Target

 

  Dorus passed the grassy common as he stumbled down the road, wanting to go home to a nice warm bed. He saw dozens upon dozens of people flowing over the grass, trouser-bottoms caked in mud, nattering excitedly about the night's events.

  'Oh my god, that guy! How do you think he did it?' 

  'That drill went right through, I saw it! We saw blood dripping down didn't we?'

  'Could have been fake blood though...'

  'Mum nearly had a fit, didn't you mum?'

  Dorus wasn't really listening. He still didn't feel very well. Evidently the Wraith's poke on the forehead hadn't killed him. But something felt wrong.

  It was quite dark already. The moon was out, but half-obscured by the earth's shadow. It looked like an eye winking down at him, suspended in blackness. It hadn't been this dark when he'd entered the Wraith's house.

  He dragged his feet along. They felt stiff and heavy. He noticed for the first time what an uncomfortable feeling walking was. Bones scraping together under the skin, muscles stretching and moving. It was horrible when he thought about it.

  But he couldn't stay round here. The noise was slicing into his head, though most of the circus music was drifting away on the wind. His red robes flapped around his ankles. It was cold tonight.

  He hated Wraiths. He promised himself that he was going to kill one within the month and finally be accepted back into the Consortium. It had taken him two lifetimes just to get to this point. He wasn't going to give up now. He was going to kill a Wraith.

  He looked into the crowd of circus goers. One woman stuck out. Her brown hair hung over her face. She walked in a stiff sort of way, not looking at anybody. 

  Found one, Dorus thought delightedly.

 

  Kerry Grail went to the circus with her dad once. They'd been to the fairground first, because there was a whole travelling fair there. They went on the waltzers first. Kerry hadn't been expecting disco smoke and it had made her cough, but the ride was still fun. After that they'd been on the merry-go-round, for old time's sake. She'd chosen a horse called Charlie, and Kerry's dad took her on his knee and they went round, laughing. 

  Then she begged him for a toffee apple and he got her one. The toffee part was nice, if a little sticky. The apple was bruised and powdery inside. Kerry's dad had taken a bite, gone 'Bleaurgh!' and thrown it away. Then they went on a sort of swing-seat ride, and then Kerry went on a pirate's ship ride for kids as her dad waved from the side. 

  Then they went to the circus. They took their seats. On came the knife juggler, and Kerry clapped delightedly in time with everyone else in the big top as the knives flew up into the air and came down again.

  On came the clowns. Kerry didn't like them at all. In fact they were terrifying. She saw their hideous painted-on visages, their smiles that were too big for their faces. The orange hair, the stripy clothes, the big shoes.

  Kerry started crying, and her dad told her not to be so silly. They were only clowns, they weren't trying to scare her. But Kerry wouldn't stop crying, and her dad led her out of the tent. On his way out, he bumped into a man with popcorn, who went flying, spilt his popcorn everywhere, and demanded he pay for it to be replaced. Kerry's dad paid for the popcorn and they left. He told Kerry off when they got outside. He said she was being stupid and ungrateful, and didn't she realise how much this trip out had cost him. They walked home in silence.

  Now that she was older and wiser, Kerry knew that her dad had been ratty because he was worried about money. Her parents were always worried about money then. She suspected that that was the reason for their divorce. She was in college now, and had gone to live with her aunt, but she still saw her parents.

  But Kerry couldn't help wondering if her fear of clowns hadn't initially sparked off some tension. That trip to the circus was one of her earliest memories. She couldn't remember if her parents had argued before then.

  She had never had her coulrophobia seen to, since it didn't affect her on a day-to-day basis. But tonight, she had gone to the circus, just to see if she could overcome her fear. It wasn't to prove anything to anyone, or, she told herself, to get rid of the guilt she used to feel about causing her parents' divorce. It was just to see if she could watch some clowns without panicking.

  Well, this visit to the circus hadn't been great. The clown bit had lasted about twenty minutes. She'd managed ten before she had to leave. Outside she bumped into an young asian man dressed all in black and wearing a sequinned hat. Possibly a performer. They'd had a quick chat about how cold it was out, and then he'd stepped inside the tent. When she poked her head through, he'd disappeared. So she just nipped back inside, bought some candy-floss and retrieved her bag. She hung around outside, eating fluffy pink sugar, feeling sorry for herself.

  Once the first of the excited mass of people - ordinary people - had started coming out, she'd started walking. But she wasn't in any particular hurry. Auntie Jo usually let her stay out pretty late anyway. And anyway, the candy-floos hadn't really filled her up and she wanted something to eat. They had nothing in at home.

Trudging through the mud, Kerry Grail wondered for a second if someone was watching her, but then they were obscured from view.

The End

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