“They’re here! They’re here!”
Every five years, I would hear the shouts of the children as they lifted their gazes into the sky. Their irrepressible excitement would echo deafeningly through the cobbled streets—a shrill of enthusiasm that broke all torpor and humdrum of the dreary city. For what then could be more exciting than the visitors from afar? The very thespians who promised a magical evening with sparkling silver hot air balloons, ascending into the ember dusk for a spectacle of phantasmagoria—the Circus In The Clouds.
‘Forget the clowns, the lions, and the freaks. Oh, what boring shows and unimaginative tricks. It is time to behold a mesmerising parade of wonder and awe. Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready for more?
‘Feast your eyes on the unbelievable. Stir your soul with the mystical. Unleash your imagination with the stars as we whisk you away on a journey of a lifetime. Oh, you will not be disappointed, boys and girls!
‘So look right up, all citizens of the ground! For the circus… is in the clouds!’
I was merely three years of age when I first learned about the circus—too young to yearn for the great adventure that lay beyond. But when I turned eight, I discovered true envy. Oh, how I wished to own a Golden Ticket—if only every candle blown during each uneventful birthday would make this one dream come true. Alas, I soon learned that if I truly wanted to witness a display of amazing, daring, and death-defying acts, I would have to achieve it on my own. For some of us weren’t meant for just this—some of us were meant for more.
“Oh dear, the Golden Ticket isn’t for everyone,” my mother said—the same exact words, on repeat, whenever I coveted for a world beyond my reach. “Some of us simply have to live with what we’ve got.”
“But father might win a ticket this year,” I stated.
My poor father’s reward, for toiling for his master, was his name in the Golden Ticket raffle—a lucky draw with minimal odds of winning a prize every drudge could only dream about.
“And I’m sure he will let you have it… should he be lucky enough,” my mother said with a thin smile.
Alas, that wasn’t the answer that I wanted—after ten years of waiting, I couldn’t place my future in the hands of Lady Luck. Surely, there was another way.
“I’m going to check on the balloons,” I said.
“Don’t do anything silly,” my mother replied.
Was finding a way to truly live silly? Was choosing to broaden my horizons unwise?
“I’ll be back in the evening,” I assured her. “I’ve never done anything silly, mother.”
As the sun now settled in the clear blue morning sky, I shuffled up the deck and toward the stream of glistening hot air balloons. Their silver envelope reflected the shimmer of day as the shuttle crew ran their routine checks—for at the arrival of dusk, these baskets would brim with peppy children and their blue-blood parents. Oh, the wealthy below would soon have their minds bewildered while the penniless above… descend without his Golden Ticket.
‘Embrace the magic of night. Bask in great celestial delight. Be enchanted by our dauntless souls as they grande jeté with the spellbinding darkness. And if you wonder….
‘What truly is the Circus In The Clouds? Oh, it is a world without words, a place no man can ever describe. For all who have gone before has had their minds mystified—their only syllable now… is ‘go’!
‘So don’t miss our spectral stage. From North to South and East to West, bid us farewell now and you may never see us again.’
“That balloon! It’s slipping away!” I shouted as the rally for ticket sales boomed over the massive speakers. “Somebody, help!”
As promised to my mother, I had put all silliness aside. All it took was cleverness—a few loose knots and a smirk—before all heads turned to the rogue vessel. And within moments… I didn’t need to pay for my way down.
Slipping past the shuttle crew in their frenzy, I hopped into the nearest balloon, hastily set the knots free, and pushed against the starboard beam. I had learned how to navigate the silver vehicle from my father—a ferryman for the circus—and before anyone could stop me, I began my descent.
“Don’t worry, mother,” I muttered under my breath. I knew I couldn’t truly escape this life. But at the very least, I tried. “I’ll be home before the show even begins. Oh, the magical Circus In The Clouds.” I scoffed.
This story was inspired by the original composition, Highlands by Hans Magnus.
Music Meets Story © 2020 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)