The Cinerous Circus – NaNoWriMo excerpt

I am attempting NaNoWriMo this November!
I’ve got 20 865 words, which is a bit behind schedule, but as I’m doing it at the same time as I’m preparing for my exams and as I’ve got work, I’m quite proud of those almost 21 000 words. I don’t think I’ll reach 50 000 words, but my goal is to at least cross the 30 000 mark. My story is a fantasy, magical realism-esque narrative about Mira – a young girl who is part of a circus that appears at dusk and leaves before sunrise. No one has ever seen the circus travel in closed off carriages across dusty cobblestones, it appears like magic, exactly where it’s needed every night. All the coincidental bystanders can remember of the purple tents and the silver eyes looking at them from the various booths and stalls, and through their own dreams and illusions, is a carnival appearing on the rooftops of the grey and dusty city.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any sort of prose-form creative writing on this blog, so here’s the first few paragraphs of the draft I’m working on for Nano!

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

The Cinerous Circus

No one had ever seen the Circus travel, not even the crew that travelled with it. Mid-movement, mid-laugh, and sometimes even mid-sleep, the crew of the Cinerous Circus would feel that little tingle in their fingers, that smoke-like sensation of having themselves dissolved into the powers of the Circus as she decided on a new route, a new destination, a new home for the night.

Stood by the foot of her bed, arm raised towards the book case on the wall, as if she had just been interrupted in putting back a book, Mira came to. Her fingers were still curled around a paper spine, but the book was on the floor. She shook her head for a moment, before letting her hands quickly pat their way down her front. Arms, legs, coat. She had everything she needed. Good.

She reached a hand into the soft, worn lining of her dark grey and purple coat. Her hand came back up clutching a card. The back of the card was adorned by green sprigs of ivy that seemed to be alive, moving, wrapping around themselves, accompanied by a spatter of stars, gathered in unfamiliar constellations.

She looked at the card. A lone figure slinking away from peering eyes, away from crowds with their backs turned on her. Seven of swords. Thief? The feeling of being watched came over her and made the hairs on her arms stand on edge.

“A girl is quickly flitting through an unfamiliar street. She has stolen something which belongs to her. She has stolen something which has been hers all along.”

Mira’s tarot readings always read like stories in her head. She simply opened her mind and let the stories find her, let them linger in that space between her consciousness and her memories, that space she was starting to realize that not that many people could reach for.
This reading made no sense. This was a new city, a new rooftop –- why on earth did she see stories of thieves stealing what was already theirs? Why would thieves steal what was already theirs in the first place?

She turned to look over at her mother’s bed. She was there, black and blue hair shining in the light from the bulb hanging on a single string in the ceiling. It was a shy little light source, with a black cast iron frame. It looked heavy, but Mira knew it wasn’t. A lot of her mother’s possessions looked like something they weren’t. A lot of Circus looked like something it wasn’t.

Her mother was just coming to. She was sat on her bed, hands neatly clasped and placed in her lap, like she’d done this a thousand times before. She had done this a thousand times before. So had Mira, to be fair, but the excitement of waking back up without having the faintest idea of what would make itself visible to her outside of their little tent, always made her too excited to be as calm as her mother.

         Mira chewed her lip for a moment. The card she had just drawn dampened her excitement a bit, but she was determined not to let it worry her too much. Maybe just a little bit.

         She went to the slit in the tent, the make-shift door that could be drawn. It hushed all the sounds from the outside world better than any wooden door ever could, and any fabric door ever should.

Oftentimes, all she could see were chimneys and rooftop ladders and maybe the odd, very tall, tree. Other times she saw birds and clouds passing in quick formations. But sometimes, oh, the very best of times, she could see other houses. She could see windows, or bridges or clock towers with clocks just striking midnight.

         “What can you see out there?” her mother asked. Mira put the card to the back of her mind, banished it to thoughts she were to think tomorrow and focused on what she could see. This was their game. Her mother stayed seated on the bed as Mira slowly pulled the tent slit open, just enough to have a peak outside. She looked out at the town.

         “I can see a chimney,” Mira told her mother, who closed her eyes and nodded. Mira could see her left-hand raise and start to move in the air in front of her. “And I can see birds, but they’re not awake, they’re lying on their nests.” Her mother nodded again, hand still moving. She was sketching, her parchment was the thin air and she had no ink or quill or anything to set a mark. But her lines still appeared. Curved lines through the air, drawing up small grey birds that came alive under her hands.

         “Tell me about the stars,” her mother said. Mira peered further out through the slit in the tent and looked up.

         “There is a great big one right above us,” Mira said, “and it’s surrounded by three others that makes it look like the stars have gathered for tea. They’re flickering, like they’re dancing.” Her mother nodded, her hands never stilling. The buildings and the roof tops and the chimneys, all existing in grey lines, like the outline of a shadow or the seams of a smoke ring. Mira looked back in through the tent door, watching her mother’s hands. She always struggled with looking away when her mother drew up her images. But she knew they weren’t for her, and so she looked back at the town.

         “Oh,” Mira exclaimed, “I can see a tower! A big tower.”
         “Does this one have a clock in it too?” her mother asked. The last town they’d been in had had a tower with a clock in it, but the hands of that clock had been as asleep as only a clock can be in a town of mourning. Mira nodded her head. Her mother hadn’t opened her eyes yet, but she noticed the nod. Maybe she heard it. Mira had always been sure that her mother never looked with her eyes anyway.

         “And is it about to strike twelve?” her mother lifted her hands in the air, putting them behind the image she’d made, framing it, protecting it, making it clearer to see against the colour of her hands, instead of the backdrop of her dress.

         Mira nodded and turned back so her head was inside the tent again, and in that second, the big bell rung. Mira’s mother was prepared, and in a swift move, she pushed her hands in front of her. She pushed the smoke line drawing away.

         It kept its shape, and it was as if the grey birds flew past Mira in a little flock, like the bell tower floated past her on invisible wings. Mira loved this part of arriving at a new place.  

She loved to see how her mother always managed to draw up the perfect rendition of any new town, before sending it on its way, grey feathers floating through the air. Mira never knew where she sent it, but she could only hope it drifted on its way before hitting some poor passer-by over the head.

         “Nothing’s ever so good you shouldn’t let it go,” her mother said. She always said that, timed like clockwork.

         Then her mother walked over and joined her by the tent flap which was partially opened. She put a hand on either side of the curtain, and with a move of her arms that straightened them all the way out, she flung the curtain open wide.

         «A new night, little bird,» she said to Mira, as she looked out at the familiar Circus on an unfamiliar rooftop, «a new place.»

——————————————————————————————————————

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Or have you done it before?
How’s it going?

I hope you have a wonderful day,
-Andrea

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