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880 words, fantasy, part three of Midway. Enjoy.
Midway – The Night Circus
Peter’s laughter rolled from him in waves, it took him a few minutes to get it back under control. The strongman turned to regard Peter, he didn’t look annoyed, at first he looked surprised, then a smile developed. Although it was mostly hidden under his monstrous moustache. The strongman looked back at the small figure man that had fallen from his chest when he had sneezed.
Between breaths and sits of giggles Peter looked at the strangman, he was shorter now, less muscled. Peter guessed because he was missing the other man. The little man was sat on the ground, a smile fading from his face too as he began to right himself. When he was standing, he nodded at the strongman, then flashed a grin at the recovering Peter. The little man turned, and started running away.
“Wait,” Peter began, his breath short and the words quiet, “what’s…” He trailed off as the little man span, and ran full speed back toward the strongman. Before he reached him he jumped and launched himself at the strongman’s body with a joyful yell. The sound cut off abruptly with a fleshy squelch as the little man vanished into the body of the strongman, who rocked backwards. His flesh rippled like struck jelly, with the ripple came growth, he bulked back out and grew back to the same height as when Peter had first seen him.
“Aah.” He murmured. He looked over to Peter and started toward him.
“Hh-hello.” Peter managed, his voice betraying him again.
“You are?” The strongman asked, his eyebrows rose.
“New, I guess.”
“That,” he said with a soft deep voice, “I guessed.”
“Peter,” he said, “Peter J…” He started to put out his hand to shake, but the strongman interrupted, talking over him loudly and obscuring Peter’s name. Confused Peter deflated and withdrew his hand.
“немає, er, no, no. Not full names, name have power, you know?”
“Er, well, no.”
“Trust me, Aleksandar, Alek.” This time Alek put forward his hand and Peter grasped it. Warm dry and calloused like iron.
“Alek, yes? I’m the strongman,” he gestured over his shoulder at the big tent behind the rows of games and stalls, “for the night circus.”
“Is that what this place is? Just a circus?” Peter asked. Alek heard the incredulous tone in his voice.
“No, Peter, not a circus, the night circus.” Alek smiled and Peter just looked more confused.
“I-I don’t understand. It’s a circus that’s at night? Are these people dressed up? No, that can’t be it.” Alek let him talk, let him work through his thoughts. “No, I’ve seen unreal things, things that don’t happen, don’t exist. This isn’t a normal circus, this is something else.”
“Yes, else. Here things are what are not, out there. Yes?”
“On the outside, yes, I see. Here other things can exist.”
“Always existed, but here other things play. Come, walk with me, new Peter.”
“Is it OK? I don’t fit in, I don’t want to cause trouble.” Alek waved this away and began walking back into the crowd. They parted before him and although he walked slowly Peter struggled to keep up with his large steps. The crowds never parted for him and he found himself winding around them and trying to keep up as Alek talked.
“The night circus just is,” Alek began, “one day we are here, another day there, yes? We don’t move, er, decamp, just somewhere different. Happens often. The circus is alive, he likes to move, helps protect us, I think. Or let’s us whore around more than we could in once place, yes.” He rumbled a chuckle, nearly a minute passed as they wound through the crowd before he spoke again.
“The night lasts as long as we need it, she is kind that way, yes. She cloaks us, hides us, and keeps us from getting noticed,” Alek shot Peter a sideways glance, “normally. Tell me, new Peter, how did you come to be here?”
“I followed a man, he led me here.”
“A man, which man was this?” Alek asked, not unkindly.
“He was round, almost a ball, he was that round. About this high.” Peter held out a hand below his shoulder height. Alek paused, looking at Peter with compressed eyebrows.
“Round? Eh, I have seen people like that but not for a long time. No-one who works here now.” He rubbed at his hair with his big palm.
“He laughed a lot, he disappeared just after I arrived.” Peter tried to describe him further, but now when he thought back he didn’t remember what he looked like very well. It was all a blur.
“No, no. You see, you can only come here when someone from here shows you the way. We have no round men now. So you shouldn’t be here, yes?”
“I shouldn’t?” Peter asked with concern.
“A mystery, yes? We go to see the ringmaster.” Alek replied, he still seemed unconcerned but was interested.
“Is that a good idea? If I shouldn’t be here, I mean.”
“You are here, yes. So you should be here, I think. Now why, new Peter, that is what I wonder. Why are you here?”
“I don’t know.” Peter answered.
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