13

This is another short story that I read when I was a kid. I think that I was in elementary school at the time, so it was likely written before 1989, and absolutely no later than 1993.

I read it in English, in the USA (Minnesota). It was possibly in a school library book, but I think it's more likely that it came from the scholastic book club.

This was a very short story, likely in a collection of short stories rather than from a stand-alone source, probably a collection of creepy stories for kids.

The basic plot was that a traveling carnival showman/con man-type (possibly named "Crispin") had a robot show that he charged a fee for people to attend - the robot did tricks and such. The gimmick was that, at the end of the show, he'd open up the robot to reveal that it was all wires and gears inside. The audience was said to assume that there was a Little Person or child inside, wearing the suit like a costume, as this took place at a time when high-tech robotics weren't real yet. Revealing the robot's innards impressed the audience with how high-tech the "robot" actually was.

The twist was that, later that night, he'd take the robot back to his campsite (or possibly a trailer?), and fully open up the robot to reveal a tiny cabin inside, filled with levers and gears, and an actual dwarf manning the controls. Not a Little Person or "midget" (to use the outdated term), but an actual non-human magical Dwarf (or Brownie or Elf or something similar - I don't recall whether it was ever specified as to what sort of being it was).

It was clear that the Dwarf was a prisoner being held captive by the showman.

The man put the dwarf in a cage, basically a big box with air holes on it, then threw his coat over the cage and left (to get dinner or drinks or something, I think).

When he returned, he heard the dwarf complaining, begging, "Please, more air! More air! More air!", and he started to go on a cruel (possibly drunken) rant.

"You always want something, don't you? 'More food', 'more water', now 'more air'? You're never happy!! You do nothing but complain!"

Then, the voice of the dwarf started to grow more faint - "More air... please... more air...", and the man realized that he'd thrown his coat over the air holes on the dwarf's box. By the time he reached the box to uncover the air holes, the dwarf had suffocated and died.

I remember that part of the story pretty clearly - those quotes aren't exact, but I think they're fairly close. However, I do not remember the ending very well.

I think that the man then locked the body of the dwarf in his robot suit and dumped it in a lake, and somehow the ghost of the dwarf piloted the suit to haunt the man for revenge, but I can't remember the details of that.

I'd love to track this down, and I think it's possible that some of the other stories I've asked about ID-ing were in the same short story collection that this one is from.

  • 3
    Wow! I thought I was the only one who was haunted by this yarn. I guess there's at least two of us! I came across this post because the details just popped in in a random memory so I was trying to pin down the story, too. Not much luck so far. Details I can confirm: I remember clearly reading this story smack dab in the mid- to late- Eighties, though maybe a little earlier than you suggest... maybe. It was well before the Nineties, at any rate. I came across it in an anthology of slightly-older-kids' horror stories in my middle school library in Baltimore in the USA, so I'd agree it was … – Greg Madison Sep 23 '17 at 11:20
  • 2
    … most likely Scholastic or some similar publisher. "Book fair" material, in other words. However, I don't think it's the venerable old "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" series. I think the only hard detail I can add here is that the heavy, the bad guy carny in the story was called "Crispin." I remember the dwarf, as he's expiring for lack of air, begs the guy, "Crispin, please help me! I need air!" Now, I've put on a LOT of road miles since middle school in the Eighties, so I wouldn't stake my life on it, but if the story is located and the villain in this short tale ISN'T called "Crispin," – Greg Madison Sep 23 '17 at 11:20
  • I've been pondering it all day, and the name "Crispin" doesn't ring a bell to me at all. Still, I'm certain that we're remembering the same story - that's a good piece of info to add to the search! I've edited the question to add that detail. Thank you! – Alex Bates Sep 24 '17 at 18:30
8

"The Robot’s Revenge" from "The Haunted Planet" by D.J. Arneson and Tony Tallarico

A cruel, traveling shyster displaying his robot, Micro-Mite, which can do lots of amazing things. In reality, it’s small man hidden inside the suit doing everything. When the shyster’s abuse goes too far, there are dark consequences.

Horror Delve, The Haunted Planet Review

  • Haunted Planet sounds right on - I'll track down a copy and give it a read! – Alex Bates Jun 10 '18 at 23:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.