Edition 7: My Trip to the Circus by Jason Lairamore
A little boy sat in the bleachers with his eyes riveted to the three circles where soon the circus troupe of Mavin, McClearly & MacKaub would perform. His mother sitting beside him was a petite thing of short stature with straight blond hair and near perfect posture. She’d point and say something and the boy’s eyes would widen and he’d clap as he jumped up and down. A great dimpled smile never left his pale, freckled face.
I’d never forget that, not ever, and even if I did, I now had it recorded. That boy and his mother had just shown me one of life’s most precious moments. It went to show what the innocent wonder of a child could do to a fully prepared adult, even one whose sensibilities were as used and worn as mine.
With a thought toward my government-grade, fully enclosed and VR enabled I-Wear specs, I retracted focus from the boy and his mother and brought the complete scene into view. From where I sat at the very top of the stadium seating in the great public auditorium of Chester, Virginia, I could see everything, even in the failing light of the setting sun. And with the help of my I-Wears I could hear anything I chose from wherever I chose within a five mile radius.
“Excuse me, sir.”
I jumped from my seat, my hands up and ready, with knees bent and feet pointed toward my enemy. The training received from the I-spec surveyors school kicked in without conscious effort. The owner of that voice had snuck up on me somehow. That was impossible. My I-wears had built in sensors to prevent such a thing from happening.
“Sorry if I startled you, sir. But there are no recording devices allowed during the show. I’m going to have to ask you to remove all such material from your person.”
The man’s palms were slightly open and his head was slightly forward and down as if in apology. His eyebrows were up and his mouth was slightly open and smiling. He nodded ever so slightly in an effort to enforce my compliance to his wishes.
Forget that all my external gear was made of transparent aluminum and nearly impossible to see with the naked eye. I couldn’t take it off if I tried. For all intents and purposes I was married to my tech. I was a cyborg, for lack of a better term. His asking me to remove devices was like me asking him to pull out an eye.
I lost my defensive stance and stood at ease so as to not further warn the man of my nature. The existence of cyborgs was strictly on a need to know basis.
“You frightened me,” I said. It was true, though I tried not to show it. My I-Wears began to pulse red flags I’d never seen before and send them out to home base, which only added to my fear. Something was going on and I didn’t know what.
I side stepped the man and made to take a step down the bleachers. It was time for me to get the hell out of here.
“Sir, your recording devices?” He extended a hand palm out.
I smiled and nodded, ignored his hand, and took one step after another toward the ground.
“I’ll just run them to my car,” I called. “Forgot I had them with me.”
I made it a couple more steps then the man laid his hand on my shoulder.
Well, I’d tried to get away. It wasn’t my fault the training took over. The government had trained and trained us on situations like this. I didn’t know why. Perhaps they were worried that a rival country would try to steal our tech for their own gain.
As soon as that hand touched my shoulder my opposite arm grabbed one of the guns from a hidden hip holster, readied it to fire, and pulled the trigger at point blank range toward my enemy.
“Nobody touches me.” That was one of the first rules they instilled.
After my gunfire the touching stopped. The crowd erupted in screams. I turned back long enough to see the man lying bent and mangled on the bleachers and then I took off running down the steep stairs.
At the bottom I ran out of the arena proper and lost myself in the darkened parking lot. There, I slowed to a walk. Enough circus goers were moving about that my presence wouldn’t be taken out of the ordinary. I made my way to my car at a fast walk, my eyes scanning everything.
I hadn’t expected the evening to go like this, to say the least. This was supposed to have been a simple job and instead, I was walking away a murderer.
The Mavin, McClearly & MacKaub Circus was amazing. Everybody said so. Its popularity, passed by word of mouth, had reached the highest levels of government. I had been sent to record one of their performances for review. That review would have decided if the troupe received one of the special offers for a commercial transport visa. President Borgess himself had initiated the multi-world visa program as a means to deepen the cultural experiences of those living outside of Earth. That number was growing day by day as more and more people took well- paying jobs out in the asteroid belt. Those people needed entertainment as much as the next guy and the circus had looked a real winner.
I slowed down as my car came into sight. Two people waited for me. One was most definitely a woman. She sat on the hood of my car looking more perfect than any dash ornament had ever looked. From a distance all I could see was the silhouette of her amazing curves. The other one looked like a guy wearing a funny looking hat.
It wasn’t till I got closer and the booster in my specs could do their magic that I realized the girl was wearing tights and the man was dressed as a clown. And there wasn’t just the two. All the apparent circus goers walking about near my car were clowns as well.
Finding clowns on my car, at night, was not the norm. I turned around and nearly ran into another clown. This one must have been walking on my heels, he’d been so close. Again, I found my body dropping into a defensive position.
“Mik, bring him over here,” a woman’s voice called from my back. It had to be the one on my car. Her voice felt like velvet to my ears.
I never took my eyes from the clown in front of me. We stood facing each other between two cars. My only way away was through him.
His face paint was thick and strongly colored. His eyes were a fierce, penetrating green unlike anything I’d ever seen in real life. From his bearing and welcoming posture all I got was a pleasant, wary, demureness.
“My name’s not Mik,” he said and winked. My body tried to relax. Such was the strength of his relaxing tone. But the red flags that’d fired off from the guy in the bleachers were going off again.
“I don’t like being followed,” I said.
The clown, Mik, took a step closer, broke my personal space. My hands grabbed my guns and brought them to bear. I hadn’t even thought to do such a thing. It was the training, just like programming, that’s what they’d told us it’d feel like. Well, they’d been right.
The clown took a slow step back and raised both his hands then smiled bemusedly. A wave of my own personal boyhood love and adoration of clowns beat at me like an attack on my better sense. Warning bells went off doubly. My head swam with all the electronic signals issuing from my cranium.
“Meg, we have a problem here,” the clown said as he backed up a few steps.
Almost like a switch, my sense of wonder for clowns turned off. I shook my head and did a quick scan. The clowns had me hemmed in tight and the girl from my car hood was gliding forward.
I wanted to ask them what was going on. Who are you? How’d you know about my tech? But all thought fled as she neared. Never, not in my wildest imaginings, had I bore witness to such wanton beauty.
The pulsing warnings in my skull rang like a gong, but I didn’t care. It could have just as easily been my heart. I was thirteen all over again, but more so, ever so more so.
“What’s your name?” she asked. Her voice was silk with just a bit of sultriness.
I stammered….“Meg,” I whispered. It was like learning the name of an angel.
She was so close. She smelled just a little like flowers. Her hair was a reddish black. There was a hint of dimples when she smiled at me.
“No, Meg’s my name,” she said.
I shook my head. “I mean, Jeremy,” I said. “Jeremy Boyd.” I may have gushed. It felt like I gushed.
“What are you, Jeremy?”
“A talent scout. I identify groups for visas to go into space. It’s only the best that get to go. The government wants to be sure.”
“Hush,” she said.
“He’s an ignorant pawn,” one of the other clowns said. “Kill him.”
I’d let my guns fall to my sides at some point. The male voice brought me to my senses and they came back up. But Meg’s perfection, unmarred and all her august attention directed toward me made me forget. If only I could kiss her. I leaned forward to do just that. She cradled my head and whispered into my ear.
“Before you die I want you to know. No man, even a murderous brother such as you, should die in ignorance. We are your kin from across the stars. Birthed and housed on but a single planet for we have no such technology as your kind do. What we had was a beautiful culture of mastery over the body, over our shared systems of nerve, muscle, and hormone. And you destroyed it. But know this, Earth brother, some survived. And we come to deliver vengeance.”
She pulled her head back and looked deep into my befuddled eyes then sighed. I couldn’t think of a single thing to say that’d make even the smallest bit of difference. Man, was she beautiful.
She jerked my head sharply to the side. By some reflexive chance I checked her thrust. It was probably the programming again. The government had done all kinds of things to me, many of which I didn’t understand.
I yanked my head from her grasp and drew my guns, but I couldn’t shoot her. I tried and tried. I tried with all that I had. My hands shook. My fingers ached. Her beautiful eyes, bluish gray, were wide and hungry, her perky chest heaved up and down. My arms slowly lowered and her full, ruby lips parted to show perfect white teeth.
And then, as if by magic, she was gone. A nanosecond worth of time zipped by as I activated my visual locater to seek her out. Someone had shot her. What was left of her lay ten feet away in pieces upon the broken pavement. Her face was gone, obliterated. I took a step toward her, shaking my head. No. Such beauty should not be destroyed, not ever, no matter what.
“GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS AND KILL THOSE CLOWN BASTARDS!”
The voice was strong and female and screamed in my head from ear to ear. It did the trick and broke my lingering trance. My guns came up, my visuals expanded and locked on the quickly retreating group of clowns. I fired and fired until both handguns drew empty. I managed to hit a couple of them, but many had literally dodged my bullets.
I holstered my guns and turned a full circle. From somewhere close by came the sound of sirens. The police were on their way. I shook my head. I had no clue what to do next. I could run, but that wouldn’t help in the long run. I know some of the circus crowd had seen my face. I wouldn’t be that hard to identify.
A red light blinked to life in my superimposed transparent faceplate.
“Run to me as fast as you can if you want to live. They will kill you, believe me.” It was the same woman’s voice, still in my head.
So I ran. It was something to do. My brain was mush and my nerves felt fried. Running gave me a purpose other than killing and it helped to lessen the aching multitude of questions that barraged my soul.
I’d never have seen the black helicopter if it hadn’t been for my computer beacon. It sat in a dark little clearing between a couple of buildings as quiet and as still as death itself.
“Get inside,” The female voice said, this time from close by. A little blue light clicked on that showed the interior of the craft. A black clad woman wearing full riot headgear stowed some sort of rifle into an overhead compartment. I took a step up and sat down beside her.
“Who are you?” I asked. “Did you kill that woman?” I couldn’t shake the utter waste of destroying something so beautiful.
The little blue light clicked off, leaving us in utter blackness, and then the helicopter rose with just the barest of whispers.
“I’m your partner, Joe,” the woman said. “Yeah, I took out the bitch. From the looks of it she had you under her spell. You always were one for the ladies.”
“My name is Jeremy.”
“Jeremy, that’s right. Forgot about that.”
“She said—” it sounded ridiculous to even thinking about, “—she said she was from another planet, that we destroyed her world.”
“That’s the story.”
The helicopter landed with a soft thud and the door opened of its own accord to reveal a rooftop and a lit doorway. The lady, my partner, jumped out first and led the way to the door. I followed. I didn’t see that I had much of a choice.
The door led down a stairwell. At the first landing she opened another door and ushered me inside. The room was one of the training rooms from the I-Wear facility. We’d come to home base.
The man who’d been my primary instructor, Mr. Martin, was there and he held a hypodermic needle full of some drug in one of his pudgy hands. I stopped and watched my still masked partner come around to join the professor. I gave them both a questioning look. My tech started to ping against different pieces of tech in the room as it verified and communicated all that had happened that night.
“I’m getting tired of doing this every time,” Mr. Martin said to my partner. He sighed.
“Okay,” he continued. “Quick and dirty. Listen because you have to be at a comedy club across town in less than half an hour for another possible hit. Maybe we can get lucky twice in a row.”
“What…” I began.
“No,” he interrupted. “No time for all the dilly-dally. Here it is. Yes, one of our explorer ships found life on another planet. Yes, this life looked exactly like us, some kind of divergent evolution they say, with them masters of the body and us masters of tech. And of course our two very different cultures didn’t handle initial relations well so we did what we always do. We blew them the hell up. Dead, finite, or so we thought. Survivors are scattered here and there hiding like cockroaches that run when you turn the lights on. So we are killing them piecemeal as best we can. And yes, you are the bait. Well, more like poison. Understand this so I don’t have to have you restrained, which would take too long. They are absolute masters of nonverbal communication. That is why I have this drug in my hand. I am going to inject you and you are going to forget this so you can be ignorant. Ignorance is the key. You can get close enough to kill them if you are ignorant. If you knew what was happening they’d know and they’d scatter.”
“Why are we killing them?” I asked, but found myself pushing up my sleeve and walking up to Mr. Martin as if my body had done it a thousand times.
He grabbed my arm and I tensed, but my partner came around to put an arm around my shoulders. For some reason I calmed down at her touch.
As I watched the medicine get pushed into the vein at my elbow Mr. Martin answered my question.
“We are killing them because they are, after all, human, and they want revenge. They’re trying to affect our culture, turn us against ourselves, and they can do it too. Wouldn’t you want revenge if someone had destroyed your planet?”
“Name please?” asked a white gloved waiter.
“Phillip Lariot,” I answered. He checked his list, nodded, and led me to a table in the back of the room.
“Enjoy the show, sir.”
I tipped him well and settled back to watch the crowd gather around the tables. Age groups from eighteen to eighty were here. That was saying something. For a comedian to appeal to that large an audience was very impressive. Perhaps this comedian, a guy named Gus Thorton, had what it took to win one of President Borgess’ special interplanetary visas. From commentary of his past performances it sure looked promising.
“Excuse me, sir,” said a voice at my ear. I jumped from my seat. Nobody sneaks up on me.
Jason is a family man. He is the father to three wonderful children and is the lucky husband to one very beautiful lady. By day he works as a medical professional and at night he is blessed to be father and husband.
Only after normal people are safely tucked away cozily in their beds and sleeping soundly does he get to sit down and explore the tangential worlds of everyanywhere.
And explore he does. You can find Jason at https://www.facebook.com/jason.lairamore
Jason has another story published in issue 9 of SQ Mag (‘Trophy’)