Circus of the Soulless
Naias stands atop the central pillar, hanging as if from the netting of a ship. He has seen this show countless times over the years, in different roles. The stands are filled, the aisles brimming with those unable to sit. The thousands of thousands of watching eyes within the thick fabric should be fainting in sweltering heat of not just the pack of human beings, but from the flames of the magicians, the thunderous pyrotechnics within the center ring. Acrobats swing from the ceiling on trapezes without ropes. But despite the press of bodies and the presence of visions and creatures not seen in any city, the smell of salt and the breeze of sea air cools the entirety of the area.
And in the midst of it all, surrounded by dancing dryads and twisting lights is a figure that all who perform in this circus know and despise.
Tonight, he is a man but that is the only thing about him that ever changes. His coat, from shoulder to ankle, is midnight black with buttons of purest white. Tonight he is not presumptuous. No crowns, no laurels, no signs of superiority save for a lone top-hat, a throwback to the past of his profession.
"Be not afeared," he proclaims for all to hear. "Be not afeared! The circus is full of sweet airs! Sounds and sweet airs and wondrous delights that hurt not!"
Naias ignores the pretentious speech. He's heard it before. Instead he focuses on the strength of his breath, the power of his limbs, the beat of his heart. If not for this prison he would be dead. If not for this prison, he would be free.
Naias grips the trapeze bar, ignores the lack of wires, and jumps. And Naias flies.
If not for this place, he would not fly through the air beneath with the grace of a bird.
"I invite you all, in walking and waking, to see the dreams and beauty within this spectacle. And for some... perhaps for one... the dream may become more real even than this!"
The lights go out. The curtains rise. And as the Master disappears, Naias lands on his feet outside the tent. The sky above is filled with the lights of Downtown Chicago. And the ceremonies close and Naias knows, tonight's show has just begun...
Aoi took a deep breath as she waited for her tent to fill with guests once more. She'd been practicing for this particular act for weeks and it was now time to show off her new 'tricks' and such to the waiting guests that came to see the magnificant acts performed by this famous circus. Though, today, she was focusing more of the images themselves instead of making actual object appears; she would save that particular act for another day. Taking a step back, she turned around and faced one of the few mirrors that were set up in the room behind the main area of her tent. As usual, her long red hair was pulled back into a braid that nearly touched her waist and she was dressed in clothes that pertained to this particular theme: a long, solid black dress that brushed against her ankles when she walked, brown leather shoes and black gloves. Well, she added that last part herself. Sighing, she picked up the little black flower that she'd been holding in her hand and placed it into her hair. Now, her costume was complete.
"Now, we shall welcome to the stage: Troglodytic Aoi." A voice called-yes, she got someone to announce her arrival since she didn't like to speak much herself-and a round of appluase started as the crowd basically cheered for her before she even got out there. Taking another glance at herself, Aoi then stood and grabbed her sword before heading through the drawn curtains that led to the 'stage'. Once out on the floor, she raised her hands over her head untill everyone was quiet. That's when the whispering started, a low and very soft voice that carried over ever inch of the nice sized tent itself. It was alluring yet comforting all at once. Soon, soft music began to play from some unknown source and Aoi swayed to the rythmn of it, her dress moving as she did this.
Dark shadows began to form at her feet and rise untill they circled around her in a tornadeo like way. In those swirls, different colors flashed untill they ended up making a picture of a boat, one that was sailing out on a choppy and dangerous sea. To add to the effects, Aoi made the boat actually float out from her tornado of dark shadows and ride dark waves amoungst the crowd. Some people screamed but most simply stared at the display in awe, a look that only fueled the girl on with her performance.. A burst blue flashed as lightning zigzagged from the sky and crashed down onto the ground with a bright flash of light. It would have blinded most people but Aoi made sure that the black shadows that now lurked amoungst the people shielded their eyes fromt the light, making them see only enough to wow them but not hurt them.
Moments later, the 'water' grew calm and the circus brightened as the scene turned to one of a crashed boat during the early hours of the morning. Then, just as quickly as the images appeared, they disappeared, leaving nothing but a lone girl standing in the middle of 'stage'. There was a moment of silence before people burst into a round of applause. Aoi just stood there, a small smile forming on her face as she recieved the drug that had been keeping her here for years: praise and approval by others. As she took a bow and left, dark shadows formed once again in the crowd for a minute or two before vanishing. If they looked down in their laps, they would find a seashall; no two were alike, either....
The show was about to begin. The show, was about to begin. Just like any other time, but still always a little exciting every time.
Ace stood in the middle if her roofless tent. She watched as the audience filed in, giving a small grin. "I'm glad you chose this tent. But I'd advise to take your coats off... It'll get a little hot in here." One of the lines she had used constantly in her six years being in the circus. When the audience saw her, their first reaction was shock. Who wouldn't be shocked to see a 14 year old playing with fire? Well, since she didn't age, no one would really believe she was supposed to be 20. Ace stood in a black tanktop and capris. No sleeves, no too long pants. Or get burned.
That wasn't the point though. Anywho, she held up her favorite lighter. It was black and white like the circus, with an Ace of Diamonds plastered on it. Very fitting. Ace stood on a four foot platform and waved the lighter in her hand. Of course, no one saw her early preparations in order not to burn herself. "Alright people! Let the party start!"
Ace grinned and lit a hula hoop on fire. It wasn't one of her favorite acts, seeing the tips of her shirt was always slightly singed afterward. Skillfully, she 'danced' through the hula hoop, spinning it around, and not once burning herself. The feeling was exhilarating- it always had been. She could play with fire- how wasn't that cool!?
When the hula hoop's flame was vanquished, she did a few more tricks to stun the crowd. All of them consisted of fire no doubt. Her act was over, and like usual, she amazed her audience, and she bowed. When they left to explore the secrets of the circus, she went off to see the other performers. Scratch that. She went to get a funnel cake that she oh so loved.
Lil dotted bits of shimmery silver flecks beneath her eyes, completing the make up she would be wearing during her act. To be honest, even though it didn't look like much, all of the stage makeup piled onto her face transformed her into a creature of awe and wonder. A carnie, but also commonly refereed to as 'circus freak' or rubber band. She took one last look at her appearance in the mirror, everything was in place, she was ready for the show. Leaving the trailer, she walked into the back of the tent where all of the other performers were preparing for their moment in the spotlight. Her preforming costume clinged to her slim body, she liked how the material allowed for a vast range of movement, but she could never get over how hot the outfit could get. Stretchy material hugged frame her from the neck down. In some areas around her back the fabric turned sheer, everywhere else it was covered in beautiful swirling designs which shimmered in the light. Shrugging off the heat factor, she began to briefly stretch out her legs and back. She went into a quick scorpion post and held it until the tension in her back was released.
Tonight was the first time in decades that she would be preforming above the ground. She hadn't built up enough courage to resume preforming on the aerial silk, but tonight we would be doing her act on a clear rotating platform which was hung from the air. In the past, the one thing she enjoyed most was being able to view the vast amounts of people in awe below her. The lights dimmed and the act before her's began to end. She took her place on the clear platform, and dropped into an arabesque penche- like position. Her muscles held the pose in place as she was slowly hoisted into the air. The soft sound of music rang out overhead, a blue light glowed over the stage. It was time to preform.
Never had Lil felt such a rush as when her act began, she knew she had the power, the control, the attention of the audience. To them she appeared to be an inhuman like creature. A water spirit, wrecking chaos on the ships. She began slowly, moving to the beat of the music. Her back rolled in half, her legs twisted this way and that, her entire body had ceased resting in it's natural shape and instead formed into something magnificent and enticing. The platform began to slowly rotate, the music also began to pick up. The storm was coming.
Lil leaned down into a back bend, which eventually ended in a chest stand. She moved her legs into an over split then twisted her body until she was standing on one foot, her entire body folded in half. She at a faster pace did a back walk over, landing in a pose that would break most people's backs. She continued to twist and contort her body in ways most people thought impossible. She blocked out the noise and lights of the crowed and focused solely on her balance and performance.
As the song progressed, the lights changed colors and her movements became most fluid and twisting. The silver flecks of her costume reflected off of the light, having her appear to be a serpent. She defiantly moved like one. Since the platform was clear and the lights weren't focused on it, Lil appeared to be floating in mid air while twisting around as limber as the serpent she appeared to be.
Her heat beat, soon it would be the moment she was the most determined not to mess up. As the music hit a spike, she looped her foot around one of the silk supporters of the platform and spun around and off the platform in a circle, only the fabric wrapped around her ankle kept her from falling to her death. She landed gracefully back onto the platform in a triple fold, this was the closest she had gotten to preforming with aerial silk in decades.
The music began to slow, on cue she rested all of her body weight on her hands and arms, while extending her back and legs. The audience was enticed. Slowly, the platform lowered. Lil kept her position until it was entirely on the ground, and her act was over. She could hear the applause as she walked behind stage. There was no greater feeling than this.
Before the show set off for the night, Orren could typically be found by his site, carving his figurines while guests came up and bought them. He made a good bit of money off of his hobby, which allowed him a little more spending money than most. He painted the finishing touches on a lion before having to pack his little stand up. One look at the clock told him that it was time to begin his act. The clown walked over to his music player and hit play, trusting the machine's word that the music was actually playing. There had been times when others had found him preforming without music on accident, not that it really mattered.
Orren was not a very funny clown. His shy nature held him back from interacting personally with the crowd. He didn't like to run up and down the isles, merrily honking a horn and dancing with patrons. What he lacked in clowning, however, her made up for in amazing feats. Without the fears of a normal human mind to hold him back, Orren could be convinced to try just about any stunt. He'd been hurt many times, and almost lost a foot on one occasion, but he was always right back at it.
As a curious crowd gathered, the clown picked up three of his small chainsaws. The tools were completely in tact, and to prove this, the young man revved one up and proceeded to cut through a wooden block sitting nearby. This got the attention of the onlookers. Orren turned on the last two, then tossed them up in the air. As he caught them and threw them again, he added the third. The crowd watched with eyes wide with fear as the man juggled the saws as if it were second nature. After a few minutes, however, they began to get bored.
Orren caught on to the fleeting interest of his crowd, and took that as a hint to proceed with his act. The clown began to slowly walk, chainsaws still juggling, making his way towards a three foot unicycle that rested on a stand nearby. He carefully mounted the one wheeled device, then began to peddling around in a small circle. People's interest was once again perked. Would he fall? Would he lose a hand?
To Orren, this act was rather old. He had learned a while back to replace the small unicycle with a giant one, but he needed an assistant willing enough to help him with it. Recently, he had been working on a feat that had never been dared. Orren was slowly working towards riding his small unicycle across a tightrope, while still juggling his saws. He could already do both acts separately, but mixing them proved to be a challenge.
The circus was abuzz as usual. Folks filled the grounds, their laughter and applause in the air as they were bewildered and amazed by what they saw. A clown juggled chainsaws; an unusual performance even for circuses, performers who seemed to dance with shadows and the more usual, but nevertheless fantastic show of those who played with fire. Carston watched it all from the sidelines, hidden away from the circus goers and smiled. It seemed the show was proceeding smoothly, as it often did. A snap in his head had the boy shaking his head softly and sighing before he picked himself off and vanished into the shadows. It seemed his assistance was needed, somewhere and somehow.
Appearing from thin air behind a couple, Carston coughed lightly to catch their attention and bowed as they turned around to face him. “The Circus’s Guide, are you in need of some assistance?” he asked with a voice that practically dripped with charisma. The two glanced at each other, likely confused and untrusting of a man who had appeared out of nowhere, but his attire and voice seemed to be enough to convince them of his credibility. The man was the one who spoke to Carston, “Well yes if you could. We’ve… lost our child in the crowd… Could you help us find her? She’s small, only 4 years old, bright red hair, a few freckles.” Carston simply nodded as her parents described how their child looked and with a swift bow, departed with his task in hand.
It wasn’t difficult for him to find the lost child, even amidst the crowd numbering into the thousands. Walking up to the young child, Carston smiled ruefully at the sight of the young girl on the verge of tears, sniffling as strangers walked all around her. With a single word, both authoritative yet kind, the young child grabbed his hand and Carston swung her lightly onto his shoulders. Walking through the crowd once more, he slipped into the shadows of a tent’s flap and disappeared once more.
Smiling as the mother picked up the young girl who rushed over; Carston met the father’s eyes and gave a small nod before stepping back into the rushing crowd. The man seemed to want to thank him, say something, but Carston was never one for getting thanked. As he was swept away by the sea of circus goers, Carston turned his eyes to the Chicago skyline. How much has this world changed, he wondered as he watched lights fly through the night sky, a bit of longing in his eyes.
George watches the stream of people pass his tent. It never ceased to amaze him how many people actually came to this circus. If only they knew... George shook his head, chuckling slightly and stood up from his stool. It was almost time. His tent was currently closed. Par from the rack of spears and swords on the wall and the wooden stage that was slightly raised from the grassy floor, it was an empty tent. The stage had been specially made. It was almost a small hut in itself, with three walls covering the sides of the tent and the open wall facing the rest of the tent. The rack of spears entirely lined one wall, gleaming slightly in the candlelight. Here, he would perform his act.
He was going to try something new tonight. Some he had been practising for a few months now. It had to be specially imported, made in Germany from some of the finest steel. A 4-foot long needle, sharp at a point and shiny. He would be swallowing it. No doubt, it would pass through his stomach, not that George cared. Dying was impossible these days. Not needing any special uniform, he went around the tent, lighting the candles that lined the grassy floor. He adjusted his tie, smelled his breathe (it smelled like metal) and smiled. It would be fine.
The 15 minutes went by quickly. The tent was quickly filled with people, all craning their necks to see the dark stage. There were no seats but most people were satisfied with standing. The crowd was jittery, all murmuring to each other. This murmur was stopped when the match was lit. All eyes watched the stage and silence filled the air. George lit each candle on the stage carefully, making sure each was lit properly. 'Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. My name is George Woodall and I shall be entertaining you tonight' said George, bowing slightly. There was an uneasy clap and a few people whispered. The tent was silent again.
'Before I begin, I must warn some of the more squeamish of you may find this uncomfortable. If you feel the need to get sick, please step outside to do so' said George, his eyes scanning the crowd. Not one person moved, as George expected. They never did. They usually got sick later on in the show but at the start no one ever admitted to feeling squeamish.
George walked over to the rack and carefully picked out a knife. He turned back to the crowd. It was a wicked looking knife, jagged on both sides. George looked at the crowd again, each one them hoping he wouldn't do it. But he did. He raised the knife above his mouth, opened wide and dropped it in. There were a few gasps around the crowd as George swallowed it whole. He gulped it down. The clapping began and ended in moments. 'I can do more' winked George. He grabbed a 3-foot long sword, about the length of his knee to his foot. 'But before I do, I need a volunteer. Don't worry, I don't bite' he smiled. A young teenager was pushed to the front by her friends.
She nervously stepped up to the stage. There was some clapping from the crowd, all either relieved that they didn't walk up or looking forward to the oncoming show. 'What's your name?' asked George, slowly swinging the sword around his hand. 'Sarah' gulped the girl. 'Well, Sarah. I need you to do something for me' grinned George. He bent down and whispered into her ear. Her eyes opened wide in surprise but she nodded.
George held the sword in both hands and forced it into his throat. There were groans and a whisper of 'I'm going to be sick...' as the sword forced it's way down Georges throat. George was bent down on his knees, the sword going down through his throat. He motioned to Sarah, who looked a little sick but went ahead anyway. She grabbed the hilt of the sword and began pushing it down his throat, her face more green the ever. The sword was pushed down his throat, until it disappeared completely. George swallowed, as whispers began in the crowd. How did he do that? Why wasn't he in pain? Was he okay?
George stood up and bowed. There was a stunned silence in the crowd as slowly the clapping turned to cheering. Sarah also bowed and quickly ran back to her friends. The rest of the show ent great. He swallowed some more dangerous looking weapons, threw knives at a volunteer, not hitting him once and even spat out the jagged knife at an apple he had thrown into the air, with the apple hitting the the wooden wall. And the crowd loved it. A few got sick, sure but that was the price to pay when watching someone swallow pointy objects. That was what George enjoyed the most about his act. Seeing the different reactions. Then, it came to his last trick. The needle.
'I must admit, ladies and gentlemen. I have not tried this before but hopefully things will be fine. Hopefully' he smiled. He walked over to the now depleted rack and grabbed the needle. '4 feet of steel, made in Germany' he said holding the needle up to his crowd. 'Crafted into a 4-inch wide needle. And I will try to swallow it'. He was tired and his throat hurt but he continued on anyway. The needle didn't usually hurt that much and this was his last show of the night. After this, he could cook some fish and sleep. But for now, he had to swallow this.
His tie was loosened and his face was slick with sweat. A tent filled with 100+ people tended to heat up quickly and this was no exception. It was cool on the outside, as the flap would occasionally flap open and let in some of the cool air. But all that was for later.
George took a deep breathe and held the needle above his now open mouth. He slowly slid it down. But then it went wrong. The needle passed through his uvula. He could taste the metallic blood at the back of his throat but he kept pushing the needle. It almost triggered his gag reflex but luckily the choke never came. The needle was going through his stomach now. He could feel it pass throgh his bladder but there was still a quarter of it to go. His hands moved slowly over the cool, slippery metal. If he dropped it now, it would drop straight through him and make him start spitting up blood. He swallowed, letting the blood pass down his throat, accompanying the needle. He felt the needle open out of the skin in his leg, like a mole coming above ground for the first time. It slowly passed through the fabric of his trouser leg, so he stepped up onto the stool. By now, all was down his throat and he just needed to finish swallowing. The crowd gaped as the needle passed through his body. George grabbed the needle from his trouser leg and began pulling the rest of the needle through his body. It wasn't red with blood, thank goodness but it was slightly slick with some kind of bodily fluid.
He finished pulling the needle out and held it above his head in triumph, jumping down from the stool. The screams of amazement from the crowd made George feel good. One of the reasons he did this job was to keep the crowd happy. He bowed low and kept that way until the last person had left the tent. The crowd chatted excitedly as they left. George slowly closed the flap, the needle still in hand. He carefully placed it back onto it's place on the rack and sat back on the stool, blowing out his cheeks with relief. He picked up his water bottle and took a long drag. All in a nights work...
When Ace went off, Stills came on. He was smoking a cigarette outside the back of the tent he often wondered why a lot of other didn't do so as well. I mean they all wanted to get out right? To see their family? To pursue a dream? Yet none of them seemed too depressed about it. Oh well another of life's great mysteries. He held his torches in the other hand, they were made of metal and had a little candle like thing at the top to be lit. The torches were painted to have some sort of tribal look to them that was like wood but up close you could see that they were fake.
He heard Ace bid the audience adeu and so he walked in. He had a few minutes before the next crowd came on. He took the cigarette out of his mouth and dropped it to the ground before crushing it under his foot. From his back pocket he took the special alcohol that fire breathers drink to make the flames actually turn into rather big balls of fire. He held it in the hand he took his cigarette out with. He sighed as he saw the first small child wander in to be followed by his parents, these were one of the kids he liked. Quiet and calm unlike the brats who demand their parents go where they want them to go and buy them what they want them to buy.
Eventually the stalls were filled and Stills' act started. He looked to the audience before taking his lighter out and lighting the torches. He started to juggle them, simple at first just normal juggling. But then it got a little more complex. He started throwing them up over his head from behind his back and through his legs. the heat didn't bother him he had learned to ignore it. He eventually let two of the torches fall to the floor and held one. He announced to the audience something.
"Ladies and Gentlemen I would recommend you back up a little bit unless you want to have your eyebrows singed off". He said it with a fed up tone, he had said that exact sentence ever since he had started preforming. There was a slight chuckle from the adults and teenagers. Then a hysterical laugh from one of the small children obviously trying to find things his older brother found funny, funny. The adults pulled their children back from where they sat before Stills took a drink from the flask and then blew into the fire. A ball of fire flew out and stopped just in front of the front rows face. With an applaud the audience moved on and so did Stills. He started wandering around whilst smoking.
Lil stepped out of her trailer, the skin tight bodysuit had been traded for a pair of lilac yoga shorts and a black tank top. The chill in the air had never seemed to bother her, so she simply wore clothes that were easy to contort in. Her stage makeup had been wiped off for the most part, and she looked like her normal, carefree self. Not bothering to put on shoes, she walked down the long path that headed to tonight's bonfire location. In one quick motion, she slipped her wavy hair out of it's bun and slid the hair tie around her wrist. After a long nights work it was time to fill her belly with her favorite drug, food. Carny food that is, it wasn't deluxe salads or caviar. Heck, she was lucky if someone decided to make a stew. But despite all this, food was food and all food was good.
Tonight's show was a success, she couldn't believe she was able to pull off the brief silk stunt after her bad experiences with it earlier in her career as a professional freak. This feat had given her a new life, an extra spring to her step. She could only expect to do better from here on out. Heck, maybe she'd finally enter into that releasement contest for the first time. Although, if she happened to be lucky enough to win, she would be stuck with no place to go, and she would probably start aging... which was bad. If she didn't join this circus, she would have most likely died from old-age by now. Maybe I'll just stick to staying in the circus, she thought. Despite all this, Chicago had turned out to be much better than she originally expected. Plus the weather was nice and slightly chilly, just as she liked it. Her barefooted feet pattered against the worn trail, the night didn't scare her. She knew that if something ever tried to follow her she could just slip into the shadows and disappear. This care free additude continued as she twisted her back then did a quick handspring on the path in front of her, this immeditly loosened up her joints.
It took five minutes, but soon she could see the bonfire glowing in the distance. This meant that food was ahead. She quickened her pace into a brisk sprint, not stopping before she was inches away from the fire. It's heat hit her face like a wave. She quickly turned around and ran up to the nearest group of her fellow Carnies.
"The audience loved us," she said semi-dramatically. "Now let's celebrate with some of this circus food!"
Aoi preformed two more perfomances, both of them different, before she closed her tent for the night. As she drew the velvet curtains together, she felt herself smile one of those rare smiles that no one ever got to see except for her brother. There had been a particular little boy that reminded her so much of him tonight that she made sure she gave him an extra gift before he left. Of only he knew how happy he'd made her, even if it was only for a short period of time. Sighing, the smile disappeared and she walked over to her mirror and stared at her reflection for a moment before taking the black flower out of her hair. There, she knew something was off. Standing, she walked over to her dressing room and stepped inside. Time to get out of this movement-limiting costume.
Minutes later, the girl emerged wearing her usual type of clothing: steel toe, black knee high boots that covered most of the red leggings that she wore underneath her black mini skirt. Her red jacket covered the top half of her black tanktop. She wore these types of clothes during the whole year, no matter how cold it got. After putting away her sword, she grabbed her little backpack before exiting her tent. By then, most of her fellow 'inmates' were done with their own performances and were heading in the same direction as her: to the bonfire. Or atleast that's what she referred to it as.
It wasn't a long walk from her tent and she could already smell the delicious items being made by one of the folks that were also skilled at cooking. Once there, Aoi went to her usual spot, which was a little ways away from the main crowd. She tolerated them all but wasn't close enough to any of them to actually sit by them when they ate. Silently, she sat down on a tree stump and pulled out her sketchbook before starting to draw. This is how she passed the time untill she could sucessfully get food without someone trying to start a conversation she couldn't finish. It's not like she didn't want to, it's just that she didn't possess the necessary social skills.