Ordinarily, Jeremy would not have trusted anything or anyone in The Black and White Horror Show, but the hand could be trusted. It didn’t entice or try to manipulate; it beckoned urgently, as if it needed to be rescued.
Jeremy noticed a tall door leading into a boarded up shop. It opened a crack and a hoarse voice whispered, “Hurry in before you’re seen.” They obeyed. A light switched on. The bulb swayed back and forth while the teenagers stared at a skinny man in overalls. He was missing a couple teeth, which caused him to whistle as he spoke. “My name’s Harvey and you’re lucky you came when you did. Lately, night patrols have doubled and tripled in Carnival Town due to new arrivals. About a month ago, I snuck out of town to peer into the forest and was surprised to see the same circus on the other side. This place doesn’t feel normal, but I can’t remember what normal feels like. I don’t even know who I am or where I came from. I was hoping you might be able to tell me. Perhaps we came from the same place.”
Jeremy surveyed Harvey’s twitching fingers and palpitating neck. “We came from Old Hollywood and were sucked into The Black and White Horror Show.”
In an attempt to understand, Harvey told the teenagers what he knew. “An old man arrived just before you did. He was summoned by the boss.”
“Who’s he?” Sissy asked.
“I try to avoid him if I can.” Harvey pointed to the Velcro monkeys swinging on the wall. “The boss runs Carnival Town, but sometimes he isn’t here.”
“Have you ever seen one of these?” Jeremy asked, holding up the tickets from The Immortal Game.
Harvey turned pale. “A couple weeks ago my neighbors vanished and a flood of newcomers arrived. Last week, I followed them to the heart of town where they waited to play The Immortal Game. Most of them wrestled the skeletal arm into submission and received a ticket like the one you showed me. The winners walked into a small tent where their pictures were taken. None of them came out.”
“They were captured in black and white film and burned alive,” Max said.
Harvey’s knees wobbled.
“Perhaps you should sit down.” Sissy suggested.
“Thank you,” Harvey gasped. He crumpled into an uncomfortable chair, lost in thought. “I do have a theory about everything. I’ve always felt there was something wrong about this place. Mildred, my old neighbor, had the same feeling, and she couldn’t remember where she came from. She tried to ask some of her friends, but they disappeared.”
Jeremy knew Harvey was on to something. “What do you think is the purpose of The Immortal Game?” he asked.
“Perhaps it singles-out those who question why they are here. Maybe if their will is in opposition to Carnival Town, they beat The Immortal Game and the boss gets rid of them.”
“Now I have something important to tell you,” Harvey said. “A couple days ago, I followed my boss to Maurice’s Costume Shop. The boss came out wearing a police uniform. Since I’ve been here, he’s never worn anything but a Victorian suit and cape. I followed him to the Wax Museum and a couple hours later, a man I’d never seen walked out wearing the same uniform. The stranger went to the Egyptian Exhibit and I never saw him again!”
“DETECTIVE STRAITFACE,” everyone cried.
“Who’s he?” Harvey asked.
“He kidnapped the owner of The Pharaoh and stole The Black and White Horror Show,” Jeremy said. “Your boss has two dangerous artifacts: a golden pocket lighter and an antique flash camera. He can capture you in black and white film and destroy your photograph forever.”
“Why would the boss of Carnival Town do that?”
“Why wouldn’t he?” Brandon retorted.
Jeremy listened to his friend. It was possible that Ignatius created an eternal film so that he could be its undying director, but this theory seemed far-fetched. Bernie viewed the film more than anyone and fell under its influence. What if Ignatius was a victim of his own curiosity? Perhaps the dust from the accursed sarcophagus was to blame? “It doesn’t matter why Ignatius captures people in black and white film,” Jeremy said. “Where do the new arrivals come from?”
“Obviously, they come from The Black and White Horror Show,” Max suggested.
“Yes, but Ignatius stole The Black and White Horror Show and brought it here. People are still arriving in Carnival Town. It’s possible the dust in the film has other ways of attracting people who fall under its influence.”
“If The Black and White Horror Show was successful, why did Ignatius steal it?” Harvey asked.
“Because it wasn’t successful!” Jeremy realized. “Think about it—The Black and White Horror Show was hidden for over a century in The Pharaoh. A hundred years ago, the silent film was the entertainment in vogue. The dust in the sarcophagus seduced Ignatius to design a better film.”
“If Ignatius was under the spell of The Black and White Horror Show, who ceiled it in the Egyptian Sarcophagus?” Sissy asked.
“Only Ignatius knows the answer to that question,” replied Jeremy. “The film prolonged his life, keeping him young. Its effects give mortals what they crave—eternal life and power. In exchange, they gradually forget who they are and become walking mummies, without the wrappings.”
“Now that we understand something about The Black and White Horror Show, how do we escape it?” Brandon asked.
“Isn’t it obvious? We need to find Ignatius Specter and figure-out how he comes and goes from Carnival Town.”
“It may not be that simple; we still need to destroy The Black and White Horror Show.” Harvey said.
“Even if the film is destroyed, it may be impossible to obliterate. If it cannot be defeated, it must be hidden forever.”
Harvey rose from his chair, vexing in concentration. “I have a plan,” he said.