The posters first appeared in mid-July. By August they were on every pole on the main strip and in the windows of the faded roadhouse, covered over with stickers reading ON SALE NOW. CIRCUS FRENZY! they read. AUTHENTIC ROMANY CIRCUS. THE ONE WITH IT ALL ANIMALS CLOWNS ACROBATS & FREAKS COME AND SEE THIS ONCE IN A LIFETIME SPECTACULAR. TWO WEEKS IN SEPTEMBER. In September I picked a flyer off my windscreen and bought a ticket for the third show. I like the animals but I had a hidden motive. A dark compulsion, a craving that required secrecy, that led me down unusual paths. CIRCUS FRENZY seemed full of promise, hinting delicious rewards. ‘CLOWNS ACROBATS AND FREAKS’- my skin goosepimpled. I needed relief and raced home, leaving the Buick parked askance on the dead grass. I stood out on the verandah, surveying the bleakness of the parched hills, savouring the thrill of impending, inestimable, transcendentally carnal satisfaction. I watched the carrion-birds fly in groups above the trees, thought of the dead sheep and dogs they might find and grew tense. I visited the baby.

The steps to the basement were steep but I couldn’t afford to light them. I had them hidden underneath a chest I kept locked. The chest was actually a trapdoor down to the steps. I didn’t have to do this but it made trips to Baby seem special, a precious time I would only indulge when I could spend hours of quality time with it. Like a secret box where my heart’s treasure lies. At the bottom of the steps I had made a door out of a breadcrate, padded with pillows and Styrofoam. I kept it chained in case Baby ever became dangerous. But I was confident I could master him.

My Baby, in your little shell! How I coveted you, my sickly delight! We were parted too soon. I had so much still left to teach you. My fat, ripe bud who never blossomed! To this day I remember your yeasty pungence, your warmth, your fromagous, felty, bubbling skin against my own! They took you from me, the price for my Becoming… my bloated maggot child, I will never forget you… On the day of the show I visited my Baby again for the whole day. I fed him a fungal mash and a carton of milk. He lay in the box, his good eye staring at me from under his heavy tricep. He winced as I sponged the mucus from his sores and scraped scum from his teeth. Then I tipped him onto the straw and let him play. He was becoming so slow and weak. This angered me because I had been feeding him often, but more because I knew I had neglected him, I had been upstairs in my studio thinking about CLOWNS ACROBATS & FREAKS while he atrophied for days. We stretched him out and I massaged his flabby limbs, teasing blood into the pasty, folded flesh. He wouldn’t look at me. I pinched him in the thigh and broke the skin like paste. A viscous tear welled in the corner of his eye; the surface tension broke and water flooded the upturned socket. He screamed and bawbled, the first time since I had been back to see him that he had spoken to me. By making contact he had initiated a discourse, but had capitulated to me. It would follow my terms. He had to learn not to ignore me, I decided – he had to be punished. I slapped him square in the face and strapped him to the board. Then we played the game until it was time to get ready for the show.

I passed a fox on the way into town – flattened on the hard shoulder, a brown smear and a dirty red mat. I had not eaten for two days and the sight of it made my mouth water. But I knew better than to expose myself on such a public road. There’s always plenty of meat in the wild – all you have to do is follow the crows. I held fast for fairy floss and peanuts, to line my stomach for ketamine and the real feasting later, provided I was correct about the circus. Approaching the town proper I could see the flagged lines supporting the big top. I felt like a little child again – watching carnival machines from afar, separated by lines of trees and portable fencing and six dollars. The tent seemed huge above the houses and shrubs. A cloud of dust hung above the dirt carpark, a menagerie trapped outside in cages in the clotted air. I wheeled the Buick over onto the grass, riding the contour of a ditch. I was half on the road but already I could see there was no chance of a better park. Evidently CIRCUS FRENZY had huge appeal – the utes and trucks of a couple hundred farms, plus a few of the less hardy town cars and a tour bus dominated the streetside. I skipped across the road to the edge of the barren encircused field and relaxed my gait, affecting casuality in an attempt to relax my surging blood. I got my fairy floss, and my peanuts, and a plastic tray of potato wedges. The blood sugar spaced me out and without conscious direction I took my seat. I had nangs in my pocket and a condom. I inhaled deeply from a canister and blew into the condom, inside my sleeve, giggled to myself as I waited for the show to begin.

In about five minutes which I filled in with further nitrous the CIRCUS FRENZY voiceover began. WELCOME, it said, blah… “Send in the clowns,” I sang to myself. The first act was Shetland ponies in pastel frills. They trotted comically but for much too long. I looked around at all the families around me, pathetic fools of parents cooing and pambying like the putrid, sugar-doped brats on their knees. They sickened me. I felt revulsion and gagged. At the same time I knew the circus had begun, that soon there would be CLOWNS ACROBATS & FREAKS and I could be sated. I was uncomfortably horny and felt a perverse thrill in polluting such a timeless cliché of the old-timey family night. Peanuts beckoned, another trip to the nang-dom for me and when I looked up the Shetlands were gone. The second act was little dogs, chaperoned by a carnie in a matador’s outfit. More beasts - I couldn’t believe it. I wanted the dogs out and the clowns in so I could watch them and guage them and know whether they were the real deal… God, I hoped, please don’t let them be bland, normal, sad alcoholic cynics on welfare… give me the real Romanian treatment, please let me into my family… Like the horsies the dogs were on for far too long, my patience slowly stretching like a string on the viol, the nickelplate peeling off the center in razor spirals before the center frays and snaps as children laugh and dogs in silly hats cartwheel and make a pyramid. I nanged myself again and tried to stare out the carnie, hating him. He threw treats to each of the dogs and they filed out. Then he unfurled his red cape and pirouetted into a dance, a spinning and whirling around the entrance to the ring. Under the spotlight the cape gleamed like blood of spun gold. The audience was mesmerized. Despite my animosity to the dog wrangler I found him strangely beautiful, his dance a subtle masterpiece in its magnetism, but animosity prevailed and I returned focus to glaring at his face. He was looking directly at me. His eyes bored into me, dark and cruelly expressionless. His leaping, dancing body was a whirlpool blur of colour and as I realised the impossibility of what I had seen his facial muscles rippled like cords and he was gone, cape trailing to the ground until an unseen line tugged it up beyond the floodlights. It was quite an act and left everybody breathless.

The lights dimmed and I reached again for the condom. The vapours had staled and the rank smell of latex assaulted the back of my mouth. I felt sick and a trace of vomit lurched into my throat. I let the condom deflate and pulled the final nang. A dark red spotlight bore up on the center of the ring as the floods winked out, and the studio voiceover boomed from the PA. ‘AND NOW, OUR FABULOUS FREAKSHOW!’ and then a moment of static before track 5, the ubiquitous racy-buffoons theme heralding gags ‘n’ laffs for all, sounded from the box. Figures, clowns, tumbled out of the darkness and into the red cone of light, bumping and wrestling and juggling as they shambled a circular track around the ring. I was feverishly giddy from the nitrous and offput and paranoid because the PA had offered freaks and these were clowns, and what if the freaks were no good and the clowns just regular unemployed? But the cymbals and horns reached a crescendo and the house lights surged back into life and I saw the beauty of it all. The freaks were the clowns – distorted, mutilated, grotesque mutants, they danced a chaotic, lurching gavotte of war, employing their tricks and gags upon one another behind masks of slick, crumbly greasepaint. There was a hairy woman in big pants and a triple amputee on a unicycle with a bandanna. There were deformities in spotted clothing. There were midgets and dwarves and a hydrocephalitic crone who rode a pig, even some surgical nasties with a fire hose full of foam. The antics were funny and the freaks were divine. Weeping and giggling I writhed in my chair. The voices of the happy kinder could not penetrate my bliss, the doubting moans of the few who saw up close a distended limb or flash of scar sent shockwaves of paralytic laughter through my thoroughly wired consciousness. I was rapt – I felt moistened with excitement. CIRCUS FRENZY meant what they said when they said CLOWNS ACROBATS & FREAKS. These were all three. I knew then that I had found my quarry. They could try to brush me off but I would prove my worth. They would not be able to refuse me. They would open up to me – they would succumb to my mastery. I would be completed at last.

I sat out the rest of the show in a daze, my body tensed and swollen with anticipation. I had formulated my plan of attack months earlier, chewing over the details with Baby, punishing his failures with spiteful disclosures of my true affections. As always he had lain and stared and slurped catatonically, compelling me to use the clamps and irons. In the fourteen years since I stole him from the crib he had always been useful for relieving anxieties, a welcome distraction from my insecurities, a fortifier-by-proxy to my ego through the blissful game of domination. As he gradually bloated to fill the tank I was compelled to exercise him more and more frequently, but he remained my own, my precious, my Baby. Had I only but known how my philandering would destroy you! I never meant for you to die, but to live and live reborn in pain! They thwarted me – distracted from my self, I let you be taken away. I cannot forgive myself.

And yet, and yet. I craved contact with the freaks- I eyed them over during the closing extravaganza, took my pick of the miserables; a fat, misshapen little troll with a twisted smile and sad, dull eyes. Beneath the symmetrical made-up smile her lips twisted into a savage curl – her expression was at once hideous, wistful and sleazy. I looked at her stockings, the shrink-wrapped cellulite that towered over garish sandals and curled rat-feet. I had to have her. I would have her. I left early, a good thirty bars of circus tunes still to play before the end. I planned to insinuate myself into the group of clowns as they left, impress upon them my strange predilection, befriend my squat paramour. I made my way to the back of the tent, lurked in the moonshadow of a truck. The music thrashed out longer than I had predicted, the tape evidently allowing for several encores, the audience deafened by thunderous bass and cymbals. Picturing all the little shits going home with tinnitus made me laugh – the giggling fed my impassioned, fetishist glow reciprocally and I curled into a ball on the dew-sodden dead stalks, quaking hysterically. Ten or twenty minutes passed and I pulled some meth. It was a clear night, the clouds diurnally exterminated by the ferocious summer sun, and I could see the cosmos, spattered with milky dots like my baby’s porous flesh in a vise. Their secret light, a prize for those who can venture farthest, out beyond the settled communities and amid the wheat and corn, the wasteland expanses sucked of life by the agrarian phallus, I mused. The sound dimmed and faded into crowd babble, bright lights and vendor calls striking up as the farmers herded back to their cars and the tired and subliminally mindfucked children demanded sugar and fluff. I was in on the joke. I knew my quarry.

And out they came, a sombre progression stumping towards the caravans and darkness. I targeted my dwarf and rose to follow – but then the tentflap opened once more and the Romany dog man flitted out after the freaks. I hesitated, but slunk around the truck and shadowhopped after the group. The freaks, it turned out, were housed at the far end of the field, where hard dirt gave way to a thick green paddock near a corner ditch and some tall trees. I saw my dwarf enter one of many white trailers. It was tucked into the back corner of the field, with ditches and, behind them, dense woods running parallel to two sides. This suited my purpose perfectly. I reflected that an encounter was now preordained. Nothing would stop me. Other clowns went to their caravans but several remained by a fire and drank. I sneaked back the way I had come and took the perimeter route to the dwarf’s trailer. My approach to the trailer involved a short dash across grass – thankfully the ground was shadowed adequately and I could approach the trailer cautiously, and retreat if necessary along the same route. I crept towards her door. A candle was burning inside a frosted window by the door. The flicker of its flame, magnified and bent by the ripples in the glass, were invitation enough. I knocked.

‘’min!’ a voice grunted. I entered. The mixed scents of animal musk, stale digestion, bad meat assaulted me. I browsed the environment – a pile of costumes, wrinkled, musty underwear trailing past a murky washbasin, putrescent meat and fruit on a tarnished platter, and rising from the foot of the bed, a tangle of soiled fabrics enveloping the dwarf. She was truly horrid, a vision in coarse, moled hirsuteness. She was deformed – one stump of a limb emerged bulbously from her boxy shoulder, terminating in stubby, arthritic claws. I gazed appreciatively at my intrigue. My body quivered with excitement. ‘Ooer you?’ she demanded. I had a speech ready but I stumbled with it. I told her of my obsession, my unquenchable lust for abberation. I explained how she could help me, of the rituals we could share, persuaded her with gentle prompting to let me fulfill myself, to inhabit my dungeon of obscene and decadent fantasy, to share me with her unholy kind. I needed, I implored, to play with them, to unleash their elemental perversion in slavery. She absorbed my words, a mute comprehension implicit in her glaucomic gaze. I undressed her. Under the flannellette she was pitted and callused, repellent. I laid my hands on her distorted form and approached completion. We fucked with a vigour that was both disjunctive and macabre. Fisting my shoulder with claws outstretched, she bore down on me, pinning me to the grimed mattress. I lay in ecstasy as she fumbled and lurched, cringed in exquisite torment as she nipped and sucked on my flesh, cried out as my skin burst between her snaggle teeth and an orgasm of tectonic force racked my body, upon which I blacked out immediately.

I came to, screaming, plunged into excruciating pain. Sharp fangs tore at my chest, a cavity shredded into my left breast. The dwarf was atop me, forceful trunks restraining my limbs, her face buried in gore, her butcher’s maw embedded in my flesh, stripping it off in bloody gobs. An klaxon scream wailed uncontrollably from my throat, the force of it generating a delusional recoil shoving my spine into the bed, confused with the pressure of the dwarf’s weight as she devoured me. I flailed and broke a hand free, struck and gouged at her face. She took a thumb with a pincer bite, but she’d lost her grip and I flung her to the floor and stamped at her. She scuttled away and I ran into the open, screaming and clutching my hand to the crater in my chest, rivulets of blood cutting black swathes into my complexion, curling around my leg as I pelted across the empty carpark towards the Buick and escape. Shapes cut across the periphery and I spun around for a blurred glimpse of clowns in pursuit. One was huge and half-naked, an ugly scar stitched across his flaccid belly, a squashed face shouting Romany curses. I bolted across the road and staggered into the Buick. I had left my keys in my jeans… frantically scrabbling for the spare, starting the car in a second, rolling and revving into speed in seconds, I shot a glance across the carpark. The tall clown was running diagonally at my door – I floored the accelerator and slammed the bullbar into his leg, pulling a handbrake turn as he tumbled under my front wheel, grinding him into the pavement. I wasted no more time and drove like crazy homewards past the field. In the mirror I saw the dog man stride into the streetlit road. He screamed and barked, a chorus of yelping and thirsty howls responding from the animal cages as I soared past. I sobbed. It hurt to shake with the car and my tears stung. How could it be so wrong?

Leaving the town well behind me, blackness hanging heavy behind the car, I reassessed. I needed to treat myself first, then gather Baby and take the truck. What had happened was completely alien and it scared me terribly. Never had I been the target of violence – I was disempowered, sexually weak and subjected once more. I needed my Baby urgently, needed to claw back my soul with stolen power. The pain in my chest became less raw, reduced to a dull throb. I entered a delirium. The sensation aroused me in its corporeality, the sense of violation of my Being was unlike anything comprehensible. I drifted in and out until I got home; then a second wave of adrenaline hit and I ran too fast to my door. I stubbed my toe on a rock and landed in gravel, pea-sizes chunks lodged in the meat of my torso. I screamed through clenched teeth and thrashed upright. I staggered into the washroom and splashed water from the tap onto my wound. Then I staunched it with a fresh towel, which turned crimson immediately. I got another and from the medicine cabinet prepared a generous innoculation of ketamine. I shot it out of the needle in spurts over my wound and dissociated into flickering particles on the floor. This lasted only a very short time and I was suddenly cogent again, was paralysed with terror of the clowns. It horrified me, the rape of my demented sexuality, the tables turned by the object of my consumption, by some thing more evil. I did not understand what they were. I feared that they were coming for me, a rational fear that clarified into choking paranoia. I heard the faint sound of barking but could not be sure whether or not it was real. I couldn’t move. My mind was enslaved.

Downstairs, something creaked. My heart skipped a beat, and then the silence was broken by a soundless pounding, an internal drumroll as valves fluttered in my chest. For seconds there was only silence – then a slow flap… flap… flap… underscored by a dread shuffling, the clicking and bouncing of floor debris collecting in front of a dragged surface, and the suspicion flashed premonitorily into my mind, before I could properly understand – Baby’s loose. I heard the faint bark again, only this time it resolved into a wheezing pant as the stairs squeaked and the floor strained. I had only ever seen my Baby move reflexively from heat or pain – as I witnessed the terror of his own movement, of his self-direction I understood the shallowness of my previous engagement with my child. I had created a demon, a shambling beast capable only of obeying my command, moving beyond the parameters of my dominion. It put me to shame, and yet after the fact I felt a sense of pride. I felt like a liberator, cultivating a fledgeling presence in the world, and thus liberating myself from the need to control it. Ah, my Baby, had I only been able to hold you at that moment, to share my joy on the cusp of your flowering… to capture a happy memory… He rounded the doorway and peered blindly towards me with his closed eye, bulge darting behind puffy, scabbed lids, the lashes mohawked shut with gummy residue. His hideous face, normally vacant, bore a cruel pout of naïve, ravenous hatred. His good eye, half-obscured by the flabby, wrinkled forehead, fixed upon the bloody socket in my body. His fat, clammy paws compressed against the floor and he clumsily swung his bulk into the room. I forced myself up and found myself energetic now that I had momentum, the PCP adding a chill to the pain and adrenaline hyperstimulating my body. I felt infused with a calamitous power. My corpse bristled. I climbed up onto the basin, feet slippery with blood on the porcelain. Baby rolled towards me, his wheezing growing more and more heavy and fast, one bedsored fist extended, grasping, at me. I was confused beyond reason, aroused and terrified and something else, something electric and destinous. I let him touch me, a touch that quickly became a tear, black nails rending a gash down my shin and calf. I propelled myself off the edge of the sink and hit the floor behind him, rolling into a hard impact with the wall. My baby pivoted on a pudgy knee, overstraining the weak flesh and splitting it over the patella. He gurgled, struggling to roar, lurching forward even as his delicate tissues busted and tore. I scampered into the studio hallway, slamming the door behind me and blockading him behind a table, overturned. One of the legs cracked as I tipped it, and snagged my towel, yanking me to the floor by the chest. It hurt a lot and I heard ribs crack, tugged out of place by the cloth. I looked. The towel was scarred into my body. The flesh clustered in weals around the contours of the bloody flannel, a giant tufted pockmark situated in the middle of me. I had healed, at least scarred over. It was at this point that I decided I must be hallucinating. This could not be real. It had the character of the most delicious fantasy but the decisive element was missing. I couldn’t identify the motivators. It must have been the drugs… I looked at the rip in my leg. It had to be a trip, it felt so agonisingly concrete… it had closed up, mostly, and the blood had stopped.

So, too, had the noise from the washroom. I couldn’t even hear my Baby’s breathing. I was spooked. I went to the window, stared hard at the moonlit hillocks, striving to make out silhouettes of clowns or dogs. But there was nothing. The Moon appeared from above the roof, high and weighty in my field of vision, tracing her inexorable path over the night world. I felt a stir in my breast, the prenatal wrigglings of a fresh corruption. I felt drawn to the moon, compelled to dance outside and chase the necromancer queen. And so I did, leaping, twisting, wheeling through the dead grass and bleached bones, my body envigorated, reprogrammed, improved, basking in the glow of the satellite godess. I bounded through the air and smelt, reaching out along the tendrils of scent to uncover hidden animals, field rats, goats, scorpions and crows, piles of black offal, bowls of dust. Under the Moon I surged across the landscape like a black tide, one with my body, with my drives. No longer was I pathetic. No longer was I inauthentic, constricted by my own weak concessions to the boundaries of the weak. I had true appetites to satisfy, real business of the soul.

I ranged around, savouring my Becoming, until drawn back home by some psychosexual beacon, back to the fortified studio, the festering bowls of fruit and dirty plates, my collected and much-read tomes of profanity and my own sculptural contributions. In that room, surrounded by my opus, I was invincible. With confidence I strode to the washroom door, flung back the table with ecstatic force, busted into the chamber. The baby was lying on the floor, still and broken. I stared at it, passive and inert as new instincts battled old fetishism. I no longer loved that hulk of withered infection. It appetised me, but in a way to which sexuality could only be secondary. I stooped to the floor and licked its crusty forehead. It tasted like old milk and red vinegar, like rotten garlic on weak rubber. It turned to observe me, mouth dropping into a snarl. It clawed at me again, talons rupturing my shaggy skin only to have it close up behind them. It bit and clutched and fought, but in futility.

I could have destroyed it then, I could have shredded it with my bare hands, such was my embryonic power. But a new cruelty awoke in me, a reckless and cathartic urge to annihilate this disgusting episode of my ego. I left the baby and ran to the studio. I tore at the flimsy outer wall, craving the Moon’s presence, her darkly loving touch. A support broke and the sheet metal cascaded onto the floor, destroying some lesser works and throwing my equipment, my artist’s tools, into disarray. A solid beam flooded the room, illuminating twisted metal and crumbs of glass on the floor, rendering glossy a thick pool of my blood. Crazed passions overwhelmed me. I sunk to my knees and howled to my lunar Master. Behind I could hear the baby shuffling awkwardly. It had risen to its feet and was tentatively learning to walk, staggering towards me across the sharp debris, bloody footprints in a trail behind it. I let it approach, moon playing over its body and mine, and my ouvre, a surrealist catalogue of obsessions, a commentary on his pathetic life, the story of how it fed my own; enshrined in the pallid glow it encapsulated the moment. Like a pustule or a blister, I felt pressurised towards immanent release. When the baby came within striking distance I brandished the oxytorch. It faltered – it did not know what it was I held, but it understood my purpose. I fired it up and it recognised the sound, the heat, memories of angry noise, sparks falling through floorboards to singe its skin and hair. It geared its baby-walk into a run, falling precariously forward and away. I lobbed the torch at the baby. The fuel tank hit flat across the back and it fell to the floor. The jet of fire penetrated timbers and the house blazed. Hunched above the baby, I devoured its roasting meat in a lycanthropic meltdown. Now I am never seen and cannot be found. Out in the wastelands I roam for food. Sheep, rats, foxes, dogs, fresh or weeks-old, my lupine stomach cares not. All I have to do is follow the moon and the crows. I am stripped of my former complexity. I have only the unchanging rhythms of predation, and the memories of a fully human life. And with these tools I have built a new existence. I am more than I was. I feed on all. I am supreme in the desert. I devour all.

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