They Come With the Carnival
by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
The balloon children dance down the sidewalk outside our house to music my husband and I cannot hear. They come with the carnival. It frightens us to see them, their balloon heads red and round, strings falling from their necks like ropes they might have used to hang themselves, though of course none of them did this. Too young. But back when the world ended, this was most everyone else's fate. Every oak in town a freshly minted hanging tree.
I shut the curtains and turn back to the room still littered with dusty children's toys. We don't speak when the carnival's here. As long as you're silent, the balloon children won't come for you. It's the noise that draws them, greedy for more music. When the sun goes down and the carnival lights go up, the round colored bulbs flickering through our sky like UFOs, the balloon children will go back, until dawn, until it is once more time to hunt. At night, we're safe. It isn't like most nightmares. When the carnival's in town, we are afraid of the sun.