“Our memories aren’t that reliable. What we remember is usually altered by our emotions and other thoughts at that time.” Adaire couldn’t remember where he heard it, but the quote glowed in his mind.
Red and gold streaked the sky as the darkness crept in. The sun’s last cry before night enveloped it. Below was a lone police station, trims, panes, walls, in every shade of grey imaginable. Inside was just as bland, but in whites. Stark white, cream white, snow white, seashell white, floors, walls, tables, chairs- it was nauseating for the little boy dangling his feet from his stool. They couldn’t quite reach the floor no matter how far he sat on the edge. He caught himself from falling off right when the constable walked in. The boy heard clicking footsteps behind the man and already knew who it was.
“Adaire! There you are!” A blonde woman with pearl earrings ran to the boy and hugged him.
She let Adaire go for a second and he tried to give her his happiest expression possible. Which wasn’t convincing enough for his adoptive mother. Faking expressions was not one of his greatest skills.
A moment later, a man in a pristine blue shirt and greying brown hair walked into the room. “Oh, dear boy, your mother and I were so worried.”
She’s not my mother the boy thought, but he couldn’t say it when both the man and woman looked so relieved and happy. It was probably the most expressive they’ve ever gotten around him.
What a nice change.
“Time to get you back home.” The man ruffled Adaire’s dark hair before thanking the constable.
They walked to their silver Buick Lacrosse, a car Adaire respected but did not love. He was much more interested in the horse carriages at the circus, and he was dying to know how they traveled. That was where he was earlier, the circus. It was the seventh time he snuck in since it arrived five days ago.
Adaire had heard things about a circus coming to town, but had no idea how caught up he would get in it. One day he was playing in the meadow with his little sister. The next day a great tent was already set up, with animals so large he couldn’t believe they could travel in anything.
Whatever they traveled in, he wanted to ride in it right now, not this Buick Lacrosse. Especially with his adoptive parents.
Adaire did not despise them or anything, but he did not particularly love them. He more or so respected them and wished them to be happy. Though Adaire was eleven, he knew why they had adopted him. They wanted their own baby, but couldn’t have one. So they decided to adopt— as simple as that. And he knew they regretted it. They just couldn’t love him the way they’d love their own child, and it was obvious even if they tried to make it not. They were kind people, but Adaire felt no emotional attachment in the last four years. He only felt pity for them to have to put up with him when they didn’t wish to. Not that he wanted to stay either.
He wanted to go back to the circus, where no one was the same, but they were all just as amazing. Adaire felt like he was in a different world within those gates, it was his escape. It was also easy to sneak in unnoticed being his size.
He heard wailing from upstairs once they reached their large home.
It was easy to go unnoticed at home as well since Daniella was born. Daniella meant miracle, something his adoptive mother told him two years ago. She also told him his name meant fortunate and powerful. It was what his real mother had named him.
He didn’t know if she was even alive, and he had never felt fortunate or powerful.
Adaire ran upstairs to the child of his adoptive parents, his “sister”. The only person he felt close to in that bloodline.
The nanny was trying to hush her, but stepped out of the room as soon as Adaire walked in. He went towards her crib and concentrated on her mind.
The deep green eyes so similar to his widened as he placed cheerful images in her mind. A rainbow, a horse, colours and toys and flowers. Talking clouds and bright afternoons with sparkling waters so blue it was hard not to get mesmerized by its rhythm.
Her sobs turned into shimmering laughter. Adaire smiled watching her. It was something he avoided doing because it was unfair and not normal, but for Daniella he would draw illusions from his mind. Only for her. He loved her and wished to always take care of her with beautiful, happy thoughts.
Though he knew he couldn’t. He knew he would not always be there for her, but didn’t know why or where he would be.
Every lightning made Adaire wonder how the circus was doing. He was stuck home all day, forbidden to go anywhere for his parent’s fear that he would get lost again. Though he hadn’t gotten lost in the first place. He knew exactly how to get back home, but his parents would not believe him. They wouldn’t even let him go to his neighbour’s house.
Daniella played with a broken watch while Adaire gazed at the rain from his living room window. He wasn’t allowed the one thing he wanted from his adoptive parents. He watched the clouds darken. It felt like they were shedding tears for him.
Adaire would not cry. He was much stronger than that, even the thunder never frightened him. Though he feared for the open tent, exposed to any spark of anger the sky would strike with.
He wasn’t angry. He would not spark anyone with anything because he knew how to be patient, he had a lot of practice Daniella.
Adaire pressed his forehead against the glass, feeling the cold blaze through his head to the rest of him. It was relaxing, even with the thunder and lightning. The musty smell however, threw all of that off.
He never liked the smell of rain, it made his head feel heavy. It also reminded him that he was trapped in this house while the circus performed for the last time that night. It would be gone by morning.
Perhaps he could sneak out at night, when everyone would be going to bed. His bedtime was at ten o’clock, but the circus didn’t close until three.
He looked at his sister rolling around on the carpet with the watch. He heard his parents setting the table for supper.
He could do it.
There was another one! It was so close to the tent, I could see only the golden tent tip because it was down the hill, but the lightning bolt was so close to it! So close to destroying the best thing in the world.
I wished I was there, even if I got hit by lightning, at least I would see the last show before it was all destroyed.
Maybe I was taking it too far, but I didn’t care. I felt more at home there than I ever had here, even with Daniella.
I remembered I was supposed to watch her while my adoptive parents made supper. I looked away from the window to see her playing with a broken watch. Huh. Even with all the toys she had, she still chose weird objects over them. That was one of the things I liked about her though. Even if she was only two, she clearly wasn’t like her parents at all. Not that they were bad, just normal. So normal it was annoying.
They also wouldn’t let me out of their sight, scared that I might leave and get “lost” again. I never got lost in the first place, I was exploring and knew exactly how to get back home. They thought an eleven year old couldn’t figure his way through a meadow that has a path going right through their neighbourhood. Even Daniella could figure that out.
I should’ve taken a watch yesterday so I would’ve gotten back on time– before they noticed I wasn’t playing in the neighbourhood. Oh well. It didn’t matter anymore.
The sky was crying outside, but I wasn’t going to. I was strong and brave, and patient. That’s why I wasn’t exactly mad at my adoptive parents, I knew they were just worried.
I heard louder thunder and knew the sky was getting angry. I hoped the circus was okay.
I pressed my forehead against the glass and the cold from it moved through my spine, but it was somehow a good feeling. I felt peaceful when I closed my eyes and just felt everything around me.
The smell ruined it. The musty smell of rain made my head feel weird and heavy. Plus it reminded me why I was sitting by the window watching the tip of a tent. Missing the last shows, the delicious treats, the sounds and colours before it all disappeared tomorrow morning.
Maybe I could see it one last time…if I snuck out when everyone was in bed. Who knew when the circus would return to this town, if it ever came again. Bedtime was at ten o’clock and the tent closed at three. I wouldn’t talk to strangers or be found by the police, and I knew the way there and home even in the dark.
Daniella was rolling around on the carpet with that broken watch and I could hear her mom and dad setting the table.
I could do it.
“He understands more than we give him credit for.” John said as he placed the plates.
I kept my focus on the pot of chili I was bringing to the table.
“Yes, I know, I know.” I hated this topic. John knew I hated it, yet he brought it up. Again. “I don’t know what else to do. You know we adopted thinking he could be a part of us and we would have no trouble having him.”
“Perhaps if we adopted a baby instead of a seven-year-old we would never have noticed the difference.”
“You were the one who insisted we skip the baby stage because it’s the most troublesome. I knew it was a mistake while we were making it.”
“And still you went along with it.”
“You called him a mistake.”
“I didn’t mean it that way.”
He wasn’t a mistake. He was a lovely boy, quiet, intelligent and thoughtful. I did love him, and I knew John did as well, but we just couldn’t connect with him. He could never connect with us either, no matter how much we tried. He was too old for his age and never very expressive. We could still tell he didn’t like being with us, though he tried to pretend he did. Too old for his age.
Maybe we were so detached not because he was our adopted son, but because he was him and we were us. We didn’t belong together. I hoped to find a way to help him.
For now, all I could do was call him for dinner.
Under the covers I waited, listening as my door closed. I heard footsteps go towards Daniella’s room, then out in a few minutes. She never took time falling asleep. They were going towards their own bedroom now.
I came out of the covers to watch the light under the door. It dimmed when their door closed, then went out.
A few more minutes just be safe.
It felt like forever, but the clock said it was only eleven minutes after ten. I could wait five more minutes.
As soon as the four on the digital clock turned to five, I quietly hopped out of bed, already dressed and needing only a coat. I made sure to arrange the pillows in a way to look like someone was under the blanket I put on top, just in case anyone came in to check. I was about to leave when I remembered the pocket watch at the bottom of my sock drawer. It was gold, dirtied from generations of use, with a symbol engraved on the cover. The symbol was a circle inside of another circle, a wavy line horizontally across them both. The top half of the big circle and the bottom half of the little circle were silver parts. On either side of the circle were two hands, floating as if they were holding the circle up with invisible strings. The thing I liked most though was the back, a clear back revealing every silver and gold gear, every mechanism working. I could get mesmerized just watching it.
It was the only thing I had from my family, and I didn’t know who it belonged to. Aunt Martha at the orphanage only told me the circle was a “mind’s eye” but she did not say anything more while giving it and me away to this family.
I put the watch in my pocket, making sure its chain didn’t stick out, and quietly slipped out of my room. I could hear Daniella tossing, and decided to put in happy thoughts of a family picnic into her dreams. She was still again, sleeping peacefully.
My heavy socks helped quiet my footsteps as I went down the stairs, but after a few steps I went back up to her parents’ room. They were quiet, but I decided to put in the same happy family picnic dream into their heads as well. It might keep them asleep, and I knew they were sad I pretended not to notice them kissing my forehead goodnight earlier. Though it was a long time since they’ve done that.
I had figured getting my coat from the coat rack would be a mission, which was why I put it in the bottom of the closet after supper without anyone noticing.
I felt like a secret agent.
Opening the front door made the entire house shake. I froze, wondering if I should hide or leave as fast as I could.
The silence told me I was the only one who heard it, so I went out and softly closed the door behind me.
Then I ran.
I hadn’t realized the extent of how upset he was until that night, seeing him already quietly tucked in his bed. Of course, he always tucked himself in quietly before I or Linda could, but that night it was different. He felt more distant than ever before.
I kissed his forehead for the first time in a while and said goodnight. He said it back, though it felt like he hadn’t actually acknowledged me. Must’ve been still thinking about that carnival in the meadow. I didn’t understand the hype of a circus, all it was was a traveling show.
Linda came in and brought the blanket up perhaps a millimeter more. She also kissed his forehead, but again I wasn’t sure if he even noticed.
Maybe I should’ve gone the last day, with Adaire and the family before it left. Well the weather wasn’t favourable all day.
Before closing the door I looked at Adaire once more. I really did wish for us to connect, but as Linda believed, it really wasn’t possible. No matter how lovely he was, I just couldn’t foresee it.
I followed Linda to Daniella’s room to find our daughter already asleep. She was only two but preferred to sleep in her own room than with us. Perhaps it was us children liked to be away from. Then again, she wasn’t completely detached like Adaire either. At least not yet.
“It’s been a long and tedious day, let’s go to bed.” Linda broke me away from my thoughts. She must’ve known what I was thinking about, she usually did.
It never took Linda long to fall asleep either, something Daniella must’ve inherited from her. My sleep, on the other hand, took its valuable time to come.
Less than twenty minutes later, I found myself dozing off thinking about family picnics. I think we were in a forest near a waterfall, Daniella , Linda and I. There was a boy with us, but I couldn’t recognize him. Regardless, we were all cheerful, laughing as we played around.
I woke up to a mild quiver. Must’ve just been the jolting of waking up from a dream.
I tried to focus on the clock which read 10:22 in red numbers. I had a whole dream within a couple minutes? That was odd, but so were dreams.
The dream! I played it back as best as I could, which wasn’t good at all. The most fuzzy part was the boy, whose face I couldn’t decipher. It must’ve been Adaire. Who else could it be?
It didn’t seem like Adaire though, it just didn’t have his aura. Not that I believed in auras, it just didn’t feel like him to me. At least not the him I had ever seen.
Four hours later, I was still staring at the ceiling trying to figure out who it was. I had no idea why it even bothered me so much.
I had to go to his room. Maybe if I saw him I could prove to myself that it was him in my dream. I didn’t know what I would get out of this, but I just had to do it. Maybe then I could get some sleep.
I crept out of our room and made sure Linda was still asleep before closing the door. She moved a bit and asked me where I was going half asleep.
Of course she knew I left, she always did. I told her I was going to the washroom and slipped out.
I opened Adaire’s door to find him fully buried in the covers. He must have been getting hot under there by now. In the moonlit room, I pulled the blanket of his head to give him some air and for me to see his face and justify that ridiculous dream.
I found pillows.
It was even more magical than ever before.
I thought I would get tired of this circus if I went too many times, but each time was better than the last. Each time, I discovered something I missed, something new and amazing. The tent was so big there were different shows running everywhere at the same time! There were rooms and tents inside of the gigantic tent.
I never saw the circus at night before, but I imagined how it might look. My imagination really sucked compared to this.
I was standing on top of the hill, taking everything in. In the day, the tent was striped with dark blue and even darker blue, but at night it looked like one colour of the dark sky. There were thousands of bluish-white lights embedded on the outside of the whole tent, like stars. They must’ve been turning on and off because they looked they they were glittering. From far away the tent might’ve looked like it was a part of the sky, but with stars that disappear and appear again and again. The tip looked like solid gold. Too bad I lived behind the hill and couldn’t see the whole thing.
I started walking towards the tent and was hit by the intoxicating smell. Lovely smells, caramel, vanilla, lavender, fresh bread, honey, hints of lemon, popcorn, cinnamon, and spices I couldn’t recognise. The smells seemed stronger at night, carrying me to the entrance.
The air was cool and the ground was mysteriously dry after the storm we had all day. It made no sense, but I didn’t mind not having wet, muddy shoes.
I pushed through the secret opening in the fabric that made up the doorway and felt like I was in another world again. The outside was empty, the only sounds I could hear were crickets and the soft rustle of leaves in the breeze, while inside there were clusters of people in every spot, laughing, talking, singing. I did not understand why I hadn’t heard them through the fabric.
The outside of the tent was a night sky and the inside was a blazing fire, with strings of golden lights hanging above and jars of candles placed on any surface available. I stepped closer towards a jar to find it was actually a fake candle that flickered. I guessed it was safer that way.
I couldn’t decide where to go first, something I wanted to see again or look for something new?
I squeezed past a crowd watching the blue haired knife throwing woman. I’ve seen this act three times, and each time I was just as scared of something going wrong. Each time I was amazed at how close her blade came to the assistants, but passing them into the wooden board behind.
I smelled those delicious scents, and knew I had to eat something first. I headed towards the line for the chocolatier who made works of edible art in minutes. I didn’t have any money with me, but he knew me from all of the times I’ve been there and started giving me free treats the third time I went to his booth. Neither of us spoke a word as he made me another surprise. I watched him carve a lump of chocolate with a cracker stick in it. I couldn’t see what it was as he dipped it into a bowl of liquid white chocolate and then a bowl of something else. He poked a hole somewhere and put in a string of candy that hung out. He handed the chocolate lollipop to me and I couldn’t help gaping.
The chocolate lollipop was in the shape of a closed pocket watch, with sparkling dust all over it. The string of candy was the chain. I thanked the chocolatier and he nodded with a smile.
I walked around licking the sweet sparkle off of the chocolate. There were tightrope walkers above me, I watched them with my head tilted back as I took a bite out of my treat. There was a layer of almond chocolate surrounding the warm caramel inside. It all melted in my mouth. Except the almond bits, those were crunchy. I felt bad for eating something so amazing, so I tried to slow down…tried.
I walked past a fire breathing trick rider, who had an awesome black horse I wanted to ride, to an opening I didn’t remember seeing before. There were never signs, or anything with words in this circus, even on the tickets (never bought any but I had found an used one on the ground) so I had no idea what was in there and if I had seen it before.
I stepped inside to be enveloped by darkness. I thought maybe it was a storage or change room until three spot lights came on. They swivelled around the room before focusing on a long red piece of silk draped from the high ceiling to the floor in a big pile. Then I saw something move, a person, hanging onto the fabric with twists of it around their legs, upside down. I almost didn’t notice people coming into the room behind me as I watched this woman in black bend and spin in the air, almost falling at times to make everyone gasp but gracefully catching herself. I couldn’t see her face because of her long black hair which blended in with the blackness inside of the room, but I felt like she was watching me between her tricks. I didn’t know why, but she seemed sad or scared. Maybe both.
“An aerial silk artist” I heard someone whisper. Following the others, I sat down and watched the aerial silk artist dance above.
After laughing at cute puppies doing tricks inside of floating clear balls (I was sure there were strings holding them up) I remembered I had snuck out and needed to get back if I didn’t want to get caught. I dug through my pocket in search of my pocket watch.
It wasn’t there. I checked all of my pockets, pants, coat, back, front, and it wasn’t anywhere! I must’ve dropped it somewhere.
I tried retracing my steps, which was extremely challenging because I went everywhere I possibly could in who knew what order.
Past the unicyclist, the fire dancer, the sword eater, the acrobats, the jester, the plate spinners, the contortionist, the young lion tamer. I went into every show spot, every room with my eyes searching the floor, ignoring the people around me.
I wandered into my fourth dark room that night, and was about to get out when I heard footsteps. Someone with a lantern was coming towards me. It was a woman with dark hair and wrinkles near her eyes that looked deeper with the light in her hand. When she came closer I could see she had light eyes and was smiling. She held something out in her other hand– it was a pocketwatch!
I looked at her again before slowly taking it. It was mine, engraved with the mind’s eye, back clear and everything. I thanked her and she nodded with a smile.
When I was walking out I thought I heard a “you’re welcome honey” but didn’t see the lady behind me anymore. Weird.
Putting my watch safely in my pocket, I looked around. No one was there. Not a single audience member, performer, ticket seller, store owner, nothing! It was as just as quiet as the last dark room I was in.
I realized I put my pocket watch away without checking the time, so I brought it out again. 3:05. Oh no the circus was closed!
Panicked, I ran to my secret exit, scared it was closed and I wouldn’t be able to get out. What if they found me and asked to show my ticket?
No, I would be brave and say my parents had it. They couldn’t do anything then. Except take me to my parents who didn’t even know where I was. Shoot!
Everything looked so different without any people and booths that I wasn’t sure where the opening in the fabric was. I started feeling around the tent to where I thought it was until finally my hand went through a section. Grateful I found it, I tried going through, but the slit started where my waste was. Thinking maybe they closed it a part of it, I took a few steps back and ran to jump through.
I made it through. But instead of landing on soft grass, my body hurt from falling onto a hard floor. I sat up and felt the shoulder I landed on. Ouch.
I looked around but couldn’t see a single thing. It was as dark as that room, but not as quiet because of the crickets. So I must’ve been kind of outside. It didn’t smell like outside…more like a basement but not a smelly one, just a regular basement. I wished I had a lantern.
Still thinking about that lady with the lantern, I picked myself up and felt my way around with my arms out. I felt like I knew her– ouch!
I bumped into something cubed and fell. My knees and my bottom hurt even more than the rest of me, but I pushed myself up again. I only stood up for a second when the ground moved and I fell again. This time my head hit a wall.
The pain seared through my head, making me dizzy. I knew I had to find out where I was but instead of standing up right away, I stayed lying down with my eyes closed.
I heard something closing and opened my eyes to see a bit of light from somewhere. I got up right away but everything spun and I fell over again. I bit my tongue by accident and tasted something metallic. I was sure it was blood.
I thought I saw something come down on one end, like a cover on a rectangular opening. I was inside a rectangle.
I wanted to close my eyes and sleep but I knew I had to get up and find out where I was. I put my hands on the ground and felt the floor. It was slightly brittley, a floor that would hold things in place. If it didn’t move.
I turned over and started crawling, slowly, feeling around with my hands every few seconds to make sure nothing was in front of me. I felt rough wooden boxes, maybe crates, spread around randomly. There were two walls really close on either side of me, but the other two walls were further away from each other. There were four walls, four corners.
I was in a box. Boxes in a box, and me with those boxes in a box.
Feeling a corner, I decided to sit there. Thank goodness I did, because the box I was inside moved again. I heard the roar of an engine.
I figured out where I was. I was in a trailer. A circus trailer that was going to another town, or maybe to a big ship to another country. And I was going with it.
Anyone else might have banged on the walls, yelling to be let out so they could go back home…but I couldn’t make myself do that. As crazy as it was, I wanted to see where I could go rather than stay in that boring, old town. Daniella was happy anyway, and so were her parents, so why not? They all had what they wanted, I was only covering space.
I dreamed about the places I would go, the things I would see, and somehow I fell asleep to the gentle bumpy ride.
I didn’t open my eyes when I heard birds chirping or people talking. I didn’t open them until I heard the ‘whoosh’ of the trailer back going down, and the sudden cool breeze chilled me fully awake. I hid behind the boxes in the corner as sunlight poured in. Even though it didn’t hit my eyes, I had to squint from the sudden light after being in complete darkness for so long. I listened to two men argue.
“This trailer’s near empty, ye think we couldn’t have put some o’ the cotton candy machines in here?” He had a nasally voice and a southern accent, like Wes, the convenient store owner across the street who bragged about being from Louisville, Kentucky.
“They fit in the trailer with other food related machines, so it wasn’t necessary.” This man’s voice was interesting, it was soft but rough. I had to sneak a peak from the boxes to see who it was.
I saw the back of the southern man as he started talking about how everything was packed in that trailer, while the man with the interesting voice was facing my way. He was tall and looked very strong. His blonde hair looked like it was tied up in the back, and his eyes were like black holes. He was wearing normal clothes, a jacket and jeans, and did not look like a circus member. Neither did the other guy with his cowboy hat. Then I noticed that it was snowing. Big, soft, magical flakes floating to the bare trees.
I quickly pulled my head back when the blonde man’s eyes moved towards the trailer, afraid he saw me.
“Fine. Next time you keep track of the items in the trailers, and maybe then you’ll understand how cautious you have to be about space. And starting all over again when you run out of it.” If the man saw me, he didn’t mention it. I hoped he hadn’t seen me.
I heard them leave, mumbling about the lock on the baby elephant cage on the other side of the field. They left the door open.
As soon as I was sure they were gone, I peaked out from behind the boxes again. I walked fast and quietly to the trailer door and felt how chilly it was as I stopped and listened. The only sounds were birds, running water, and the wind lightly running through branches. No human sounds.
Hoping it was safe, I put my head out and saw nothing but trees. I tried to quickly jump out but the trailer was higher than I expected and I fell to the ground. Luckily it was soft soil.
I was in a forest. The circus was in a forest. But why?
Feeling exposed, I ran behind a tree and took in everything around me. There were other trailers, scattered in front of the one I was in. There were also buses, probably where the performers slept. They all must’ve gone through the path, a big space between the trees. There were so many different trees, most so tall that I couldn’t tell which way we came through or where the path lead.
The forest was really pretty, even though there were no leaves. It looked enchanted with the fluffy snow starting to settle down. I went hiking last summer with John, but the forest looked much different then, still pretty, but much greener.
I felt like an adventurer, and decided to explore. I saw squirrels running around, but they never came near me. The birds that I heard were nowhere in sight, and I tried very hard to find them even when my eyes hurt from looking up at the bright clouded sky. I zipped up my coat to my chin when the breeze grew stronger and almost stepped into a stream. It was a tiny, shallow stream, I could see all of the stones in it. My feet wouldn’t have gotten wet if I walked through it, but I hopped along the higher rocks to the other side.
I kept on walking, without an idea about where I was going or if I would get lost, but who cared! I was having fun, exploring a far mysterious forest after secretly riding a circus trailer! I grabbed a branch from the ground and pretended it was my sword. I was a warrior trekking through the Winter Forest, searching for the magical place I belonged in.
I struck a tree when I heard laughing from a distance. I looked towards the direction it came from and saw smoke rising. There must’ve be people there– maybe the circus people!
I ran towards the smoke, dodging trees and jumping over roots. I was completing a quest.
It wasn’t long before I saw them. I hid behind a tree and watched. They were circus performers. But they looked normal, wearing coats and scarves, and no colourful makeup. I could tell they were from the circus because many of them were practicing their tricks, out here in a clearing in a random cold and snowy forest.
I was amazed by how spectacular and graceful they were even when they looked like any other person. Even the ones who were just sitting, drinking something hot from their cups and chatting looked amazing. I could feel the warmth of the huge bonfire in the middle. There were blue and white tents of all sizes scattered around.
I wanted to be like them. So bad. Doing flips and twirling fire, or even just laughing and chatting while drinking hot chocolate while it snowed.
I knew I should’ve stayed hidden, but instead I went closer. I went right up to the ones who were practicing, first to a group of acrobats. There was a man standing on the shoulders of another man and woman as he held up a woman who was doing a handstand on his hands. The woman did a triple flip to the ground and the man did a double flip the other way as the couple in the bottom cartwheeled and jumped to do a twirl in the air. They went in four directions and all landed on one knee with their arms in the air at the same time. It was perfect. I wondered why they practiced if they were perfect, if they ever even made mistakes.
It looked like they didn’t notice me even though I was right there. I was walking away when I noticed something like a shadow behind a tree.
I thought it was a deer or something, but it seemed too tall. Then I thought it was a human, but it disappeared too fast to be sure. I might’ve just seen wrong, and I was excited to see another perfect rehearsal so I moved on towards a guy with a huge silver white snake.
Adaire thought it very odd that the circus members did not acknowledge him as an outsider. They didn’t seem to think him an insider either, but acted like it was rather normal for a young boy to walk around and watch them rehearse in the middle of a cold desolate forest.
Adaire didn’t mind the not noticing at all.
He wandered around the performers and ate a sandwich a man was offering to everyone. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was and had devoured the egg sandwich within a few minutes, so the man offered him another one.While eating his second sandwich, much slower this time, he walked into a dark blue tent, worried something might happen, but too curious to walk away.
The tent seemed big enough from the outside to be a nice bedroom, and Adaire was surprised to find it to be a study. There were shelves and shelves of books. He wondered who was willing to set all of this up and take it down everytime the circus moved. It was surprisingly dark as well, compared to the light filtering through bright white clouds outside. There were lamps illuminating parts of the study, including the desk that had a shadow bent over.
Adaire went closer to the shadow, seeing it was a man frantically flipping through a pile of thick books. Adaire found an armchair and hid behind it, watching what the man was doing. He was tall and was wearing a long dark coat over his broad shoulders. He had thick wavy hair that was ruffled into what Daniella’s mother would call a birdsnest. Finishing a book, he ruffled his hair with an exasperated sigh before going through another book on his desk. There was a chair beside him, but he chose not to sit as if he was in a rush to find whatever he was looking for. Adaire was able to angle himself enough to see the side of the man’s face without being exposed.
The lamp on his desk illuminated the wrinkles near his eyes and the side of his mouth. He had a strong jawline, something Daniella’s dad admired about himself. Adaire watched him lean forward looking closer into the book.
Something about him seemed so familiar but Adaire wasn’t sure what or why.
His dangerous curiosity urged him to move closer, even if it meant leaving his hiding spot. Quietly, he took a couple steps forward to suddenly remember the man with a blonde ponytail near the truck. It may be the way they carried themselves, but they seemed alike in an odd way even though they seemed so different starting from their hair to the way they dressed.
Adaire forgot he wasn’t supposed to be noticed when the man turned his head towards him. His ice blue eyes saw right through Adaire.
Adaire froze by their intensity.
“Come here, boy.”
Adaire was still frozen. This man’s voice was very much like the blonde ponytail man’s voice but a bit deeper.
“It’s okay, I won’t hurt you.” The man’s sharp features softened. His eyes seemed to cool down a bit, becoming less cold as he held out his hand for the boy to come.
Adaire felt surprisingly comforted by his eyes when his wrinkles were pointing up. The man wasn’t actually smiling, though Adaire felt he was. The hand he held out though looked like Adaire was supposed to place something in it, but not his own hand.
“Can I see that watch you have.” His voice was just above a whisper as he sat down.
He knew about Adaire’s pocket watch. What other watch could he possibly mean? That woman in the dark tent must’ve said something– they knew him. Maybe the whole circus did and that was why they weren’t surprised by him being around. What did they think of him? The so-important-pocket-watch-boy? Nothing made sense.
Adaire knew he shouldn’t give anything to this stranger especially his beloved pocket watch, but something about the man made him want to. Something about his clear eyes he could trust.
“I will give it back, trust me.” He said when Adaire didn’t move. “My name is Abrafo, what is yours?”
“Adaire.” He said in his strongest voice as he pulled out the watch from his pocket and placed it in the man’s hand. He sounded much more sure of himself than he actually was.
“How do you know?”
“Well, it appears to be very beautiful.” He was smiling with his eyes.
“No, how do you know I have this watch.”
“A little birdy told me.” He chuckled.
“It was that woman.”
“If by that woman you mean the aerial silk artist and my wife, then yes.”
The woman with the lantern was the aerial silk artist. No wonder she felt so familiar. Adaire felt stupid for not realizing who she was right away.
“She knew I’d be here?” Adaire could not understand anything. Was the trailer ride all planned?
“Not exactly.” Abrafo paused before continuing. “Dibby, the fortuneteller in the circus said there would be a boy with a pocketwatch joining the us.”
At first Adaire was shocked to hear they expected him to join the circus. After a few seconds he realized he was expecting that to happen as well, so why not the fortuneteller? She was an old dark woman with brilliant silver hair, and was so good with telling things about you she shouldn’t know that it was hard not to believe her future predictions. She didn’t use cards or a crystal ball, but just sat at a small round table as she observed Adaire and spoke about finding something.
“You must be shocked, I bet, but I can show you everything.” Abrafo spoke when Adaire became quiet. “You will decide what you want to do, the future changes upon decisions, you know.”
No, Adaire was not shocked. He remembered Dibby saying those exact words, about how the future can change. “Why is my pocket watch important?”
“You see, that’s what I’m trying to figure out.” He waved at the pile of books on his desk. “It’s what I’ve been trying to figure out since she told me her prediction.”
“Oh,” Adaire still didn’t understand but he wanted to help Abrafo so he told him what he knew. “It belonged to a family member. The circle is called a mind’s eye.”
“Who did it belong to?”
“I don’t know.”
The man leaned in wanting to ask more but then suddenly looked disappointed as he sat back on his chair. “Do you know anything else?” He questioned a moment later
“No, I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry about, dear.” The man stood up and placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Let me show you around and make some introductions before you decide on anything.”
“I want to be in the circus.”
Abrafo smiled, an excited warming smile that wasn’t sarcastic at all. “Dibby told me you were very set on this. I still think you should see around, don’t you?”
“Yes.” Adaire smiled back shyly, his first genuine smile in a long time. “Yes, please.”
Adaire felt surprisingly comfortable with Abrafo, surprisingly comfortable being told they knew he was going to join the circus. Surprisingly comfortable to forget about his adopted family, about little Daniella. He felt bad for thinking this way about the family he left behind, but at the same time he felt like this was where he was supposed to be. The orphanage sent him to the wrong home.
They went through an opening in the tent between the shelves that connected to a larger tent. It was a grand tent with bright white walls and a high top. Adaire didn’t remember seeing a tent this big outside, but maybe it just appeared smaller there. Or perhaps they just set it up.
Adaire assumed the entire circus had come in this tent– it was crawling with people. They were doing the same thing they had been doing outside, drinking, laughing, performing. There were ropes, rings and ribbons hanging from the ceiling, small platforms and circles all over the white floor. Everything was lively and loud, such a contrast from the connected tent next door.
As soon as they started to notice Adaire and Abrafo entering, few by few they stopped what they were doing and came closer. Adaire recognized many faces, but one stood out the most, the woman with the lantern. Adaire noticed her coming down the silk in the tent, and wondered how he couldn’t put two and two together. Of course she was the aerial silk artist! He walked into the same dark room twice, he was sure. She smiled at Adaire and walked right up to them as Abrafo put his arm around her shoulders. Her eyes were blue, a deep ocean blue, and her smile was so soft and genuine Adaire felt like he knew her his entire life.
Everyone was huddled around them, speculating Adaire with fascination the way he had with them.
Abrafo cleared his throat and everyone stopped whispering. “Ladies and gentlemen, I am excited to introduce a new potential member of our family, Adaire!”
They approached him with a smile and started to say things like “welcome Adaire,” “I’m so happy you could join us,” and “I knew you were special!” Adaire couldn’t understand why they were so glad, but the positive air lifted him, making him feel like he was a part of the family all along.
“Shhh…quiet now, we don’t want to overwhelm him.” Abrafo seemed to have a lot of control, easily hushing the buzzing crowd. They went back to their semi circle form around Adaire, Abrafo and the aerial silk artist.
One girl walked out of the crowd, making Adaire gasp. She was the same size as him, with the same dark hair though it was longer, her features so similar and her eyes the exact same intense green. She looked like Adaire’s sister, even his twin.
“Hi Adaire, I’m Cressida. Can I see your talent?” She said in a chirping, friendly voice.
Adaire just stared at her.
“You know, something special about you. We all have something special, that’s why the circus chose us.”
“The circus chose..?” Adaire didn’t understand. How could a circus choose?
“I know, it’s weird, but none of us chose to be in the circus. It came to us, each one of us in a different way. And now it’s come to you!”
Adaire didn’t know what his talent was. He couldn’t do anything, at least nothing he could perform.
“You see Adaire,” the aerial silk artist spoke in a voice as sweet as her eyes, “we don’t mean to pressure you, but every one of us have a special gift, a reason we were chosen. Don’t worry if you haven’t discovered it or don’t wish to share yet, you have all the time you need.”
Adaire looked around. No one seemed as excited as they were a few seconds ago.
“My name is Kaylene by the way, I don’t believe we have formally met yet.” She gave him wink and a great smile, one that made Adaire even more disappointed in himself.
Why would the circus choose him? What could he possibly do like the others? He couldn’t even do a somersault. He felt lost, when a minute ago he felt at home. Everyone was so quiet, he felt like he disappointed them as well. He desperately wanted to be a part of them, but the circus chose the wrong person this time.
“Great talent does not appear right away, that is what makes it so great.” Abrafo said. “Come, let us show Adaire around and meet everyone.” They started to move.
“I can make you see.” Adaire mumbled abruptly.
“What is that, dear?”
This time he spoke loud and clear. “I can make you see. That’s my talent.”
“Boy, we can already see by ourselves.” A man with red hair bright against his dark skin spoke. He didn’t sound rude, but disbelieving as he put on the purple top hat in his hands.
“Barnett, let him continue,” Abrafo looked back at Adaire. “Go on, boy.”
“Close your eyes,” Adaire sounded much more confident than he felt, “everyone, close your eyes.”
They all did as he said. He had no idea what he was doing, he never tried this on so many people. It wasn’t even a performable talent, if it was a talent at all.
“Now watch.” He placed images in their minds. Images of flying winged-teacups in a land of giant flowers made up of colourful fire. There were talking golf balls, walking cookies and balloons that turned into butterflies. A land full of sunlight and bubbles, cheerful and funny. Then the wind blew and everything blew with it. The bright blue sky turned darker and the ground started rocking. The flowers fell in flames and the odd characters started to crumble into liquid. They were all on a large raft, on a moonlit ocean. The wind died to a warm breeze and the sounds of the waves merged with the salty smell. One of the little boys went to the edge and touched the water.
“Oh my gosh, it feels like real cold water!”
Everyone gasped and tried to feel the water. “Oh my Apollo, you’re right!” Someone exclaimed.
Adaire smiled, happy with their reaction to his work. Then he heard a shriek behind him.
“It’s Cressida, she’s fallen in!” Someone exclaimed.
Adaire found her drowning in the dark waters as Abrafo jumped in to save her. He immediately stopped the vision.
Everyone was standing the same way they were before the vision. They had their eyes open and just stared at him. Then the man in the top hat, Barnett, started to clap.
Everyone was in full applause, whistling and screaming.
Adaire couldn’t help smiling despite Cressida’s illusionary incident a moment ago.
“Adaire.” Abrafo paused. “You have something. Something none of could ever imagine exists.”
“Every sense felt was stronger than reality!” Barnett cried.
A woman with long brown hair walked out of the crowd. “Call me Aunt Keondra, you are a part of this family.” She bent down to Adaire’s height. “If you wish to join us.”
Adaire could only nod at first. “Y-yes. Yes, please.”
Barnett clapped his hands once. “Then it’s official!”
With that everyone cheered for Adaire, hugging him, patting his back and enthusiastically introducing themselves. Adaire felt overwhelmed with excitement.
Then from the corner of his eye he saw something. Something dark and not right. Adaire turned his head to find nothing but the white walls of the tent. He had felt this before, when he was perhaps four and tried to put visions of all the children sleeping into Aunt Martha’s head so they could play longer. It frightened him, and he never used his ability to trick anyone again.
Now it was back. Or maybe he just imagined it, like the shadow outside.
“Are you okay, hun?” Kaylene placed her hand on his shoulder.
Adaire looked at the crowd and was was too content to worry, and he knew he only imagined whatever it was. “I’m fine, better than fine!”
Kaylene laughed. “Let’s show you your new room now!”
He was The Visionaire Master. The audience thought there was a mad genius behind the show. One who had discovered a way to enter the lobes of the brain, hundreds of brains, without a single wire. The circus knew it was something different, but never did they question him about it. Many of them had something special of their own. The way Aunt Keondra could pull anything out of her hat, something significant to the person she was addressing. It took nearly three months for Adaire to let her pull something out for him. When she did it was a plain silver pocket watch with a picture of cottage engraved in the place of a clock. Adaire was sure she knew about his pocket watch from Kaylene, and maybe she knew he was once looking for a home. Though it was unreasonable to not believe she had a gift, when he had such a powerful one. The chocolatier couldn’t have known about his watch either, that was before Kaylene had found it. He must’ve had something special as well.
He ran to Cressida’s room when Keondra told him he could keep it. He wanted Cressida to turn it into pure gold. He had seen her do it a million times, but it still amazed him to watch the gold seep through objects, enveloping it whole.
Cressida was not in her tent quarters so Adaire headed back to his own. They were in some city in Japan, Adaire couldn’t recall names of the places they went to anymore. Not that it mattered, since the inside always looked the same. He went through Abrafo’s study to tell him and Kaylene about Keondra’s hat. They were more like his parents than John and Linda ever were. An odd set of parents, the jester and aerial silk artist. Adaire had almost forgotten about John and Linda. He had a hard time remembering many things.
Past the study was his room, only a flap in the fabric indicating another compartment. On his desk he placed his new pocket watch near the other one. The setup crew did a phenomenal job making sure everything remained in the same spot no matter where they went. Adaire suspected they had a special talent too.
“Boo!” Appolo and Cressida were on his bed, failing to scare him.
“I heard you come in.” Adaire said turning around.
“No you didn’t.” Appolo argued, blowing his white hair out of his purple eyes.
“Yes I did.”
“Okay stop, we only have an hour before opening!” Cressida was usually very patient, except when it involved a story. “I want to know what you do on Halloween, we still haven’t gone through that one yet.”
“It’s really not that interesting Cres.” Adaire did not understand why the children were excited by envisioning his previous life. He prefered not to think about it, but they always wanted him to give them the illusions, to see how it was like to live on the “outside.” All of the children were born in the circus or adopted very young, so it made sense, but sometimes the adults would want him to give them visions of the outside world as well. Adaire thought it was odd– they went outside themselves, but his boring real-world illusions excited them.
“Please? Just really quickly!”
“Okay, close your eyes.” For the past month Adaire felt on edge when he intruded minds, but it wasn’t too bad…
After that night’s show, Adaire decided to visit the animals before going to bed. His bedtime had changed drastically due to late night shows, so time didn’t matter.
“You did a perfect job again!” Barnett was behind him in his top hat, happy as any ringmaster who had had a great show.”
“Thank you sir.”
“Hahaha goodnight boy!” Adaire didn’t understand him most times, but he was a typical high achieving boss, always wanting everything to be perfect.
Adaire reached the cages to find Apollo and his parents leaving. Apollo was only a few years older than him, but could already tame a lion without supervision. Like an older brother, he tried teaching his skills to Adaire‒ unsuccessfully so far. Adaire bid them goodnight before walking to the elephants.
The animals were always sad. Which was why Adaire visited them so often, leaving them with images he thought they may like. Running through open land in Africa, hanging off of trees in the Amazon, or climbing mountain slopes in Nepal. He knew they were trapped, but he was told they were essential for a great show. Just like the other performers were, though Adaire was sure they could get out if they wished. He had not idea why they would want to, but some of the circus members really did appear like they were trapped with no way out. It made no sense.
He left the animals and almost walked into Kaylene.
“You haven’t eaten supper.” She held out bowl of pasta salad. She always took care of everyone.
“Thank you.” Adaire loved her for how strong and caring she was, but knew she was always upset about something. She kissed his forehead before sending him to his room.
Adaire had thought everyone would be happy in the circus, and at times they were, but something always seemed wrong. Like they were hiding something from him.
Cressida was gone. Adaire woke up to everyone searching around, assuming she was in some corner reading or something since she never left the tent without someone. Adaire tried to look everywhere himself, wondering if someone had taken her or if she ran away from home like he once did. Why would she leave a place like this?
Then again, she’s always talked about the outside world the way he did about the circus months ago. She lived through Adaire’s stories with awe.
Maybe it was his fault she ran away. No, she wouldn’t run away. Adaire went to her performing tent, his mind feeling foggier than it ever had felt before. His thoughts were clouded and he wasn’t fully aware of what was around him. This had been happening a few weeks after his first performance, but it seemed to come more often and more intense with time. Adaire figured it must’ve been because of the change in his sleeping patterns and was taking longer than usual to cure.
He saw a shadow and thought it might be Cressida. It wasn’t her, and Adaire knew it wouldn’t be. On occasion he still saw shadows almost like silhouettes, but were only shadows inside of the tent. Whatever it was, it still made Adaire on edge even though he was sure it was nothing. He pulled out his old pocket watch to see it was twelve o’clock.
“She’s not in here Adaire, we’ve checked.”
Adaire turned around to see the contortionist behind him, her dark purple hair framing her face.
“Dextra…do you think…”
“I don’t know Adaire, I can’t imagine Cressie doing such a thing. She may not have a real family, but we were more real than anything. I can’t imagine her leaving us.” Cressida was here since she was a baby. She could not have left her one and only home. “Let’s get you some brunch honey.”
For a moment Dextra appeared fuzzy and Adaire couldn’t tell if she was actually there or not. Perhaps he was imagining the conversation. No, she was real and Adaire knew he was only getting sick with worry. And guilt.
They left Cressie’s performing tent to eat. Someone may have tried to take the sad memories of Cressida away because that was the last time Adaire saw that tent.
A few weeks later, Apollo went missing. Not just Apollo, but his entire family. Their tent disappeared the same way. Adaire couldn’t find their animals, the lion, the puppies, the elephants. Were they put down? Set free? Adaire hoped they were set free. He tried thinking of where they could be hidden, but thinking had gotten more and more difficult. He noticed his mind was foggy most of the time, but he could only tell it was foggy when it cleared up. He usually couldn’t remember who he spoke to.
The show still went on.
Adaire always hated acting happy when he was not, but he had to for his performance. Kaylene and Abrafo were always trying to keep him content, taking hikes and going to the movies when they were in town. He had to act happy for them as well. It was exhausting.
That night after one of his shows, three boys stayed in his tent while the rest of the audience left. Adaire noticed them goofing around during his illusions, disrespectful even if they were a year or two older than him.
“Nice work master!” It didn’t sound like a compliment.
“Thank you.” Adaire knew better than to care about them.
“Wait, I want a vision!” Another boy called out. “Make me fly!” They all started laughing.
“What, can’t do it without your scientist behind these walls? Ha, look Joey he’s gonna cry!”
They were starting to annoy Adaire, but he simply headed for the tent opening.
“Oh don’t leave! What a poor sport! Some Visionaire Master – bet he doesn’t even know what he sees!” That hit Adaire. Perhaps it was because he was annoyed with himself for not knowing what he saw most of the time.
He turned around and put strong visions of them flying in their minds. Then they were burning in rivers of fire before falling off an edge into nothingness, simply falling as their hands disintegrated.
They were screaming. Adaire still wasn’t satisfied.
“Stop it, come on!” Adaire saw a gold-haired girl at his tent opening. He did not know what she meant, but followed, leaving the visions in the boys’ minds for a few more minutes as he left.
“Who are you?” She was not a part of the circus.
“I’m Cynthia, and you?” Her dark eyes were smiling.
“Adaire. You were in the audience, you should know.”
“I didn’t think that was your real name.” She took him outside to a large old tree. “What did you do back there?”
“What they asked. Gave them visions of flying.”
“You don’t do that, that was wrong.”
Adaire had just met the girl, but she was right. He had never done anything like that before.
“It’s okay, sometimes accidents happen when we’re mad!” Adaire didn’t understand why she was doing what she was. People in the audience sometimes praised him before they left, but never had a regular conversation with him‒ let alone such an optimistic one.
“Do you have anymore shows tonight?”
“No, not tonight.”
“Have you ever seen Sydney?”
“Not much of it.”
“Great! I’ll give you a tour!” And a tour she gave. It was a while since Adaire just ventured through shops and parks without the worry of someone else disappearing.
He came home to find Dextra gone.
In his trailer, Adaire watched Elgan’s blonde ponytail as he made coffee in the kitchenette. The trailer he traveled in was much different than his first, equipped with beds instead of boxes. Before sharing this new one, Elgan had admitted he saw Adaire in the trailer behind boxes.
Elgan was Abrafo’s younger brother, the German wheel performer and Adaire’s mentor. He helped Adaire get accustomed to the circus living, as did everyone else, but Elgan was the newest addition before Adaire. He could offer recently experienced advice. Adaire watched him take his coffee to a small closed room in the trailer. It was a room with window seats and cushions, where Elgan spent most of his time alone for the last few months. Or last few years.
He was also Dextra’s fiancé.
Adaire wasn’t sure how long it was since she disappeared, how many months or years have passed. He could not keep track of time or of who he saw‒ it was a relief that he could even remember the names of any circus members. Maybe then he could keep track of who was gone and who was not. Nobody spoke of the disappeared, not as if they never existed, but as if it was normal to vanish. Adaire knew it was not normal and he was sure the others were trying to find out what was happening. At least that was what he figured, since he couldn’t remember having a conversation with anyone on that matter.
He found a notebook and pen in the drawer beside his bed and took it back to his window couch. He started writing names, then erasing them thinking those weren’t circus member but people he met before. Then he wrote them down again because they were a part of the circus…maybe. It didn’t matter he realized, as long as he could figure out who was missing. He knew Cressida disappeared, she was the first to do so and it was his fault. Perhaps they were all his fault since he showed vision stories to anyone who asked. They weren’t even magical or exaggerated, just normal things Adaire remembered like barbeque at his neighbour’s.
Wait‒ maybe Cressida wasn’t missing. Hadn’t he seen her yesterday? They were playing with Elgan’s performing wheel, he was sure of it. No, no, she was missing. But he saw her yesterday. But she was missing.
Adaire decided to mark her as “gone” and move on with the list. Dextra was missing, otherwise Elgan wouldn’t be so miserable. But hadn’t she just gone into the small sitting room with him? No, he went in there my himself. Miserable. He was miserable. Maybe. Was Apollo playing with Elgan’s wheel with Adaire and Cressida yesterday? No, no, they were both missing. Cressida’s whole family disappeared ‒ no Apollo’s family disappeared, Cressida didn’t have any family in the circus. Some animals were gone as well, should he list them?
Adaire threw the pen and notebook at the other side of his trailer. He had a piercing headache and could not think at all. This was worse than his foggy moments. There was a cloud up there, a dark and heavy cloud blocking any form of thought. The more he tried to think the heavier the cloud got.
The shadows were everywhere now, Adaire almost didn’t notice them. Almost. They weren’t always human anymore, but in other forms. A cloud form. They were clouds, just like the ones in his head.
Maybe he was sick. Abrafo and Kaylene should’ve helped him, and Adaire was angry they were not in his trailer right now comforting him. Where were they? Had they disappeared? No, they wouldn’t simply leave him. Out of everyone in the circus, they cared about him the most. But Adaire couldn’t remember the last time he saw either of them. Maybe he saw them this morning. Maybe they left as well, thinking it was better to be out of the circus. It still didn’t made any sense. Adaire loved the circus, when his head wasn’t killing him. Maybe he wasn’t the only one feeling suffocated, maybe that was why people started to leave since he joined. Maybe all they needed was a taste of the world outside and Adaire provided just that. Maybe he was to fully blame for his beautiful circus falling apart. He was falling apart. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Adaire was lost. He didn’t know what to do or who to talk to. Not that he’d remember what anyone said afterwards. He couldn’t do anything but be confused. He had destroyed everything he dreamed of.
Maybe he could fix it.
It took Adaire a month,or two before he could think of someway to help fix the damage he had done. It may have even been three months, he wasn’t sure. Or four. Years.
Thinking was even more difficult, and Adaire’s performances were weakening. He could no longer create elaborate visions of an unrealistic world, there were always holes. A giant purple lion became a grey cat, floating in the galaxy became standing in a dark room. His visions impressed people at first, but the excitement did not last long when his creativity died. Every show was worse, the shadows around the circus and in Adaire’s head pulled him away for his consciousness too often. He was still willing to perform, he had nowhere else to go and could not leave the circus in this condition. The circus’s condition and his.
His idea to help fix things wasn’t really fixing things at all, but preventing more from happening. To the people who were left, whoever they were as Adaire could not remember most of the time, he would slip in visions of happiness. Happiness in the circus, joyful dreams, a feeling of home. He would make sure they were weak images – not that he was strong enough to do powerful ones – so they wouldn’t suspect anything. No one would want to leave his circus if they loved it more than anything. It was the perfect plan.
While Barnett was taking a walk outside that night, Adaire followed him and gave him visions of excitement from the audience. How enthusiastic they were to finally get through the line and see every one of his hand picked performers. Adaire felt the cloud creeping up behind him.
“I know what you’re doing.”
Adaire instantly turned around ready for anything. “Aunt Keondra?” Barnett walked ahead without hearing a word.
“Yes, it’s me.” It was her, every long strand of brown hair her.
“I-I thought…you’re really here?”
She laughed, “it appears so, doesn’t it?”
“You disappeared!” Adaire realized that he wasn’t so sure.
“What? I only do that at the end of my performance, Adaire!” She paused, more serious. “Are you okay?”
Adaire thought Keondra had also disappeared, he was sure he marked her “gone” on his unfinished list. But she was standing right there in front of him, so he must have been wrong. Or maybe he hadn’t marked her “gone.”
“Adaire? You’re not okay. Everyone has been worried about you, you always seem absent.”
“Sorry, I just can’t keep track of who disappeared and not. No one talks about it.”
“What are you talking about?” She wasn’t going to talk about it as Adaire expected. “You’re unwell Adaire and you need some rest. No shows for a week, okay?”
“No, I have to perform—”
“You do not. And you will not.” It was final. “Go to bed Adaire, and don’t use your visions on people without their knowledge. It’s unfair to them.”
“Okay.” The shadows were coming back and Adaire wanted to get to bed before they took over his mind. “Good night.”
“Sweet dreams, hun.” Aunt Keondra scrutinized Adaire before giving him a quick hug.
Adaire could feel something around him, but could not feel the hug. He started heading to his room when he felt the shadows behind him again. Keondra was no longer behind him and he could not tell where she possibly could have gone. The shadows were stronger than ever, making Adaire rush to his room.
He was glad a few days later to not have to perform. Adaire hadn’t realized how much he actually hated performing.
“What’s wrong with me?” Adaire spoke to himself alone in his room. “This was supposed to be perfect, what I wanted. My real home. With colours, and talent, and amazing people and food. Traveling around the world, seeing new places and meeting so many different people. Why are things just wrong here? What did I do?” Adaire had still been lightly putting joyful circus-home thoughts in other minds, even though Keondra told him not to. It was the only way he could fix the future. It was too late to fix the past. How long ago did he sneak into the circus and land in a trailer? Had he been in the circus for months or years? Months or years became a common question for Adaire. “How old is Daniella now?” He completely forgot about her.
He forgot about Linda and John. He told stories of his life to people, but forgot to mention the family. And he felt horrible for forgetting. He wondered how they were doing, if they were looking for him, if they ever looked for him. Of course they looked for him.
Adaire walked over to the mirror. His eyes were deeper, but less tired than usual. His jawline was stronger, cheekbones sharper with light stubble. He was taller. His mind felt clearer. It had been years.
Adaire noticed the less he used his visions, the clearer he could think and the less he saw shadows. The more he saw people. Even the ones he thought disappeared.
It was odd that no one talked about it, as if it never happened. Adaire started to wonder if it ever did, if the disappearances were just in his shadow filled mind. Perhaps the shadows were just people, the ones who disappeared and reappeared. Perhaps everything in the circus was okay, but him.
Whatever the case, Adaire was positive of one thing. The more he used his powers, the more they used him. But without them, he felt useless. He had no other talent to perform, no reason for the circus to still keep him. He was nothing.
He decided to go out for a long walk that evening in the unknown city they were in.
The streets and many of the shops seemed familiar, perhaps he was here when he was younger. He remembered the pancake place, the toy store, the little candy shop. He walked until he didn’t recognise where he was, if he was even in town anymore. Then he saw a bookstore, and was sure he had been this far before. The Cornstalk Bookshop was newly painted green on the first floor exterior and white on the second but Adaire could see it was still wearing down. He went in with the hopes of finding a crime novel, he remembered them having a large selection of those.
The inside was the exact same. He managed to find his way to the crime section, but had found some pop-up books across from it. The last time he was here he had spent a good deal of time with those. None of the ones he had looked at in his childhood were there, but there was a circus pop-up he had to pick up.
“You’re never too old for pop-up books.” A golden haired woman appeared beside Adaire, watching three horses come out of the first page.
Adaire hadn’t spoken to anyone outside of the circus for years, and did not remember most of the conversations on the inside. “No, I guess not.”
“You have interesting eyes, I met only one person with eyes like that,” she speculated.
“Thank you, so do you and I’ve seen only one person with them as well.”
“Oh please, I’m sure you’ve met a few hundred people with brown eyes.”
Adaire did not just say that, he only had seen them once before but he couldn’t remember when. “Can I offer you a drink?” He had no idea where that came from.
The woman looked at the horses without speaking, and Adaire was sure he said something wrong.
“It’s okay if ‒ ”
“I’d love to.”
“Have you ever been here before?” The woman asked as soon as they sat down.
“Not quite.” Adaire was lucky to stumble across a nice restaurant on their short, silent walk. It was softly lit and had a strong dark chocolate interior.
“You’re from overseas. You have an accent.” She had an accent, not him.
“Here are some menus, call me when you’re ready” a waiter slipped them on the table as Adaire thanked him.
“But there’s a place you spend time the most, a home.” She spoke from under her dark lashes.
“My home travels with me.”
“Oh. Are you from the North?” She wouldn’t give up.
“I was born in Canada.”
“So that’s where your accent is from!” Her eyes were gleaming to know his origins. Adaire cared more about where people were going than where they were from. “How do you like the Down Under? Have you been here before?”
They were in Australia. Adaire stopped paying attention to where they went since it was too hard to think about it. Too hard to keep up.
“I love it here. It’s been a long time since I last visited.” Was it? It was a long time since he remembered visiting at least.
“I love it here too! I recently got back from Europe, it’s been so long since I’ve been back. I’m studying ancient history at Edinburgh so I don’t have much time off to return home and will be heading back soon because I have another…” Adaire appreciated her skills in keeping up a conversation. He listened to every word she spoke, watched every expression and movement she made, learned everything he could about her. He only had to answer a question here and there while she took over for the rest of their dinner.
“So you’re leaving tomorrow?” They finally left the restaurant after a few hours.
“Yes, I’m not quite sure where though.”
“It must be amazing to travel so much that you don’t even keep track of where you’re going!”
“Traveling so often really takes away the excitement.”
“It’s still amazing.”
“What do you do again?”
“Right now, I’m working on study a on human minds.” Adaire wanted to dodge the question. “Will you be in town for a while?”
“Nope. Off to England first thing tomorrow.”
“To study how people before us have died.”
“That really is not all it is, you know.”
“You’re right. Ancient animals before us have died too.” She lightly smacked her purse into Adaire’s stomach and he pretended he was struck by a knife, falling over a car hood.
“That’s my car.”
“Whoops, hope I didn’t leave any blood on it.”
“Move so I can get in.”
“Are ancient historians always this pushy?”
“Only the incredible ones.” Adaire agreed that she was incredible. In his mind.
She unlocked her car and Adaire opened the door for her.
She looked at him before going in. “Thank you. I had an amazing night.” Her soft hair glimmered in the street lights. Adaire had to resist touching it.
“Me too.” He smiled, not sure what else to do.
She kissed his cheek before getting in the car.She was about to pull away when Adaire remembered he didn’t know her name.
“Wait, I never got your name!” She drove away, not hearing him.
It was late but Adaire somehow found his way to the circus dwellings without a problem.
He was passing the study when he heard some rustling
“Adaire?” Kaylene put down a book and sat up in her armchair. “How are you.” It didn’t sound like a question.
“Good. Great.” His voice was breathy and he realized he must’ve rushed home.
“You seem like you are right now.” She watched him for a moment before standing up. “You know Adaire, we’re not holding you back from anything.”
Adaire didn’t follow. “What do you mean?”
“No one has left this circus since they’ve joined, but that doesn’t mean anything.”
Adaire had no idea where she was going with this. He also understood that the disappearances really have been in his mind, all of these years. He wondered how he acted in front of everyone.
Kaylene approached him and put her hand on his cheek. The one that woman kissed. “You’ve been searching for something, I know.” Her ocean coloured eyes were strong, but Adaire knew they would be holding back tears if they belonged to someone else. “All your life, you’ve been searching.”
“I don’t want you to feel obligated to stay back. Neither does Abrafo, or anyone else here– nothing should hold you back to find what you’ve been searching for.” She spoke so fast Adaire had to repeat the words in his mind again.
He put his hand on top of hers on his cheek. He understood. He never belonged.
“Kaylene. You are the greatest mother in the world,” his voice was barely above a whisper.
“And you,” she whispered back, “are the greatest son in the world.”
He kissed her forehead as she hugged him before heading out of the study.
He laid in his bed thinking. He remembered the entire day, yet he felt like it was a blur. He genuinely had fun in such a long time. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt so comfortable and free. And not forget it.
She was pretty. Beyond pretty, she was beautiful. Inside and out. Adaire wanted to see her again, but he didn’t know where she was, what time she would leave for Edinburgh. For god sakes he didn’t even know what her name was!
“Stupid, stupid!” Adaire was furious with himself. He went over their entire conversation. “Cynthia,” he whispered.
Cynthia, little Cynthia who gave him a tour of Sydney, who stopped him from doing worse to the boys who were teasing him. That was why he recognized the streets. It was Cynthia, he was absolutely certain. How could he have not known? Cynthia’s golden hair, her brown eyes, the way she spoke‒ they were all the same. She had recognized his eyes, she said she had seen them before. Of course she had! He pulled his hair already disheveled, feeling even more stupid for not realizing this earlier.
Then he went over the conversation with with Kaylene.
She knew, everyone knew that Adaire didn’t belong. He wondered what they thought of him, how normal or abnormal he appeared all of these years. In those years he thought he finally found his place, finally figured out where he was supposed to be. He hadn’t found out anything.
Except one thing. He found out what had been happening to him. “Our memories aren’t that reliable. What we remember is usually altered by our emotions and other thoughts at that time.” Adaire couldn’t remember where he heard it, but the quote glowed in his mind. His memories were different though. They were tarnished, ruined by the false emotions and memories he gave other people. They took over him, ruined him. He ruined him.
Maybe he could fix it.
Adaire needed to know what he was searching for, what was significant to him. He made his way to his desk and looked at the two pocket watches, side by side. He picked up the one Keondra had pulled out of her hat for him ages ago. It was still gold, solid gold. Inside, the cottage stood, unchanging and welcoming. He followed the lines with his finger, feeling the etching in the gold. This could be a home. A small lonely home, but still lovely. His finger reached the edge of the pocketwatch when he felt the layers. The structure was divided, perhaps revealing a real watch behind the second cover with the cottage image. He easily lifted it with his fingernail.
There wasn’t a watch behind the image cover. Instead there was a hidden compartment holding a folded piece of paper.
It was a plane ticket. A plane ticket to England. The flight was in two hours.
“Nothing should hold you back to find what you’ve been searching for.” Adaire repeated.
He grabbed a duffle bag and quickly packed clothes, toiletries, his passport. He gathered all of his money– it paid to work where he lived. He grabbed a coat, both of his pocket watches and was about to head out.
He went back to his desk. Left Keondra’s pocket watch on top and put his one in the dufflebag. While leaving the study, he froze at the doorway wondering if someone was there. The silence told him everyone was in their own tents or their trailers. The shadows were gone. He left as quietly as he could.
It was chilly, but Adaire knew there was a telephone booth in five blocks and he could call a cab. His watch said it was a quarter past three. He could get to the airport in twenty minutes, an hour and thirty-five minutes before his plane left. Twenty-four more hours and he would be in Edinburgh.
He put his duffle bag on his shoulder and ran.