The Gold Medal Circus of Death
© Alva J. Roberts
The air reeked of popcorn and elephant dung. The smell was disgusting it made Barry's mouth water in hunger, and made him want to be sick at the same time. He crouched low in the shadows of the worn wooden bleachers; the tent overhead brought a welcome relief from the blazing sun.
Barry's stepfather, Henry, had pummeled him again just before Barry left the house. Barry looked fine, Henry never left a mark where it could be seen, but the bruises on Barry's side ached whenever he moved.
Henry was a new edition to the household. He was a big man, six foot three and over three hundred pounds. Barry thought his mother was going through some kind of midlife crisis, dating the wanna be rock star with an endless supply of marijuana. But after just a few weeks of dating, they went on a weekend bender in Vegas and Barry had a new dad. One who liked to hit.
The last of the patrons left the large opening in the side of the tent. Barry scurried forward, into the center ring. What would it be like to perform there?
Barry's eyes glazed over as he imagined the crowds cheering and clapping for him as he performed on the high wire. He would be the greatest performer anyone had ever seen.
Before he knew what he was thinking, Barry had decided. He was going to runaway and join the Gold Medal circus. It was a little cliché, but why not go with a classic. Barry was a big kid for fourteen. He bet he could convince the ringmaster he was eighteen.
He left the tent with a purposeful stride. The RVs the performers lived in sat just down the fair ground. Barry walked toward them as if he belonged there. Barry knew he could get away with a lot of stuff as long as he looked like he should be doing it.
Barry wandered between the large boxy vehicles. He had no idea who he needed to talk to, but somebody would tell him if he walked around long enough.
“Damn it. You said this would be the last show!” A voice yelled.
“Calm down. It isn't the end of the world, Gary . We just need to do a few more shows; we don't have enough of them yet. It almost worked on the last bunch.”
“This isn't right. They're not lab rats or cattle.”
Barry peered around the side of the Winnebago. One of the clowns, Gary, was arguing with the ringmaster. Barry stood watching, not wanting to interrupt the fight.
“Look Ted, this is my last show. I've had enough. You can find yourself some other clown. I'm going home.”
“Do I need to pull rank? The mission isn't over. You disgust me. You will do as you're told, soldier. They should have known better than to send a scientist with us. It would have been so much easier to collect a few dozen of them and bring them home. But that's not what they did. Remember why we are here.”
“I can never forget. The plague that killed the women took my wife and daughter.“ The clown stood trembling for a moment. Barry thought for sure he was going to punch the ringmaster, but instead he turned and marched away. Soldier? Mission ? What the Hell was going on?
The ringmaster turned, moving straight for where Barry stood. For just a second Barry thought about running. There was no way they would catch him, but his curiosity got the best of him. His eyes searched for a place to hide and listen.
Barry ran for a sliver trailer. The door opened easily and he jumped inside. The door clicked shut behind him. A pile of dirty rags sat in the corner, stinking to high heaven. But the rest of the trailer was empty. He peered through the small holes in the side of the trailer watching the ringmaster walk up.
“Hey, Ted. Was Gary talking about what I think he was?” one of trapeze artists asked.
“If it sounded like insubordination, then yeah.”
“You want me to take care of him?”
“Let me think it over. You hungry, Norris?”
“Always.” Norris, the trapeze artist, replied.
The two men walked to a nearby barrel. Fear churned deep within Barry's belly. He would be in deep trouble if they caught him. Maybe he should just come out. Did he even really care what was going on?
The ringmaster reached into the brightly colored barrel, and pulled out a chunk of what looked like raw meat. He stuffed the flesh into his mouth, gnawing hungrily. Blood dribbled down his chin. Barry felt the bile rise in his throat.
Norris reached into the barrel, grasping a piece of the meat with both hands. He tore off long strips of bloody flesh with teeth that were too sharp to be human. The ringmaster finished his morsel and reached back in, scooping up another chunk of the meat.
Barry covered his mouth to keep himself from screaming. His heart thundered in his chest. The ringmaster was eating a dismembered human hand. Barry turned away not wanting to see what was happening.
Something rustled around in the back of the trailer. The rags began to rise. Barry shook with fear and his bowels clenched tight. He realized that they were not rags. They were all women.
Their skin was gray and cracked. Open wounds stood out stark black on their rotting flesh. Barry stepped backward, not believing what his eyes saw. They looked like they were dead, but they were moving.
The shapes stumbled towards him, their arms outstretched. Their movements were slow and jerky, like a marionette. It seemed like Barry was in a bad lat night horror movie.
He yanked on the door, but it would not move. It was locked from the outside. His fist pounded on the on unyielding metal. He glanced over his shoulder. They were moving closer.
“Shut up in there. You'll eat soon,” the ringmaster yelled. The creatures snarled at the ringmaster's voice.
“Le me out! Let me out!” Barry screamed his voice cracking.
“What the Hell?” the ringmaster threw open the door open.
Barry jumped out, slamming into the ringmaster. The gold medal the man wore around his neck tore away. His skin took turned the gray green color of rotting flesh. Barry gagged at the putrid stink that rose off the ringmaster.
Barry let out a terrified yelp and took off running for all he was worth. The ringmaster screamed a stream of gibberish.
“Ted what's going on? Jesus! Help! Help-” Barry heard someone yell behind him, before the voice trailed off into a gurgle.
Barry peered over his shoulder and stopped, too shocked to move. The women from the van were tearing apart a man in coveralls.
More and more of the circus performers were running over, to be slaughtered before they could take in the horrific scene. Blood pooled forming a gory lake under the women.
Barry screamed again and sprinted for the parking lot. The monsters from the trailer were busy with their feast. They were not chasing him. Thank god.
A huge red shoe smashed into his face. The white painted face of Gary the clown loomed over him. Barry tried to scream, but the giant foot smashed into his mouth. The world grew dark and fuzzy, and then faded out completely.
“What are going to do? This isn't some homeless woman. This kid's got to have a family.” Barry heard as his eyes fluttered open.
“I'm trying to think.” the ringmaster said.
“Well think harder, the whole mission is going to get scratched because of one punk kid.” Norris said.
“Unnnhh. What's going on?” Barry called out. His hands and feet were tied. He lay on the ground in the middle of the center ring.
“You're awake? That's too bad. I was hoping Gary cracked your skull,” The ringmaster walked forward. He wore the gold medal again, his face had returned to normal. Gary and Norris followed close behind him.
“Why were you hiding out kid?” Gary asked.
“I was gonna join the circus.” Tears started to run down Barry's face, a low sob escaping his hunched form.
“Well ya picked the wrong one. Let's toast him and get out of town,” Norris said sneering down at him.
“We should be able to get enough specimens in the next town. We‘ll have to lose the circus. All the other performers are dead anyway. Gary watch the kid. We're going to get the Torch. We'll have some barbequed brat and leave town,” the ringmaster said as he and the acrobat walked out leaving Barry alone with the clown.
“Why are you doing this? I didn't do anything to you.”
Gary glanced at the open tent flap. “I don't suppose it will hurt anything to tell you. We're not human, these mutation disks translate out language to English and allow us to look like the natives.” Gary gestured to the disk he wore around his neck.
“But what are those things in the trailer? Those..”
“Monsters? I made them. All the women on our planet died of the plague. I was trying to make it possible for us to breed with your females. There has been little success.”
Barry sat in a shocked silence for a few seconds. He shook his head he did not have time for this.
“Help me.” Barry pleaded. “Help me escape. You can't let them eat me. Please. Please. I didn‘t do anything. It‘s not fair.” Tears ran down his face and dripped from the end of his chin.
Gary paced back and forth, looking at the ground, his hands shaking and fidgeting.
“You are right. You are sentient beings, not cattle.” Gary said rushing over to untie Barry's hands.
A ball of fire leapt from the doorway, tearing through the clown's chest. He dropped to the ground, his chest smoldering, His body transformed as he lay dying. His flesh turned a sickly green, his hair falling away. A thick black liquid pooled beneath him.
Norris walked in the tent holding a strange looking gun, with a vicious smile plastered across his face. “That was top secret information Gary . You know the penalty for treason.” He started to laugh.
A thick arm snaked around Norris' neck snapping it before he could finish the laugh. The ringmaster released his body letting him slump to the ground.
“You shouldn't have killed him, you had your orders,” The ringmaster said looking down at the body.
“As for you, you ruined everything. Before I leave your dirty backward planet I will taste your flesh,” the ringmaster said with a snarl.
Barry ran for it ducking under the side of the tent. A crazy idea blossomed in Barry's mind. He ran straight for the group of trailers. He could hear the ringmaster's feet thudding hard into the ground not far behind him. Barry glanced over his shoulder, the ringmaster was falling back. Good. Barry needed some room.
Barry rounded the silver trailer sprinting to the door. He threw it open and slammed it as hard as he could, then dove under the trailer.
“You think I won't follow you in there?” The ringmaster screamed as he opened the door and hurled himself into the trailer.
Barry jumped up slamming the door shut behind him. He heard the door click as it locked. Barry knew from experience there was no way to open it from the inside.
“What the Hell? Damn it stay back! Stay back!” the ringmaster yelled.
His cries trailed off into gurgles of pain. Barry stared at the door his breath coming in heaving gasps. A thin line of blood drooled from under the doorway.
Barry started walking home his mind numb with shock. Running away to the circus was not the answer. But maybe he could tell Henry to come check out the hot naked chicks in the sliver trailer.
Barry smiled as he imagined the sound of the door closing with Henry inside the trailer and Henry's screams of pain as the monsters devoured him.