October 16th, 2007
Title: Mount Fraught Syndrome: Chapter 3
Summary: Sunny and Klaus discover a run-down carnival, and may or may not discover help...
Author's Notes: Chapter One Chapter Two
“Pamc!” Sunny called out, pointing enthusiastically even though she knew Klaus couldn’t see her. The row of tents had been visible in the distance for some time, but it was only now, as the sun rose and Klaus carried her nearer, that she could be sure she wasn’t dreaming them. She’d slept a little during the night, but not well, and it had been hard to tell what was a dream and what wasn’t. Sometimes she’d thought that Violet was walking next to them, and sometimes she’d heard Mr Poe coughing, and sometimes she’d seen Count Olaf’s long fingers reaching out of the dark to grab her and almost bitten her own arm before waking up. Once she’d seen her parents on the horizon, singing to her, but they faded away before she got close enough to hear the words.
At least she’d been able to sleep. Klaus hadn’t dared to stop walking. The music had stopped a few minutes after they began following it, and he’d been afraid they’d end up going in the wrong direction if they stopped to rest. Sunny had offered to crawl some of the way, but he wouldn’t let her.
He didn’t say anything when she spoke, gazing straight ahead as if he’d forgotten she was there. “Pamc,” Sunny explained again, tugging at his shirt. “Lari,” she added, looking up at the rusty metal structure that lay beyond the tents.
“A rollercoaster?” Klaus stopped walking and blinked, peering blearily down at her, or at least in her general direction. “So it is some sort of carnival. I thought so. I still don’t know why they were playing a barrel organ in the middle of the night, but…” He gave a huge yawn, and rubbed at his eyes. “Sorry. But it’s lucky for us they did.”
Sunny nodded, resting her head on Klaus’ chest so he could feel. Lucky. The hook-handed man had used that word as well. They were lucky not to be dead, he’d meant, and Sunny supposed that was true. And they were lucky to have heard the music, and not to be stranded somewhere with no water or electrical cables. But they were also two children with no parents to take care of them, and a big sister who was trapped with a horrible man who was probably hitting her and locking her up and making her sleep on the floor and even worse.
She held on to Klaus a little tighter, trying not to cry again. It made her too tired. She hadn’t cried this much since the days when she was very small and didn’t know any words, even the ones she made up.
Klaus patted her hair. “How far is it?” he asked.
“Sertem,” she told him. Not far.
He nodded, looking solemn, and started walking again.
There was nobody around when they reached the tents, which Klaus thought was strange. “I thought carnival workers usually got up early in the morning,” he told Sunny, frowning. “I could be wrong, but it seems odd that there’s no one about.”
Sunny looked at the collapsing rollercoaster, and the peeling paint of the caravans they passed. “Deca,” she said, which meant It doesn’t look as though they have many visitors. “Guy,” she added, and Klaus nodded and stepped over the rope in front of his feet.
“I’ll have to take your word for that,” he said. “Still, there must be someone here. I doubt they’d just abandon all their –”
“Vox!” Sunny interrupted. “Shh.” She looked around the camp, trying to work out where the voices she could hear were coming from. She couldn’t make out what they were saying, but they were adults, and they were somewhere near… there, the big tent covered in stars. As if to confirm it, one of the walls bulged for a second as someone inside brushed against it. “Estel,” she told Klaus, who was listening too, forehead creased in concentration.
“The big dark thing over there?” He pointed at the tent, more or less.
“Yep. Koluto.” Yes. Be careful. The way to the tent was full of ropes and other obstacles that he had to be guided round, but all the same Sunny could feel Klaus relax a little with each step he took. She knew what he was thinking. There were people in there. People meant water, food, rest, and shelter. People meant help.
She smiled as they came round the side of the tent. “Pre-” she began, meaning to say Almost there, but the word faded as she saw the design painted onto the canvas. She stared, speechless, feeling the ground sway beneath her. The eye, the same eye that had followed her and her siblings for so many weeks, glaring from Count Olaf’s ankle, stared back.
“Sunny? What’s wrong?” Klaus lowered his voice, obviously feeling her shock even though he wouldn’t know what had caused it. She turned to him, clinging to his arm.
“Maloc,” she whispered.
The blood drained from Klaus’ face. His arms tightened round Sunny, holding her so close she could hardly breathe, but that didn’t seem to matter. “No,” he breathed. “No – no, it can’t – he can’t…”
Sunny shook her head, tears spilling from her eyes. “Can.” He can do everything, she meant. He’ll always find us.
Klaus collapsed. That was how it felt. He dropped to the floor, so fast that Sunny was sure he’d fall into the tent and give them away, but he didn’t. He just sat in the dust, clutching Sunny and trembling, dark circles round his eyes standing out against his whitened skin. “There’s nowhere else…” he whispered. She felt his tears soak into her hair. “No one… I can’t walk any more. I can’t.”
Sunny curled against him, shaking. “Holep?” she asked, voice tiny and broken. What can we do?
He didn’t answer. He held her and rocked her, or maybe he just rocked with her, but he didn’t answer because he didn’t have to. Sunny understood.
Nothing. There’s nothing we can do.
When she closed her eyes she could still see the eye, staring, sneering. Nothing. No help, no shelter, so what now? Now what happens?
“Be asking your question again, please.”
Sunny jumped. So did Klaus. His head whipped round, as if he could see where the woman’s voice had come from. Sunny tapped his shoulder. “Edis,” she whispered, pointing to the tent. In there.
Klaus put a finger to his lips and leaned toward the canvas, frowning in concentration again, hardly seeming to breathe. Sunny listened, too, not sure what good it would do. They were trapped by the eye. There was no escape.
Then the second voice spoke, and she wasn’t so sure. It was a man. His voice was soft, and he spoke slowly, sounding as if he was holding his words back to keep them all from bursting out at once. “I need to know where my brother is,” he said. “And…” He paused. Sunny recognised that kind of pause. It was the kind that meant someone was trying not to cry. “And if he’s still alive.”
Klaus gave a quiet gasp. Sunny bit her lip.
The woman spoke again. “That is really being two questions,” she said. “You are remembering, please, that the crystal ball is only answering one question a day.”
“Madame Lulu, I don’t have time.” The man’s voice shook. “You know I can’t stay another night. Please. If you know – if you know what kind of state he’s in, then you must know where he is.”
Madame Lulu didn’t answer for a while. “Since it is you asking, my Jacques,” she said eventually, “I will be taking this as one question only. You will be quiet, please, while I am looking.”
There was silence. Or nearly silence. Now she was listening Sunny could hear a faint whirring noise that reminded her of a refrigerator. “Nineg?” she whispered to Klaus, meaning Can you hear that?, but he shushed her again.
“I am seeing your brother,” Madame Lulu said. “He is living, yes…”
Jacques sighed in relief. “Oh, thank heavens.”
“But,” Madame Lulu continued, sounding slightly annoyed that he’d interrupted, “he is in much pain. Not of his body, please,” she added quickly. Sunny thought Jacques might have tried to cut in again. “Of his heart. I think you are guessing already, please, this part of the story.”
“Of course,” Jacques said. “That’s why I came here. I know how distraught he must be, after…” He swallowed. Sunny turned to look at Klaus.
“Fili,” she whispered. He sounds like a kind person.
“We can’t be sure,” Klaus muttered, but he looked more thoughtful now than scared, and there was colour in his face. “He might be safe, if he’s just a visitor here, but I don’t know…”
“He is missing very much his Beatrice,” Madame Lulu said. Her voice was gentler now. “For nine days he is doing nothing, please, but crying for her. And even after this, he is not eating, not sleeping. He is sick with his loving of her, and in the end, please, he is being found so sick that he must please be taken to the hospital.”
“Which hospital?” Jacques’ voice trembled once more. Sunny looked up at Klaus.
“Pesco,” she whispered. I’m going to have a look at him.
“Sunny, no!” Klaus hissed. “They could see you.”
“Vanesc.” They won’t. I’ll keep out of sight. She squeezed his arm. “Empa,” she added. I think we can trust him.
“I’d like to think so.” Klaus shook his head. “But there’s no way to be sure.”
“Baker,” Sunny whispered. Well, we have to do something. She stretched up to kiss her brother on the cheek, then slipped out of his arms. “Vure.” I’ll be right back.
“…of course, they are not knowing his real name,” Madame Lulu was saying, as Sunny crawled round to the front of the tent and lay down, as flat as she could, to peer under the door flap. “He is using name of Kensicle, the same, please, that he was using before for writing in secret of books.” She coughed. “Sorry. I mean, please, writing in books of secrets.”
The tent was full of a strange, flickering light. All Sunny could see were two pairs of feet. Jacques was closest to her. He was wearing dark brown shoes, and the sock on his left leg seemed to have slipped down. Madame Lulu’s feet were harder to make out, but she was wearing some kind of slippers.
“He gave a false name?” Jacques still sounded worried, but there was pride in his voice. “That’s my brother. Half mad with grief, and he still has the presence of mind to cover his…”
The next word never came. Jacques shifted his legs as he spoke, and for a moment, in the strange, dim light, Sunny saw his left ankle. She shrieked before she could stop herself.
The adults both jumped. Jacques twisted in his chair. “Who is it?” he called, standing up. “Who’s there?”
Sunny couldn’t move.
“I know I am hearing someone, please!” Madame Lulu shouted, standing as well. “If sneaky spying person is out there, I am being very angry!”
Jacques came over to the door. Sunny could hear him trying to find the place where it opened. He’d see her any minute now. She had to move, but shock still froze her. She’d been so sure he was a good person.
But there was no mistaking the eye on his ankle.
“Sunny?” Klaus shouted. “Sunny! Where are you? What’s happening?”
“Sunny?” The door opened. Jacques looked down at her, blinking in astonishment. “It can’t be… how did you get here?” His expression suddenly changed, from surprise to a delighted grin, and before Sunny could move, he grabbed her around the waist and lifted her into the air. “Lulu, look who just showed up!”
Yay! For some reason I'm really fond of Jacques, despite the fact that he's barely more than mentioned in the books. I enjoyed this and look forward to the next bit!
I've been getting a lot of "yay Jacques!" comments. Everyone likes him.