To Be Continued... SPFBO 9 Edition: Something Twisted This Way Comes

Something Twisted This Way Comes – Part 4 by Jean Gill

For SPFBO 9 I’m returning to my old tradition, where I offer to the authors in our batch a spotlight on Queen’s Book Asylum. While in previous years I created a new feature, this year I let them choose between all of my available ones: What the Hungarian?!Tales from the AsylumStuck in the PagesParty with the StarsTo Be Continued…, as well as the regular author spotlight options of an interview, and a guest post.

To my delight, several of the authors wanted to take part in To Be Continued… So much so, that we won’t have one, but two stories for you, each consisting of 4 parts! Story 1 is titled Something Twisted This Way Comes. It’s time for part 4, which is the last, written by Jean Gill, the author of The Ring Breaker.

Want to read the story from the beginning? Read PART 1, PART 2, and PART 3!

If you are new to the To Be Continued… feature, here is how it works:
  • the authors taking part have to write a short story based on my prompt, which for this SPFBO 9 Special Edition is illusion and dream in a carnival setting
  • the authors taking part don’t know about each other
  • each author has 2 weeks to write their part (after receiving the previous one(s))
  • each part is somewhere around 1500 words, although some tend to be longer

Fun fact: I based this prompt on two Poets of the Fall songs, Illusion and Dream and Carnival of Rust (which happens to be one of my favorite songs). I was super curious about what the authors will make of this prompt. Something Twisted This Way Comes went in a wildly different direction than I expected, but that is what makes this feature fun. So, let the story to be continued!

Meet the Author
Jean Gill

Jean Gill is an award-winning Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two scruffy dogs, a beehive named ‘Endeavour’, a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Dyfed, Wales. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic. Join Jean’s special readers’ group at for private news and exclusive offers.

Connect with Jean Gill
Something Twisted This Way Comes

The story so far…

PART 1 by Bogdan Tăbușcă

PART 2 by L. James Rice

PART 3 by C. Litka

Part 4

Trisfan complied with the request. He rammed the chest into the person who stood between him and freedom. But instead of crumpling to the floor, the man merely grunted and held onto the chest. Then Trisfan was forced backwards into the caravan interior. He strained every muscle to push forward but step by step, with slow inevitability, he gave way. Until the man halted.

Trisfan almost fell forwards as the force against him ceased and he let go of the chest, waving his arms to regain his balance. The other man lowered the chest carefully to the ground. An opportunity for Trisfan, who drew his rapier and swung it in what should have been a lethal arc, slicing off his adversary’s head as he stooped. 

His hands froze in mid-arc, useless, suspended in mid-air. He felt like a boy again, punished by the Mad Master for some lack of cruelty. 

The Mad Master is dead, he told his pounding heart.  

This was not the Mad Master. The man looked up, light hitting his mask and wide, familiar eyes.

‘Pretty Prince!’ Trisfan exclaimed. 

‘I do hate being called that. As my father knew full well.’

‘Father?’ Trisfan wasn’t really interested in Pretty Prince’s traumatic childhood. He was struggling to make sense of his own helplessness against the weakest man in their troupe. Hedge magic? The silver amulet was still hanging safely around his neck. He should be master of his own destiny. A sane master this time. Escaping to a new life and fresh start.

‘You don’t really believe there’s coin in that chest?’ The sneer on one half of Pretty Prince’s mask matched his tone. ‘That you could carry an iron chest, full of silver? Or that my father told the truth about what he kept in it? ‘All that’s dull is not iron,’ he quoted. ‘There’s a glamour on the chest. What you would call hedge magic – and some of us call power.’

‘Father?’ Trisfan asked again, the word arousing more interest as suspicion dawned on him.

‘I think it’s time the masks came off.’ Pretty Prince ripped off the split personality he’d been wearing as long as Trisfan had known him. 

There was a long silence as Trisfan adjusted to the face beneath the mask. Beneath the split personality she’d been wearing. As long as Trisfan had known her.

 ‘Pretty-‘ he began, then stopped, staring at a face so ordinary he didn’t think he’d remember it if he looked away. How had she-? How could she have-?

‘Ringmistress,’ the woman corrected him briskly. ‘Let’s take your amazement for granted and stop wasting time. You can figure out later how welcome a woman would have been in your Band of Bloody Brothers. But the power has to flow to the blood heir when a leader dies so my father put up with me until he could do better. He never did better. He made me what I am, as he did you. And we killed him.’ She shrugged. ‘So I’m grateful – in private.’

Trisfan was glad of his own mask, his mind racing through ways he could regain control. His night vision must be adjusting because he could see her clearly now. Moonlight was streaming through the caravan’s small window. His escape would be far easier in moonlight. Meanwhile he would indulge her. 

‘Open the chest,’ she ordered.

She was obviously speaking true when she said there was no coin in the chest. Trisfan felt a fool for believing he could carry it if there had been. But he didn’t know what was in the chest and he didn’t trust her. 

‘You open it,’ he challenged her.

‘Chicken?’ She sounded like the old Pretty Prince but her smile had more confidence than had ever shown through the mask and the fake deference Pretty had shown to the Mad Master. Her father.

Now he thought about it, what kind of name for a man was Pretty Prince? So many clues he’d never noticed. So many assumptions he’d made.

The Ringmistress stretched around the side of the chest and unhasped the lock, opened the lid slowly. Curious, Trisfan peered into the opening, leaned forward…

and was punched on the nose by the Mad Master, who chuckled and hovered in the air in front of Trisfan’s swimming vision. Gradually, the layers of white paste covering that unmistakeable face steadied into a mechanical jester on a spring.  

The Ringmistress was laughing. ‘Ever the joker,’ she observed.

Trisfan wiped his bloody nose with his sleeve, muttering, ‘An illusion is not always humorous.’

‘You can search for your coins now.’

Trisfan was not putting his hands into a booby-trap. However humorous the consequences might be.

‘You do it,’ he said curtly.

She laughed again and dipped a hand into the ink-black depths.

‘Well,’ she teased, pulling something up slowly. ‘It is a night of surprises! Tah-dah!’

Trisfan controlled his instinctive recoil with difficulty, as the mask emerged. A mask that was half cackling malice and half grinning dog. 

The Ringmistress pulled it higher and higher out of the chest so that light shone from the eye-holes, brought the Jackal to life again. Attached to the mask, appearing above the treasure chest, was a suit of chain mail woven into a jester costume. The illusion was complete. An urge to run on all fours struck Tristan but he fought it, focusing on the chest.

Two could play nonchalont. ‘Is that all of it? Carnival costumes!’

‘Not just any carnival costumes,’ the Ringmistress told him. ‘Only those containing the souls of our dead.’ 

She reached in and pulled out a second costume, the jester’s outfit, which she attached to the mechanical head, snapping it off the spring with a violence Trisfan had seen often enough in Pretty.

The Mad Master’s head bobbed about on her hand, trailing his jester costume.

‘I said it was time for the masks to come off. It’s your turn now,’ she told him. ‘In front of the mirror. Unless you’re afraid of this too?’

It had been years since he had seen his own face. The Mad Master had not allowed his boys to remove their masks. After a few months, Trisfan had ceased to notice his. But that didn’t mean he was afraid of doing so. How ludicrous to think he might be afraid of himself. He was a free man now.

He stood in front of the mirror and ripped off his mask. For a few seconds he saw his father’s face, kind eyes, laughter lines around the mouth, a bushy moustache. Then that faded, superceded by a face in two halves, one showing a grin of sadistic joy, the other pure white. Sad eyes watched him. One tear rolled down the white cheek and froze there, sparkling.

He screamed and scratched at his face but this was no mask.

‘Why, there you are, Grinner,’ said the Ringmistress, ‘the real you.’ 

She held up the two costumes from the chest. ‘But I’m missing two members of my troupe and you’re the first to volunteer, so you get first pick. Would you like to be my new Jester or my new Jackal? It’s so easy to become what you hate.’ Her tone held a hint of regret.

He said nothing.

The bustle outdoors was growing louder.

Not moonlight but searchlights criss-crossed and sent harsh colours through the caravan window and door. Jolly circus music blared out from a phonograph, a magnet to adventurous children.

‘Setting up the Ticket Office now,’ yelled Deadeye. ‘

‘The show must go on,’ the Ringmistress encouraged Trisfan, almost gently, as he reached for one of the costumes. 


The next evening, there was only empty field, with no sign of the Big Top or the caravans. Only a different sort of caravan took to the road. Black horses dragged red-varnished stagecoaches at a fast clip towards the next show. 

The few lights in the hamlet flickered out. The inhabitants knew what was coming. But there would always be boys – and girls – who wanted to act out their dreams. Their worst dreams. And the troupe would always find them.



Jean Gill‘s SPFBO 9 entry is The Ring Breaker. Make sure to check it out!

The Ring Breaker by Jean Gill

For more SPFBO 9 content, please check out our SPFBO 9 page!

For more To Be Continued… stories, check out this page!

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