Author's Note: This is a short story I am writing for class, so it will, of course, be finished (or I'd fail, and we don't want that!). It's inspired, oddly enough, by Christina Aguilera's "Back to Basics" album, most importantly the songs "Enter the Circus" and "Welcome." This is part one of the short story, but it is not the whole story. That will be coming soon.

I

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, prepare yourselves! Are you ready for the show of your lives? Will you run and hide? Will you face your fears and step behind this striped curtain? Look! The world where nothing is as it seems, where the rain is but a sparkle on your face! Look! Stars? But wait – they are but paper! Ahahaha! Come! Come, and see…"

Of course they came, who could resist? Where the glitter fell from seemingly nowhere, and the lights shone just where they were supposed to. Who could resist the charming smile of the Emcee, his eyes darkened by the kohl smudged under his eyes to make his eyes appear haunting and shockingly bright blue against the dark kohl? He pulled flowers out of his top hat and handed them to little girls, summoned water guns from nowhere to give to little boys. The flower on his bright red jacket spritzed water on the women he thought were particularly beautiful.

The Tightrope Dancers wiggled their hips and flashed their white, toothy smiles to the crowd, their eyes decorated with rhinestones, feathers in their glossy red hair. The Emcee slapped their bums playfully and the kids loved it when the dancers flashed shocked looks to the crowd and slapped the Emcee right back.

The Strong Man lifted people and while the Dancers circled him, their eyes flashing behind their bright, glittery, neon colored masks, their short skirts rippling around their thighs, slippery and shiny, like a strange, liquid material. The Singers and the Band wore masks with large, unnatural grins and blank, black eyes, staring at the audience unnervingly as they played and sang.

The last act, the elephants, was always the grand finale, the perfect way to end the show. As the Dancers, perched on top of the Elephant, slid around each other, as easily and naturally as though they were born to it, the Tightrope Dancers made their way along the tightrope and threw glitter out to the crowd, and the Strong Man came out carrying the Singers on their own portable stage. The Juggler and the Clown ran around the ring, waving their arms and shouting and laughing with the crowd, urging their audience on. The Emcee, still grinning hauntingly, shouted to the crowd through his microphone about how seeing is believing.

"You can only believe your eyes, they do not lie! I am your eyes! Do you see? I would never lie to you! I promise you, you have never seen anything like this! See this mirror!"

And then the Juggler and the Clown lifted the blanket that had covered the middle of the floor revealing a large mirror, sparkling with the reflection of the lights and the glitter. The children ooh'd and ahh'd while the parents smirked knowingly, already knowing the answer to the riddle they hadn't even been told yet.

"I promise you, you have never seen anything like this!" the Emcee said again. "Look! Look!"

And the Juggler and the Clown stepped into the mirror. The gasps of the shocked children and the "shocked" hums of surprise from the parents, all echoed through tent, as the Juggler and the Clown's feet disappeared into the mirror. The Juggler and the Clown looked up at the audience, horrified, their mouths forming identical O's of surprise, eyebrows furrowed.

"Take another step, my friends!" the Emcee urged them, his odd grin widening, his eyes looking almost maniacal.

The children's faces turned from awed, to horrified, obviously torn between trusting the Emcee who had been so funny and silly throughout the show and suddenly being unsure of him. What if the Juggler and the Clown were trapped in the mirror? How was that even possible? They turned their gazes to their parents, who only smiled in a way they probably thought was reassuring.

But the Juggler and the Clown followed the Emcee's instructions, and took another step, and then another, and then another, until they were up to their shoulders in the mirror, looking as awed and shocked as the children in the crowd.

"But that is not all, my friends!" the Emcee cried. "We are not done yet!"

Suddenly, the Strong Man, still carrying the Singers on their portable stage, started walking toward the mirror. The Juggler and the Clown waved almost sadly to the audience, and a few steps later, they disappeared.

"Good bye!" Emcee cried, waving and grinning at the now empty mirror.

The children of the audience began to look upset, worried for the people they had oddly begun to care about. The Juggler who had winked at them, the Clown who had given them flowers and candy, now gone. And the handsome Strong Man and the beautiful Singers were now joining them. The Strong Man was waist high into the mirror, and suddenly the children realized the Tightrope Dancers were following. One by one, all of them disappeared, until the only ones left were the Emcee, the Dancers, and the Elephant.

"Do you think we can fit an elephant into the mirror?" the Emcee asked, his eyes wide.

The crowd cheered, the children looking hesitant and clapping like their parents were doing, and the Emcee smiled approvingly.

"If you say so!"

And then the Elephant began stepping toward the mirror, and the Emcee continued looking over his shoulder at the audience, looking worried and unsure. And as the Elephant lifted its enormous foot, began to bring it down, the children waited to see it descend into the mirror, just as everyone else had, when all of a sudden…

"Oh no!" the Emcee wailed, and the children all jumped, startled.

The mirror shattered underneath the Elephant's foot, and the Dancers let out identical shouts of surprise. The Elephant stepped slowly and lazily away from the now broken mirror and curled his trunk, as though bored.

The children's gazes whipped over to the Emcee, silently begging him for an explanation, but he only stared back at them hopelessly.

"Our friends are trapped!" the Emcee said mournfully. "We'll need to get them back somehow! We need to say the magic words as loudly as we can! Say them with me: Sdneirf kcab emoc!"

And so they did, the entire crowd chanted with the Emcee, "Sdneirf kcab emoc!" until there was a blast, like a cannon, and suddenly the ring was shrouded in a puff of red smoke, sparkles and bubbles exploding from somewhere in the center and the Emcee began shouting again, his voice garbled and oddly haunting.

The crowd craned their necks, hoping to see around the puff of smoke, and as the smoke began to fade, the crowd burst into cheers, because, as the Emcee had promised, the magic words had brought everyone back. The Juggler and the Clown were holding their arms up victoriously. The Strong Man flexed as the Singers fawned over him adoringly, and the Tightrope Dancers flashed their toothy grins. The Emcee was fluttering like a hummingbird around, wrapping the circus performers into quick, tight embraces and kissing them on the cheeks.

"You see?" he shouted enthusiastically to the crowd. "You saved our friends!"

Looking into the Emcee's black, flashing eyes, his make up beginning to drop off his face because of his sweat, it was almost as though he really believed they had been in danger.