Lights out

Lights out

A Story by Bilance

Given a ticket to the circus by her best friend, Payton come to find that fun and excitement wasn’t the only things that this circus has to offer.


The train carriage rattled as the barely visible forest outside the windows flashed to black darkness. The train has entered the tunnel, which meant half of its journey had been covered.  Payton reached into her pockets and pulled out a ticket. Her “so called nights out for some alone time from the stressful city life” as Night Swirl put it. Beside her, clusters of people huddled in groups chatting excitedly. They must be going to the same place as she is. Her friend did say that it is a place of joy and laughter.

Payton turned to the people dressed in strangling sharp work suits slumped on the seats on the chair with a glum look on their face. She looked back at her ticket and smiled. Maybe she could use a break after all.

The train came to a stop next to a white platform. The doors slid open, accompanied by a monotonous greeting from the speakers. Payton flipped to the back of the ticket, revealing a mini map to find the transport supposedly to bring her to the destination. But it appeared to be smudged red that covered almost the entire map. No matter, Payton recognised a few of the people on the same train as her heading to the pick up hall and decided to follow them.

Outside lined up a row of double-decker yellow buses, the door hissing as people began to board them, flashing their ticket to the bus driver as they made their way in. Payton did the same and got a seat at the back, squished between a pair of rowdy girls. All too occupied busy finding the best angle to present their streaked hair and mutilated faces to follow the latest trend at the expense of others comfort.

Unfortunately the bus ride was a long one, driving off to a deserted road into the middle of nowhere. Just total darkness.

“Hey look over there!” Someone exclaimed in excitement. Payton followed in the direction the man pointed and saw beams of light waving through the night sky. As they got closer, the bus passed through an overhead sign with a picture of a girl in the middle, grinning beside a bearded man in red uniform resting his hand on her shoulder. A bear by her side with elephants behind them and two people standing on them in a pose.

The door hissed open with hoards of youngsters dashing out towards the circus, calling at their friends to pick up the pace. Payton promptly got off, curious of what a circus may look like. The first thing that caught her eyes was the towering red and white striped circular tent with a pointed tip followed by the ever-changing sparkling lights along the track rails suspended above ground. Payton was in awe.

“Welcome mister and misses, we hope you will have a memorable time at the circus.” An enthusiastic voice piped up on the speakers. “The show is starting soon for those interested, please make your way over to the giant tent to the right And be sure to buy some tasty refreshment to make your experience with us so much more enjoyable.” Sounds like a good deal for Payton, she didn't get to eat much for dinner, along with the wafting smell of something buttery and sweet whets her appetite even more.

Payton followed her nose that brought her to a cart with a glass box encasing a pile of yellow treats. It seemed a few people also had the same craving as Payton and wanted to have a bite, as they crowded around the cart and they made their order. As Payton got closer, she caught a sight of a black bow, bobbing up and down. A girl, probably in her early teens, dressed in a white collared shirt with a black vest. Cheerfully selling food and drinks and even thanking the customers who made a purchase.

“Hi miss, would you like to buy some refreshments?” The girl chirped as Payton approached her. She eyed the glass container hungrily but she had no idea what that food is called. The girl followed Payton’s gaze to the yellow bits in the container. “Caramel popcorn?” So that’s what the food is called. Payton nodded and the girl wasted no time filling the aromatic treat into a box. “That would be five dollars miss,” She smiled, presenting the almost bursting box to Payton with both hands.

Such sincerity in that adorably pitched voice. How her eyes sparkle with joy as she look at her customers. The enticing way the ribbon bobbed on her hair as she lifted her head up. A smile with such glee like a child being presented a scoop of ice cream. Payton had to resist squeezing the girl into a hug to get the overwhelming tension off her chest. But she managed to keep herself in control and gave the girl the money. The girl thanked her and wished a happy experience for her ahead before turning back to her other customers.

Inside the striped tent, shed doors separated the viewers from the performers with rows of viewing platforms taking up half the end of the tent. The front row offered seats but that was filled up so Payton could only stand on the platform above. Behind her loomed a group of people hidden under their hoodies whilst a long folded piece of paper is clutched in their hands. The lights went out.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the circus!” A manly voice boomed over the speakers as the stages lights came to life. “Let’s invite Cuddles to kick-start the show!” The spotlight shown down onto the stage where a brown bear is riding a unicycle. A lively band of trumpets playing in the background. Cuddles cycled to the rim of the stage, extending his paw to high-five the audience below before waving at the ones above with a growl of welcome.

“Now let’s welcome Bella onto the stage.” Another bear enters the stage this time by a big rubber ball rolling under its feet. It followed the same actions Cuddles did but this time decided to hug one of the audience in a big warm bear hug. Everyone awed at the beautiful sight. Jealous from the attention stolen from him, Cuddles pulled out a ball from its baggy pants and threw it at Bella’s head.

Payton laughed along with the crowd at the silliness of the act before tossing a mouthful of popcorn into her mouth. A crisp crunch came out of Payton’s mouth as she chewed down onto the sweet snack. The popcorn was like a shell glazed with delicious caramel that melts in her mouth but yet crispy if she decided to chew on it. Each popcorn felt evenly coated as there were none that taste nor lack in sweetness but all just sweet enough to get Payton craving for more with each mouthful. The perfect complimentary food when watching a performance.

Bella reared her head back to find Cuddles innocently juggling 3 colorful balls which earned cheers of amazement from the crowd. It was a battle of attention between the two bears. Bella came back rolling with a peacock feather balanced on top of her nose and spread her arms wide open. The crowd immediately turned their attention to her. Cuddles huffed and hopped off his unicycle. He stood upright, crossing his arms and bounced up and down as he kicks his legs out interchangeably every time he bounces up. The spotlight shifted back to him. This continued for a while with the light going back and forth. The light shuts off.

“What an exciting start we have come to presented by the two talented bears. But i think it is time that we introduce their beloved master, Maple!” The crowd behind Payton booed. The lights shone upwards to a pair of red pony tails of a young girl adorned in a red shirt with ruffles around the shoulder blades and a white collar- frills along the buttons that reaches down to the chest where the white silk ends, along with a thin red skirt with folds and a white strip at the end of her skirt. Maple backflipped off the metal hook, latching her hands onto the rope on the balancing beam and swung herself to the front of the stage. Maple curtsied and look over the audience in awe. Her face and nose painted with a tint of joyous red as her red glossed lips broke into a smile.

“You seem to like the tricks my bears performed. How about juggling?” Maple picked up the fallen ball that was thrown at Bella earlier. She look back at the audience and flash an apologetic smile as she tossed the ball between her hands. “Sorry, just a little warm up.” The ball moved faster and faster. It came to the point where the ball looks like it was simple levitating between her hands. Then there were two then three. The ball had split images of itself. Probably an optical illusion.

The balls suddenly disappeared and popped out one by one from her left hand as she began to juggle three whole balls. The crowd went “Ooh” and “Ahh” but there were more. Literary. There were four than five. Maple yelped in panic and she began to stumble side to side as her hands moved faster and less oriented.

“Cuddles catch!” A ball flew across the stage and ended up between the bear’s front teeth. Maple sighed with relief and continued her little show. It was short-lived. Another ball appears, sending the girl back into a state of fluster.

Payton popped a handful of popcorn as she watch the girl struggle to cope the task at hand. The girl obviously have yet to master how to juggle five balls at once which intrigued Payton’s questioning of why she would risk doing such an event. To add fuel to the fire of her master’s situation. Bella laid down behind her master, tripping Maple as a result of stumbling backwards. Balls scattered in various directions and one even landed on Maple’s head. The crowd laughed and clapped.

Cuddles came back to Maple’s side with a microphone in hand. Maple took it and chuckled lightheartedly along with her audience as she stood up. “Are you enjoying yourselves so far tonight?” Response of cheers and whistle came right back at her. Although the group above Payton had a different response but their voice was luckily drown out. Maple proceeded to climb a ladder on the side of a balancing beam and stepped onto the rope.

“There are many things you could do on a tightrope,” Maple started out, walking along the rope. “But what about dancing on it?” Maple tossed the microphone down to Cuddles while catching a foldable paper fan from Bella. A cheerful tune played into the speaker as Maple danced along to it. Playful skips left and right, swaying her body elegantly as her hand moved around with the fan in almost alluring manner. The moves were swift and executed with good balance despite stand on her toes or heels from time to time. The crowd loved it. Clapping along to the beat and cheering Maple on.

When the song reached its end, Maple leapt off the rope platform and landed with the balls of her feet on the joint noses of Bella and Cuddles as the trio struck a pose. The audience loved it, cheering and clapping loudly for the performers. Maple hopped off and the three gave a bow of gratitude in return for the audience's support. Cuddles pulled out the microphone from his pocket and gave it to his master.

“Before we leave, I would like to have a volunteer for our final-”

“Excuse me!” A voice shrieked, silencing the cheers as their attention turns up to the top of the platform. A light flashes down upon the group of people whose hoodie are now lifted and posters opened in full view with pictures of circus animals and quotes imprinted on them. “These animals are being forced to performed tricks and chained up every single waking moment of their lives.” The blonde woman cried. “They are not tools for our entertainment, they are lives that want to be free.”

“Just like us!” The small group chanted in unison.

“We found a volunteer everybody!” Maple exclaimed as the crowd cheered in excitement. Two monkeys dropped down from the ceiling and opened the shed doors as Maple enthusiastically invite the bony woman over. However the group moved as one down the platform.  “Sorry misters but just the miss only,” Maple giggled as the people from the front row stood up and blocked the guys and only allowing the woman to pass through. Cuddles came back with a pole in its mouth and passed it to Maple. She shooed the bear away as the woman approached her. The woman posed a look of stubbornness which made Payton slightly worried for Maple that she might affect her performance negatively.

Maple stood on her toes as she whispered into the woman’s ear and gave her the pole in exchange for the poster. Unexpectedly the woman actually complied. A drum roll began to start as the woman held the pole up with both hands while the crowd waited in anticipation. A pair of hooks zipped out of nowhere and hooked onto the ends of the pole, bringing the woman up into the air causing a shrill scream out of her. She lets go and luckily bounced off a net stationed onto a cushion laid behind the back curtains that Cuddles held to the side. Maple blew a whistle and unfolded the poster that woman gave her with the word “Goal” written boldly on it. The crowd cheered wildly once again as Maple bowed and waved, thanking her audience before disappearing behind the curtains along with Cuddles.

Payton left the tent, satisfied of the little performance. Although she wished it could last longer, her popcorn has yet to be finished. Payton popped a popcorn into her mouth. Where should she go next? Her eyes laid on the rollercoaster but it would be a shame to discard the popcorn.

The group from earlier obviously didn’t learn their lesson. This time, deciding to take it to the streets with their disturbance to the people. How would anyone be able to enjoy themselves if there were people causing a ruckus, like spoilt kid screaming and yelling at their parents for a toy. Not only that, it turns out that they had back up with more people holding up posters and joining in. Payton distance herself from the mob. But rest had other ideas of dealing with them.

One man grabbed a protester and began to bash the victim with his bare fist, bringing the protester onto the ground as more swarmed in on the slaughter. The protesters screamed and ran for their lives. With only a few managing to escape will the rest got tackled and beaten. Payton had no obligation to make herself to look like one of mob, so she ran as well.

Payton found carriage trucks parked in a line, kept in the darkness, away from the madness. A good place to wait out. She walk around the end of the carriage truck and a hand grabbed her and yanked her behind the carriage truck.

“Quick before they spot you!” A voice hissed. Payton stumbled forward and almost lost her balance if it weren’t for the two others that caught her. The woman who yanked her, peeked over the side of the carriage truck. “Good they didn’t spot her.” The two man sighed in relief and the scrawny one leaned against the carriage truck.

“These people are crazy,” The man with his back to the carriage panted. The rest muttered in agreement. As the guy kept on with his rambles, Payton looked for a better place to hide. Her eyes drifted towards the door of the carriage, she went closer towards it. Upon closer inspection she found light sneaking out of the gap under the door but it is quickly diminishing. “Hide,” Payton whispered and ducked under the carriage just as the door cracked open.

Laid on the ground Payton was met with the heels of a pair of red boots softly landing in front of her. “- great i will meet you there.” Maple chirped followed by a beep. Payton waited for the girl to leave and crawled out. She grabbed onto the doorknob and tried giving it a tug. It didn’t budge.

“Let me,” the woman pushed Payton away and produced a bobbing pin from her pockets. Incorporated with a firm twig she found and chipped to fit the keyhole, she got the door open. They went inside and found a tv with camera footage and a microphone as well as a disk player.  They reviewed the camera footage of the entrance but to their dismay, it was closed shut with wired fence gates. One poor soul tried to escape by climbing over it just before a group reached him and ended up being electrocuted to death. Another thing they noticed that on the rides there is a power switch that says do not switch off.

“If we disable the rides, we could possibly short-circuit the fence and escape from here.” The woman suggested. Payton didn’t really understand but it was a plan. She volunteered to go with Alex, the man with arms that makes his shirt look a little too small for him. Steve, the scrawny lean one, handed them a walkie-talkie that he found in the room.

“We will search the other carriages to see if there is a better way for us to escape but till then you guys keep disabling the rides.” The woman ordered as Payton and Alex stepped out of the carriage before closing the door in front of them. The walkie-talkie buzzed on as they heard Steve’s voice coming from the speaker.

“Hey, can you guys hear me? Press the button the button on the top right if you do.”

“Yes, we hear you.” Alex replied on Payton’s behalf.

“There is a ride that is unoccupied at- Near the end of the park, now get moving.” An annoying voice interrupted. Using the cover that the carriage trucks provided and a short sprint to the roller coaster. Payton looked through the spaces of the poles. None of them notice their presence, too busy rounding up the protesters.

Suddenly a blood-curdling scream echoed through the air. It came from a distance ahead of her. Where was she heading. Payton pushed on, slipping between the gap of the roller coaster and a squarish tent, with Alex following her footsteps. They took a left and followed the sound of the screams of pain.

A deceptively happy tune became audible in the distance as the screaming got softer and hoarser. Payton exchanged nervous glances with Alex and they braved on to find what has happened. Ahead spun a herd of majestic white horses attached onto candy cane coloured poles, bathing under the spotlight. As it spins it turns out that horses weren’t the only animals featured in the merry-go-round.

One dressed in a dirty yellow shirt and pants impaled into the sticky red pole in a way that allowed the animal to be standing on all fours as its limp body goes up and down in rhythmic with the horses. Payton stood frozen in horror while Alex ran up to the animal.

“Sarah! Sarah!” Alex shouted, cupping the animal’s chin up. Payton shook off her fear and dashed over, turning off the power switch. She knelt to Alex’s side and inspect the injury. She has lost too much blood to be saved now. The woman only managed to make a faint whisper before her eyes rolled back. “Sarah!” Alex cried, placing her head on his shoulder as he sobbed.

“Good choice mister, the merry-go-round is really an excellent place to bond with your female friends.” Maple called out from above the elephant. “Please, do join us at the freak show it would be so much fun.” With that, the elephant went off.

“That b*****d, I will make her pay.” Alex breathed heavily, wiping away his tears as he got up. He mindlessly followed Maple back to the where the mobs are, despite Payton suggesting for a second option rather than acting on impulse. Payton could only follow after him to prevent him from doing anything rash.

Right in front of pavement next to the roller coaster, the mobs lined up in two straight line like a live parade as the elephants made its way along the line. Alex and Payton heard cries of fear in front of the elephant and went to see what the commotion was about. Trapped between the elephants and a stall are the protesters. Most make a run for the stall to seek shelter while few desperately attempt to break out only to be shoved back onto the middle. Those that tried to escape met with a brutal end with a metal ball to the face, splattering their contents all over the floor while the less fortunate ones got burned to death.

“Please let me out!” One woman begged, making a last-ditch to squeeze through as the elephants draws closer. She was shoved sprawling onto the ground right in front of Maple’s elephant. Maple look down at the woman with hunger for bloodshed in her eyes as the elephant rear its legs up. The woman’s eyes widen and Maple brought the elephant down. Blood squirted out the lifeless body like a smashed toothpaste, right onto the window of the terrified people inside the stall.

“Hey mister, look who is here to brighten up your experience.” Maple enthused but was quickly met with harsh remarks. “Have you ever heard of the three little pigs story?” Maple gave the elephant a rub on the head. “It goes like this,” she sang as the trunk positioned near the cracks of the door. “I will huff and puff and gas your house up!”

White gas burst through the crack and immediately flooded the shelter. The people inside screamed in terror and some even resorted to banging against the window to break out for fresh air. After a while the banging died down and the screaming went silent. The crowd cheered as if welcoming back a hero as Maple smiled and waved. The other elephants reared up and placed their front legs onto Maple’s elephant as they commenced into a conga.

“Shows over, let’s get out of here before they realized we are here.” Payton whispered, pulling Alex away as they sneaked into the roller coaster. The ride was a train at the front carriage which they found to have some buttons on it but it didn’t look like a power switch in the slightest. They looked all over the place in search of the switch but they found nothing. As they were crossing the last carriage, the bars suddenly closed, trapping them.

“The ride is about to begin,” Maple announced as an army of excited people marched in. When did she get here? The bars in front of Payton also closed once everyone sat themselves down “So everyone, please remain in your seats and enjoy the ride.” Maple hopped into the train and with a jerk the train started moving.

As it began its inclination, Payton was madly pulling at the bars. But no matter how much she pulled at it even in synchronization with Alex, it won’t even budge. “Hey is that you guys at the end of the roller coaster?” Steven asked in disbelieve. No they are safely down on the ground and those two people just so happen to look like them. Of it course it is them!

“Shut the power before we-”

“Here we go!” Maple shouted. Payton found herself staring down at the front carriages and the rows of lights, she could also see the carriage trucks in a distance. The drop was twenty meters.   

The weight of gravity soon set in and Payton felt knees snapped backwards as they went diving down. She could see her hands hanging dangerously close to the rails. The follow-up had them upside down then dangling sideways like a failing paper being pushed around by the strong winds. The ride slowed to a stop.

Payton took the chance to quickly twist and slipped her legs out from the carriage. Alex did the same, freeing himself from the bar clamped on him. The roller coaster dropped back at rapid speed. The carriage was yanked under Payton’s feet as she slammed into the back of the train.The ride swiftly went back to where it started and she fell off the wall of the train.

Payton laid on the carriage wheezing. A pair of hands reached under her armpits and pulled her off the roller coaster. “Miss, are you okay?” Maple asked, kneeling next to her, her yellow eyes brimming with concern. The roller coaster went for a second round, along with Alex who didn’t manage to get off in time as Payton caught a glimpse of him holding on to the bar for dear life as the ride whizzed past her.

“I can manage,” Payton grunted, staggering to her feet. She has to find the power switch if she ever wants to save Alex in time. A few steps forwards and her spine gave out on her, causing her to stumble right into Maple. Payton found her chin resting on Maple’s shoulder as Maple stumbled them against a door. “Hang onto me for a while I need to find my keys,” The hands on Payton’s back slips away as Payton wrapped her arms around Maple’s waist. She notice a faint smell like freshly made caramel.

“Just sit here for a while,” Maple carefully sat Payton down onto a wooden chair.Behind Maple stood a red switch. “I have somethings I have to attend to, see you around miss.” Payton waited till she was sure that Maple was gone before lurching forward and pulled at the power switch.

“Alex are you okay?” Payton called through her walkie-talkie, hoping that she made it in time.

“He is fine, flew onto the truck like a crash landed plane.” The woman’s voice snorted through the speaker.

“Tiffany, she tried her best and she got the power down for us.” Alex defended weakly. “Besides I can still continue to help shut down the power.”

“How with that fractured shoulder of yours?” Tiffany retorted.

“She is right Alex, you better just rest there.” Payton suggested. “Don’t worry, i will handle the rest of the switches .“ She added quickly before Alex could protest. Payton looked up at the tent with the sign reading “House of mirrors.” Maybe it would be for the best that she went in alone, it would be troublesome if she had someone with her and have to find each other while searching for the power switch inside. She entered the tent.

Clones of an old teenager with brown hair tied into a bun greeted Payton as she entered. It looked normal at first but as she continued to explore, the mirror started to become distorted. One mirror making her neck look incredibly long, another ballooning her head while giving her a midget body.

“I guess I need to start exercising.” Payton chuckled as she stared at a mirror of herself with a large tummy. She took a turn to the left to find more interesting mirrors but this time the mirror wasn’t reflecting her image but Maple.

“I know what you have been doing miss,” A soft voice suddenly spoke. Payton spun around to find Maple standing behind her. “Although you are not like the rest of them... who are still conscious… no matter.” Payton began to back off but Maple grabbed hold of her hand at lightning speed. Payton winced and closed her eyes expected a knife to pierce her body. Instead she felt something light placed into her hands. “Silly, I’m not here to kill you.” Maple giggled. “Just go straight and keep left, you can find the exit there.” Maple skipped ahead of her and cranked her head back. “Afterall when you are with us the party never ends.” She chirped and hopped to the right pathway.

Payton inspected the object in her hand. It looks like a simple device with a play and record button as well as a speaker at the bottom of the buttons. Beneath the device hid a piece of paper that read. “Press play near danger.” What was that suppose to mean?

“Steve do you see a power switch near the exit of the house of mirrors?” Payton asked, not moving from her position yet.

“Nope, but from my angle it looks like it is at a corner of the room.” Payton took the right pathway. The room should be a located near a dead-end, which meant deep in the maze. “Hey Payton,” Steve spoke again but this time his voice sounded shaky.

“What is it?” Payton asked, squinting her eyes as she tries to make out the pathway available through the illusion of the constant reflection of herself.

“The bears from the performance are with you and they look hungry.” Payton froze up as a nervous smile formed on her lips. No that can’t be right. Sure she had seen some things from earlier but which trainer in their right mind would ever feed her animals meat of the same her kind.

“Hello my little runaways, I am pleased that you have escaped to the house of mirrors where we can now officially start the game of hide and seek!” Maple’s voice enthused. “Stand a chance to escape this game by the exit left open for you or like the game suggest. Hide! Afterall it is only a matter of time till we find you.”

“Don’t worry Payton, the bears aren’t close to you.” Payton walked forward and took the right turn. She would have to stay quiet as much as possible if she ever hope to survive. Another turn to the right and Steve claimed that he could now see her from the power switch camera. “Just turn left and you should see a staff door in front of you.”

Payton followed his instructions then proceeded to twist the door knob. It was locked. Payton sighed, this would be a bad idea. She kicked the door open and turned off the switch. The lights went out and Payton lost her eyesight.

Using the flashlight function would be a bad idea. The night vision function would be great right now if it wasn’t that she was in an enclosed room, shut away from any dim sources of light. She trailed her hand along the mirror to act as her walking stick. She could still remember how she got to the power room, so she surely could trace a way back and from there follow Maple’s instruction to escape. The reverse order is left, right, straight, right, right. Payton noted down the list and etched it into her memory. Now in opposite direction she should turn- ah!

The mirror on her left hand disappeared and she knocked against something that caused a slight bang that echoed into the distance. Payton’s heart race as her chest tighten. They know where she is now. She must get out of here! What was the directions she must take? Left- No it should be right followed by…. Payton has forgotten the order. The sound of pattering footsteps drew nearer, Payton made a quick bolt to the left, keeping her on the mirror.

As she continued to make random turns, she came across something squishing beneath her feet that caused her to slip. She landed on something warm and wet. Payton swiftly shoved her arm into her mouth and bit down hard to prevent any screams to escape. Her chin has landed in a wet empty hole where should have been the innards of the victim.

“Nope no one is here, go look somewhere else.” Maple’s cheery voice suggested. Payton kept still as she hear the footsteps faded off. Payton took a right and followed through. She tried to remain as quiet as possible but every time she took a step, her shoe squeaks. A turn to the left and she stopped, listening for any sound of movement near her. Nothing. Payton wasn’t sure how much more of it she could handle before she gives in to fear and panic. She felt so boxed up- restricted and unable to move freely without bumping into a mirror or worst something.

“Shh calm down, everything's okay.” Maple’s voice cooed. Crap! Payton accidentally pressed the play button. The footsteps are coming back.

“You must be hearing things silly, let's go look elsewhere.” Maple suggested with a giggle. Payton held her breath as the footsteps paused. Now she can’t tell if they going to draw closer or move away. After a minute, the footsteps went away. Payton walked straight and took a left. She began to see light not far off from the ceiling. Footsteps began to approach her again. Faster this time. Payton ran for her life, bumping off the mirror walls and kept going. They are rapidly closing on her. Payton threw herself to a left turn. To her joy, light greeted her as she had made out of the maze. She ran out and swiftly shut the door behind her. The door clicked and it held out against the banging from the inside. Payton took a deep breath as she panted heavily.

“You made it!” Steve celebrated. “But we still have a few more switches to go.” No rest for the wicked huh?

“Guys check this out, I found cans of unopened vegetable jello in the trash in the girl’s room.” Alex’s voice buzzed in. They raided Maple’s room?

“Dude are you actually eating that?” Tiffany demanded.

“Why not? It’s meat free.”

“Pass one over, I am starving.” Steve said. Wonderful they are having a nice break while she has to keep going around, switch off power with her life on the line.

“Who keeps a photo that is torn in a corner?” Tiffany mused. “They are also horrible at taking photos, who takes a picture with someone in the middle and the other on the side when it is just two people in the shot?”

“They could be hoarders, remember that stringy equipment back there?” Alex added ” It is obviously burned to the point that it is unusable.”

“How many places left that I need to shut down?” Payton asked.

“Four more, there is one opposite you but i suggest that you enter from the back-end. Earlier I saw the horde going in through the entrance.“ Steve cautioned. At least the streets were deserted, allowing Payton to head over to the next tent with ease. She approached the back door that she found surprisingly had been left open. But she decided not to question the good things and went in. Her eyes widen in terror.

Under the dimly lit light, bodies hung on the poles above like a slaughterhouse. Their face masked behind soulless animal eyes that remained blank like a pair of doll’s eyes. Each took on a different animal and wore bright costumes in contrast to their dull matted fur.

A round of applause resonated from the stage as the performer thanked his audience. The voice Payton heard during the introduction of the performance with Maple. She peered out of the backstage in hopes to figure out how the man looked like. But instead she only saw two puppets bowing in front of the audience with their master nowhere to be seen. At the side of the tent near the front row of seats, Payton spotted an illuminating red light with a switch.

Payton’s breath was cut short as her body flipped around to face a kangaroo wearing a white veil on its head as its hand squeezed her neck. Payton screamed. Nothing came out. She struggled to push the pair of hands away as she began to feel light-headed but it won’t budge despite Payton’s full strength against it. Planting her foot on the white dress, Payton curled her body into a ball and kicked her leg out.

The pressure on her neck loosened and Payton rolled away to her knees as she gasped for air. She spun her head back to find more figures looming over her. Payton scrambled past the curtains into the spotlight as more gasped came from the audience.

“What are you doing Payton?” Now isn’t a good time Steve. The rabbit in a ring master uniform turned to face her.

“Looks like we have an unwelcome guest,” The rabbit commented as the rest of the animals came out onto the stage.

“Kill her! Kill her!” The crowd chanted as the animals approached Payton. She scanned the room hastily. Jumping into the crowd to make an escape would not be wise, they would easily outnumber her and the area is too confided for her to take them on. Looks like fighting the puppets is the only option for her to get to the power switch.

Payton ducked as a hand flew above her head and countered with a drove her right elbow into its stomach. As it lurched backwards in response, Payton grabbed its head and threw it over her shoulder. To her surprise, she felt no strings on the puppet as it slammed onto the ground.

“You can’t win,” Dodging a punch to the face, Payton responded with uppercut to the jaw. Before her fist even lands on it, another tackled her onto the ground. She tried to kick to it off but more kept piling on her. Soon her limbs went numb, she look up to see the rabbit with its parade stick coming down on her. Everything went black.

Payton woke up to a high pitch scream as a blinding light coming from a curtain causing her to recoil and bump into something or rather someone. Her back broke into burning pain as she frantically look up only for her head to be covered.

“Shh... I am not going to hurt you.” Payton heard Maple whispered as the screams behind the curtains ceased. “Stay very still and try not to squirm too much, you are tied to something very spiky- the phone tightener.” Payton felt something sawing on her back but kept still. “Do you know why is it called the phone tightener?” Maple mused. Payton kept quiet.

“Because when someone starts to move the rope tightens and alert us that he is awake like a phone calling at you.” Maple giggled. To Payton the giggle sounded slightly sinister like the mere description of the device was enough to set her off. The ropes around her chest slacked as the sawing now shifts to her bound wrist.

“They are going to bring you out soon,” Maple muttered. “My uncle is going to smash your head open in front of the audience.” Silence returns with the exception of the sound of the ropes being sawed. “...While he may be strong but where his strength lies is also his weakness. If you can him to smash through floors the stage will collapse.” Payton nodded as the ropes now dangle on her wrist and the bag over her head is lifted.

“Could you do something for me miss,” Maple whispered. Payton nodded. “To make sure that my uncle and aunt is fooled into thinking that you just woke up, would you kindly start screaming  for help?”

“Help! Anyone please help me!” Payton cried out as Maple pulled her up and shoved her into the stage.

“Watch as I smash this girl into pancake!” The man bellowed, picking up a pole with a big chunk of concrete at one end. He charge towards Payton, his hammer held high over his head. Payton pulled her hands before her as she rolled out of the way just as he brought his hammer down, leaving a huge hole where she once stood. She would need to keep a distance between that man or the consequences would be devastating. Ducking a swing passing past her head, Payton ran to the end of the stage but a blast of flames forced her to leap back. Payton dove to the side as splinters rained upon her.

Payton jumped back up to her feet and charged at the woman. Just as the fire approached her face, Payton dropped into a slide, kicking into her high heels, causing the heel to snap as the woman fell onto the floor. The floor beneath Payton’s feet creaked and she ran for the other end of the stage.

“Stop right there!” The man lunged at Payton. Payton threw herself past the other end of the curtain as a loud crash followed behind her. She looked back at the gaping hole where the stage once occupied before getting up to find the power switch. She recognised the red light at the end of the room but this time the red light revealed something more than just the switch.

“Alex!” Payton rushed over to the body lying down next to the switch. She tapped against his cheeks to wake him up but he didn’t respond. Payton checked his body for any signs of injuries, he wasn’t bleeding anywhere except for a few swelled bruises on him. Then she noticed the petite hand imprints on his neck. He is dead. Slowly Payton stood up and shut down the power. Alex tried to turn off the power despite being injured in order to save them. Payton would never forget his act of bravery.

Payton made her way out of the room into the brightly lit streets outside. To her amazement, she noticed that the gates were wide open with one yellow bus waiting inside. They could finally escape. Payton reached for her walkie-talkie to tell her friends the good news. Except that her walkie-talkie was no longer on her waist. Maple must have taken it.

“Well done on making it out miss!” The speakers cheered. “On behalf of all the members of the circus, I would like to thank you for joining us tonight and hope to see you soon.” An opportunity to escape has landed in front of Payton, she could leave right now… But surely her friends wouldn’t have made it.

Payton knew up to this point she had been lucky to survive from the help she had received along the way. But if she entered the tent, which she guessed that would be where her friends along with Maple are, she wasn’t so sure if she could make it out again. It didn’t matter, the best answer was right in her face. Escape. She barely knew those people anyway and if anything they were probably part of the group that came to ruin the whole circus experience for her. They got her into this mess. Payton made up her mind.

“Why didn’t you leave miss?” Maple asked as Payton stepped into the ring. Maple frowned then her gleeful grin came back onto her face. “I know you wanted to join our little tea party, sorry to disappoint you miss but-”

“Where are they Maple,” Payton interrupted. Maple sighed and gestured to the two people lying against the mini wall. Payton ran over to them. They were badly injured with Steve’s left eye swollen shut and Tiffany’s jaw was hanging down from her mouth in an awkward position. “Hang on, I will get us out of here.” Payton reassured as she helped steve to his feet. Steve squinted to looked at her with his good eye. He opened his mouth to say something but a sudden zap came from him and his back arched as he and Tiffany screamed in agony. Payton spun back to Maple, who stood there laughing at them as she clutched her tummy.

“Looks like they won’t be make it out alive,” Maple turned the knob on her hand-held device and the screaming ceased. Payton shot a glare at Maple.

“You had your fun Maple, now let them go.” Payton demanded firmly. The cheerfulness in Maple’s eyes diminished and got replaced with hurt.

“Why must you involve yourself in this miss?” Maple asked, her voice filled with confusion and sadness. “I thought you like me, I tried everything to keep you out of harm's way.” Maple began her advance on Payton with a dagger appearing into her hand. “Sometimes I don’t understand why some people do what they do. Was it guilt? Or simply doing things because it is what they feel is right, no matter what the expense.” Maple’s smile returned. “No matter, this will be over soon. Just relax for me, I will be quick. I promise.” The dagger shot out of Maple’s hand in a flash of silver.  Payton caught it with her palms pressed together, just inches away from her throat.

“Great catch miss,” Maple beamed as she raised her arms up into the sky. “But as you can see, the fun just started.” Maple’s hand dropped back to her sides with gleaming claws strapped onto her wrist. She broke into a sprint at lightning speed and Payton had just time to raise her dagger to deflect the attack.

Payton dropped her body into a lower stance and grabbed Maple’s wrist in midst of her attack with another beneath her arm as she turned her back inwards into Maple and flung her onto the ground. Maple quickly jump back onto her feet and lunged back at Payton. Payton blocked another swing at her but Maple swiftly lowered herself and did a spinning swipe, catching Payton in the stomach. Payton winced in pain as she jumped back in retreat, clutching her injury to slow the bleeding.

Maple wasn’t going to let up as Payton immediately have to step back to avoid an uppercut. She managed to avoid the attack but the tip of a boot caught her right under her chin, sending Payton sprawling onto the ground. Payton staggered back up to her feet only to have Maple swoop down to catch her by the neck from a trapeze. Maple grinned sadistically as they flew up higher into the air before letting go of Payton. If she was going to go down, might as bring Maple down with her. As Payton fell, she threw the dagger into one of the strings attached onto the trapeze. She savored the look of shock in Maple’s eyes as she too was flung into the air.

Payton crashed onto the hard floor, causing her back to arch in pain. But Maple had it worst, she smashed right into a wooden pillar and now she was laying on the floor next to the fallen pillar. Payton gritted her teeth as she forced herself to get up and walk towards the device laying beside Maple.

“Where did I go wrong to make you favor them so much…” Maple trailed off as she blankly stared up at the ceiling, her eyes glassy. Payton reached down and took the device, she look back at Maple. The more she thought about it the more guilt and sorrow she felt towards the girl who had helped her. Payton threw the device onto the floor, breaking it into unfixable pieces.

Payton staggered out of the tent with her friends and got onto the bus. Tiffany started the engine and they drove off. “Thanks for coming back to save us.” Steve muttered as the bus made its past the gates. Tiffany nodded thanks as she took a seat next to them once she left the bus in driver mode.

“We have been through thick and thin together, it is only normal that I made sure that we leave together.” Payton replied with a weak smile. Suddenly the bus halted into a screech.

“What happened?” Payton asked as Steve offered to check the bus.

“The bus is locked.” A thud resonated upstairs, stirring up panic from the cabin below.

“Shh calm down, everything's okay.” A soft voice cooed, causing the Steve and Tiffany to scream in terror.

“Relax, it is a recorded audio.” Payton reassured, taking out the recorder and showing it to them. However the only problem was that it had already ran out of batteries.

© 2016 Bilance

Author's Note

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The story was well written overall. Some of the transitions from moment to moment seemed rushed or unexplained, but the scenes were grabbing. I noticed the main characer's moods didn't seem to always line up with the gravity and trauma of the situation, which was strange unless that was intentional. Other than that, there were a couple of gramatical errors, but nothing major. Good job!

Posted 4 Years Ago

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Added on November 1, 2016
Last Updated on November 1, 2016
Tags: Circus, Horror, Gore, Action




Hi my name is Bilance. I love writing stories and I would be happy to take critics in order to improve my skills for my audience. I am strong in writing action scenes but I also do enjoy writing any g.. more..

The tea party The tea party

A Story by Bilance