From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
The merry-go-round sports a sign saying "out of order." Jim is disbelieving, and he hops on a plastic stallion anyway.
A man emerges to chastise Jim. He scoops both boys up under his arms to carry them away from the carousel. The man has "flame-red hair, bright flame-blue eyes, and rippling biceps" (18.15).
Just then, someone else orders the man to put the boys down. This second man is tall with a pale face and a vest "the color of fresh blood." Will is fascinated by the man's "itchweed suit."
The man looks only at Jim (18.22).
He extends a business card, introducing himself as Mr. Dark and his red-haired friend as Mr. Cooger.
(Cooger and Dark! The carnival owners! We've seen these names before, on the handbills advertising the carnival.)
The card claims that Cooger and Dark specialize in fixing death-watch beetles.
Jim, always the skeptic, extends a dead insect and asks Dark to fix it.
Jim realizes that Mr. Dark is the "Illustrated Man" advertised on the handbill.
Dark laughs and asks for the boy's name. Will hopes that Jim will give a fake one.
Jim introduces himself as Simon, even though everyone present knows this to be a lie.
Mr. Dark asks if Simon wants to see more. He reveals more of his tattooed body, but only to Jim.
Jim stares as the Illustrated Man shows him various narratives inked onto his body. Eventually Mr. Dark rolls down his sleeves. He tells the boys to go home, and promises to give Jim a free ride on the carousel once it is fixed.
The boys run off.
But then Jim vanishes. Will looks around and spies his friend in a tree. He clamors up to join him.
He asks Jim what he saw on Mr. Dark's arm. Jim clearly doesn't want to tell his friend. He offers to have the Illustrated Man show Will too, though Will is not keen on the idea.
Will wants to go home, and they argue. Jim wants to stick around and spy on the carnival from this hidden spot on the tree.
Just as Will starts to head down the tree, Mr. Dark starts the merry-go-round. It begins running backward. The music plays backward too. The carousel goes faster and faster, and Mr. Cooger hops on.
Will tries to figure out how he knows that the music is playing backward.
Jim notices that Mr. Cooger's face is melting and his body is changing.
Mr. Cooger is becoming younger with each spin of the carousel.
Jim and Will silently count along. Mr. Cooger is nineteen…sixteen…then twelve.
Jim and Will stare in astonishment.
The man-boy Mr. Cooger runs off into the night.
After some time, Jim and Will come down from the tree. Jim admits wishing they had gone home. But now they had seen the carousel, he says, they must see more.