This week’s words were:
swamp :: toasted :: strumpets :: carnival :: artificial
The Show Goes On
‘The smell of something baking will attract them,’ he said. ‘Quick! Go and find something to put in the oven. They’re coming!’
‘What?’ I snapped back. ‘Have you been overdoing the ichor again? All we have is dirt. And some scraps left over from last time. None of that will smell good toasted, take it from me.’
Felby turned away, muttering under his breath. I hated when he got like this.
‘Pardon?’ I said. ‘Didn’t quite catch that.’ In reply he just threw a spell at me, a burning one which landed on my skin like falling ash. He didn’t even turn around to watch as it bit into my flesh, leaving a bright red weal like a pair of rouged lips, an artificial kiss. Despite the pain, I quite liked it.
‘Look, look, look!’ he squeaked, pointing out the window with one yellowed claw. ‘They’re nearly here!’ His tail lashed and writhed in midair. Our Felby would’ve been a bad poker player, I thought.
‘All right, all right,’ I muttered, crossing the floor to switch on the generator. The lights popped awake, and the music whined into life, the notes stretched and treacly as they warmed up.
‘Now – go! Out with you.’ Felby’s talons poked into my back as he ushered me toward the door. ‘Don’t forget the clubs!’ I was already halfway down the steps, but Felby helpfully shoved them into my hands and slammed the door behind me. I stamped to the ground, making a point of crashing through the still surface of a puddle as I thought about being inside, in the warmth of the caravan, for a change. Why was it always me who had to draw the punters in?
I stood in the light cast by our travelling show, tossing the clubs from hand to hand in a movement worn smooth by centuries of practice. That was why Felby’d taken me in the first place, of course – my sleight of hand had always been second to none. I threw in a few spins and tricks as I waited for the prey to come close enough to see me.
Then, I heard the clicking of their pointed shoes and the pointiness of their clicking tongues, and I smelled their painted flesh. I heard the rushing of their blood. My stomach roared as I tasted the swamp of their emotions, their tangled little feelings, the thoughts which seemed so important to them, but which flickered like falling snowflakes to me, melting away to nothing.
I juggled faster.
‘Oh, look!’ one of them squeaked, stumbling against her fellows. ‘A little carnival!’
‘How cute,’ said another, turning her ankle as she walked. They all giggled as she struggled for balance, the noise of it like knives in my ears. I tried to smile.
‘And look at the little baby,’ moaned one, her eyes turning soft, like sludge underfoot. I fixed her with a look as I threw my clubs, over and under and over and spin… ‘Isn’t he adorable?’
‘Aren’t you a wonderful juggler, little man?’ shrieked another. I bowed as I threw my clubs, never missing a beat. The strumpets clapped, their gabbling growing unbearable. My grin started to ache.
They shambled toward me on unsteady feet, like something newborn. Clucking and shushing as they went, keeping their purses clutched tight and their eyes thrown wide, they were drawn to the lights and the music and me like gold draws greed.
I hoped Felby would leave one for me, this time, but I knew better than to expect it.