A/N: And another Freak Show chapter appears!
So this is weird. Flash back time! Dun da da daaaa!
And I feel like that's pretty self-explanatory. In this chapter, you'll see Uri once again -a minor OC from Down Under. Do any of you remember her? Maybe? It's been a while, I'll admit.
Anyway, I'll keep it short. Hope you enjoy :)
A pause in the story, a past revealed;
Resurfaced memories, no longer sealed
What does one do when torn apart?
Choose to face their fears? Or not?
I watched the rise and fall of her chest from the doorway. Slow, steady. If she was calm, it meant she was finally asleep. Which was good. I couldn't have her running around blindly on the island again. It was dangerous.
Exhaling slowly, I closed the door. I took the two steps to the railing, plopping down on the ground with my legs slipping between the posts and dangling above the lawn deck. From there, I could see the docks and anyone that could approach. It also shrunk the chance of Nami slipping out and escaping to investigate things on her own.
I let my forehead rest against the post, closing my eyes for a moment. It was crazy that after all these years, the island hadn't changed a bit. I hated it. Hated the smells, hated the vibe it gave off. Hated the air that shrouded it and the waves that crashed along its port. I hated it all.
Mostly though, I hated the circus that the crew was going to.
Ten Years Ago
"There," my father said, placing something cold in my hands. "You can open your eyes."
I wasn't excited to see what he had planned next for me to try my hand at. My parents were trapeze artists for the Circus Grand, and they expected me to follow in their footsteps.
But I didn't want a life, flying through the air.
I'd been practicing cartwheels and handstands, hanging upside down and walking on tightropes since I was three. However, to my parents' disappointment, my cartwheels were never straight; my handstands left my forearms red and sore. Hanging upside down made me queasy. At least, that's how things appeared to be to them. Apparently, I was a good actress from a young age. Faking to be bad at things was a natural talent. But their determination to have me be an act in the circus with them was unfaltering. Soon they had me breathing fire, taming tiger-wolves (or, at least, attempting to) and I had them believing it was all for naught.
"Well… open them," he repeated.
I did. Slowly. In my hands was a long box. He encouraged me to open it with a nod. Behind him, my mother bit her lip, a sign that she really wanted this to work out. Had I gone too far in being 'talentless?'
"Open it," my mother encouraged, touching my arm gently.
She didn't have to tell me twice –I was, after all, curious by nature. I balanced the box in one hand, opening it with the other. Inside were five daggers, stored carefully. I picked one up, my father taking the box from me so that I could weigh it in my hands. It was perfect. Holding the handle felt natural.
"They're for throwing –our circus doesn't have a knife throwing act. So I thought it'd be perfect. You can perfect it on your own. No pressure," my father held the case while I placed the dagger back inside. He closed it softly, and handed it back. "What do you think?"
"I'll… I'll give it a try," I promised him.
"That's what I like to hear," he patted me on the back. "Maybe this will stop you from day dreaming about becoming a singer."
I avoided his gaze. He didn't understand. The life I wanted was a life on the stage. I wanted to sing, and dance and please a crowd. Envisioning it was easy. My name on posters, plastered on walls. I could see the stage, the fans and the applause… But it was a million miles away. My mother, who encouraged me to sing, didn't see it becoming a reality. My father didn't even bother playing along.
So my dreams were put on hold.
I held the dagger by the blade, throwing it at the target painted on the side of the barn. Although we were circus folk, we owned a small farm. No animals or plants, but it was perfect for practicing stunts in privacy. My parents had their trapeze bars hanging in the barn for practicing while they were home. It's also where the circus stored the tiger-wolf when they didn't need it for a show.
"You've gotten good," my father said, arms crossed as he watched from the fence that surrounded the barn.
"Thank you," I wiped the small beads of sweat from my forehead as I walked to retrieve the dagger from the wood.
"But you're not perfect yet," he went on. "Have you been practicing hard while we're away?"
"I practice all the time," I told him, examining the notch in the barn's wall. It wasn't precisely in the middle. Close though.
"You want a name in the world, this is how you're going to do it," he told me. "Once you're able to hit dead center, try it from further away."
I watched him as he walked away. I'd fought against him for so long, and now that I was cooperating, it seemed like I couldn't please him.
Eight years ago
The day I turned fourteen, I had my first live performance with the circus. I wasn't nervous. I was born to perform. And I had confidence in my accuracy. I could hit a target clean from one side of the three rings to the other. When I was focused, I could hit anything from almost any distance inside the tent. I could be sitting, lying down, and my accuracy changed only by the smallest of percentages.
"Ready?" my mother rubbed my shoulders before my act. Well, there were still four acts before mine, but I was pacing the ground outside the tent with anticipation until she'd stopped me.
"Yeah," I stretched.
"Your father and I got something for you," she told me, handing me a necklace. It was a white jewel at the end of a leather string. She pulled my hair out of the way, tying it around my neck. "For good luck. And for protection. From your first performance, things only get increasingly more dangerous as you try to woo the crowd."
"You don't believe that kind of stuff, do you?" I asked, lifting the jewel up and examining it. Despite my words, holding it made me feel… safe.
"There are a lot of things unexplained in this world. I'm willing to believe anything," she said.
"I guess you're right," I let it fall back down against my collar bone.
She laughed. "I'm a mom. I'm always right."
I smiled at her. "I know."
She played with my hair for a moment, braiding and unraveling it. It was just past my shoulders, so there wasn't a lot I could do with it. I usually just tossed it up in an elastic and sported a ponytail. But my mother insisted I kept it down for the performance.
"I know this isn't the kind of performing you've had your heart set out on," she spoke after a long moment of silence. There was clapping coming from inside the tent. Laughter, too.
"Performing is performing," I shrugged.
"Don't give up on your dreams just for me and your father," she told me. "But I just wanted something for you to fall back on if things didn't work out. But I have faith in you."
I didn't know what to say. I caught a glimpse of my father as he exited one of the preparation tents, and my mother caught on quickly.
"He doesn't say it, but he's proud of you," she reassured me. "And if you ask any of his friends here, he raves about your singing."
"Bullshit," I snorted.
"Language," she scolded. "But it's the truth. He's your biggest fan."
She left shortly after that conversation, going to go and prepare for her act with my father.
Uri, my best friend since I was seven, came to my side. She and her uncle were one of the acts in our circus. The two of them had arrived on a rainy afternoon on the island, and my parents had introduced them to the ropes of performing. The two of them together did a juggling act.
"I always thought you'd brandish your extraordinary strength when it came to performing," she told me.
"Shh," I looked around, making sure my mother was really gone. They may have suspected me of purposefully acting poorly at everything else, but my strength had always been the only thing I could hide perfectly. Uri only knew of it because I had lifted fallen rocks off of her when we'd had an accident while exploring the island one day.
"I know, I know. Strength and becoming a singing idol don't go hand in hand –but neither does knife-throwing," she pointed out.
"I'm just trying to make my parents happy."
"They are happy," she told me.
"I think I'm finally starting to realize that," I smiled.
Inside the tent, the clapping and the laughter turned to screams. Uri and I exchanged a brief look before running inside to see what was happening. Unknown people were marching into the center ring, fire breathers burning the support beams. The audience fought to get to the exit, not caring about anybody but themselves. The ring master and the tiger-wolf tamer raged against the first intruders that neared. But the fire breather only had to spout a tiny bit of fire to have them backing off.
Someone grabbed my arm. I turned to see my mother.
"Come," she pulled me along, back out the way Uri and I had come in. I couldn't see Uri now. She'd disappeared. She was good at that.
I followed my mother, letting her lead me away from the chaos that seemed to devour the peace that once lay over the town. Ahead of us was my father, who gestured for us to run faster. We picked up the pace.
Suddenly, a white light appeared high in the sky, above our high rise tent which was quickly being consumed with flame, and my mother froze when she looked at it. I tried to pull her along, but she wouldn't budge. I yanked on her hand and her rind slipped off her finger. Fog rolled down from the tent around us, swirling around our feet, growing thicker and thicker.
And my mother was gone. Just like that. I turned to my father, but he had disappeared, too.
Both of them. Just completely gone. Vanished into thin air.
Just as quickly as things started, they ended. The fog seemed to sink down into the ground, as if it'd never been there. The light was gone. The intruders and the screams could no longer be heard. Uri and other circus folk came out of hiding, uncertain of what just happened. But the circus tent was still burnt to smithereens. My parents were still gone.
Uri and I found out that a few others had been taken, too. Some from the circus –some audience members. The ring master was gone, one of our clowns. The baker that my parents sent me to by bread from. Two more people who I didn't know of at all. Seven in total, my parents included.
At first, we thought they were missing. We searched the island for a week, high and low, in caves and in forests. No rock was left unturned. At the end of the week we found them. Floating in the port of our town.
Four Years Ago
Uri walked in on me while I was tucking my dagger into its strap on my leg. She shut the door and leaned against it with a sigh. She'd become like my sister over the last four years. She and I had left our messed up island after the circus had been disbanded -with the ring master dead, there wasn't really anyone to lead us, and we were all a little wary of things repeating themselves. I'd taken the opportunity to make a name for myself. With Uri's support, it didn't take long for me to rise to the top.
"You have body guards," she reminded me. "You don't really need that, do you?"
"I feel safer with them," I told her, pulling my dress down to hide it.
"How are your fans going to feel when they see you with a dagger hidden under your skirt?" she crossed over to me and lifted the skirt, pulling the dagger out. "You left that world behind you. Treasure them as your father's keepsakes, but don't wear them on stage. You're an idol. Not a circus freak."
Although I'd grown up in the circus, I had never thought of myself that way until Uri started calling us such. She saw the circus folk after the incident, and how lifeless they became and grew a odd sort of disdain for them. As if distancing herself mentally from all of them meant that the things that had happened didn't happen to us. She avoided the past as much as possible. I understood that. The first few performances I did, when the stage lights lit up, I was blinded and all I could think about was that the intruders were there and they were coming to finish what they couldn't. Without Uri pushing me forward, I might not be going to put on my biggest performance yet.
But the further I grew away from the circus, the more I missed it. Or, the more I missed my parents nagging about it.
"You want me to become the defenseless idol? Portrayed weak and helpless?" I asked, taking the knife from her.
"It sells better than the strong heroine. Everyone loves a damsel in distress," she picked up the box my father had given to me when I was twelve, opening it up to reveal four other daggers. "It's been four years. And we're fine. But it's your choice, Suki. You already revealed your super strength when you pulled the set piece off a crew member, even if you did chalk it up to an adrenalin rush."
I hesitated. I was where I always wanted to be. Maybe it was time to forget the past.
As I slid the dagger into its place in the box, Uri smiled. "I just know your parents would be proud of you right now."
Zoro rubbed the back of my hand with his thumb, the pressure making my skin raw. He was anxious. I understood why. We didn't recall anything about yesterday except for a fantastic show. And yet, somehow, we lost a crewmate, and all memory of him. What if the same thing happened tonight? What if we lost Brooke? Chopper? Or Sanji? Franky, or Harumi, or Luffy? Or Zoro?
I squeezed his hand as the show began.
"Come one, come all!" The ring master shouted, a spot light beaming down where he stood.
Just like the night before, the townspeople cried back, "Come one, come all!"
It was like they were brainwashed, to be quite honest. I looked at Zoro to see if he saw it, too. His brows furrowed together as he watched the ringmaster, who was dressed, once again, in his purple and black suit.
"One night down, six nights to go.
One right after another, we'll put on a good show.
Tonight you will see wild acrobats and funny clowns
And our tiger-wolves will have you gasping aloud.
But that isn't all, there's too much to just list
Keep your eyes open, for this you don't want to miss
Hold on to your hats, you'll be scared out of your seat
But believe me when I say that you're in for a treat."
And just like before, the light died out immediately. I could still feel Zoro's hand in mine. That same voice from yesterday slowly rose up through the darkness, and the glowing began again. It was like looking into the sun.
Before I knew what was happening, I couldn't feel Zoro's hand anymore. And the darkness consumed us once again.