s joints. Everything was smooth. How did that get there, how did two become one? Could you tremble and be happy at the same time? Did the Goddess Venus really manifest herself in the light of day? It seemed that she could. She was golden, and showered everyone with her warm rain. Venus smiled without embarrassment or guile. To bask in the Goddess’ favour was the crown of life, even if only for a little while. 

 

Such love cannot last, of course. Someone  always steps off the Cakewalk first. He faltered and stumbled a little as he walked backwards into the crowd. The warm rain changed to a cold comfortless drizzle. Sarah was  then forcibly reminded of another fairground ride, the Wall of Death, where  the centrifugal forces pinned the customers to a wall as the floor fell away, and they were suspended in fear and without support. Or the Waltzer, where you paid to be flung upwards and round without getting anywhere, while some ruffian stood over you and spilled cigarette ash onto your frock. 

 

And how did it feel afterwards, once the fairground was dismantled? It was like looking out to sea and seeing a galleon approaching. Perhaps it might be a pirate ship, perhaps a trader full of spices and sugar. But in fact, it was a slaver. It had black sails: and the wind carried, to the listener on the beach, the cries of those manacled below deck. Sarah heard them, and to avoid  being captured like them, she turned and ran inland across the marshes and the wasteland. And she kept on running. 

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© 2020 by Sue Harper

feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | supernatural | fantastic and paranoia | literary female gothic | gothic narrative | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest | portsmouth university | emeritus professor sue harper | feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | outstanding achievement award | british association of film, theatre and television | professor of film history at portsmouth university | film, media and creative arts | british academy and the arts and humanities research council | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest |