He looked through the black viewfinder you would find at some scenic place. It was his idea that on his first date with the woman he met at the book store they’d visit the carnival passing through town. He saw this tent and excitedly dragged her along with him. She did not see the appeal of investigating a black tent with a lone black viewfinder in it.
He pulled back from the viewfinder. “You have got to try this!”
“What did you see?” she asked.
“I won’t tell you,” he said giddily like some school boy about to play the nastiest prank on someone. “You’ll have to find out for yourself.”
She shrugged and stepped in front of the black viewfinder that had “See your DEEPEST and DARKEST fears!” written with the type of squiggly lines you’d only ever find at a haunted mansion. She was nervous; she was easily spooked. For one last time, she looked at him still all smiles, and past him to the excitement of the bustling crowd outside the small tent they were standing in, reminding herself that she needed to loosen up and relax.
“Here goes nothing.”
She looked through the black viewfinder and found herself standing in the middle of an empty street. She could see her hands and her feet and found this a little odd. She didn’t make a big deal out of it but merely thought: technology these days.
The street was empty but the buildings surrounding it seemed emptier, if that were even possible. She walked straight ahead for there was nowhere else to turn which became boring soon enough that it was getting time to end this silly endeavor. She tried to pull herself away from the black viewfinder but hadn’t a clue how. Thinking that perhaps she had to walk back to her starting position, she turned back and started walking and walking until everything looked the same as it did in the other direction. She began to panic.
“Hello?” she cried out.
The doors on the buildings surrounding the street all opened at once and she gasped, holding her hands to her head instinctively. The doors compelled her to enter them. It didn’t matter to her which one she picked, she still felt ridiculous about the situation and increasingly alarmed. But perhaps this strange place was showing her the way out.
She entered the nearest door on her left. It was a room covered with mirrors and nothing more. Some were cracked and some were intact but they all seemed to be covered in a thin layer of dirt or steam or something because she couldn’t see herself clearly in any of them. She left the room and as she did, she pulled back and saw her date standing next to her.
“So did you see it? It’s funny, right?” he chuckled.
“What’s funny about mirrors?”
He was confused so he leaned in on the black viewfinder and laughed.
“You know, I don’t think you were looking properly,” he said. “Try again and this time, really look.”
She didn’t know if she wanted to go back to that creepy empty street but apparently there was supposed to be something very funny in there. Somewhere.
She looked through the black viewfinder again and entered another door. It appeared to be a bar and in the middle of the room there was a woman wearing clothes that looked very familiar. The woman stood with her arms crossed and a very stern look on her face. She noticed there were men sitting all around the bar, faceless. Still, she had a sense that they were all engrossed with the woman in the middle of the room. The woman walked towards the bar and ordered herself a drink, all the while the faceless men mirroring their heads to the way she moved. The woman didn’t seem to care or notice all the attention she was being given but simply flipped her hair carelessly when a man at the furthest corner of the room hissed at her. Then the man next to him did the same until like a chain it spread through the room. She was surprised at the calm that the woman was exuding as the hissing became louder and louder. Then all at once the faceless men faced her and hissed with even more acid than before. She turned and ran for the door.
“That was not fun,” she said as she found herself staring at the black viewfinder.
“What do you mean? It’s hilarious!”
“No, I just want to go. This place is giving me the creeps.”
He rolled his eyes. “Don’t tell me you’re one of those people who are afraid of clowns? Come on, that is such a cliché!”
“Yeah, that dancing clown. He’s like this –” he wiggled his hips and waved his arms around his head. “Man, I love carnivals.”
She looked around making sure that they were still standing underneath the black tent. There was a breeze outside and it created waves on the fabric of the tent as if things were lurking outside of it. She shivered.
He noticed. “Look, why don’t I go get us something hot to eat. Maybe you’re hungry or something.”
“You’re just gonna leave me alone here? In this creepy tent?”
“You’re overreacting.” He turned to leave, “I’ll be back in a few. You better be laughing or smiling or something when I get back.”
She grimaced. She wanted to get out of this black tent and rejoin all the normal people outside but she knew from the look in his eyes that he wouldn’t let up until she came out just as self-content as he was.
She wandered back into the black viewfinder and heard a faint little song coming from a door to her right. She recognized that the room was her bedroom. As she stepped through, the door closed and disappeared. She cursed under her breath then swivelled and banged against the wall. The door did not reappear.
She felt a deep dark dread run down her spine as she turned to face a large pile of books in the middle of the room in a burning pyre. She recognized the titles as the texts slowly burned away. The room started to vibrate and move. The walls were pushing everything towards the middle, pushing her towards the funeral pyre. She clung to the wall behind her for dear life, kicked and beat at it for the door to appear again but it was just a wall now. And as the flames engulfed her body along with everything else in the room that she had ever owned, she slowly pulled herself away from the black viewfinder.
She looked back at her date now holding two steaming cups of something, spit a nasty word at him, and stomped off the tent.
He followed but not without looking around the tent one last time trying to decipher what exactly it was that made her uncomfortable. He shrugged and came to the conclusion that the only logical explanation was that she just hated clowns or color or joy itself because there was nothing creepy to him about a multicolored tent with a sign hanging outside that says, “World’s Smallest Dancing Clown!”