Cyber Circus: A Novel by Kim Lakin-Smith
“Cyber Circus is surely beyond any previous perverse riff on a carnival set in an alternate surreality. Just beware the hallucinatory dementing seductions of Kim Lakin-Smith´s inventions. An astonishing piece of work.” — Ian Watson
Hellequin, last of the HawkEye military elite, is desperate to escape the legacy of Soul Food, the miraculous plant food that leeched the soil, destroyed his family, and instigated a bloody civil war. For a man awaiting the inevitable madness brought on by his enforced biomorph implant, there's only one choice. Run away with the circus.
Drifting above a poisoned landscape, Cyber Circus and her exotic acrobats and bioengineered freaks bring a welcome splash of colour into folk's drab lives. None more so than escaped courtesan turned-dancer Desirous Nim. When Nim's freedom and her very life are threatened, Hellequin is forced to fight again.
The ladyboy touches down on the apex of a colossal iron scaffold. He curtseys and steps out of view. The lights grow dim. Applause fades out.
All eyes lift to the ribs of the tent where pearlescent light feeds down to the fibrous mass of the calliope. It breathes. The instrument actually breathes. Folk turn to poke their neighbour and point and nod – they are sure of it. The intricate pipework steams. It speaks to them, the calliope, in a voice that is dry and fluting, its purpose being to distract the crowd from the figures who rush from the wings and unroll thin canvas over the floor of the ring. Hammers chime as Pig Heart’s pitch crew secure the waterproof skin inside the rim of the low wall. They disappear and return moments later, shouldering prisms which they arrange around the outer rim. The calliope sings its strange song. The pitch crew melt back into the shadows.
The stage is bathed in a soporific glow. Water tumbles from a perforated sluice in the central rib overhead. Secret mechanisms grind into life and the prisms begin to weep like waterfalls. Spotlights burn greenly from below the shallow pool.
A woman steps from one of the larger prisms as if passing through glass. She is tall as a reed and curvaceous. Her face is full with a pinch of bone at each cheek. Red hair loops down onto pale shoulders. She wears silk pantaloons and a corset of ribbons. In her ears are silver hoops. In her hand is an umbrella.
The air dusts with spray as she mounts the low wall and steps daintily around it. At each prism, she angles her umbrella under the flow, sending water spurting over the heads of the crowd who hoot in delight and sway to the pipe of the calliope.
Coming full circle, she swings the umbrella upside-down, places it on the water and steps inside. Few among the marks hear the soft click of a pressure pad or understand the revolving magnet patched onto a slim track. Instead, it is an apparently cognisant umbrella that conveys its beautiful cargo about the ring.
She casts off her soaked pantaloons. Men whoop and whistle. Her undergarment is of the same wet ribbon as her drenched corset.
The umbrella glides to the centre of the ring. As the lights dim further, she appears as an hour glass silhouette. But the transformation goes further. She is suddenly alight. Her mouth shines, as do the outlines of her breasts, each nipple visible between the slats of her ribbon top, and too the curve from hip to inner thigh and the plump of each buttock.
The song of the calliope is replaced with a discordant clang that gathers pace. Faster and faster the umbrella twirls to the guttural music. And she is a light cell, a blur of shine-shot neon. Colours grease the air in her wake.