Once upon a time my train car held wonder, comfort and safety. Now it felt cold, desolate and oppressive.
The pictures of better times that I had tacked on the wall smiled mockingly down at me. Those happy times in the cirque were a sham and my whole career was looking more and more like a lie. 12 hours had passed since we boarded and there was only half an hour more to go until we reached St. Louis.
There were 4 drained energy drink cans beneath my bed next to a half-empty bottle of caffeine pills. My record player was spinning away and with every word David Bowie sang, I got one step closer to hyperventilating. I had attempted to write my grandma a letter, because I knew she would be worried if she didn’t hear from me, but what could I say?
I gave no stunning performance in New Orleans—unless you counted my bravado as I threatened my old friend with a gun that he wasn’t even afraid of. First Aaron was killed and now Jackson’s kamikaze act? When was it going to end? Who would be next?
This was like something straight out of a bad horror movie. I knew that if I tried to write then the truth would come spilling out and we’d all be in a world of trouble. I couldn’t involve her even if it meant cutting off all communication.
I sat in a corner with my head between my knees for the rest of the ride, trying desperately to keep from crying.
Once upon a time Jackson, Aaron and I camped out in this very train car, listening to the same Aladdin Sane record. They let me paint lightning bolts on their faces and we made shirts that said “What Would Bowie Do”. We were just young bloods passing the time between venues, making friendships that we thought would last, and without any cares in the world because we were living the life.
Now they were both gone and I was trapped in the rubble left behind in their wake.
I felt the train come to a stop and seriously considered not getting up. If I never left the train then Wiseacre couldn’t possible affect my life any further. But that would make me a coward, not fitting of being called a Lion Tamer.
I wiped my tears away with shaking hands and stood up. No matter what became of me I was going to give Wiseacre hell.
It was raining lightly when I got off the train and made my way to oversee the unloading of the animals. While using my arm to keep the worst of the droplets out of my eyes, I noticed a shady figure of a man skulking around Wiseacre’s car. Even though I was squinting I was almost certain it was the creepy man that Aaron had been so suspicious of back in Baton Rouge. He was pacing nervously and appeared to be muttering angrily to himself.
I turned to run and find the others and ran into Lisette, knocking her to the ground and landing on top of her.
“Ouch, Nixie!” she mumbled, shoving me off. “It’d be nice if you had just a pinch of the grace your lions do.”
“I’m so sorry; I’m just jittery from all the redbull I think.” I helped her to her feet and glanced back in the direction of Wiseacre’s car, but the man was gone. “Ugh! Can I please catch a break?”
“Hey, Myah wanted me to show you this,” said Lisette, pulling out a piece of paper.
I looked it over and frowned. “An after hours show? Actually…this might explain the creepy man and the mysteriously missing new recruits…”
“What creepy man?” Lisette asked in exasperation. “Just when I think I’ve caught up with you guys, you throw something else into the works.”
I linked arms with her and set out to find the other players of this twisted game. “Trust me; we all feel the same way.”