Final post from my pre-writing before NaNoWiMo. Rachel and Clarence have a nice evening out…
“What is this place Rachel?” asked Clarence looking about at the tents and people.
“It is ‘Dr. Magnifico’s Mechanical Wonders and Traveling Sideshow.’” Rachel read from an ornate hand lettered banner that hung over the entrance to the show.
“Mmmm” replied Clarence around a brightly colored nugget of rock candy on a stick.
Rachel watched men and women milling about or standing on tiptoes craning for a look into the open sided tents that held the mechanical wonders. She squinted through the haze of coal smoke and steam lit to a warm glow by hundreds of kerosene lamps towards a broad opening at the other end of the show where she could hear music playing.
Clarence tugged at her hand and pointed into one of the tents where she caught a glimpse of a wiry haired old man in a long apron and goggles hung at his neck staring lovingly as a pair of mechanical mantids cavorted about on the table before him.
“Step right up! Step right up!” Rachel heard the call of a show barker on a small stage opposite a brightly painted calliope that huffed steam and raucous music into the night air. “Come see the mechanical miracle, the jewel of the Jade Empire that has traveled thousands of miles to astound you with the wonders of the modern technological age.”
Clarence eagerly pulled Rachel into the crowd that had gathered at the foot of the small stage where a young Chinese woman in a red silk robe paraded sensuously.
“May I have two volunteers from the crowd please?” the barker asked. In response, two young men leapt forward and clambered up on the stage.
Plants thought Rachel.
Rachel watched as the barker held a brief conference with the men and then conducted them to positions on the stage where they raised a cloth with a colorful landscape highlighted by a rolling turreted wall. The Chinese woman slipped behind the screen, turned away from the crowd and slid the robe from her shoulders. A blue and green dragon tattoo could be seen in flight on mechanical wings across her back dipping beneath her long black hair that flowed from her head. She turned to face the audience and gave a demure nod to the men holding the screen. At this signal, the men dropped the makeshift curtain.
Rachel heard Clarence gulp as he clapped his hands over his eyes. All around her gasps filled the air, as she stood mesmerized by the Chinese woman standing naked from the waist up. An elaborate brass cage with fanciful etchings and ornate filigree stood where her breasts and stomach should have been. Inside, Rachel could see hundreds of spinning gears, coiled springs, and a slow, almost hypnotic motion, of what appeared to be jewel encrusted bellows. The woman’s flesh was pink and puckered where the mechanics met the rest of her natural body.
“It is ok Clarence,” Rachel said tugging at his arms. “She is part automaton. Look, you can see her breathing. And there,” Rachel pointed, “you can even see her heart beating.”
“Something is wrong Rachel,” said Clarence. On stage, a look of shock registered on the face of the Chinese woman that, only a moment ago, held a look of supreme confidence. Within seconds, the woman had fallen to one knee and put a hand to the stage to steady herself.
“It is all part of the act” Rachel assured Clarence. But it was the frantic actions of the barker, all attempt at showmanship gone, that shocked Rachel into action.
“Rachel, you need to help the pretty clock lady!” Rachel heard Clarence shout as she pushed her way toward the stage amid the cries of alarm raised by the crowd.