Mackenzie had been trapped in illusions since youth. But is that a torment...or a GIFT?
What Happened at the Circus
I sank into a beanbag chair, a gazed look on my face, fingers drumming a staccato on the wall. A sparrow chirped madly outside the window and I bury my head in a cushion. The coolness of the soft fabric calmed me instantly and I relax, temporarily at ease.
I was a shy child even at childhood. According to my mum, it was "tolerable" at first. It became serious when I started shutting myself out when I was six. Everyone thought it was because my dad passed, but that was just part of it.
When I was six, my mum had bought me to the bakery before dad died. With its rosy lights and watering aroma, the bakery seemed to belong in a story. I was too busy nibbling on a blueberry muffin to notice anything. Then, in the heartbeat I looked up, a blurred vision of a dark basement flashed before my eyes. I stumbled and fall, scraped my knee and screamed for my mum, who's arms were around me at once. But nobody saw the basement that I said. I thought I was seeing things.
But as I grew the visions came more and more frequently. At the coffee shop. In the cinema. Beside the grocery store. They started to became clear and more realistic. Whenever there are crowds the visions came. I was flustered, not even confiding in my mother. Sometimes I cannot tell what's real and what isn't. So I enclose myself in my own private bubble. Never raising my hand in class. Always keeping my head down in the cafeteria. Ignoring the strange looks thown my way. I think I never talked to half the homeroom in middle school. I dread the illusions, but I could not ignore the exhilaration swooping in my stomach when they came.
"Mackenzie, dear, do come down for lunch," my mother's voice was smooth and coaxing. The kind doctors reserve for unstable patients. I guess that's how everyone sees me. An odd girl probably with social anxiety disorders.
But I came down anyway and took a seat at the dining table, squirming slightly in my stiff mahogany chair. Picking at a piece of bread before dipping it into gravy, I stared at the soup stain on the linen tablecloth. The bread sticks in my throat like glue, and I tried to force it down with a mouthful of coldslaw.
I started violently and almost choked. "Uh, yes," I mumbled, fidgeting under the table.
"Well...I got a spare circus ticket from a friend. Tomorrow one o'clock. You haven't seen a circus show, have you? It's fun. You can have a break," my stepfather offered, slurping his beef stew and watching me carefully.
I shook my head, of course. Watching a cicus show is probably as high on my to-do list as watching horror movies. There are so much people that I'm sure to see the illlusions. Once, if I'm lucky.
"I thought you'd say so. Well, it works either way. You can help your mom out with the cooking. Her friend Roberta is coming tommorow," he shrugged and turned his attention to a jar of sweet pickles.
I froze in mid-action.
It was not that I dislike Roberta. She just doesn't get me. It's really annoying - and I know my next saying will make me seem like a jerk - to have someone hovering around you and pestering you with questions about school and friends when you just want to be alone.
I struggled for a moment between my options.
"The circus is just a place that you can sit back and enjoy a show, you know," my mum added casually.
I took a deep breath, trying not to direct my gaze at the wall. "I-Of course I accept the ci-circus ticket...thanks." I got out.
My eyes rake the numbers plastered on the backs of the stiff, plastic chairs, plopping down heavily with a huff on the chair labelled thirty-two. The circus tent was packed with audience for the show, their chatter a painful buzz in my ears.
I glance uneasily at the girl beside me, our chairs placed so close that we looked joined at the hips. She was, fortunately, quiet. Her wispy hair was kept back from her face with a hairband, her eyes a startling green. Her velvet frock was the deepest shade of purple that I had ever seen.
Before I had a better look at her, a stout little man stode onto the stage. He had so many feathers stuck in the band of his hat that he resembled a peacock. There was a few appreciative chuckles from the crowd.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the little man announced in a booming voice, beaming. "Let the show begin!"
His words sent a ripple of excitement through the crowd, and a clown bounced onto the stage, dragging a basket of huge red balls behind him. I had to admit, the way he tickled the audience, the way he snatched the ball out of the air with precision, was riveting. So were the next dozen performers. Soon everyone was doubled up, giggling hysterically, or else with their mouth gaping open in amazement.
Everyone but the girl beside me.
She simply stared at the stage as if going into a trance, appearing almost bored. It was only when the last performer made an entrance - a lean man in a handsome suit - did she suddenly sat up. She gazed at the man with such intensity that it was unnerving, fingering a silver chain wound several times round her neck.
The man turned out to be a magician. Grinning broadly he sidled into a man-sized box, closing the door with a dull clunk.
A split second later, his assitant yanked open the doors, and the audience gasped when they saw he was gone. We whipped round, and the magician gave a gaily wave at the back of the room.
Then his eyes locked on the girl beside me.
For a heartbeat I saw his eyes narrow, his lips pulled back from his teeth in a snarl. The girl beside me did not move a muscle, but the power that radiates from her was paralysing. The man seemed to sense it too, and he hesitated -
Then the world disorientated, and I was dragged into nothingness, shapes and colours streaking past me in a blur. For a moment I was stranded in a freezing wasteland, teeth chattering on end, before I was whisked away again into a humid jungle. I had distorted visions of the girl and the the man shimmering in and out of different dimensions, and in a matter of seconds a blood-curdling scream reverberated around me...
I was back in my seat, and all round me people were flooding out of the circus tent, babbling about the show.
"Didn't you see that amazing magician? Appeared out of nowhere!"
"He's a hit, for sure!"
I was struck dumb. Why is everyone acting as if nothing had happened? Is this a hoax? Or my mind toying with me?
A hand gripped my waist and I swivelled round. It was the girl beside me just now, but her expression was drained, panting as she trained her emerald eyes on me.
"You saw what happened. What really happened." It was not a question.
I nodded mutely.
She scrutinised me derisively for a moment, making a decision, swivelling round to check if anyone was in earshot.
"Okay," she sighed. "Listen up. Have you ever heard of the word 'Illusionist'?"
"Like... like, someone who creates ill-illusions, sort of like a magician." I stammered. It's been too long since I last talked to strangers.
"Not exactly." She snorted, nose wrinkled. "Illusionists trap people in illusions that really happen. It's...complicated."
"Why am I not trapped?" I blurted out, surprising myself.
She shook her head, bewildered. "I don't know. Listen. We'll keep in touch, okay?"
With that, she turned on her heels and vanished in the crowd.