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The brittle autumn leaves crackle and break on the forest floor beneath the weight of his large white feet. The moon is full tonight, but its light is hidden by the thick foliage of the old forest. Over many years, the branches of the trees here have grown and intertwined. Together, they form a dense canopy allowing only the faintest rays to seep through the tangled mass of ruddy leaves. With their scattered light, the twisted foliage creates eerie patterns of shadows on the ground .
He can't afford to be late. Not today. It's unlike him to lose track of so much time. It was mid afternoon when he went on a walk, seeking to escape the raucous commotion of the caravans and tents. He hasn't been away for that long, has he? Only an hour, maybe less. Suddenly, he stops, peering into the night sky. Judging by the position of the moon, it's nearly eleven-thirty. Where has he been? He looks away, shakes his head, and continues running onward. Normally, he would be quite concerned about a loss of time in such magnitude, but any inkling of concern fades away before it can fully manifest as the lamplights of the fairgrounds faintly glimmer on the horizon. Almost there.
He finally reaches the massive gates of the wall encircling the fairground. He pauses momentarily, in awe of the intricate carnival scene forever fixed in wrought iron. He squeezes his furry round body through a small opening near the bottom of the gate and falls through to the other side. The cool night air is laden with the sweet aroma of cotton candy, caramel apples, and elephante ears. Dozens of dimly lit vendor and games kiosks dot the dusty roads, but there's not a soul in sight. "They must all be inside the main pavilion." he thinks to himself, and races onward.
Arriving at the pavilion moments later, he's stumbles through the rear entrance and is met by a small pink elephante. She spares no time for greeting nor reproach, quickly helps him into his costume, and shoves him towards the curtain separating the staging area from the arena. The ringmaster's voice booms as he introduces the final act. The small jubjub pauses once again, taking a few deep breaths, and caerfully makes his way out into the arena.
It's his very first performance. His one chance to be the star he's always dreamed of being. The lights go dim, and a spotlight is shown down upon the first ring. He nervously counts each step as he nears it, while the audience sits in anticipatory silence. In the center of the ring, is a large silver cannon, painted with golden stars and red flames. Donning a matching silver helmet and boots, he hops onto a platform and situates himself inside the cannon.
He squeezes his eyes shut as the scent of smoke slowly fills the space around him. Perhaps, perhaps he could still be a juggler? And with that thought he is shot through the air, the boom of the explosion reverberating throughout his entire body. Four rings suddenly appear within his path, each smaller then the next, and are set ablaze. He's streaks through the air like a silver comet, flies through each ring in the blink of an eye, and lands in the middle of a net at the far side of the arena.
Rolling onto the ground from the net, he sways and staggers a bit, but manages a short bow. For a moment, the silence lingers, but is broken by the roaring applause and cheers from the crowd. A little sketchy on the landing, but an otherwise flawless routine. A grin the would spread from ear to ear, if he had them, appears on his usually placid face as he bows again an again amidst a shower of flowers and adulation.
Overcome by joy of his accomplishment, he closes his eyes again to listen to the delightful din, but senses something strange. The cheers begin to change, growing sharper and louder as every second passes. Soon they are transformed completely. No longer shouts of excitement, but screams and shrieks of fear. He opens his eyes, and stumbles backwards in dismay by the dizzying scene before him. Mayhem has erupted as the show is invaded and the fairgoers and performers are under assault.
The faces of the attackers are covered in white paint. Their bulbous noses a are crimson red, and their eyes glow a
sinister green as each seeks out its quarry. The baleful laughter of these grotesque clowns can be heard above the
screams of the terrified crowd. The jubjub turns and bolts under the bleachers, as he's spotted by a duo of crazed
attackers. No more thoughts of stardom and fame. There's nothing now but escape. Off comes a silver boot, then another,
as he's grabbed and tripped by a ghastly foe. Kicking one off onto the ground, he runs faster than he's ever run before.
Never stopping, never looking back. Through the panic-stricken throng crowding the streets. Past the gates, whose once
amusing carnival scene had morphed into a mirror of the grim spectacle behind him, and into the forest where the moon now
shines through the gnarled branches with a burning red light.
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