The Dark Fairy of the Twitter writing kingdom has struck again. The fantabulous Anna Meade has sponsored yet another flash fiction contest – this one promising more grit and darkness than her previous faerie fare.

Below is my entry for the contest (more info on contest rules at the end of this post). The entry had to be under 400 words – which took a little thinking – but cutting straight to the action really helped that.

I used two photos as inspiration for this tale. The first one was my selection (I needed a visual for a vardo), and the second was drawn from Anna’s “Behind the Curtain” pinboard, which is where I got my main inspiration for the tale itself.

Let me know what you think in the comments! Don’t forget to check out the other awesome entries, and then provide your own entry to the lineup. Contest ends October 13th!!

Admit One: The Gypsy Circus
386 words

a gypsy vardo, such as Lenuta visits…

The Queen’s vardo was the largest, its turquoise roof and red-and-yellow walls squatting cheerfully over stout wooden wheels. It sat at the rear of the gypsy encampment, beneath a fringe of dark trees. Embroidered curtains fluttered in the windows.
Lenuta* fled there at dusk, knowing the consequences if Metusca Anca** found her among gypsies: she would be locked in the cellar. Again.
Lenuta knocked on the bright door anyway. The Gypsy Queen answered promptly, looking at her – no, throughher – with luminous eyes a touch too small for her exotic face. Quickly Lenuta showed her the thing that had brought her there: a small golden ticket with elegant script saying: Queen’s Circus – Admit One.
“Bought it off a boy at school,” she stammered when the Queen did not answer. “Traded my new apron for it.” – and was boxed soundly on the ears by Metusca Anca afterwards, she remembered. But she did not mention that.
Wordlessly, the Queen took the ticket and ushered her into the vardo, filled with shadows and heady scents, and an undercurrent of whispers, though Lenuta saw no one. Rich curtains hung all around the room. Deep pillows with fantastically embroidered designs covered the floor. Always the voices eddied out to her, muffled and insistent.
 “What sort of circus is it?” Lenuta realized now that Stelian had never quite said. She had assumed it was jugglers and dancing bears; clearly she was wrong.
The Queen took a ribbon from a low table. There was a flash of color, a flick of the gypsy’s wrist – and the ribbon encircled Lenuta’s neck, the ticket suspended from it as a tag on a dog’s collar. Lenuta pulled frantically at the necklace; but it was immovable as iron.
The choker tightened, forcing Lenuta along at the Queen’s beckoning. The gypsy cast aside a curtain, revealing a dark mirror that reflected nothing.
“I admit you to the Queen’s Circus.” The words turned Lenuta’s blood to ice. “You will perform for my King.”

The choker was too tight to admit words. Lenuta pulled harder at the ribbon, panic foaming in her chest. The mirror shimmered, its surface suddenly beribboned with pale mist.

“Stelian will keep you company.” The queen smiled. “Perhaps he will return your apron as well.”
Ghostly faces emerged from the mist.
“Time to perform!”

* Lenuta = Romanian; diminutive for “torch”

** Metusca = Romanian for “aunt”

photo source – thanks to Anna Meade for pinning!