The Circus of the Golden Circle

“Ladies and Gentleman!” The echoing, dulcet tones of a man billowed across the damp cobbles stones of an obscure London side street. Gas lamps flickered in the slight drizzle that ran down their glass defence like fat tears; casting an eerie orange glow across the wet surface of the world.

The man’s long Stockman coat flapped about the mind like the wings of a giant bat, his white face the only thing that shone in the darkness; his wide grin framed by long black hair and a towering top hat.

“Ladies and Gentleman, your attention!” the few people who were out at this late hour slid past him like a group of eels trying to avoid the hungry gaze of a predator. Not to be dissuaded from his mission he slinked forward, his suit and tie wet from his hours in the rain and approached a gentleman who had been minding his own business, smoking a cigarette against the window of a shop.

“Good sir. You have the mark of a Gentleman who enjoys the thrill of the fantastical.” The man took a long drag on his cigarette and blew out a long, thoughtful puff of black smoke. He didn’t say a word.

“Illuminate your mind Sir with tales of old evils from dark times long forgotten. I can promise you an evening that is unparalleled with delights and thrills the like of which you have never seen before! Magic and mystery await.” The street seller poured over his hands, moving them in ways that looked mystical and foreign to his uninterested one man audience.

The door behind them pinged open, the bell above the wooden frame announcing the exit of a petite lady. Her brown hair was pulled tight and covered with a light blue bonnet, lace decorating the delicate edges and exaggerating her large green eyes. She hitched her black, full length skirt up as she stepped delicately over the threshold, showing over her brown patent shoes for the world to see. The man offered her his jacketed arm and the street seller sensed that he was loosing his grip on the situation.

“Lady! A beauty such as you must be interested in adventures? A woman of such rapture, and yet I sense, one of great intellect as well.” He moved swiftly, almost too swiftly and stood before the couple.

“What’s this?” She asked, tugging on her leather gloves as she spoke and offering the curious man before her a baffled smile.

“Nothing Lilly, just a street vagabond attempting to lure us in with pretty words. We’d best be back before the weather turns for the worst.” Her surly partner interjected. He rapped his cane on the cobbles in impatience, feeling the rim of his bowler hat beginning to wet his slicked back hair.

“No Madame! I simply aim to entertain and delight. Our little travelling company of theatre hands is in London for one night only. We promise to dazzle, entertain and enthral in ways you have never experienced.” He kissed her hand with a flourish.

“Oh Jeremy, lets!” She exclaimed, clasping her companion’s arm. “It sounds like such a lark. Oh please lets!”

Jeremy’s eyes moved from his eager young wife to the sly street seller, he didn’t like the way his eyes twinkled with the promise of mischief but he never had been able to deny his girl anything she’d asked for.

“How much?” He sighed, putting his hand in the inner pocket of his dinner jacket.

“For you Sir, not a penny’s charge. I insist.” The seller grinned a sickly smile and ushered them a couple of steps down the road and into a creaking wooden door that sat a little crooked on its ancient hinges.

“Well would you look at that? Isn’t it marvellous Jeremy?” Lilly gasped, full of delight and wonder as they shuffled into their seats. The room was rounded, like a giant lecture hall filled with uncomfortable wooden benches that stacked up and up the great tall walls. Dim light from candles and the odd gas light flickered in the darkness making the round clearing in the centre of the room just visible. It was unexpectedly busy.

“I can’t see a damn thing in here.” Jeremy muttered, straining into the gloom to pick out the odd face in the crowd.

“Hush dear!” His wife, tapped him on the arm, embarrassed by his harsh language. “It’s probably for dramatic effect.” Jeremy huffed in disgruntled annoyance.

“Ladies and Gentlemen of London Town. I bid you welcome, to the greatest show you shall ever have the pleasure to witness!” It was the street seller again, standing on an old wooden crate in the centre of the room. His tall, black top hat stood imposingly on top of his head as he swirled a great black cape about his skinny, pale frame. No one had seen him come onto the stage; it was like he’d just dropped out of the sky. “A world of mystery, wonder and a little fear awaits you. Come, join us, follow us on our journey. Welcome, to the Circus of the Golden Circle!”

A mass of bodies spread out onto the stage, glittering costumes of all manner swirled around in the half light, winking at the audience. From somewhere towards the back of the room the whining, pitiful sound of a violin being badly played echoed across the vast space. Lily shuddered a little at the sound.

The characters on stage swirled around, contortionists crammed themselves into tiny jars, their crooked limbs bowing and bending like broken branches behind the glass. The fire eater, swallowed mouthful after mouthful of scorching flames, barely blinking an eye as he set his enormous beard on fire; his endless smile forever grinning out at the audience. One tall, willowy woman, towered over the crowd on giant stilts, balancing on one precarious leg.

There didn’t seem to be much plot, nothing amazing or exciting. The frozen grins on each and every pale, white face serving as the only chilling element to the whole charade. Something was not quite right.

Jeremy scanned the scene, and thanked God that he hadn’t paid for this tirade of drivel until something caught his eye. The chandelier winked at him from the ceiling, catching the light as it gently swung to and fro from its chain. Its gilt design was battered and worn, half the diamonds missing and not a single candle alight in any of its holders. He peered and leaned forward. There was something, some shape sitting atop the fixture. A figure, someone up there, holding onto the chain and watching the crowd below, shrouded in darkness where no one could see them.

He sat up, suddenly a little alarmed. He went to tap his wife and thought better of it, no good in worrying her just yet; it may be part of the show. Glancing around into the crowd he watched as dark, hooded figures streaked behind the back rows, weaving past each other as silently as the wind across a field. They were everywhere, they were surrounded.

Turning slightly he made to grab his wife’s hand; he didn’t like where this was going, the sooner they could leave the better. As he turned  his feet squelched with the movement. He balked and looked down, turning his once shiny shoes into the light. Something was splattered across the dark surface, reaching down he swiped one finger across the shoe and brought it close to his face. He leapt back in surprise at the blood that dripped from his finger tip and pooled under his nail.

“What is it darling?” His wife’s worried face floated into vision, he could see some of the other audience members starting to crane round to look at him too. They all had that same, sickening grin.

“We need to leave.” He hissed. “Now.”

“The show hasn’t finished yet.” She pouted, oblivious to the many faces now trained on them. Their deathly white skin reflecting light like death himself had visited them.

“Trust me.” He dragged her to her feet roughly, suddenly painfully aware that the music had stopped. Putting a hand protectively around Lilly’s waist he pulled her to him and glared around at the sea of faces. Every single one in the room was turned to face them, staring, sizing them up like wild dogs about to leap in for the kill.

“Jeremy?” Lilly’s voice was shaky; suddenly frightened as she began to grasp the gravity of the situation.

Something hit him on the head, only lightly but enough to get his attention. He looked down as a droplet of glass from the chandelier fell onto the floor with a tiny thump as loud as the explosion of a gun in the silence. With a racing heart and a stomach full of dread he looked up, slowly. The chandelier had stopped swinging, the man upon it leaned into the light displaying his taught, ancient face. Unhuman and ungodly, wild with delight and anticipation. He craned forward and tilted his head to one side, his long, black hair falling over his face a little and exposing sharp, pointed ears. He barred his teeth and in that moment both Lilly and Jeremy realised, the chase was up.

The Littlest Vampire and The Kellyfish

The Littlest Vampire had gone for a swim in the sea. In the darkness that surrounded him the reflection of the moon on the soft, rippling waves shone like rays through the murky water. A slight breeze ruffled his hair and grabbed playfully at the edges of the cape he was still wearing.

He swayed in time with the gentle hum of the sea lapping up against the sands and kicked his feet back and forth, curling his toes in the wooshing waves.

Until, suddenly, something brushed past his leg. Something wet and slippery and soft. His eyes widened with surprise and he bent his head to look down into the dark, deep waters.

For a long time nothing stirred, the top of the water undisturbed until something caught his keen little vampire eyes. A little blur of white, and a pair of big round eyes blinked up at him with sparling curiosity.

The little vampire, stared in amazement.

“Hullo.” He mumbled. The creature smiled and bobbed further up out the water.

The Littlest Vampire’s eyes grew round as saucers; she was the most beautiful jellyfish he had ever seen. Stripes of bright purple streaked the top of her perfectly white head, her green eyes shone as bright as the deep seaweed. Her little tentacles, swirled delicately in the currents, glowing with a slight hint of blue.

“I’m The Littlest Vampire.” He said pointing to his chest with one white finger. The jellyfish seemed to smile and jumped a little in excitement.

“My name is Kellyfish!” She said, delightedly, bobbing up and down and twirling in the water.

The little vampire giggled as flecks of water splashed up into his face. “Will you be my friend, Kellyfish?” he asked, desperate to have a little friend to play with.

“Kellyfish loves vampires!” She exclaimed, doing a little back flip for good measure.

The Little Vampire grinned as wide as he could, showing off his little pointy teeth. For what seemed like hours they raced each through the waves, practiced their best underwater handstands and competed to see who could hold their breath the longest; being dead of course the little vampire always won.

After some time the Kellyfish seemed keen to be getting on her way; the freedom of the ocean enticing. The little vampire wanted to come too, he’d been having such fun he couldn’t stand for it to end. It wasn’t even nearing dawn yet and she didn’t seem to mind as he swam behind her, Further and further out into the sea they went until the shore just seemed to be a white spec on the horizon.

The Littlest Vampire dipped his head under the waves, taking in the sight of the fish and the coral waving about in the current. He bobbed along in time to their gentle sway. He followed the Kellyfish down and down and down and down into the blackness until the only thing he could see was her bright blue glow lighting the way. Until suddenly, a light shone out into the gloom.

As he swam closer and closer the shape of a giant castle appeared before him, all the windows were lit with a soft, golden light and gentle singing could be heard echoing across the chasm. Colourful fish swam around the structure and in and out of its little windows and doors. The Littlest Vampire gazed up at it in awe.

The castle was grand, but nothing compared to the mermaids that lived inside. Theirlong tails sparkled and shone in greens, blues, reds, pinks and yellows. His eyes, round as saucers could barely keep up with all the swirling colour as they all swam up to say hello.

They took his hands and swam with him through the great, green tangle of seaweed at the bottom of the ocean. The light from the moon poured in in great streaming strips that glowed through the foggy abyss. In front of him the Kellyfish wiggled and waved in the current, leading the way with her little blue glow.

They sang songs together and the mermaids showed him all the sights of the ocean. They taught him how to weave shells into their hair and how to tickle a bream until he sung.

As the moon began to wane in the sky the mermaids and the Kellyfish took the Little Vampire back to the beach. He hugged the little jellyfish tight and promised he’d return soon for more underwater adventures.

They waved goodbye to each other happy and contented. He watched as her little blue glow bobbed in the distance before disappearing quietly under the waves.

Bar Brawl

I sit with my head in my hands at the bar. The hard wood under my elbows has made the length of my arms go numb; I can feel my own pulse in my temples, thwump, thwump, thwump. I’m getting a headache.

The place is disgusting, I’ve flicked at least half a dozen dodgy looking crumbs off the wood work in front of me, the glass that held my double, straight whisky is murky around the edges, like a fine mist crept across the cold glass.

My daughter sits on the floor next to my bar stool, playing with something in the dirt and drinking something red from her sippy cup. She’s a little too big for it now at six but it saves time and effort and it’s the only thing that seems to placate her these days. She’s not dealing very well with the changes I’ve been making recently.

Maybe it seems odd to you, bringing a child to a dive like this, and believe me, it’s a dive, but I have all these parenting duty things that I need to do. I also need a drink, a good stiff drink that’ll clear my head. Then I can go home and focus on all the things I need to get done. I can’t seem to think straight these days.

The cheap lino that covers the bar is peeling away, bubbling like some great, ulcerating blister where something wet has got under its skin. My long nails chip away at it, bursting its edges and peeling away the rotting flesh; it’s satisfying, like opening a wound that never healed. Something black and sticky lingers underneath it, it reminds me, prods me into a darker corner of my mind that I’ve been trying very, very hard to avoid. Funny how the most mundane of things do that to you isn’t it?

I’ve been waiting what seems like a life time for this little bit of peace and quiet, so when this large, sweating lump of a man heaves himself down onto the stool next to me the anger begins to spark in the pit of my stomach, like two whet stones clanging together down there in the darkness. I wish you’d just fuck off.

I brace myself for what I know will be a dazzling opening line, a “hey-there-good-looking” dash away from cheesy that I am longing to avoid. He drops a giant, bear like hand onto the bar, demanding the bar tender’s attention. It’s hairy, almost black and his fingers are chipped, chapped and dingy looking. Small black particles of dust cling the under slide of the flaps of skin like little lodgers. It makes my skin crawl.

“I’ll take another beer Dom, and whatever the lady’s havin'” He slurs ever so slightly, the hint of a man used to heavy drinking. The years, tell on his voice and I don’t even have to look at him to know he’s a full blown, alcoholic fuck up.

“I’m not having anything, thanks.” I mutter into my empty glass, rolling the last drop around, wondering what would happen if I smashed it over his obviously meaty head. Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off.

“Double vodka, straight.” The man says and I feel that anger burning up, wracking up the heat. Asshole.

“I said I didn’t want anything.” I said a little louder, sounding tetchy and strained even to my own ears.

“Just trying to help a lady out. You look like you need one. Are you really going to say no?” He waves the fresh glass of clear liquid under my nose. The smell hits me like a freight train running at a hundred miles an hour; something black is floating in it. I can see the sweat from his fingers bunching on the slippery surface.

Finally, I turn to face him. His grin is lopsided, the half slide of a drunk. He stinks of course, his red checkered shirt flecked with paint and dirt; a labouring man. I mop of brown hair fell in a slap dash fashion across his pudding face. The slight flush of red in his checks broken up by flecks of a dark, peppery beard. The round swell of his face was a little too close to mine, too intrusive, his green watery eyes gazing intently at me out of all that pink.

“Look, I don’t want it ok? I’m just trying to have a quiet drink in peace.” I hissed under my breath. This dumb fuck will get himself killed if he doesn’t make himself disappear.

“Hey. What’s your problem, huh? Can’t a man get a little respect these days!” He was shouting now, raising his rolling, slurring voice over the sound of the other drunks stumbling over themselves for their next drink. It fell quiet; the karaoke machine still played It’s a Long Way to Tipperary on an endless, grating loop. It’s a long way to Tipperary, it’s a long way to go! That woman has a voice that makes me want to silence her, permanently.

“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get out of my face.” I snarled, turning my whole body to face him now. He’s shaking a little, with rage or alcohol I’m not sure but he’s definitely unsteady. He’s about to unleash an ungodly verbal tirade when something tugs on my trouser leg, urgent and demanding.

“Mummy, I’m hungry.” My daughter stares up at me with wide, saucer eyes. Their icy, blue depth looking curiously up at me, my trouser leg still clutched in her vice like grip. Her sippy cup hangs from her; red stains the collar of the white dress that she’s wearing. Her brown hair is matted but it still shines in the half light of the bar. The man looks down at her and wrinkles his nose a little at her dishevelled appearance but dismisses her almost as quickly as he acknowledged her existence.

“Your mum’s busy kid.” He shuffles himself closer and I feel a little of his spit land on my cheek. I want to scrap it off and take half my skin with it but I make myself stare him down, refusing to be the first one to crack.

“Mummy. I’m hungry!” She tries again, yanking my leg off the stool. She’s welling up now, great, fat tears forming in her tiny eyes. I shove the man back as I stand up. Luckily for me he’s too drunk to maintain his balance and he falls backwards just enough for me to slink past, grabbing my girl’s hand and I haul her kicking and screaming out the front door.

“HUNGRY. HUNGRY!” God not now, not now.

We hurry around the corner of the bar, down a side alley. The darkness presses in on us, it’s thick and intense, suffocating. The only light reflecting from my daughter’s bright, angry eyes.

I can hear another, stumbling pair of feet pounding after me and I know it’s him. I quicken my steps but it’s too late. A great barrelling force almost knocks me off my feet as he strides towards me, too drunk to stop properly and grabs my right arm in a tight grip.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” he’s practically forcing his mouth into the side of my face, swaying and angry. I’m pulling and tugging, wriggling and squirming to get away. I swear and curse at this huge, unmovable mass; the little girl in my arms doesn’t move. She’s hissing, quietly, but with a force of anger behind it that I’ve come to recognise. Another second passes before the man hears it too.

He pulls away from me, loosening his grip a little. It takes him a second to focus his eyes on her; the small, hissing bundles in my arms, squirming now to get at him like a giant ball of hungry snakes.

“What the fuck?” He mumbles, reaching up to rub his eyes with his free hand. It never reaches its destination.

Before I can stop her, not that I really want to, she’s gone, leaps from my arms and she’s clinging to him. Her head buries itself into his podgy neck, her sharp teeth hitting the mark and red spraying out across the floor and the walls. He wriggles, squeaking like a little pig before he falls to the ground, gripping her around the middle trying to rip her away from him. She’s so strong now.

I watch. I’m used to this kind of thing now, but it still makes me sick. It’s the smell more than anything, the smell and the guilt; maybe a little fear. As I watch the life ebb away from him I wonder, how long will it be before she turns on me, before I become that twitching mass upon the floor, leaking away into the ground.

When he finally gives up the ghost, she stands up, unsteady on her little legs and wipes a big smear of blood clumsily off her vampire lips. I don’t move to pick her up or touch her. It’s like this now, cold and unnerving. She’s smiling, THAT smile. So much for having a good first day in our new town.

“My dress is all red Mummy.” She says cheerily, coming up to take my hand. I can feel the man’s blood squealing under our interlocking fingers. That’s going to need one hell of a dry clean.