This is part 21 of Todd’s story.
Empty spaces, what are we waiting for
Abandoned places, I guess we know the score
On and on, does anybody know what we are looking for
Another hero, another mindless crime
Behind the curtain in the pantomime
Hold the line, does anybody want to take it anymore
The show must go on, The show must go on
Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking, but my smile… still stays on
– Queen, “The Show Must Go On”
Dr. Celestine sat in the only chair in the room. The well-worn leather was practically molded to fit the Scotsman from frequent and long use. He held a glass of brandy in one hand, and a bloody silk hankerchief in the other. He had a small cut, apparently made by a shard of glass, on his forehead. He regularly dabbed at this with the square of silk.
“I understand that punctuality is not a virtue of the young, Todd, but you must admit that I have been waiting for you for some time.” The Doctor took a gulp from his snifter and stared levelly at Todd. Thunk bristled, but did nothing. “Come now, did you think that I would not notice your leavings and arrivals?” He swirled the liquor in the glass.
Todd smiled. He sat on the floor, cross-legged. Thunk followed suit, and Dr. Celestine’s expression grew hard. “I remember now, Doc. So, you can quit treating me like one of your employees. I don’t fall for the all-knowing bit.” Thunk nervously cleared his throat. “We made a stop at a warehouse, one you’ve visited.” Todd stared the universal force that was Dr. Celestine in the eyes. “The Symmetrical Man is dead. Every single one of his jars is gone. I know that there are others like you and I, but I also know that he was the only Celestine yet rejected by the Carnival. There will be another Dr. Celestine when it is time for you to leave, but there will be no Symmetrical Men.” Thunk shifted, as his legs fell asleep, but did not rise.
Dr. Celestine’s face was stone, but his eyes shone with the power and purpose of his Carnival. “You are not here to unmake me. Nor is this gratitude for having made you.” The liquor swirled gently in the glass; these were not questions.
“No, I’m here to return something that was stolen from you.”
Sheila caught her breath as she leaned up against the tent-post of the Hall of Mirrors. She looked back down the causeway, and realized that she’d ran nearly the entire length of the Carnival. The only thing that was farther from the entrance than the Hall of Mirrors was the ridemaster’s booth. The rides were scattered throughout the Carnival, but both the roller coaster and the Ferris Wheel boarded back there, so that’s where his trailer and booth were.
There was no sign of the dead-eye clown with the balloons, so Sheila let herself relax a bit. She took out her golden ticket once more, finally noticing that it had reverted to its normal gold foil. What the hell had Todd been thinking when he gave her this thing? She was just along for the ride; she wasn’t involved in any of this. She flipped the ticket over, looking at the list of attractions. Bloody Mary Black’s Freak Show was the only one marked as attended.
Cigar smoke wafted nearby, and a gruf woman’s voice said, “That’s an old ticket you’ve got there. I haven’t run the freakshow in quite a while. I’m surprised the Ticketmaster let you in with it.” Sheila jumped and looked up. The woman put her cigar back between her teeth and looked Sheila up and down. Sheila was sure that this was the woman in the silver-print. Her hair was cut almost exactly the same. Her lithe build and stance reminded her of a wolf even more in person than it had in the silver print.
“You’re Bloody Mary Black?” Sheila tried to step back, but nearly tripped over a tent line.
“You were maybe expecting Kim Basinger?” She snorted. “So, what’s a nice, young, not-so-innocent girl like you doing at the Carnival? Sheila, right? Looking to finish out that Golden Ticket?” Sheila nodded dumbly. “Hmph. Not sure you’ve got what it takes for one of those, girly. That’s an all-access back-stage pass to everything you didn’t want to know about you and about the world. I steer clear of the gold ones, myself.”
Sheila had seen all kinds of wierd shit go down lately, and she was not about to let some old carnie bitch tell her what she could and couldn’t do. “Sorry, lady, this was a gift. I intend to visit every attraction I can. Thanks SO much for the help.” She flashed Bloody Mary a petulant smile, and entered the Hall of Mirrors.
Mary grinned a predator’s grin, and strolled back to the Labrynth.
In the basement of Todd’s house, the hurricane in the jar swirled and boiled; lightning flashes illuminated the basement room.
The mountain’s coming
He’s walking down your street
The mountain’s coming
He’s got wings on his feet
There’s two suns in the sky today
And one’s at your door
When you feed the mountain
He’s gonna feed you some more
And then you know
No time for heaven or hell
Just try to understand each other baby
Down in the gravity well
– Monster Magnet, “Gravity Well”