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20th April
posted by amber

A Dream of the Circus

Usually, the dwarfs kept bringing him back – back to the circus and back to India. Yes, it was a dream but why couldn’t his recurring dream be about finding himself naked in the middle of Times Square or being unable to recall the combination to his school locker just before his final exams – something normal?

Why did he keep dreaming about the circus and dwarfs and India? He’d never been in a circus, he’d never been to India, he only knew one dwarf. The dwarf, or – more correctly – small person whom he knew was lying beside him, Alex was sure, encased in a special transit module designed for his tiny stature. Buckley Washington Jefferson. A large name for a small person, but well deserved. Buckley Jefferson, trillionaire, had paid for this trip to Mars. Alex was along entirely on Buck’s behest, to take care of his medical needs.

Alex was a doctor. Not a high wire artist in a fly-by-night circus in India with gold-painted asthmatic elephants and an under-age contortionist and a duo of geek dwarfs with full body tattoos and holes everywhere from the nails and knives and needles they pierced themselves with to the delight of the audiences. He didn’t know those geek dwarfs, yet every night they appeared in the corridor of the Millennium Mars Tripper and escorted him wordlessly to the hatch and shoved him into it. And every night he was terrified, expecting nothing more than explosive decompression.

And every night, the hatch slid open and did not admit the cold vacuum of space. Instead, the ring was before him, an ancient Master of Ceremonies proclaiming that Alex the Magnificent would now perform a death-defying quadruple flip- without a net – off one high wire onto another a short distance below.

And every night, he dutifully climbed the guy wire and stepped onto the impossibly narrow wire, his feet curling around it as if they knew what they were doing.

And every night, he fell.

Of course, he couldn’t tell Buck about the dream. It would sound as if he was dwelling on Buck being a dwarf, as if he thought (subconsciously) that dwarfs were leading him into peril.

So, instead, he concentrated on medical problems during the one hour of consciousness given them each day during their travel stasis. He considered anew the effects of Mars gravity on Buck, he fretted over whether they’d brought enough of the vitamins and steroids Buck felt were necessary to his continuing good health, he mentally reviewed everything he’d read about mould problems in Mars habitats and agonized over whether he’d packed a great enough variety of medicines to help Buck should he have a reaction to the mould.

He didn’t worry about the one disaster which ended up overtaking them, the one his dream had been warning him about, repeatedly.

Their ship fell victim to a meteorite storm and crash landed on a large asteroid known through the Belt as Circus Rock. Buck’s fortune in media enterprises had been, unbeknownst to Alex, gained at the expense of many of his former clients in the entertainment industry and many of them had relocated to Circus Rock where taxes were low and agents verboten.

Therefore, no one would help them contact Earth banks or the repair station not too many millions of miles away. They had to work to earn their keep until the next Earth shuttle came by, six months later. Buck looked after the elephants. Alex, whose balance was better than in his dreams, learned to walk the wire.

But he always insisted on a net.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

This first line was suggested by my mother, Mary Bond, and comes from John Irving’s A Son of the Circus.

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