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Mr. Aramate's Wonderous Emporium of the Soul: Part Four


by herdygerdy

--------

      Annie had long loved her little cottage. Not just the insides, but its position as well. From her perch in her armchair she had a perfect view out her window to the county field. When her knees had begun to fail and she’d been unable to visit the faire any longer her window had allowed her to keep living the experience through others. Year after year she watched the lines of people heading in, and heard their whoops and cries of joy.

      But this year, the sight brought her no joy whatsoever. She’d woken the morning before to see the big top being erected, nearly blotting out the sun with its size. She'd barely slept at all that night, even though her old bones had ached. The vision of the Lutari ringmaster haunted her every movement. She hadn't seen him - but then most of the activity seemed to be undernearth the fabric of the big top where she couldn't see.

      She’d seen the sign though. Mr. Aramate’s Wonderous Emporium of the Soul. It sounded ostentatious enough, that was for sure. But Annie's memory was so fuzzy about everything but the Lutari, she couldn't remember if it was the same name as ninety years ago or not. For all she knew all circuses had silly names like that.

      She’d asked after the identity of the circus master when another of her granddaughters, Pauline, had come visiting to deal with Annie’s lunch. She hadn’t been forthcoming, and in fact to Annie had seemed downright evasive on the subject. It wasn't until the following night, the night of the faire, when she passed Annie's house that the old woman realised why. She, along with her family, were heading to the faire - Pauline just hadn't wanted to admit it in front of her grandmother.

      Annie watched, crestfallen, as more and more of her relatives, both close and distant, passed her front gate heading towards the county field. It seemed most of Halfcastle Forge was turning out to see the show. Ninety years of Annie's warnings appeared to have been for nothing.

      She tried to tell herself she was being silly, that it must be a different circus. But try as she might, all the shadows in her front room seemed to grow longer and look more like the Lutari ringmaster.

***

      Mary tried not to look at Old Annie's cottage as her and her family passed the front gate. Somehow, she thought of attending the circus as some sort of betrayal. Mary had been worried about it all day, convinced that as they went passed Annie would leap out of her front door and shout at them. The poor nine year old Wocky had already rehearsed an excuse - she was being forced to go by her parents, under threat of grounding. And that was practically worse than death. Annie had to understand that. She just had to.

      Thankfully, Annie hadn't suddenly regained full use of her legs and Mary was able to pass unheeded. Outside the county field, Mary’s family met up with Peter’s. The young Gelert was hopping from one foot to the other in excitement. Nearby, the two George Marlins were talking about the sign that now hung over the field’s entrance.

      “See, it’s Mister ‘Arry-mate’s Emporium,” George Marlin Senior was saying, pointing his Techo finger at the sign.

      “No, no, no, dad,” George Marlin Senior, the slightly younger Techo said. “It’s pronounced Arry-mart-ay. It’s posher.”

      George Senior had, before his retirement, been an English teacher. He wasn't about to take that lying down.

      “If it’s Arry-mart-ay, there should be an accent above the E,” he said. “Don’t you start lecturing me, boy, I learned my words in Brightvale.”

      “Mum said you learned your words from a travelling library,” George Junior replied with a smirk. “And many of them weren't polite.”

      George Senior scowled at that.

      “You know what your mother is like with tall tales,” George Senior said, failing to mask the fact that he was suddenly blushing. “It’s Arry-mates, and that's that.”

      “We’ll see if that's that,” George Junior said. “Just you wait.”

      The pair of them passed under the sign and into the carnival. The combined families of Mary and Peter followed not long after. Mary, being nine, was given stewardship over Peter for the night, but the pair of them were very firmly instructed not to get into any trouble. Mary gave her mother a look that very plainly said she never got into any trouble, but then gave a sigh towards Peter, who was already running off to look at a fire breathing Meerca.

      The pair of them gradually mingled into the crowds and slowly Mary felt her worries disappearing. They got some candy floss from an Elephante lady with a long brown beard, and sat watching a Blumaroo magician pull Snowbunnies from his hat while they ate it. Peter almost walked straight into a pair of Kaus juggling boxes between them, and behind them a Lenny was walking on stilts under his suit that made him look as tall as three men together.

      They ventured into a hall of mirrors that stretched them and squashed them and made them disappear in their own reflections. Mary thought herself lost in the place for a moment, with the laughter of Peter surrounding and confusing her, but she eventually found her way out and saw the Gelert waiting on the grass outside.

      By then the crowds were starting to mill towards the big top, and it was time for the main show. Mary and Peter found their parents and joined the line heading inside. They tent was large, bigger than the town hall even. Seats had been put up to completely surround the performance circle in a scaffold. Mary and Peter found seats enough for both of their families together near the top of one of the scaffolds. Far away from the ring side, but high enough so that they would have the best view of the gymnasts who were bound to swing about in the air above them.

      When at last the stands were full, the lights were dimmed apart from a single spotlight placed on the tent flap that led backstage. At once, the ringmaster exploded outwards into the ring. He was a brown Lutari in red with gold lining, a thin moustache curled up around his lips.

      “Madames and moisseurs!” he called exuberantly. “Ladies and gentleman! Boys and girls! Welcome one and all to Mr. Aramate’s Wonderous Emporium of the Soul!”

      Somewhere down in the stands Mary heard George Marlin Junior say something rather loudly to his father.

      “See? Arry-mart-ay!”

      “Tonight we will whisk you away from zis pale face of Neopia,” Aramate continued. “To a world filled with magic and excitement. You will see such sights zat you will not believe your eyes. You will laugh, you will cry! And you will be astounded! Witness! Witness the circoos!”

      That seemed to signal the end of Aramate’s speech, as at his final words more spotlights turned on and music began to boom from nowhere. Jugglers riding unicycles same out from backstage, making a circuit around the ring and swapping the clubs they were juggling between each other half way.

      At the same time, an overgrown Ettaphant from the Lost Desert came out - easily the size of a carriage. It trumpeted loudly with each of its two heads, each ridden by a twin Kyrii nestled between its ears. Other gymnasts followed, some walking on logs, others tumbling and somersaulting as they came. There must have been about a dozen of them, and as they reached the far end of the ring they formed into a pyramid, and then the top one, an Aisha, somersaulted backwards onto the back of the Ettaphant as it passed.

      A pair of fire breathing Meercas had taken up the other half of the ring, swirling the fire into curious and outlandish shapes. They lit a ring of wire as they went, and at the other end of the ring a Bruce launched himself out of a cannon, right through the burning ring.

      A host of Chia clowns of all colours spilled out from behind the curtain, stumbling and falling onto each other as they went, blowing horns and splashing each other with water and confetti. The ringmaster, Aramate was back, snapping a whip at a large Noil. The beast obeyed him, first jumping onto a chair before making its way back into its cage and being wheeled away. The magician Blumaroo from outside was sawing a Grundo in half, while above him a pair of Yurbles were spinning and jumping between trapezes.

      The audience’s breath was taken away with ever fresh act that emerged. None of them had ever seen anything like this, not even those from out of town who had seen circuses before. It was a wonder, and every face in the crowd was hutterly, hopelessly fixed on the ring.

      Except one.

      Mary glanced down for only an instant, but she noticed that Peter was gone. For a moment she considered saying something to his parents, until she remembered she had been put in charge of looking after him. She didn't much care for the thought of being told off for letting him wander about. Instead, she slipped down from her seat and crawled away on all fours to keep herself low and out of the crowd’s view.

      She caught sight of the red Gelert’s tail disappearing down the end of the row, and gave chase. She finally caught up to him at the end of the scaffold, finding him lowering himself down towards the floor.

      “Peter!” she hissed as loudly as she dared. “What are you doing!?”

      “Exploring!” Peter shouted back, but no one but Mary heard him over the noise of the circus’s music.

      “You’ll get us both into trouble!” Mary hissed. “Come back up here! Peter! Peter!

      The Gelert dropped to the floor, ignoring her. Mary gave an exasperated sigh and climbed over the scaffold to clamber down herself. She reached the floor to find Peter disappearing underneath a section of canvas. Mary followed, finding herself amongst the boxes and storage containers for the various acts - they had arrived backstage.

      “Peter!” she hissed at the Gelert in front of her. “We shouldn't be back here.”

      Peter gave her a look that marked her as a coward.

      “Your friend is right,” a fresh voice said. “But more than that, you shouldn't be here at all.”

      To be continued…

 
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Other Episodes


» Mr. Aramate's Wonderous Emporium of the Soul: Part One
» Mr. Aramate's Wonderous Emporium of the Soul: Part Two
» Mr. Aramate's Wonderous Emporium of the Soul: Part Three
» Mr. Aramate's Wonderous Emporium of the Soul: Part Five
» Mr. Aramate's Wonderous Emporium of the Soul: Part Six
» Mr. Aramate's Wonderous Emporium of the Soul: Part Seven



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