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Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes Summary


Here you will find a Something Wicked This Way Comes summary (Ray Bradbury's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Something Wicked This Way Comes Summary Overview

In a small town in Illinois, two thirteen-year-old friends, William Halloway and James Nightshade, anticipate their upcoming birthdays. Their lives take a mysterious turn when a storm predictor salesman warns them of an impending storm and gifts Jim with a lightning rod. In the meantime, they explore the newly arrived late-season carnival, Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show, with a mix of excitement and trepidation. They both have a strange encounter on a supposedly broken carousel when Mr. Cooger, one of the carnival bosses, rides it backward, turning him into a twelve-year-old boy. Intrigued and horrified, the boys track the de-aged Mr. Cooger who introduces himself to their teacher, Miss Foley, as her lost nephew. When Jim tries to ride the magical carousel to change his own age, Will intervenes, causing the carousel to spin out of control, aging Mr. Cooger to over a hundred years. They return later with the police, only to find Mr. Cooger gone and replaced by a new act, Mr. Electrico. When they cross paths with a distressed young girl, who turns out to be Miss Foley, they are blocked from reaching her by a carnival parade. With the carnival crew searching for them, they seek refuge in the town library where they meet Will's father, Charles Halloway, who advises them to face their fears with love. Their hiding spot is discovered by Mr. Dark, the Illustrated Man, who traps the boys and attempts to stop Charles's heart using the Dust Witch's magic. Charles, however, saves himself by laughing, which drives the Witch away. Undeterred, he moves forward to rescue his son and Jim. Utilising the power of laughter and joy, he outwits Mr. Dark, destroys the Mirror Maze, and kills the Witch. As Jim is lured towards the carousel, Charles's love transforms the boy version of Mr. Dark, leading to the carnival's collapse. The boys finally revive Jim, who had fallen into a near-death stupor, through their joyous laughter and singing.


"Something Wicked This Way Comes" kickstarts in the middle of October, a season described as "a rare month for boys." At this time, school routine has already set in, and children are eagerly anticipating Halloween. Unusually, Halloween comes early, specifically on the 24th of October, at three a.m. This is when James Nightshade and his friend living on Oak Street, William Halloway, both a day shy of their fourteenth birthdays, experience a life-altering event.

chapter 1

A vendor peddling lightning rods meanders through Green Town, Illinois, with a looming storm visible behind him. He stumbles upon Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway lounging on Will's front lawn. He insists they need a lightning rod as one of their homes is bound to be targeted by the approaching tempest. He introduces himself as Tom Fury and claims his job is to shield people from storm damage. His lightning rods are inscribed with peculiar symbols and words in various languages to repel lightning. Fury prophesies that Jim's residence will be struck and urges him to install the rod. After Fury departs, Will persuades Jim that the rod's safety outweighs the exhilaration of witnessing a lightning hit, an idea Jim isn't entirely convinced by.

chapter 2

Post dinner, the lads rush to their local library. Jim believes he catches a fleeting melody, which disappears almost immediately. Inside, Will spots the elderly librarian, Charles William Halloway, who also happens to be his dad. Will perceives a resemblance between him and his aging father. He reminisces about nights when he'd awake to find the library light on, a sign that his father was engrossed in reading. Charles suggests some dinosaur-related books for Jim, while Will picks up a few adventure stories before they exit the library. On their way home, Jim expresses his disappointment over the delayed storm as he is eager to witness the lightning. Will, however, comforts him, assuring that the storm will definitely hit by morning, and they sprint towards home.

chapter 3

Charles Halloway feels a deep connection with the boys. He ponders about their distinct personalities. He sees Jim as the one who easily dodges life's hurdles due to his instinctive knowledge. On the other hand, Will, he believes, is more susceptible to life's hits and often fails to grasp the reasons behind them. Charles imagines the influence the boys have on each other, each molding the other's behavior. As the day ends, he leaves the library for the bar, not for himself, but for the memory of his youthful self. The story foretells the transformation of Will and Jim during an unusual Halloween week. Tom Fury, the lightning rod salesman is trailed by a storm and forecasts a lightning strike on Jim's house. While it could be seen as a negative sign, Jim interprets it as a thrilling event, refusing to place the lightning rod to maintain the excitement. However, Jim is convinced by Will to do it. Jim is fearless, ready for whatever comes his way. Will's father, Charles Halloway, surprises his son at the library. Despite being older, he connects with the boys and understands their yearnings. After leaving the library, Jim exhibits restlessness for newer experiences and seems uninterested in the mundane. But Will assures him that the anticipated storm is imminent. There's a significant hint suggesting an extraordinary event is soon to come.

chapter 4

Will and Jim sprint through the deserted town at nine. They encounter Mr. Tetley, the cigar store owner, who seems to be listening intently to a distant sound. Leaving Mr. Tetley, they come across Mr. Crosetti, the barber, standing outside his shop, a tear trailing down his face. Teasing him, they get asked if they sense the same aroma he does. The scent of cotton candy hits him, a fragrance he hasn't encountered in a while. He reminds them that only circuses have cotton candy. Wiping his tears, he prepares to close his shop. However, Will prevents him from switching off the barber pole, ensuring the hypnotic swirl of its strip will continue to turn.

chapter 5

Charles Halloway exits a bar, spotting a man across the street humming a festive tune. The man, busy placing posters inside an empty shop, notices Halloway, greets him with a wave, then departs. Halloway peers inside the shop, discovering a sign promoting "Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show." Inside, a massive ice block takes center stage, claimed by the poster to be the most stunning woman in the world. Halloway scrutinizes the ice figure, recognizing it as a hollow resembling a woman. Despite his desire to leave, he remains rooted to the spot for some time before finally moving away.

chapter 6

Jim halts at Hickory Street, instructing Will that he feels compelled to explore the "Theater." They once peeped through a window of the fifth house on the street, witnessing people undressing and engaging in activities they couldn't comprehend. Jim is drawn to the Theater, while Will feels discomfort towards it. Jim leaves his books with Will, venturing to see what might be occurring. With the books, Will hastily heads home.

chapter 7

Jim quickly reunites with Will after finding the Theater empty. A flyer, tossed away by Will, lands on Jim, sparking both boys' curiosity. The flyer publicizes Cooger and Dark's show, starting the following day, and teases unique individuals. Among the advertised oddities are a monster Montgolfier, a term Will identifies as a balloon, and an illustrated man, a concept Jim elaborates as more than just a tattooed individual. The boys deduce a carnival is due in town that evening. Subconsciously, they stroll home, bid each other goodnight, and retire indoors.

chapter 8

Will's mom calms down when he closes the door gently. He sees both his parents sitting in silence. He's puzzled by his father's gloom and his mother's joy. His father is holding a carnival flyer, but he quickly hides it when Will enters. Will hears the flyer being burnt after he goes to bed. His father's sadness, old age feelings, and concern about the carnival, all make sense to Will now. The fact that his father doesn't share the flyer with his mom makes him even more worried. He picks up a book, which turns out to be one of Jim's dinosaur reads. As he drifts to sleep, he hears his father leaving for the library. The barber pole of Mr. Crosetti, with its endlessly appearing and disappearing ribbon, is a symbolic representation of life. Mr. Crosetti is confused about his life's direction and purpose. Similarly, like his life, the barber pole's ribbon is constantly in motion but never reaches an endpoint. He leaves the barber pole on after closing, hinting at more nighttime enigmas.

chapter 9

Jim Nightshade, with his dark appearance, is characterized as an intense, introspective boy who has seen a lot more of life in his 13 years than his friend Will Halloway. His mother, reminding him of his father who had once abused and abandoned them, predicts that he too will leave her one day. Jim, who has resolved not to be tied down by the pain of relationships, contemplates his future. After his mother departs, he considers shaking things up by knocking down the lightning rod.

chapter 10

The thunderbolt merchant, strolling along the road, halts at the vacant store previously visited by Charles Halloway. Moths crash against the window, revealing to him the lady encased in ice inside. She embodies every attractive woman from his past. He contemplates the outcome of the ice thawing, and his touch causes the shop's door to swing wide. He enters, and the door closes behind him.

chapter 11

In the early hours, the noise of a locomotive rouses Will and Jim from their sleep. The eerie tune of a calliope fills the air. Peering through binoculars, both boys confirm their suspicion that the noise is from the incoming carnival. Jim, driven by curiosity, opts to observe the carnival's assembly, with Will trailing behind him.

chapter 12

As they sprint, Will contemplates Jim's inclination towards action, contrasting with his preference for discussion. The train's painful whistle brings them to tears. They trace the train to a meadow, spotting a balloon with a passenger. A towering man in a somber suit alights from the train and signals. Suddenly, people start erecting structures, their muteness disconcerting Will. Thick clouds shroud the moon, and once the shadows recede, the tents are erected and the field deserted. The boys, frightened, hasten home.

chapter 13

At the library, Charles Halloway observes Jim and Will rushing past, and catches a distant gleam from the carnival. His decision to visit the carnival isn't certain yet. As he heads home, he walks past the vacant shop that once housed the frozen lady, now only holding a puddle, some ice fragments, and strands of hair. Despite witnessing these remnants, Charles attempts to ignore their implications.

chapter 14

Will picks up on his father, Charles Halloway, repeatedly uttering "three" under his breath, leading him to speculate that his dad might be privy to the carnival's secrets too. Charles believes that there's a certain significance to 3 a.m. It is when women and children are deep in sleep, whereas middle-aged men are left wide awake, contemplating their existence. He reasons women embody Time through their ability to give birth and secure their lineage. On the other hand, men can only brood over Time, feeling a sense of despair. This despair is most profound at 3 a.m., the exact time when the train came.

chapter 15

Setting off to explore the carnival, Will and Jim find it unexpectedly conventional. They encounter their seventh-grade educator, Miss Foley, who is on a quest to locate her nephew Robert. Ignoring Will's caution, she ventures into the Mirror Maze, only to be consumed by a sudden feeling of disorientation. The boys rescue her, after which she implores them to find the estranged little girl inside the maze. Leaving the carnival, Miss Foley returns home, while the boys keep their distance from the eerie Mirror Maze.

chapter 16

As the sun dips, Will finds Jim entranced within the Mirror Maze. After pulling him out, Jim is disoriented, enthusing about the maze's wonder. Jim is adamant that they revisit later that night, despite Will's hesitation. Jim is confident in his friend's support. As they depart, they stumble over a leather bag.

chapter 17

The lads understand that the sack is the property of the lightning-rod salesman, leaving them puzzled about its abandonment. Jim persuades Will that they need to remain at the carnival to unravel this enigma, and they do even when everyone else departs for supper.

chapter 18

Will and Jim examine a supposedly out-of-order carousel. Despite the warning sign, Jim mounts one of the horses, triggering a voice that tells him to dismount. A man named Mr. Cooger grabs both boys, but is stopped by Mr. Dark, a tall man with a unique suit and intricate tattoos covering his skin. He identifies himself as the Illustrated Man. He interacts with the boys, discerning Jim's lie when he uses a fake name, then dismisses them until the following day. Escaping hastily, Jim scales a tree and beckons Will to do the same. From their vantage point, they watch in disbelief as Mr. Dark kickstarts the carousel. As eerie music plays in reverse, the ride begins to run backwards, causing Mr. Cooger to regress into youth until he's only twelve years old. Dumbfounded, the boys descend from the tree and pursue the youthful Mr. Cooger. The carnival fills Will with dread, a sentiment not shared by the thrill-seeking Jim. Despite Miss Foley's negative experience with the Mirror Maze, Jim is insistent on exploring it himself. Even danger doesn't deter Jim's adventurous spirit, a fact that worries Will. Jim's determination to return to the carnival at night heightens Will's concern. The discovery of the lightning-rod salesman's bag signals the onset of an even darker chapter in their adventure.

chapter 19

In pursuit of the twelve-year-old who is actually Mr. Cooger, Jim and Will find themselves at Miss Foley's home, where Jim leads them inside. Despite Will's increasing concern about Jim, he follows. Miss Foley attempts to introduce the boys to her 'nephew' Robert, however, Will interrupts with news of Mr. Crosetti's death, a fact he picked up from the barber shop's closed sign. Will tries to steer them out of the house, but the nephew suggests they stay for dessert since he and Miss Foley plan to visit the carnival. Against Will's advice, Jim shows interest, but finally, they agree to meet the next day. Once outside, an irate Will confronts Jim about the carousel music being Chopin's "Funeral March" in reverse. As they depart, they notice the nephew watching from the window, maintaining their casual demeanor as they leave.

chapter 20

Will is reprimanded by his parents and ordered to his room, a fate Jim shares. Both boys impatiently remain confined in their rooms. Charles Halloway warns his son to tread carefully before leaving. Fear for his father gnaws at Will, who attempts to communicate with Jim. He hurls marbles at Jim's window to no avail. Startled by Jim's silence, Will settles down to wait.

chapter 21

The boys typically conveyed their nightly plans to each other using an old alleyway boardwalk. They created tunes by hitting the wooden planks, signaling their forthcoming escapade. Will eagerly anticipates Jim's musical message as hours pass by. Eventually, he hears a sound and readies himself to open his window. However, he then notices Jim's window already open and realizes the music was in his imagination. Jim heads out without alerting Will, choosing to embark on his mission alone. Despite this, Will decides not to let his friend venture out unaccompanied and tails after him. Jim's journey leads him to Miss Foley's residence.

chapter 22

Jim retreats as Will hides, communicating with a shadowy figure on the second floor. Jim insists that Will leaves him alone to avoid Mr. Cooger's suspicion, and Will, understanding Jim's intent, strikes his friend. A boy then appears, throws Miss Foley's jewelry at them, yells for the police, and flees. Jim chases after him and Will follows, despite knowing that this is what Mr. Cooger wants. The boys are now suspected thieves. Post Mr. Cooger's entry into Miss Foley's house, Jim's actions become suspicious. Approaching the house right after Mr. Cooger compromises their secret knowledge of the carousel. Inside the house, only Will behaves normally. Jim is drawn to the carnival and Mr. Cooger, while Miss Foley seems apathetic about Mr. Crosetti's potential death. Will is furious at Jim, suspecting foul play regarding Miss Foley's real nephew and fears for her safety. However, Jim disregards this and is more interested in Mr. Cooger and further adventure. Charles Halloway, wary of his son's potential danger, advises caution. Will worries about his father's safety and grasps the gravity of their situation, unlike Jim. He senses impending danger and tries to provoke Jim into action. When Jim uncharacteristically does not respond, Will spies him stealthily leaving the house. Although aware that Jim wants to venture alone, Will decides to trail him unseen to discover his motives.

chapter 23

Will pursues Jim and the youthful Mr. Cooger to the fair. Aware that Mr. Cooger intends to age himself using the carousel, and that Jim won't hinder him, Will grows increasingly anxious. Spotting Mr. Cooger extend his hand to Jim near the carousel, Will springs into action, preventing Jim from boarding. A tussle ensues as Will attempts to stop the machine, warning Jim of the impending danger should Mr. Cooger age. Jim, however, refuses to be intimidated. A jolt of electricity erupts as Will hits the control switch, causing the merry-go-round to speed up. The villainous young man tries to dismount but stumbles and injures his head. Will restrains Jim, who weeps at the sight of the rapidly aging man on the carousel. Despite the illuminated tents, no one ventures out which surprises Will. Suddenly, the control box explodes, plunging the carnival into darkness and halting the merry-go-round. Approaching the eerily aged man on the carousel, they find him resembling a mummy. Mr. Cooger, though alive, appears to be well over a century old. The sight makes Will queasy, prompting the two boys to flee from the macabre sight as quickly as they can.

chapter 24

The boys bring the police and ambulance workers to the carnival, but Mr. Cooger is gone. They enter the tent and see a Dwarf who Will recognises as the lightning-rod salesman. They find Mr. Cooger in an Electric Chair, introduced as a new act by Mr. Dark. Despite Will's protests, Mr. Dark gets Jim's approval to electrify Mr. Cooger. As the electricity surges, Mr. Cooger revives, seemingly by the combined willpower of the carnival freaks. Despite his initial concern, Will catches himself rooting for Mr. Cooger's survival. Mr. Electrico claims his 'death' was part of the act, satisfying the police. Mr. Dark gives the boys free tickets and inquires about their identities, then Mr. Electrico addresses them. The boys snatch the tickets and flee back to the police car. The boys realise the merry-go-round's power is sinister. Mr. Dark successfully convinces the police that the boys were simply frightened. Jim unexpectedly supports Mr. Dark, revealing an unexplored side of his character. While both boys want Mr. Cooger to be fine, their reasons differ. Will hopes for forgiveness while Jim is still drawn by the carousel. Both boys realise they're now on Mr. Dark's radar. Will's horror at the Dwarf's fate - a crushed version of the lightning-rod salesman - makes him fear for his life. Jim, however, remains undeterred, even after witnessing the alarming transformation of Mr. Cooger and the carnival's evil potential. Jim's desire to ride the carousel seems stronger than his concern for Will's safety or his own. He's rushing into a dangerous situation without considering the consequences. Although Will typically seems less decisive than Jim, he has twice held Jim back and acted swiftly to stop Mr. Cooger. His ability to reflect before reacting proves beneficial, helping him see the dangers they face and the need to protect his friend. Jim's narrow focus, in contrast, only seems to invite more trouble.

chapter 25

Alone in her home, Miss Foley contemplates her next move concerning Will, Jim, and Mr. Cooger—her nephew. She senses something amiss with her nephew, but is certain it'll be fine once she takes the ride he suggested. She recognizes that discarding her precious gems was a tactic to deter the boys from preventing her from using her carousel ticket, which she believes will bring her joy. She is eager to ensure they don't foil her plans in the future. Therefore, she contacts the library, requesting Charles Halloway to join her at the police station.

chapter 26

During their journey, an ambulance intern comments that he believed the elderly man was deceased, to which the police dismiss as a jest. Left speechless in the police car's back seat, Will and Jim are let out near two houses close to the police station, though they don't enter either. Noticing that Jim retained his free ride tickets, Will wishes to notify an authority figure about their odd experiences, but Jim talks him out of it, arguing they lack evidence. Jim suggests apologizing to Mr. Cooger would suffice, shocking Will who can't comprehend Jim's fearlessness and apparent obliviousness to the danger they're in. The friends enter a heated dispute, with Will insisting Jim doesn't truly desire to age, a sentiment Jim does not share. Will warns Jim that he'll be abandoned once Jim is older and expresses relief that the aging machine is destroyed, angering Jim who resents Will for the machine's destruction. Their squabble is interrupted by nearby voices. Miss Foley and Will's father are discussing her house's recent break-in. When Miss Foley questions the boys' whereabouts if they're innocent, Will, upon hearing this, promptly clambers through a nearby window.

chapter 27

Escorting the boys back to their residences, Mr. Halloway ensures Jim will inform his mother of the night's events come morning, and releases him. The boys have hidden vertical pathways, fashioned from iron bars nailed into the ivy, leading to their chambers. Charles Halloway takes a brief moment to ponder his youth before conversing with Will. He's aware of his son's innocence but questions why he confessed to theft at the police station. Will reveals Miss Foley's strange desire for their guilt but fails to explain everything to his father. He assures his dad he will disclose the entire story in a few days.

chapter 28

Will and his father, Charles Halloway, have a heart-to-heart outside instead of moving indoors. Will perceives goodness as a path to happiness, a notion his father corrects, highlighting the difficulty of maintaining virtuousness. Despite his maturity, Charles admits feeling less wise than his young son. Heeding Will's warning to stay away from the carnival, Charles nonetheless joins his son in climbing up to his bedroom, the pair sharing a quiet laugh before Charles retires to bed. Miss Foley, deeply enchanted by the carnival, is unable to think about anything else. Despite her knowledge that the boys are innocent, she reports them to the police, aiming to keep them at bay while she enjoys the carousel ride. Her obsession with the carnival doesn't waver, even without Mr. Cooger's presence. This fixation only intensifies after Mr. Cooger, posing as her nephew, convinces her that the carousel ride promises ultimate happiness. Jim shares Miss Foley's naivety, believing that an apology to Mr. Cooger can set things right. The carnival preys on this sort of self-deception, luring those who are desperate for fulfilment. Will's friendship keeps Jim from succumbing fully to the carnival's allure, much like the lightning-rod salesman. However, convincing someone to ignore their irrational desires is challenging. Will's efforts to dissuade Jim from his urge to age quickly are futile, as Jim, like Miss Foley, needs to realize independently that what they desire from the carnival might not be what they genuinely want.

chapter 29

After a brief hour's sleep, Will is startled awake by the absence of Jim's lightning rod. He feels a presence outdoors and decides to check it out. Simultaneously, he and Jim spot a balloon hovering above them from their respective windows. They quickly deduce that the balloon is on a mission to locate them, and they spot the Dust Witch in the balloon's basket. They understand that the Witch, made of wax but very much alive, has the ability to sense people and their souls despite her blindness. She leaves a large silver streak on Jim's house before departing. Will traverses the clothesline pole to Jim's side and they venture out to the roof, spotting the mark. Swiftly, Will fetches a hose and they erase the silver line. Will contemplates permanently thwarting the Witch so the carnival enemies won't be able to identify them. Jim regrets removing the lightning rod, but Will remains optimistic.

chapter 30 & 31

After tidying the rooftop, the boys retreat to their rooms. Will devises a scheme, using his Boy Scout archery set to lure the Witch back. He's aware that she has a sense for excitement and emotions, even though she can't read minds. He mentally taunts the Witch about outsmarting her, and when he senses her approach, he leads her to a deserted house. They climb onto the roof, with the Witch close behind. As the wind shifts the balloon, Will worries she's aware of his scheme. He baits the Witch by turning his back to the balloon, inviting an attack. At the last minute, he spins around and grabs his bow. As he draws the arrow, the bow splits. He hurls the arrow towards the balloon and clings onto its basket. The arrow punctures the balloon, causing it to slowly deflate. Will slips from the basket, slides off the roof, and a tree breaks his fall. He watches from the tree as the witch spins out of control in the deflating balloon. In the following chapter, no other significant events occur.

chapter 32

Throughout a rainy morning, the carousel music from the carnival lures only Miss Foley. Jim shares a curious dream with Will, which resembles Will's recent exploits, but their conversation ends abruptly upon noticing a distressed little girl. Despite Jim's apprehension, they approach her. Recognizing her fright, they pledge to assist. Upon confirming that Miss Foley is absent from her home, they deduce that the girl is their teacher, transformed. As the carousel music reverses, it confirms the machine's repair. They intend to fetch the girl, but the carnival's ongoing parade halts them. Once the spectacle passes, the girl has vanished. Will and Jim start resisting the malevolent carnival. The carnival folk's ignorance of their identities gives them a slight upper hand. Will outwitted the Witch, the sole person capable of detecting them. He manipulated her abilities to his advantage, giving him hope because he prevented her from marking Jim's house and any future attempts. Will's courage throughout their ordeal and his bold encounter with the Witch highlight his ability to act independently from Jim. His proactive stance against the Witch deviates from his usual behavior, demonstrating how their situation has sparked a transformation in him, making him resemble Jim more closely. Despite recognizing the severe danger they're facing and the need to act, Jim remains fixated on his goal of riding the merry-go-round.

chapter 33

Answering a call, Charles Halloway hears from his son, Will, informing him about the possibility of him and his friend Jim not returning home that evening. Charles is given the responsibility of conveying this to both their mothers. When Charles inquires about the circumstances, Will, hesitant to drag his father into the situation, simply requests him to wish him good fortune. After the call ends, Charles Halloway sends his well-wishes into the silent phone before stepping out into the bright day.

chapter 34

Hidden beneath the metal grate near the wooden Cherokee figure outside the United Cigar Store, Jim and Will lie in wait. The procession halts before the shop and Mr. Dark cues his peculiar companions to scour the area for their targets. A young child of five accidentally drops his gum into the grate and peers inside, taken aback by the sight before him, he yells for his mom.

chapter 35

Charles Halloway is at Ned's Night Spot, having coffee. As Mr. Dark walks in, a small boy draws the Dwarf's attention, who then looks at the child and into the grille. Will observes that only a small part of Mr. Fury remains. The Dwarf moves on after briefly glancing at them. Charles exchanges a look with the Illustrated Man. Mr. Dark seeks two boys but Halloway quietly leaves. Jim wants to yell out to Will's father, but Will advises patience. Halloway buys a cigar from United Cigar Store, and the band accidentally falls near Will, revealing their hiding spot. As Halloway demands an explanation, Mr. Dark exits the Night Spot, advancing towards him. The boys plead Halloway to ignore their presence. Mr. Dark informs Halloway about two boys selected as carnival guests. He displays tattoos of Jim and Will on his palms. Halloway realizes the Illustrated Man knows the boys but acts too hastily in questioning about them. Halloway misleads about their identities, leading to Mr. Dark's anger. The boys feel discomfort as their tattooed images are crushed in Mr. Dark's fists. Mr. Dark calls Halloway a liar, aware of their real names, but not their surnames. Halloway claims ignorance. All seems calm until the Dust Witch appears, sensing the boys. But Halloway thwarts her by blowing cigar smoke in her direction. She leaves, coughing, along with Mr. Dark. However, Mr. Dark returns, asking Halloway's name. After learning his name and workplace, Mr. Dark threatens to visit him. Halloway instructs the boys to hide and meet him at the library at seven.

chapter 36

The Dwarf abruptly understands that Charles Halloway spotted the boys hiding and rushes to notify Mr. Dark. The Illustrated Man hurries back to the location, only to find it empty. Charles Halloway, Will's father, has joined the struggle. Despite his son's silence on the phone, he ventured out to find Will and Jim, discovering them right before Mr. Dark’s appearance. He resolutely withstands the Illustrated Man's intimidation, refusing to disclose any information about the boys, which infuriates Mr. Dark. Charles Halloway reveals his identity and workplace to Mr. Dark, opening the door to danger. He has chosen to fight, linking the boys' fate to his own. The confrontation lines are drawn, and Will and Jim now have an ally instead of trying to fend for themselves. It remains uncertain how Charles Halloway intends to resist the carnival. As an adult, he's better prepared to fight than the boys, but they're still outnumbered and battling a formidable evil force. At the library, he hopes to strategize, but he may only have his smarts to depend on. Yet, he's already managed to survive one encounter. His clever use of the cigar to eliminate the Witch was a success, and fortune might be favoring him. If the cigar band hadn't dropped at Will's feet, he wouldn't have discovered the boys' hiding place. Charles Halloway, despite his intelligence and ability to sense the carnival's malevolence like Will, doesn't know how he'll assist the boys in combat, but he's determined to help. His adventurous spirit is growing stronger, ready to aid his son and his son's friend in their perilous journey.

chapter 37

Charles Halloway is ensconced in the library, surrounded by a wealth of literature. He has silently observed the day's happenings - initially the procession, and later, the carnival. He has kept the boys' moms in the dark about the unfolding events. The rest of his day is spent immersed in books and introspection, attempting to make sense of the situation. However, he only discerns that an ominous event is looming, and it is he who must confront it.

chapter 38

In his fear, Will views the library as a potential threat, wondering if his father has been negatively affected. Jim, in his haste, bangs on the door, soon joined by Will. Upon opening the door, their father ushers them inside. They disclose their day's hideout location and he insists on hearing the full account of their experiences. After listening, Mr. Halloway asserts he trusts their narrative. He unveils his findings that the sinister carnival operated by Cooger and Dark has been recurring every two or three decades since 1846, as per the earliest record. It dawns on them that the same malevolent individuals have been hosting the carnival for countless years. Sharing snippets of his life, Charles Halloway assures his readiness to aid the boys in their ordeal.

chapter 39

Mr. Halloway enlightens the boys about the carnival's mechanism. It thrives on the despair of lonely, helpless people. However, hope exists since Mr. Dark feared Mr. Halloway earlier at the Cigar Store. Charles Halloway explains how love and friendship are the products of humanity's evolution from selfishness, urging the boys to use love as their weapon. He emphasizes that knowing and sharing common causes lead to love. Providing insight about their adversaries, he explains that though they appear to offer everything, they only take and give nothing. He suggests that they could have existed for centuries, feeding on pain, fear, and the sorrow of others. Charles Halloway is mentally prepared for the impending dangers, despite their uncertainty. Similar to Will, he is contemplative and is now propelled to act. He's aware that the carnival forces are ancient and dreadful, feasting on the weak and hopeless. He has faith in the power of love and their collective strength to conquer their foes. To combat the carnival that feeds on negativity, they must embody love. However, their knowledge about the carnival is limited. They are unsure of its age or its methods. Despite the lack of a concrete plan, they know Mr. Dark's visit is imminent, and they need to prepare. Charles Halloway's conversation alone has empowered the boys, restoring their courage and diminishing their fear. This courage will be instrumental in resisting Mr. Dark's control. The mission to defeat the carnival extends beyond personal reasons for Mr. Halloway and the boys. Despite the looming danger, they realize their fight symbolizes the battle between good and evil, in which good must prevail. Their victory could offer a second chance to despairing individuals, like Miss Foley and Mr. Fury. With the carnival's downfall, these individuals might find other ways to overcome despair. The boys and Mr. Halloway must triumph to prevent future suffering.

chapter 40

Questioned by Jim about the carnival's soul-purchasing activity, Mr. Halloway clarifies that they don't need to buy souls since people willingly surrender them. He details that the carnival thrives on the self-inflicted torments people inflict on each other. The carnival's manipulative ways are centered around the fear people have of Nothing, especially Death, which is their powerful tool to control people. They force people to confront their fear of death, leading people to make desperate decisions, including the usage of the carousel. However, this carousel only alters physical age leaving one's mind untouched, causing an emotional disconnect with loved ones of different ages, often leading to insanity. After imparting this knowledge, Charles Halloway shifts the discussion towards strategizing their attack on the carnival. However, their planning is interrupted as the front door opens, prompting Mr. Halloway to instruct Will and Jim to hide.

chapter 41

Mr. Dark enters, questioning Charles Halloway about the boys' whereabouts. He observes Mr. Halloway handling books and ominously warns him about the Witch's ability to cease his heart, mimicking a natural death. He ridicules Mr. Halloway for holding a Bible and lights a cigarette in defiance of the "No Smoking" sign. Mr. Dark then mocks the idea that any book could harm him while taunting Charles with the notion of using the carousel to shed some years. As he prowls the corridors in search of the boys, he leaves an out-of-breath, heavy-hearted Charles behind, assuring him that assistance for his heart will be sent.

chapter 42

Mr. Dark endeavors to find the hidden boys, attempting to lure Jim with the promise of a carousel ride. He claims they transformed Will's mother into a grotesque, old woman using the carousel, which terrifies Will, leading to his quiet crying. The sound reveals their hiding spot to Mr. Dark, despite his father's hope of remaining undetected. Charles Halloway articulates his understanding of the carnival's operation as a reflection of human behavior. He conveys that Mr. Dark exploits the harm we inflict upon one another, not causing it but utilizing it for nefarious purposes. If people ceased causing each other pain, the carnival would lose its power. He draws parallels between the carnival's perpetuation of suffering for pleasure and the tendency of unhappy people to derive comfort from others' misery, indicating that everyone has the potential to become a Mr. Dark. Despite the difficulty of being good, most people don't become as malevolent as Mr. Dark, finding happiness elsewhere. However, the carnival strips visitors of their ability to find joy in anything other than inflicting pain, turning them into carnival-like beings and amplifying an already existing human trait. While hoping for an end to human-inflicted pain might be wishful thinking, the belief that love and kindness provide greater joy than harm suggests there will always be challengers to the carnival and its ilk. It's crucial to find a non-violent method to combat these forces, as responding with violence only perpetuates the vicious cycle. Charles Halloway posits love as this alternative weapon. Love, through understanding and shared experiences, can serve as a non-aggressive resistance and a unifying force. If humanity were united by a common love, the carnival would lose its base. Loneliness and desperation are necessary for the carnival to succeed, as demonstrated by Jim's resistance to the carnival's allure due to Will's presence. A shared love and understanding can prevent people from falling into the carnival's trap, exemplified by Jim's salvation from his friend's love.

chapter 43

Grasping Will and Jim, Mr. Dark captures Charles Halloway, injures his hand, and leaves him helpless on the ground. He hauls the boys around before abruptly letting them fall. He then attempts to illustrate the randomness of life using the scene outside the window, where Jim's mother and Will's mother, returning from church, fail to notice their sons. Despite Mr. Dark's willingness to allow them entry into the library, the women remain oblivious. He transports the boys to the entrance where the Witch bewitches them to prevent them from using their senses. He instructs her to render Charles Halloway lifeless, then leaves the library with the boys and two of his misfits.

chapter 44

Overpowered by the pain from his wounded hand, Mr. Halloway is unable to resist when the Witch attempts to kill him. He asks her to end his misery quickly, to which she recommends halting his heartbeat. Following her advice, he gradually slows his heartbeat until he's nearly unconscious. Just before succumbing, he takes a final glance at his surroundings and breaks out in laughter. This unexpected reaction throws the Witch off balance, as Charles can't contain his laughter, the sight of her trying to put him to sleep tickling his funny bone. His laughter harms the Witch, making her retreat in pain and flee the scene. Managing to cease his laughter, Charles grasps the significance of his victory, but is aware more challenges await. With a triumphant smile, he darts into the night.

chapter 45

Mr. Dark walks alongside the boys, instructing them to greet Mr. Tetley with a smile. The boys are under his control, only able to act as he dictates. The Illustrated Man promises Jim a carousel ride and a potential partnership if Mr. Cooger succumbs. He also plans to transform Will into a baby for the Dwarf. Instructed by Mr. Dark, the boys put on a performance for a passing policeman and then continue towards the carnival. Charles Halloway employs laughter to counteract the witch's power, embodying Bradbury's narrative optimism. Halloway finds humor in his impending demise and the witch's absurdity, laughing hysterically at the situation. Bradbury uses laughter as a counter to evil, which thrives on fear. Laughter defies fear, making daunting circumstances more bearable. Laughter serves as a response to circumstances that are so absurd that they're comical. Halloway's reaction to the witch reflects this. Even in the face of hardship, humor can provide a form of healing. Though times may be tough, laughter is a symbol of hope for better days. If there was no hope for improvement, there would be no laughter. Laughter is a weapon against evil because it undermines the sadness that evil thrives on. It signifies hope for future happiness, something that evil struggles to understand. Halloway's uninhibited laughter in the face of the Witch is a celebration of humanity's capacity for joy and a clear rejection of her power over him. Laughter serves as a reminder of the joy that is beyond the witch's reach. Laughter implies inherent goodness, an affirmation of hope amid hardship. Evil has no defense against laughter since it is synonymous with happiness and hope. It's the antithesis of what true evil would ever want to encounter.

chapter 46

Mr. Dark ushers Jim and Will into the fair while being chased by Charles Halloway, with the injured Witch lagging behind. The Illustrated Man hides the boys among wax figures near the Mirror Maze's end and summons a crowd for the final performance. As hundreds gather, the Bullet Trick is announced by Mr. Dark, presenting the Witch as the "bullet-catcher." Although she's unwilling, Mr. Dark insists on proceeding. When she informs him of Charles Halloway's survival, he becomes enraged. Despite her plea to call off the act, he inflicts pain on her by pinching her image on his arm. He requests a volunteer to trigger the gun. Upon nobody stepping forward, he contemplates canceling the act. However, to his astonishment, a volunteer emerges- none other than Charles Halloway.

chapter 47

Halloway enters the stage amid the crowd’s attention, uncertain of his plans but determined to press on. He rejects Mr. Dark's handshake and declares he can operate a rifle singlehandedly despite an injury. Mr. Dark tosses him a rifle, expecting him to falter, but Halloway skillfully catches it, earning the crowd's applause and their criticism of Mr. Dark’s rudeness. Suddenly, Halloway announces his need for a boy's assistance, calling for his son, Will, who is lost in the crowd. After repeating his call, the crowd joins in until Mr. Dark and the Witch reluctantly surrender. Will emerges from the Mirror Maze’s edge, still bewitched. Mr. Dark is confused about Halloway's strategy, unaware that Halloway is improvising on the spot. Halloway receives a bullet from Mr. Dark, engraves a crescent moon on it, and displays to the crowd that it remains in the rifle after Mr. Dark's loading and handover. He’s aware of the wax replacement that will melt when shot, but continues to engrave the same symbol on the new bullet. Mr. Dark attempts to control Will through his picture, only to be thwarted by the calming presence of Will's father and the crowd. Halloway signals to the Witch that he has marked the bullet with his smile, right before he pulls the trigger.

chapter 48

Upon the Witch's immediate death, Mr. Dark announces the end of the spectacle and demands the lights to be dimmed. Meanwhile, Will and Charles set off to retrieve Jim from the Mirror Maze. Hearing them, Jim finds his way out, all the while his father's reflections echo around the maze's mirrored walls.

chapter 49

In the terrifying Mirror Maze, Charles Halloway is nearly overwhelmed until Will interrupts the disturbing reflections with a lit match. However, Charles knocks it away from him. Will then ignites his last match and tells his father that he loves him regardless of his age, setting off a chain of events. Charles, seeing the love in his son's eyes, responds with a laughter that resonates through the maze, reminding him of his encounter with the Witch. Charles learns to combat the carnival, not through a premeditated strategy but intuitively. His defenses are straightforward yet potent. He resists the allure of the carnival, with no desire for a different life. Unaffected by the carnival's allure, he can now confront it through his inner satisfaction. His laughter, even etched onto a bullet which never made it to the Witch, is enough to obliterate her. He reassures Will, despite Mr. Dark's attempt to hurt the boy by squeezing his tattoo. Charles no longer fears the potential for evil to harm him. Without this fear, Mr. Dark's minions are helpless against him. Charles acts instinctively, propelled by the assurance of having no fear of his adversary. He believes his love for Will exceeds any power Mr. Dark's tattoos or the Witch's spells may hold. Mr. Dark, powerless except for physical force, is left with no choice but to run.

chapter 50

Charles Halloway, through his laughter signifying his embracing of all life, demolishes the entirety of the Mirror Maze. He and Will then start looking for Jim, guided by the carousel's sound and the moonlight. Halloway makes it clear to Will that locating Jim and handling Mr. Cooger and Mr. Dark is their priority.

chapter 51

As Will and his father, Charles Halloway, race towards the merry-go-round, they observe the park's oddities watching from the shadows. Will is puzzled they don't strike, but Charles believes they're afraid following the witch's demise. The pair encounters a group of these bizarre figures carting Mr. Electrico to the ride to retransform him into Mr. Cooger. Charles yells, causing the group to scatter. Suddenly, a collective sigh ripples through the oddities and a wave of dust hits Charles and Will, revealing the dust to be the remains of Mr. Cooger. The group had abandoned the chair, and the old man disintegrated. Will puzzles over why they dropped the chair and spots Jim standing between them and the ride. Jim nears the ride and Will rushes to stop him. However, Jim grips a post and swings around the merry-go-round, his hand trailing behind. Will attempts to grab his friend but fails, preparing to try again when Jim comes back around. He screams Jim's name, waking him from his daze. When Jim returns, Will catches his hand but Jim doesn't let go. Jim pulls Will with him, aging Will's hand as the rest of him sprints beside the ride. Both boys struggle to pull the other off, resulting in Will tumbling onto the carousel. They make half a rotation before Will, still clutching Jim's hand, manages to jump free. Jim shrieks, holding onto both his friend and the ride, before collapsing to the ground, unmoving.

chapter 52

When a boy claims the tattooed man is pursuing him, Charles Halloway instructs Will to aid their possibly unconscious friend, Jim. Charles chases the boy, who is revealed to be a young Mr. Dark, covered in tattoos. Despite Mr. Dark's assertion that he can't be harmed, Charles disproves this by causing him agony through a mere embrace. He asks about Jim's condition, but is met with silence, and soon Mr. Dark collapses, lifeless. Throughout the narrative, the carousel represents Jim's internal conflict about his identity. As a thirteen-year-old longing for adulthood, he is tempted by the carousel's promise of instant maturity. While Will reminds him of the joys of childhood, Jim can't resist the allure. His decision to stay on the carousel culminates in a crisis, nearly tearing him apart. Despite witnessing the carnival's evil, Jim's desire to grow up overrides his caution. Ultimately, Will has to make a crucial decision for Jim, highlighting how sometimes, others must step in when we can't resolve our dilemmas. Charles defeats Mr. Dark by showing him love and compassion, elements unfamiliar to a man steeped in centuries of evil. This act eradicates his existence, similar to the Witch's demise. Their inability to embrace happiness indicates their fear of human goodness. Thus, love and positivity are effective weapons against evil. Even if goodness doesn't always triumph, it remains our strongest defense in our constant struggle against evil.

chapter 53

Mr. Dark has passed away and in the wake of this, Charles Halloway observes the tattoos on the young boy's skin vanish as Will attempts to bring him back to life. The carnival's oddities appear to be seeing clearly for the first time and scatter in all directions. The moment they depart, the carnival tents start collapsing. Before long, everyone has left and the carnival is in ruins. Yet Jim remains lifeless and quiet.

chapter 54

Will mistakenly believes his friend Jim is dead, however, Charles Halloway disagrees. He chides Will for his tears, reminding him that such sadness is what their enemies desire. Charles insists that they combat the situation with laughter and light-heartedness. Eventually, Will manages to hold back his tears and joins his father in singing and laughing. Amidst their merriment, Jim stirs back to life. To their surprise, Jim seems oblivious to his near-death experience. In the spirit of their newfound joy, they decide to postpone telling him. They enjoy some more singing and dancing before Jim queries about the situation. After an emotional reunion with Jim, Will expresses admiration for his father. When asked if their foes will return, Charles confirms that they will encounter more battles, possibly in different forms. They contemplate the allure of the carousel, but also realize the danger of its addictive nature. Charles then attempts to destroy it, after which they race home together. When the malicious Mr. Dark dies, his reign of terror disintegrates. The carnival freaks, once bound by Mr. Dark's power, find themselves liberated. Devoid of their threatening aura, they no longer pose a significant danger. Though capable of evil deeds, they are no longer destined for constant destruction. The tattoos that once symbolized Mr. Dark's control fade, suggesting the influence one personality can have over others. People's susceptibility to influence underlines the importance of mutual vigilance. It's through laughter and joy that Will and Charles save Jim from death's door. They remind him of the beauty of living, healing him with the power of happiness and laughter - a magic often overlooked in everyday life. Jim's resurrection serves as a potent reminder of laughter's healing powers. Throughout their ordeal, it seemed magic was solely a tool of malevolence, but their experience reveals the existence of benevolent magic too. Jim learns the true magic of life lies in being a boy, free to laugh, run and enjoy himself.

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