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A chapter for a novel I have been writing for some time now.
The grand majestic doctor Zeuz was standing in de ring of his circus. The tent was packed full of people, as far as he could tell by looking into the bright stagelights. They were cheering. The last act, Jessamine Lorayne and her exotic animals, had just finished. “That act was always a hit, Zeuz thought, “if only they knew the truth”. For a split second his face stood serious and grave, but no one had noticed, the fake smile washing away any trace of what he truly felt. The show was over, at least this part, and it had been grand. He bowed and called on his artists to take the stage one by one to receive their well-earned, local, fame and glory.

“Ulysseus Clarcke!” Zeus said, “the duke of laughter!”, whose real name was Elijah Wheeler and who was not a duke of anything”, he thought to himself. The title “Duke” would strongly imply that Ulysseus, as he wanted to be called, even off stage, had some form of authority over something. The truth was that Ulysseus was a drunk that prided himself with being with the circus the longest. He figured he did not have to listen to anyone because he knew everything there was to know. The fact that almost no one ever laughed at his jokes or his show, and everybody scolded him, made no difference. The only reason Zeuz had not fired him was because he could not do so. Ulysseus was a “close friend”of the only person that had more say in this circus than Zeuz himself. Zeuz only knew this person as Lord Haidrian, as he introduced himself on the only occasion they had met. Lord Haidrian paid for this damned freakshow, asking only in return that no questions be asked about him, the money or its purpose and that, when the time came, they would help him do whatever it is that he wanted. Ulysseus was more of a slave than a friend, dancing to Lord Haidrian’s every command, the latter being like a puppet master pulling the strings of his puppet, making Ulysseus walk, run, jump or squirm with just a twist of his hand.

“The Marvelous miss Zirkonia Morelli!”, he exclaimed. Miss Morelli was a fortune teller and had the “ability” to converse with the dead. This latter part was not true of course, since she always used someone from the circus that was undercover in the audience that played his part well. Zeuz smiled as he figured “Zirkonia” being the perfect name for her. As beautiful as a diamond, but just a fake. But then again, you cannot entertain a crowd with the fortune of an individual, so her real talent was saved for after the show. That talent was the reading of the tarot cards to predict the near future, the reading of palms to predict someone’s life expectancy and finally the reading of the crystal ball to unlock the deepest secrets of the soul. That last talent was only used for the costumers that Zirkonia deemed “special”. What made them special she could not say, it could only be felt and only by her. Although most people remained sceptical about the trueness of her gift, Zeuz could not deny she had been right on several, if not a lot of, occasions, predicting what would happen or what would be said, before it actually happened. He trusted her enough to ask her for advice on important and personal matters and as such, they had become very close. So close in fact that the other carnies were worried that she held sway over him.

Next up was the fire breather, whose real name was unknown to anyone. “Shaitan Saghir!”, meaning little devil in the language of the deserts. Not only did he breathe fire, he also walked on coals and, at the end of his show, he “ate” the flames of the torches. How he did these things without getting hurt, nobody knew. Zeus had studied his act on numerous occasions but could not figure it out. As a matter of fact, no one knew anything about him, as he remained quiet most of the time. The only sounds that came out of his throat were grunts and growls, mainly when on stage, that sounded more bestial than human. Another mystery was how they had found Shaitan Saghir while traveling from one place to another, or maybe it was more accurate to state that he had found them. It was on an unpaved country road and it was night and the going was hard because of all of the pits and bumps. They had not seen or met another soul for hours. Shaitan appeared out of nowhere, as conjured from thin air, out of the darkness. “We almost ran him over!”, Zeuz thought, “He walked straight up to me and stuck out his hand, growling his name”. “I felt a shiver running down my spine when I looked into his eyes and, hesitating, I took his hand and shook it”. “All Shaitan did then was smile a smile as wide as the road, his teeth as white as the moon, and hitch a ride on one of the wagons of the circus”. Zeuz was glad they had picked him up though, as he was of great value as an entertainer and a hard worker off stage.
“Ethel and Joe – The Eternal Duet!”, Zeuz shouted next. Ethel and Joe were conjoined twins, but unlike any you have ever seen or read about. They shared a single body, one pair of arms, one pair of legs, one of each organ. Two heads on one body. They were also hermaphrodites and infertile. Ethel controlled the right arm and leg, while Joe had to make do with the left side. They played the Cello very well, which seemed to be the only thing they could do without wanting, but not being able, to kill each other. A man and a woman, forever joined together, creation gone wrong. The rib still inside Adams body when God created Eve. Ethel controlled the right arm and leg, while Joe had to make do with the left side. They played the Cello very well, which seemed to be the only thing they could do without wanting, or being able, to kill each other. They stumbled around the ring with crutches, bickering all the way.

“Jessamine Lorayne and her… without her exotic animals!” Zeuz exclaimed. Laughter rose up from the crowd. “That is more laughter than Ulysseus got all year”, Zeuz humoured himself. Jessamine used to ride her round on the back of the great white elephant, followed by the tigers and the two monkeys “Dr Jekyll” and “Mr. Hyde”. Since the death of the elephant two years ago, it became too dangerous to take the tigers out of their cage when Jessamine was walking. They had tried to attack her, but were stopped short by some strange incident which had made them crawl away with their tail between their legs. As the tigers rushed in and were about to jump old Jessamine, she turned around and just stood there, staring straight into the tigers eyes. If it is true what they say, that animals can look deep into the soul and see a person’s true nature, Zeuz did not want to know Jessamine’s, for the tigers froze on the spot before fleeing like scared kittens from a mad dog. The two monkeys remained however, and they had earned their names by their ongoing scheme which took place after the show, when the people were leaving. Amidst the crowd, Dr Jekyll would go around with a hat, begging for money and when the good people of the audience gave him some he would do a little dance to distract them. Mr Hyde, being the “evil” side of Dr Jekyll, would then sneak up behind the distracted people to steal their wallets, having seen where they kept it when they had put the cash in the hat. Where the money went Zeuz did not know. All he knew was that it was not going to the circus and he only hoped that Jessamine was saving it for a new elephant.
The last ones to make their round were the beautiful “ladies”, Scarlett & Skye. They started out as a genuine act named “The Singin’ and Swingin’ Scarlett&Skye”, trying to sing and dance to music in a sensual way. When they discovered they had no talent for dancing, mainly because they both did not have a feeling for rhythm and synchronicity, they focussed on singing. However, their mothers had not blessed them with the voice of the nightingale, more like that of the crow, god knows they tried hard. So when the singing and dancing failed, all that was left was to use what mother nature had given them. During the main show, they acted as stage hands. Holding hoops, handing out the torches and enthusing the audience, but when this show had finished and they had made their round, they hurried to a tent next to the main stage, where it became apparent their singing and dancing act had transformed into a striptease show that, depending on the formation of the crowd that specific night, ended with or without a total blow off of their clothes. Naked dancing will only get you so far however, and what they did discover is that there is much money to be made by giving in to your nymphomania. Their show was just beginning. The funny part was that they had not renamed their “show” as they figured that the moaning in their horizontal ways could be seen as singing and the rocking of the beds as swinging.

As soon as the main tent had been cleared of people, Zeuz made his way across the circus grounds which consisted of the main tent, three smaller tents of which one was used for the act of Scarlett&Skye, several booths to accommodate food and entertainment such as cotton candy and popcorn, a shooting range, sugared apples, bananas dipped in melted chocolate, mechanized horseracing (which was rigged), balloon animals and various others as well as a big Ferris wheel that was covered in small lights making it possible to see it from miles away. While walking, Zeus stopped at every booth to talk to his crew before finally reaching his trailer. The last rays of sunlight drew long shadows of the people milling around, the numerous light poles and the large and small tents. The entire scene was bathed in liquid gold that seemed to greatly enhance the sense of magic that already commanded a strong presence in this place. Zeuz stood gazing at this spectacle for a while before deciding to enter his trailer. When he opened his door and placed a foot upon the first of the two steps, he saw a woman coming towards him in the corner of his eye. As he turned his head, the woman moved with it, remaining in the corner as if she was trapped there. He suddenly realized the world had gone mute, for all sound had gone. The Ferris wheel was still turning, people were still walking and laughing, but he could no longer hear them. All he could hear were the footsteps of the womanly figure that came towards him. As she approached, coming ever closer, Zeuz started to feel anxious. “What the hell is happening?” he said aloud as he frantically tried to get a straight look at the woman, turning his head as if spastic. When she was right next to him she raised her arm and pointed, her finger being very close to his eyes, distorting the image in such a way that it made her finger seem huge. Zeuz stood there, dazed and perplexed, not knowing what to do. It is, for a man, truly unnerving to feel this helpless and as such, his knees started to shake and he became lightheaded. He shut his eyes and was leaning hard against the doorpost. A few minutes had passed and nothing had happened nor would happen for, when Zeuz opened his eyes, the woman that had haunted his vision had disappeared. Zeuz was panting, his heart racing, as he lifted himself into his trailer. Once inside, he sat down in his only chair and tried to process what he had just seen. He struggled to remain conscious, feeling himself slip into that dark abyss of dreamless sleep.

He was startled by a sudden knock on the door of his trailer. “Are you alright, sir?”, Zeuz heard someone ask. He tried to answer but found is words to dry up in his mouth. “Doctor Zeuz, we have to pack up and go” the voice said. “Pack up?” Zeus shouted, “it is still evening!”. “No sir, the sun has been up for a few hours now”. Zeuz felt as if he had dozed off for a few minutes and could not believe it was morning already. As he opened the blinds, he was blinded by the harsh light of the morning sun, washing away all traces of the weird incident that had occurred the evening before.
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