So I present to you the new first ROUGH draft chapter of Freakshow, now in first person. I think it's a better way to get into Olivia's head.
Oh that's right, she's Olivia now. And Eduardo is Orion now. These are some of the crazy things that have changed. :D But everything else for the first little bit is essentially the same!
The sun hit my face like a steel-toed boot to the teeth. I yawned, rolled over, checked my clock and saw that I was late for work.
And quickly remembered I didn’t have a job. Not since last week. So technically I was late for job hunting, and me not being an early bird meant that I rarely got the worm. I immediately resolved to try harder at this employment thing. Starting right now…well, as soon as I woke up completely.
I rolled off my futon and stood up, stretched and sniffed my armpits. Today smelled like a good day for a shower.
It had also been a week since I’d caught Jason and Becs in his bed. I checked my phone and saw the inevitable texts from the two lying fuckers who had betrayed me.
I hadn’t realized how much I’d depended on my best friend Becs until she was gone. And I hadn’t realized how much of a distraction Jason had been until he no longer filled the empty spaces in my life, my head and my bed.
I was lonely, horny, and starting to worry about my money situation. There was a reason I didn’t like getting up in the morning.
I had a quick shower, shaved my legs and pits, and scrubbed my itchy head until it almost stung. Being stingy on soap and shampoo sucked, but I couldn’t afford to waste much these days.
The cut on my arm was healing nicely at least. I could still remember the look on my office manager’s face when she caught a good look at exposed muscle and dripping blood. I’d been fired…sorry…let go in record time. Most places at least tried to wait a few days to fire me after a brutal injury or the realization that I was different.
I half-heartedly picked at the scab and wondered how long I could fight my life. How long could I try to force myself into places I clearly didn’t belong? How did people in extreme circumstances manage to survive? I liked to believe that if I were in one of those situations I would fight to survive. Or maybe at some point my body would convince my mind to give up on itself. To give in, let the inevitable happen.
Is that what I was doing now? Giving up? I certainly hadn’t been looking that hard for work, and had just paid my rent yesterday. I had a small amount left in her savings. That gave me a solid month to survive before I had to be moved out or find employment.
Sometimes it felt as though my body simply convincing my mind to give up. I should have, by all means, given up years ago. The day I was born really.
I’d come into the world with congenital analgesia, the inability to feel pain.
As a baby I’d chewed through my own tongue a few times, bitten my lips almost completely off, and broken bones more than once or twice.
My parents had been killed in a car accident when I was thirteen, and I’d been raised by my older sister who had been nineteen at the time. She hadn’t spared one chance to let me know how much of a burden I was, or how terrible it was that I was even alive.
My sister had blamed me for our parent’s death even though logically I’d had nothing to do with it.
I’d left home at seventeen, never finished high school and never went to college in spite of my love of reading and an uncanny ability to retain information.
I’d moved from Moose Jaw to Vancouver and had ended up in Richmond a few months back.
I was now in my twenty fifth year and was completely, utterly, devastatingly directionless.
I had nobody; even Becs who had followed me from Saskatchewan was lost to me now after screwing my boyfriend. If only I hadn’t walked in on them, the image wouldn’t be burned in my mind and I might be able to forget and potentially forgive. Becs at least.
Jason, in all honesty, wasn’t a big loss in the grand scheme of things, but losing Becs cut me deep.
Still, I had to be honest, I’d dropped my guard with Jason. I’d been lulled into this strange world where he didn’t think of me as weird. I’d believed that he bought my act and thought of me as normal.
His words had rung in my ears every day since the break up, that he needed a woman who enjoyed sex.
How could I enjoy something that I couldn’t really feel? I liked sex, I just didn’t seem to have the ability to lose myself to it, release the stubborn grip my body had on my mind and let myself sore into orgasmic oblivion.
My doctors had always insisted that the pain and pleasure connection shouldn’t alter my sexual gratification, but what the fuck did they know? They weren’t connected to my pussy, and quite frankly, it seemed as dull as the rest of her skin.
Imagine trying to live your life with a layer of bubble wrap covering your body, I was like a walking sensory depravation chamber. It got to a person after a while, and right now it was really getting to me.
This is why I did stupid shit sometimes, to feel. To feel anything.
This is why I was covered in tattoos, brands and ritualistic scars. Not my face, thankfully, never my face, but from my neck down I was a piece of art. Or just a piece of work. It depended on how one looked at me.
I had piercings too, shit. I got talked into piercing my clit a couple months ago. I had hoped it would help me feel something when Jason was pounding away on top of her, but it hadn’t changed a thing.
I’d have to take it out and throw it away, to forget the asshole.
My nipples were done too, but years ago, when I was still in high school. Those were purely aesthetic, I loved the way they looked when I was naked, and I loved the hint of barbells poking through my business attire.
Business. God I needed a job.
I settled down on the laptop and cruised the job seeker websites. I’d apply for anything, but the economy was down and it was an employer’s market. I was competing for secretarial positions against people with MBAs and degrees from universities back East, and I hadn’t even graduated.
Scrolling past scam after scam and every job I’d already applied for, a brightly coloured graphic at the bottom of the page caught my eye.
I clicked on it and was taken to an external website, some kind of circus. I was about to close it when the words, “Help Wanted” flashed across the header.
I clicked it, why the fuck not?
Cirque des Curiosités was apparently a freak show of some sort, a good old-fashioned house of horrors kind of place. I’d heard of it somewhere, I had a vague recollection of a newscast or a flyer. It was something like Cirque du Soleil but with more of society’s outcasts instead of athletic beautiful people performing impossible feats of skill.
I wanted to close the page and pretend I’d never seen the employment ad, but something compelled me to stay. I had always tried so hard to be normal, to find normal work, why not take a chance and dive into the world of Freaks? I read the details of their request; they were looking for everything from concession workers to security…to performers.
As much as I wanted to earn more money for performing, there was no way in hell I’d ever get out in front of a crowd and dance around or whatever the fuck they did.
Besides, my freak was a little more hidden than the rest. To the naked eye, I appeared almost normal, which is why I could usually camouflage myself long enough to work in a respectable job.
This time it seemed it was the bad economy, not my condition that was getting in the way of me being hired. Not to mention my general malaise and overall lack of enthusiasm when filling out applications. Somehow it seemed to translate over the internet and scare potential employers away from me.
I half considered begging for my old job at the paper company back, but just couldn’t stomach the disgusted looks on everyone’s faces when they looked at me and saw dripping blood. If only I had paid more attention washing the dishes in the break room and hadn’t sliced my arm open on a broken glass, I might still be working and still convincing myself I was in love with Jason.
Would that have really been the better option?
Fuck it. I decided to submit the world’s sketchiest application, just to fulfill my recent commitment to apply for every legitimate job I came across. I didn’t even know if I’d spelled my own name correctly on the application, I’d been in such a hurry to get it over with. I might have just applied as Liv Yark instead of York, but hey, it was a submission.
After sending off a couple more, one for a Wal Mart greeter out in Coquitlam, and one for a golf ball collector at a driving range down the road from me, I flipped the laptop shut and looked around my tiny bachelor apartment.
I started to calculate the shit I could sell in order to make the rent next month. Sadly I didn’t have much, nothing more than a couple hundred bucks if folks were being generous.
Even my laptop was an old, clunky thing that still ran on a ten year old operating system. My phone was nice, I’d splurged on the latest iPhone when it had come out, but I needed a phone number for employers to contact me.
I fished around my loose change jar and came up with a couple toonies and decided to go crazy on and maybe buy a small coffee and a medium cone at McDonalds.
Right? Crazy, out of control, somebody break out the shopping police.
I walked the fifteen blocks to McDonalds, had my treat and wandered around the shopping mall watching people richer than me spend money I would never have on shit I would never want.
I was chilling out in front of a fountain that displayed repeating coloured patterns of water when my phone buzzed.
It was a text from a number I didn’t recognize.
Can you come in tomorrow at nine? We’re setting up next to BC Place.
I was thrilled to finally get a bite on a resume, but could not place the number for the life of her. I wrote back, Sorry?
Is this Olivia Yark? This is Eloise from the Cirque. You just submitted an application.
Oh shit, I had spelled my own name wrong. But they must be desperate. That could work in my favour. If they were in Vancouver for more than a couple weeks, I could use them for a paycheque to bridge the gap between this and a real job.
Sure thing, I’ll be there at nine.
Come to the ticket tent, the red and blue striped one. Ask for Orion.
Will do, thanks.
I slid the phone back in my bra and felt a small buzz of excitement. After all the resumes I’d sent out, I finally had a reply. I might just be able to afford to live after all.
I walked the short distance from the Skytrain station to the tents set up under the viaducts near BC Place Stadium. I’d always loved this area, it was a former industrial space getting crowded with overpriced high-rise apartments and specialty food markets. But it still had a feral feel to it, with impromptu skate parks and graffiti everywhere you looked.
My knee-high army boots clicked on the sidewalk and I had her hands shoved deep into my Edward Scissorhands hoodie. As I didn’t really want this job, I’d said fuck it on my wardrobe choice. They’d hire me or they wouldn’t, and given the nature of the organization, it probably didn’t mean shit to them if I dressed a little outside the corporate box.
I had to admit, I was feeling pretty desperate though. Maybe that’s why I was in such a fuck it all state of mind. I’d spent the morning going over student loan applications and trying to decide if university would be a good stand in for full time employment.
I was a little miserable at the moment, the rain matching my shitty mood. I’d scanned the entire University of British Columbia course catalogue and found zilch that seemed interesting.
In short, I guess I didn’t know what I was going to be when I grew up, and apparently I was already grown up.
I sniffled and wiped her nose on the back of my arm, catching a look of disgust from a dog walker with a ten or so purse dogs yapping on leashes strung onto her arms.
I stopped at the crosswalk and waited for the light to change. I turned back and saw the dog walker scoop up a mound of shit in a little plastic bag and shove it into her pocket.
I shot her a look of disgust to match her own, but the dog walker thrust out her chin and kept moving.
Great, dissed by a shit scooper. I must really look like I rolled out of bed on the wrong side this morning. Or the cardboard box, she might think I’m homeless given my current attire.
I walked to the ticket booth and was greeting by a huge man stuffed into a striped suit with a black top hat. His face was painted white and he had old school sad clown make up, very subtle but still leaning a little more to the terrifying than the cheerful.
Sad, murderous clown perhaps?
“Hey,” I said and he put down his paper to look at her. “I’m here to see Orion about a job.”
The clown looked me up and down, might have found me lacking as his expression didn’t change. He said, “All the showgirl positions have been filled, sorry.”
“I didn’t apply for a showgirl, I want concession or tickets.”
“Okay then you might be in luck. I think our ticket girl ran off with her loser boyfriend last night. She didn’t come in for her shift this morning which is why you have me. Why don’t I take you to see the big boss?” He smiled and stepped out of the booth.
“Sounds good,” I replied and wondered what the probability was that I’d be taken behind a tent and slaughtered by murderous sad clown dude.
Probably fairly high, but I guess wasn’t in any state to argue. Besides, who would miss me? Becs would move in with Jason and they’d never say her name aloud again.
Fuck them both in their goat eyes. I decided I was going with Captain Murdery.
He turned out to not be so much murdery as super friendly. His name was Carl, he and his life partner Dave worked for the Cirque…that’s what he called it, so score one for me already knowing an inside term. They’d been with the travelling company for over ten years. His partner worked in administration, payroll or something.
He bought me a tall mocha latte at the concession stand on the way to meet Orion. Who knew? They had a concession coffee bar that rivaled Starbucks. This was nothing like the fly by night carnivals that used to grace my hometown’s rodeo grounds once a year back in the day.
This was a professional organization, and the cleanliness, the expensive equipment, and the obvious care that went into setting up the Cirque impressed me.
“So tell me all about yourself,” Carl said as they waited for Orion to show up, “I mean, obviously your life must be rocky if you want to sign up and run away with the circus.”
“It’s fairly shitty, but it’s not that bad,” I replied, not wanting to divulge too much to this man whom she’d just met. I didn’t want him letting them know about my plan to work for a few weeks, then quit when the circus packed up to leave.
“Well, I’m sure you’ll settle in fine around here,” he said, “we need more normal folk, especially young women.”
“What do you mean normal?” I asked, a little alarmed as if he could see through her façade and glean how broken she really was.
“Normal, you know, not part of the Freakshow,” he replied, “it puts people off at the ticket booth. They know they’re coming to see something bizarre, but if the first thing they see is our dog faced boy or the Gimp, they won’t come in the front gate.”
“I guess, but it seems odd if they’re here to see the freaks, why won’t they interact with them?”
“It humanizes them, makes them too real. It’s easier to sit in the audience and watch them perform, it makes it feel a little less tragic I suppose.”
“I suppose,” I agreed and sipped her coffee.
“Holy fuck, I should have painted this smile a little more upturned at the edges. I’m sorry, I’m not usually such a moody prick, especially this early in the morning.”
I was about to let him know it was fine when a male voice boomed over my shoulder, “Bullshit, Carl. You’re always moody and you’re mostly a prick!”
“Ah, Olivia, I’d like you to meet Orion,” Carl said and motioned to the tall, elegant man behind her.
I smiled shyly and said, “Hey, you call me Liv.” He held out his hand and I shook it. There was something about him, an immediate vibe that sent my body buzzing.
He was over six feet, probably in his late thirties, but I couldn’t tell. He had an ageless quality about him, but his black hair was silver at the temples. He had deep, dark eyes and he was wearing form fitting black slacks and a white t-shirt. His body was extremely muscular, but lean and athletic, not bulging. Overall, he was pretty hot, but he made me feel wary.
“Liv, pleased to make your acquaintance,” Orion said with the slightest hint of a Spanish accent. It added to his overall exotic quality and gave me a strange a little chill up my spine when he said my name. He added, “Please excuse the less than formal attire, I have been attending our morning staff meeting. We don’t generally dress in costume for those occasions.”
I glanced and raised my eyebrows at Carl who was in full costume. He caught my look and said, “I was training somebody this morning, full face was required.”
“I didn’t mean–” I started to say but he cut her off.
“It’s okay, I know you were wondering why I was in full regalia while dear Orion here is running about the place half dressed. Let me just say that you don’t want to see me half dressed, darling. It’s not a pleasant sight. Orion though, roooowr, am I right?”
I blushed and glanced at Orion. He was watching me intently, his gaze unreadable. I suddenly felt like a mouse in front of a hawk, like he was ready to pounce. It wasn’t necessarily a sexual sensation, but more that I was a lesser creature in the presence of one who was above and beyond me.
“Never mind Carl,” Orion said and motioned for me to follow him, “let’s go to my office and we’ll discuss the position.”
Carl smiled, raised his eyebrows, mouthed the words, “Good luck”, turned and left. I trailed behind Orion, following him to a monstrous RV parked a short walk from the staff concession.
“Wow, this is really nice,” I said once were inside. I was a bit in awe at how fancy the place was but tried not to gape. It was nicer than any house or apartment I’d ever lived in. He motioned for me to sit and I settled in at the kitchen table. All I saw were marble countertops, hardwood floors, several doors down a long hallway, leather sofas and a gigantic flat screen TV mounted in the living room.
“This is my home. I travel with the Cirque ten months of each year. The other two months we’re back in Quebec working on new routines for the following year. I like the comfort,” Orion replied.
“It’s nicer than anything I’ve ever had,” I laughed and ran my hand along the wooden table. It was teak, or something like it, not that I knew anything wood, but it was definitely better quality than my own shitty pressboard kitchen set back home.
He smiled back and said, “Okay, let’s go over the position, the pay and what we expect from you.” He pulled a thin file folder from a briefcase he had on the bench next to him. I saw, “Oliva Yark” written in scrawled red felt marker at the top.
“York,” I blurted and pointed at the file, “it’s actually York.”
“Oh,” he replied and looked at the folder, “I wonder why they put Yark?”
Of course I knew why, I’d spelled my own name wrong on the application, but was too embarrassed to say. “It’s a common mistake,” is all I could think of and hoped he’d drop it after he corrected the spelling on the folder.
He did, and we spent fifteen minutes going over the basics of being a ticket taker at the front of the show.
It seemed easy enough, paid better than my last job and came with perks, like free entry to the Cirque, staff housing, and a ten-dollar daily voucher for the employee cafeteria. I was sold the moment he mentioned free food.
When we shook on it, and I agreed to come in the next day for training, he looked me right in the eye with his intense, penetrating gaze and said, “Now promise me you’re not going to work for time we’re in town and bail on us when we leave.”
I felt her face go red hot as if his gaze could seek out the lie I was telling. But I managed to stammer my reply, “Of course not. I plan on staying with the Cirque as long as you’ll have me.”
“Good girl,” he said and looked her up and down, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I felt like I’d just accomplished something, getting his approval like that. Good girl, like I was a fucking dog, but I had to admit, I’d felt the slightest electric jolt when he’d said it with that sexy accent.
I still couldn’t help thinking that he was a dangerous man though, one I should probably avoid once I started work tomorrow.
But who was I kidding, I loved risk and walking on the wild side. I’d probably seek him out, as surely as my name was Olivia Yark.
I smiled to myself at my joke and hopped on the Skytrain home, suddenly aware of the fact that I had something to look forward to for the first time in weeks. Months even.
I just wished I had somebody to share it with.