For Fear of Falling

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I <3 the Circus!
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A hush flowed across the crowd like a wave, and the space at the center of the Big Top that had once held prancing horses and tumbling clowns was suddenly and dramatically empty.

"Humbly, I hail you, hopeful hordes! Hearken now, hysteric hominids! Humble, yes, but herald holding hyperbole, hells no! Hear hedonistic hypocrisy hawked here, to be sure, however heuristic. How high? Heaven herself hallucinates at the hope!

Thus, I present to you, Heaven's Flight!"

Herman Fuller's sonorous voice fades back into the shadows, and I could hear the crowd beginning to stir in their seats. I'm never certain if it's because of their expectation for whatever show was about to begin, or if it's because they're still trying to figure out whatever the hell Fuller just said.

I swear he does that just to confuse people, but it makes sense. With the omnipresent auditory assault from the calliope putting everyone into such a suggestible state, I guess the weird confusion that comes from Fuller's diatribes works to make our patrons even more excited about the strange things they see.

It doesn't really matter now, and I breathe deeply, centering myself for the show that is about to begin. Fraust can sense my anxiety, and I can feel one of their tentacles quietly wrapping itself around my ankle, centering me, reminding me that I will not be alone for long out in that dark gulf above the center ring.

The "mundane" aerialists begin their routine with a flourish, dropping from their hidden places in the shadows near the tent's sloping canvas roof, their sequined outfits sparking in the spotlights with radiant flashes of kaleidoscopic fire. What they lack in "special talent", they more than make up for in being damn good at what they do.

Fraust is always going on about how some of them must have SOME touch of the talent to do some of the things they do. "Normals can't do what we do, but the stuff they CAN do is damn near magical."

But, Icky assures me that there is nothing truly magical about what it is they do. Hard work, dedication, and an obscene amount of training goes into their routines, and it shows. The copious amounts of cocaine probably helps too.

They're so in sync with the rhythm, the music almost seems to flow with them as they whisper through the air. I'm a bit jealous of that part, it's taken me ages to just get my damn cues right. I don't really hear the music once the show starts. I just watch Fraust. I see them move, and I just… know where I'm supposed to be.

The aerialists stopped practicing with us months ago. They said the way that Fraust does their thing makes them nauseous. I get that, they really must be in tune with their own bodies to do what they do, and seeing Fraust… contort the way they do has got to be disconcerting.

I don't see it that way, of course. I watch Fraust melt into shape after shape with a thrill that's so intense that it borders on the obscene. I can feel them moving in a way that the others can't, and the way Fraust undulates… arouses me. It couldn't be nauseating, the thought of my left hand being nauseating in how it moves is just as utterly alien a concept. It is just the way things are, and that very surety centers me just as much as it turns me on.

Fraust once again notices my thoughts and they look up at me with that ridiculous grin. "Shh, love. We're about to perform. We can do that later."

For a moment, my cheeks burn with a hint of embarrassment at being caught out like that. I'm still not used to how free these people are with their sexuality. Adding Clown physiology into the mix, and it's only natural that the level of "experimentation" that goes on would be a part of the social norm.

Barbara in Accounting would be having a fit if she could see me now.

I grin back over at them and give one of their appendages an affectionate squeeze. "Go on. It's just about time for our cue."


Fuller stepped once more into the ring and raised his hands as the spotlights centered on him, giving his form that weird nimbus he loved so much.

"And now! Turn thy thoughts to this tantalizing temptation tapestried there, this terpsichorean tableau. Twinned testaments to the tenuous tractility that these two transpose, truth! Thus this theatrically trenchant test thus…. BEGINS."

That was it, that was the cue. The spotlights winked out as if they were never even there, leaving behind a strange and otherworldly glow in the air directly above the center ring. My heart thudded in my chest, but still, I waited. It wasn't my time yet.

The glow deepened, brightened, coalescing enough to show a huge clear bowl, filled with black water. It hung there, suspended in the air above the space where Fuller once stood, and the water was as still and unmoving as if it were made of the same glass as the bowl it filled.

The glow brightened again, and a ripple broke the still surface of the bowl as something moved within. The audience couldn't see that part, but what they did see sent a ripple of sound that mimicked the movement atop the bowl. A pale form, sinuous and slender, inhuman and almost serpentine, moved with the dark fluid of the bowl.

Aquatic, it moved through the water with its undulations allowing tantalizing glimpses of strange flesh against the glass: a thick trunk of muscle here, a trailing tendril there. A ghostly face, momentarily lit by the strange glow elicited a gasp from those in the crowd that were paying the closest attention.

I grinned. Fraust loved how weird they could make themselves look, and I could tell by the pattern in the water that they were going for the "naga in the water" look tonight. The people below couldn't be certain of what they were seeing, and that only added to the weirdness of it all. The face was human enough, the torso was anything but.

Once more I found myself taking a centering breath. It was almost time. This first part was always the hardest, the waiting. I had to time my jump just right, so that when the spotlight came, I was on the platform only long enough for the crowd to recognize me as a person, one of them. As if.

The music began then, dark and discordant, a deep base thrumming in the air like a heartbeat, dipping low enough to be inaudible, but loud enough to still be felt. It tingled in my chest, along my arms braced against the rigging, tickled my feet on the narrow platform. It was almost time.

The "creature" in the bowl below me began to thrash in time with the throbbing pulse of the music, sending waves of water cascading down the sides of the bowl. Someone shrieked in surprise as another thick coil of pale flesh slid along the inside of the glass, this time trailing an oh-so-human hand. I could feel their fear in a way that I never could before. Taste it, like a pungent narcotic in the air. Only heartbeats left.

Then it came with a rush, a crashing crescendo of musical chords and Fraust reared out of the water. Thick muscles stood out on their torso like ropes, holding the serpentine form clear of the sloshing water of the bowl. They let out an otherworldly howl, harmonizing with the discordant chords just enough to give the music a presence that everyone in the tent could feel.

Then the spotlight snapped into being and I was limned in silver.

For just the briefest of moments I stood there, letting the sudden intake of breath from the crowd showcase their recognition that I was there. A lone figure, tiny with the impossible height, preparing to face down the monster in the water. Then, that frozen moment ended, and I leapt into the air.

The time in the air always seems to stretch into infinity for me. If I dared to breathe during the long plummet to the entirely too-shallow pool beneath me, I could easily breathe for a lifetime. Or so it seemed. Time slows to petrified eternities between each heartbeat, and I can feel myself disassociating from the world around me. It is as if the very air I moved through was stripping away my identity as I pass through it.

Then, I was there, and instead of the expected impact against the water that everyone below me knew was coming, my arrow-straight body was instead captured in the writhing tentacles of the horror my Lover had become. In that sudden, explosive moment, the glass bowl appeared to shatter, sending waves of dark water spraying outward as Fraust pushed up and out to catch me in a forest of suddenly uncoiling tentacles.

The crowd shrieked in horror or shock, and even if I could hear them clearly, I probably wouldn't be able to tell which. Instead, my world had narrowed to the sliding tendrils of warm flesh that wrapped and unwrapped themselves around me. For what seemed like whole minutes, I pulled my way through Fraust's embrace, seeking the rigidity I knew had to be there.

Then the smooth shaft of the pole was there in my hand. I gripped it tight, and the fall I hadn't felt was suddenly arrested as I swung wide and around, using my downward momentum to send the free-hanging pole into a wild spin.

Fraust was flung away from me in a cloud of snapping tentacles and a roar of displeasure that shook the seats in their platforms. They snagged a line and spun, tucking their tentacles in close and reforming them to once more look almost human. For a second we hung there, suspended together in that awful void, our eyes locked onto each other.

Then, on cue with another rush of the music, they leapt at me, vaulting through the space with an effortless ease that would be impossible for a mere human. Immediately I grabbed the pole with my other hand, pushing down and tucking in as I inverted, my legs extending upwards to be parallel with the pole. I had only a heartbeat, as Fraust's furious rush sent the pole careening through the air once again as they latched onto it.

The music crashed once more and they leapt upwards just as I let go, and once again I slip past Fraust's grasping limbs, tucking my legs up to my chest just in time to miss a "clumsy" strike that would have pulled my intestines out through my navel. I keep meaning to suggest that the move doesn't miss and do exactly that, but I forget that thought almost as soon as it forms as I reach out to snag the bottom of the pole in my grasping left hand.

The momentum pulled me in to another perfect arc, from inversion to vertical, back to inversion as I swung beneath the pole. For a moment we hung there, the menacing form of Fraust twitching like some sort of fucked up anatomical storm cloud above my upturned feet. Then they began to advance down toward me, tentacles writhing about their body in a display of weirdly contorting flesh.

With no warning aside from a wink unseen by the crowd, Fraust leapt again at me and I snapped my body out, pulling my shoulder hard against the pole and extending my legs straight out from the now-spinning pole. Fraust shrieked in rage and lashed out, their tentacles wrapping around my legs to arrest their fall.

Then we were once more frozen in place, Fraust dangling from my ankles above the floor, their twisting turbulence spinning us faster in the air. A physicist would claim that what we did was impossible, that no one could generate momentum while suspended in the air by another performer in shoulder-mount flag. They'd probably be right, but Fraust isn't just anyone.

Somehow they managed to find purchase in the free-floating motes of dust that were just a ubiquitous fact of life in the Circus, just enough to push us forward into an ever faster spin. I breathed slowly, focusing on keeping the screaming muscles in my abdomen taught, maintaining the impossible position against the Fraust's weight and the accelerating spin.

As the speed picked up, it actually got easier to keep the position as centrifugal force threatened to rip the pole free from my grasp and send us careening into the stands. That had happened once during rehearsal. We'd torn a hole straight through the side of the Big Top, and Manny had nearly took my head off as he bitched about the effort it took to repair the tent.

Apparently a lot goes into repairing holes torn in the fabric of a construction that casually warps dimensional reality like it was a child's plaything. Who would've thought?

At the moment, I certainly wasn't thinking of that sort of thing. The burn in my shoulders was beginning to really remind me how much it sucked to hold on to that damn pole as we spun like a fucking top in the middle of the air. It's a love-hate thing, performing for the Circus. It really fucking is.

And, just like that, it was over. With another inhuman roar, Fraust sent out snapping tentacles to wrap around the pole just as they slid their hold on my legs up to my hips. With a grunt, I'm ripped free from my grip as if I hadn't just been holding on for dear life just a second before. They tossed me into the air like a dog worrying at a chew toy, and I let my body go limp to make the rag-doll effect more pronounced. It wasn't hard, and the snapping whiplash was gonna give me one helluva headache when this was all over. Like it always did.

They hurled me into the pole, and the impact of the hard rubber against my abdomen was loud enough to sound like a gunshot in the sudden stillness of the tent. I folded into it, wrapping my body around it and gripping the thing tightly between my thighs and chest. As Fraust pulled free, I remained behind, a tiny thing wrapped against the unforgiving pole, trapped above the swirling chaos that was my partner and soulmate.

Why the fuck do I do this?

Oh yeah, because now it was MY turn.

Fraust always says that I become something else when we hit this point in the show. Like, something possesses me. Maybe they're right. Maybe I'm just ecstatic to give that lovable freak back some of what they just put ME through.

With a grunt, I flex out and let go. The motion of snapping to full extension pushes me away from the pole and once more I am free falling through the air. Towards Fraust. Towards that bastard that just slammed me at Mach Three Point whatever into that fucking pole. They say I get this gleam in my eye that sometimes scare them more than the dead eyes of the Factory Wardens.

That's easy to believe. Those mechanical monsters are soulless. My soul is very much present, and it is very much looking forward to this.

I let out a wild yell as I plummet past Fraust, then my hand snakes out to grasp one of Fraust's waiting tentacles. The momentum of my fall added to their sudden flex pulls me once more into a wild arc and suddenly I'm back above them. I grab their shoulder with my free hand, pulling their tentacle up to pull the tentacle tight about Fraust's throat. They let out a choked gasp as I twist the tentacle once more about their neck, cutting off their air flow.

A moment to brace, then I surge upwards, my hands once more finding the pole. I tuck in, then lash out with both feet, connecting squarely with Fraust's face… knocking them free from the pole.

They tell me that this fall is the scariest for our audience, but they love it the most. With a crash that seems to shake the world, they impact the ground far below. I pull my feet in, then lock them into place on the pole just long enough to push myself to the top. From there, I grab a hold of the small cushion placed there and pull myself up and over the pole.

I pause there, my legs and arm stretched out straight from my body, balancing on the palm of my hand, my fingers gripping the top of the pole with crushing strength. And I hold it. Long enough to look down and see Fraust feebly writhing on the ground far below. Long enough for the crowd of deathly-quiet patrons to just about guess what comes next. Long enough to show that the prey has just become predator.

Then, I push myself up to full extension, then slam myself down, causing the pole to jerk free of it's unseen clamps.

This fall is not a free fall. It is purposeful. The pole has become my spear, and I am the weight that will surely drive it home. The mere handful of seconds it takes for me to fall stretches out once more into infinity all around, and all there is in the universe is my connection to Fraust, their eyes and mine locked together.

Then the tip of the pole sinks into Fraust's chest with a sickening crunch and black gore explodes from their mouth in a grotesque fountain. Once more I snap up, then shove down, and the pole sinks deeper into Fraust's shattered chest. They let out a bubbling shriek, full of horror and pain, their tentacles writhing feebly against the penetrating shaft of my improvised spear.

Then, with no warning, the spotlights wink out, and the entire world goes dark.


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