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Circus Freak (Part 1) - A Short story by Jaanvi Nayee

Mareko wished he had never joined the circus. Not that he had much choice. The moment his parents found out he was different, they gave him up and sent him away.

At first, it wasn’t so bad. The day Mareko’s parents left him at the circus, he was four years old. His parents never told anyone about his abilities. They probably thought it was easier to get rid of him that way. The circus took him in and raised him as one of their own. They even taught him tricks so that he could perform with them. Mareko had learnt how to walk a tightrope, juggle, knife throwing, russian bar and many more, but most importantly, self defence. Some of the skills he knew were practically useless; many had become particularly helpful when it came to thieves who thought they could get away with anything. There were a lot of those types in London so it was good that Mareko knew how to deal with them. It wasn’t so good when their ringmaster known as Carmon made him practice as many forms of fighting as he could through day and night until he passed out.

The fighting started on the day Mareko revealed his ability. It was an accident. He couldn’t control when it happened. It was as if this power just engulfed him until he could only watch chaos unleash from within him. It happened after a performance. Mareko went to his cabin in the trailer to wash his face and freshen up. He wanted to take a walk because it was a hot summer's day and he wanted to cool off after the show. When he got outside, the audience was still outside their setup, still talking about the show and Amelia’s mesmerizing magic tricks. She was a magician, fortune teller and anything involving magic. It was all tricks but she made it seem so effortless that it looked real. She had a real talent. He walked past the crowd toward the river. He often went there when they came to this part of London. It was peaceful and quiet. He could hear the wind rustling the leaves and the water overlapping itself in tiny waves. Everyone's voices became a small buzz in the background. It was nice here. Eventually, Mareko sat down by the river and watched the fishes swim through the river in a blissful harmony. He heard footsteps coming closer but ignored them. It was common for people to occasionally walk by this part of the river, especially on hot days like this. He stayed there for a while. Just watching the fish. Until someone knocked him in the back nearly pushing him in. “Hey circus freak!”, some foul older boys shouted as they towered over him. There were three of them and he was only an eight year old but he knew what was coming. Carmon warned him that sometimes people only watched their performance to mock and make fun of them. Not that he cared; money was money, after all. “Can you do a trick for us, freak?” “I doubt he can even see us with those creepy eyes”. “Are you blind, you little shit?” His eyes. Mareko always hated his eyes. One was a normal green colour but the other was bright purple. He had tried to hide it behind his hair but it didn’t work. Blonde hair was too light to hide such a vibrant colour. The boys taunted him like that for a bit. He tried to ignore them but one of them kicked him in the back and he fell into the river. They laughed at him as he tried to climb out but the biggest boy grabbed him by the hair and dunked him under the water until he choked and one of the other boys shouted “alright we don’t want to drown him! It’s just a bit of fun!” A bit of fun? Mareko couldn’t help but wonder if they would find it fun if they couldn’t breathe. He climbed out of the river and continued entertaining the thought. Imagining the water filling into their ugly mouths and trail into their lungs until they were helpless. Then it happened. All three of them were on the floor choking and crying, trying to scream but the water kept filling in. If Mareko kept going it would devour them all. He was only eight and he was scared. What had he done? Then it stopped. It was as if he had imagined it but the boys were still on the floor. Only, they were dry again and the river hadn’t even taken a splash to the surface other than where Mareko had climbed out. The boys crawled to their feet in fear and said “stay away from us you fucking freak!” Before running back toward the circus to tell everyone what happened. No one believed them of course. Mareko was only eight. How would he even be able to drown three boys twice his size? That was lucky for him but when the circus troop found out, they did question him and Mareko confessed. “It was like I made them believe what I was thinking and it looked so real, but I never meant to!”, he tried to explain as best as he could. “Never mind what you meant it to do,” said Carmon. “You need to learn to control it. A new trick. It would be perfect. You’re a child so no one will think you’re capable of something so powerful but imagine. Your new act is mind freak. You will transform this circus into something else. Make people believe we have shifted places, maybe even play some mind games on them. You start practice today but do not ever let it leave the circus! I will train you in self defence personally so this mistake will never happen again.” Mareko tried to resist. He didn’t want to use his ability at all, let alone use it as a new circus act. But Carmon could be very persuasive and wouldn’t take no for an answer. He was right of course. The audience loved it. Mareko wasn’t stage ready until a year later but when he thought he perfected his power the crowd would only shout for the ‘illusion boy’ to give them one last trick before they went. He was the star of the show. It was nice when he got used to it. The attention and praise felt good but it didn’t last long. As soon as the show was over Carmon had Theo (the strongman) and Grace (the sword swallower and knife thrower) fight Mareko using any means possible to take him down without killing him. It was torture at first because he kept losing, weapons or no. He was nine years old and could barely carry his own weight, let alone fight people far older and experienced than him. They would practice with him until supper and then he would have an hour to practice his magic for the show, then back to fighting until it was lights out. Mareko’s childhood died that day, and the circus became a living hell. Every night he would go to bed exhausted from training and drained from using his power. He was 19 now and couldn’t remember what his face looked like without bruises. As time went on, the circus business started dying out. The troop was suffering badly and Carmon had started drinking. The troop knew when he was about to walk into a room before they could even see him simply because of the stench of booze that wafted off of him. The Circus was different now. Not as much joy as before, when Mareko was a child. Even the audience knew to be wary of the ringmaster with the raging temper and bad mouth. It was worse for Mareko. Carmon insisted on fighting him when it came to practice time. Losing the fight would just make him more angry, Mareko knew first hand. If he didn’t allow the Carmon to win, the rest of the troop would suffer. He tried to fight poor Amelia once. She didn’t leave her cabin for a week, not even for the performance. When she finally emerged, her eye was bruised purple and her arm was bandaged. She wouldn’t speak to anyone about it. The whole troop was broken now. No one was the same. Theo had joined Carmon in drinking, but he wasn’t as abusive. It just meant that practice felt more real every day and Mareko’s body ached. He hated it here. He had to leave. Part two coming soon!

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