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Ladies and Gentlemen, I present...

The Trickster's Circus Train

By Brin J.Published 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 20 min read
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I'm startled awake to the sound of a splintering crack. As my mind battles drowsiness, I notice a faint cacophony of dissonant chords from a piano playing.

Dun. Dun dun. Dun dun...

With concern rousing me completely from sleep, my head snaps in the direction of the eerie music. Light pours into my eyes from a small hole in the wall, blinding me. I shield my face from it and flinch once I take in the strange surroundings of what seems to be a wooden storage room. There's clutter everywhere. How did I get here? The last thing I can remember is-

My heart stutters, distracting my train of thoughts when something screeches and darts behind two wooden crates on the other side of the room. The word 'GOLIATH FEED' is written across one of them in deep red. Dozens of flies buzz around the box and it's then that I notice a putrid stench of raw meat.

Who's Goliath? And what on Earth does he eat?... On second thought, I rather not find out.

Keeping an eye out for the creature, I remove the colorful fabric bound around my legs and rise to stand. I tentatively glance down at the makeshift bed I had slept in, and my eyes zero in on creepy distorted twin faces painted where I had been sleeping. Curious to learn what I had been resting on, I lift the red and white tarp to find hay stuffed underneath. That explains why my back feels stiff.

Without warning, the room suddenly shifts, and I'm jostled back onto the improvised bed.

The quivering music halts and my ears perk when the familiar sound of soft chuffing and clacking replaces it.

Am- am I on a train?

As if answering my question a succession of melancholy whistles suddenly horns. *Choo, Choo*

Following the piping, the piano music starts up again, drawing my attention. Once more, I rise and walk to the other side of the wooden cabin with determined yet wary steps, scanning the area for the small creature. I try not to allow my fear to settle in, but the unnerving fact I'm on a moving train, not knowing where it's going, or how I'm going to get back home makes it difficult to ignore.

The wooden door groans as I pull it open. I hesitate before entering the next room. My lungs seize and my feet cement to the floorboards upon seeing dozens of people who look just like me staring with deep frowns. Then, my eyes catch on a sign to my right that says 'Hall of Mirrors'. I let out a shaky exhale, registering they were just my reflection. Creepy. Why's there a cabin full of mirrors?

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Anxious to get out of the room I quickly stride to the next door and burst through before realizing my mistake. It has colorful wall decor, a rack of costumes, and beds with intricate blankets neatly made throughout the space. This must be the woman's sleeping quarters. Thankfully it's empty, but I still mentally reprimand myself; here forth I need to be more mindful before barging into any other rooms.

As I walk through the ornate confines, my attention becomes drawn to a tapestry that hangs on the ceiling. Inky words bleed into the red fabric in ominous and illegible handwriting- the same warped twin faces are smeared right below it.

The music has gotten louder now, indicating the source is right on the other side. Just as I'm about to open the next door, a maniacal laugh resounds. I freeze. My hand hovers the door knob. Every fiber in my body stands in alarm.

With trembling legs, I begin backing away. Questions sprout in my mind, fueling my anxiety. What kind of train is this? More importantly, why am I on it?

Not looking where I'm going, I trip on a chair that found its way behind me and fall to the floor with a loud bang.

The music stops. Ice injects into my veins as I lie there, holding my breath, hoping they think nothing of the noise.

Unfortunately, I'm not so lucky. Nerves ate away at my stomach as the handle on the door slowly began to turn. I scramble backward, deciding I'd take my chances in the mirror room.

Only I never make it that far. The moment I'm back on my feet, the door slowly creeks open, and a silhouette of a man holding a cane stands at its entrance.

He dons a top hat, a dark tailcoat, and a maroon tapered vest with gold buttons.

"Ah, you're awake," he says as if greeting an old friend.

I squint, trying to distinguish any facial features that'll help jog my memory of who he is. But struggle due to the darkness encompassing him. "I- I'm sorry. Do I know you?"

He gasps dramatically and places a hand on his heart. "I'm hurt you don't recognize me... Abraham."

My eyes widen. "How do you know my name?"

Even though I can't see it, I hear the smile in his words. "I know a lot about you, we're well acquainted. But since you're having trouble remembering, you may address me as the Ringmaster."

I try to keep a straight face as I stare at the strange and possibly delusional man. "Okay? When did we meet, last night?" I ask, trying to recall the events. "I don't remember attending a show, or how I got on this train." I check my pockets to find them empty. "I don't even have a ticket."

"Isn't that bizarre?" He asks, his tone revealing he finds my situation entertaining.

I grind my teeth. "I'd like to know where this train is heading so I can return home."

He chuckles. "It's not stopping anytime soon, so why don't you learn what it was that brought you here? Our Oracle, Reb, can help with that." Without waiting for a response, he turns and disappears into the room.

Ringmaster? Oracle? What is this, an occult group?

I swallow, debating whether I should follow him or return to the storage area where I woke up.

"Abraham, is that you?" A soft feminine voice asks from within the cabin.

My footsteps begin moving on their own accord in the direction of her alluring voice. Before I know it, I'm in the room, gawking at the crowd of odd-looking individuals sprawled all over the place and on top of each other. I even find a pair of trapeze couples hanging from the ceiling. There's something off about the way they all watch me with mild amusement and mischief, like they know something I don't.

"Abraham?" The woman's voice comes again. I look toward the red piano, where a lady sits on the bench beside an older gentleman who's bald and has a full, well-groomed mustache.

I have to blink a few times as I stare at the woman. She's breath-taking, even with the slight wrinkles next to her eyes. Her skin is a creamy bronze while her hair is a peculiar pearly white, contrasting yet complimenting each other perfectly. She wears simple satin white robes matching her hair. But the most captivating part about her; is her pale blue eyes. She's eccentric, yet remarkable.

"The Oracle, I presume?"

Her smile fades and she tilts her head in confusion. "Why, yes." She rises from the bench to stand before me. "Is something wrong?"

Wrong? There are so many things wrong, but I'll start with the most pressing. "The 'Ringmaster' told me you could help shed light on why I'm here."

Her expression changes to understanding. "I see." She drawls. "You might not remember but we've met before. Allow me to reintroduce myself. My name is Rebecca, also known as Reb."

I stand there awkwardly. Not sure if I should shake her hand since apparently we've already met. "Uh, so how did we meet?"

My stomach lurches as a screech comes from behind me, the same sound from earlier. In the blink of an eye, a small animal jumps onto Reb. My brows pinch together as I make out the creature- the creature who undoubtedly was in the room where I slept. It turns its furry face towards me and smiles. I'm taken aback. A monkey?

"You had an enlightening moment contributing to new meaning and purpose respecting your future and found me," The woman says, unfazed by the oddity of a monkey now perched on her shoulder.

"And my new purpose is this?" I ask with an acerbic tone, unable to help my skepticism.

Her smile was devious, like she knew a secret. "Are you sure you're ready to confront your fate? You seem apprehensive today whereas before you were free of your doubts."

"Confront my fate? You're not making any sense. I just want to know why I'm here." I exclaim, looking around for the Ringmaster, but he's nowhere in the room.

She sighs with a sympathetic expression. "Why don't I give you a tour of the train, get you some food, and introduce you to some people? Maybe reflect on the events that might've led you to this point. Trust me when I say it will all make sense once it comes back to you."

Trust her? I don't trust anyone. As for the events in my life, I'd rather not relive them. The only one that I'm concerned about is my current situation. "As long as it gets me answers," I mutter.

The full room grows quiet, watching our interaction with open curiosity.

"Are you hungry?" Reb asks. As if on cue, my stomach grumbles. She smiles and turns. "This way."

Not wanting to be the source of everyone's attention any longer, I followed her.

"There's no need for quiet. Go on and play something our Abraham would enjoy." She says over her shoulder to the pianist.

With a curt nod, he instantly takes up its tune again, except this time with a different number. I realize I've heard this song before. But where?

The thought vanishes as we enter the next cabin. My jaw drops at the luxurious five-star dining restaurant it resembles. Clashing with the elegant diner are weird-looking people scattered around the room. While scanning the area, I notice a large man with tattoos covering his face and arms standing behind a splendidly polished bar. He looks dangerous and criminal. I'd believe it if someone told me he's killed. Reb leads us to him.

The man spots us and gives a crooked smile, revealing a missing tooth. "Look who's awake." His voice is hoarse and deep with a slight lisp.

Reb lowers herself to sit on one of the stools, and the monkey leaps off her, bounding towards the door leading to the other end of the train. He glances back at me with a frown before disappearing through a small crawl space.

I shake off the oddity of it and take a seat, leaving an open spot in between Reb and me. She notices but doesn't comment. "Hello, sir," I say with a forced smile.

He blinks in confusion, then guffaws. "Sir? That's a bit formal, don't ya think?"

"Abraham seems to have lost his... memory." Reb supplies for me. There's an underlying message in her words that I catch but don't quite understand.

"Hmm. Is that so?" He studies me with keen brown eyes, like a predator searching for their prey's weaknesses.

His disconcerting stare makes me shift uneasily in my seat. "Yeah. I'm sorry if I've offended you."

"Offended?" His entire body shakes as he laughs. "I just never know what to expect with ya."

I look at him quizzically. The way he phrased that sounded like we might be close friends. But he doesn't seem like the kind of person I'd acquaint myself with normally. I'm about to ask what he means when he drops a bowl in front of me. "Here. Ya've been asleep for a while, ya must be famished."

I look down at the stew. My mouth immediately waters by the smell of beef, spices, tomato sauce, and onions. Without questioning it, I grab a spoon and devour the entire bowl.

"Since ya don't remember, my name is Tim, or Tiny Tim as you like to call me."

I stare at him in confusion.

"Wow. He wasn't joking." He says to Reb, seeming to believe it now. Why was he unconvinced before?

"It's certainly a momentous occasion." She answers humorously. "Losing his memory seemed to do the trick."

A bolt of annoyance speared through me. "Instead of these roundabout remarks, why don't you tell me why I'm here?"

"And if we did, would you believe us?" Reb returns casually. When I don't answer she smiles. "This is something you need to figure out on your own. We can't do it for you."

Tim reaches across the counter to take my empty bowl. My attention catches on one of the tattoos on his forearm. The words 'When Night Comes' pour from the mouths of two masked faces. One smiles, one frowns. I recognize them as Comedy and Tragedy masks. It dawns on me these are the twin faces I've seen since waking.

not my art, but I added the text

I glance up at him. A dark, gnarled smile unfurls across his face. A smile that reminds me I'm on a train with a bunch of strangers who seem to know a lot about me while I know nothing of them.

"Remember something?" He asks.

"Is this supposed to mean something?" I parry his question. His smile fades.

With a grunt, Reb rises from her seat. "Time to go."

Thank heavens. Wanting to put as much distance as I could between Tim and myself, I eagerly trailed her.

"What time is it?" I ask. I hadn't realized before that there wasn't a single window for me to figure out my surroundings or the time of day aside from the light when I woke up.

She spares me a sideways glance as she continues to walk. "I believe it's evening, hence your supper."

"What happens when night comes?" I ask as soon as we cross into the next room.

She stops abruptly and turns to look at me. Her pale blue eyes search mine for a moment before she answers cryptically, "Memory or not, you'll find out soon."

Our conversation is interrupted when a voice shouts "Abraham!"

My head jerks to find a small raven-haired woman squealing with delight. She jumps from her spot on an emerald velvet couch and rushes up to me. I stand ramrod still as she kisses both my cheeks in greeting.

She slaps my shoulder while clicking her tongue. "What's with the weird behavior? You goof." She says with a heavy southern accent.

"Uh." I look between her and Reb, who seems to be enjoying my discomfort. "I don't remember you. I'm sorry."

She laughs, making her youthful face appear even younger. "Good one, but you're going to have to do better than that to fool me."

"Honestly," I murmur. A flush crawls up my neck, embarrassed that people think I'd joke about this. "I'm sorry, I really don't know you, or why I'm here."

She watches me as if deciding whether she believes me or not. Her eyes go to Reb, who nods in confirmation. Finally, her smile falters into a pout. "Well darn. That means you probably don't remember Goliath either. He's going to be heartbroken to hear that."

My brows furrow in confusion. "Who's Goliath?" Suddenly something warm and furry brushes against my arm. Startled by the contact, I look down and yelp. "Why's there a lion loose on the train?!" I begin backing away from it.

The woman wraps her arms around the large cat and kisses its forehead. "This is Goliath. We don't believe in caging our animals, they're healthier and happier when they're free."

I balk at her. "Why are you hugging it? It'll kill you!"

She giggles and scratches behind his ear. "Not if I don't give him a reason to." I stare at her in disbelief. "It's a shame you don't remember that you two are close friends. He's never bothered you before, you even let him lick your cheeks."

My face pales as I try to wrap my brain around how I'd willingly be so close to death. I find it hard to believe her.

"Leah, I think you're scaring him," Reb says, looking at me with more amusement than worry. Why does she find this so funny?

Leah's smile fades as she studies me. "Oops. It's okay. We keep him well fed. There's no motivation to hurt anyone. Not unless someone provokes him... Or runs."

"Not helping," I grumble and look down at the giant golden feline. I finally notice a harness strapped to his back illustrating the Comedy and Tragedy masks with the words 'When Night Comes' etched into it.

"What does this mean?" I ask pointing to it before withdrawing my hand. Not trying to get it ripped off today. That'd definitely be the cherry on top of my never-ending nightmare.

They exchange glances before Leah meets my stare. "It's our catchphrase."

I huff in exasperation. "Okay, but what does it stand for?"

Reb bristles. "Only members are allowed to know what it represents. Are you a member?"

I glare at her. "Obviously not."

She sniffs and lifts her chin. "Then as an outsider, you don't get to know."

I'm struck with a sting of rejection at the mention of being the outsider. I know all too well that I've never fit in anywhere, and even in a train full of misfits I'm considered the outcast. Such a low opinion shouldn't bother me, but it does. A lot.

"Fine," I grumble.

Leah sighs and slumps her shoulders sullenly. "Well, once you remember us, come back and give poor Goliath some love. Look at him, he's so hurt by your lack of affection."

"Sure thing." Nope, not going to happen.

Reb rolls her eyes. "Come on. There are still more people I'd like you to meet."

I open my mouth to tell her I'm not interested, but stop myself. So far the people I've met seem to be friendly, albeit enigmatic. It's different from what I've experienced my entire life. I've never felt so accepted before. Aside from the fact no one's giving me answers as to why I'm here, I haven't had a single negative interaction.

"Be sensitive and polite when you meet our next group, or I'll feed you to Goliath." She threatens, but I hear no force behind her words. It's a warning, but for some reason, there's also an edge of trust in her tone. The notion makes my mouth sour with guilt. They trust me, yet I haven't afforded them the same respect. Why? What did I do to earn it?

My musings are disrupted when a chorus of shouts counting down comes from the direction we're heading. I give Reb a questioning look as she opens the door, a hint of a smile playing on her lips.

"Good luck," Leah calls in a sing-song voice as she returns to her seat on the plush couch. Goliath prowls over and plops next to her with an 'oof'.

As Reb and I walk into the next cabin, the first thing I notice is the trace of gasoline.

"...2...1... BLAZE!"

Warning bells go off just as a large flame blasts across the room. I lower into a crouch as the fire soars over me. The heat pricks at my skin, indicating its proximity, and I count my blessings for my quick reaction.

"Nice reach, Drake." Reb comments in fascination.

Beads of sweat drop from my forehead as I glower at the tall, seven-foot man holding a torch in one hand and a bottle of liquor in the other. He wears a sleeveless navy button-down and tan slacks with a belt buckle portraying the Comedy and Tragedy masks. His long dark hair is pulled into a knot on the top of his head. His sharp facial features look exotic and intimidating. His skin is slightly darker than Reb's but his green eyes are just as bright. As he smiles I notice a faint burn scar on the left side of his mouth climbing his entire cheek.

"Thanks, Reb." He notices me and his expression changes to shock. "Abraham! What a pleasant surprise."

"Abraham?" A few other voices call out from beyond the tall man. He side steps to reveal six short men, barely reaching my hip, with faces painted excessively in makeup. Three of their drawn-on faces contain smiles, while the other three bear frowns. At this point, it doesn't even surprise me that they're illustrated as Comedy and Tragedy. However, what does take me off guard are the vast differences between the giant and the group of small men.

I remember Reb's warning and regain my composure, greeting them all with a grin. "Hey everyone."

"He's forgotten us," Reb says. All their smiles are wiped away, and I scowl at Reb for ruining the efforts of my friendly socializing.

She smirks and shrugs. "Don't be fake. You'll make a fool of yourself."

"You really don't remember us?" One of the short men asks with a tragedy face drawn on. The paint emphasizes his frown comically.

I resign myself with a sigh and shake my head. "No, I'm afraid not."

Another short man steps forward. His hair is as orange as the flames that nearly scalded me, and his face paint beholds Comedy. "Is this a trick?" His suspicious eyes dart from me to Reb.

Drake cocks his head speculatively. "You can dupe the crowd Abraham, but not us."

Reb holds out her hand to placate them. "Not this time, guys."

Not this time? Why do they all think I'm deceiving them?

"I'm being genuine." I snap. "And I'm tired of not having my questions answered. Why am I here? How do you all know me? And what happens when night comes?" I turn to Reb. "Take me to your Ringmaster."

Her steady gaze holds mine with something akin to irony. "If you insist. See you later guys." She crosses the room at a sedate pace. "I strongly believe this next cabin will provide answers to all your questions," Reb says thoughtfully as we stop in front of the door.

A disquieting feeling twists in my gut when she reaches for the handle. When she pushes it open, tumultuous laughter echoes from the room; the same maniacal laugh I heard earlier.

"Did you hear that?" I ask, looking around for the source.

Reb raises a brow. "Hear what? The door creaking?"

I wipe the sweat off my forehead. "There was laughter."

"Hmm" is her only response. She stands in the entryway to the dark room. My reservations keep me from entering.

"You wanted to speak with the Ringmaster." She reminds me and gestures to the room. "He's in here."

Knowing I didn't have any other choice, I shelved my misgivings and proceeded into the dark room. The door slams closed behind me, causing me to flinch. "Reb?"

"Did you recover your lost memories?" The familiar voice of the Ringmaster says from somewhere within the room.

I whirl towards the sound of his voice. "That's what I came to speak with you about."

"So, no?" He snickers.

"This isn't funny. I'm not a pawn in whatever game you're playing."

"Pawn in my game? That's hilarious." He muses aloud.

"Huh? Oh no, not you too." I groan. "I'm not lying to anyone."

"Hmm. For someone who has a hard time trusting others you sound like quite the hypocrite expecting others to trust you."

I rear at his accusation. "You have no idea what you're talking about. I woke up on a strange train with no recollection of anything pertaining to how I got here. Can you blame me for distrusting you all?"

He chortles. "Trust has the potential to open new and unfathomable doors. But to many, it's the foundation that builds relationships. Tell me Abraham, who is it that you trust then?"

The question stirs reflection. Who indeed do I trust? Not my family, who subjected me to their cruelty and kicked me out before I became an adult. Not my peers, who ignored or bullied me throughout my life. Not my only girlfriend, who left with a fake excuse to get out of our relationship. Sadly, there's not a soul in my life that I trust.

I look around suspiciously, how does he know about my trust issues? "Am I going to get any answers or just more riddles?"

"That, my friend, is an excellent question." He answers arcanely. "One I guess I can offer a response to."

"How kind of you," I say with bitter sarcasm.

"You wonder why people are hesitant to believe you? It's because to them, you're a trickster."

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"Trickster?" I scoff with irritation. "That would be you since you have a talent for talking nonsense."

He hums contemplatively. "I'm not going to deny that. But you're the one looking for answers, I'm simply giving them to you."

I turn in a circle, searching the shadows for wherever he might be lurking. "Alright, I'll bite. I'm a trickster. There, you happy?"

A figure moves on the other side of the room. The outline is of a man with a top hat and cane- the Ringmaster. "Yes. I am. Because for me to answer your other questions, you needed to accept that part of you."

My body fidgets as I grow impatient. "Well, I'm waiting."

He steps out from the shadows, but his face remains hidden under the hat. "I'll answer your questions after you answer one of mine. Why did your girlfriend leave you?"

I gawk, astonished by his audacity. "Really? Why does that matter?"

"It matters because it was your breaking point."

Releasing a frustrated huff, I recall the painful last words she said to me. Words that led me down a dark spiral, contemplating my existence. "She said she felt like she was dating two different people. That she didn't know which one was the real me."

He looks up, and my mouth dries upon seeing the mask obscuring his face. Half of it portrays Comedy and the other Tragedy. With one hand he removes it, and my breath punches out of me.

RUUA on Esty

"Hello, Abraham." He says with a cunning grin. "I've waited a long time for this day."

I couldn't believe it. He had my face.

Suddenly, I'm flooded with years of memories. Memories I never made. Memories that only existed once the sun had set.

"When Night Comes." I rasp with realization.

The Ringmaster nods. "I come out to play. Sunlight must've touched you, and brought you forth. But no worries, it was about time for us to unite." He holds the mask out to me. "Your tragic upbringing as a child created me; Comedy, as an alternate personality to get you through hardships. I'm sorry for keeping you in the dark for so long. It took me years to create a world you'd never feel alone in with people you could trust, and despite our pranks, trust us too. We might be considered freaks to society, but to each other, we're family. And WE are known as the Trickster."

I take the mask. Reb's words from earlier ring through my head, and the enlightenment that gave me new purpose and meaning instantly surfaces. After years of suffering abandonment, isolation, and the cruelty of others, I vowed to myself that if I ever met anyone who felt rejected as I had, I'd give them a reason to belong. After realizing that I- Tragedy- needed to recover from my trauma, Comedy stepped in and fulfilled my promise. Creating more than just a renowned night circus; he gave those who had been shunned the chance to stand in the spotlight and experience fame.

Feeling grateful, my eyes lift to the Ringmaster but find a tailor's dummy instead. On that dummy are the top hat and tailcoat with a cane leaning against it. The crook of the cane held the same merged Comedy and Tragedy mask.

Out of nowhere, the monkey appears and lands on my shoulder. "Hello, Scooter," I say to him. He gives me his best smile.

"I see that you've learned what brought you here."

My head swivels to see Reb standing in the doorway with her arms crossed, smiling approvingly. "That's quite the talent- mending your split personality- it was your best act yet."

I smirk. "Yes, though I do think you deserve credit as well. I would've never made this far without your guidance."

She makes a sound of agreement. "Now that you're whole again what will you do?"

The train slowly crawls to a stop and static erupts from the speakers before clearing. A satisfied grin spreads across my face as the chords of a piano emit throughout the train playing my signature song. "It's nighttime Reb, you know what that means?" I place the mask on my face and lift my head towards the sky. "We have a show to perform."

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Short Story

About the Creator

Brin J.

I have a few stories and poems inside me that I want to share. Maybe, if I'm lucky, they'll reach people who'll enjoy them. 📖

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Comments (3)

  • Cathy holmes2 years ago

    This is a great story, and very well written.

  • Caroline Jane2 years ago

    Freaky, and really well written. Great work.

  • Heather Hubler2 years ago

    Fantastic! I loved the revelation at the end. So well done :)

Brin J.Written by Brin J.

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