“Beware the autumn people. … For some, autumn comes early, stays late, through life … with no winter, spring or revivifying summer. For these beings, fall is the only normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No, the night wind. What ticks in their head? The worm. What speaks through their mouth? The toad. What sees from their eye? The snake. What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth. In gusts they beetle-scurry, creep, thread, filter, motion, make all moons sullen, and surely cloud all clear-run waters. The spider-web hears them, trembles—breaks. Such are the autumn people. Beware of them.” Ray Bradbury
Wickedness abounds in this creepy parable about good and evil. Two adolescent boys, level-headed Will and his tempestuous pal Jim, have unwittingly attracted the attention of a sinister, tattooed stranger when the carnival comes to town in late October. It is their misfortune that they've noticed that the sideshow freaks are eerily familiar. After some hair-raising visits to the midway, they hide themselves in the town library, where Will's despondent father bides his days and nights in abject isolation as its custodian. When evil comes knocking, father and son learn some critical truths about themselves and their relationship.
Bradbury craftily employs supernatural forces to examine attitudes about parenting, perceptions of self, and the impact of aging. He conjures up some nifty mechanisms to tantalize and torment his characters, especially a carousel which can go forwards or backwards with confounding results. His flights of fancy are feverishly frightening, yet he manages to create authentic characters whose struggles mirror our own. Next time the carnival comes to my town, I'm going to stay inside and lock my doors and windows. After reading it, you might do likewise.