From the personal journal of Dalton Deschain

Thursday, October 12, 1944

I awoke this morning at sunrise to the pinpricks of yellowed, broken grass pushing into my back and the flesh of my arms. I sat up abruptly, my heartbeat quickening in the same manner as if I had woken up late for some urgent engagement, frantically pushing blood to my extremities, urging my body to snap into action, and FAST, dammit!

But around me, there was nothing. I was lying alone in a field of dead grass. I was wearing only a tattered button-down and slacks, and suddenly my whole body broke into shivers, as if the act of noticing my attire had caused my body to realize that it should be cold. I looked around, and found my hat lying on its back two yards to my right. To my left, I could see a road just before the horizon line, and sitting astride it…a circus tent.

Having nowhere else to go, I picked up my hat and headed towards the tent, bracing myself against the wind and trying to position my face so that my own hot breath-cloud would blow back and warm my lips.

I searched my memory and found that at least I knew what date it was. October 12th…but I could not remember how I got to this field. I tried to search farther back, to see what my last memory was, and if it could lead me to an answer…and suddenly I stopped, staggered, and caught myself before falling back to the cold earth.  

The last thing I remember was the cafe show, in Pontiac. That awful, deserted show…on August 12th.  

Two whole months, gone. No recollection at all. I remembered playing my set, getting in my car to drive home…and then waking up here. Yet I still remembered today’s date. As if my mind had been active, ticking off time as it went by…yet the memories of what happened during that time were now inaccessible.

I started to panic. My breath quickened, and the cold air burned my lungs. I kept moving forward, my mind focused on the circus ahead, trying to hold myself together.

I approached the tent from the rear, and walked around the side. The area seemed deserted, although I did finally realize where I was. The road was 17 Mile; I was just outside of Sterling Heights. But there were no cars on the road, and none of the bustle one would normally associate with a circus being in town. How strange to have circuses at all in a time like this. The entire world is off murdering each other and we sit here at home laughing at stuntmen risking their lives for our entertainment and animals taken from their homes and kept in cages. Is this what we require in times of extreme violence? To be entertained by this facade of “safe” violence? The very idea is nonsense.

Posters hung around the sides of the tent, intricately painted banners advertising the current roster of outcasts in the circus’ Sideshow. “MARVEL AT THIS WOMAN, WONDERFUL AND WEIRD! — ROBERTA BARNELL, THE LADY WITH A BEARD!”  

The last one caught my eye. The poster showed a slumped figure with a sloping forehead, and thick hair covering his entire face. In fact, the fur seemed to spread over his body; it could be seen sprouting from under his shirtsleeves and the cuffs of his slacks. But his eyes are what stuck in my mind. They were entirely black, an empty void that seemed endlessly sad. These sad rejects, I thought to myself, cast out from an uncaring world and forced to entertain the spoiled masses. Laughed at, spit upon, exploited. I began to imagine a world where the dichotomy was reversed. An audience of freaks and rejects, laughing and booing at a huddled mass of businessmen and executives, forced to dance and pratfall. Or walk the high wire. Or cling to their lives from the trapeze. 

I had reached the entrance of the tent. The front flaps were hanging open, but the inside of the tent was dark. A sign hung above the entranceway. “TRAVELING TUTONS’ CIRCUS — THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH! — LIMITED ENGAGEMENT ONLY, BEGINNING OCTOBER 29.”

In the shadow of the open flaps, a silhouette stood. Its back was hunched, its arms hanging loose down to the figure's knees. There was thick hair covering the backs of his hands. His face was invisible in the darkness, but there was a glint of sunlight reflected in his eyes. In his empty, black eyes.

“Hello there!” I called. “What is your name, sir?”

A long pause. Finally, a growl. “Casey.”

“Well hello there Casey."

I smiled at him, and entered the tent.

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