I live in a small village in the Western Countryside of England though I better not tell you which, for your own safety above all else. A lot of this won’t make sense at first but bare with me, theres a lot I need to say. Let me just start from the beginning.
My village has a population of 178 people at the time of writing this, the oldest being my grandfather. Now he isn’t just well known around the village because of that, he is also the only living person in the village alive when ‘Fantasmo’s Funland’ was still open. ‘Fantasmo’s Funland’ was a Carnival open between 1956-59. The reason the Carnival closed after only 3 years of service was because one day in June of ’59 Fantasmo got up and left, without warning, well according to my Grandfather anyway. My grandfather was six at the time, the first and last time he went to that Carnival. His mother had terminal cancer and only had mere months to live, while his father was lost at sea when he was just mere months old. His mother wanted make every last second with her son a memorable one, so she took him to ‘Fantasmo’s Funland’.
The village was larger then, and the Carnival was quite the tourist attraction so the park was packed out. As my grandfather and his mother fought their way through the crowd, they suddenly heard a loud voice announcing “Gather round”. With every screech of the voice came another wave of people pushing and shoving until eventually my grandfather was separated from his mother and pushed into a red and purple striped carnival tent. My grandfather got to his feet, his eyes adjusting to the new found darkness. In the centre of the tent was a circular shroud where the light from seams didn’t quite reach. Within that shroud he could make out a face, not a normal face mind you but still a face. The face itself wasn’t exactly monstrous, it just wasn’t human enough to not be unsettling. Long, pointed cheekbones and a sharp chin accompanied by the off white skin and perfectly chiselled eyebrows made it almost amusing to look at, if it wasn’t for the smile. It wasn’t the clichéd, wide, horrifying grin, it was more mischievous like a child who had just pulled off the biggest prank of his life. The combination of these features made it strangely creepy. My grandfather was awe struck, being a naive child he didn’t understand the dangers… although, none of us could have predicted the events my grandfather would set in motion that day. He approached the figure, eyes glued to the unmoving face. That’s when he first heard creaking. At this point my grandfather would always stop telling the story and stress to me about the creaking, how if you heard it… it was already too late.
Anyway once my grandfather was within reaching distance of the figure, he could make it out more clearly. The thing was made of wood, crudely painted like some sort of mime/clown hybrid, black and white striped overalls with splashes of colourful polka dots. It’s eyes looked down at my grandfather almost sincerely, contrasting with the excessively mischievous smile and overly pointed features. A top hat of a strange material adorned the lanky figure’s head, slightly obscuring it’s glassy eyes.
He could also see a small box nailed to the strange statue’s chest, with a bronze plaque attached reading “Pennies Please”. My grandfather looked at the peculiar entity with anticipation of its function. Reaching into the very depths of his pockets he retrieved a small copper coin and raised it above his head towards the light to ensure it was indeed a penny. As he did so, out of the corner of his eye he noticed that the figure’s eyes had now widened and were now fixated on the coin. My grandfather stood on his tiptoes to reach to the lanky statue’s chest. He notes how when he pushed the coin into the brass slot, he never heard it land. Standing away from the oak creature, my grandfather noticed the pin-drop silence. He found it strange that a once bustling carnival was now dead silent. In fact it was so quiet, it became deafening. Until the silence was shattered by echoing creaks, coming from the wooden oddity. After a few moments of small creaks and snaps, the creature sprung to life. It snapped into different shapes, as if stretching after a long slumber. It moved in an exaggerated fashion, like some sort of cartoon.
It twisted its torso left then right, as if looking for the hero that freed it from its sleep. Finally, it tilted its head down, creating a snapping sound as it did so. “Ah why hello young man, its a pleasure to make your acquaintance!” The creature bellowed in a well-spoken voice, curling out it’s long, pointed wooden hand to my grandfather. My grandfather didn’t move, just stood and starring, absolutely awe struck by this magnificent being. It recoiled it’s hand and looked to it’s side, as if embarrassed. The creature then went on to thank my grandfather furiously before composing itself, and standing at attention. With a jolting flick of the hand the creature pulled off his hat taking a bow as he did so. It then announced his name. “Mr. Tickletwist at your service”. It then lifted its head from the bow until it was right in my grandfather’s face, revealing his eyes were more than glass… they looked realistic, the left eye was emerald green and the other was a dirt brown, while the hat now looked to be made of a stitched leather. “I have a preposition for you young man!” Mr. Tickletwist announced.
He swung his torso back, and with a magical motion of his fingers, he produced a coin. Like Mr. Tickletwist, it was made of wood. Mr. Tickletwist tossed the coin down to my grandfather. As he examined it he noted the two carvings on each side; one side depicted a top hat, while the other side showed a ringmaster’s cane. My grandfather looked up at the strange clown-like figure in confusion. Mr. Tickletwist carried on his pitch. “You see young friend, I like making people happy! So I’ll give you the chance to get anything you desire!” My grandfather’s eyes lit up with excited curiosity and Mr. Tickletwist recognised that, smiling that mischievous smile and once again curled his spindly arm down to him. “Does that sound good?” My grandfather nodded his head and shook it’s hand without hesitation knowing it would seal this extraordinary deal. “Pleasure doing business with you friend, now there is a slight catch I may have forgotten to mention” Mr. Tickletwist’s mouth curled into a half smile as my grandfather looked on with a now suspicious glare. “Now now young man, let me explain.” “You see if I just granted every wish everyone asked for then there would chaos, there has to be a sense of chance… This is a carnival after all” He asserted as if saying the punchline of a joke. “The coin you now hold is the item of chance, flip it and if it lands on the cane side then you will be granted any wish you so desire” Mr. Tickletwist squinted his eyes as his smile widened. “However, if the coin lands on the top hat side then well lets just say, I take something from you instead” My grandfather didn’t like the way Mr. Tickletwist said those last words and despite his young age, looking up at the leather hat and the real looking eyes, he knew that wouldn’t be pleasant.
Mr. Tickletwist cracked his wooden knuckles, before folding his arms as if waiting for my grandfather to proceed with this fantastical carnival game. Looking down at the coin, my grandfather positioned it upon the nail of his thumb, cane side facing up and flicked his thumb as hard as he could sending the coin skyward. Flipping so fast it became a light brown blur as it slowed in the air and began the decent back down to the child. My grandfather held out both hands to catch it, but he never got the chance. Mr. Tickletwist snatched the coin from the air with tremendous speed. He then cradled it against his chest opening his hand slightly, obscuring my grandfather’s view. Mr. Tickletwist looked down for a moment before his eyes slowly crept up to my grandfather and he began to smile ear to ear. He then began shouting and dancing “Congratulations young man!” Revealing the coin to show a Ringmaster’s Cane. My grandfather exhaled a sigh of relief and waited to be prompted for a wish. However that’s not what Mr. Tickletwist did. Instead he began to slink around my grandfather like a snake, until his wooden lips were next to my grandfather’s ear before he whispered “Your poor mother”. My grandfather was taken back as he snapped his head to be face to face with the now slinking clown. “Ah yes my boy I know all about that, and I know more but that’s besides the point”. Mr. Tickletwist then slithered back to his place in the shroud. “That’s what you want isn’t it, for your mother to beat the unbeatable?” “Well that can be arranged my young friend” His voice slowed and deepened. My grandfather hesitantly nodded, only thinking of his mother’s well-being. “Very well” Mr. Tickletwist croaked, walking towards my grandfather and towering over him. Then crouching down to his level, he extended a single pointed finger and pierced my grandfather’s chest sending a sharp pain pulsating through his body. My grandfather fell backwards landing on his backside and clutching his chest. As he looked up he managed to catch Mr. Tickletwist vanish in a desaturated red puff of smoke, leaving nothing but the coin alone in the shroud.
Just then my grandfather heard gasps and screams from outside the tent. Getting to his feet he scooped up the coin and rushed outside to find a huge crowd of people staring in awe at something on the ground. Pushing and crawling his way through the sea people he eventually emerged, face to face with his mother. Her eyes glazed over and unmoving, her mouth twisted in a frozen state terror. My grandfather grabbed his mothers shoulders shaking her, tears of pain and confusion streaming down is face begging her corpse to come back.
The last thing he remembers from that day, was a cold hand on his shoulder turning to see a maniacal wooden grin before everything went dark. He awoke during the dead of night inside the tent that harboured the wooden monstrosity, clutching the coin. Opening his eyes fully he looked around the tent, finding it empty.
My grandfather tells me how throughout his life, Mr. Tickletwist would return to continue this sick game of chance. Either my grandfather is the luckiest man alive, or the game of chance wasn’t as fair as it seemed because not once did the coin land on the top hat side. And with each wish more tragedy would befall my grandfather, no matter how harmless the wish seemed this thing would always twist it to hurt somebody he loved. His foster families, his wife, co-workers, even the family dog fell prey to Mr. Tickletwist’s deadly touch. Soon my grandfather became a recluse, only allowing me into his life to do his weekly shop as he is now to sickly to do it himself.
I’m now sitting next to my grandfather, as he lays on his deathbed, babbling about how the game is finally over. Manically moaning that Mr. Tickletwist is coming to finally get him. I never knew what to make of his story, my mother would tell me he was just ill upstairs but how does that explain all the strange deaths in our family? I really don’t know what to believe. But over his nonsensical mumbling, very faintly I can swear I can hear the sound of wood creaking. Also I hear what sounds like pencils or wooden steaks, tapping on the bedroom door.