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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
The boys come across the carousel with an "Out of Order! Keep Out!" sign on it. Jim mentions that it doesn't look broken, so he climbs across the chain. Will warns him to stop. Jim, though, insists that because it's the only ride they haven't been on, so it must have some connection to the mystery they're attempting to solve. As he climbs on, the carousel sways, but a man emerges from the darkness, and picks Jim up. He yells for help, and Will comes running. Will, however, is also grabbed by the mysterious man. The man has bright red hair, flame-blue eyes, and rippling biceps. A gentler voice calls out of the darkness and demands that the boys be put on the ground. Will tries to explain, but the second man finishes his sentence for him.
The second man is tall and has a pale, pockmarked face. His hair and suit are dark black. His vest is crimson red. His suit, though, fascinates Will. It seems to be made of all sorts of itchy things. Jim is fascinated by the man. The man speaks, revealing his name is Dark, and the other man's name is Cooger of Cooger and Dark's carnival. He shows a calling card that changes colors and the text message. By the time Dark hands it to Jim, it says "Our specialty: to examine, oil, polish, and repair Death-Watch Beetles." Jim immediately finds a Death-Watch Beetle in his pocket, and tells the man to fix it. Dark laughs, and suggests he will. However, as he extends his hand, they boys notice the tattoos on his arm. Will gets excited, and exclaims that Dark must be the tattooed man. Jim, however, corrects Will. Dark is the illustrated man; there is a difference, according to Jim.
Dark asks Jim his name, and Jim instantly lies, calling himself Simon. Dark, however, knows it is a lie, and smiles to signify his knowledge. Dark makes his tattoos 'dance' for Jim. Will longs to run to the other side and get a closer look, but he stares at Jim. Jim stares intently, as if he were examining his own reflection. Dark finishes, hands Jim his card, and tells the boys that the carnival is closed until seven. The boys run, but jump into a nearby tree instead of heading home. Will begs Jim to head home, but Jim only tells him to "shut up," and watch. The faint tapping of machinery at the carousel can be heard. Will asks what Jim saw on Dark's arm, but Jim only says a snake. Will believes Jim's lying. Jim suggests that he'll get Dark to show it to him sometime, but Will has the odd premonition that he doesn't want that to occur.
Will decides that he's going home, and Jim tells him that if he wants to ignore they mysteries they've uncovered in the past day, to go home. Will starts to, but the carousel starts up. The boys stay frozen in the tree. The carousel is running with Dark at the controls, but it's running backward. Will even discovers that the music is backward, though he's not sure how he knows that. The music emotionally shakes Will. He tries desperately to hang on to the limb. Jim begins to notice something strange happening. Cooger's face begins to melt. His hands and clothes begin to shrink. As the carousel continues to turn, Cooger's face continuously melts. Suddenly it is clear that Cooger is nineteen. The carousel continues to turn and, as it does, Jim counts the number of revolutions. The carousel stops, and the seated figure is quite small. Mr. Cooger is now twelve years old. Cooger steps out and gazes at the tree, as if he can smell the fear emanating from Jim and Will. He runs from the midway. Dark also disappears, and the boys fall from the tree to the ground. Jim utters a wish that the two boys could go home, but it is evident to both of them that, because of what they've seen, they must now watch more. They run off into the distance following a now young Cooger.
Jim climbing across the chain that holds the out of order sign is indicative of his carefree behavior. Will, again, tries to stop him, but Jim refuses to listen. He is willing to risk his safety for the sake of adventure. Cooger is the more evil of the pair. It is wholly unclear what might have happened if Dark had not entered the picture. While Cooger is the more evil of the pair, Dark is the more sinister. The changing colors and text on his card display the sinister things Will has sensed from the beginning. The fact that Dark's suit is made of things that seem interminably itchy furthers Dark's sinister behavior. The fact that Dark's card 'happens' to finalize with 'Death-Watch Beetle,' a creature Jim has in his pocket, is not a coincidence.
Dark connects with Jim on a level Will can't comprehend. It is that connection that deeply scares Will. Will cannot connect with Dark on any level. He is, therefore, left out of the experience of Dark's illustrations. The fact that Jim is reluctant to tell Will of the experience with the illustrations is not a result of excluding Will, it is the result of two separate things: Jim's desire to protect Will, and Will's lack of understanding of things beyond childhood.
It is the encounter with Dark, though, that encourages Jim to stay. Jim has some difficulties with authority. He does not automatically respect every adult he meets. Dark's attitudes and actions bother Jim. As a result, he sticks around, requiring himself to discover more about the sinister carnival. Will is desperate to leave, and it looks at one point as if he might, but the start of the carousel freezes both Jim and Will. Will is immediately confused. The fact that he was being lied to about the functionality of the carousel had never occurred to him. Jim, however, knew he was being lied to when he saw the sign. Will immediately discovers that the music is running backward, despite the fact that he has no idea why he knows that. Like all of Will's premonitions, this one is unexplainable. The music physiologically effects Will. He can almost feel his body running simultaneously backward.
Cooger's reversing age is, by far, the most sinister event in the book to this point. When the boys discover his age, the same as theirs, they are immediately frightened. Both boys feel a sense of doom at the close of the chapter. They've seen too much, and they both realize they must, in some way, pay for what they've seen.