He was given his own bedroom, his own latrine too.
“You can walk around as much as you want to. Just listen to the guards when they tell ya you can’t be there..”
“Guards, right. Will anyone freak out if I just follow them around giving them the old death-stare?”
“They’ll probably ignore you,” the man shrugged, giving off a far more apathetic reaction than the Circus Freak had expected. “I dunno where you’ve been performing but we’re used to jesters around here, all your antics will get laughs, not attention.”
The Circus Freak paused, actually left without a reply as the man turned his back to him.
“Anyway, see you some time later.”
The man left and closed the door. It was minutes before the Circus Freak’s mouth wedged and curved, slowly, into a grin. Had he really been challenged, directly and straightforwardly, to do what he did best?
“Fantastic,” he whispered in delight, “challenge accepted.”
He left immediately.
It took him all of two hours to be quarantined to his quarters under locked key. They didn’t care about the ordinary servants he had scared, but after making the main caretaker to the heir weep like a crazy person and try to escape the castle, so he wouldn’t have to see Hugo again, they decided they better contain him before he does any worse.
It was funny how, if it were anyone else, he would have been arrested, or at least expelled, but because he was perceived as not knowing any better, they showed him patience and compassion, or at least enough of it to just keep him in his room until the party day.
He was fine with that. As promised, new gloves were brought, as were socks. He tried to put the socks on his hand to see how it went but it looked to him it just made him look silly, and that was never his intention at all. Everything about him had to be unsettling, not explicitly horrifying, or even scary, just…unsettling. He was the horror, and the make-up provided the question mark, making him into: “the horror?”
He was also offered to have his sleeve fixed, so it didn’t hang around like a sock used as a contraceptive and forgotten somewhere hanging in shame, an analogy he didn’t much care for, or really understand.
The food was good, however, mostly vegetables and rice, with some fruit on the side; it was the poor man’s meal in that country’s eyes, as opposed to large quantities of cooked meat and fish. Which was a weird perception of things but who was he to judge?
The Circus Freak did his exercises throughout the two days, the whole experience reminding him of his first time in prison, where he had exercised the most often because hey, what else was he going to do? He practiced his acrobatics: wall-running, cartwheels, vaults and flips and spins. He practiced his flexibility: splits, stretches, reaching parts he shouldn’t like licking his elbows and such.
Hugo also practiced his dancing, too, this particular style had transfixed him during his stay in the Orient some years ago. It helped his sense of timing, tempo, and overall increased his heart strength. His endurance and such, it was a good way to practice it without flat-out running, which he, unfortunately, couldn’t very well do while confined to a room.
Eventually, and at last, the night arrived. The Circus Freak knew it not only because he was counting the minutes, but due to the sounds. First, the horns, erupting with every arrival of a guest; they started in the afternoon and grew more frequent as dusk developed. And secondly, the noise of party crept into the air, clattering amidst voices growing in volume and number.
The door opened.
“You the clown they told me to fetch?”
He raised an eyebrow. Fetch?
The man chuckled.
“Go on then, go entertain the lords, stay away from the ladies.”
“The ladies don’t wish to be entertained?”
“Not by you,” he said, “women entertain themselves. Now get going, you don’t want to not show up after you ate our food and used our beddings.” The guard just left.
It could be he would not know the way, or would just leave, so the implication was that nobody really cared whether he even showed up.
The Circus Freak didn’t even feel like grinning, so insulted that he was. He shook his head once.
He marched out, turning his head to each side in loud cracks, and looked ahead like he was about to strangle someone. Even though he was smiling.
His smile widened, and his eyes closed more and more as he approached the great king’s hall, where the party was being held. He turned a corner and was met with a pattern of long stretching tables. Four, two at an angle at each side leading out of the four into one at an angle at each side into one single dinner table stretching only a bit more until it touched what Hugo guessed was the King’s throne smaller brother, a chair very unlike every other, where the king sat.
The idea was clear, a hierarchy was represented in that way, the only real discernible order in an otherwise chaotic event.
People were already drunk, singing and yelling at each other, food spread wide and messy, drink abound and spilled, laughter and joy to de-stress from the weight of being constantly under threat of assassination. When it comes to the lords, that is.
A score of bards spread about the room giving different groups of guests different tunes of fun and jolly, around ten jesters and clowns were to be his competitors, outside of the five acrobats already in employ, one of them walking a tightrope that had been assembled.
He realized then he had been forgotten. The Circus Freak had been remembered only already after the party had well past started. His grin grew wider, and he released a cackling laugh, disturbing everyone in his approximate radius.
He opened his arms, reminding himself he only had one of those, and jumped. He span so quickly the drunkards wouldn’t be able to count how many times, flipped meanwhile and landed on his one hand, he span as long as his momentum allowed him and then bent and pushed, hopping onto another performer, hitting him with the dirty end of his behind.
The acrobat hit his head on the ground, Hugo’s buttocks squarely around the young man’s mouth. “Oh my!”
The onlookers burst out with laughter and applause while the Circus Freak stood up in a quick turn.
Touching or hurting the actual guests and hosts wasn’t possible, not if he wanted to reach the king, but that rule didn’t apply to other performers. If it amused the crowd, it was fair game, because, after all, that’s what they were there for!
To entertain the rot o’ the world.
He kept up his antics, his stunts, and slapstick, providing the greatest entertainment all those people could ever hope for, and taking out his displeasure and frustration on his competitors.
The tightrope came down, a clown took a full plate of chicken and lemon to the face, and another was sent sliding across one of the tables on top of a plate full of pastries crushed by her back.
When he was close enough, close enough that he would not be stopped amidst the confusion, he began to let loose. It was around those two diagonal tables that led to the one at the end of which the king was sitting, sort of pensive but still enjoying himself, not really surrendering himself to all the liquor for some reason.
He did the spinning trick again, only this time, he landed not on his hand but his foot, and his body span once completely while it stood still.
The people paying enough attention froze in a shiver to the sound of the crack.
They cursed loudly, calling the attention of the others. They looked to find him standing on one foot, only his foot was turned to the wrong side. He crouched and bowed.
“It’s a trick!”
“A trick?!” The Circus Freak objected. “Who do ya take me for, some amateur? Why I oughta—hold on” he put his other foot on the floor and brought the other one up and, in one swift painfully loud movement, turned his foot, the bones finding their place. Everyone leaned back, freaked out.
“He’s a demon.”
“No,” he told them, “those are black and all metalicky! I’m just the bomb! Check this out.” It was the first time he would do that trick, in front of others anyway. He did a handstand on his head, he laughed. “Look, one hand!”
They laughed, relaxing again. He took one hand off and balanced on one hand.
“Look! No hands!” Some clapped, the others vocalized amazement.
Now let’s see if I can do this without dying.
He turned his head and allowed his body to push down, his face hitting his left face flat in a loud crack. He closed his eyes at the same time and grunted mortally for effect.
They yelped. A couple even screamed. He laughed.
The Circus Freak opened his eyes again and then his arm.
“I say!” one of the women yelled out, disturbed, “this is no entertainment, this is a freak show!”
“I agree!” Another said, “stop this horror or leave, jester!”
Hugo smiled inwardly, and also at them, though the one glanced back at them was scary. He brought his hand down and pushed himself slightly up, then down again so he could use the ground as support to loosen his neck, another loud crack.
“My sirs and ladies!” He stood up in a jump, serious and preoccupied, “I do apologize if I have disturbed you! My, this is such a dishonor.”
“A jester speaks of honor?”
“Ha! Now that’s a joke I can entertain!”
“I cannot stand this!” He acted, deliberately and to exaggeration. “What I have done to you on this joyous of days!” He turned around, their back to them. “I will take my life!” He grabbed his head, it was time for his key trick.
He closed his eyes and turned his head around in a snap. The entire breath of both tables froze in one collective spinal-conducted whimper, chorusing one single shriek to emphasize the shock.
After the two seconds in which everyone was too stumped to react, the Circus Freak opened his eyes wide and laughed.
He laughed and laughed, cackled, hugging himself even in an attempt to portray his sides hurting. They weren’t but he wanted to portray it.
Boy that had been so fun!
Then he noticed he wasn’t alone in laughing.
With his voice trickling out, he turned his head while turning his body to look at the king. He was smacking the table, pointing at him and laughing like a madman.
Hugo really didn’t even notice how his smile whimpered into a straight, very confused face. And no wonder, he had never felt that way before.
For the first time in his life, the Circus Freak himself, was taken aback.