I took the pile of sticks in my small hands, reaching around them with my fingers. Out there, behind the purple curtains stood a circus floor and the crowd that roared so laud we had to talk loud so we could hear each other. The sticks were named. I would press them together, then sink my fingers into them – that way they didn’t go all the way through and there were always few that didn’t fit in my fists and fell out in the table. It was dark there, with only an oil lamp next to me to light us. Two sticks fell out. Both grown ups, one a woman and another a man. We nod to each other, the decision had been made and had to be honored.
I pull the curtains away and am blinded by the bright projectors. They are warm, even burning at some point and I let the man go in first. He stops at start, takes a deep breath and walks in with a smile mirroring absolute freedom. It’s not joy that I sense, but he isn’t terrified either. I am. He has been with us almost from the beginning and I’m sad to see him go. He was always so cheerful and even now, his smile makes me unease, considering he’s part of a circus that serves lunch for rich people, who have lost taste for regular meat.
The stage is surrounded with simple fisherman nets. The public doesn’t know, but they hold nothing. I’m glad that they don’t know, because I am absolutely terrified by that. We have big men standing around the arena from the outside, to keep everybody further back. If they find out…
He wears grey linen bathrobe, a gift from one of his admirers. It’s weird world now. Linen is expensive, very expensive and he is so poor, this bathrobe is the only thing he owns. He doesn’t even have food. I don’t see it as an admiration, instead like garnishing a meal, so it would look better, when given on the table.
The crowd keeps cheering, roaring in pure ecstasy. Half of them are drugged or drunk. They could afford food, but there isn’t any. I don’t know why, I keep thinking on a black sky outside. Everlasting night or something like that (considering the volcano on Island coughing it’s lungs up, you can make the connection)? There is no food, the some that’s left isn’t supporting most of the population, so it’s become one of the luxury items. Ice cream, mm! Not even a million can buy one. That’s why they buy tickets to our shows, get drunk or overdosed and then eat their dummies full. Poor people use it as a free euthanasia and it makes me almost vomit to think about that. The first person, the man, is here as a volunteer. He has waited his death for long time. Months I guess?
There are those in the cages in the backroom, who are not here as volunteers. They have been gathered from the city. The criteria is simple: the bonier, closer to death, the better. Bones are the part of the body with most valuable for the living. The meat, the skin – that’s just extra. We push them out after the main course has been devoured and those, who didn’t get a share, go crazy from hunger.
I watch as he removes the cape and reveals his nearly paper thin body. He had taken pride in starving himself so he’d look the boniest in the bunch and I want to cry. I am so scared by that time I can hardly hold the ropes that hold the curtains on place. There are rumors they’ve started feasting on each other now, buying each other, buying one’s hand, a leg…
The crowd gets angrier and screams, laughs and yells things I can’t remember. Suddenly, someone points at me, screams in a language I can’t make out and the hungry eyes all turn on me, behind me on the cage and I hear the weeping and the pure terror that raises its ugly head in there. I turn to look at the crowd and they are suddenly very close, lips painted in blood red only centimeters away. The noise gets unbearable and I feel someone hitting me hard in my left hip and its so pain filled that I wake up.
The hip does indeed hurt a lot.