Friday, 13 September 2013


The air inside was close, dusty and dry.  A whiff of smoke scents the air in a vaguely menacing way.  The only light source in the room is an alter in the corner with a few sputtering votive candles slowly giving up on life.

When he first entered the room, the boy felt the sickly crawling sensation of webs against his bare arms and face.  In the background he imagined he could hear tiny skittering noises, the sounds of things with thousands of legs.  Maybe the sound of scales rubbing against scales.  He couldn't remember exactly what had caused him to flee into this place, but his panicked mind could easily recall the urgency of the need.  Trying to remember images are too frigthening to view...

A sharp pain in his shin and the boy stumbles into a wooden pew.  Only then does he recognize the church he attends every Sunday with his family, dressed in their best, all shiny and sleepy after being torn from their warm beds and scrubbed and rushed out the door.  Made uncomfortable and bored for what seemed like eternity, all the while being lectured about how terrible you must certainly be.  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Now the church building is dark and abandoned and strangely ancient, as if no one had entered it for decades.  How can this be when there is a Traveling Circus is right outside?  But no...musn't remember the Circus yet.  Don't want to remember the jugglers and the clowns and don't want to remember her or...

She was wearing a blue sundress with yellow trim and a silly floppy straw hat.

The boy clutches his knee and whimpers on the old hardwood floor of the tiny chapel, slumped between pews.  Pain brings him back to the moment.  The smell of smoke is growing stronger, along with the sounds of the bugs and way off in the distance is it the sound of music?  The boy can hear the organs from the Circus in the back of his mind without ever letting himself hear the screams or the sirens.  A brief glimpse of her bare white thigh and something dark and shiny dripping onto the dirty pile of rags underneath.

The smell of smoke is getting stronger.

The boy turns and tries to regain his feet but his limbs are strangely leaden.  His fingers and toes feel far away and strange and he barely manages to roll onto his back before all mobility is lost.  He hears the clicking and snapping of all the things in the darkness coming for his face and then he hears the Voice.

Quiet and sibilant, the voice of a snake.  The Voice tickles his ears and paints pictures in his mind.

"What if it was inevitable?  Are your actions really yours or were they preordained?  If everything you did was part of your inevitable destiny anyway, what part does morality play?  What if time is so fixed that, even were you able to find a way to turn back the clock, the events would play out exactly the same?  If that is true then it's not your fault that it happened.  Then nothing that happens is ever your fault."

The boy can see the clown.  His pale, grinning white face and dark fierce eyes.  The lips so bright candy apple red smeared and dripping with her blood.  The bloody palm on her thigh in the moonlight seemed to glow.  Her pretty dress is torn and her eyes are closed.

"It's OK, my boy," the voice proclaims.  The boy is not particularly reassured.  "All the blood burnt away while "Entry of the Gladiators" played on and on and no one can blame you because it was always going to happen...don't you understand?  You don't have a choice.  Your suffering was decided long before you came along."

The smell of smoke is stronger than ever and the chittering of bugs has resolved into the bright angry crackle of flames consuming the ancient, well-oiled wood of the chuch.  The boy suddenly, helplessly recalls the stables behind the circus tent.  The stable boy he knocked out with a piece of wood from the church's log pile fell to the ground like a puppet whose strings were cut.  Dousing him with gasoline next to her prone form made the scrape on the back of his hand sting.  He tried not to look at the angry dark gash on her thigh or the unnatural bend of her neck.  When he threw the burning match did he see her eyes fly open?  Did they widen in sudden helpless awareness?  Or when the flames rose up was the high pitched moan only the steam escaping?

As he ran he had been able to forget these things.  Now the voice reminds him.  "It's not your fault.  All of it had to be.  Where is the evil?  Where is the blame?"  

The room is quite bright now, illuminated by the flames.  Inside the boy's mind he sees the clown with the blood red lips and the sharp, sharp teeth.  The clown is laughing and licking the blood off of his fingers.  The clown grins at the boy and speaks.  The voice of a snake.  The voice of the boy.  

"It wasn't your fault.  The pain was too big for you to contain.  Everyone needed to feel it.  Now, they'll remember forever.  Now they will know.  These things had to happen.  They already did."

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