A/N: My first attempt at an AU. Please R&R if you enjoy.

"Hurry up, Mikasa!" I yelled up the stairs. "We're gonna be late for the circus!"

"We're not going to be late!" she yelled back at me.

"The bus is leaving!" I pressed my face to the window and squinted at the bus stop right across from our house. It was a lie; the bus hadn't even gotten that far yet, but if I let Mikasa know, she'd disappear into the bathroom for ages.

"Christ, Eren, give me two minutes!" I groaned impatiently, watching the lights far off in the distance, dancing on the creamsicle-orange tent invitingly. I couldn't wait until I got my own car.

Cirque du Rivaille only came to town once a year, on November second, two days after Halloween had plagued Trost with bratty kids running around in their mothers' old sheets and shit-faced teenagers doing premature graffiti jobs on the sides of buildings and houses all over town. The year I turned sixteen, I counted down the days until the striped tent would pitch in the empty lot just outside the town gates. The circus rules were painted on an old, chipped sign staked in the soil just outside, proclaiming, "NO BRATS- Must be 16 YEARS OF AGE to enter!"

Every year, the circus appeared overnight, the tent and all the trailers toting the cargo seated comfortably on Trost Hill. No one had ever seen it roll into town or witnessed workers putting up the signs or setting each peg and sheet into place- but it was always, always impeccably there on the dawn of November second.

The real reason everyone wanted to go to Cirque du Rivaille, however, wasn't the allure of the lights and colors or the dreary, off-tune music rattling past the shitty stereos. Not even the complimentary booze or big-boobed trapeze artists were the reason that so many kids hiked up Trost Hill long after school let out to get a ticket. Rumor had it that the circus was cursed, and it never left town without a victim.

"That's not true," protested my best friend Armin, crossing his arms beside me, but as soon as he'd said so, he looked around, furrowed his brow and added, rather weakly, "Right?" His large blue eyes were filled with obvious fear, and his fingers clenched and unclenched nervously in the fabric of his periwinkle jacket.

Don't get me wrong, I love Armin, but he can be a huge coward.

"Of course it's true," said Jean Kirschtein, leaning in towards us, grabbing his knees and staring right into our faces. "Don't you remember Marco? I was there when they got him."

Marco Bodt had been Jean's best friend, rumored lover. No one was really sure, but we damn well knew that he had died last year on November second. He was super messed up after the accident, but after a while he declared that he was going to make it up to Marco by facing the circus again this year- whatever that meant. Jean wasn't exactly validly sane.

"Eren, don't listen to those stories," Mikasa said, pulling her scarf up around her mouth.

"They're true!" Jean insisted as the bus rolled up alongside us. We climbed on with the rest of the teenaged crowd of Trost, eager to be entertained and all secretly hoarding a sick desire to see something that held a light to the stories. Most adults went out of their way to keep their kids away from Cirque du Rivaille on account of all the creepy rumors surrounding it, but because Armin lived with his lenient old grandfather and Mikasa and I lived alone, we had an easy time of getting out. I watched the tent from my seat as it grew closer and closer, anxious. The lights came into view and the gate opened agonizingly slowly. I don't think I've ever been more excited for anything in my life.

Behind me, Jean poked my shoulder and pointed. "See those big cages? That's what they put Marco in before he was taken away." I peered up at them, blinking my eyes largely. The cages had to be at least four meters high, covered with dark sheets that were chained to the iron bars. There were three, huddled together at the back of the tent, and they struck a queasy feeling into my stomach that I wasn't quite familiar with.

Whatever that feeling was, Armin had felt it before, because he was suddenly ready to turn the bus around and ride straight home to his grandpa.

"We have to get out of here," he hissed at me. But I wasn't listening to him. I watched, intrigued, as a dark figure stalked out of the tent and stood on Trost Hill, staring down at us from afar, black and powerful against the oranges and purples, reds and yellows of the setting sun.

"Eren…..Eren." It dawned on me that Mikasa was talking, and I looked back at her. "What?"

"It's not too late to go back if you're scared," she said pointedly. I looked out the window again while Armin rambled and gibbered about Mikasa's premonitions and it being a good idea to turn back. The figure had disappeared from its place, and the lapels of the tent were drawn back, the inside beckoning with a warm yellow light.