-Birth year: 1995
-Physical age: 22
-Species: Human spirit
I’ve lived a weird life. Hell, I’ve lived a weird afterlife. Here I am, a 22 year old dead girl who works at a circus full of supernatural creatures. Do I perform at said circus? Nope. My job is to help a Greek Furie sell food and alcohol to people. So yeah, I live an odd life.
I’ve been at the circus for around a year now, and I’m still not entirely used to it. There are nice people here and other dead people like me, but the atmosphere is…different. Not bad in any way, just…different. I used to love circuses and carnivals when I was younger. The sights, the sounds, the food, the performances; it was all so much fun! The Red Line Circus is like that, but at the same time it’s not. Every time I see one of the clowns or a performer up on stage, I know that they’re not human (well, in some cases not anymore). There’s only one living human here at the circus, but he’s an anomaly. Everyone else is some supernatural or mythical creature that I read about in books. I still haven’t grasped the fact that now I practically live with those same creatures. My boss is a reaper of souls! If you had told younger, naive, alive me that one day I would die and my afterlife would consist of me working at a circus with a bunch of mythological creatures and other dead people, I probably would have run screaming from you. Nevertheless, here I am. I’m sure you want to know all the details of how I got here, huh? It’s…weird. Let me just say that it was a skeleton that introduced me to the Red Line Circus. You’ll find out the context for that one later. My name is Ruby Allison.
I’m from California in the US, specifically near Hollywood. That’s right, I grew up with all the famous movie stars right down the street. None of my family were celebrities, and neither was I. I never got the call to be a child actor in a film or TV show. My younger self was disappointed. Looking back, it was probably for the best.
I went to a normal school and had normal friends. For someone who lived in the entertainment capital of the world, I was shockingly normal. Just another face on the street. Nobody would ever say, “Hey, that’s Ruby Allison! Let’s go get an autograph!” That was fine by me. I was more than familiar with the way the paparazzi hounded celebrities in the area. You couldn’t walk a few feet without seeing a man with a camera run down the street. It was just par for the course. You got used to it.
In my younger days, I wanted to become an actress. I adored the idea of acting on the big screen. I wanted my name in lights on all of the billboards across Hollywood. Everyone would know the name Ruby Allison!
There was just one problem: I couldn’t act if my life depended on it. Don’t get me wrong, I could memorize lines like it was nobody’s business, but whenever I got in front of someone I froze up. It was stage fright to the max. I could barely hold myself together when I was by myself in front of a camera in my own house!
In my freshman year of high school, I auditioned for the leading role in the winter play. My audition was so bad that talk of it spread through the theater community at the school like wildfire. Everyone was talking about the girl who shook like a leaf and spoke like a robot. Needless to say, I gave up on my dreams of acting pretty soon after that. Being laughed at in high school is one thing. If I had given the same kind of audition to a professional, I’d be the laughing stock of Hollywood!
Though my horrible acting skills followed me through freshman and sophomore years, people began to forget about me once I never went back to the theater. I was perfectly fine going back to being a normal girl. I sped through my junior and senior years without a word spoken of that horrid incident. I would take the little victories where they came.
Once I graduated from high school, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with my life. Acting was out the window, and I had yet to find a job that would interest me. So, I decided to take a year or two off to get my life in order and figure out what I wanted to do for a living.
It was around 2013 when I met Aaron Potaris. He was a somewhat well-known DJ at a club on the east side of Beverly Hills. It was a place called The Solstice, and it was somewhere that I frequented starting around the same year. While I was still on the hunt for a career, I had to get my kicks in somewhere. The Solstice was your average club that featured bands of all genres. The place was 18-plus rather than the usual 21-plus, so it was the perfect place for my friends and I to chill. I may not have been old enough to drink alcohol at the time, but that didn’t stop me from having a blast with every visit. I can’t even count how many times I went to The Solstice. There were days that I would chill in there until the staff kicked me out. It was the place to be.
Aaron was one of the reasons that I kept coming. He was attractive, he played amazing music, and he seemed like an all-around cool dude. Not to mention that he was the same age as me. I found it funny that the boy couldn’t even be bought a drink by the people that enjoyed his music. He always sat by his turntables with a Pepsi and a water close at hand.
As you can probably tell, I fell for him. Hard.
After a while, he noticed that I was coming specifically to see him. It was just my luck that he took an interest in me. One night after one of his shows, we stayed in the club until the wee hours of the morning just talking and getting to know one another. I was as nervous as anything. This was a boy who was practically a celebrity to me, and we were having a conversation like we were close friends. Be still my beating heart.
Our little post-show meetups continued for a while. It was the same routine: he would finish his show and cleanup, then come sit at my table while the next act came on. It was perfect, and my friends were a little jealous. All of them agreed that Aaron had a thing for me. I wasn’t sure whether I believed it. Maybe it was because I considered myself an average girl and he was a celebrity. Maybe because I thought that there were so many better girls out there than me. Yet, in the end, he chose me.
Aaron asked me to be his girlfriend on December 4th, 2014. I remember that date like the back of my hand. That was the day that everything changed for me. That was the beginning of the end.
For the first several months, I was on cloud 9. I had an amazing celebrity boyfriend who gave me anything and everything I could have wanted. Hell, I even moved into his apartment four months after we started dating. He was my first boyfriend, and in my eyes he was the only one I would ever have. I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else.
Now that I was dating a celebrity, the life of a celebrity began to follow me. I got my first taste of what being hounded by the paparazzi was like, though it was only when I was seen with Aaron. Nobody seemed to care about me when I was alone, but I didn’t mind that. I had my privacy. But when I was with him, the paparazzi would clamor over “Aaron Potaris’ new girlfriend.” At the time I was overjoyed. It was the closest I would get to stardom without making an ass out of myself. I thought that life with Aaron was perfect.
But nothing is ever perfect, is it? I should have seen the signs long before I did. I should have gotten out of there while I had the chance. Back then, my judgment was clouded. I wanted nothing more than to stay with Aaron, no matter what happened. My dependence on him went to his head. He changed. Well, maybe not. Maybe he was always an asshole. Maybe he was just waiting for the right moment to show his true colors. He had to make a great first impression, after all.
In the later couple years of our relationship, things went south real quick. In public, we were the poster children for the perfect young relationship. We held hands, we smiled, we acted like we were the happiest people in the world.
It was when we were alone that he would hurt me. Every time I talked back to him, or said something that he didn’t like, I would get a punch in the arm, torso or stomach. He always hit me in places that couldn’t be seen. Sometimes he slapped me in the face, but he made sure never to leave a bruise. He couldn’t have people questioning why his girlfriend looked so ragged.
The worst part of it was that I stayed by his side the whole time. I hated when he put his hands on me. He always spun it around to make it seem like it was my fault that he was hurting me. Yet, I was so scared of what would happen if I left him. I was terrified that he would spread lies about me among his fans and they would come after me like rabid animals. That he would use his popularity to ruin me. He had me right in the palm of his hand. He could do whatever he wanted to me and I would remain with him through it all. I hated it. What had originally been a wonderful, loving relationship morphed into one that was fueled by his dominance and my submissiveness. I thought he loved me. I guess in the end I was just “Aaron Potaris’ girlfriend” and nothing else. That bastard took something away from me that I wouldn’t get back until I joined the Red Line Circus: my dignity.
For almost two years I dated Aaron. Towards the end, I tried everything to appease him. And I mean everything. I did a lot of things with him that I shudder just thinking about. It was a very low time in my life. I was miserable and sore almost every day. There were several times I contemplated suicide. I could never pull myself to do it, though. I knew that Aaron would find some way to paint me in a bad light even if I escaped him that way. I was trapped. He made me pretend that I was happy whenever we went out somewhere. If you ever saw me online in a picture with him, I always had a big smile on my face. If you really look into my eyes, though, you can see the pain and the hurt I was feeling. I felt like I was in Hell.
In the end, he pushed me too far. He has nobody to blame but himself for what happened that final night. My only regret was that he took me down with him.
We had just gotten home from dinner at a fancy restaurant. I don’t remember if the food was good or not. I was too distracted. I didn’t get two steps through the door before Aaron backhanded me across the face. I yelped and spun onto the couch. My cheek burned like I had just been stung by a wasp. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes.
“You looked awfully upset during dinner,” Aaron said, rubbing his reddened hand. “What are people going to think when those pictures get published? I thought I told you to keep your chin up when we’re out in public. Isn’t that what I told you?” I opened my mouth to speak, but no words would come out. That was the hardest he had ever hit me in the face. He was in a particularly foul mood that night.
Aaron marched over and grabbed me by the hair. His face was only an inch away from mine. Tears fell like a waterfall down my cheeks. I think that only made him angrier.
“I asked you a question!” He shouted in my ear. He tugged at my hair sharply and came away with several strands. I felt like screaming but only winced. “Are you not listening to me?”
I tried to say something, but my words came out jumbled and sputtering through my tears. This earned me another slap across the other cheek. Now my whole face felt like it was on fire. Aaron didn’t look like he was ready to let up anytime soon.
“Get up,” he said in a eerily calm tone of voice. I didn’t move. His hand was still clasped tightly around my hair. “GET UP!” he screamed this time. Aaron yanked me up off the couch by my hair. I couldn’t hold back anymore. I let out a scream and he kneed me in the back. My scream was cut off as the air left my lungs. My mouth hung open in a silent yell as I gasped for a breath. Meanwhile, Aaron dragged me over to the bathroom and flung me inside. I landed hard on the tile floor. I felt a sharp pain shoot through my leg as it smacked into the base of the sink. I sat on that floor, sobbing and feeling pain everywhere in my body as Aaron looked down at my like I was an insect.
“Clean yourself up,” he grumbled. “You’re a fucking mess. When you’re done, come to bed and we’ll forget any of this happened.” He slammed the door shut. I didn’t get up off of the floor for five minutes. Too many thoughts were running through my mind. He had never beaten me so bad before. It was always a punch here or a kick there. This time he had gone the whole way. My face and scalp burned. My back and leg ached. My throat and lungs were sore from the heavy breaths I was taking. Aaron was right. I was a mess.
I pulled myself to my feet and stared into the mirror. I barely recognized myself. My hair was a frizzy mess, while both of my cheeks were stained bright crimson. I was lucky that he hadn’t given me a black eye.
My fingers dug into the sink as I forced myself to stop crying. Enough was enough. I’m not sure where the urge came from, but there was a little voice in the back of my mind that pushed me to take revenge. I was sick and tired of living a lie. I was sick of being beaten for the tiniest little thing. How would Aaron like to step into my shoes for a few minutes?
I pushed back my hair and scrubbed the tears out of my eyes. I had no idea what was going to happen to me, but I didn’t care. Aaron needed to learn why being an abuser leads down a dangerous path.
“Aaron, can you come here for a minute?” I called, trying to make my voice as steady as possible. “I need you to help me unzip my dress.” I heard heavy footsteps rumble towards the door. I took a deep breath and grabbed a glass vase that we kept next to the sink.
“Seriously?” He muttered. “Fine. Hang on.” I pulled the vibrant red roses from the vase and dropped them to the floor. My heart was thumping at a million miles a minute.
Aaron pushed open the door and wore an annoyed scowl on his face. He only had a second to react before I flung the vase into his face. The glass shattered and sprayed around him. Aaron yelped in pain and staggered backwards. Blood ran down his forehead and over his eyes. He brushed the glass away and stared at me with the intensity of a wolf on the hunt. My heart fell into my stomach. I was hoping that the blow would have knocked him unconscious. I was as good as dead.
Aaron bull-rushed me and grabbed me by the arms. I struggled against his grip to no avail. With a grunt, he slammed me into the mirror. The reflective glass broke apart and fell over my head and shoulders as the wind was once again forced from my lungs. I could feel a warm liquid fall down my neck and back. Aaron pulled me forward, intending to slam me back against the broken glass. My leg shot up and connected with his balls. He went to his knees almost instantly.
While he was down, I took the opportunity to kick him in the head. Blood spurted from his fresh cut, but he still didn’t go down. I reared my leg back for another shot, but he grabbed my ankle before I could connect. He yanked and I fell to the ground. I saw a red flash of pain as the back of my head slammed against the floor.
Aaron climbed on top of me and wrapped his hands around my neck. I tried to push him off, but he was too heavy. I could feel my face turning blue as my air supply was cut off. Aaron’s blood dripped into my face. I thought that was the end of me. Darkness was already beginning to come into the edge of my vision.
My eyes flicked to the side, and I noticed several large shards of glass from the mirror laying on the floor next to me. I reached with everything I had towards the largest one. My fingers clawed for purpose. The darkness grew thicker. Just a little more…
I felt the cool glass in my hand and took hold. With all of my strength, I lifted my arm and plunged the glass into Aaron’s chest. He screamed in pain and fell off of me. I gasped and coughed as the air refilled my lungs. The darkness in my eyes receded, and I painfully pulled myself to my feet.
“You fucking bitch!” Aaron spat. He held a hand to his new wound. I panted heavily and held the shard out in front of me. I dared him to take another step. He would regret it. “That’s the way you want to play, huh?”
Aaron picked up his own shard of mirror and rushed at me again. I screamed in fury and drove my shard into his neck. At the same time, I felt a searing pain shoot through my chest. Aaron’s eyes widened as his fingers grazed the piece of mirror that now jutted from his throat. He made a gurgling sound and blood seeped from his mouth. He stared at me incredulously before collapsing to the floor. His head landed right in the bowl of the toilet, splashing water and blood over the side. It was a fitting place for him to rest.
I had no time to think about the fact that I had just committed murder. I peered down at my chest and noticed a spreading circle of crimson staining my nice dress. The bastard had caught me right in the heart as soon as I stabbed him.
My legs gave out and I tumbled backwards into the bathtub. The darkness returned to my vision and did not cease. The last thing I saw was Aaron’s corpse flopped over the toilet as if he was drunk. The bathroom was an absolute mess. With my last shred of energy, I smiled. My pain was finally over. With that, the darkness consumed me.
And then my afterlife began.
It felt like only a minute passed. I awoke with a start in the ruined bathroom. All of the pain had left me. I blinked a few times as my eyes flashed around the room. Aaron’s body still lay face down in the toilet. Everything else was the same, but I felt…better. Better than I had in years. I wondered if I had actually survived the attack and the adrenaline had shocked me awake.
I pulled myself out of the tub, making sure not to step on the shards of broken glass. The floor was coated with specks of blood, both mine and Aaron’s. I turned around to see the state of the bathtub and nearly screamed. Sitting there with eyes open and a smile on their face was a bloody body. I rubbed my eyes and realized that the body was my own. I was certifiably dead.
Well, I thought. Shit. I thought that I had beaten the devil. It looked like we beat each other. I was sick to my spectral stomach. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen now that I was dead. Would I be cursed to wander the Earth as a spirit until the end of time? Would the grim reaper appear to take me to the afterlife? So far, spending my afterlife in a bloody bathroom was not my idea of a good time. I couldn’t bear to look at my own corpse any longer.
I turned to make my way out of the bathroom and stopped cold. Aaron stood in the doorway. I glanced between him and the body that lay in the toilet. He was as dead as I was. Was his spirit planning to beat the shit out of mine? No way in Hell would I allow that. I didn’t die finally defending myself from him just to suffer again in the afterlife. I never considered myself a good person, but I didn’t deserve such a Hell.
“You’re in for it now,” Aaron scowled. I was frozen in place. My brain screamed for my body to move, to jump through the wall like ghosts did in the movies. My body didn’t listen. I was as good as a statue.
Aaron took a step forward and fell to the ground. As he did, I noticed a skeletal hand grasping onto his ankle. Behind the hand was nothing but shadows.
“What the hell?” He cried. The hand began to pull him backwards out of the room. His fingers dug into the tile in an attempt to find something to grab onto. It was to no avail. Aaron Potaris was dragged kicking and screaming into the darkness by an unseen figure. His screams cut out as soon as he was lost from view. Silence filled the apartment.
I’ll admit that I broke out into laughter. I was trying to wrap my head around what had just happened, but seeing that bastard scream like a little girl as some unknown entity dragged him away gave me the best feeling I had in years. Serves him right.
I tiptoed out of the bathroom and scanned around the living room. There was nothing out of the ordinary. Aaron was definitely gone. It was just me and the corpses in the bathroom. Flashing red and blue lights cascaded through the windows. It was apparent that one of our neighbors had heard the commotion and called up the police.
I meandered around the apartment for a few minutes. My ecstasy from Aaron’s demise began to fade as I wondered if that same entity would return for me. A chill shot up my spine. It felt as if the apartment had suddenly dropped several degrees. I got the horrible sensation that someone was watching me. I regretted thinking about the concept of the grim reaper.
I peeked my head back into the living room and jumped a mile. There was a shadowy figure standing near the couch! The figure was more than a head taller than I was and wearing a jet-black cloak. It turned its head around and stared at me with empty eye sockets. The damn thing was a walking skeleton!
I felt like a child, hiding behind the threshold of my bedroom door. The grim reaper was in my house! What was I supposed to do? Waltz up to him and ask him to take me to Heaven? The way he was staring at me was off-putting. I shivered knowing that a conscious skeleton with a grand amount of power was waiting to take my soul to some other realm.
The reaper spun around and took a step towards me. I gulped and prayed to whatever god was listening to let that creature be kind to me.
“I have come for you,” the skeleton said in a deep, demanding tone.
“I-I’m not afraid of you!” I countered. I wasn’t even sure if I believed my own words.
For a moment, all was silent. Then, to my complete and utter disbelief, the entire air of the room changed. The expression on the reaper’s face was frozen in skeletal form, but I almost felt an air of…embarrassment coming from him.
“No, no, no, wait!” The reaper shouted, waving his hands furiously in front of him. His entire disposition seemed to morph. Even his darkened voice had changed considerably into something much more airy and attune to a skeletal character from a certain 1980s cartoon. “I didn’t mean it like that at all! Let me try that again!”
My eyebrows furrowed and my jaw fell slack. What on Earth was going on? The reaper turned around towards the corner, counted out loud to three, then spun back around and gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up.
“Congratulations! You’re dead!” The reaper began clapping as confetti seemed to materialize out of nowhere and fall onto my head and shoulders. One piece flew into my mouth. I hacked it out. The paper tasted like dust.
The Reaper let out a nervous chuckle as his clapping slowed, and then died out completely. The spectral confetti blinked out of existence a second later.
I was at a loss for words. I took back every sentiment that told her that this…thing in front of me was the bonafide grim reaper. The skeleton part was right, but this guy was acting way too friendly and casual for him to be the creature to shuffle me off to the afterlife. This one must have been some wacky spirit that was trying to get a few giggles in. That or I was just in some horrid nightmare and this was where things started to get weird.
The reaper was staring at me as if he expected a reply. I searched my brain for anything to say. “So, um…What are you supposed to be?”
A slightly offended air seemed to fall over the reaper. It was the weirdest thing. I hated how I could feel his emotions even though his face never changed. It was just his jaw that moved up and down, and he was already using that too much.
“I’m here to take you to Purgatory, young lady,” he replied. That figured. I guess it was hoping too high that I would end up immediately in Heaven. I guess that’s what happens when you kill someone in self-defense. It also seemed like that skeleton really was the grim reaper. He was nothing like I expected. I had always known about the reaper being this dark and foreboding creature. This guy seemed like he belonged in a satire film. I wasn’t sure whether to be happy that I didn’t get the bad version or concerned that this was what the real grim reaper was like.
“So, you really are the Grim Reaper, huh?” I still had an air of skepticism around me. I eyed the skeleton closely. I just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t being punked, or whatever you would call the version of that with dead people.
“Well, I’m not the Grim Reaper per se,” he replied. “There’s a lot of us. I just so happen to be the third. You can call me Scy!”
I opened my mouth to speak, but then slammed it shut and kept my lips a thin line. Too many questions buzzed in my mind. Knowing this skeleton, I would be here all night. I was better off taking his comments at face value. Apparently there were more grim reapers. If he was reaper number three, I didn’t even want to think about what the two that came before him were like. Or those who came after him, for that matter.
“Now, are you ready to head to the other side?” Scy rubbed his bony hands together. Before I could reply, the police entered into my apartment and began searching about. They trounced around as if neither me nor the skeleton were even there.
“Shucks, the coppers are here,” the reaper said. “They’ll be in for a nice surprise when they see the bathroom.”
“Jesus,” one of the cops said, holding a hand to his mouth and beckoning his comrades over to the bathroom. “In here.”
“And there it is,” Scy said matter-of-factly. “So what about it, missy? Ready to go?”
I didn’t reply. My gaze was fixated on the men and women who began taking pictures of the crime scene. These men and women who had no clue that the dead woman in the bathtub was standing right near them. They wouldn’t have to speculate on what happened. I could tell them. I could just reach out and tap one of them on the shoulder. I could explain everything, and make it so I wouldn’t be known as the girl who killed Aaron Potaris.
“That’s not going to work, you know.” Scy’s tone brought me back to reality. I blinked and noticed that I had been subconsciously reaching my arm out towards one of the men. Then it hit me. I wasn’t just reaching for someone to explain the circumstances of the crime scene to. I was reaching for someone to know that I was there.
My final years had not been good. Aaron had limited how often I got to spend with my other friends, and as I result I lost contact with many of them. For the most part, it was just me and that psychopath. I never felt more alone than I did in those last few months. And then, even with the tall skeleton and the dozen police surrounding me, I still felt alone. It hurt more than any bruise or welt that Aaron ever gave me.
I slowly withdrew my arm and held it closely against my chest. I felt cool drops sprinkle onto my wrist and noticed that my vision had become blurred. Reality was finally sinking in, and it was cold and lonely. I would never get to raise a family; never get to grow old with someone that I loved and that truly loved me back. My one dream had been to become an actress, but that had been squashed long ago. I never went to college and never found something to do with my life. I became dependent on a celebrity that beat and belittled me whenever he pleased. Aaron took everything away from me. Now I was dead and on my way to Purgatory. What a shitty life.
I felt a bony hand on my shoulder, and found that the reaper had a strangely caring sense. I didn’t think it was even possible for a creature like him to care about anything. I peered up into his soulless eye sockets and my lower lip began to tremble.
“It’s not fair,” I hissed, holding back any more tears from falling. I turned my gaze away from the men and women in my apartment and grabbed hold of Scy’s cloak. I had seen enough. “Take me away from here. Anywhere. I don’t care where it is, I just don’t want to be here anymore.”
Scy said nothing, but nodded and patted me on the back.
“As you wish…”
I suddenly felt a cool rush of air shoot up my back. The air dropped another ten degrees. I pulled my face away from Scy’s cloak, and was struck by a vision of the starry night sky. Around me were dozens of colorful lights, and a numerous amount of voices laughing and being merry.
I gathered pretty quickly that we weren’t actually in Purgatory. If we were, then my idea of it being gray and dreary were way off.
“Where are we?” I asked, wiping the water out of my eyes.
The skeleton seemed to be grinning now. “How do you feel about the circus?”
I blinked, then spun around to find that we were indeed at a bustling circus. Game and food stands, rides, and attractions of all shapes and sizes surrounded us. Several yards away I laid eyes on the great, red circus tent that posed as the centerpiece of the event. I felt like my mouth was on the ground. I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Scy posed as one of the clowns at this one.
“Why did you take me here?”
“Because it’s a circus, silly!” Scy exclaimed, playfully rustling my hair with his bony fingers. “Who doesn’t have fun at a circus? Wait, don’t answer that. There are several people that don’t have fun at circuses. Mostly the ones that are afraid of clowns. You’re not afraid of clowns, are you?”
I shook my head. I didn’t particularly like clowns, but they weren’t the scariest thing in the world.
“Then it’s perfect! Besides, after mentally going over a few of the facts about your, uh…predicament, I’m willing to pull a few strings.”
I tilted my head to one side. What was this crazy skeleton going on about this time?
“Weren’t you supposed to take me to Purgatory?”
Scy shook his finger. “Let’s just say that a fun idea popped into my skull not too long ago.”
Oh, great. Now he had ideas for me. Just what I needed. Fifteen minutes of being dead and I was more confused than I ever had been when I was alive.
A pink top hat materialized atop Scy’s head, and another woman appeared from behind the skeleton and rested her elbow on his shoulder. She had long, spiky blond hair and eyes that were clouded completely white. She must have been a friend of the skeleton’s. She was much prettier than he was, though.
“Hey, big brother,” the white-eyed woman said with a bubbly tone. “What brings you here? Who’s your spirit friend?”
Did she just call him ‘brother?’ I thought. You mean to tell me that this cute girl is this skeleton’s…sibling?
This woman was another reaper? Aside from the completely white eyes, she looked as human as I did. What the hell did all the other reapers look like?
I scrubbed at my eyes to make myself more presentable. I had to push the thought out of my mind that the woman in front of me was another reaper. I will never look at the concept of the grim reaper the same way ever again.
“Ah, Cymbeline, you’re just in time!” Scy retorted proudly. “This little missy is Ruby. She’s one of the spirits that I’m supposed to take to Purgatory. But it seems like she’s a special case.” He made quotations in the air with his fingers. The other woman nodded and winked. She knew exactly what he meant. As for me, I was lost as usual. I was just going to stop trying to understand these people.
Cymbeline eyed me up and down for a couple of seconds, and with a wink she snatched the top hat off of Scy’s head and placed it on her own. Scy grumbled jokingly, but immediately manifested his own top hat and shot a thumbs up to me.
“Welcome to the Red Line Circus,” Cymbeline said. “You seem like you would be a great addition to our team! Scy seems to think so, and I always take his word when it comes to entertainment.”
Make that two thumbs up from the skeleton wearing the top hat.
I looked between the two Reapers and a concerned look crossed my features. Was Cymbeline implying what I thought she was implying? This night just took a very odd turn.
“Hold on,” I said, finally getting my bearings. “You want me to join your circus? But I’m dead! I have no talents that would do any good here!” My confusion began to morph into anger. My hands balled into fists by my side. Was this some kind of joke? Did the skeleton know that my dream was to be an actress so he took me to a place where I could show off my skills as a clown or something? Was I being strung along for the amusement of a couple reapers? My face flushed crimson. “I’m not going to stand by and be made some sort of sideshow attraction! Why don’t you just take me to Purgatory where I belong!”
Some of the other patrons of the circus turned to look at my outburst for a couple of seconds, but quickly returned to their fun. Scy tugged at the collar of his cloak. I was glaring daggers at him. Cymbeline stood aside, allowing us two to work it out among themselves. I shot her a glare too, but she backed away. If she was part of this little joke too, then she was just as bad as the skeleton.
“I didn’t mean it like that at all!” Scy shouted. “I could tell that when you started crying, you were sad because you were alone! There was nobody that you could call a friend! I brought you here to give you a second chance to make some friends and have fun! There are some great people here! You would love to get to know them!”
Scy’s jaw seemed to be running at a million miles a minute. My face flushed red again, this time out of embarrassment. The reaper just wanted me to have…a friend? He wanted me to be…happy? He meant no malice in taking me to the Red Line Circus. He wasn’t trying to make me feel worse. He truly was trying to help.
My hands fell back to my side and I let tears fall this time. I felt like an asshole. For the first time in so long, it felt as if I had someone who actually cared about me. Someone who was willing to help me. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that it would be a personification of death that would show such kindness. He gave me a second chance when he could have just tossed me in Purgatory and been done with me. I would not squander that chance. It didn’t matter if I was a spirit. That just meant I could do more now than I could while I was limited to that sad sack of flesh.
“I…don’t know what to say,” I whimpered through my tears. I put on my best grin for Scy, who in turn produced the largest skeletal grin he could muster.
I felt Cymbeline’s top hat fall atop my own head. It was strangely comfortable for a hat worn by a reaper.
“You don’t have to say anything,” Cymbeline giggled. “Welcome to the team. We’re glad to have you.” She turned her attention to Scy. “Won’t you stay for a bit, brother? Our big act is starting soon.”
“Ah, you know how much I love a good circus, but my schedule is chock full tonight!” Scy pulled a dusty scroll out from the inside of his cloak and unraveled it. The parchment had a long list of names; those who were close to death or perhaps already dead. Near the bottom of the scroll, I noticed other things written down in messy handwriting. I could have sworn that one of the lines read, 05/24: Begin construction of the real Mr Bones’ Wild Ride. Do not let older siblings find out.
Scy rolled the scroll back up and stuck it back into his cloak. Cymbeline shook her head and let out a chortle.
“Always up to your crazy schemes, I see.”
Scy patted me on the shoulder. I sensed a calm, proud air coming from him even though he spoke no words. I smiled back at him, and he made a quick OK symbol with his fingers.
“Well, duty calls,” Scy announced. “Save some of that good popcorn for me. But only the good stuff. The rest goes right through me! Heh!”
With that, Scy disappeared in a cloud of shadows. I stood there, peering up into the starry sky. The night had started out so terribly, but had ended with the best, albeit strangest, bang I could have asked for. I wasn’t sure what life in the Red Line Circus would be like. It would nice to have a new life and new friends to call my own, but I had no clue where to begin. I wasn’t keen on becoming a clown and I couldn’t act to save my life. I also wasn’t very limber, so acrobatics were out, and I wasn’t all that great with animals. I told Cymbeline all this and she pouted in thought.
“I’ve got it!” She snapped. “You don’t have to do any performance stuff, but there is a job we have for you here at the circus.” The reaper took me by the hand and brought me over to one of the stands. The sign read Beer and Other Necessities. Behind the counter was a woman with long, red hair pulled back into a ponytail. She grinned as we approached.
“I heard the commotion,” the woman said. “Your brother brought this spirit here, huh?”
Cymbeline nodded. “Yup. This is Ruby. She’s our newest addition to the circus, but she told me that she’s not all that interested in performing. So, I wondered if you wouldn’t mind taking her under your wing?”
The woman looked me up and down and chuckled.
“Sure. I’ve been meaning to ask you to get someone to help me now that things are getting busy. She seems like just the girl I’m looking for.”
The woman extended her hand out. I took it. An odd tingling sensation jumped up my arm.
“Nice to meet you, Ruby. My name is Tisiphone.”
I didn’t mind working as a vendor. Tisiphone turned out to be a pleasure to be around (even if I did later find out that she was practically a demi-god). I was shocked to find out that everyone that worked at and frequented the Red Line Circus was either a human spirit or another creature that I thought only existed in myth. At least there were other dead folks there to ensure that I wasn’t completely out of place.
On that night, I left my old life behind. I was no longer “Aaron Potaris’ girlfriend.” I was Ruby Allison, member of the Red Line Circus. I made so many new friends and had more fun than I ever could have imagined. As bad as it may seem, dying was the best thing to happen to me. I can rest easy knowing that Aaron will never harm another girl ever again. I hope the bastard is having a fun time in Hell where he belongs. Maybe one day I’ll ask Helena, Brooke or Sich to go down there and deliver a message from me. It’ll just be one giant middle finger. I wish he could see me now. I’m happier than ever before. Everyone at the circus treats me like an equal. This is my home, and its the only one I’ll take. I haven’t been with the Red Line Circus for long, but I can already tell that the coming years will bring nothing but amazing stories and adventures.
And it was all thanks to that goofy skeleton.