This is an original piece that I have been working on for a while. It’s the first of a series of short dark stories inspired by untranslatable words from other languages. Enjoy!
Artwork also by me.
(Japanese): Meaning a beautiful girl – as long as she is viewed from behind.
The floodlights swept across the circus tents, illuminating them. They glowed like candles in the dead of night while a forest of tall trees surrounding them, waiting, like unusual silhouettes, for their next victims.
Small crowds gathered around the main entrance, excitement sparkling in their eyes as they waited for the attraction to open.
A young girl happily skipped towards the gathering, her short blonde hair bounced above her shoulders as both of her outstretch hands held onto her parents’. The girl’s laughter rang like a bell, piercing through the atmosphere.
The smallest tent stood to the right, striped with blue and red. It stood slightly away from the other tents, hiding in the shadows. An old wooden sign was crookedly placed near the entrance. Miniature bulbs had been screwed into it, shining in different colours, lighting the words that had been carved with something sharp and coloured with something red.
It was a new attraction to the ‘Midnight Circus’. Inside freaks roamed the tent freely, waiting to perform. They varied from small children to teenagers but no adults. Girls and boys lined up waiting to be inspected, for only one was to perform tonight. The line consisted of people with flowers sprouting through their skin, bandages and scars, blank eyes and bloody mouths, faces that held no expression and smiles that clearly showed some were losing their sanity.
The inspector walked into the tent, wearing a lab coat and glasses. The pot-bellied Ringmaster followed, stuttering incomprehensible words as he waved his hands around. The inspector put his hand up, instantly silencing the Ringmaster as he examined every freak. Suddenly, something caught his eye. A flash of blue? A girl wearing a blue dress stood in the corner, facing the wall. Her red hair cascaded down her back in a flurry of curls. In her hand, She lightly held a silver mirror that looked like it would fall out of her slender fingers any moment, but it wouldn’t have mattered because the glass was already broken.
What was a completely normal person doing in the ‘freak’ tent?
“Hey, you-you shouldn’t be in here!” the inspector called to the girl. No answer came as she remained facing the wall.
“Excuse me?” the inspector walked over to her, putting a hand on her shoulder, “Excuse me miss, but you need to-” he stopped as he turned the girl around, clearly shocked at the sight that stood before him. His pupils shrunk as he staggered back shaking. The Ringmaster paled.
The girl stood to face everyone. Her face held no expression, it held no features, it held nothing. Her face was a hollow black hole, reaching into nothingness.
“Baku-shan…” the Ringmaster gasped in his native language.
The inspector stared, almost losing himself in the darkness of her face. It was like he could see the stars of space lingering in the distance like he could reach in and pull himself into the dense blackness. He quickly shook his head, regaining consciousness. The inspector tried not to look at the girl’s face but it was impossible, it pulsed in his peripheral vision, pleading for his attention so he could drown once again in its soupy shadow.
“U-um…please come over and join the line, Miss,” The inspector looked at the Ringmaster for encouragement, his facade of false composure, completely drained. The Ringmaster was in a trance, unable to answer. Surprisingly, heavy breathing could be heard coming from the girl’s faceless face but what shocked everyone was her voice. It was deep and moaning, like the howling wind or how air sounds when it’s blown harshly against your ear.
Everyone covered their ears, trying to push out the sound that echoed around the tent. Suddenly, a large inhale of air filled the room and the girls face began to expand, mimicking a black hole. It was like a vacuum, sucking in all the air inside the tent. The freaks began holding onto each other as the pull of air became stronger. The girl increased the vacuum sending out a spinning tornado of wind that roared loudly, rippling the sides of the tent. Loud screams and cries for help resounded around but no one could do anything and the freaks were soon sucked into the dark void, never to be seen again. The Ringmaster made a run for it, leaving the inspector to his own devices and he soon met the same fate.
Everything was silent as the girl decreased the black hole to its original size. The hollow, airy chuckles emitting from the faceless face was the only sound that could be heard coming from inside the ‘freak tent’.
“Come on, we don’t want to be late for the show,” called the blonde girl’s parents. The girl’s face lit up, happily skipping faster to the entrance. As the flaps of the red and yellow tent were rolled upward, an enormous arena was revealed. Lights danced off the blonde’s face, radiating off her charming features as she looked around in delight.
The seats of the large circus were quickly filled. Chatter and laughter infused the tent. The spotlights moved around the centre circle, sweeping over the audience while they waited patiently for the show to start.
Suddenly, the Ringmaster hurried in, seemingly out of breath as he took his place in the centre of the room. The blonde girl wriggled in her seat, excitement running through her veins.
What a show it would be tonight…
Coughing into his hand the Ringmaster turned to the audience with open arms. His smile was inviting but his eyes lacked happiness, deep down there was a glimmer of fear. Lingering in the deepest darkest depth of his pupil.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, please give a warm welcome to…The Midnight Circus!” he finished with a creepy laugh.
The spotlights all moved to the centre of the circus, focusing on six acrobats clad in midnight blue leotards, faces stark white with make-up like ghosts and feather plumes around their waists. They cartwheeled out, completely in sync with each other. Their bodies moved gracefully to the unusual music played by ‘The Hidden Orchestra’. It was a balancing act, effortlessly performed and the nail-biting audience was kept on the edge of their seats. When their act was complete the audience applauded, amazed.
Next, the Ringmaster introduced a man wearing a black robe who seemed to glide as he walked. An oversized hood obscuring his face from view. In his crooked hand, he held onto a cage that held three sinister-looking ravens. He let them into the air, but as they left, more and more of them seemed to come from the cage until the whole circus tent was over-shadowed by an unkindness of ravens. They flew above the spectator’s heads in a contorting canopy of utter blackness that let out repetitive shrills and caws.
The blonde girl put her hands over her ears as she watched eagerly.
A large metal hoop had been placed in the circle. The man was stood beside it, again holding it with his long, spiny fingers. His lips parted as he began chanting peculiar words that seemed to affect the ravens. Their shrills had become less deafening and more monotonous as they seemed to be chanting in time with the old man.
The ravens flew towards the hoop, as the top of the circus tent was opened, unclothing the moonlight. It streamed in, illuminating the black cloud of moving feathers.
A plume of thick charcoal dust was billowing out of the other side of the hoop. No ravens to be seen. The smoke began to move in strange ways until the cloud had taken the shape of a wolf! It howled at the full moon above it as it slid up into the forest air.
The audience were left gobsmacked as the mysterious man left the spotlight.
After many more unusual performances. It was time for the final act. The finale. The freak.
It was pitch black, not even the moon’s light seeped in. All was quiet, not even the audience spoke. All were unaware and the Ringmaster dare not tell them.
“N-now, ladies and gents, I-I I must s-” he was interrupted by a deep groan and the time the lights flashed on, it was too late.
In the circus ring stood a high pillar, a red one, that rotated slowly. Standing on top was a beautiful girl, with her back to the audience. She was motionless, as still as a statue. Her blue dress was draped elegantly on her perfect hourglass figure, her fiery curls looking redder under the spotlight and as she turned slowly around, her ominous face was revealed to the audience. A wave of gasps and screams rippled through the circus at the realisation of the young girl’s faceless face, and it’s swirling black hole…
‘The Hidden Orchestra’ began to play Beethoven’s Silencio.
She rotated round and round. Watching the horrified faces of her watches. Looking for that one face, a beautiful one. The Baku-shan scanned the audience as she moved around until she found it, the face she’d been looking for. An ear-splitting scream came from the freak who began to raise from the pillar. Everybody was silenced.
She gracefully floated towards the audience, getting closer and closer. Nobody moved, no scream could be made, the only sound was the heavy breathing of the Baku-shan as she stopped in front of the blonde girl and charming features.
The blonde shivered under the gaze of the freak that hovered before her, her hands were inside her parents’ but she did not feel safe. The Baku-shan breathing became louder and deeper. She reached for the blonde girl’s face her cold touch making the little girl flinch as water filled her eyes. The Baku-shan began to stroke the blonde’s cheeks, her thumb running from the top of her nose down to her lips and onto her chin. The blonde whimpered as a tear rolled down her pretty little face. She looked at her parents but they were frozen in shock, unable to do anything as seemed the rest of the audience. They’re eyes watching but not seeing, caught in a trance. The Baku-shan pulled the girl’s face so it was directly in front of her featureless one. She grabbed the girl’s cheeks, moving her hands up and down the smooth skin. Massaging her face, rubbing it all over as the blonde cried out. The Baku-shan was excited, her breathing now deep and moaning, getting faster every second. The girl was screaming as the freak continued to explore her face.
Finally, the Baku-shan stopped. She let out another deafening screech as the audience watched the black hole of her face become bigger and bigger. She began to suck the air in, her vacuum reaching out to the blonde girl. The blonde was pulled upwards towards the black hole but she kept a firm grip on her parents’ hands.
“NOO!” she screamed, “Mama! DON’T LET GO!!!” she was distraught. Her cries for help echoed around the circus. The Baku-shan increased the pull of air, letting out another scream. The blonde girl watched as the fingers of her parents were slipping from her own until she’d completely let go.
“NO! AHHHHHHH!!!” her last scream was digested by the Baku-shan as the black hole decreased. The freak stood quietly, watching the oblivious spectators and the frozen Ringmaster. Her featureless face began to become more familiar to some, as the blonde girl’s profile replaced the black hole. A face that didn’t move, a frozen expression, plastered against the freak’s face, the last one the blonde girl made. One of pure fear and agony. An ugly face.
Once again deep breathing could be heard from the freak as the audience seemed to regain consciousness, looking around at each other, possibly wondering where they were. Not noticing the absence of acts or the freak that just escaped through the tent flaps.
The Baku-shan walked slowly to the edge of the forest, taking small steps. She ignored the cries and shouts coming from inside the circus tent, she simply chuckled and she walked away into the dark night.
~ The End ~
Wow! I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I’ve been writing this for a very long time and to finally see and read it completed makes me feel really happy!
The next short story in this series is called – L’appel Duvide – (French): “the call of the void” is this expression’s literal translation, but more significantly it’s used to describe the instinctive urge to jump from high places.
But I haven’t even begun to write it yet so I won’t be posting anything soon…
Please comment if you enjoyed this, I would love to hear feedback.
~ The World is Quiet Here ~