From: Mierna & the Circus of Mysteries
A flash of lightning showed her worst fear. Heading directly into town was a little splash of white bobbing up and down along the roadside. She squinted, barely making out the pony’s white-patched rump keeping alongside the fence. With no other choice, Mierna dashed after him.
“Thistle!” She knew it was pointless to keep calling his name, but she had to try even when he started weaving on and off the road. She screamed his name when oncoming headlights blinded her. All she saw was the pony’s silhouette darting in front of it.
She heard the vehicle’s horn blow just as Thistle made a sharp left. Mierna was surprised how fast his short, stubby legs could make him go and not tire. Already out of breath herself, she followed him through some tall grass.
Running used to be so easy for me, she realized, glad she had kept on her long jeans. Long stems and briers scratched at her legs and ensnared her feet. Once or twice she tripped, only to look up to see Thistle still going. “You’re going to be a mess going through all this, you brat!”
At last, they came out to a parking lot. It was completely filled, with cars lining the roadside as well. She was disappointed that she could not see the show like everyone else, and instead chased after a stubborn, wet pony.
What are you running to, Thistle? When she reached various storage and sleeping tents surrounded by all the unpacked caravans, she lost sight of him. Thunder drowned out any sounds of his whereabouts, but it could not drown out the circus music coming from inside the towering big top.
Mierna stepped inside a connecting back part just to get out of the rain. Though it mattered little at this point, she needed a break. There was no telling where Thistle had gone, or what he had slipped into. With the rain coming down in sheets, she was lucky to follow him as well as she did. Now she could see nothing but silver beads of rain streaming down in the lamplight. With a sigh, Mierna turned to look around at all the things stacked in various crates. There were various shiny objects that drew her eye, large hoops, balancing balls and hay – lots of hay.
“Must be for the animals.” She squeezed between a couple of barrels, their lids partially opened, though they appeared dark inside. A tent flap separated where the two parts connected, with a decent-sized trough containing a bed of hay sitting to the side. The center seemed compressed, as though something had been resting on it. Intrigued, she carefully pulled back part of the flap to catch a glimpse of performers moving around the arena.
At first only silhouetted figures blocked her view from changing acts. Stagehands rushed to lower and raise ropes and ignite certain lighting effects. A series of flames shot upwards that ended in colorful cracklings. This went on for several moments while four trapeze artists exchanged swings while leaping through the air. Even from the backside, Mierna was impressed with how smooth they made it seem. Below them, a two headed woman in an ornate bell-bottomed gown began to sing a duet as the music changed. Starting slow, it enticed the audience to gaze in wonder at what new event might follow.
Fire crackled like the sparklers her father brought home during fourth of July celebrations. Her anger for Thistle was soon forgotten as a large metal ring was lifted up and set ablaze. Combined with masked dancers weaving in and out among one another with wavering ribbons, drummers on the side increasing tempo, and singing conjoined twins got Mierna’s heart pounding in anticipation for the next bit.
There suddenly came the cry of a hawk, or hawk-like. The sound seemed to echo in tune with the sweet sound of epic music introducing its flight. Mierna expected a large bird of prey to cross the ring of flames. What she saw instead made her question her friend’s statement of freaks & geeks. The bird was indeed large, but it was nothing like any animal she had ever come across in a book. Its silvery feathers adjusted to mimic the multicolored flames. Two long plumes extended from the tail, fanning out to climb high over the audience. Then it turned to glide back to the other side of the arena. In a dive through the flaming ring, its wings pulled tight. Just when it reached the center, the flames intensified, seemingly engulfing the bird before it could pass all the way. Mierna heard herself gasp, as did many others in the crowd. One or two even screamed. Yet in that moment, the flames split with an eerie blue-green glow, and something else emerged in its place.
Mierna gaped at the faun-like creature that struck the floor on two cloven hoofs. Its legs were like the hind quarters of a goat, but longer. Silver fur darkened at the knees and trailing feathering around the ankles. But it was the upper body that resembled a young man, aside from the two horns on either side of his head and silver fur covering his skin. For this reason, no clothing was needed, although he did acquire a few ribbons in a quick-step move between the other dancers. With movements that defied gravity itself, he kicked up a large hoop and spun it around himself while dancing in a swirl of fur and ribbons. A darkened goatee curled upon his chin when he finally turned toward Mierna’s hiding spot. He paused in a balancing act upon the ring when a blue-green gaze seemed to find hers in the dark.