This is part 2 of an 11-part series (click here to read the first blog in the series).
The lionesses were wild and unruly, slinking around the stage. Contorting their beautiful faces to snarl bright, white teeth. The Circus Master unfurled his whip – a creeping slipper-slap as it unravelled onto the boards. Several meters of platted leather, two centimetres in diameter at the hilt, tapering down smoothly, thinner and thinner, until it was just a single strap of hide with a wiry thread of a tongue. He stirred his fingers and the ripple danced down the line, tip darting and snapping. Sophie’s loins bristled, a little wobble in the knees. The Circus Master flicked his wrist to flourish the whip with a dramatic crack.
The feline performers responded, swinging their bodies 180 degrees and growling with menace. But they continued to prowl, one of them sidling to the front of the stage and adopting a stealthy, predatory posture – as if stalking the audience. Oh yes! Sophie imagined herself getting hunted by the lionesses, chased down with biting teeth and slashing claws… and then dragged back to face the Circus Master! The performer dipped her head and snarled, slyly waggling her buttocks as she prepared to pounce. And then rearing up with claws aloft.
The Circus Master strode forward and slung his whip with measured precision. She roared with fury as it coiled a stranglehold around her narrow waist. He tugged his hand and she flew rearwards, twisting into a back-flip and then hurtling across the set in a violent flurry of somersaults and cartwheels. The Circus Master marched in the opposite direction, letting her whirl past. The whip pulling taut as she reached the rear of the stage. Another yank and she came flying towards him again, twirling out of back-flip to pounce onto his back with fangs bared. He lowered his body to catch on his shoulder, dropping into a semi-crouch, before standing explosively and sweeping his arm to fling her off. Both performer’s powerful muscles pumping in unison, rocketing her high into the air, spinning spectacularly.
The whip untethered, but the Circus Master loomed over as she landed. Grabbing the scruff of her neck and driving her face down into the stage. She fought fiercely, body writhing as he held her down and clamped a collar around her throat. Pulling the leash tight as he stood. The wild beast fumed and gnashed her teeth. The Circus Master turned attention to the other lioness, circling around at the side of the stage. He lashed out, whip whooshing as it snaked through the air. She rolled out of its path, tongue snapping at her heels.
He flourished the weapon once more. As she raised her arm in defence, it tangled around to grab hold. She rose to her feet, turning so the leather line wrapped around her waist. A jerk of his wrist to set her off like a spinning top, whirling free but pirouetting towards him. He moved forwards and gathered her in. Catching her on his palm, driving her onto all fours and holding her down whilst he locked a collar around her neck. His property secured, the Circus Master turned and marched off, dragging the lionesses behind. The audience treated to their puckering buttocks as they strained to resist.
‘Dmitri, get rid of these fucking people.’
He gestured towards the tittering crowd, before sweeping off-stage with a snort of contempt. The short, pot-bellied man ran back on, nattering in a friendly manner and charming the audience with his camped-up persona. After an entertaining, comical routine, Dmitri introduced the next act: an enormous, muscle-bound giant who performed unbelievable feats of strength.
Sophie was hooked, but Annie was pressing to go and meet Steve. His friends would be there, so it made sense for Annie to bring hers too. Tanya would’ve preferred to stay, but agreed to accompany Annie. Sophie said she wanted to watch the circus and suggested catching up with them later. There was a bit of pushback, but she held firm and it was agreed that the trio would meet at the Ska Tent in 45 minutes. Sophie felt guilty about temporarily breaking up the team, but she really wanted to see rest of the show.
After the giant, came a ravishing, fire-breathing witch, enchanting the crowd as she danced around in flaming hula-hoops. Dmitri returned with a spectacular juggling display, then the lionesses reappeared to perform more sensational acrobatics, before being brutally recaptured. Between artistes, the Circus Master and Dmitri provided an entertaining compere double-act. The sidekick keeping everyone amused with his bawdy humour and crude jokes about how short he was (he was short, but not quite short enough to make the jokes genuinely offensive). The Circus Master didn’t say much, but he had an enormous stage presence – dominating the atmosphere. The show was building towards the boss-man’s finale performance – some hints about knife-throwing. Sophie couldn’t wait to see him in action.
She watched intently, dreaming vividly throughout. Imagining herself getting collared and leashed by the Circus Master. Being taken… tamed… transformed into his beast. Sophie could be a little tiger-cub or something – more cute than scary – she wasn’t as fierce as the lionesses. Could see herself wearing striped orange face-paint, with a petite button nose… scampering along on all fours, desperately trying to escape… back to the wilds. And then the Circus Master’s big boot stamping down on her ass and flattening her out. Standing in triumphant pose and squishing her underfoot as she squirmed frantically. The cold, metal collar locking tight around her throat. Made to kneel, trained to obey, brought to heel at the crack of his whip. Turned into his little pet – a house-cat. Sophie was totally besotted by the Circus Master – hypnotised. And it was coming towards his grand finale.
‘Why are these fucking people still here.’ The Circus Master roared, sweeping his arm over the crowd and turning to Dmitri for an explanation.
‘They’re waiting for you, Master… to perform. They want to see your magnificent knife-throwing skills.’
‘Not tonight. I’ve already drunk a bottle of wine. Send them away.’ Dismissively flicking his wrist.
‘I’ve seen you throw knives after drinking a bottle of wine, Master. Why, just the other day, you took my hat clean off, from right across the room… and that was after two bottles.’
‘I was aiming for your face.’ The Circus Master retorted sharply… and the crowd laughed.
‘Even so, Master. It was a fabulous shot. Why not let these people see how skilful you are?’ Turning to the audience. ‘You want to see the knife-throwing, don’t you?’ Of course they did. Dmitri continued to work the crowd, riling them up to encourage a rising cheer and some anticipatory clapping.
‘Oh, for fuck’s sake. Bring me my knives!’
The huzzah escalated and the sidekick continued to hype it up as he ran off the set excitedly. The Circus Master sidled to the front, waiting for the applause to subside.
‘I’ll need a volunteer.’ He scoured his dark eyes over the congregated masses. ‘A brave volunteer!’
There was an excitable jostling, plenty of hands shooting up. A woman shouted out with a drunken whoop.
‘Pick me, Circus Master. Take me!’
Her frenetic enthusiasm was palpable and laughter murmured through the crowd. The Circus Master continued scanning. Dmitri was back on-stage to coordinate preparations. The giant was pushing a large spinning wheel into position, whilst the lionesses carried a rack full of knives. The Circus Master’s focus was settling. Dark eyes falling on Sophie like the shadow of a swooping predator. She suddenly realised she was standing on tiptoes, with both arms raised in the air – volunteering! His snarl cut lines across his painted face as his finger rose to point…