A Traveling Business

The fairground was deserted, except for the lone figure strolling through it, swinging a cane with a curved handle. This man, who for some years now had gone by the name John Hathaway, whistled as he threw his large feet out to the sides and out. His walk was strange, everyone said so, like the rolling gait of a man who knows the swaying deck of a ship more than dry land. He peeked into the empty tents as he passed them, making sure that all the carnival workers were in the roped off area where their tents were set up. He’d heard about the sort of thing that went on after hours at other men’s carnivals, but he wasn’t going to let such indecorous and rude behavior go on in his.

He’d bought the traveling carnival from its previous owner, a Mr. Glencock, for pittance. It was true that the elephant was rather old and feeble, the tightrope walker was in her forties, and the ringmaster was losing his voice, but Mr. Hathaway had decided not to let humdrum facts get in the way of making a fortune. He’d hired the poster-makers to put gold-paint on all the advertisements and he’d dropped the ticket price quite a bit, so the crowds came in droves. If they left disappointed – well, they’d bought cotton-candy, kettle-corn and a few rounds of pie-throwing first. Fair’s fair, Mr. Hathaway thought, he wasn’t promising anything that wasn’t in the carnival. He chuckled at his pun – “Fair’s fair,” he muttered under his breath again – and poked his cane into the last tent. Empty too.

He started to stroll back towards the camp. Merry fires had sprung up in between the canvas shelters, and someone had taken up the fiddle and was playing some country melody that sounded familiar. Mr. Hathaway bounced a little bit in time to the rhythm and hummed rather tunelessly. Tomorrow he and his carnival would be opening for the third and last night in the small intersection here between three towns, and he’d be glad to get going. Already, rumors were beginning to spread about the poor maintenance of the paint in the main ring and the blind, toothless old lion that was supposed to “ROAR AND SCARE THE BRAVE OF HEART!” according to the poster. Well, Mr. Hathaway saw himself saying to the complainers, the lion may be blind and toothless, but poke him with a stick and he roared, alright. Still, he thought, better to get moving and go to somewhere new.

Move [Part III]

Marianne was awakened, as always, by the rattling of the dumbwaiter as it clattered to a halt at the level of this room. She stretched her aching limbs, which were sore both from lack of movement and from the constant clenching they underwent when Marianne tried to move objects with her mind.

She got up off the thin mattress and went into the tiny steel-covered bathroom that was connected to the room by a sliding, metal door. There was no mirror in there of course, and Marianne wondered, for the hundredth time, what she looked like. She wondered if she looked gaunt and pale from lack of sunlight or just haggard from lack of sleep. In truth, she looked neither gaunt, nor pale, nor haggard. She didn’t know this, but the lights in the steel room were special – they imitated the light that the sun gave off and filled her skin with vitamin D. The food she ate every day was also altered, and was full of strengthening nutrients. Marianne didn’t know this either, but she was allowed to sleep more than eight hours every night, and so she actually got quite enough sleep. She was being cared for more carefully than she could ever imagine – but even if she knew this, she wouldn’t have been any less resentful towards her situation.

Marianne closed the steel bathroom door behind her and headed for the dumbwaiter, eager for her food. She quickly ate the eggs and toast and butter with the plastic utensils, and put the tray back in the dumbwaiter. She then turned and walked to the middle of the room and waited for the voice to come. She knew the routine – after breakfast every morning, a new day would start and she’d need to begin concentrating on moving things once more.

Sure enough, the dumbwaiter, which had clattered up and then back down again, came to a halt and opened automatically. Inside was a block of lead as large as a crate. This was heavier than anything Marianne had moved for days. The voice in the loudspeaker told her to concentrate and begin.

Marianne shut her eyes and imagined her mother’s face once more. She decided today to think about her memories of her mother when she was small. She then opened her eyes, the vision of her mother pushing her on the swings fixed in her mind, and then began to concentrate on moving the heavy thing.

In a room far above her, were a man and a woman, both staring at a large TV screen. They could see the girl, subject number 824, begin to move the lead block out of the dumbwaiter with her mind. They looked at each other with a rough determination in their eyes.

“How the HELL is she doing that?” The man asked.

“I think,” The woman replied slowly. “That next week we should take her out. It’s time to put on the electrodes. It’s time to see what that damned girl is thinking.”