A drunk stumbles into the dark, misty street, thrown out from the comfort of the inn; he steadies himself against the wall as he shuffles down the main street towards his hovel.

Crossing the town square he stops and stands, swaying, as he tries to focus on two figures approaching through the fog. As they come closer he can see that they are small, just children.

They are each clothed in pretty white dresses and both wear full-head masks in the shape of stylised crow’s heads, this confuses the drunk and puts him on edge. Their beaks hang agape as they continue to approach.

“Ya’ kids gave me a fright! What’cha doin’ out scarin’ old men at this time o’ night!?”

The girls stand, motionless, seemingly unhearing. The gentle breeze blows a feather from a girl’s mask and the drunk watches it twist and turn on it’s way to the ground.

A hand on his shoulder and a whispered voice in his ear, “The carnival is coming…”

The drunk spins on the spot and drops, hard, backward to the ground scrabbling away on the cobbles before turning to see the motionless, creepy children mere steps away and thinking better of it. Turning back to the newcomer, he sees an impressive figure: a tall man wrapped in the folds of a great bright-red coat, a tall, black hat tops his head and his face is covered by a white porcelain mask set in a painful-looking grin. The man’s long, dark hair sits lankly at his shoulders and, in his hands, holds a coiled whip and a long cain.

He raises his voice, “The carnival is coming! We are here to take you from the drudgery of your daily lives. The toil of your work, your suffering and poverty, all forgotten!”

The sound of the steady beat of a drum and the eerie wail of a accordion are approaching.

The flamboyant figure leans into the drunk, yellowed and bloodshot eyes showing through his mask. “We can offer you everything you desire; food, drink, dancing…”

He leans even closer into the drunk’s ear, his rancid breath an aura, and speaks in a soft, deep voice “… and pleasures of the flesh.” The last word, drawn-out, sibilant.

The ringmaster, for this is what he must be, raises his white gloved hands skyward, as if addressing the gods. “This world is ending, we shall drink and dance as it burns”

The drunk babbles, trying and failing to form words. He can smell the scent of exotic spices and fine wines with the undertones of cloying, narcotic smokes.

Footsteps approach, he turns to see the crowd; colours, laughter, menace.