The circus was a strange and novel thing for one Mr. Nathaniel Larson, a boy going on ten, who recently discovered the joys of a little bit of freedom, even for a few moments. He relished in the swirling, red-tinged lights, the loud voices of people announcing their wares or what mysteries hid under their curtains. Bursting with excitement, Nathan walked from tent-to-tent. What incredible new sights would approach him next? In his state of euphoria, Nathan bumped into one of the carnies, presumably on break.
"Hey, kid, watch where you're goin'. You wouldn't wantta bump into the wrong person," the man said, stalking away. Nathan made a mental note; carnies are strange, do not approach.
He felt himself drawn to one tent in particular. The large, muddy sign near the entrance proclaimed that what lay inside was a 'freak show'. Even at his young age, Nathaniel, like most, was ever curious about the deformation of his own kind. So, after paying the obligatory fee to a man with a protruding belly -- and wondering if he was part of the act -- he made his way inside the tent.
The interior was brighter than Nathan had imagined it. He could see all sorts of strange creatures -- people, he corrected himself - lined around the edges of the tent. He started to make his way around, feeling slightly bad for gawking at them like they were animals, but unable to keep his mouth from dropping open in amazement. Here, a bearded lady, laughing loudly; there, a man smelling of sweat who made the man outside the tent look like a toothpick; over there, a pair of twins that were joined together at the waist - literally! Near the back of the tent, Nathan found another flap of a door, leading into some smaller room. Feeling a strange need to go inside, as if the best person was hidden behind this meager piece of cloth, he glanced around to be sure all the workers were utterly unaware of him, picked up the edge of the flap, and entered.
This room was far darker than the one he'd been in previously, with a mustier smell, as if the air hadn't stirred in weeks. Nathan, though cursing his stupidity, knowing he should just turn around and walk back to the brightly-lit world on the other side of the divider, found himself walking farther into the room, into progressively darker places, until he found himself walking face-first into a soiled canvas wall . Turning around, he was stopped by the worker he had run into outside.
"What are you doing here, kid?" he asked. As he spoke, Nathan thought he noticed something wrong with this person, though he couldn't place his finger on it. A vague sense of discomfort made its way up his spine.
"I-I just wanted to s-see what was behind the curtain,? he stammered, glancing around for the exit, though he couldn't see more than a few feet behind him. The spell of this place had worn off, and he would gladly leave at that very moment if the worker would simply let him.
"Curiosity killed the cat, you know," the man sneered, smirking. Nathan noticed it again, some small flutter of something off in the man's face. As the man smiled, Nathan finally placed it, but with no joy.
The man's smile started normal, but when it got to the place that, on a normal face, it would stop growing, it grew more, until it was stretched across his face, ear-to-ear. Through the pale lips, Nathan could see edges of sharp teeth, overlapping each other, dripping with some red-colored liquid.
Before Nathan was able to let out a scream, the man's mouth opened wider, impossibly wide, and he was stuffed inside of it. After a few moments, wherein the sounds of ripping, cracking, and chewing could be heard throughout the entire tent, there was a gulp. The man smiled once more.