An interlude at the circus

The man’s eyes are dark and intense. They bore into yours. “Red, or blue?”

You look up and down the fairway, puzzled. “Dude. It’s just cotton candy.”

The man says, “You eat the blue cotton candy and you will be summoned back to your childhood and an endless summer day and raspberry breezes across goldenrods waving under the sun. It will be bliss.”

You shake your head and laugh. The man does not join you. You say, “Um, okay. What happens if I eat the red one?”

“Eat the red cotton candy, and discover how strange this cherry-flavored clown car of a world can get.”

You step back. This dude is fucked up. What the hell.

You scratch your head.

Then again, she left you at the gate, saying she had an emergency. Even though you’d planned the date for a week. Then again, she always turns her body between you and her cell phone.

Then again, you are a grown man alone at the fucking circus.

The cotton candy could be poisoned. This weird man’s words even seem to suggest a hallucinogen. Well then. Whatever.

“Red.”

The red cotton candy tastes like heaven. It tastes like the cherry candies your mom used to hide above the fridge, with their chocolate coating and that clear, sweet cream surrounding the real cherry in the center.

You sit on a bench outside a tent and enjoy it as dusk slides into starlight and a low, brass moon rises above the tents. You can hear a crowd inside the big tent roaring its approval for this act and that and you realize you should be enraged and depressed but you’re actually feeling pretty good.

Then there is a snapping and a tickling sensation so intense it is closer to burning. It begins in your feet and climbs. You look down. You are slowly being enveloped with red cotton candy. You try to shred it but it keeps coming back and consuming you. You begin to shout but people pass as if you’re doing nothing, just sitting there, what the fuck is going on?

You fall to the grass and roll under the bench, attempting to rip away the spiraling sugar strands. They are impossibly strong. In a moment you are cocooned, smothering as the spun sweetness invades your mouth, your nostrils and–another snap. You come to, huddled under white fabric, in darkness.

All around you is a chorus of breathing and unnaturally high-pitched giggles. You hear calliope music, but it’s muffled. You begin to struggle against the fabric when from all sides white-gloved hands grasp you and pull you upwards, through a small metal door into a searing, blinding light. You wince and collapse against the seemingly disembodied hands as a face blocks that glare. It is caked in white, black and red clown makeup. A blinking red bulb adorns its nose. The rubbery lips split the white-coated face and as he speaks, you realize you are again looking into the cotton candy man’s dark, burning eyes.

WELCOME,” he screams, “TO THE REAL WORLD.

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