*The origin of a character from stories under my folder “Elsdale circus”. Gacha Club character designs are on my wall. Enjoy!*
MRS. MARGOT’S HOUSE OF HEALING-ROOM 216-3:25 A.M.
Prudence lay in her cot, looking out the window at the infinite pearl moon. The other girls were awake, she could hear them toss and turn every now and then. No one could sleep in the uncomfortable, scratchy cots.
Prudence wondered if one day, maybe she would have a warm, soft bed, a family who loved her, a place to call home.
It had to happen, didn’t it? That was what happened in every story. The lost found their way to a good place, a heavenly place.
That would happen to Prudence eventually, wouldn’t it?
THE MORNING-PILLOW FIGHT
Prudence sat upright in bed, watching the girls pillow fight each other. She didn’t want to join, they were screaming and laughing too much.
A smile crept upon her face. There was only one thing she did when everyone else was doing their own thing, in their own worlds.
Prudence would dance throughout the halls.
IN THE HALLWAY
Prudence spun in circles, leaped in bounds, toes pointed, all across the halls. She was lost in a world of her own design. The hardwood floors and cement walls became a stage for all to see and swoon. Prudence’s white, raggedy dress was a ballerina tutu, sparkling and shin-
Her head hit the wall, bringing her back to dull, lifeless reality. Prudence rubbed the spot where it hurt the most carefully. Perhaps there was a bruise underneath her hair. An ugly, inhumanely purple bruise.
Three girls giggled behind her. Prudence turned around sharply.
It was Frances, Darcy, and Gertrude, peeking from the open door of their room.
“You looked so silly!” Frances said with a smile. The other girls giggled in agreement.
Prudence’s blood went cold. How long had they been watching her? How could she not notice? Why didn’t she stop?
“Go away!” Prudence yelled, shooing the three of them.
With mocking giggles, the three of them scampered back to their room.
If the people at the orphanage were nicer, then maybe Prudence wouldn’t mind their company. But no, they just had to laugh at her.
Why couldn’t anyone be a real friend? Why did she have to be laughed at for drifting away?
“Come down, girls! We’re going on a trip!” Mrs. Margot called out.
Prudence rushed downstairs, ahead of the others, for she wasn’t with them for the pillow fight.
Where could they possibly be going? They never went on trips! The girls stayed in the orphanage, eating minimal meals and finding things to occupy themselves.
Were they…finally going home?
IN THE SCHOOL BUS
Prudence squeezed past the bodies of many girls as she made her way to the back in the school bus, where Mrs. Margot sat.
Once she was seated, she turned to Mrs. Margot and asked with eyes full of sweet hope:
“Are we going to get adopted?”
Mrs. Margot smiled at her, but it wasn’t a happy smile.
“No, sweetie. I’m sorry.”
Prudence’s face fell, all thoughts of a warm embrace disappearing.
“Then where are we going?” Prudence asked, a crack in her voice from a sob that so desperately wanted to come out.
“We’re going to the circus! Isn’t that fun?”
Prudence crossed her arms. The bus started driving away, off to the circus.
What fun would going to the circus be if they weren’t going to get families?
“I know you really want to find a home. I do, too. For all of you. But that time hasn’t come yet. It will. One day.”
Prudence didn’t think so. One day was starting to feel like it would never happen, that it would be foolish to even wish for it.
After a while, the bus came to a halt in front of a bustling, lively circus.
Prudence’s mouth dropped in the awe of it all, the splendor of it all. What was she so upset about again? The circus was calling out to her, begging her to enter.
“Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s go!” Mrs. Margot said.
Prudence blinked back into reality. Mrs. Margot was standing up, patiently waiting for her.
“Can you hold my hand?” Prudence asked in a small voice. The circus just seemed so infinite for such a small thing like herself.
“Of course.” Mrs. Margot said with a smile. She extended a hand for Prudence.
Prudence took her hand.
IN THE CIRCUS
As they walked throughout the circus, Prudence noticed that there were human performers. In the magazines she read, there were human performers as well as animals.
But there were only lions, elephants, tigers, horses…so many animals, Prudence couldn’t keep track of them all!
They were adorned in bright cloth and dazzling jewelry, a true sight to behold.
There was a circus tent in white and red stripes, bigger than the others. The girls were headed to the tent and from where Mrs. Margot was taking her, it was where Prudence would be headed.
“We’re going to see Mr. Leopold Shapcott. Are you excited?” Mrs. Margot asked.
Mr. Leopold Shapcott? The Leopold Shapcott, who dared to dream? Him? The glorious man himself?
“Yes, yes I am!” Prudence squealed happily, jumping up and down.
Who wouldn’t be?
When Mrs. Margot and Prudence were inside the circus tent, they pushed past the crowd of people searching for a seat, for a viewing of the show.
After a while, they joined the group of girls on their own seats, all sitting together.
The lights dimmed, the audience hushed…
“Greetings, my dear friends!” A voice boomed eagerly.
But there was nothing. Only darkness.
“Oh, pardon me, I forgot to introduce myself!”
A spotlight shone on the one and only, the magnificent, the wonderful…
“Tis’ I, Leopold Shapcott! And you are my honored guests!”
Maybe it was just Prudence’s imagination, but did he…wink at her?
“Witness the many ferocious, fearsome animals and fantastical, truly unique people you can only see here, in Elsdale Circus!”
So there were people?
Prudence didn’t know how, but it was comforting for her to know that people would perform. It made her feel…safer.
“Now, let the show begin!”
The drumroll was but a small pitter-patter, then grew into a crescendo, and finally…
The fun commenced!
Prudence watched with wide eyes as the fire breathers lit the room, the lions jumped through hoops, the trapeze dancers leap through the air, legs long, toes pointed elegantly.
But most of all, above all, the animals struck through the stage. A collective gasp of oohs and aahs, not a word from Prudence.
Only stunned silence, for her young eyes had never beheld such sights before.
THE END OF THE SHOW
When the last of the animals had come upon the stage, Mr. Leopold thanked the audience and sent them off.
As Mrs. Margot was getting up, her hand holding Prudence’s, Prudence thought about coming back to the orphanage…possibly never going to Elsdale circus again…pillow fights…never finding a home…
She let go of Mrs. Margot’s hand, running past the breathing bodies of many people.
Prudence had to see Mr. Leopold one more time.
Prudence kept track of Mr. Leopold’s black velvet coat, running outside the tent, unbothered by the blast of cold air.
After what felt like forever, she made it close enough to tug on his sleeve.
Mr. Leopold turned around, eyes flickering with whimsy.
“Ah! It seems to me we’ve got a lost chi-“
“I’m not lost! I was looking for you! I just wanted to tell you that you’re really amazing and-“
“I thank you for your compliment, but really, you should get home. Now, where are your parents?”
Home. That sounded like such a faraway place, a fantastical dream.
Prudence looked around her, at the other kids with their families. They were all cheeky and cheerful, holding treats or balloons in their hands. There were skips in their steps, laughter in their eyes.
“What’s wrong, little one?”
Prudence shook herself into reality, away from her daydreaming.
“I…I don’t really have a home. I live in a big house with a lot of girls. Mrs. Margot said that…that one day, I’ll go home…but…but it hasn’t happened.”
Prudence looked down at her gray, blank boots, overcome with nervousness and embarrassment. Who was she to talk to him about her life? He didn’t care, he had better things to do than listen to someone like her ramble on.
“Would you like to live here?” Mr. Leopold asked softly.
“Here?!” Prudence asked, lifting her head up.
Mr. Leopold couldn’t possibly be serious. Was she imagining? Could she really live in the circus?!
“Yes, here. Would you like to live here?”
Prudence imagined a life performing at the circus…having fun every day…being friends with everyone. Everyone would be nice to her, everyone be sweet to her. It was a circus, for goodness sake! Nothing bad ever happened in a circus.
“Yes! Yes, I would love to!” Prudence said eagerly, jumping up and down.
“Prudence! Prudence, where are you?” Mrs. Margot called out.
Out of instinct, Prudence ran towards her voice.
“Where were you? Why did you run away? You can’t leave the group like that, you know. There’s a lot of bad people out there.” Mrs. Margot said.
Prudence had found her standing in front of the popcorn popper, with all of the other girls.
At the moment, she and Mrs. Margot were sitting in the back of the bus, going back to the orphanage.
“I…I wanted to see Mr. Leopold. He said that I could live with him! That I could perform with him!”
“Did he, now?”
“Oh Mrs. Margot, can I please live with him? Please? Please please?”
Mrs. Margot turned to Prudence, eyes full of woe and worry.
“Though the circus may look shiny, there is hard work involved. I’m certain of it. Any place where people have jobs, especially in the entertainment industry, have grueling work to do that no bystander sees. I don’t want you to work like an adult.”
“This discussion is over.”
Circus work couldn’t be that hard. Just performing in front of people? Prudence could do that! All she had to do was pretend that she was that she was alone. No problem at all!
Perhaps Prudence could come to him…by herself?
IN THE ORPHANAGE
Prudence stared out of the window, sitting upright in her cot. The thought of going to Elsdale circus by herself flashed in her head for a bit. The main question was: Could she go by herself?
Wouldn’t Mrs. Margot miss her? Wouldn’t there be a lot of bad people waiting to take her away? People who weren’t good like Mrs. Margot and Mr. Leopold?
But what if Prudence wrote a letter to Mrs. Margot? She would understand then! As for going to Elsdale circus by herself, she could do it! She just had to run far enough and then she would find it.
Prudence got out of bed, excitement in her veins.
She was going to live in the circus!
Prudence walked over to the wooden desk in the room and sat on the chair. On the desk was a stack of paper and a single pencil, the point slightly dull. Mrs. Margot left it for them in case they wanted to draw.
But Prudence wasn’t going to draw anything.
With the pencil and paper, she wrote:
Dear Mrs. Margot,
I’m going to live in the circus! Don’t be sad.
Prudence studied the letter, trying to decide if it was good or not.
After a few seconds, she placed the letter down with a wooden paperweight.
It was fine. It was perfect.
A FEW HOURS LATER
Prudence walked through the woods, pushing back leaves. She had slipped through her open window without waking anyone and was in the woods behind the orphanage. Though Prudence’s eyes were heavy with sleep, she had to keep going.
The circus was around somewhere, wasn’t it? Waiting for her…hiding out…
There it was! With twinkling lights and tents, it was sitting patiently.
Her new home was better than she ever imagined.
Prudence ran towards the circus, the morning sun rising, tiredness in her eyes, but purpose in her steps.
When she made it to the dazzling circus, the living dream, she spread her arms wide, reveling it all.
The splendor, the glory. It was all there, all there…
“I knew you’d arrive.”
Prudence turned around to face Mr. Leopold, smiling down at her.
“Come on, let’s go. I have the perfect role for you.” Mr. Leopold said.
With that, he took her hand and they set out to Prudence’s new life.
“Here’s your trailer! Just go inside and you’ll see your costume.” Mr. Leopold said.
They had been walking for a while until they reached a pink trailer with painted on, lavender letters that read: “The dazzling ballerina: “
“I was going to paint your name on it, but the only trouble is…I don’t know what your name is.”
“It’s Prudence.” She said with a smile.
“Prudence. Ah. It’s perfect.”
Mr. Leopold thought that her name was perfect! He liked her!
“It’s time you get to bed, we have quite a day tomorrow.”
The first licks of morning light hit the window of Prudence’s trailer. On her bed was a sparkling pink tutu and matching tights. On the floor was ballet slippers and a jewel tiara.
It was time. Time to perform. Time to show that she would thrive, no matter what.
Prudence stepped out of the trailer in her costume, shielding her gaze from the sun with her right hand. Goodness, it was so bright out! Did Mr. Leopold want her to perform that early?
Yes, he did. She had to listen to him, he was the ringmaster, after all.
Prudence ran past the crowd, towards the wooden stage.
Prudence curtsied to the onlookers, all watching her with eager eyes. It began with one swoop of her right foot, and then, she was gliding throughout the stage, just as she had back at the orphanage, to pass the time, to dream away, and then…
She couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t move. Everything was so tight, so unbearably tight…
Why was it all blurry? What happened? Why couldn’t she…why couldn’t she move?
Was that…was that blood in her eyes? No, blood wasn’t supposed to be in eyes, it was supposed to be inside, that couldn’t be possible…
Prudence tried screaming, but only a throaty, guttural sound escaped from her lips.
What was that noise? It…it sounded like laughter…but it couldn’t be laughter…could it…no…they were laughing at her…laughing at her…laughing at her…
Prudence’s eyelids went heavy with exhaustion, sealing her off in quiet, peaceful darkness.
Prudence opened her eyes. The sun was still out, but slightly setting into the afternoon.
A clown was holding her, helping her walk.
“What…what happened? Why did…how did…”
“Mr. Leopold did it.”
“What?” Prudence asked, not quite understanding. How could he have done that? He wouldn’t have…he couldn’t have…
“I’ll explain more later. Just relax as best as you can for now.”
Prudence opened her eyes. She felt more restored than she did earlier. But…where was she?
Prudence was lying in a bed, in a trailer she hadn’t been inside before. The clown sat in a chair, watching her.
“You’re finally up. How are you feeling?” The clown asked.
“Fine…fine, I guess. What happened?”
“Mr. Leopold happened.”
“What do you mean?” Prudence asked, sitting herself upright.
“He’s…how do I say this?” The clown pressed his hands together, eyes far off into thought.
“He’s a life stealer. If the thought of death ever crosses his mind, others around him die. It just so happens that you were the one performing. He stands in the shadows, watching us. If I didn’t pull you away, then…you would have…”
“I would have died?!” Prudence asked with alarm, heart racing within. To think that she was so close to death…so close to…no…no, it was too terrible to think about.
“I tried calling his name, that usually works. But he was so far gone. I had no choice but to take you away.”
Prudence nodded slowly, processing the gravity of his words. In her mind, the audience’s phantom laughter creeped in.
“Why were they laughing at me? I was…I was hurt.” Prudence said. It reminded her of the orphanage, when the other girls used to laugh at her for drifting off, particularly Frances, Darcy, and Gertrude. They always laughed at her, they always made fun of her…
But they were in the orphanage. She was in the wonderful, beautiful circus.
The circus she almost died in. The circus Mrs. Margot told her not to run off to. Why did she leave? Why couldn’t she stay? Why…why…why?
“They can’t help it. He makes them laugh. His powers make his audience amused when they see death.”
They…they liked death? They liked seeing people suffer? They…they…
Tears pooled out of Prudence’s eyes. She left the orphanage, the safe orphanage, with Mrs. Margot, for a circus that wanted to kill her. A circus that hurt the performers. Why couldn’t she wait? She didn’t listen and she…she was going to die.
“It’s alright. We’re going to get out of here.” The clown said.
“Yes, we are. It’s okay. I told the others. We’re all going to leave.”
Prudence didn’t want to speak anymore. She just wanted to cry until she slept, wake up when they would get out.
But before she did that, she needed to know,
“What’s your name? I…I’m P-P-Prudence.”
Aarin…Aarin helped her. Aarin saved her.
Aarin would get them all out.
LATE AT NIGHT
Prudence spent the rest of her day in Aarin’s trailer. He healed her with just his mind! Aarin said that was something special he could do. He said that there were probably others like him, but he didn’t know anyone else.
Night had fallen after a while. Prudence, Aarin, conjoined women Circe and Eris, and Ascelin, the snake man, had all grouped together, towards the animal cages.
It was agreed upon that all would be freed, even the animals.
Prudence held Aarin’s hand tightly, looking behind her every few moments, dreading the worst.
“This isn’t what I think it is, is it?”
Prudence jumped at the sound of Mr. Leopold’s voice. Ascelin had just opened the tiger’s cage, but it was being pushed back by something.
“I care for you. I love you. I don’t mean to hurt you.”
Prudence almost turned around, to look at Mr. Leopold, but Aarin turned her head back to the cage.
“I’m truly sorry that this has to happen, but if you can’t trust me, then I must.”
All around her, the performers screamed. Their bodies twisted, bled, and rot before Prudence’s very eyes. Aarin’s hand went lifeless and limp in hers.
She had never heard adults scream. She had never seen them in such immense pain, weak and whimpering, decaying away.
They fell to the ground, still bleeding, still screaming, until finally, they stopped.
Some of their skin and hair was still attached. It would have been less painful if they were skeletons, human features gone.
But no, hints of what made them alive was still there. They looked up with glassy eyes, mouths still opened in screams.
The tiger was curled in a corner, big eyes wide with fright. Even the tiger was scared.
Prudence couldn’t cry. She stood where she was, staring at the bodies in horror.
Just like that, they were all gone. Just like that, all dead.
Aarin…Aarin. Her first friend she made at the circus and Mr. Leopold just…just killed him! Like he was…nothing.
“I’m sorry, Prudence. That’s just what happens.”
Maybe it was one long nightmare and she would wake up in the orphanage, away from Mr. Leopold and his circus where people died and where animals were afraid.
Perhaps she wasn’t in an orphanage at all! She was in a big house, with a family, and everything was just one long, scary dream, and Prudence would wake up to sun climbing through the curtains of her window and the smell of eggs being cooked.
“Go inside your trailer, we have a big day tomorrow. It’s the last day here, in this part of Elsdale. We move to another part the day after.”
No, it wasn’t a dream. Prudence tried blinking and pinching herself, but still, she was in the circus.
No one was around to help. It was just her, Mr. Leopold, and the scared animals.
No one would come.
THE NEXT DAY
“It’s going to be just you, me, and the animals for a while, Prudence. For a long time. That won’t be too bad, right?” Mr. Leopold asked.
Prudence stood next to Mr. Leopold as he greeted the guests at the entrance, fidgeting with the tulle on her tutu. The sun was always shining, it never rained. It seemed to be laughing at all of her troubles, her woes.
“I guess not.” Prudence said glumly. The circus seemed fantastical and magical at first, a place she could call home.
“Right!” Mr. Leopold said, smacking his hand on her shoulder. Prudence winced at the impact.
It was a prison, a Hell.
A FEW MINUTES LATER
Prudence wandered throughout the circus, waiting for her name to be called. At the moment, Mr. Leopold was showing the audience his animals, his animals that were starting to weaken. Soon, she would have to perform and-
Prudence looked up. Rubbed her eyes. Made sure that she wasn’t seeing things.
It was Mrs. Margot, waiting for her.
“Mrs. Margot?” Prudence asked.
Mrs. Margot nodded.
“I put up as many missing posters around town as I could, but no one had found you. So I took the liberty to go to the one place where I’d know you would be.”
“Where are the others?”
“The girls? My brother is taking care of them.”
Mrs. Margot spread her arms out, for an embrace. Prudence ran towards her, not caring for the dirt on her ballet slippers.
She was free! She was going home! She was-
“Where do you think you’re going?”
Prudence froze. She knew that voice. She knew it as well as she knew her own skin.
“I-I want to leave!” Prudence said. Mrs. Margot frowned at the presence of Mr. Leopold.
“Why are you bothering the performer?”
Mr. Leopold put his hand on Prudence’s shoulder.
“She is my child and I have the right to-“
Mrs. Margot’s skin cracked, blood seeped into her eyes, she fell to the ground, weak.
“Well. That was easy.”
She was gone. Prudence’s one last lingering hope, gone. Her one way to freedom and it was…was gone.
“Come now. We have a show to do!” Mr. Leopold said.
No more wandering. No more waiting.
There was nothing, truly nothing, she could do.
AT THE STAGE
Prudence stared at the audience, unflinching. She knew what they wanted. She knew why they all came.
Prudence danced throughout the stage, losing herself in her own world, a world where only she existed.
If only that world were real.
YEARS LATER-SIXTEEN YEARS OLD
It had all been the same thing day after day, month after month, year after year. She started at six, she had become sixteen.
Prudence would dance for an audience that watched with such intensity it made her want to puke, she would almost die, the audience would laugh, the animas would get weak, no one was around.
Prudence stared out her window, the sun shining like always. Every day was a “big day”. A day of twisting limbs to nothingness, all the time, never stopping to rest until there was no light in the sky.
She squinted her eyes. Prudence wanted to be certain that she wasn’t just seeing things.
Mr. Leopold was talking to a young man with two little girls, all three blond. The man had blue eyes, the girls had green eyes, one had a shade darker than the other.
Were they his children? Why was Mr. Leopold talking to the three of them so enthusiastically?
Could it be that…he found new people to perform with her?
“Come out, Prudence! Greet your new friends!” Mr. Leopold yelled, banging on her trailer door.
Prudence scrambled out of bed and rushed to the door. She turned the knob with one hand, smoothed out her tutu with another.
Mr. Leopold, the man, and the girls were staring back at her, eyes full of brightness. Only Mr. Leopold had an evil glint to them.
“This is Caspian and these two lovely girls are Celia and Delia. Caspian can do magic, the girls can sing with such beauty. You can dance. You’ll get along quite nicely, I think.” Mr. Leopold said.
There could be a good chance that only Prudence would feel pain from Mr. Leopold, but she knew that it wasn’t true. He was going to suck the life away from them, just as he did with the others.
Perhaps she could change his mind?
“Mr. Leopold, I-“
Prudence blinked back in shock. What? He never asked for her to call him that. Somehow, it felt wrong, like he was a title and no one else. Like things from then on would become worst than Prudence ever imagined.
“You will all address me as Mr. Shapcott.” Mr. Shapcott said.
With a grin and a nod, Mr. Shapcott was on his way.
“Do you like it here?” Caspian asked. He seemed like he genuinely wanted to know if Prudence liked being there.
“I thought I did, but then, Mr. Shapcott showed his true colors.”
“What do you mean?”
“Come in and I’ll tell you.” Prudence said, gesturing the three of them in.
“He…he sucks lives away?” Caspian asked after Prudence finished telling them her story. The girls had their fists in their mouths, their eyes were wide with fear.
It reminded Prudence of when she first learned who Mr. Shapcott really was under all of theglamour.
“He does. It sounds far-fetched, but you have to believe me.”
“I believe you. I myself can do magic. Magic is real.” Caspian said. The girls seemed to believe her too, from how they looked at her.
Prudence sighed in relief. At least they believed her.
“Then you’ll know to be careful.” Prudence said.
The circus was the same. All couldn’t stop performing, all had to stay sealed away.
It pained Prudence that there were others around, experiencing the same pain as her, but what was she to do? She was powerless against Mr. Shapcott.
The animals were getting weak and thin, the audience seemed to enjoy their suffering more and more. The whole world seemed to be going mad, day by day.
But did it matter? No, because no one would leave.
No one would ever be free again.