by Bruce Boston

The escape of the circus freaks was nothing to laugh about.

Some of them were harmless enough: the bearded lady, the man with the ears and hooves of a goat, the woman with the body of a Rubens and the head of a catfish, scales and tentacle-whiskers and walleyed vision to match.

Yet there were others who posed a serious threat to public sanity.

What if the Mesmer Man invaded the privacy of your bedroom while you were helplessly lost in bland blue slumber? He could forge any illusion he chose in the chambers of your unconscious: orange waves, yellow skies, emerald peninsulas piercing your brain with forests fiendishly quixotic in the fauna and flora they had to offer.

What if the Knife Boy arrived at a shopping mall or a major thoroughfare during the Christmas rush, hurling his ready stream of acid jibes and razor-sharp edges at hapless pedestrian shoppers, cutting to the quick of the bright commercial spirit, leaving holiday blood slathered in smears and droplets on kiosks and plate glass windows?

Imagine the quarantines required and man-hours lost if the Siamese Quintuplets exposed their lascivious dance and outlandish ways to the eager glance of an ingenue generation. Picture your children with their eyes bulging out of their heads and the veins throbbing in their temples.

Think of them all, freaks in concert, rampaging through the failing light of a dusk we could not control, peering in our windows, running in and out of the shadows, pounding on our doors with hands that had no doubt fondled their own distorted bodies and one another’s in obscene detail.

And then the night burning with new phantoms we had yet to fathom.

And what of the potential for bicameral chaos and the legislative stampedes this would inevitably entail? Remember that hysteria and trampled death are not uncommon in partisan relations.

This could have been a case brandished in media sensation for federal scrutiny and a score of ad hoc committees. Yet it was swiftly squelched in vast favor of events more suited to the masses, whose hungers can be ravenous and far from refined.

Let us be thankful the trusty Circus Police, diminutive yet energetic, twelve to a car and forever inventive in their slapstick antics, managed to corral this ragged cast of dangerous miscreants before harm could be delivered to the equipoise of our palatable metropolis and axiomatic nation.

Let us pass the buttered popcorn and pay homage to the carnival gods who have placed these entertaining yet vigilant guardian-clowns at our imminent disposal.

Bruce‘s work has appeared in hundreds of publications, including Asimov’s SF Magazine, Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, The Nebula Awards Showcase, and The Pushcart Prize Anthology.