Hey buddy. Buy me a drink, and I’ll tell you a story that will blow your mind.
Come on! It’s a really good story, I swear. Cross my heart and hope to die.
Okay, you want to know? Great. Here we go.
I’ll take a vodka lime, and I’ll take you back to 1944, when I found her.
See, I used to run America’s greatest freak show. Papa Mystique’s Mythical Madland. We had everything a thrill hungry audience could want, but one day, I found something that didn’t belong here. Something unholy. Something so wrong that it couldn’t help but harm everything in its path, until there was nothing left.
There are things that find their way into this world that just don’t belong here, and for a long time, I thought that my collection of freaks was the strangest, most out of place things you could find on this Earth, but, boy, I was wrong.
My freaks, if you’d seen them, you’d know what I’m talking about. A chilling bunch of things, they were, the worst nightmare of almost anyone they’d ever met, but so ungrateful for the one man on earth that ever showed them any kindness.
I gave them everything, you know. Half of my freaks would have died of hunger or thirst if I hadn’t found them, and the other half would have been confined to government labs for the rest of their lives, but I saved them.
I gave them a home. A purpose. The clothes from my back. The food from my table. They had everything they could ever want at Papa Mystique’s Mythical Madland.
I gave them everything and those freaks still said that they were going to “walk out”.
Walk out on Papa Mystique?
Not on my watch.
They dreamed their silly dreams and had delusions of grandeur. Sometimes, it’s like they didn’t realise that they were always destined for the outside of society. It’s just their lot in life. Some people get to be the glittering stars that bring smiles to the faces of an excited audience, and some people get to be the outcasts of society that bring horrified screams to a terrified audience. It’s just their lot in life.
They daydreamed about taking all the jobs left by the men at war and all I could do was laugh. They thought that they could integrate, be part of society, but I told them, time and time again, it was just a dream. This world cannot be comfortable with freaks. Not in 1944, not ever.
Still, they insisted that they deserved better. I guess they’d been listening to too many programmes on the wireless, got too many ideas.
They even marched to my office with their silly little demands.
It was a comical sight. The world’s tallest woman. The world’s tiniest man. The bearded lady and her bearded baby. The strongman and his even stronger wife. The gaggle of geeks and the twins who believed that they were geese. All of them barged in with a scrawled list of demands.
I laughed, but they were serious.
They wanted guaranteed wages, bigger trailers, two weekends off a year. EACH. It was insane. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but they were delusional, irrational and firmly believed that they could have these fantasy “working conditions”. They talked about trade unions and the so called American dream. Freaks don’t get to dream, not even if the dream is red, white and blue. I told them that, so many times.
I tried to explain that economically, it just wasn’t possible, but they simply wouldn’t hear it, so I had to make a promise to keep them from walking out during our busiest season. If the freak show made a bigger profit within the next few weeks, I’d share it with them.
People were down in the good old US of A. War was harder than many expected it to be, good food was scarce, the luxuries of life even scarcer, and more and more families were getting those dreaded telegrams from the front line, losing their minds as they lost a beloved son or brother. America needed to laugh again, it needed to smile, to find some poor smuck to point at and say “At least I’m not him!” and I provided that service, but that service, as much as I hated to admit it, didn’t work without my freaks, so I made the deal, and tried to rack my brains for a way to keep the money rolling in.
We did make a profit, but it came at a cost. The town had already seen what my freaks had to offer, and we were just about breaking even, after my cut, so I had to bring them something new to keep them coming, and as I walked the camp after dark, wondering what to do, something new seemed to fall into my lap.
High above me in the sky was a bright, beautiful light. It seemed to dance through the darkness, falling from the cloudless sky towards the ground. I ran after it, following the trail until I saw it drop a few metres ahead of me. I sprinted forward, my eyes locked on the soft glow up ahead until I came upon a clearing and saw her.
Oh, gee, she was beautiful.
A girl, unconscious among the grass. I crept a little closer, marvelling at her pristine skin, her dark curls, and the feathered, fluttering wings that surrounded her slender shoulders. They beat back and forth softly as she lay still before me. I knelt down to get a better look, and as I took her into my arms, I was certain that she was the answer to my prayers.
My very own fallen angel. The thing of dreams and miracles, and she was all mine. I could hardly believe my luck.
She struggled a little as she awoke the next morning. I had to keep her in a cage, you see, just in case she went wandering, but eventually I got her to settle down. She never spoke, but she didn’t need to. Just the sight of her as she stared solemnly from the cage, gently fluttering her wings was enough to drive the crowd wild.
We made thousands the first night that she was presented to the audience. People lined up for an hour just to see the show again, and soon, we had sold out shows for weeks as the people clamoured to get a glimpse of the fallen angel and her glittery, glum stare.
People would pay extra to write down a wish and give it to her through the bars of her cage, convinced that she’d make them come true, and soon, I was making more money than I’d ever imagined.
I gave my freaks a few treats and trinkets to keep them quiet and I got myself a brand new Cadillac. It was all working out perfectly. Everyone was happy.
Everyone except the angel, that is.
She began crying at night. This long, sorrowful sobbing that never seemed to end. As soon as the shows were over and she was packed away into her trailer, she’d begin weeping. Her sobs rang out through the camp, keeping us all awake from nightfall until the first rays of morning sunshine. It was intolerable and seemed like it would never end. I’d ask her again and again what she wanted, but she’d just stare, her eyes full of tears.
I decided that she needed some company, so I told the freaks that one of them would be sharing her trailer. Ricky, one of the geeks jumped at the chance, happy to be moved to a bigger trailer and my angel had a playmate to keep her quiet at night.
The crying stopped immediately. That first night was the first peaceful night’s sleep any of us had gotten since the angel started acting up, so we all slept a little late. Everyone was in a good mood, except Ricky. He moped around the camp all day and barely spoke. It was odd. He was normally such a talkative little thing, but he seemed troubled by something, which was pretty rich, considering I’d given him a spot in one of the biggest trailers, right next to our star attraction.
When it came to showtime, Ricky refused to go on. He just stood by the angel’s cage with a chicken held limply in his little hand, watching her, shaking his head over and over. The ungrateful brat. I got tired of his sniffling and sent him back to his trailer, promising him a beating like he’d never experienced once the show was over.
The trouble was, when the show was over, I went to the trailer, but he wasn’t there. He’d left all of what little he owned and seemed to have vanished.
The angel began bawling again and the freaks were getting freaked out. I sent a few of them to check the camp and surrounding area while I tried to calm the chaos, but none of them could find him.
It was beginning to get late, so I sent them to bed, and carried on looking myself. I supposed that he couldn’t have gone far, you see, because he, like all of my freaks couldn’t make it out there without yours truly, so off I went, into the night with a flashlight, hunting for my missing freak.
I suppose I could have done without him, if he was so insistent on running away, but the geek act really just works better with a few of the little bastards to up the ick factor, you know?
I walked the grounds for about an hour before I found him, or what was left of him.
There were a few fingers and half a leg strewn across the grass by the entrance, and on top of the gate, hollowed out from the top was his head.
I just stared at the sight for a moment before falling to my knees and losing my dinner.
I was only going to smack him around a little, you know? Just rough him up and teach him a lesson, but I’d never have gone that far.
I woke the freaks, and we gathered up what we could find of Ricky and buried him out back.
We didn’t have a choice. The cops would have suspected one of us. Truthfully speaking, I had my suspicions too, and the next day, before the crowds came pouring in to see the show, I interrogated my freaks, one by one, but each of them said that they had no idea what happened to Ricky.
The only one who wouldn’t talk was the angel, but then again, she never talked.
The show went on, because the show must go on, but the freaks were shaken up and obviously not at their best, all except the geese.
I put the geese, Molly and Lolly in with the angel that morning and they seemed to perk up after spending time with her. They’re a weird little twosome, you know. I found them in a children’s home. They’d been through some real bad times, and I guess delving into the fantasy of being geese gave them some comfort, a way out of being themselves and everything that came with it.
They’d waddle around the tent during the show, quacking and hissing at the crowd, and I’d even sell the audience bags of bread to feed them. They were weird, but just like all my freaks, they earned me money, so they had a place in my show.
The geese seemed happy enough as they headed off to bed, but by daylight, their worst nightmares had become a reality.
I’m sure you’re curious about what I found when I went to wake the geese, aren’t you?
Well, get me another drink, and I’ll tell you all about it…
Thanks for this drink buddy. I guess I better make with the story, huh?
So, the geese.
Yeah, like I said, they were weird but harmless. Good kids even, and utterly devoted to one another. You’ve never seen a pair of closer sisters. They finished each other’s sentences, as well as each other’s bird feed.
That’s why we were all so shocked.
As day broke, I was doing my rounds, waking up the freaks and calling them to make a start on breakfast, when I saw Lolly wandering out of her trailer. She was in a daze, tripping and falling as she walked, her eyes vacant and her hair a mess.
Her nightdress… Oh God. I’ll never forget the sight of it. It was tattered and torn, like she’d got into it with the strongman and his woman, and it was absolutely drenched in blood. The whole thing, from top to bottom was ruby. She tottered towards me, blood smeared across her face and hands, and fell into my arms, falling unconscious.
I called over the freaks I’d woken and had them carry her to the food tent so that they could clean her up and try to wake her, and headed on to the trailer, with dread doing double summersaults in my stomach. Something was deeply wrong.
As I approached the trailer, I gulped, gazing down at the side of trailer where a trail of blood dripped onto the overgrown grass that rested underneath.
“Molly?” I called out to her but there was no answer. The blood dripped and dripped, louder and louder with every step and as I opened the door to the trailer, I prayed I wouldn’t find Molly.
God hadn’t been taking my calls for a while, but that day, I guess he was feeling generous. I opened the door and all I found was the angel, staring out from behind the bars of her cage. She began to sniffle, and I could hear that tears were coming, so I backed away, closing the door and ran back towards the food tent to find the others. The angel began to shriek, but soon, she was drowned out by the screams coming from the food tent. I ran as fast as I could towards the screams and found my freaks crowded outside, Lolly lying on the ground, pinned to the floor by the strongman and strongwoman, hollering her pretty little head off.
A few of the freaks were sobbing, a few comforted each other, but I couldn’t get a word of sense out of any of them, so I headed inside the tent, ignoring their cries for me not to.
God’s generosity ended there.
Spread across the table were bits and pieces of poor Molly. Her body had been torn to pieces and rearranged in some kind of crude display, like a little doll. Her head was hollow, and her eyes were empty and almost sad.
I backed away, my hands covering my mouth as I fell among my freaks, horrified by what I’d seen. One by one, they all rounded on Lolly, who was still fighting to get free. She began hooting and hissing, clearly panicked and afraid, but as she tried to stand, they pushed her back to the ground. I tried to hold them back, calm them down and break it up, but there were too many of them, and they were too angry, too frightened.
Mob mentality. It’s a real thing, you know. If you get enough people spooked and give them a target, carnage is going to unfold, no matter what you do to try and stop it.
I tried to tell them to wait, but all they could see was poor Molly, and Ricky before her. They ripped little Lolly to shreds. Beat her to death, the poor kid. It seemed to go on forever, and all the time, she just called out to her sister. Like I said, you’d never seen a pair of sisters more devoted to each other. Molly was Lolly’s whole world, until, of course, her whole world died. She wasn’t far behind her beloved sister.
The freaks seemed to get it out of their system after Lolly. They were more at ease, and the show that night was the best it had been for a while. The world’s tallest woman went in with the angel next, and… well, I’m sure you’ve guessed by now. Right? You know what we couldn’t figure out? See, when it’s all laid out in front of me like this, it seems so obvious, but in the moment, when I lived it, I couldn’t see the grass for the trees, and I couldn’t see that angels don’t just fall for no good reason. They fall because they’ve been banished.
Like I said, there are things that find their way into this world that just don’t belong here, and that angel was one of them. I kept making money, of course, the crowds adored her, but the freaks started getting uneasy after the world’s tallest woman was cut down to size. They’re freaks but they’re not dumb, you know?
They all thought it was Lolly, that the poor kid had snapped, but in her golden cage, fluttering her wings and smiling like butter wouldn’t melt was the real culprit. I’d try and send one in to room with her, promising that they’d be checked on every few hours, but they wouldn’t have it, so we stopped giving her roommates. She’d shriek and sob all night, but be nice as pie for the audience.
We managed at first, but after a while, my freaks started to argue, trying to force one another to go to the angel and give her what she wanted. Like I said, mob mentality. It gets people the worst when they’re made selfish by sleep deprivation, I guess.
Then they came to me, demanding that I get rid of the angel, and even with all the money, I had to admit, the argument for getting rid of her was strong. I was losing freaks and losing sleep. The angel had an insatiable appetite, and I knew I’d run out of freaks eventually, so I promised them that I’d get rid of her.
I didn’t know how, of course. I still wasn’t clear on how I’d got my hands on her in the first place.
I looked it up in the bible and found nothing. I asked around at the local church and just got funny looks from the priest, so I decided to just give my best guess a shot and hope it worked out.
I took her to the bridge across town on the back of my truck. She sat peacefully in her cage, and didn’t even bat an eyelid when I began pumping cement through the bars. She just smiled sweetly until her face disappeared behind the wet cement, and didn’t make a sound as I nervously sat around waiting for it to dry.
She made a large splash as I shoved the cage over the bridge and into the river, and I watched the cage plummet down below the surface.
I must have stayed there about an hour or two, just waiting for her to come up, but thankfully, she stayed put, and I drove home, ready to sleep peacefully for the first time in weeks.
I slept like a baby, and when I woke up, for a second, it felt like it was going to be a good day.
Then I heard the angel sobbing.
It seemed to be everywhere, all through the camp. I stumbled out of my trailer, barely dressed, and was met with a massacre.
My freaks were scattered across the ground, the grass soaked in their blood, their bodies torn apart, and each of their heads, lined up by my trailer, hollow, with empty stares. Christ, even the bearded baby.
Right at the centre, in her cage with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen in your life was the angel. Sobbing and smiling as she stared round at what she had done, almost as if she was asking for my applause.
I knew I had to get her off my back, but there just wasn’t a way, you see. The only thing that keeps her happy is a hot meal. She likes ‘em live. Something about the chase does it for her.
God knows, I always think it will be the last time, but then I wind up in a bar with a nice kid like you, and out of the corner of my eye, I see her out the window, pointing out her next meal and licking her lips.
It’s been years and she just won’t leave me alone, and I hate to ask, because you seem so nice, but hey, you’re already pretty woozy with what I slipped in your drink while you were at the bar, so it seems a shame to waste good drugs, you know?
I’m real sorry, kid. You seem swell, but she’s real hungry, you see. I’ll tell her to be gentle, seeing as you were so nice, but she’s never listened to me before, so… good luck!