Read part 3 before continuing.

As the circus occurred in the hospital it occurred to me that I didn’t know the girl’s name. She stood next to me, surveying the scene with a laconic expression that one would reserve for moments spent pondering peeling paint or deciding which bagel to eat. Apparently, it was much harder for her to choose bagels than the average person.

“What’s your name?” I say, watching her stare at the dancing bears in the middle of the hospital floor.

“Jenny,” she says, digging through her purse and then stopping. “I can’t smoke in a hospital can I?”

“I don’t think we’re in a hospital any more,” I say as five trapeze artists jump through six hoops of flame in synchronized formation.

The hospital or circus or whatever is impossibly large: I can’t see the top. The walls stretch on further than I can see in all directions. The smells coming from the circus are what you would expect: hay, animal urine, cotton candy, the fear of small children as pedophillic clowns walk past them with permanent makeup smiles and glazed, rum drenched eyes.

Jenny laughs. “That’s dark, man.”

“What’s dark?”

“What you just said about the clowns.”

“I said that out loud?”

“Uh yeah,” she said, scratching her arms. “Damn it I need a cigarette.” She sniffs the air contentedly as we stand.

“I smell smoke,” she said. “Fuck it.” She lights another cigarette. “I’m getting low,” she says. “Shit.”

We haven’t moved away from the wall yet and seem to be killing time. I’m reluctant to move much further into the rather strange fair. A man juggling swords throws the longest, widest sword straight into the air. It flies perfectly straight into the air at least 20 feet. He moves directly underneath the sword, opens his mouth and lets it slide down his throat. He quickly slaps the hilt of the sword, stopping it before it causes any damage.

Jenny yawned.

“Nothing shocks you does it?” I say.

She shakes her head.

“Nah, I’ve seen everything,” she says.

We finally start walking slowly through the streets of the circus. There are no people at the circus beyond us: there are simply hundreds of incredible acts walking through the streets, performing and gallivanting. One man throws a bottle of acid against a brick wall. The wall disappeared under the dissolving powers of the acid. The man then takes another bottle of acid and chugs it.

Jenny smokes in silence as we watch four panda bears in mime outfits perform a silent version of Hamlet.

“How do you know it’s Hamlet?” she says. Seems I’m monologing out loud again.

“Just watch the biggest bear, the one with the necklace,” I say, pointing to the bear. “See how he’s fondling that skull with the scorpions in it?”

“Right,” she says. “The ‘alas poor Yorrick’ scene.”

“Yep,” I say as the bear ignores the scorpion bites on his paws. “Except with the added benefit of scorpions.” The bear trainers idly smoke cigars and puff complicated smoke rings into the air. Some of the rings form into shapes: the largest is a 10:1 replica of the Statue of Liberty.

“Now that’s cool,” Jenny says she she tries to blow a smoke ring. She fails.

I laugh and she shoots me a dirty look.

“It’s hard,” she says. “And you don’t even smoke.”

I say nothing but watch the motorcyclists pass in front of us. Each holds a sword in one hand and a whip in the other. They use the sword to strike at balloons hanging along strings that criss cross the roads while whipping back the tiger that sits in their side car. Obviously, both motorcycles are on fire: they did drive over several beds of hot coals.

The naked women walking the hot coals barely react to the passing motorcyclists: they just calmly move out of the way a step or two, their hair flying in the air as the cyclists pass. Smoke covers the women as they stand and the scent of burning flesh is strong.

“Gross,” says Jenny as she throws her cigarette on the ground.

The women on the hot coals turn to look at the two of us and it finally hits me: until this point, none of the circus performers had reacted to our presence in anyway. Now all of them turn to look at us as most of them stop mid-performance to glare at us with a sharp and accusatory glare.

“Uh…” I say as Jenny digs in her purse.

“Yeah yeah,” she says, “I see them. Don’t worry they’re harmless.”

“You sure?” I say as a group of them move towards us. She puts a cigarette in her mouth but pauses before she lights it.

“Not so sure now,” she says as we start walking a little faster. The crowds crowd closer to us, closing in closer around us as they walk increasing their pace to match ours. My skin starts to crawl as I finally look closely at the faces of the people surrounding us and realize they have no faces: just a blank slate of skin.

Jenny notices.

“Yuck,” she says, cigarette still dangling from her lips. “This place sucks.”

We start to turn around to leave when a hand falls on our shoulders. It is very heavy and obviously in some kind of gauntlet or glove: its metallic in texture and rather well articulated. It squeezes lightly on my shoulder but the strength in the hand is so obvious and overwhelming that I flinch in slight pain. Jenny groans slightly but otherwise does not react.

The hands briskly turn us around and I find myself staring face to face with Robocop.

“You have littered,” he says to Jenny. “You’re an accessory. Dead or alive you’re coming with me.”

“Can’t argue with that,” says Jenny as Robocop leads us towards the center of the circus. The circus people sadly shake their heads as we walk as if to say “dead men walking.”

To Be Continued

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