A Whateley Universe Story
The Last Freak Show
Early August, 2016
It always amused me, most people put on makeup to look prettier or more exotic, I put it on to make myself look more normal and drab.
Foundation over my face, chest and arms to hide my yellow skin. Eyeliner and shadow to make my glittering green eyes and eyelids look like they're an elaborate costume. Makeup around my cheekbones, hiding the sharpness of them, while concealing the blue-green scales. Blood red lipstick, emphasizing the predatory fangs, once again making them look like a costume. A faint line on each ear made it look like the pointy tips are glued on rather than real. More makeup along my jawline, have to cover those scales too.
Looking myself over, I had to smile at the image, I appeared to be a baseline ready for Halloween or an exotic costume party. My ass length, pitch black hair, black leather corset and skin tight black pants that looked painted on and didn't restrict my movements, and most important of all a black leather choker with a small diamond engagement ring hanging from it, gave me the perfect look, a beautiful woman trying to look a little like a seductive demoness.
My looks gave me my stage name Lilith. And to be honest, I preferred going by Lilith in my daily life. I hadn't looked like an Esther since I was thirteen, which quite frankly was no great loss, I'd always hated that name. The only people who still called me Esther were my parents and grandparents, I gave them a pass on that, since they were mostly cool about everything else.
Leaving the bathroom, Trevor was waiting for me, he'd gotten home from work while I was getting ready and had taken all of five minutes to get ready to go out again. He had a much easier job than I did, he got to wear shorts and a t-shirt without having to spend an hour on makeup, it really wasn't fair.
“How do I look?” I asked, slowly spinning around so he could get a good look at me.
“Good enough to eat,” he said, coming in for a kiss.
Laughing, I put my fingers on his lips and pushed him away. “Later,” I said, practically purring. “Right now, we have work to do.”
Like the gentleman he was, Trevor got my bag of supplies while I got my sunglasses, and led the way out of our tiny apartment. It was late enough in the afternoon that it wasn't blistering hot, still neither of us wasted any time getting into our shared car and the blessed AC it offered. Two weeks in the city and I still wasn't used to the heat after the cool climate of New Hampshire. Despite looking like a demon, I liked cold weather.
“How was your day?” I asked. While I'd been at home all day hiding from the heat, my fiance had been out waiting tables and collecting tips. He was handsome and very friendly, so plenty of women, and a decent number of men were happy to leave him huge tips, which helped pay the bills.
“Same old, same old,” he said, pulling out of the parking lot.
“You've worked there for a week, how can it be the same old thing?” I demanded.
“I'm a waiter, there isn't much to tell. Had a girl grab my ass and a guy gave me his number along with a big tip. Neither one was my type,” he said.
Gently clutching his arm so I wouldn't mess with his driving, I beamed up at him. “Good, you're all mine. Who else would let me throw knives at them?”
“And who else could make you squeal in such a cute way at night.”
“Exactly. No one can replace you, so if anyone gets too touchy feely, just tell them your fiance likes playing with knives.” We'd been engaged ever since graduating high school in June, but I still got butterflies in my stomach whenever I thought about it. It was easily the best night of my life.
Parking at a nearby park that was slowly filling up with people, I mentally judged the crowd trying to decide if this would be a good or bad night. It wasn't quite time for the show to begin, so we went to a food van that sold really good burgers and fries for supper. Trevor had to pay, I was flat broke at the moment. In my line of work money was a case of feast and famine, and right now it was most definitely a famine. But that would be changing soon, I was about to get my chance to hit the big leagues, and then my troubles would be over.
We sat on a bench and people watched as we ate, not saying anything, just enjoying the sights and sounds. We'd known each other for four years, and been dating for three of them, so comfortable silences were the norm. I still vividly remembered the first time we met, when he kicked my ass in basic martial arts. It was an important lesson about not underestimating someone, especially when they have a forcefield. Of course finding myself pinned with him sitting on my pelvis and holding my wrists, hadn't exactly been unpleasant.
Finishing supper, we strolled hand in hand through the park, stopping to listen and watch some of the buskers. Most of them were playing music, usually on a guitar, a few were really good, others... really should have found a new profession. We listened to one old man play a great blues song on his saxophone, Trevor gave him a five, just because he was so good. A woman in a tuxedo was doing sleight of hand tricks, I could see how she did them thanks to my talents, but she was still really good, and no one else was able to keep up.
It was finally time to begin. Taking my bag from Trevor I wandered just a little further away. There was a really good spot beside a fountain that was free at the moment. Taking off my sunglasses, I opened my bag up and marked out a space around me with black rope, then I placed two of the most important tools of my trade on the ground, a stereo and a hat. Finally I took out four of my knives.
I'd already started getting a bit of a crowd, Trevor was standing off to the side looking like an interested passerby.
Tossing one of my knives into the air, I began.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen,” I said, in my most alluring voice while catching the knife as it fell behind my back. I started casually juggling the knives as I spoke. “I am the beautiful Lilith. Tonight it is your honour to watch me perform.”
Still juggling the knives, I raised my leg until my foot was just above my head. The crowd really enjoyed that, especially the men. Trevor tossed several bills into my hat. “Thank you very much,” I said.
“If you see anything you like,” I said, slowly and very carefully twisting my foot so I turned in place, letting everyone get a good look at my legs, crotch and extremely tight pants, “please clap.”
Lowering my leg, I began tossing the knives in a more complicated pattern. Two went behind my back, while the other two stayed in front, my hands moved quickly between the blades ensuring none went lower than my waist. It wasn't anything superhuman, a well trained baseline could do the same trick, but it sure looked good.
“It's a little cool for me, I'm used to much hotter climes,” I smiled, revealing my sharp, inhuman teeth. “I think I'll heat things up a little.” I hit a button in my shoe. Instantly ominous music began playing from my stereo, a sweet little gadget my roommate had given me as a present on the last day of school. And my knives lit on fire.
The applause was huge, and more people came over to watch the show. Even better, several people dropped money in my hat, I blew them a kiss in thanks.
“Who would like to help with my first trick? I need two volunteers. I promise you your souls will be safe, and your bodies should stay intact.”
There were plenty of volunteers, most of them men, but also a cute girl. Still juggling, keeping it to a basic pattern for now, I walked along the edge of my rope, which marked out the safe area. Switching the flaming knives to one hand, I stretched out my arm and ran my finger over a cute guys chest. The knives stayed well away from him, stabbing or lighting a volunteer on fire was generally a bad thing in show business. “You'll be perfect, handsome,” I purred.
Still keeping the knives far from the audience, I went around the safe area again, stopping at the girl. Smiling very suggestively, I beckoned her forward with a finger. “What a pretty little thing. I may bring you home with me after we're done,” I said, playing up the ever popular, sexy lesbian act, making her blush.
“What are your names?” I asked them.
“May,” the girl said.
“Tim,” the man replied.
“Can we have a warm welcome for my two sacrifices, sorry, volunteers, May and Tim?” I asked the crowd.
There was the expected laughter and applause. Catching the knives, I blew on them, while pressing the button to turn the flame off. “Now Tim, if you could stand here,” I directed him to a spot in the middle of my safe area, “and stay very still. As long as you don't move, the worst that should happen is you get a haircut. If you squirm or move around you might lose an ear, then I'd have to cut off the other one to make you symmetrical, and that would just be messy.”
He started laughing, but looked a little nervous.
“And for you May, you'll stand right here.” I put her about ten feet behind Tim. “Now take this,” I started handing her one of my knives, and suddenly stopped. “How good are you with knives?”
“Not good enough to throw them,” she replied, eyes wide.
Letting out a big, theatrical sigh, I pulled the knife back. “Well I don't want to have to deal with another dead body today. I guess we'll go with the safer option.”
Walking to my bag, I put my knives down and pulled out two glittering silver, rubber balls. I did a little act of rolling them along my arm, over my shoulder and down my other arm, then bounced them off my feet as I walked back to May. The crowd oohed and aahed at the trick, more money went into my hat, earning yet more ‘thank you's’ from me.
“Now, May, I'm going to stand in front of Tim and start juggling my knives. I want you to toss one of the balls underhanded high in the air, so they go over Tim and come down somewhere close to me. Then count to five and throw the next one. Whatever you do, don't hit Tim, he's too cute to bruise.”
Picking up my knives, I began juggling them as I got into position. Starting the flames again, I took a few seconds to prepare myself. This was actually a pretty risky trick, if May was a terrible thrower the balls could end up flying too far away to catch. But that just added to the suspense, if I pulled it off, it would look awesome. As ready as I'd ever be I said, “Whenever you're ready May.”
The first ball came in an arc several feet in front of me. Trying not to look concerned, I moved forward catching the ball and threw it up so it joined the knives, with only the slightest wobble. The next ball however was way off to the side.
Moving as quickly as I dared with the knives and ball still flying through the air, I moved to catch it, but it was just too far away. Taking a chance, I stretched my leg out as far as it could go, catching the ball on my toes and gave it the lightest possible tap back towards me. If I wasn't an exemplar, there would have been no chance of pulling it off, I simply didn't have the technical skills, but with my reflexes and agility I just barely managed it.
I almost dropped two of my knives catching the wayward ball, and it took several long seconds to get everything under control, but I succeeded in keeping everything moving. The audience erupted in cheers and applause. I took the opportunity to stop juggling and thank my volunteers, while catching my breath.
The rest of the show wasn't quite as eventful, fortunately, but it was entertaining for my audience.
“So how did you do?” Trevor asked, as we drove home two hours later.
I was exhausted. Being an exemplar gave me lots of endurance and muscle, but I'd still spent a little over two hours doing two physically intensive acts, and two much easier ones, with only three short breaks, while dealing with the public. Still counting out the earnings was important. “Not counting the loose change, one hundred thirty six. With the change, somewhere around one fifty,” I said. Despite my weary muscles, I had to smile. That was a great haul for a weekday evening. “It's a nice start to paying my half of the bills this month.”
“Do that twice a week and with The Last Freak Show gig, we'll actually be able to start saving some money.”
“That'll be good. I don't need a big wedding, but a fun family and friends event and an even better honeymoon would nice,” I said, thinking of how pretty I'd look in a white dress. “You work tomorrow right?”
“Ten to three. What are you going to do while I'm gone?”
“Run some errands, and practice for The Last Freak Show debut. You're ready for it right? We need to be perfect.”
He nodded. “I've got the easy job, I just have to stand there looking scared as you throw knives at me. Piece of cake.”
“Don't forget the whipping. That'll be fun,” I said, licking my lips in fake anticipation.
“If only I'd known you were so violent before I asked you out,” he muttered.
“You'd have asked me out even sooner.”
“True,” he admitted. “I'm still glad I have a forcefield.”
Even though I was joking about it, a whole swarm of butterflies were flying around my stomach. Out of hundreds of potential acts, somehow mine had caught the attention of The Last Freak Show. People with years of experience performing for a real audience, not just fellow high school students, were turned down. And here I was, literally just out of high school, having been given a chance to audition at the last minute, thanks to the Whateley Job Fair, getting a contract. If I was an actress, this would be like landing an important role in a blockbuster movie on my first try, it happens, but you have to be damn lucky.
It wasn't all roses of course.
I only had an initial six week contract, with two evening shows on Monday and Thursday, and three shows each night on Friday and Saturday. If I did well then I could sign on for a year, and get a chance to perform more often. I also wasn't going on the road tour, where the real money was. Instead I was to perform at the year round theatre, where new acts got tested, alongside performers who didn't want to spend three-quarters of the year on the road. There was no shame in it, but it was a clear sign I had some kinks to work out before I'd be a real part of the show.
My nerves had to be showing, Trevor reached over to pat my thigh. “When we get home, I'll help you out of your clothes and you can take a long hot shower. I'll light up some incense, put on music and give you a massage when you're out.”
“You just want to see me naked,” I teased.
“To make things fair, I'll be naked too.”
I had to grin. “Deal.”
While I sipped my blueberry tea and nibbled on my second buttery egg scone sandwich, Trevor drained his vile brew, that was almost as bad as Devisor coffee. Watching the tired look in his eyes fade away as the caffeine woke him up, made up for the wretched smell that I'd been forced to endure while making it.
Properly awake, he began eating the first of two huge egg and spam sandwiches and the big plate of home fries I'd made for him. He needed to eat a lot at breakfast, so he wouldn't freak out anyone at his job by eating enough for three people during his break. It was a good thing I liked to cook. Too bad I had a larger than normal appetite as well, making our grocery bill one of our biggest expenses, right behind rent. I had never realized just how spoiled for food we'd been at Whateley.
“I'm getting groceries today, do you want anything special that isn't on the list?” I asked.
He shook his head. “You're the cook, you make it, I'll eat it,” he said. “Want me to bring something home from work for supper?”
“Two bowls of coleslaw, it'll go well with the chicken legs.”
Nodding he turned back to his breakfast.
I had to smile at the scene. A few bitches and assholes from high school and elsewhere, had tried to make me believe that this happy domestic scene would be impossible for me. I was too different from the norm, I'd have to be a supervillain, clearly a demon couldn't be a hero,to make a living. Possibly even worse, when they found out I wanted to be a performer, they automatically assumed pornstar. And the possibility of getting a cute husband, who didn't have a mutant fetish, that respected and supported me? HAH! Keep dreaming, freak.
I'd almost believed them.
Fortunately I was naturally stubborn, had some very good friends and Trevor had come along. So I hadn't fallen into that trap of thinking I had to conform, either to those who thought I was a freak to be feared, or worse, a freak who needed to be pitied.
Leaning back in my dining room chair, picked up for a dollar from an online ad, my smile turned into a grin. Sure none of our furniture matched, most of our things came from thrift stores or virtual garage sales, and at least for the next few months we'd be living paycheck to paycheck, but Trevor and I had a plan, a roof over our heads, we were doing honest work that we enjoyed, and we were a team. Pretty damn good for two kids just out of high school, if I do say so myself.
“What are you so happy about?” Trevor asked.
“Life,” I said, blowing him a kiss.
Shaking his head, he grinned back before taking a big bite of the home fries. My grin got bigger, somehow seeing him so happy eating my food was almost as good as hearing the audience applause last night. That had been exhilarating, way better than the few times I'd drank or tried something handed around at a party by the Dylans. This was calmer, more warm and cozy, than exhilarating. Getting to experience both was the greatest thing in the world.
As I relaxed, Trevor loaded up the dishwasher that had come with the apartment, and left for work. Then I got dressed and tidied up the rest of the house, listening to some Crüxshadows as I worked. It wasn't much work, we didn't have enough stuff to be very messy, and since I spent the most time at home, I kept things neat so I wouldn't have to clean up a big mess.
The little bit of work done, it was time to practice.
I pulled a large piece of thick plywood out from under the bed and placed it against the living room wall. The wood was covered in small holes and splinters. It was almost time to sand it smooth again. Taking a pack of stickers I put tiny X's all over the board, some as low as my ankles, others were above my head.
For the next hour I threw knives at the board, at first they were just normal throws. After warming up I started doing it while standing sideways to the target, then over my shoulder, lying on my back, doing a one arm handstand and finally while doing forward rolls. The living room was too small to do anything really fancy without risking our damage deposit, so this was just a basic practice routine.
That done, I carefully put ten small black dots in a roundish pattern on the board, and placed a light at the top of it. Then I put ten of my throwing knives into an open box and went back to the other side of the room.
Placing my big toe on a small piece of tape I'd put on the floor the first week we'd moved in, I put the box on the ground beside me. Taking a knife out, I snapped my fingers.
The light flashed green, my arm snapped forward. The knife left my hand and I immediately grabbed a second one. One second later, the light flashed green again, I threw the next knife. Grabbing another knife, not even looking to see if the first knives had hit their target, my eyes completely focused on the green light, I let it fly. Every second it flashed and a knife was thrown. At the tenth it beeped, letting me know I was done.
Looking at the board, I saw that eight of the knives had hit their targets dead on. Two of them were off by less than a quarter of an inch.
“Dammit!” I swore.
It wasn't good enough. Gathering my knives, I got back in position. This was going to take all morning.
Braving the heat, with a blister on my thumb, I made my way through the hot and humid streets of Austin. It was well past lunchtime, I'd forgotten to eat because I was too busy practicing, and I didn't want to cook, so I needed to get some food. I had a loose, long sleeve blouse and ankle length gypsy cotton skirt on, to keep the sun off my skin while letting the air flow freely. My favourite, colourful rag purse hung over my shoulder with my essentials. My choker was hot against my neck, but there was no way I was going to take it off. I didn't want to risk damaging the engagement ring on it by wearing it while I performed, and taking it on and off the choker would be annoying, so it was my one constant fashion accessory. A few cold packs were discretely taped to my legs, back and ribs, so I didn't melt. A big sun hat protected my head and kept my makeup from melting, revealing my not quite human skin colour. I also had two knives strapped to my legs, well out of sight thanks to the skirt. Call me paranoid, but after dealing with highschool at Whateley I like to be ready for anything
Annoyingly I was also wearing contacts, which made my eyes a little itchy, and my dental veneers. The veneers were fake teeth that fit over my real teeth, making them look baseline. I could do anything with them that my normal teeth could, like eating, talking, and things with Trevor where razor sharp teeth are not advised, but they felt weird in my mouth. Unfortunately it was part of the price of being inconspicuous.
I also had a backpack on. It didn't match my clothes, but I needed to get the groceries home somehow, and I didn't want to call a cab or Uber. It was important to stay fit and save money, walking, especially in this heat would help keep me nice and trim for the act.
Ten minutes of walking and I was at a nice little bakery and sandwich shop. With a huge amount of relief, I slipped into the air conditioned building. The smell of baked bread, sweet pastries and spices filled the air. Taking a moment to just take in the scent and enjoy the cool air, I made my way to the counter.
“Hey Lilith, how are you?” the cashier asked.
“Hey Kelly. Now that I'm out of that heat, I can't complain. But I would love to get a ham sandwich with the works. Anything new with you?” I asked. I wouldn't call Kelly a friend, but between getting the apartment set up, going over details at The Last Freak Show, and trying to deal with the heat, meeting people had been depressingly low on my priorities, so it was nice having a friendly person to chat with.
“I asked some friends about The Last Freak Show, and checked their website,” she said as she cut the bread for my sandwich. “I'm not sure if it's really my thing. I'm more for country music and romcoms.”
The mousy young woman really didn't look like she was ready for the counterculture scene. I'd taken a chance telling her that I was a new performer there, it's good to try to get some publicity, even if it did risk outing me. “It's not for everyone, especially the evening shows. But if you want to give it a chance, I can take you and a friend to the tamer Sunday matinee, my treat, and it'll be a house seat.”
“A seat for a friend of the cast, they're some of the best in the theatre. I just need to give them a few days' warning. And the matinee is for family, kind of creepy, but nothing straight out of a horror movie.”
“That... sounds interesting. But you don't know any of my friends,” she said, handing me my sandwich.
Shrugging, I waved off that little problem. “I'm new to the city, for the last two weeks I've only had my fiance and you, to have an actual friendly non-work related chat with. I'm kind of desperate for a girls day out. Pick a friend you think would like the show, and we'll see how it goes.”
She seemed a bit taken aback at how blunt I was being, I'd never been one to beat around the bush or let shyness get in the way of things. Fortunately she nodded. “It's a date. I'll ask around and see who wants to go.”
“Thank you, I'm sure you'll like it. And if it goes well, maybe the week after we go as a group to a country bar or something, I’m pretty good with a lasso.” Sitting down at the counter, I took a bite of the sandwich, it was almost as good as one from Crystal Hall.
The bakery was empty, since it was after the lunch rush, so Kelly came over to keep talking. “I heard that The Last Freak Show was all mutants. Is that true?”
“Mostly,” I said. “Some of the acts are baseline, or have a mutant and a baseline.”
“So are you a mutant?”
From how Kelly had acted so far I was hopeful about how things would go, but it was now the moment of truth, would she freak out, become a lot less friendly, get a little nervous, get very interested or act normal?
“Yep,” I admitted, pulling up my sleeve, revealing my yellowish skin. “I was a bit too interested in horror stories when I was a kid, and ended up looking a little odd one morning. So now I'm here doing my part to keep Austin weird.”
Her eyes went a little wide. “I've never met a mutant before. Is it polite to ask what your powers are?”
I giggled, I couldn't help it, it was nice finding someone who didn't get weird learning that I was a mutant. “You can ask, but you'll be disappointed. I don't have any flashy powers, just REALLY good reflexes and agility. Everything else is just what a strong baseline can do.”
Kelly looked disappointed, so I decided to show off a little. Getting to my feet I took some coins from the 'Need a penny, take a penny,' bowl and began to juggle with them.
“Oh wow!” she exclaimed.
“Toss me five coins,” I said.
She hesitated for a moment, but then went to get them. “All of them at the same time?” she asked.
Throwing the coins together, they separated in the air, making me have to move quickly to get them. It wasn't nearly as hard as the night before, mostly because I didn't have to worry about stabbing or burning myself. She gasped in shock as I caught the coins and began juggling them. Then, because I was still hungry, I tossed each one back into the bowl without looking at it.
“Ta-da!” I said, taking a bow.
The applause was wonderful.
Walking home was not nearly as fun as the rest of the day had been. I had a backpack, plus two cloth bags, full of food, and it seemed to be even hotter than before. The sweat was dripping off me, making my nose and breasts itch, and likely ruining my makeup.
“Just think of this as endurance training,” I muttered to myself.
I had one more block to go and I'd be home in my beautiful air conditioned apartment where the nasty heat couldn't get me. I could do this. And as soon as we had enough money we were getting a second car.
Trying not to collapse from heat stroke, while resisting the urge to rip off my too hot and soaking wet bra, I didn't hear the purse snatcher until he was right on top of me. There was the sound of running feet, a tug on my shoulder, and then the purse snatcher was past me with my rag purse.
Instinct and training took over, and I kicked the would-be thief in the knee, sending him sprawling. He didn't stay down however, rolling to his feet he was up and running, with a limp, as I was still trying to comprehend exactly what was happening.
I wasn't a superhero and didn't want to be, however defending myself and my property was high on my list of priorities. The thief had my phone, wallet, ID, MID, and some personal knickknacks that couldn't be replaced. Dropping the groceries, I took off after him.
It wasn't much of a chase, he turned down an alley and I was right behind him. A hard shove sent him sprawling to the ground. Again he rolled to his feet, turning to glare at me with hate in his eyes, his fists raised for a fight.
“Oh crap,” I said as I got a good look at his elephant-like face.
He had big floppy ears that were barely visible under his mop of brown hair. His nose had to be at least a foot long and moved like a worm, tiny tusks jutted out of his oversized mouth, and his fists were as big as my head. This was not good, but he was limping from my kick, so he wasn't a brick.
“Give me my bag and I'll let you go,” I said, using my stage voice to hide the fear I was feeling.
“Go to hell,” he said, taking a swing at me.
Dodging was child's play, he was slow, so slow I suspected he was just trying to scare me. I still needed my purse, so I kicked him in the knee again, even as I ducked under the fist.
He bellowed in pain, and swung at me again, much faster this time. He was getting serious, and followed up his punch with two more, forcing me to duck and weave. Dropping my backpack as I moved, I waited for an opening and kicked him in the face. I was hoping to get his nose, it was probably sensitive, but only caught him in the cheek. He roared again.
His hand glowed black. I had no idea what that would do to his punch and I did not want to find out. With a speed that was almost equal to mine, he swung his open hand at my chest. I wasn't expecting that, and barely avoided it. The edge of the energy field caught my blouse, there was a faint hiss and my shirt had a five inch long gash in it.
The bit of fear grew to alarm. This wasn't a simple robbery anymore.
I spun and drove my foot into his thigh. While my leg was extended, I pulled out the knife strapped to my shin. Elephant man took a step back at the sight of the knife, I forced him further back with a snap kick from my other leg. Having some space, I grabbed my second knife.
“Look,” I said, holding the knives between us, “I don't have the money to replace all the ID in there, and I need my phone. Drop the bag, and this doesn't have to go any further.”
“You're a mutant,” he said, looking at the yellow skin that was clearly visible through the hole in my blouse.
“I am. So how about showing some mutant solidarity and dropping my bag?”
“You a new supervillain?” he asked.
“No,” I said, actually offended. “I'm a performer.”
He grinned, showing me his big blocky teeth, and grabbed his crotch. “Oh a porn star. Haven't seen you before. You new to the trade?”
His leer made me feel dirty. “Fuck you! I'm not a-”
The fist coming for my head cut off my retort. I could feel the black energy field tingle painfully against my cheek as I scrambled backwards. Silently I cursed my luck, this type of thing was supposed to stop after graduating Whateley. I was a former Whitmaniac, it was the Poesies like Trevor who were the trouble magnets.
Seeing elephant man was off balance, I ducked down and leapt forward, my blade slicing his knee. I skidded to a stop behind him and tried to slice the back of his knee, but he was spinning on his good leg. Rolling backwards I got to see his fist form a crater where I'd been a half second before.
“Where are the police when you need them?” I muttered.
Going over my options, I didn't like any of them. I could try to run, but the elephant man was pissed, turning my back on him was not a good idea. I also really needed my phone, it had contact info for potential jobs and important people I didn't want to lose. I didn't want to kill him, if I didn't have to either. So my best option seemed to be taking out his knee.
The next several seconds were a blur.
Elephant man charged me, both fists completely hidden by the pure black energy. I threw a knife at his chest. He lifted his hands to block it, causing the blade to disintegrate. Seeing my opening, I threw myself at him, using all my skills and agility to move like greased lightning just above the pavement. I slid between his legs, and jammed my last knife into the back of his knee.
He fell, shrieking in pain. Ignoring his screams, I kept going, grabbing my bag that had fallen during the fight and ran to the mouth of the alley. With shaking hands I called 911, I didn't want to risk the criminal hurting anyone, and my fingerprints were on the knife. It was best to make sure they knew I was defending myself.
Trevor came rushing over, as I stepped into the police department lobby with my bags of groceries. “Are you OK?” he asked, hugging me so tightly it hurt my ribs.
“I'm OK. Just some scrapes from rolling on the pavement,” I said, hugging him back as hard as I could burying my face in his chest. “But we need to get groceries again. The cold stuff is ruined, sorry,” I said stupidly. My brain was letting the shock take over now that everything was over and I had Trevor to lean on.
He started to laugh in relief, kissing the top of my head. “Don't worry, I think we can survive without milk tonight. I'm just glad you're OK.”
I let him lead me to the car, and help me get in. His eyes lingered on the blood that covered my sleeve, I'd tried to wash it off at the station, but my blouse was completely ruined. My purse was OK though, I just had to repair the strap which had been sliced neatly in two by the crook.
“So want to tell me what happened?” Trevor asked.
“Trunk, the thief, is some low level thug,” I said, repeating what I'd been told by the police. “He hit some hard times and started purse snatching and mugging people. He thought I was an easy target.”
Holding my hand, he said, “From what I heard, he went way beyond just purse snatching.”
“He was afraid of losing his rep by getting beaten up by me. When I told him I was just a performer he decided I needed to be beaten, and then he tried to kill me. The MCO has him, the police made sure I went with them so I could give a statement.” My voice was completely devoid of emotion as I spoke, it was like there was a glass wall between me and my feelings.
Kissing my hand, Trevor pulled into our parking spot. Helping me out of the car, he grabbed my bags and walked me up to our apartment. I sat down on the couch, looking around the room with a newfound appreciation of what we had.
Sitting down, Trevor put me on his lap and cradled me, while I wrapped my arms around him. “That could have been us.” I said.
“We could have turned out like Trunk. Using our powers to commit crimes, thinking we have to hurt people to survive.” Tears welled up in my eyes.
Kissing my forehead, Trevor shook his head. “You're too nice to do that. You'd find some other way to survive.”
“But what if I didn't think there was another way? What if it was that or starve?” I asked.
“Don't go down the ‘what if’ road. What if I'd gotten you pregnant at sixteen? What if your parents had been bad? What if you'd never been a mutant? They didn't happen, and you don't know what might have happened. Be happy with what you've got and what you've accomplished so far.” His hand stroked my back. “Everyday I wake up, I'm grateful that I've got you. You're funny, talented, beautiful and caring. You're one of the hardest workers I've ever met, and whatever you set your mind to, I know you'll accomplish it.”
Curling up in his lap, I held him even tighter. He was right. I needed to focus on reality, and right now all I needed to know was that I was loved by one of the greatest guys around.
“When you're ready, I'll order in some food, and we can call your parents to let them know what happened. After that, we'll spend all night relaxing, and sleep in late tomorrow.”
“But we have the act tomorrow.”
“That's why we'll sleep in. We don't have to be there until after the matinee, taking a few hours to relax will be good for you,” Trevor said.
“OK,” I said. Focusing on his beating heart, I tried to relax.
The Last Freak Show Theatre
The Next Day
Noise filled the theatre. Performers were practicing their acts, technicians tested equipment, designers put the finishing touches on sets and costumes, and more. At the moment my attention was split between Lady Naga, currently in her heavily tattooed, baseline form, singing a Hindi pop song, and a tiny cat girl squealing in fear as a werewolf chased her around an elaborate jungle gym. It was wonderfully chaotic. And after the 'fun' I'd had the day before, the sights, sounds and nervous energy were a welcome relief.
Trevor and I had arrived a few hours before, shortly after the matinee show, testing out our rig, making sure my props were in order, talking with the Ringmaster and the technicians, and doing a run through of our six minute act. In some ways, this was easier than busking, since I only had two six minute shows tonight, with several hours in between, and it wasn't nearly as physically taxing as what I'd done the night before. In other ways it was much harder, because the audience was bigger, real pro's were watching, and if I screwed up, it would cost me my big chance and set me back years.
Being an obvious mutant in the entertainment industry wasn't exactly easy. Things were getting better thanks to organizations like the Unique Entertainers Association, which helped mutants find jobs, work out contracts, and provided some benefits, but it was a niche market. The Last Freak Show was made up almost entirely of mutants and was currently the best employer I could possibly find. If I made a name here just out of the gate, I'd be able to go to practically any city or festival and get on a stage.
Because of that, The Last Freak Show expected only the best. You couldn't just go up on stage and rely on your looks, even the most 'grotesque' GSD case had to have an act. There were three important reasons for that. First there are actual state laws against exhibiting abnormalities for entertainment purposes. It was perfectly fine getting the audience in the doors with the promise of the weird and freakish, but there had to be more to it than that. Second, with the net, just having a pretty insect girl sitting on stage waving and smiling would not draw an audience, people demanded more. And third, it was a matter of dignity.
I had nothing against using my looks to get attention and work. I'd decided early on that if I was going to have people staring at me, I might as well get something out of it, after all that's how most actors and every single model pay their bills. But I didn't want them just to look at me and simply think freak or exotic beauty, I wanted them to be awed and amazed. The Last Freak Show thought the same way. So if you wanted to appear on their stage, you had better bring something amazing.
As the name implied, The Last Freak Show wasn't exactly for the faint of heart. They started off going for shock entertainment, some of their longest running acts could have come straight out of a horror flick. Years later most of their acts were still on the mature side, which suited me perfectly, considering my sultry demoness routine. However as they'd grown, first getting their own small theatre, then upgrading to their latest massive theatre and becoming a big tourist attraction for the city, they got some more mellow acts for their matinee shows. Little children would still regularly leave crying, but for teens and braver kids, it was good, creepy fun.
While I watched the magic happen, waiting for Trevor to come back with supper, a very pregnant cat lady sat down next to me. “Hi Lilith, I'm Susan. I haven't had a chance to say hello yet, so I thought now was as good a time as ever.”
I'd seen worse GSD cases at school, my roommate and best friend for one, but for cat women, Susan was more catlike than most. She didn't just have the tail and ears of a cat, but the muzzle, whiskers and long white fur covering her entire body, she made my odd skin colour, scales and weird eyes look boring in comparison.
“Oh wow! It's an honour to meet you,” I said, trying to think of what to say, that wouldn't make me sound too fangirly.
Susan and her husband, Jerome, a werewolf mutant, were one of the longer running acts, under the stage name Alley Cat and Rex. They'd started off doing a very risque tumbling and acrobatics act that involved a lot of torn clothes, exposed flesh and physical appeal. Like the show, they'd toned it down over the years, relying more on skill and physical humour, rather than pure sex appeal as they'd gotten older and started having kids. She and her husband were stars among mutant performers.
She purred at my compliment. “Thanks, but you don't need to act all star struck. We're all performers here, and right now, you're more of a performer than I am,” she said, patting her massive stomach.
“Do you mind telling me how far along you are?” I asked.
My eyes went wide, she looked to be nine months and ready to pop.
“I've got triplets. I not only look like a cat, but I get litters,” she said a little proudly.
“Congratulations,” I said. My eyes went back to the werewolf and the cat girl who were still scrambling after each other in a mock chase. “I noticed Rex practicing with a little cat girl, is that your daughter?”
Susan's eyes lit up with pride. “Yep. Susie is seven, and out of her three brothers and one sister she's the best at tumbling. So with me being on the sidelines, she's been filling in the evening shows for me, while her twin brother does the matinee.”
“I didn't know kids could be born with GSD.”
“It happens. She and her twin are both just like me, with the agility to go with it. Her sister is more baseline, only having the cat ears and tail. And her last two brothers are baseline, they're hoping to turn into werewolves like their dad when they get old enough to manifest.”
Without thinking my hand went to my stomach. I didn't want kids soon, but Trevor and I did want them eventually. I'd figured any child of mine would look baseline, but what if they looked like a little demon?
My thoughts must have shown, because Susan put an arm around my shoulder. “Don't worry about it, you're still too young. And it seems to happen only to those of us with really weird BITS.”
“Thanks, but I'm not that young,” I said, pointing at the ring on my choker.
“Your handsome assistant?” she asked.
I blushed at that. “Yeah. Trevor proposed when we graduated in June.”
“Congrats. It's great that you can work together.” She got a more serious look. “So I watched a video of your audition, it was really good.”
“Seriously! I, uh, I mean, thank you so much! Coming from you that means a lot. When I was signed up for here instead of on the road I was worried that I'd done something wrong,” I admitted.
“Nah, you did great. They just don't want to take a chance on a completely new act. Think of this as your grace period, a chance to get used to how we run, practice some new things, and make some mistakes without blowing the show.” She got to her feet and dragged me up with her. “Come on, I'll show you around and introduce you to some of the acts. You'll meet everyone at the between shows festivities, but I know a few people who are interested in seeing you now.”
I couldn't keep the stupid grin off my face as we headed into the chaos.
The theatre seats weren’t even half full, but by my quick head count there were over five hundred people in the audience. I'd never performed for anywhere close to this number before. This was the type of audience numbers they'd have at a Broadway show. Unlike Broadway, our audience heavily leaned towards men and the pretty young, ranging from older teens to thirty-somethings. There was also a decent size group of older people, mostly covered in old tattoos, either with long hair or balding, and wearing shirts with old punk and rock band names.
At the moment they were rocking out to Lady Naga, in her half-snake half-human form, and the house band who were doing a damn good cover of Highway to Hell by AC/DC. She was the opening act, letting people know what to expect. Soon enough it would be my turn to be on stage, I really wanted a drink.
Trevor massaged my shoulders, he was dressed up in a skin tight white t-shirt and blue jeans, that showed off his well toned body. I was wearing much less, just a dark red leather corset with big brass buckles, that barely covered my breasts and left most of my stomach bare. Below that I had a matching garter belt and thigh high stockings that accentuated my muscular legs, and a thong to protect my decency. For shoes, I was wearing dark red stilettos that were so sharp they could punch a hole through a plank of wood. If I'd been in public the police would definitely be wanting to talk to me about public indecency, but for this audience, it was perfect.
My clothes weren't the highlight of my costume however. Unlike the other night, this time I'd done my makeup to look truly exotic. My yellow skin was covered in a special oil paint that gave it a faint red glitter effect, making it seem to glow with hellfire when the lights hit me just right. The delicate blue-green scales on my sharp cheekbones and jawline were oiled to reflect the light, and outlined with makeup to really make them pop. My sparkling eyes and eyelids had the same treatment, so in anything but total darkness I seemed to glow. Adding to the hellfire look, my black hair was now streaked with reflective red and gold dye. My lips and nails were pitch black, so whenever I opened my mouth, my sharp brilliantly white teeth were easy to see. I really looked like a sex demoness, my whip and knives only helped add to the look.
Lady Naga's song came to an end. She reared up on her tail, reaching an impressive twenty feet in height, and took a bow. Then the curtains came down and the Ringmaster took the stage.
“Welcome my friends, to THE LAST FREAK SHOW!” he shouted, using his siren powers to amplify his voice.
As he went through his spiel about the performances they would see, his ringmaster outfit which looked normal, almost stereotypical, began to change. The red coat darkened, gaining spots and streaks that were almost black, his top hat grew ragged and crooked. Healthy pink cheeks began to turn greyish green as the fat melted away. The neat brown hair slowly twisted into a wild mane covering his eyes, turning grey as it trailed down his back. Worst of all his body lengthened, arms and legs became stick-like, his torso impossibly thin, bending and weaving in a non-existent wind.
The curtains rose as he slowly faded from sight.
“LET THE SHOW BEGIN!” he shrieked.
From behind the scenes, I watched the first act, The Marionette and Chew Toy.
On stage a marionette was slumped in an awkward pile, its limbs twisted around each other and its body. It was the size and shape of an adult woman, with an angelic face of painted porcelain and a tiny smile, strings hung from its wooden limbs and head. A man with a broom walked onstage, sweeping up imaginary dust. Behind his back the marionette began to move, her strings rising up into the air, disappearing in the darkness. With jerky, inhuman movements, she rose to her feet.
The man saw her moving, letting out a shriek of terror. He turned to run only to stop as the marionette raised a finger and a thin beam of light hit him. Walking around him, seeming to float rather than actually walk across the floor, more beams of light came from her fingers spearing his limbs and head. His face twisted in pain and his muscles visibly tensed as they were hit.
Blank faced, the marionette twisted her hand, causing the man’s arms to twist painfully and unnaturally behind his back. Moving her other hand, he fell backwards to the floor. He shrieked as his body convulsed, arching his back, he was forced to rise up into a backwards arch, only his fingers and toes touching the stage.
For the next five minutes the marionette danced around the stage, her frozen face smiling eerily, watching her victim. The man contorted and writhed, walking on his fingertips, twisting his head 180 degrees, his arms and legs bending in ways that shouldn't be possible. Finally the marionette collapsed in a heap, leaving the man sobbing his limbs limp and seemingly broken.
The curtains came down and Marionette rose to her feet, walking over to her partner who was rubbing his shoulder and grimacing in pain.
“I told you to take it slower tonight,” The Marionette said, her face still immobile.
“Nothing that a little bit of ice won't fix,” Chew Toy replied.
“If you keep this up, I'll need to make you a cybernetic arm,” she chided him.
As they made their way backstage, mechanical drones prepared the stage for the next show and the Ringmaster kept the crowd occupied. Rex and Susie came to the stage, Susan was with them whispering something to the little cat girl, she gave her husband and daughter a quick kiss for luck and hurried away.
The curtain rose revealing what looked like a city alley that had a surprising number of fire escapes, clothes lines, old boxes and a dumpster. Rex came out in an old fashion white suit, looking something like an ice cream man, his big tail wagging happily behind him, pushing a cart with an ice cream cone painted on the side.
There was a loud giggle, and Susie's head appeared from the rafters, her long black and white fur done up in tiny pigtails. In an amazing series of jumps and tumbles, she made her way down from the rafters. She was wearing old and heavily patched coveralls and her feet were bare.
The little cat girl landed on the edge of the cart, making Rex jump away in surprise. Reaching in she pulled out an ice cream bar, holding it up like it was the greatest thing in the world.
Rex, looking stern, held out his hand for payment.
Susie made a big show of checking her non-existent pockets, smiled sweetly, and promptly scrambled away. Rex, shouting and growling, chased after her. It became an amazing chase with Susie staying just a few feet in front of her father, tightrope walking, jumping from balcony to balcony, tumbling down ladders and stairs, dropping flower pots and paint cans on his head, and finally cutting a clothesline dropping the unfortunate Rex straight into the dumpster.
The crowd loved the cartoon like insanity. As they went off stage, Susan rushed over and gave them both a big hug. I had to smile at the sight, if everything worked out that could be Trevor and I in a few years.
More acts performed, there was the Undead Magician and his zombie assistants, Harold the Five Man Solo Show, the birdlike Phoenix who did a risque feather dance, the Mesmerizing Fire Dancers, and finally it was my turn. They'd placed me safely in the middle of the show, no big expectations, and if I screwed up the acts that came after would help cover up my mistakes.
Walking to the middle of the stage, whip in hand, my heart was racing, while the drones set up the last of my set, which included a forcefield protecting the audience and the backstage. As the curtains rose, the Ringmaster said, “From the very pits of Hell, I'm proud to introduce our newest act, LILITH!”
Smoke surrounded me.
Flicking a switch, my whip was covered in blue flame. I whipped the air, the cracking of the whip filled the theatre, seemingly dispelling the smoke. I stood before the crowd, a demon of hell, looking for a soul. This was what I'd dreamed of, all eyes on me, ready to be amazed.
Music began to play.
Striding forwards, I cracked the fiery whip, flames erupted hanging in the air. I danced to the music, the whip moved like a snake around me, my skin and eyes glittered in the light. Tossing the whip high into the air, I cartwheeled forward and held my hand out allowing the whip to land in my palm.
First part successfully accomplish
Turning away from the audience, I walked to the side of the stage, snapping the whip with every step. Coming to a stop, hand on my hip, I said, “Come here!” cracking the whip once more for emphasis.
Trevor stumbled on stage as if he'd been thrown. Scrambling to his feet he tried to run away. My whip lashed out, striking his back, making him shout in pain, his shirt smoked from the blow. I struck the ground in front of his face, sending him scrambling backwards. We kept this up for several seconds, the whip usually missing him by an inch or two, but sometimes hitting his back or legs, burning his clothes and leaving long cuts that revealed his muscular body.
Leering to the crowd, I made my way to Trevor who cowered before me. Gripping his hair, I wrenched him to his feet, running my hand seductively over his chest and stomach, before shoving him backwards.
I said a phrase in Classical Hebrew, and there was a puff of red smoke and a box appeared beside him. I pointed at the box, only to have Trevor stare dumbly at me. The whip cracked again, just missing his ear. He opened the box and took out a handful of small plates.
Fearfully Trevor held up one of the plates. I made a big show of waving the whip around my body, then in a blindingly fast movement the plate shattered and the crack filled the theatre. The after image of the flames was like a line connecting my fiance and I.
Trevor held the next plate up just above his head. It shattered as well.
The next one was thrown into the air. The plate had barely left his hand when I destroyed it.
With the last plate, Trevor whipped it as hard as he could into the air. There was no chance for me to hit it.
Dropping my whip I pulled out a throwing knife that had been hidden in the back of my corset. Squeezing the handle, it lit on fire, a split second later it flew through the air catching the plate dead centre.
Meanwhile Trevor pretended to run away. I took the second throwing knife from its hiding spot, lit it on fire and sent it after my wayward assistant. It grazed his cheek and impaled itself on a post, making him stop dead in his tracks.
Snarling in anger, letting the audience see my teeth, I stalked over to him, grabbed his arm and pretended to toss him back to the centre of the stage. Then I grabbed my knife and twirled around, discretely grabbing several more that were waiting just out of sight.
To the audience it looked like I'd just turned one knife into six.
Shouting a bit of Classical Hebrew, smoke erupted just behind Trevor and a weird contraption that looked like a cross between a torture device and a gyroscope appeared.
For show, and a convenient place to keep the knives while my hands were busy, I tossed them one after the other at Trevor, creating a circle around him.
Stalking over, I gripped his face in one hand, forcing him to his feet and headed to the gyroscope. Trevor struggled with me as moved, turning the movement into something like a dance. We made sure to press our bodies close together and I'd playfully let him throw me around, showing off my legs and ass as he did, before handily taking back control with an evil laugh. Pushing him into the gyroscope, I crawled over his body, hanging on each limb after it was strapped down to prove he couldn't get away. With my victim secure, I went back to my knives.
These knives were different from my other throwing blades. My usual knives only had a sharp point, these blades had razor sharp edges, letting them cut through cloth or flesh, no sane knife thrower would use these blades in their acts.
Taking my first knife, I did a little dance with it, running the blade over my body and licking the blade, careful to not slice open my tongue, before tossing it over my shoulder at Trevor. It hit exactly where I'd planned, right under his left arm pit, so close it cut his shirt.
The next knife hit his right armpit. The two after that cut the waistband of his jeans. I didn't look at him as I threw the knives, we'd practiced this until my fingers had bled. It was still incredibly dangerous, I wouldn't even dream of doing this act with someone who didn't have a forcefield, but damn did it look good to the audience.
Turning to face him, I threw the last two blades at the same time. They landed on each side of his neck, touching his skin.
Smirking for the crowd, I walked up to him like I was the queen of the world. Running my nail around his neck I got in close as if I was about to kiss him. With our bodies blocking my hand from the audience, I palmed yet another knife that was concealed in the prop. Then Trevor spit on me.
I roared in anger, as he looked proudly defiant.
The palmed knife came out, lighting on fire as it appeared. I drove the knife towards his crotch, actually slicing into his pants as it slammed into the concealed padding that would hold it in place. The fire wasn't hot, but the audience didn't know that.
Wiping the spittle from my cheek, I let the audience get a good look at the knives around Trevor, who was groaning and screaming in pain. The flaming crotch made many of them wince. Speaking in angry sounding Classical Hebrew I gave the gyroscope an angry shove, it began moving. The silent gadgeteered motor inside started up, making it pick up speed. Within seconds Trevor was a blur, spinning around in two different directions at the same time.
Yet more angry Classical Hebrew and I had a box full of knives, and was ready for the big finale.
Taking a moment to centre myself I took the first knife. The music had stopped, the audience was utterly silent, I could have heard a pin drop.
A faint green light that only I could see appeared. I threw the knife.
A moment later I had the next knife ready to throw. Again the green light flashed. The second knife flew home.
In the space of ten seconds, ten knives flew at Trevor as he whipped around in a blur.
When the last one left my hand, I clapped and shouted again in Classical Hebrew. Slowly the gyroscope came to a stop, leaving Trevor hanging limply, facing the audience. Knives formed an outline around him, touching his flesh but not piercing it.
I undid the straps, and he fell face first to the floor. His shirt and pants remained pinned to the gyroscope. Shakily Trevor got to his feet, standing naked, except for tight black underwear and his shoes.
The crowd went wild.