The Starlight Circus (May 2021)

By Max Carrey

Marcy’s dreams started out tasting of sadness and salt, like they had for some nights past. But this night was different, for a Stardust Fairy flew in through the cracked window and blew sweet nothings into her ear, which led her somewhere new.

It felt real, as if she were awake. The rich navy of the night sky was a wide expanse above her, and the soles of her shoes were planted firmly on the earth.

“I’m-I’m standing!” she yelled in a fit of giggles, twirling in delight.

Then something in the distance caught her eye. A big top tent, but instead it was completely clear. If it weren’t for the smell of sticky caramel apples, buttery popcorn, and flurry of colors streaking across the circus grounds she just might have missed it.

She ran, feeling the whoosh of air rush past her skin and tousle her curls. Then, upon coming within reach, she saw exactly what those splashes of color were that flitted about.

A trapeze artist swung between bars, as a flash of yellow. A blue and green polka-dotted clown pranced and honked noses. An orange clad juggler balanced on tippy toe, while throwing fireballs into the sky. A tightrope walker traversed while daring jumps, in a burst of fuchsia pink. And finally a magician, who wore a sparkling silver coat, waved his wand, casting fireworks to blast at the top of the tent and rain down candy.

“Hello there Marcy!” a chipper voice sounded, and turning around she saw the slight frame of a young girl, not that much older than herself, except she had a golden glow and spritely wings that fluttered, letting her fly through the air.

“Who are you?”

“I’m the Stardust Fairy,” she replied, taking Marcy’s hand and leading her inside the tent, where the performers all hurried up to greet her. “And we’re the traveling Starlight Circus! We only have one audience member per show, and tonight it is you!”

“But why?”

“We like to visit the people that need us the most,” the Stardust Fairy answered.

“And we visit all sorts of places…” the magician began with an air of mystery, twirling his wand as cotton candy appeared in Marcy’s hands, “…because we’re a dream circus, see?”

She went to take a bite of the blue fluff, but suddenly the trapeze artist swung by and dashed some sprinkles on it, the tightrope walker tossed down some glitter, and the clown provided his signature boop.

One bite of it warmed her through, all the way down to her toes. But then, despite all the magical fun of the moment, a look of sadness alighted on her face.

“Whatever is the matter?” the juggler asked with a shrug, as his bowling pins plonked him in the head one after the other.

“I suppose you’re here to let me walk again, but when I wake up I’ll still be stuck in my wheelchair…”

A tear rolled down Marcy’s cheek, but a delicate golden finger whisked it away.

“Don’t be sad… Come! Something tells me you like to dance!”

She’d been led to the center of the tent as the spotlights went out, leaving them washed in starlight. Then music piped in from an invisible orchestra, and the magician began to dance. His feet moved with effortless intricacy. Then with a twirl of his wand a set of stairs, that led off to nowhere, appeared suddenly. Taking Marcy’s hand they clopped up them together, dashed down, swung from side to side, and spun about with jazz hands as they reached the top again.

But the trapeze artist scooped her up and they flew through the air to the other side of the tent, only to swing back around, providing Marcy the chance to snatch up the magician’s hat. The clown pulled up a trampoline and the two flung themselves below, bouncing off it with a flip. She alighted gracefully upon her feet, then did one last spin before placing the top hat upon her own head.

All the others clapped and cheered with glee, watching from the stands. However, the magician stood still with his white gloved fingers intertwined, and a serious look on his face.

“Why’d you stop?” she asked. “Are you mad because I took your hat?”

She dashed up and stood on the tips of her toes to place it back upon his head. A smile warmed his face, but did not rid him of the despondent gray cloud that seemed to linger there.

“No…” he muttered slowly, “It’s because I want you to be this happy outside of the circus too.”

“But what if I can’t be,” she crossed her arms, “would I have to leave?”

“You can’t stay here forever Marcy,” the Stardust Fairy told her, and the others nodded.

Marcy’s sweet little face twisted up into a knot and tears threatened to fall.

“Oh but child!” the juggler began with a mournful shout. “It’s not that we don’t like you, but you don’t belong here. The world outside needs you, just as you are.”

“That’s true,” the magician agreed as a sparkle appeared in his curious eyes, “and dear Marcy, you can dance without the use of your feet.”

“That’s true too!” concurred the tightrope walker who ushered Marcy to sit within the stands as the performers all gathered together to put on a show for her.

After they’d gotten into their positions, the music began, the stars twinkled with the rhythm, and they began to dance without their legs. The Stardust Fairy soared through the air in loops, the clown spun on the top of his head, the trapeze artist reached between the bars only by the use of his of arms, the tightrope walker crossed on his hands, the juggler remained seated upon the ground and tossed his jacks, while the magician swayed the top half of his body along with the beat.

It was spectacular how elegant and full with movement they still were. How much more fun and unique it was, and suddenly it didn’t seem all that bad or scary. So once the music played out Marcy clapped wholeheartedly, voicing celebratory whoops into the air.

“That was beautiful!” she exclaimed.

The performers bowed, dispersing as the magician approached Marcy with an outstretched hand.

“Mind if I have this dance?”

Something felt different, and she looked down to find herself in her wheelchair. Tears stung her eyes, but she sniffled them away. She took the magician’s hand into her own and gave it a shake, replying, “Of course!”

Wheeling out onto the stage, something more magical than she could have ever imagined happened, the tent disappeared and the curtain of stars fell to join in the show. Her fingertips tingled as she touched one, that then spiraled away to another spot.

Once more the music began, and it was time to dance.

She spun on her wheels, and the magician caught the wheelchair mid-spin, dangling it in a suspended tilt. Marcy arched her back and splayed out her arms like a ballerina. Then she set herself down and rolled forward, then across, and again, weaving through the swaying motions of her dance partner.

The crowd’s eyes were wide with excitement, encouraging giggling Marcy to do several more spins, as she enjoyed the rush of cool air against her skin. Her whirls whipped up the stars, scattering them as she came to a stop. But then they did their final dance, gathering together in one massive bloom that crashed back into the sky above.

Applaud sounded as if all the stands were filled, and everyone’s faces were glistening with happy tears. The magician kneeled down beside Marcy, who beamed with a renewed spirit. Taking her hand once more he gave it a playful squeeze.

“You dance spectacularly!”

“Thank you,” she replied, pushing up her rosy cheeks into a full smile. Then she turned to all the others, as they came up and gave her hugs, “Thank you…all of you.”

“Happy?” the Stardust Fairy asked.

“Yes,” Marcy slapped the armrest of her chair, “I don’t hate this anymore. I could feel it move with me. It’s a part of me.”

“And you’re beautiful, always… just as you are! Why, I’m so very happy!” she cheered, but then her wings fluttered suddenly. Pointing up to the sun that began to push out the navy hued night, she cried out, “Oh my! How time flies!”

“Though, it was just in time too,” Marcy remarked, and the clown pondered on her clever meaning before booping her nose with a giggle.

“I’m sorry we only got to the dancing, there’re many other fun things to do here,” the juggler murmured, causing the trapeze artist and tightrope walker to frown.

“But we did the most important thing!” Marcy countered in a bouncy tone, “I’m okay, really I am… I’m ready to go.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” the magician interjected with a wink and hearty grin.

Marcy knew that once the sun had fully risen they’d be gone, for there’d be no more starlight for the circus. So she hugged them all again and again, thanking them and wishing them well, until she awoke in her bed.

Back from dreamland she had brought with her that full smile, that still gleamed on her rosy face, and looking to her wheelchair there was none of the disappointment and gloom of before. She’d learned that she could still do all the things she wanted, but just in a different way, and that didn’t make it or her any less.

Then staring out the open window she whispered another “thank you,” to the Starlight Circus.

Text copyright © 2021 by the author. Illustration by Pixabay, used under license.

About the Author: Max Carrey (Instagram: @maxcarrey) loves to delve deep within the complicated pasts and suspense filled futures of her characters. Currently she lives in sunny California, but will be moving to a gloomier location much like the settings in her stories (hopefully without the tragedy and mayhem involved). She’s had stories appear in Cemetery Gates Media's Halldark Holidays, and GLAHW’s Marisa’s Recurring Nightmares. As well as upcoming releases with Pavor Press, Weasel Press, and more!