Circuses are not my normal subject matter but “Le Cirque de la Nuit” came to me in their weird dream about a person who was seeing a woman named Medea in the mirror. I knew Dea was able to take control of the (male) person whose story I was watching and that she was a member of a strange, supernatural circus.
Then I found this song and everything fell into place. This was no mundane troupe but something existing on the edge of a much-changed world where people fled the cities and tried to reinvent lives that had, prior to the Apocalypse, been so very different.
As the story was drafted the week after we lost David Bowie, I knew he had to appear in this story, specifically in his guise of Jareth, the Goblin King. And so the mysterious Ringmaster wears furs and feathers and plays with glass spheres, delighting the children in the audience. He’s a force of nature but cares for those accepted into his troupe, animals and humans both. Sometimes the troupe takes people will skills and, other times, they are all that’s left for the broken souls, like my main character, Jessie.
Death was an important part of the plot, as was this sort-of future world where the barriers between life and death aren’t as solid as they were originally. Something bad happened to the world vaguely connected to cities and technology, and now people exist in hamlets as far from civilisation’s heart as possible. I could see people living in make-shift homes with no heating or lights, with candles and furs and even seeing things like hoodies, the remnants of a dead and cursed world, as being something to be avoided just because they came from a dangerous place.
Except the world, with bandits and unnatural seasons, is even more dangerous than it ever was before our world came to an end.
I didn’t want this to be a straight sci fi story so we have the Night Circus of the title, which appears and moves from place to place pretty much on it’s own whims. They have a menagerie of fantastical creatures, from a mermaid to a unicorn; the centerpiece is a beautiful lion called Le Roi (French for “The King”, named in honour of a Facebook acquaintance’s cat who is named in honour of the Sun King himself). Sometimes new creatures appear, seemingly willed into existence by the imagination of children, like a phoenix egg waiting to hatch.
The point is, this isn’t our world. The only semblance of normality can be found in the Midway where there are food and games and sellers who will trade items or scrap. Jessie is haunted by her son and husband, who wander the area almost on a loop that is based on the last night she was with them.
Except she’s not there.
Jessie is now a marionette, a Puppet in the circus’ troupe of acrobats and Dea is her Puppeteer, the true dancer but who is also disembodied and so needs Jessie to perform. At the same time Jessie just wants to get back to her family, despite Dea’s protestations that her family will come to her if she’s patient. Jessie, of course, she wants to fight for her family and to return to her old life.
But of course, where’s the story in old lives?