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The Coldest Flame
Clouds hung low in the sky over the huge tent sitting in the clearing. The forest was alive with lights and whispers. People, dressed in clothes that would only be seen on punk idols, marched to the looming tent. The wind ripped their breath from them and passed it to the bending trees. Branches form the trees were snapping off, but then tent was still. Not a single ripple on its enormous purple face.
It stood 70 feet tall and completely dark. Trailers, painted black and royal purple, were parked along its back and were hidden from the view of those who stood at the entrance. Drawn closed to its awaiting gusts, its opening was closed and tied shut. Zipped from 20 feet up, a lock hung at the top allowing none, inside or out, to pass through its entrance.
The people waited. They sat in huddled groups in the god forsaken wind for an hour. They waited for the long anticipated show. They heard about this ‘circus’ from a friend of a friend. Only good reviews of its cast were told. They couldn’t wait to see what was in store for them. The wind was no match for this leather cladded crowd’s excitement.
Right as the first person started to complain audibly, the wind died to a complete stop. No sound could be heard. No one dared to make a sound, for the eeriness of the forest and the ominous tent was almost hypnotizing. They almost jumped out of their skin as the tent lit up in millions of twinkling lights. Trailing from top to bottom, the lights glowed soft and sweet, ruining the scary mood of the forest.
Still the awaiting audience could still feel that others were there with them. Of course they know that there has to be others. Who would perform if there weren’t other there, but the feeling wasn’t that of people that creped in the darkness. It’s kept them alert. Even those who had their headphones still paid close attention to what was going on around them.
Some may have see him, but most didn’t. A head, that of a boy no older than 14 peeked it’s way from around one of the trailers closest to the crowd. His mess of dark hair blocked his eyes, but you could tell by what was shown from his face that he was excited about tonight’s show.
Then, without meaning to, he made eye contact with one of the audience. He was tall and pale and scare. More scared then the cast he lived with. There was something about this man that set Faris on edge. Maybe it was the fact that the tall man had fake horns or he was so skinny it rivaled that of a few of the performers, but what most scared him was the man’s eyes. So white. Like there wasn’t any different from the ring of color and the white’s of the eyes. Faris was petrified. Unable to move, he watched the man smile and wave. The shock of this gesture knocked him back into reality. It was either this or the hand that fell on his shoulder.
“Faris, tonight is a big night,” hissed the voice of Madam Alarica, “You’ve been with us a while so I think that you should perform with Sophia. When she is up you are out there too. Got that? Do not mess this up.”
Her hand squeezed his shoulder with more force than necessary. Faris didn’t move. No eye contact was made between the woman and the boy. He just kept his head down and allowed himself to be pushed back roughly into the side of the trailer.
“Well? You understand what I’m saying. Answer me,” she snarled in his ear. Faris was shaking. Her words petrified him more so than the pale man with the white eyes. He nodded his head quickly.
“Yes, Madam. I’ll go on with Sophia,” he whispered shakily. he sat there, leaning beside the trailer. He cried softly to himself for a moment. The fear that seeped from every pore on the Madam’s body was poison, but the only ones who can feel it are those who she shows her true self to.
A moment passed and his tears stopped. he couldn’t be seen like this. He wiped his face and stood up facing the cool metal. He nearly fainted when yet another hand gently touched his shoulder.
He whipped around to see the only face he ever needed to see. Sophia was standing behind him with her finger to her lips. Telling him to stay quiet. he took her hand and she led him to the back of the tent where the rest of the acrobatic cast was finishing stretching out.
“Faris, you moron,” sighed Sophia as she started up her stretching again. Full splits into a bridge, to a handstand, then back into splits. It looked more like a flip slowed down to show the exact movement of the body. She continued to talk on as she proceeded to stretch. He needed to tell her the changes to the show, but he didn’t want to worry Sophia just yet. He liked seeing her happy and annoyed and flustered. But never angry.
“You could have been seen, please tell me you weren't seen. You weren’t were you?” whispered Sophia worriedly. Faris layed back to look at the stars.
“Sorry, Fea. I was seen, but really. I don’t see why that matters. I’m going on in an hour and he’ll see me then too,” he raised his hands to touch the stars that were so far out of reach. Exhaling hot breath, he already knew what Sophia was going to say. He had this lecture before, but he couldn’t help but love how worried Sophia got for his sake.
Sophia on the other hand was tired of Faris’ thoughtless actions. She has been looking after him for years now and he hadn’t learned the golden rule: don’t go places you’re not suppose to. The one time she broke that rule she was made sure she never forgot it again.
The lecture came and as Sophia was giving her speech another speech was being given on the opposite side of the tent.
the Madam, standing taller than any other person in the clearing, draped in a cloak of pure black walked out from the shadows that clung to the side of the illuminated tent. Long and graceful steps carried her as if she didn’t touch the ground as he cloak billowed behind her. Once she arrived in front of the entrance she stopped and turned to the crowds of people before her.
“Welcome!” she cried. Her voice, strong and enticing, carried far over the people. The Madam caught the attention of all those who were not paying her attention and thoroughly captured the ears and minds of those who were.
“Tonight I have the pleasure of granting you access to this great show. Our cast would like to thank you from the bottoms of their hearts!” She raised her arms in the air for dramatic effect. This action pushed back her cloak and revealed her body. A robust woman, she was. Pail and tall, she clothed herself in camouflage trousers and a black top that showed her taut stomach. She wiped her hair, bleached blond and cut short, out of her eyes as she continued her speech.
“Many shows we have put on for the general public, but tonight we have something genuinely special for just you. What you are about to see is a spectacle only for the strong of will. This show will scare you, haunt you, and stay with you for the rest of your days. And for any of those who enjoy it, we welcome you to our family. Now,” she continued taking a serious tone. Her audience of less than a hundred gathered around her, clinging to her every word.
“There are guidelines you must follow,” she continued, “Rule number one: no photography. We would like to keep from spoiling the surprise of our show for any soul who has yet to see it. Rule number two: there will be no throwing of any substances into the ring. It will be thrown back at you. Lastly, rule number three: under no circumstance will you leave your set. Once you have found a spot stay there until the show ends. Wandering off during the performance is a danger I do not want any of you to be exposed to. And help all who do not listen.”
There was false worry in her voice. She sounded like she was offering up a dare. There was always one in the crowd that heard the last rule like this and there is always one that except that challenge of defying her.
“Now,” she yelled with a wicked grin on her face, “let the show begin!”
On her cue, the entrance flaps flew open with a rush of wind and a spray of color and light. Music flowed from the tent drawing the people in for the magnificent show they were promised. They rushed in to find a ring side set, which all the seats were. Everyone could see perfectly. They could see the grass on which the performers would walk. They saw the high wires swaying back and forth and the tight rope that hung loose from its two poles. They saw everything that the Master wanted them to see. And now what the Master wanted them to see were two girls, young and smiling, skipping into the middle of the ring. Hand and hand, they waved to the crowd before them and bowed.
Let the show begin.
Faris could hear the music starting from inside so could Sophia. Faris could feel a shiver of excitement run through him. Or was it something else? He could never tell.
There were many other cast members behind the tent with Faris and Sophia. Flipping and tumbling on the soft grass. It was nice out tonight. The clouds floated slowly and the stars shined bright. Along with the soft glow of the exterior lights of the tent, it almost looked nice to be here. Faris continued to walk by some of the disfigured cast until he found her. She was walking on her hands on the ground next to a low rope stretching ten feet across. Her dark hair was uncharacteristically tied up in a tight braid hanging past her waist and she has yet to change into her costume.
“Almost done warming up, Fea?” Faris watched as she slowly let herself fall into a full split as she turned to him.
“Almost, but I think I’m still a bit sore from last week’s show. Could you help me with my back?” She stood up and gave a bit of a twirl. Faris always helps Sophia when it comes to performance prep. It’s just been that way for the past eight years. He cracked her back with a symphony of snaps along her spine. She thanked him and went right back to stretching out.
“So, any changes to tonight’s routine? I hope so,” she said with a grunt as she went into a bridge, “because it would be so nice of the Master if he could just let us run this show smoothly.”
Faris didn’t want to spoil her dreams of an easy show, but what Madam says is law among the cast.
“I wish. Sorry to say, Fea, but there is a slight change to the show. You and I are going on together,” he said sheepishly. He didn’t want to tell her, but it was necessary at this point. Sophia’s eyes gave a slight flicker of panic. She knew what Faris’ act was. She has memorized is every action when he performs, and now she has to worry about him. Faris saw her look.
“Sophia, please, I’ll be careful. Don’t worry about anything. Just focus on your rope and you’ll be fine,” he reassured her with a slight pat on the head. She went back into the slits and thought through the act. Once she decided that it was possible to not get killed she gave a small sigh and smiled at him. They were the best of friends and quite possibly the only set of friends in this entire show.
“Oh! I almost forgot!” Sophia said suddenly. She was brimming with happiness as she rummaged in her deep pants pockets for what she was looking for. When she finally found it she presented it to Faris.
“It’s for you! A gift for being with me for eight years. I couldn’t get you one for every year, but this will have to do.” She was holding an earring.
A blood red stone sat in polished silver. It was one of the most beautiful things he has ever seen. Sophia, once a year, steals a piercing from the crowd and uses it as a marking for the years. She keeps track of her age with every piece of metal she collects. She has fourteen so far. The majority of them in her ears, but a few are scattered on her face. In Faris’ mind, there was nothing more gorgeous than seeing all those piercings, with their polished metal and precious gemstones twinkle in the stage lights while Sophia was dancing on the high wire.
“I-I-I don’t know what to say! Thank you so much, Fea! It’s beautiful,” exclaimed Faris as he took his gift. He was about to put it in his pocket when Sophia gave a disapproving tut.
“Aren’t you going to put it in? I went through all that trouble to borrow it from that mane with the creepy demon costume and you aren’t even going to put it in? I’m ashamed of you,” she said mockingly. Sophia snatched the jewelry form Faris and took him by the ear. Quickly as she could she stabbed the needle through his ear lobe and connected the back piece.
“Ow!” screamed Faris. It really didn’t hurt as much as his voice let on. He was just surprised when his friend decided to stab him. the silver stood out better than she thought against his dark skin. “What was that for?”
“Good luck. I think you’ll need it tonight,” chirped Sophia. Faris rubbed his now throbbing ear. There wasn’t any actual pain, but it was numb. He wasn’t sure if this was going to throw him off during his performance. He told himself it wouldn’t. They sat together on the grass talking about their routine and how they were going to pull this off, when suddenly Erika, a Dueler, sprinted to them with mild panic on her face.
“Guys, you’re on in two minutes! Get ready!” She was yelling at them from a distance, and with her helmet on, her words were garbled, but the two children could hear her perfectly. They rushed to get Sophia dressed and ready. Then Faris and Sophia were off.
Faris want to his trunk and grabbed his juggling pins, torches, and knives. Sophia followed suit helping him carry his props and they both rushed to the entrance to the ring. they were the fifth set of performers. First were the Dolls, then the Duelers, the Puppets, and then the Twins. They were being carried off when the two children were introduced.
“And next for your viewing pleasure,” boomed the disembodied voice of the Master. It was deep, ageless, and even more captivating than the Madam’s.
“Two children, immensely talented and courageous in their talent. One in the air and one on fire. I give you Pluto and Nymph!”
There was silence in the crowds as they took the stage. Faris slowly started to juggle his pins as Sophia climbed the pole to the high wire. He added another then another till he was up to five pins, two knives and a torch. Sophia waited patiently at the top ready on the wire. All were focused on Faris.
Then the music started. Spot lights followed Sophia as she ran on the rope. Doing things that should be impossible, but she did them anyway. Flips and jumps and spins. She was doing things that most gymnasts could hardly do on the ground, but on a thin wire sixty feet in the air. She’s been on the high wire ever since she could remember. The high wire was the one place she felt safe from the rest of the show. This, up in the air, was her home.
The crowd gasped as she allowed herself to fall past the rope. She grabbed at it and made a full circle around the wire and perched there on her hands. Her back was arched to an impossible angle and a smile, that truly of a child, was set on her face. Applause roared up to her. This was the one of the few moments she lived for. Now it was Faris’ turn.
Spot lights were now on him. He set down his instruments, all but the torch. He wasn’t allowed to make it look completely natural. He inhaled, and held his breath for a moment. He built up the anticipation in the crowd. Some even got bored with him, but then he let out his breath. Fire was sent shooting in a column twenty feet up. The tent erupted in cheers and heat. The fire just kept coming from Faris’ lungs as he continued to blow out his flames.
Sophia was left on the wire above the fire. She wasn’t scare of it reaching her, but of the massive amount of heat that was sent up her way. She was seen the tent catch fire from Faris before and now she is right above him with no net under her. The first wave was unbearable, but she stayed on her wire. Holding on with both hands and feet in the air.
“Pluto!” she cried to him, but he didn’t hear her. She continued to call out his stage name in hopes her voice would eventually reach him. That he would remember that his heat actually burned, but he was too far gone in the show to remember. So he kept performing like the stage was all his and his alone.
Faris inhaled again and continued to breath his fire. This time the fire was a scorching blue, then a green, then almost a white. The crowds always loved him the most. The beauty of the flames was incredible. No mere ‘fire breather’ could do anything close to his natural gifts. The fire was produced in him then released at his command. Again and again he let it loose using the torch to make it look like he was doing it the ‘traditional’ way. He was in the moment when he heard a scream. He didn’t burn the crowd, did he? He thought of what he did, and then he remembered. Sophia. He looked up and yelled her name. She didn’t respond. Over and over he tried to call, but there was no answer.
“Nymph! Answer me? Move! Please!” He shouted to her again and again, but there she was on the wire. She fainted from the heat and the burns. She was hanging on the wire by one hand. Her instincts wouldn’t let her let go. She didn’t want to die. Not now. She couldn't die at the hands of her only friend. Her body fought on even when her mind was blank.She been doing this too long to just fall.
The crowds were on their feet screaming her stage name trying to reach her. Some thought it was an act and some knew it real, but all were participating in the chanting. Then for the first time ever, a shriek was heard. Not one of shock or discuss, but of actual terror. Sophia fell.
“Sophia!” cried Faris as he ran to her as she fell. She was falling. He never saw her fall before. He was scared and angry.
They made us go on at once, he thought as time slowed, they knew this would happen.
Then quiet. Sophia reached the ground with the most sickening of sounds. Faris was too slow. Nothing was heard. From Sophia, from the crowd, from the cast, or from Faris’ heart. All was silent. He collapsed to his knees and lifted her bloody head.
“Sophia,” he whispered as he shook her softly, “wake up. We still have to perform. Sophia. Please. Wake up.”
He held her. Sorrow over flowed and clutched his heart. His life line was laying there in his arms bloodied, burned, and broken and he put her there.
“I’m sorry. So sorry. Sorry,” he repeated louder and louder. That’s when screams erupted from the crowds and when the sorrow turned to anger and then to untamable burning rage. Fire shot from the boy’s mouth as he screamed out his heart. He threw back his head and cursed all that was around him. Tears flooded from his eyes as his fire reached towards the crowd. Anything in his fire’s path lit up and burned instantly. Most of the crowd wasn’t lucky enough to escape. Along with the cast that tortured him and his beautiful Sophia, the Master that stole him from his family all those years ago and turned anyone he wanted into a hideous monster to perform for people who paid to mock them, and Madam Alarica who took away Sophia’s parents and forced the girl to raise herself in a hell that wasn’t fit for the lowest of demons. They all burned. They all turned to ash.
The night went on without another sound. The forest was quiet and the air smelled of smoke. Faris was left with the body of his beloved. His fire never touch what he didn’t what burned, but sometimes what he didn’t want burned steps into the fire anyway. He walked through the forest cold and tired. Sophia’s body was still warm with the burns she was given on the high wire. Faris was alone in the dark, but at least he was away from the freak show he was met to rot in.
Hours passed as he stumbled through the dark forest. He called Sophia’s name over and over hoping beyond possibility that she will answer back. She’s always called back to him. She always made sure to answer him so he wouldn’t feel alone, but now she was silent and he was alone.
He felt nothing. Not even his hot breath that tried to warm him and Sophia’s corps. She was starting to get heavy. Really heavy. His arms were giving out and his feet were bleeding. He wanted it all to go away. He fell to his knees and held his friend in his arms.
“I’m so sorry,” he wept, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. I messed up.”
All this came out as no more than a whisper. He no longer called her name. He heard a long time ago, though he wasn’t sure where he heard it, that the dead can hear whispers better because those who are willing to whisper to them truly want them back. Again and again he asked for forgiveness.
“I’m so sorry, my Sophia,” he whimpered as he buried his face in her neck and long dark hair. Her tie must have come loose when she fell. Now it cascaded down her back and lay on the forest floor. He started to run his fingers through the hair that he has always admired. Longer than anything he’s ever seen and so red and dark it almost looked black. How he wished it was warm again.
“I would give anything have you back,” he cried. He never believed in miracles, but just this once he was willing to believe.
A voice appeared out of no were. No foot steps and no breath. Faris didn’t want anyone near him. They were going to hurt Sophia again.
“GET BACK!” he screamed as he blow fire in the direction of the voice. He incinerated all in his fires way in a blindingly hot column of white fire. His eyes were wide with fear and his body was shaking with anger.
“Bro, you’re going to have to try a little harder than that to roast me. I’m use to a little more intense heat. So you did say anything, right?”
Another burst of flames. This stranger wasn’t burning. Another and another blast of fire escaped from the boys mouth. He continued till the trees behind the stranger were in sinerated and there was nothing left of the forest floor but ash. Faris paused a moment from exhaustion. the stranger was still there and was walking towards him.
He was tall and unnaturally white with black hair spiked to a point. Piercings were everywhere on this mans face and ears and strange tattoos marked his skin. He was dressed the same way all the other audience members were: black everywhere, metal studded the jacket he was wearing and ivory was etched into his boots and gloves. Faris didn’t see any of these details all he was concerned about was if this man was going to hurt him and his Sophia. He also didn’t notice that this man had a silver earing. One polished bright and held a dark red stone. Exactly like the one Faris received earlier. This unusual man also had disturbing eyes. White eyes.
He continued to approach till he was kneeling right beside Faris and Sophia’s body. Faris growled animalistically at him. A sound he never expected to hear from him self.
“Calm down, boy,” chuckled the man, “I’m not here to hurt you. You did say anything, correct? You’d give anything to have your darling dearest back, right. She’s the only one that cared for you, worried for you, loved you. And you roasted her alive and made her fall, what? 60 feet to her death? I’d say that you killed the only person that ever loved you.”
This man said everything that Faris didn’t want to hear. His tears blurred his vision so badly he couldn’t see the dark horns sticking out of this man’s hair.
“Answer me, boy!”
Faris gave a yelp. He was too scared to talk so he nodded his head. This man, who ever he was, reminded him of the Madam, but a younger and male version of the woman who stole away his life.
“Great!” laughed the man, he clapped his head and got sat completely down next to Faris. Darkness seemed to pool at this mans feet.
“You just agreed with me that you’d give anything to bring her,” he pointed a long bony finger at Sophia’s body, “back. So, that’s why I here. I’m willing to make a deal with you. How about it? I can give you her back in exchange for something. Nothing to important. You’ve been living your entire life without it so you won’t miss it at all. How about it?”
“Done,” was all that Faris could manage in his weak voice. A miracle has been thrown at him and he was willing to take it. He would give up anything and everything to have her back. If only for a moment.
“Alright!” shouted the man as he jumped up, “The deal is struck and made. Now all we have to do is proof of transaction and we’re in the clear. So how ‘bout it son? Willing to deal?”
The man extended his hand to Faris. He took in and screamed in pain. Heat seared through his hand, down his arm, and flooded into his entire body. Every inch of him felt like it was dieing. This is what it much feel like to get burned. A moment later it was over. The man stood there and smiled at his handy work. A wicked smile slithered across his face as he look down at the collapsed children he just made a deal with. Nothing like have a hidden ace up his sleeve for when he needs it.
“W-what was that?” stuttered Faris. Confusion grasped him. There were too many emotions swirling around in him. He wanted to die, but he had to find out if the pain he just endured would really bring back Sophia.
“That my, my dear fire breather, was me sealing a deal. No I promised to give her back. You just dealt away something that belong to both you and her, but don’t worry, it’s nothing much, but I will be collecting it. Not now, but eventually,” he said with a smile. As kind as it was, Faris couldn’t help but feel even more scared. he was still shaking and crying. The tears haven’t stopped and it was getting hard to breath.
The man started to walk away. With his back turned he waved to the two children still lying on the ground.
“Wait!” yelled Faris as loudly as his little hoarse voice would let him. The man stopped, but didn't turn around. Faris could only think of one question to ask the man.
“What’s you name?”
The man paused and turned towards the scared child. His pride was too much for him. he just sealed a deal and he got two pawns at his disposal. He bowed deep to Faris.
“My name is Ro. It was a pleasure to have met you, Faris. We will be seeing each other again, and next time I’ll have the pleasure to meet young Sophia. So until then I bid you farewell.”
The tall man, Ro, then winked one of his cold white eyes and he fell straight down into the ground, like the earth swallowed him. Faris was stunned. What did he just witness? Then he turned his attention back to the corps in his arms. She was still cold.
He dealt something of their way. He didn’t know what, but he was promised Sophia back, so why isn’t she alive.
“Sophia! Come back! You’re suppose to be alive now! Wake up!” he creamed at her. Cold were the hands of despair as they wrung his heart out. Shouted at her over and over to wake up. he screamed and cried till daybreak lit up the forest. He yelled her name until he coughed up blood. He couldn’t feel anything. he hugged her close and held her there for hours. the sun rose and set. All day he held her. Crying to her and mumbling incoherent words. Then the sun set. he hadn't moved from that spot. He couldn’t move. He need her back. He was promised her back.
“Sophia,” he whispered one last time. he knew he was going to die without her. So he whispered his goodbyes to her. Then he felt something. Something warm and soft and gentle. A hand on his back. He pulled away and saw the most beautiful sight. There in the light of the setting sun, his Sophia was looking back at him. Dark eyes shined bright and her skin was warm once again.
“Faris,” she replied weakly, “don’t go.”
Tears streamed down his face as he again held her tight.
“Never. I’m never leaving your side.”
He held her. All night he held her, not believe in the miracle that was given to him. He didn’t care about anything. His bleeding feet, his sore throat, or his stinging eyes. All he cared about was his beautiful Sophia that he had back. He forgot about everything. his sorrow, his anger, his despair, and his deal. It all didn’t matter anymore. Sophia was with him and nothing in the world could take her away from him again.