The Paper Doll

I’m not at home, so this post won’t be anything new from me, but it might be new to you, and in my absence it’ll do! It’s one of the first proper stories in English that I wrote, over a year ago. It went live on Morgen Bailey’s blog, but it’ll be cool to reintroduce it today!

The Paper Doll

There was a circus on the beach of the sea, right on the sand, no more than five meters from the water and its waves.  It performed only at night; for certain people, at a certain price, an entertainment one-of-a-kind, once a year for three nights. Until the dawn. There was no tent, just a few huge pillars, build deep into the sand for the performance holding the ropes for the trapeze and tightrope acts, so except for the seats and the lights, the circus was opened to the sky above.

There were magnificent acrobats, twisting their bodies, in the most amazing ways, then slowly, unwinding themselves; trapeze acts, flying high, swinging, unbelievable for the eyes of everyone watching. How could they manage that, with no roof to hold all the strings required to hold the bars, no metal, nor anything? Was this, which held them, coming down from the dark sky? Alas this illusion optical or psychological remained unanswered for the audience. It was the magic of the circus no doubt.

The tightrope walkers were balancing on tin ropes and wires some lower, some on a greater height, balancing with umbrellas or only with their bodies and hands, without protection whatsoever to hold them if they tend to fall, making the audience gasp and shiver and tremble and fear. They looked like moving on the spine of the night, on some invisible line, only for them to see. Then of course for a comic relief came the clowns, funny and stupid, stomping and falling, with red noses and green hair, blue trousers and big yellow shoes. Animals, though a few, roared or crawled, and watched with, as people imagined, hungry eyes.  The sand was flattened in the center of the circus and there, unicyclists three of them were riding, and juggling at the same time, making everyone dizzy. Musicians were playing from the darkness, out of the light, no faces just music, corresponding to the acts of all the performers, following their every step – piccolo for the clowns, fast violins and loud drums, most likely timpani, keeping on edge the public while the tightrope walkers or the trapeze performers were making their final step. Not the usual circus music you would expect to hear, but then again not the usual circus you’d expect to watch.

And then the music ceases, just for a moment, for The Ringmaster to appear, all dressed in red, with white gloves, a white bow-tie, big red top-hat, black pointy beard, and eyes mesmerizing, deep and black, with a sparkle in them. Without a microphone, his voice spreads in the vastness, loud, remaining powerful, for all to hear. He gathers round the public’s attention, with smooth words and moves announcing the next part. There are no pauses for this circus.

The Ringmaster opens his hands, pointing them in direction, to nowhere, to the dark, and flames start walking towards him. Fire-breathers, like dragons step into everyone’s vision and suddenly the lights turn off. No one dares to move.

Music changes. There are Arabic drums and flutes, to which the flames dance like snakes. The audience can see only a glimpse of the performers’ faces, when the fire catches them. They hypnotize with this dance macabre. All fades to black, for a moment, then the lights turn on again. Applause, like thunder, comes from all around. Everyone is speechless. But there’s more to see. They feel it. It’s time for the 13th act, the last one which performs as the sun is about to rise, making a path for itself on the surface of the water. They know something is about to happen when The Ringmaster, smirking, announces:

“Ladies, gentleman you are about to witness the most extraordinary act in your lives. One which you will not forget, one you will tell stories of, one to show you magic inhabits this reality. This is one to test the nature of your minds, to ask not only your eyes but your inner vision as well – your ability to dream and fantasize. Let your emotions feel you, let them circulate in your souls. Face them as you watch. For your entertainment, and yours only, tonight you will be reborn seeing the unbelievable. Welcome, The Paper Doll and her Master – Sasha!”

“Go on, your dad be proud.”

Sasha looked at the big, strong acrobat, nodded silently and made her way into the light. Her father, The Ringmaster came close and whispered in her ear, “Be a good girl. Don’t make me angry”.

The sky had started to lighten. Sasha, holding a human-sized paper doll moved around the audience making them turn on their seats, watching baffled at what was happening.

Under the sounds of darbuka and kaval the girl, barefooted, stepped in the water, and continued until it reached her waist. The sun was an upside down smile on the horizon, burning orange.  She then dived and again the audience gasped. A wave passed and the paper doll appeared above the water with no sight of Sasha. From where the audience sat, it didn’t look like a paper doll, but like a woman dancing on the tip of the water, curving her body, slow with the rhythm of the music, a sound sad and lonely. She was a mirage, dim before the watchers’ eyes, a mermaid, a siren, calling for all. It looked so real, yet impossibly for this paper doll to touch the water, to dive and appear again, reaching a hand for the ones on shore, with no voice, only body language. The audience stood up, with tears in eyes, breathless. Kneeling down, before the water they gave their souls away for love, for salvation. For this unknown girl drowning as her dance stops, lost forever. They cannot bare this end, so they die with it, soulless. Behind, the devil and his demons await their feast. They lick lips tasting the souls they’ll devour. Tonight the circus on the beach opens again.

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22 thoughts on “The Paper Doll

    • Thank you, Steve! Really glad you liked.
      I had the idea of taking Sasha out of this story and building another one around her, maybe sending her in the world of humans with her being the daughter of the Devil that would make a few interesting sutuations, but that’s only a thought at the moment.
      Thanks for commenting!

  1. Cindy, this is astounding. First of all, your English is nearly flawless and better than some natives I know. Second, your imagery is evocative of Ray Bradbury… I was there and could see it all. I love the delightfully evil twist in the end.

    You should consider submitting this for publication.

    • I am grateful for your words Tom, thank you!
      I remember I was quite nervous while writing this piece, as I wanted it to turn out really good. I’m really glad you were able to “attend” the circus while reading. I’m shy but I’ll say I’m pleased. As for submitting it for publication… I’ve given that a fair amount of thought, and I am inclined to submit it, along with another one I’m currently working on. I’m keeping my options opened and I do the research of those communities and sites acception flash stories so sooner or later I’d take that step as well!

      Thank you for commenting Tom.

    • Hahaha, aye that’s one reason! You know, they say “Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”. True, but I still find them amusing. Though I prefer a traveling carnivale.

      Thanks for commenting Icy!

  2. There is something about the circus, something sinister. I wasn’t expecting the twist at the end either or the change in tone but I think there’s a part of me that expects the worst when the circus is in town!

    I’m also full of admiration for anybody who can express themselves creatively in a second language. *salutes*

    • There’s always something happening when the circus is in town innit? Very few times it involves only cotton candy and popcorn hah 🙂

      Thank you, Pete, for the comment and the salute; I’m learning as I go!

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