The sun shined brightly over the carnival in the late morning hours. Already, a steady stream of fun seekers were enjoying rides and trying their hands at games of chance.
Johnathan thought on this as he walked through the growing crowd, carrying a brown paper sack. He didn’t believe in chance after being raised on so many crooked games. That summed up life, he thought, fixed by something or someone.
He found this deterministic viewpoint encouraging. For if anything good or interesting ever happened in his life, it must mean he was special. And, if it didn’t or something was bad, he supposed there was nothing he could have done to prevent it, anyway.
He strolled through the midway, the forest of rides, arriving at the freak show.
“Come one, come all,” the grifter enticed, “come and see the miracles of science and nature. Brought together as only our mad scientist Dr. Russel could do. See the magnificent marriage of beast and bot,” he continued on, giving Johnathan a slight nod as he passed by.
Up the stairs to the building that served the show, he went inside to the dark and dank corridor. The area was kept this way purposefully to intrigue ticket holders and mute the imperfections in the ‘miracles’. Johnathan visited this structure every day, and could have navigated in total darkness if necessary.
Despite his familiarity, the creatures still unnerved him. He walked past cages of creations quickly as he could. Some contained white bunnies with rabbit ear antennas. Others held hamsters with wheels for back legs that sprinted down tracks. Then there was the main attraction. Some years ago, the good doctor got his hands on an abused and abandoned lion cub. This king of beast now wore a metal smile, and had spiked dermal implants sticking out throughout it’s pelt.
Johnathan felt sorry for these creatures. Many of these upgrades were for nothing more than show. He knew that the doctor meant well. And if he had learned anything from the circus, it was that the show must always go on. Yet, it felt wrong to him. For those and many reasons, he kept his opinions about the animals to himself.
At last he arrived at the lab. The doctor sat at his desk, tinkering away. The lab was a mess, as always.
“Hey, doc. What are you cooking up?” Johnathan asked.
The scientist looked up and smiled warmly. After the loss of his parents, Johnathan was raised by his circus family. And none had taken such an active roll as the he.
“Something secret,” he replied.
“Even from me?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. It’s something you have to see. Besides, I’m still cooking up the math.”
Johnathan knew that the doctor was brilliant. Yet he never could understand if the borderline madness was real or an act.
“Well, I’ve got something cooked up that isn’t a secret. You’re lunch.”
“The new bearded lady, Cynthia, sent me with it. I think she likes you.”
“Oh my,” he replied.
Johnathan laughed, then checked his watch. This visit would have to be short.
“I’ve gotta go get ready for my show.”
“Break a leg.”
“Hope not. Don’t do anything evil while I’m gone,” he joked.
“Just because it’s against the laws of nature, that doesn’t make it evil.”
Johnathan left and headed straight for the main tent. He, like his parents before him, was a performer. His father had been a sword swallower, and his mother an aerialist. He took after her. He suited up, stretched, and took his place.
The audience cheered, and he began. Twirling, swinging, and jumping high above the center ring. As was tradition, he preformed his feats without a safety net. The danger needed to be real to be exciting. The routine was going as expected, until suddenly, there was a loud screeching noise from outside the tent. Before he could react, a sharp piece of metal sliced through the tent without hesitation and lodged itself deep in his chest.
The strength drained from him, and he fell. On the way down, before the darkness took him, he thought of his mother. He thought of how during last act, she had fallen from such a height. As Johnathan began to black out, he sighed relief that he would not have to experience hitting the ground.
He opened his eyes, amazed to find that the darkness was not permanent. He was confused, and his vision was blurry, but he could make out enough to realize that he was no longer in the ring, but instead, he was in the lab. The parts of his body that he could feel ached with a pain more intense than anything he had felt before.
He struggled to sit up, but he was determined to learn his fate.
“Doc?” he said, weakly. His voice was strange and unfamiliar, and crackled with static.
“You’re up!” the doctor said happily.
“What happened?” Johnathan asked, grunting with anguish.
“Here, this will make you feel better,” the doctor said. Johnathan forgot his pain as his face turned to horror. The doctor stuck his hand into Johnathan’s chest and turned a wheel that he hadn’t noticed. He was full of energy at once. He leapt off the table and examined himself. He now wore an exoskeleton of metal bars, connected to his inside.
“What have you done to me?” he cried.
“I made you better. The tilt-a-whirl exploded. Shrapnel destroyed your heart, the fall crushed your bones.”
“This isn’t better!”
“You are strong, nimble. If you keep the wheel spinning, you could live forever!”
“This isn’t right. I don’t want to be one of your creations!”
“You could be great! You’re special. This was meant to be.”
These words struck Johnathan. Nothing is chance, he thought. He calmed down, and considered the idea. If this had happened, if he was made special, then it must have been meant to be.
“I will live forever.”