The boy, the last act (part 1/3)
The boy, the last act (part 1/3) short story stories

rowace no YOU are a cactus
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Short story of 3.500-4.000 words about a night circus/freakshow.

The boy, the last act (part 1/3)

by rowace

The boy at the entrance of the abandoned theatre was the first performer every visitor got to see, and even though he looked quite ordinary, there was something unsettling about him.

His dark hair was curly and wild, his jeans were torn at the knees and worn-out at the bottom.

He had circles around his eyes, as if he hadn’t slept in days – not a good sign for a freakshow performer. Over all, he looked like he had been swept from one of the many back alleys in London.

The only thing needed to complete that look, was a split between his teeth, but though they weren’t exactly pearly white and shiny,

they were in the very least regular and better taken care of than one would expect for a boy of his social status.

The thing most unsettling about him, was the strange combination of the image as a kid of the streets, and the expensive waistcoat that was quite literally put on top of that.

Underneath the waistcoat, a faded shirt was visible, as if the waistcoat was used to hide the guy’s social failing.

Visitors felt sorry for him, or despised his slovenly appearance, and he knew that. His entire costume was carefully picked out just to get that reaction from people.

The first glance at the Cirque should be one visitors felt pity for.

Adding to this strange combination was his accent, that threw off everyone that had already put him in a box.

Somewhere between articulate and almost posh, its origins – and therefore the origins of the boy – was ambiguous.

At times, it sounded not far from the accents spoken by the middle class, and though it was always just a tad off, like the rest of his appearance,

it was certainly not something associated with street scum.

And French, he spoke French too, although the visitors wouldn’t find out until much later that evening.

Cirque du Nuit was an illegal show, performing their mishmash of arts and tricks underground, because there was no place in the real world for this band of misfits.

Their lack of place did, however, not mean they couldn’t find an audience. It was surprisingly easy to find people who were willing to watch freaks, even if it was both illegal and immoral.

Underground, no one cared about such politics, and overground most people only pretended to do so.

All visitors were required to wear masks to create a semi-anonymous atmosphere.

Thus, there was a stark difference between this nameless crowd and the artists, the freaks,

who stood in the bright spotlight of the stage with no way to escape to the dark they were always pushed into.

There was no woman with a beard, no fortune-telling Traveller lady, no mange-tout who could eat spoons and scissors.

This set of freaks was authentic and real, not a cheap rip-off on the ever so popular show theme. Cirque du Nuit had no time for swindlers and con men.

A woman with gills, who played a big part in the shows near the coast, when they had access to lakes, rivers or the ocean.

Here in the middle of London, she was a bit out of place and lost, but soon the circus would travel onwards.

Two twenty-something brothers, advertised as the fire-born twins.

They played with fire the way a child would play with a pet, or a piece of paper that had been thrown away by the adults around him.

No one could truly appreciate the wonders that fire could bring until the fire-born twins had played their part.

Even their eyes seemed to be filled with a burning desire for destruction, twinkling and mischievous, ready to break out and cause hammock.

A mute woman, who had grey hair despite the fact she was only in her forties.

For a reason she had never had cared to explain, a thin, black fishing line was sewn through her upper lip and bled when she would open her mouth too widely.

With his nineteen years the boy was the youngest of the cast. He went by the name of Rafi-Morris Whitehall, although he had stolen his middle name from a guy he had once met.

He couldn't remember who Morris had been, or why he had taken the name. But for whatever reason, it had stuck and it was now his.

It was the special talent of Mr. Eric Galloway to spot remarkable talents from miles and miles away. He had first met Rafi-Morris when the boy was seventeen, too young to join the Cirque.

The boy had tried to pick his pockets with the most remarkable technique Galloway had ever seen, and he was instantly interested in him.

No one had ever dared to steal from Galloway; he had an air about him that spoke in clear language to every street rat that came close.

But Rafi had not been affected by the man's intimating posture or body language and had walked up to him for some seemingly innocent chitchat.

As he talked to Galloway, his hands moved all over the place in exciting, busy gestures.

He touched his conversation partner time and time again, but integrated every move in his elaborate talkative body language, so that it felt only natural for him to brush,

bump and grab onto Galloways arm.

When he finally said his goodbyes to the man, he disappeared around the street corner with his wallet and shiny pocket watch safely tucked away in the inner pocket of his coat.

Three streets down his calm escape route, Galloway caught up to him and had given him an interesting choice: to join his night circus, or to turn himself in at the police station.

The choice hadn’t been hard.

Halfway through the show, the boy showed himself again.

To match his waistcoat, he now wore a black velvet top-hat, simple in design and not as high as the ones worn by most of the fake freak show hosts.

It was slightly tilted on his untameable curls. Worn by anyone else it would have looked dapper – with the boy, it brought the feeling of something unfinished, though no one could pinpoint why.

The boy hadn’t been on stage and most people had forgotten about him, too occupied with the wonders that had taken place in front of their very eyes.

"Would milady like to buy a little souvenir, a trinket to remember her of this magical night? Only twenty-seven pounds for a programme book."

Coins switched hands.

Despite the unsettlement he seemed to cause, Rafi-Morris was naturally charismatic and therefore managing to get extra money from the audience in between acts was his job.

He hated the work and despised the costumers that so hungrily gave away their money to trivial knickknacks of the freaks they would call repugnant as soon as they had set foot outside

the theatre. But he knew his place in the Cirque and bowed to its rules, banning his disgust for the greedy, spoilt audience from his face as he handed them their change.

The lamps that lighted the stage weren’t sultry, but Julietta’s forehead was beaded with sweat nonetheless as she retreated between the wings.

It was partly because of the in strenuous performance she had given, but the warmth of the stage lights had certainly played their part as well. Smiling lightly, she nodded to Mr.

Galloway as he walked passed her to take her place on the stage. Neither of them said anything; he simply returned the smile.

With widely spread arms and generous compliments to both his talented misfits as the undeserving crowd, Galloway closed the show.

Afterwards, he would go over everything in detail with his cast and crew, undermining all earlier compliments,

but for now the performers enjoyed their little moment as the climbed back on stage and bowed for the audience. The boy wasn’t with them.

The stage lights grew dim, but the theatre lights on the sides of the auditorium only started to burn at half their capacity.

Nevertheless, the visitors took this as a sign that the show had ended. Part of the audience started packing up their belongings and souvenirs and stood up to leave.

They would never get to see the boy in action, the last act.

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