Squinting past the spotlight, I peer at the upturned faces of the people who have come to see me die.
Well, people, have I got a show for you.
I draw a steadying breath and leap from the platform.
Tumbling, twisting, the whirling kaleidoscope of my view shows me the roof above, then the sawdust strewn floor below.
I am flying.
But not for long.
I stretch out and feel the wrench of my shoulder muscles as my resin swiped palms grasp the bar of the trapeze.
The crowd’s roar is tinged with disappointment.
We don’t work with a net. Just like real life.
Anyway, the marks don’t like it.
I flip to anchor my feet into the ropes and dangle upside down.
On the third swing I clap once, to establish the rhythm of the routine, and extend my arms for the next upswing.
Rebekah jumps into space.
I am not there.
But I will be - as her fall and my swing coincide.
My wrists feel the familiar strength of her grasp and my hands hold her.
Safe from harm. Just like real life.
Her eyes bore into me, from two arms length, still angry.
A tear rolls down my face and falls glistening into the darkness far beneath her.
I release her to catch the second bar and she somersaults to the far platform.
Screw her. If anyone has a right to be angry, it’s me.
I swing back and catch Tony.
He grins up at me.
The same dazzling, boyish grin that has always protected him from the consequences of his actions. Well not this time, brother.
I know what I saw, despite her denials.
I flip him to the second bar and the main part of the act begins.
Tony and I flip Rebekah back and forth between us.
In one moment she clings to me, in the next he holds her close.
Just like real life.
Taking a break on the platform before our finale, I look down at the marks.
Our world is more honest than theirs.
Only a few of them come to admire the skills on show. Most, even though they will not admit it, even to themselves, come to see Death. It is the same urge that makes cars slow down to gawk at a car crash.
As showmen, we know this and the show is built around our seemingly impossible dice game with the Grim Reaper. We let the marks glimpse a world more visceral than their own, more vivid; a world where one small mistake could carry the ultimate consequence.
They pay us to tweak Death’s nose on their behalf.
Well, here goes.
Our finale is simple really, despite all the drum rolls and flourishes. Despite Rebekah’s scanty, provocative poses and painted pouting at every man in the place. Despite Tony’s preening and winking at all the girls.
It works like this.
First swing. Tony jumps to my catch. I launch him to the second bar.
Second swing I catch his ankles after his double somersault back to me. In the mean time Rebekah jumps to the second bar and then leaps on towards us.
Third swing, we both swoop back for Tony to ankle catch Rebekah’s second jump.
The twist is that, on that third swing, I ‘lose’ my grip on one of his legs, apparently forcing him to flail wildly and make a late, despairing, one handed grab for her.
The marks lap it up.
We bask in their applause for having taunted and cheated the Old Man once more.
The old clown once told me.
“Deep in their darkest moments, people still cling to their primitive beliefs that their rituals and rabbits’ feet can protect them. Give them power over Death. We know the truth. Death is always with us, walking half a step behind, idling along, capriciously choosing one over another for no other reason than he can; like you choose to step over one ant while crushing another. No-one controls his power.”
Well, Father, you were wrong about that.
I launch the wind up swing to begin the finale.
Tonight I have that power.
I decide who pays the ferryman.
My second swing, or my third?
My brother alone, or my wife as well?
This story was written for Week 137 of Daily Picspiration - a site where a group of writers create stories from photo prompts. Each day features a different writer with his or her own picspiration. You can visit each day for a new story.