The tunnels through which they walked finally gave way to the forest.
To begin with they would see beams of light though gaps in the soil above them, but before they knew it the holes in the soil became the norm and they were making their way along the bottom of a narrow valley. Eventually the valley itself began to flatten until it was no more than a shallow rut in the earth.
The trio chatted and Jingle learned that William worked in a travelling carnival that had set up camp nearby; and it was here that he was making his way when they came across him in the tunnels.
What he was doing in the tunnels Jingle did not ask. It was clear to him that William was the mysterious sort and he wouldn’t get a clear answer anyway.
Above them Felix buzzed back and forth between the tall trees, spinning through barrel rolls and changing direction at a whim. On the ground Felix was a clumsy stumpy little animal but when he took to the air he was filled with a grace that took Jingle’s breath away.
Finally noises could be heard in the distance and then the woods began to thin until the trio found themselves on the edge of a wide flat clearing. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes were lined up along the far side of the clearing half hidden from view by an unbroken line of tents that displayed signs advertising all kinds of games and distractions.
Suspended between two high poles was a canvas banner and written on this banner in brilliant ivory script was the words “The White Heart Carnival & Circus”.
Jingle stopped in his tracks and stared.
“Impressive innit?” And from the sound of his voice Jingle realised that William found the sight as amazing as he did. “Up there mate,” William nodded towards a small car that looked half Volkswagen Beetle and half camper van if the strange automobile mash-up had been squashed from above by a heavy weight. Jingle made his way over to it.
The roof of the vehicle reached halfway up Jingle’s thigh and as the reindeer leaned down for a better look William slid from his shoulder and on to the cars roof.
“I’d invite you in, but.. you know.” William said and slid away through a tiny gap that Jingle had first thought was a vent of some kind. After a moments examination Jingle saw a tiny door that was hung ajar in the gap and he realised it was the entrance to Williams home. The gap was barely wide enough for Jingles fingertip and Jingle realised that inviting him in would have been a meaningless gesture.
“M.. M.. Mr J.”
Jingle looked up and saw the exited fly buzz over to him from the row of tents. Felix held one tiny hand out to him, Jingle taking it without thinking, and led him across the open clearing into the heart of the White Heart Carnival & Circus.
As the sun began to drop past the cover of trees that lined the horizon the structures around the clearing began to grow. Workmen of every possible type worked without tiring and even Jingle and Felix were eventually press-ganged into helping.
Felix carried a bag full of nuts and bolts between the various workers as Jingle helped an elephant called Alan secure the topmost point of the main tent. Around him he could see an unbroken carpet of treetops that looked like billowing green clouds that surrounded the clearing.
The elephant’s trunk was wrapped around his waist and when Alan spoke it sounded like someone was pinching his nose shut.
“Huh? Yes.” Jingle twisted the final bolt tight and slipped the wrench into his pocket. Immediately his stomach lurched as Alan lowered him a little, inspecting his work before turning him to meet with Felix.
The fly held the end of a thick rope between both his small hands, his little face showing the strain of its weight. Jingle took it from him and Alan instructed him on how to pass it trough the pulley system anchored in the top of the highest support.
Moments later Jingles feet were on the grass again, and he watched as Alan coiled his trunk around the thick rope and pulled. The huge green and pink canvas of the enormous tent unfolded from its place in the middle of the clearing, the single rope dragging its uppermost tip up to the highest support.
In no time it was complete, various workers took its edges and fastened them until the Big Top was complete and Jingle discovered himself stood in the darkness of its shadow.
By the time night came the Big Top had been filled with seating and lit with strings of brightly coloured lights. The whole clearing had been transformed by the army of carnival folk and in the last moments before the gates opened Jingle and Felix took themselves on a tour of The White Heart Carnival and Circus.
Neither of then had seen William since he had disappeared into his travelling home, so when Felix spotted a tent sporting a very familiar looking worm on its signage they both took no time in wandering over.
“William The Magnificent” the sign read, and beneath it in smaller letters “worm of knowledge, worm of truth”.
The tent was coloured a purple so dark it was nearly black and outside were two craftily constructed electric lights that made fabric flutter above them as if they were flames. The effect was one of mystery and Jingle felt a shiver run down his spine despite himself. Beside him the lights glittered off Felix’s large eyes.
“L.. l.. lets go in.”
Without answering Jingle held the canvas door aside; and they entered.
The inside of the tent was much larger than it seemed from the outside, there was room enough for three rows of seats and a comfortable space between them and the high stage. The stage was constructed so the centre of it rose to a platform roughly the same height as Jingles chest and the painted backdrop was so designed as to make the stage seem larger still.
William entered to the right of the stage, squirming across to the centre platform with a swagger. He had changed into his costume which consisted of armless shirt and glittery waistcoat.
The lights strung above the stage his him and he looked every bit “William The Magnificent”.
Silently they watched as William rehearsed like an actor.
“W.. w.. what are you doing?”
“Limbering up, getting ready. A worm’s got to clear his minds for this you know.”
William ran his face through a series of strange expressions and then looked up into the distance for a moment as if lost in deep thought. Jingle and Felix watched with fascination, both thinking the same thought: that William looked every bit the showman.
“I was wondering…” William began. “..Felix? How would you like to be in show business?”
Jingle half listened to the conversation as he gazed over the tents decorations. He heard as William told of his assistant’s illness and the need for a replacement. He looked over a photograph of William posted on a board with many others. He heard as Felix asked what he would need to do. He looked deeper at the photographs and saw William stood next to many distinguished people dressed in many colourful costumes.
Felix accepted and Jingle felt oddly alone, it seemed that everyone was finding their place in the world except him. jingle waved goodbye and wandered back outside. The gates had been opened and customers had begun to file through them. Jingle stopped in the middle of the funfair and stared, he did not mean to stare but he couldn’t stop himself.