WEIRDEST SHOW ON EARTH
“Tell me somethin’, do you ever get nightmares, you know. About stuff, Hank?”
Hank was fixing his bow tie. He was only three and a half feet tall but when he was dressing for a show he felt like Fred Astaire. He sighed. “Sure, after what we been through. Why wouldn’t I?”
“Yeah, well—it’s now that counts, right?”
“Sure is, my friend. Our luck turned around didn’t it? Don’t I always say to look on the bright side?”
It was true. Tommy always helped him. He always would. That was why they were pals. Friends forever—literally.
They were part of a circus. Granted it was small, but it made up for that by its uniqueness. And like any circus, aside from midgets,
it had animal acts, performers and clowns. What’s a circus without clowns?
Yup, considering its size, this circus was pretty popular. People like to be entertained. Times were hard in this, the third year of what would come to be known as, the Great Depression. Yet, despite that,people came; all kinds of folks. Rubes and hicks mainly—because they never played the big cities; just small towns. Sebastian said it was better that way. They didn’t want any trouble. Not that they couldn’t handle it and then some.
Yet another show was about to start and the boys were glad. When they heard the brass band start up with Entry of the Gladiators they were in ecstasy. Tommy rubbed his hands. “That’s it. Getting all
revved up now, how about you, kid?”
Hank smiled. “Yeah. It’s magic, ain’t it?”
They both laughed heartily at that. When the music stopped they heard Sebastian go into his spiel. “Ladies and Gentleman—prepare yourselves for the best circus show you’ll ever see. . . ”
No hecklers tonight, well one only; some yokel showing off to his girlfriend. The boys could hear him making loud noises and acting like a real smart ass.
The boys got ready for their entrance. Sebastian liked them to come out first and greet the audience, talk to them and get a sense of what kind of folks they were. They liked it too because they enjoyed sniffing the air. People’s blood always smelled so different. It was amazing.
They locked eyes onto the heckler as he was still going strong.
“Could be worse,” Tommy said. “Could be a few of them.”
Just then the heckler called them both runts. Runts, they didn’t like. Runts did more than rankle. But the stupid bastard finally shut up when the clowns made their appearance.
There were three of them. They wore distinctive clown make up.
One was sad—there were tears painted under his eyes and his drooping lips were done up artfully. He had learned makeup from another clown he killed and ate. Well, no one’s perfect.
The other two clowns were also uniquely made up. Happy was the jolly one. He had this big ass smile plastered across his face.
Sometimes he had the remains of food stuck in the corners of his mouth.
“Hey, that ain’t lipstick, is it?”
The two other clowns would often tease him.
“Oh shit!” He’d invariably say. “I am a messy eater!”
He was; he often had bits of flesh and blood scattered all over his costume. Lou used to admonish him. In the last town Lou actually found a half-eaten eyeball stuck onto Happy’s oversized shoe. He gave it to him for that. Lou didn’t like to yell but Happy had to get it together.
Still, they remained friends.
The third clown’s make up was more unusual. He was the clowns’ clown. Dave was the one the other two would pretend to pick on. His make-up was very old fashioned. It was the way clowns were made up in mediaeval times.
All three began to respond to the audience, especially the children.
They’d make these exaggerated motions. They just mimed; they never spoke. One child had already been chosen by one of them because he was fat. Lou loved fat little boys, all dimply and doughy looking. The last boy he had eaten lasted a whole week! Boy oh boy that little tub of lard was tasty. Happy did him up in a special glaze.
Happy liked to cook.
“It’s gonna be a good show,” Lou said—sounding very upbeat. “I can feel it in my bones.”
That’s when the orchestra started up again; just a few notes, after which Sebastian introduced the trapeze act: the great Waldini and his wife.
These acts, from the trick rider and her horse to the trapeze couple, including the brass band as well as the lion tamer and lions, were odd looking, expressionless. They performed well enough though. It was only when you looked closely at them that there was a sense something was radically wrong, as in weird, fucking and odd.
Only one person noticed. He had seen the show a few times, following them from town to town throughout Ohio. He was studying the acts. Something wasn’t right about it; something just stunk about it. He didn’t know what it was, but he was determined to find out. It would make his career as a reporter, he felt sure.
He watched the lion tamer strut out. The guy was attired in a glittering, white outfit; pith helmet, whip and everything. The whip cracked as the tamer barked out commands. The lions growled a few times, nothing remarkable. In fact if anything, they looked bored. It seemed their growls and raised paws didn’t have a sense of realism which was most strange.
The midgets came out next. Dressed as always, very dapper. They wore make up, nothing too theatrical, or clownish. It was just enough to be interesting. Their faces were made up so that they looked like manikins. Their faces were white and their eyelids were lined in black. They wore lipstick and circles of rouge, too—their hair was slicked back like George Raft’s and they flirted a lot with the ladies. They seemed mischievous.
Actually they were interesting to watch because they were animated and lively. The young man didn’t think anything untoward about them or the clowns—not then.
They loved chow time. They ate around a big table in Sebastian’s trailer. It had been some movie star’s house car in the twenties. The rumor was it had been Mae West’s. Whatever the story, it was ace.
Everyone loved it particularly, Sebastian. In fact it was his home. He had his own bathroom and kitchen area and bunks too—like plush sofas they were.
The clowns always behaved themselves when they came in. They were always polite and made a real effort to be pleasant.
The boys (Tommy and Hank) were dressed well; they’d shower in the special shower tent before. They were very fastidious; much more so than the clowns. The clowns had to be reminded of personal hygiene periodically, but Sebastian didn’t mind. They were okay guys.
He smiled at the phrase. That was one of the 20th century expressions he loved.
They were all enthused about the town and the show and everyone started speaking at once. Sebastian had a few things to say but he bided his time. He’d save it for last.
He was grinning at them. His gaunt face and pronounced cheekbones gave him a skull-like look sometimes. He could have altered his appearance from the tall, imposing man he was but he didn’t.
Every so often he did, but only if he had to.
At last he spoke. “I have a special menu for you guys tonight.” This he said as he revealed a beautiful roast.
The clowns were excited. “Dave said he smelled something cooking earlier. Didn’t you, Dave?”
Dave agreed. “I bet I know what it is!”
Happy and Lou nodded. “He’s been driving us nuts all day. Saying how he can’t wait to bite into a nice fat buttocks. Anyone we know, Sebastian?”
Sebastian started to answer but looked over at Tommy and Hank.
They were looking as though they felt ignored. “Now boys, no one’s forgotten about you.” He said as he handed them two tumblers. “This is fresh, it’s nowhere near clotted.”
They oohed and awed and sniffed the giant tumblers.
“Rich, ruby port! Might we know where that came from?”
Sebastian shook his finger in a good natured but teasing way.
“Don’t pry it’s rude. Let’s just say that heckler paid for calling you guys runts.”
Hank and Tommy clapped their little hands together. “Thank you!” they cried.
Dave wanted to know where the rest of him was.
“He’s been put away for tomorrow’s grub, is that okay?”
Happy and Lou were shaking their heads. “Dave, you gotta cut down on the calories. You’re going to get too fat for your clown suit!”
Tommy started to laugh which only inflamed Lou. Well the clowns and the midgets used to argue, coming to blows occasionally. Of course the midgets always won. They were little, but they were strong as vampires are.
Sebastian gently admonished them. He loved his boys as he called them. They had been tossed around from circus to circus. In the last place they had been, they were beaten constantly. When Sebastian saw them, they were almost dead.
He killed their tormenter, but by that time, they were both gone. He raised them up because he would not see them dead. When they rose up and realized what he had done, they cried. Vampires do that. Sebastian had seen it happen a lot.
He explained it all to them. “You’ll live forever, boys! You’ll never be afraid. You’ll never be harmed or frightened. Isn’t that good?”
Eventually they grew into their undead existence as vampires do.
That was just after the war in Europe. It was 1918 when they were turned.
Sebastian’s circus had grown quite a bit since then. There were the acts he put in. They weren’t real people or animals. They were creations of his sorcery. That was Sebastian’s story. Everyone in a circus has a story.
Tommy was teasing the clowns again. Why the midget picked on them was anybody’s guess. Sebastian didn’t like it. He felt sorry for them because they were life’s victims too, but in a different way.
The three of them were former mental patients. Yes sir, right out of Storeyville, Georgia. They had this sadist bastard of a doctor, Dr. Nichols who liked to do experiments on them. When they had enough of his hole drilling and failed (but painful) attempts at lobotomies—or was it just torture by another name—they escaped; walked right out of that house of horrors.
Sebastian always wondered when they became cannibals. He had asked them but they’d laugh and ‘say never you mind;’ although they did fess up to eating Dr. Nichols and two orderlies.
He told them that it didn’t matter. He said they’d have jobs and a place to stay as long as they liked. Of course they’d have to learn clown stuff. They were eager and in no time were performing perfectly.
Sebastian could see how much they looked up at him. It was because of all that sorcery stuff. He was very accomplished.
It was funny how they found one another. Sebastian caught them ripping open a family of four. The kids were nothing more than ribs and hair but these three guys were still gnawing away on the father and mother when Sebastian called out: “Hey, what are you doing?”
Whereupon the three threatened him.
That was when he showed them. He had the remains of their meal rise up from the ground. Up this stuff went, all pieces of flesh and gore–spinning and turning—coming closer and closer to them!
They screamed but Sebastian only laughed and began to taunt them. First by having the gnawed parents begin to dance with one another.
It got so bad that the guys pleaded for him to stop. “What kinda shit is this? Who the hell are you?”
That was what he was waiting for. “I am Sebastian and I come from another place and time.” He told them how he had made a pact with Satan so that he could live forever. “It was easy—I gave up my soul. What the hell did I need it for? It was no use to me. Not during the Black Death it wasn’t. That plague killed one-third of Europe in the fourteenth century.”
He told them how he could raise the dead and make things move.
He often spoke about the many centuries he had lived through.
The midgets were fascinated by stories of the little people and Sebastian never disappointed them. He had a number of special people (he hated the word freaks) he had saved from one circus or sideshow over the years. He came to think of them as family.
Even now, these meals were special family dinners. Sebastian ate regular food but the others didn’t. The midgets only subsisted on blood whereas the clowns were meat eaters. Real meat eaters.
It was toward the end of the meal that Sebastian brought the subject up of the young man. That got their attention. In fact, Dave dropped the eye ball he was nibbling and Tommy nearly spilled a goblet of blood. Now that would have stained the table cloth.
“There’s this young man. I don’t know what his racket is, but I find him highly suspicious. I think we will have to deal with him soon.”
You could have heard a pin drop.
“No shit.” Hank said.
Sebastian nodded. “The sooner we take care of him, the better.”
They found him talking to the lion tamer. It struck the clowns funny and the midgets too, but it didn’t make Sebastian laugh because he was too intent on his purpose.
“May I help you?”
The guy turned around and smiled, albeit nervously. “Is there anything wrong with him?” He asked gesturing toward the blanked-eyed lion tamer. “Is he in a stupor? I mean is he alright?”
Hank and Tommy sauntered up from behind Sebastian. “What’s it to you, bub?”
The man shrugged. “Nothing really,” he smiled, trying to appear casual. But when the three clowns suddenly appeared, he stood up to run.
Flight or fight.
However since it didn’t look like he’d get away, he tried to reason.
“I’m a reporter. . . I’d like to do a feature story on your circus.
That’s all. . . ”
“No kidding!” the clowns replied in unison. Then they all turned to look at Sebastian.
“We can’t afford any publicity. It’s just the way it is, the way it’s always been. Let me explain. . . ”
The last thing he saw were the teeth. Long, yellow teeth sharpened to a fine point. They were covered in his blood. He knew that because he felt so weak.
Still, he hadn’t been conscious most of the time they were feeding. And really he started to weaken when the midgets were draining him. They assured him they wouldn’t kill him though because the clowns hated dried-out food.
When they said that, he screamed. Naturally it didn’t help him.
Sebastian liked a good screamer, and so did his guys. After all, they worked hard to put on a good show and they liked some entertainment in return. Why not?
Sebastian waved his arms and the toy-like circus performers rose up from wherever they were: the lion tamer, the lions, the horse and rider, even the great Waldini and his wife. They rose as the toys they were, created by Sebastian’s sorcery.
He nodded toward the brass band to start playing. It was amazing. All those toys—obeying as they did. Sure enough, the circus music started, Entry of the Gladiators, Sebastian’s favorite.
The lively tune boomed out, masking the reporter’s agonized screams. In fact as he slipped into the great and vast beyond, he smiled because the closer he got to death the more he didn’t mind. And really, whatever came after this had to be a whole lot better… ”
Copyright © 2013 Carole Gill
This story inspired my new novel, Circus of Horrors (to be released soon)!
House of Horrors