The End of the Tour

Prompt Day #350: A sword swallower withdraws his dangerous blade from his throat…and finds something unexpected impaled on the tip.

 

End of the Tour

                There was a time when being a freak was enough. People would pay just to come look at you. Living was easy then. But nothing lasts forever, so they say. I’ve been part of the freak show since I was a kid. “Fattest Kid of Earth”, then I grew into the “Fattest Girl on Earth” now, I’m just the token Fat Lady and I am nothing compared to the women on TV reality shows. I’m more of a cliché now, and expectation. There wasn’t much any of us could do. Times change. The eighties came along and brought horror movies with freakish monsters and so much blood and gore that a Fat lady, The Alligator skin man, the tall man, the little Jack Horner (our show’s answer to Tom Thumb), the tattooed freak and the bearded lady weren’t worth the fifty cents extra to see us behind the curtain.

If we wanted to stay relevant we had to put on a show. No more standing while a curious public ogled at us. We had to do something about it. I learned to ride a unicycle, the tall man walked on stilts, Little Jack Horner took yoga and became a contortionist (his show is still the most popular today. No one believes there could possibly be a human being in that tiny box they cart out on stage!). The bearded lady sings opera, The Tattooed Freak pounds nails into his head. The Alligator man, though, well he took it the hardest. He started hearing voices. He was always wandering around the tent talking to himself. Sometimes he would breakdown into sobs, but other days he’d manage to hold it together while we all brain stormed on what exactly he could learn to do.

As the posters on the tents faded, so did Alligator Man’s sanity. Gradually he grew more and more despondent and began sleep walking. I remember the night I awoke to find him staring down at me. He had a kitchen knife in his hand. I woke him up with my screams and he dropped the weapon. It wasn’t long after that particular incident that he called us all together and announced he’d decided to become a sword swallower.

Needless to say we were all concerned since he had no experience that we knew of and more importantly, none of us at this point liked the idea of Al having access to large, sharp weaponry. Not after his sleep walking incidents (since I finally broke down and told the group, I’d found out that Al had visited more than just me with his knives.) But there was no stopping him and he was the happiest we’d seen him in a long time. We couldn’t bear to tell him no.

So, we took turns bunking in his tent at night and watching him during practice. And he got pretty good. But he also got worse. He quit interacting with us at all, he barely even realized we were there. He talked to voices in his head and muttered incomprehensible responses to himself. He quit eating, barely slept, and swallowed longer and longer swords.

The day he announced that he was officially ready to perform was the first day he’d acknowledged our existence in his world since the sleep-walking. We thought maybe he had turned a corner, maybe it had all just been a terrible state of depression. Al got a new sign courtesy of us. We designed and painted it and his was the brightest, most colorful poster on the tent. The Tattooed Freak played barker all day drawing in a crowd the likes of which we hadn’t seen since Fred Krueger reared his ugly mug.

We all opened for him and with each act, we brought out more impressive sharp edged metal phalluses for Al to gobble down. The crowd roared as he extended his head as far back as he could to take on long blades down to their hilt. It was fairly impressive. I remember all of us standing off to the side of the stage, arms crossed, watching our dear old friend in his moment of glory.

Al stepped off to the other side of the stage and came back with an impossibly lengthy rapier. We gasped. This was truly dangerous. I couldn’t see any way he would be able to get that swallowed without inflicting some GI damage. I started out. I’d had enough. He was clearly unstable and if we stood there letting him attempt this stunt, then we were as good as murderers.

“With this rapier, I will end my tour. I hope you have all enjoyed my show, but it will be the last.” He announced and pulled the sword from its sheath.

“Al, No!” I said

“Katra zil shukil, Thal’kituun” Al said in a deeply serious voice. I stepped back, it frightened me. Al threw his head back and rammed the sword down his gullet. The crowd oohed and awed. We freaks waited for him to drop dead. I had, by this point, decided that Al had a brain tumor and this was a suicide attempt. That would certainly explain his strange behavior.

He stood though, arms outstretched in a dramatic flair; he bent ninety degrees at the waist and the crowd went wild. I watched for the blade to poke out of his backside but it didn’t. I relaxed; we all did. He straightened up and began to pull the rapier out of his esophagus. It came slowly and I saw him struggle a bit. He was wiggling it as if it was jammed inside him.

He was gagging now, Tattooed Man and The Tall Man rushed out and grabbed the hilt of the sword. They both pulled and Al gagged more. It was a morbid version of the Sword in the Stone. Al began to hack and cough. Suddenly the sword came free but it did not give up entirely. There was something impaled on its tip. I thought at first it was his own stomach. I grimaced. But then I saw Al and he looked ok. Pale, but ok.

Then someone in the crowd screamed and mass chaos ensued. The thing on the end of the sword was not a “thing”. It was a creature and while it was driven through with the blade, it was by no means dead. It growled and gnashed its teeth. The things eyes were red embers and its skin was black as tar. Tattoo and Tall began to stomp it, while Al looked on with a dreamy, far-away look on his face.

“I’m free” he said almost too quiet to be heard, but I had long since stopped watching the two men flatten Al’s inner demon and instead watched Al as he realized he’d been emancipated. “There’s no more voices, no more doubt, no more hatred.” He smiled. “I think I’ll go now.”

Al walked off the stage and out of the carnival freak show forever.

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