Le Cirque De Magie

Before the evening show, he dressed early and patrolled the grounds. Nothing appeared suspicious outside, so he stood between sets of bleachers, watching for trouble during the performances. Again, Sadie missed her cue. It seemed too easy for her to give up at his warning— demons liked to fight.

Clowns, trained dogs, unicyclists, and fire-eaters all came and went without issue. Alice was in his sight, in the watchful company of her brother and the manager. Aromas of buttered popcorn and spun cotton candy mixed with animal odors—the typical circus smell. Nothing odd. He looked through the crowd for the dwarf. Instead of finding her, the number of children in the audience impressed him. All those smiling, young faces he must keep safe.

After a deep breath, he refocused, looking for any strange happening in the rings. Clown acts took the right and left rings. In the center, the snake charmer and his assistant wheeled out carts of large rush baskets. Three would contain his Naga friends. Upon the sweet notes of the charmer’s wooden flute, lids of the baskets opened and ropes danced up in response to his calls. Henry, Walter, and Gladys actually controlled those ropes, using their magic to extend them above their bodies. Ravi seldom watched the shows anymore. In full costume, the act came off well, a crowd-pleaser earning lots of cheers.

Tigers growled and pawed the wagon bed of their holding cage as it rolled in behind where Ravi stood. Sensing his magic, they clawed the bars nearest him, creating a spectacle.

Blocked from leaving by the animal wagon and not wanting to walk in front of the crowd, he climbed into the stands. When at last he found a seat, chaos ensued in the center ring.

The Nagas crawled in all directions, writhing and coiling. Above them a white bird with a forked, black tail swooped—a kite. It struck the snake people with both its talons and beak. The charmer, his assistant, and half a dozen other men ran around frantically. Some waved large nets on poles to catch the bird, and others yelled in various languages. How did the raptor get into the ring?

Ravi jumped to his feet, again wrestling to control his outward appearance.

Soon everyone around him stood, craning to see the ruckus.

The snakes hissed and struck, but the bird soared out of reach. In one ill-fated attempt, Henry missed and bit the shoulder of his trainer.

The men dropped their nets and kneeled beside the wounded man. They slapped his hands and cheeks. It was too late. Few knew the snake people possessed real, deadly venom.

The kite continued to torment Gladys, despite her attempts to slither under a cart. Her snake tail hung limp, wounded. Was that bird another form of the dwarf?

The tigers roared and flung themselves at their cage walls. Spectators screamed and rushed down the steps to leave. The rickety bleachers swayed with the frenzy of motion.

Ravi’s wing tips burst out of the slits in his costume at his shoulder blades. The tangle of people stopped him from getting to the ring, so he climbed atop the handrail and lifted into flight.

Someone high in the stands cried out, “Birdman!”

© Copyright 2011 Marsha A. Moore. All rights reserved.