Broken Candle - first chapter
1271 days ago
Prologue: Step Right Up
The circus was supposed to be a grand event. That is what Carla keeps raving, but to me it seems like a whole lot of noise for no particular reason. I approached a man wearing a bright neon suit. I stopped, intrigued by his bravado.
“One dollar to guess your weight,” he said, waving his hands in the air. “No, thanks,” I said and moved along.
There was another tent with a sign saying, ‘Madam Olga Sees All.’
“Humm,” I said. “That’s not even possible.”
“Of course it is,” a woman coming up behind me said. “Don’t you want to know your future?” She pushed passed me nearly knocking me down.
“Some people are so rude,” a short husky man remarked. He reached out his hand to help me up. “You alright, Miss?”
“Yes,” I said. “Thanks.”
Madam Olga, I was intrigued but still skeptical. Besides, the future is not written. Why would anyone want to know their future anyway? Still, I entered the tent.
It was a bit dark in the tent, but then I liked it that way. There were colorful draperies lining the walls of the tent and a rich red carpet on the floor. In the middle of the tent was a round table with a stack of tarot cards lying there in plain sight. Seated at the table was a strange woman. She looked ancient to my sixteen-year-old eyes. Her hair was mostly gray with just a hint of silver towards the front. It looked as if she hadn’t combed it in days. There was an obvious crease in her lip that seemed to quiver. Her eyes were dark like mine, almost black, that alone made me feel uneasy. I wanted to run out of the tent, but something, some force kept me planted in the place I stood.
“Come this way, child,” she said, her voice cracking slightly. I was apprehensive about approaching but slowly stepped towards her. For some reason, I couldn’t stop myself.
I was about a foot away when I finally did stop. I stayed frozen there for who knows how long. I no longer heard the noise outside. If there was any, I wasn’t sure. Everything was silent, until the woman spoke once more.
“Come, child, do not be afraid.” She waved a hand as I slowly approached. “Would you like to know your future?” She asked. An odd smile came to her face.
“Not really,” I said, being truthful.
“Oh, you do not believe.” She laughed at my skepticism. “Most people don’t.” I sat down in a wicker chair that seemed so out of place. I felt awkward sitting there. I barely glanced at her face. I didn’t want to look in her eyes. I felt that if I did she would know all of my secrets.
“Tell me your name then I will read for you,” she said in a low voice.
“For a price,” I said, forcing myself to look at her. There was an odd glare in her eyes. She looked annoyed at me but perked up when I handed her the money. “Marianna,” I said, almost in a whisper.
She shuffled her cards. From then on I stayed fixated on them and their movement in her hands. Her hands looked so frail and delicate, like thin paper, but somehow those cards seemed to me so powerful. Her hands dominated them.
In my mind, her movements seemed so slow and deliberate. She looked into my eyes, and I felt as if she could see right through me. A chill went up my spine as she laid out the cards one by one. What if she really knew?
“Very interesting,” she said. “There has been a great loss in your life.”
“Yes,” I said unimpressed. “Isn’t that the same for everyone?”
“Perhaps, but with you even more. When did your mother die?”
I shot up from my seat. I was frozen where I stood. “How…?” Anxiety took over me, and my breathing became heavy. I couldn’t say anything more. I wanted to know more, but at the same time I didn’t. I slowly sat back down, my whole body shaking.
“Now, you believe?” She laughed, but not in a mocking way. It was more out of satisfaction. She continued to lay out her cards. Suddenly she stopped and touched my hand. Then she looked into my eyes. A look of fright came to her face. I didn’t say anything, but I knew that she saw something, something horrible.
“What are you?” she whispered. I saw a glowing red fire reflecting off her eyes. I looked away. I thought for a moment that she was laughing at me. I didn’t know if it was real or all in my mind. I shot up from the table and ran out the entrance of the tent. My heart was beating so fast as I pushed myself through the crowd.
Why did I go in there? I asked myself. I calmed down enough to continue my tour of this freakish gallery, but my brief meeting with Madam Olga shook me to the core.
There was too many people around, coming and going. Some had such happy, excited faces. I felt them staring at me, mocking me.
I stopped cold when I saw the entrance of the fun house. My own reflection stared back at me. I looked like any ordinary person, with my dark brown hair and nearly black eyes. I wore no makeup, which made me looked even younger than my sixteen years. I stared at myself for a time. Why was there no life in those eyes? Somewhere in my memory was the answer, but what did I really know about myself.
So many things I remembered in my life, but I wondered if those memories were really mine, what Madam Olga said about my mother dying. I had the memory, but until now, not the emotion. Many memories I possessed, but I didn’t feel like I was connected to them. I can’t recall my last memory before coming into the care of Carla Benson. I just knew something terrible had happened. Madam Olga saw it too. I know she did. It was a memory I didn’t want to face, so I ran. With all this noise, it was hard to hear myself think. Circus spectators pushed and shoved, but through all the noise I heard Carla’s voice.
“Marianna,” she called. She pushed passed a few people until she was standing next to me. “Where have you been? There are too many people here. It’s much too easy to get lost.”
She shoved back her shoulder length blond hair. Her makeup was starting to fade, and I could see her lipstick clumped in the natural creases of her lips. She wore her blue jeans, a white tank top, and a pair a white tennis shoes. Although on this dirty campground, the sides of her white shoes were turning to gray. I noticed she was wearing her blue cotton jacket. The evening had brought much cooler temperatures. I could still see the brightness of her blue eyes. It had been a bit windy, so her hair looked a fright.
I didn’t look much better. My dark hair was slowly coming out of the ponytail I had put it in earlier that day, and my clothes had a bit of dirt on them. I wore black as I always did. Carla always tried to get me to put more color in my wardrobe, but I refused.
“I’m sorry, Carla,” I said. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“It’s quite all right. I was about to get us something to eat. Are you hungry?”
“No,” I said. “I’d rather look around for a while. Is that all right?”
“Sure,” she said. “Whatever you want. I’ll wait for you in the food court. About an hour?”
“Fine,” I said. I refused to look at her. Carla Benson was such a good-hearted woman.
Sometimes I wondered why she put up with me. After all, she wasn’t my mother.
I continued my walk, disgusted by the mocking induced upon the human intellect. “Step right up.”
Those annoying words were repeated over and over. What does it really mean? “Sucker, give us your money.” That’s what it meant to me.
I looked to the south side of the circus grounds when a large yellow tent with orange swirls printed on it caught my eye. I noticed a man in a silly costume shouting idle words. I walked swiftly to see what all the fuss was about. The entrance to the tent was of carved wood with an orange tiger painted on it. The opening looked as if you were walking into his mouth waiting to be devoured.
“Step right up.” I heard those annoying words again. The man continued in an excited voice of some fake plastic excitement. “Step right up, folks. See the one, the only, the eighth wonder of the world, the genuine article. The ‘Tiger Man.’”
Bloodthirsty cheers reciprocated the air. During the silly man’s speech I had developed an obsessive fascination for this Tiger Man, although for different reasons. Admission was two dollars. It was all the money I had left. Entering the tent, I felt like I was entering a prison. I saw a man with a whip screaming and slashing at a creature cowering in the shadows of his cage.
“Wake up, freak,” he shouted, “your adoring public is here.”
The creature growled, which seemed more to me like a cry for help. He slammed himself into the bars spotlighting himself for the audience of spectators. They screamed and hollered hate names.
I walked slowly towards the cage and over the protective ropes that regular spectators were not supposed to cross. I put my hands on the cage not realizing that the creature’s jailer had shouted for me to get back, either I ignored him or made myself impervious to his pleas.
I looked into the Tiger Man’s eyes, and suddenly his growls stopped. He looked into my eyes as well. We were the same- one of the Others, Sadians. We were the ones the world denied. My eyes reflected into his. It was glowing the color of red. He too understood the kinship between us. We were two faint stars shining a little brighter than all the others.
“Hey, are you deaf, girl,” the man said and grabbed me by the arm. “This thing’s dangerous. Do you know he could eat you alive?”
“I doubt that,” I said, shoving his hand off my arm. “Someone should lock you up.”
I looked straight into the man’s eyes. He saw something in them. I could tell for his expression changed to fright.
“Get out of here, Missy,” he demanded. I looked over at the Tiger Man. There was still fright in his eyes, but also a glimmer of hope. As I turned and walked towards the entrance, I heard the angry voice of the Tiger Man’s jailer once again. “Don’t come back.”
I hated to leave him the custody of those who would hurt him, but I didn’t want to worry Carla. After all the things, she had done for me this past year I owed her some sanity in our less than normal lives.
I caught up with her at the food court where she had a fruit salad waiting for me. I could see that her hair was now combed, and her make-up was a lot fresher than it had been before. I never understood why she wore it, because it seemed so unnecessary to me.
“Did you have fun?” Carla asked, dipping into her dessert.
“Sure,” I said. I still didn’t look her in the eye. I couldn’t believe these insane questions she was asking.
“Marianna, did something happen?”
“No, Carla. You worry too much.” I still couldn’t look at her.
“Marianna,” she said, in a louder voice while I still refused to look her in the eye. Instead, I finger-nibbled my fruit salad. “Marianna, look at me. Tell me what’s troubling you.”
I looked at her for the first time. “Nothing is wrong,” I said.
“Nothing unusual happened?”
“No,” I said, looking towards the yellow tent. I kept thinking of the Tiger Man and the sorrow we both shared.
Carla said nothing more. I was glad. I didn’t feel like an interrogation today. She suggested that we head for the cabin, but my heart wanted to set this place on fire. I had the need to hear the screams of all those hateful souls and taste the sweet blood of those who would torment my kind. The enemies were the ones who would imprison a man for the crime of being different.
On the drive back up to our mountain cabin, I thought of the Tiger Man with his pearl white fangs, like those of a vampire, with razor sharp claws to match. I wasn’t for sure how large he was, for my eyes remained fixed on his. Lies must have been told to him, for what other way could a mere normal capture such a creature. His imprisonment would end. It was a silent promise I had made to a kindred soul.
Entering the cabin I immediately took to my solitude. I could hear faint whispers of Carla’s television that she kept in her bedroom.
I lay on my bed thinking how lucky she was, having that distraction, and once forgotten memories came to me as I lay in my sleepless state. I had thought of the time before I was orphaned. A time when my life was so predictable- a time before the pain, before knowledge that only life experience brings, a time when I was still Marianna.