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Cast of Characters

(Warning: may contain SPOILERS unless you're up-to-date on current episodes!)

Circus Members

Cook - Makes a famous Dutch oven apple pie.
Belongings include: "porridge cauldron."

Doc - doctor and snake-oil salesman. Actually a very good physician. Previously arrested, reason unknown.

Ginger - The straight (clown denomination, not sexual orientation) whitefaced clown. A short man of middling years with a plain face and a calm demeanor. His nickname comes from the fiery orange wig he wears while clowning. Doesn't like the skeleton man much. Has excellent hearing and reaction time. When intent, his face becomes a thing of sharp edges and shadows, as if he set aside his average-man mask.
Quotes: "He seemed to only come alive in the ring, as if he folded up his personality and tucked it away along with the wig and face paint." Has taken the new ringmaster under his wing and is teaching him the rules of how to be a clown, though many of the rules seem to have more to do with subterfuge than clowning.
Belongings include: wigs, costumes, fake sausages, hoops, mallets (most stuffed with cotton to reduce impact), and barrels.

Bradley, the strong man - Bradley, the strongman - Massive black man. Swirling tattoos cover his skin and writhe over bulging muscles.
Character interactions: Feels he owed everything to the old ringmaster, had trouble believing one of the circus members would murder him.

Doctor Christopher Janzen - Named after Christopher Janzen of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Great Doctor Panjandrum, who has a marvelous remedy for your ills. Referred to also as "Doc." Doctor and snake-oil salesman. Actually a very good physician, arrested for stealing corpses to dissect (revealed previously arrested, not why). Performs as Doctor Panjandrum, selling snake oil. Doesn't have a license.
Possessions include: a black patent leather medical bag with sentimental value, worn and scuffed.

Jonathan Matzke - The Skeleton Man--So Thin He Wears a Wedding Ring as a Belt! - Always hungry. Delicate stomach/eating disorder. Hoards "his tasties" and "his treasures," though he'll give them up if it's necessary for the good of the circus. Bostonian. Tends to sneak around, is not fond of the long arm of the law. A skittering, sneaking, peeking sort of man. Dislikes snakes because he knows how many places something that small could hide. Can handle himself in situations that call for a quick escape or a quicker stick with a knife. Disappears in Episode 8. Possessions: Doesn't have much. His "preciouses." Hardtack and cheese and dried apples. Scavenged from the dead ringmaster, he has a flamboyant but rarely worn scarf, a pair of cuff links, and a painted postcard, half a bottle of port, sausage, hard cheese of good quality, pickled eggs, pickled vegetables, toffees, a dozen clove-studded oranges, and some mysterious papers. His circus wagon is white with shiny silver trim, specially reinforced to also hold the weight of the fat lady.

Lacey Miller - The Fabulous Lady Equestrienne Who Defies The Fiery Rings of Death! Lacey Miller (The Fabulous Lady Equestrienne Who Defies The Fiery Rings of Death!) - Raised to be a lady. Wears hair in a blonde chignon. Tries to be ladylike under all circumstances, which results equally in irritation and respect from others. Not much interest in the feminine fripperies or in gussying-up for a man.
Possesions include: white mare that she favors, derringer, brass-and-enamel hoof pick given to her by the mahout, walking dress, various hats.
Character interactions: Was on the outs with Mr. Loyale before he died.

Mr. Loyale, the ringmaster and owner (with backers/investors). Named for Anselme-Pierre Loyal, one of the first renowned circus personalities, 1753-1826. Deceased.

(Unnamed) mahout - The Indian elephant keeper/driver. New to the circus, joined in India along with his marvelous aether-powered bone-and-brass elephant. Speaks carefully in heavily accented English.
Interactions: On shipboard, spent a lot of time with the aether engineers, and was with them at the time that Mr. Loyale, the ringmaster, missed one of his appointments (presumably the ringmaster was deceased at that point). Possessions include: Aether elephant, oleander plant.

Samson - Baby boa belonging to the snake charmer.

Madame Tonya Wershow - Named after Tonya Wershow of Saint Paul, Minnesota. The fortune teller. Uses words like "dearie," and calls herself an old woman. Quotes: "The old witch always had a suggestion or six ready for anyone who asked. Uncanny accurate they were, too, sometimes, based on things she had no business knowing." "Her ears were far too sharp, her movements far too quick (when she wanted them to be), and her eyes were far too keen for her to be as old as she affected to be." "She might act old if she pleased, but nobody could tell what she really looked like under all her scarves and shawls and paste jewels, and her veil concealed her face."

(Unnamed) albino twins - Male. (Choose to dress as very refined, or very primitive, depending on the mood?)

(Unnamed) mahout - The Indian elephant keeper/driver. New to the circus, joined in India along with his marvelous aether-powered bone-and-brass elephant. Speaks carefully in heavily accented English.
Interactions: On shipboard, spent a lot of time with the aether engineers, and was with them at the time that Mr. Loyale, the ringmaster, missed one of his appointments (presumably the ringmaster was deceased at that point).

(Unnamed) midget and midget's midget wife - Tend to belligerence and bickering, although when they unite against someone, their resolve is to be feared.

(Unnamed) snake charmer - Lets her snakes roam free in her cabin/wagon, among her bed sheets.
Snakes: At least one snake is larger than the skeleton man. Her baby boa snake is named Samson. Collection includes rattlesnakes. Giant boa is named Goliath.

(Unnamed) conjoined sisters.

Characters from Episode 1, Everyone Dies

Culhanes - owners of the farm that Mina stopped at when she saw the flash (East Tennessee).

Mrs. Du Voix (born Marcella Simmons) - Denver, Colorado spiritualist, deceased.

Gerhardt Yoder - farmer 40 miles west of Topeka, KS. Killed in the first firestorm, along with his sons Johan and Wilhelm.

Jacob - former slave. Married, two children not sold away, plus sickly newborn. Lives in Freeville, Georgia. In harness when the wave struck, had the magnifying bone aether and muscle power effect.

Johansens - family farm west of Topeka, KS. Farm burned.

Marcella Simmons - See Mrs. Du Voix

Mina - schoolgirl trudging home when the flash went off in East Tennessee. Fate unknown.


Mrs. McCormack - Mother of William McCormack, works in Peacock Crystal Chandelier factory. Severely injured.

William McCormack - Irish immigrant in Boston, father died in sickness in the slums, mother injured in aether explosion.

Mr. Roger - crystal workshop supervisor at Mrs. McCormack's work at Peacock Crystal Chandelier factory. Not a bad man at all, allows his workers lunch breaks, good light/ventilation, candy for the children, etc.

Seppanen Town

Clara - Introduced in Ep 5. Heavily pregnant woman on guard over chicory field workers when the circus drove into town. Not unsympathetic.
Possessions include: shotgun (at least on loan).

Mrs. (Margaret) Della Rocca - Named after Margaret Della Rocca of Golden Valley, Minnesota. The proprietress of the local boarding house. Famous for her powdermilk biscuits (and the effects they sometimes have on strangers passing through).

Francis - On his way to a promised job in Boston when he was caught in Seppanen Town. A bit rural around the edges. Has a simpler vocabulary, verbal tics like "I reckon." Dark tan, rough hands.
Character interactions: Helped Christopher Knall when he was first put to work in the fields.

Christopher Knall - Named after Christopher Knall of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Introduced in Ep. 5. Trainee clown and would-be ringmaster under the tutelage of Ginger the clown. Used to sell ladies' hair combs and men's shaving sets, but was captured in Seppanen Town and made an "indentured worker." Beaten after an attempt to escape.



Arkansas toothpick - A heavy dagger with a long blade, balanced for throwing, but also useful for thrusting and slashing. Up through the late 1830s, this blade was also used for dueling in what are now the Southern United States.

barker - Preferably known as a "talker," a carnie who talks up the attractions to lure customers in. Circus slang.

batman - a soldier assigned to an officer to act as a servant, usually a combination valet, messenger, and cook. Also known as a dog-robber.

blood extravasation - Blood leakage into surrounding tissues, may be caused by an allergic reaction or a burn.

butcher - Vendors who sell refreshments to circus seats. "The story is that the first person to do this was the animal meat butcher on the Old John Robinson Show sometime before the Civil War. He was so successful, he was able to quit his job as meat butcher, but his fellow troupers continued to address his as butcher." - circ. sl.

chapati - Indian flatbread, served with practically every meal.

colleen - an Irish girl. Irish slang.

copper - policeman

fakir - a Muslim or Hindu ascetic. Usually they beg or perform "miracles" to support themselves.

gob - mouth, from the Gaelic for "beak." Slang.

golem - v. to golem - to use aether to constrain/control/power a creature/person.

jeff - A rope. circ. sl.

king pole - The center pole of a circus tent, the pole which is put up first. Source:

lucifer - A match. Early friction matches caught fire explosively and smelled terrible, leading to them being called lucifers. Even after the process was improved, the slang term persisted.

lumina - Plural of lumens, a unit of luminous flux equal to one candle's intensity.

mahout - Hindi for "elephant driver."

moue - An irritated grimace or pout. From the French.

noblesse oblige - A French phrase that means a person of higher position must act honorably for the good of those s/he has a responsibility to.

paddy - Derogatory slang for an Irishman, used because so many were named after Saint Patrick.

panjandrum - A powerful personage or pretentious official. See The Great Panjandrum by Samuel Foote. Disambiguation: The Great Panjandrum was an explosives-laden, rocket-propelled cart designed as an experimental weapon in World War II, described as "a kind of explosion-driven Ferris wheel."

pip - Pip has many definitions. In this context, it means "one extraordinary of its kind." Short for 'pippin'. First used in 1797. (4).

pratfall - A humorous fall on the buttocks, from prat (buttocks) + fall.

pukka - Genuine, authentic, first-class. From Hindi pakka, meaning cooked, ripe. Became British slang during the occupation of India.

queer the pitch - To interfere with or spoil the business of a tradesman or showman. Travelling showmen call the place they set out their stall a 'pitch'. 'Queer' has been used as a verb meaning 'to spoil' since the early 19th century. Source:

shanghaiing - The practice of using trickery, alcohol, drugs, or violence to get a sailor working on a ship against his will. So named because this technique was frequently used to secure sailors for voyages to eastern Asia. The use of unfree labor aboard merchant ships was common up until 1915.

shillelagh - A walking stick and cudgel, made from hardened wood and with a heavy knob on one end.

spark - To woo, or court. Slang.

talker - A carnie who talks up the attractions to lure customers in. Also known (unflatteringly) as a barker. Circus slang.

tentman - One of the men responsible for raising the tents when the circus came to town.

townie - Somebody who is not a member of the circus. circ. sl.


Research tidbits

Aether theories in alchemy, natural philosophy, and early modern physics proposed the existence of a medium of the aether (also spelled ether, from the Greek word meaning "upper air" or "pure, fresh air" [1]), a space-filling substance or field, thought to be necessary as a transmission medium. - Wikipedia

Aether theories were superseded by modern physics theories in the early 20th century, though some say that dark energy and zero-point energy are a modern re-imagining of aether theory.

For the purposes of "The Circus of Brass and Bone," I am considering the four main types of aether to be fire aether, water aether, air aether, and bone aether.


Autopsy Motto
Hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae (Latin for, "This is the place where death delights to help the living.") is a sign frequently found in autopsy rooms. The quote originates from Giovanni Morgagni, a physician from the 18th century who originated the anatomical concept of human disease. The full quote is, "Let Conversation Cease. Let Laughter Flee. This is the Place Where Death Delights To Help the Living." Abandoned hospital photography:

Autopsy stages
Autopsies proceed in stages. The first stage is the gross examination, which is actually the least gross part of the whole procedure. It is a non-disruptive examination of the body, which includes checking for external abnormalities, weighing the body, checking throat and ears, etc, and noting general appearance. After that, the examinations become progressively more destructive to the body. References:

Victorian-era bathrooms in wealthy houses were the size of any other room, and they were decorated in a similar style, with wallpaper and paintings and carpet and couches and chairs. The toilet itself was kept in a small closet inside this room, hence the term "water closet."


Bloomer Costume



Breakfast Pie
In the 1800s, pie (and especially berry pie) was seen as a breakfast food, a hearty meal before a long day's work.



Circus Entrance

Circus Posters
See the fantastic collection of circus posters at

Civil War Rations
Soldiers' rations during the Civil War were pretty wretched, and the Confederate soldiers had the worst of the lot. Both sides started out using the standard United States military ration, but the Confederates cut back significantly over the course of the war as food shortages became more severe. Soldiers had to prepare their own meals from the rations (ingredients such as salt pork, cornmeal, beans, etc.) that they were given. Union soldiers frequently made skillygallee, crumbled hardtack fried in bacon grease, and Confederate soldiers' standby was coosh, salt pork mixed with cornmeal and water until it was of a porridge-like consistency. Civil war rations: Civil war rations recipes:

Clown Mallets Traditionally, clowns stuffed large prop mallets with cotton so that they could appear to be hit quite hard with a large mallet, but suffer no damage.

Cossack drag
A horseback riding trick where the rider hangs upside-down off the side of the horse, held on only by having her feet hooked through special straps. See performance video at:

Cremation and mass graves
The Catholic church generally opposes cremation, but Pope Innocent I allowed exceptions during war or plague, and this has been carried down through the centuries. Examples include the Battle of Waterloo and the Hundred Years War (in which the French piled up the dead outside of Paris and burnt them on a huge pyre). Source:

The term, "to devolve," comes from the Latin for "to roll." Its first documented use was in the 15th century, long before the theory of evolution entered our lexicon.

Douc langur monkey

Five Points Neighborhood
Five Points was a notoriously bad neighborhood in New York City in the mid to late 1800s. Waves of immigrants swept through it and found only gangs, decay, and despair. Read more about it here:

Fractional Currency
Coin hoarding was so common during the Civil War that by the end of it there was almost no coin left in circulation. During the war, and for a bit after it, the Northern government issued small cent notes for amounts between three and fifty cents (the higher denominations were frequently counterfeited). These were inspired by the initial practice of using postage stamps as change. For more information, see



How to Harvest Potatoes

Horsecars were basically trolley cars pulled by horses along railroad track, used in larger cities. They were an intermediate step between stagecoaches and trolleys.

Irish Dialect

1) The Irish language (Celtic family of language) itself does not have the words "yes" or "no". They simply repeat the "to be" verb in the positive or negative context (there are 2 different version of this verb in Irish). What does this mean for English? It means that people will not give you a "yes" or "no" answer. If they do, it's considered rude. They will answer you with their thoughts of the general subject (i.e. prattle on with their thoughts) or they will say something like "I saw that bird, I did." (this is a strong response).

2) The verb "take" is something different in Irish-English. they only use "take" when regarding objects. If they are speaking of themselves, it's "have" in English. This directly translates from the Irish. My house mother in Ireland (she was in her 70s) would always ask if I would "have" a shower tonight or "have a lie-in" (a long morning nap).

3) The words "shenanigans" and "smithereens" are Irish words that English speakers took from the language and use. When I think of older words circa 1870, these come to mind.

4) If you bump into someone "Excuse me" is never used-it's too formal. You would say "Sorry" or "Sorry there". I think some Irish language mannerisms come out of being occupied by various people for about a 1,000 years. When you're not the top dog, you have to "tip your hat" in one way or another, and I think they language reflects that.

6)"May I help you?" was never used in stores. Again, too formal. It was always, "Are you okay?" or "Are you alright there?"

7) If someone tells a terrible story, the response in more northern areas involves God in one way or another. "Bless him/her" or "Jesus (Jay-sus), that's horrible". "Saints preserve us" has never been said as far as I know by anyone. I think it was something hokey Americans glommed onto and said in Disney movies.

- Source: Cece Otto

Irish Immigrants

Laboratory glassware
Up through World War II, laboratory glassware was handblown.

Ladies' notion shops
Bloomingdale's began as a Ladies' Notion Shop selling hoop skirts in New York in 1860. At that time, most stores were very specialized, selling only one type of item. The brothers Bloomingdale imported and sold a wide variety of fashionable items, which would lead them to become the first "department store." A brief timeline:

The lion shall lie down with the lamb
This phrase is commonly used to refer to the time after Christ returns to reign on earth, when the predator and the prey shall live together in harmony--but it's found nowhere in the Bible. It may be derived from Isaiah 11:6: The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. Such Biblical tableaux were commonly used in the early days of the circus to keep preachers from railing against its immorality.

Maharana of Udaipur
Maharana is a title given to an Indian prince, like Maharajah. During the colonial period in India's history, Udaipur was one of the more powerful princely states.

Medicine Bottles
In the Civil War, Union hospitals frequently used cobalt blue glass medicine bottles like this one:

New York Draft Riots
New York Draft Riots Harpers colored asylum
In New York City, a decade earlier, they dealt with the Draft Riots. This was some serious shit. Lots of people died, lots more were seriously injured, the police were outnumbered and in some engagements outgunned, and this went on for days. It started out with attacks on police, black people, and the military, and it expanded into all-out riots, looting, and arson. People torn into literal pieces by mobs of thousands. It was that kind of party.



Pound Cake
A vintage recipe for pound cake:

Demon Yakshagana Hindu demons, prone to demonic behavior like consuming flesh or blood, desecrating religious ceremonies, and possessing people. For an interesting family story, read For more scholarly context:

Up through World War II, women were expected to retire after dinner (to a retiring room) and leave the men to their port and cigars and purportedly more intelligent conversation.

A refreshing fruit drink made with vinegar to give it extra zing:

Rumsey Port, New York
Does not exist in our world, but James Rumsey did. He was an American mechanical engineer who was among those developing steam technology. The patent went to John Fitch after several years of dispute, and the glory went to Robert Fulton, but James Rumsey was the one Thomas Jefferson said was the, “most original and the greatest mechanical genius I have ever seen.”

Slum toilets
The sanitation in places like the Half-Moon slum in Boston was terrible. Immigrants lived packed into shanties with poor ventilation, no light, and one toilet used by many residents. This caused epidemics of disease to sweep through the slums. Source:

Snake charmer's display wagon

Steam calliope Strawberry diet
Strawberries lack protein and fiber and one serving has a ridiculous amount of vitamin C. Lack of protein affects muscles. Lack of fat affects cold regulation and absorption of other vitamins. Excess amounts of Vitamin C cause diarrhea and other digestive complaints.

Tea cakes
Pennsylvania Tea Cake Recipe from Godey's Lady's Book
Tea cakes were favorites throughout the 1800s. This is one variation. The standard recipe is 3 cups sugar, three eggs, one cup butter, one cup milk, a spoonful of dissolved pearlash, and four cups of flour, well beaten. (Source: The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s)

Tiffin carriers

Tintype photography
Also known as ferrotype photography, tintype photography was very popular for a few decades after daguerrotypes. The photograph was printed on a metal plate (not tin!), making it more durable and able to be shipped through the mail. The quality was not as good as in other photographic processes, but the cost was cheap, making portraits affordable to the lower classes. Itinerant photographers in the late 1800s used this technique. For more info:

Toilet paper
Rolled and perforated toilet paper was invented around 1880. Before it became widely purchased, most people in the United States used corncobs or pages torn from catalogs. The Sears catalog was particularly favored for that use. For more information:

Toward vs. towards
"Toward" and "towards" are somewhat interchangeable. In current use, "toward" is usually preferred in North America and "towards" is used in other English-speaking countries, especially in the U.K. (although "toward" is becoming more prevalent). However, this wasn't the case before 1900, and so I have chosen to use the older (for America) form in this story.

For more info:

Rudolph Virchow (1821-1902), was an eminent German scientist who advanced the belief that cellular disease caused pathology, not ill-humours, and he brought Berlin to medical prominance. He also developed the Virchow autopsy method, which is still widely used.

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker
Dr. Walker was one of the first female doctors, a suffragette who chose to wear men's attire, a Civil War doctor who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor (she is still the only female Medal of Honor winner), and perhaps a spy. Sources: and

Large panoramic and historical scenes were available as wallpaper from 1800 on, though only the wealthy could afford them. Cheap, decorative wallpaper became available to the middle class mid-century. (Source: The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s)

War of the Rebellion, The
A term used to refer to the Civil War, widely in use in the North in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. Also called "The Great Rebellion." By contrast, the Southerners called it "The War Between the States" or "The War for Southern Independence."

Whiteface clowns


Deleted Scenes

Episode 1

nastier than any I'd ever had the misfortune of smelling before
Ropes rasped above her as the aerialists swung down from the practice area they'd created by anchoring their ropes to the steamstacks.
The last time that she and Mr. Loyale clashed--when he asked her to shorten her skirts to the knee and add tassels to her costume--fireworks had erupted. They probably all thought they'd be treated to another show.
The camel must have selected a canvasman, who'd not be as accustomed to their tricks as the hostlers or the performers who interacted with the creatures.
when kerosene-soaked rags would be bound around the steel rings and set afire.
He glanced at Lacey and she realized that he was uncertain where to take it. Lacey dearly wanted to go strip off the newly stained riding habit she wore and scrub herself down with sea water until all other smells were gone, but she couldn't yet.

Needs must, she reminded herself sternly, and now, she needed to keep people moving.

"Carry him up to the deck and lay him out in the sunshine. Somebody, get Doc! We need to know what he died of, if it was a sickness or--something else."

Her mention of sickness had the intended effect of clearing a path, despite the wound in his chest. Hark strode past the circusfolk and shifted the corpse so that he could hold it tucked under one arm and climb the ladder with the other. Lacey followed behind the rest of the crowd.

Reason for deleting: delays the narrative.

"Perhaps they'd hire a Pinkerton to look into Mr. Loyale's death instead."
Reason for deleting: The Pinkertons were widely feared. At this point, they were basically a private standing army. Mention of them would *not* have calmed anyone down.
Original phrasing: "--and then she did feel something entering her." The reason I changed that should be clear. ;)
A job at a butcher's might mean meat in the stew pot.

Marked-Up Rough Draft, Page 1

Episode 2
along the streets and in the homes of those wealthy enough to have indoor lighting
The mahout told me this much later, when he knew of my existence.

Episode 3
The beggar children who roamed the streets, their numbers much diminished, stayed well out of their way.
Smaller piles of dead animals were stacked nearby, cats and dogs and rats forming a peaceful kingdom in death.
Reason for deleting: Really? With this many dead, and corpses rotting in tenement houses, somebody took the time to carefully stack the bodies of dead animals. Stack? Who was this, some crazy 19th century cat lady?
William recognized her as the girl who lived in an apartment with her four brothers. His mam said she was "no better than she should be," though she wouldn't say anything more on the matter.
William and Robert had gone there many a time to kick around a ball, and they'd never been kicked out. There was room enough for William to keep well away from those who might be offended by the presence of a "dirty Irish brat."
They quickly found that if there were survivors inside, even if they didn't answer to a warning of fire or a knock on the door with an offer of help, they roused quickly enough when the door was forced open.
William couldn't imagine. Robert had always been a protective older brother, even when he tugged his sisters' pigtails until they squealed.

Episode 4
From the look of those full handcarts, only the leavings of--whatever had happened--remained to be picked.
The desk's unchanging demeanor mocked his efforts.
On deck, Lacey nodded to the rifle the man held. "Surely that isn't necessary?"

"A couple of scallywags laughed at us, said the guns wouldn't work or would blow up in our hands as likely as not." He hefted the rifle. "They left after a demonstration."

Jonathan eyed the sailor's weathered face and the scarred hands that held the weapon with nary a tremble. Yes, he would have left after a "demonstration," too.

Reason for deleting: Guns not working didn't actually fit with the worldbuilding done so far.

watching his edible subjects as they cheered the parade's passing.
and the crowd seemed--wrong.

It was the spacing. They didn't crowd together to watch the spectacle. They didn't come as close to the wagons as they could. They stayed at least arms-length away from each other, and every few seconds, their eyes darted around to make sure no threat had cut off their escape route. The women particularly seemed poised to flee. The children stayed close behind their parents or lurked well out of arms-reach.

Costumed, he expanded to fill six times the space of a normal man.
William shuddered, and it was not quite the thrilled shudder that the uncanny aether elephant would have caused in the days before the aether storm and the flood of death that followed.

Episode 5
At least for the trees, it was easy for a harvester to tell where his efforts would be wasted.
Dr. Janzen hesitated for a moment, wondering whether he should grab some of his pre-cut splints and take them along. . . .But there were trees aplenty along the road. A fallen branch would do for a splint until he could get a patient back to the safety of the caravan.

Episode 6
A man could stare at a hallucination. Christopher straightened and tossed a chicory plant in his woven basket. It was one of the few plants still in flower, and the cheerful bright blue of the blossom seemed to mock him. He waited for the flower to deform or start talking to him, but no.
Every time Christopher bent over, though, the tug of the crusted-over scabs on his back reminded him that he couldn't trust in the kindness of townsfolk. The injuries were his payment for his first attempt to run away. On the night of a new moon, he'd dug his way out of the shack they'd locked him up in and fled through the night. His flight ended when he ran straight into the broadside of a barn. Stunned and exhausted, he'd crawled inside and curled up in the hay. A farmer's daughter found him there, gave him a bowl of milk, and left him in peace. He'd thought he was safe until she brought back the keeper of the general store.
carried by shadowed shapes. Some of the shadows were of such unusual proportions that he would have hesitated a few weeks earlier, but now those abnormalities registered as signs of safety
When he opened his eyes, Ginger's face stared at him from only inches away. Christopher jerked. He would have spilled the beans, but Ginger was holding the plate to steady it in case of just that eventuality.

Episode 7
, joking about how the cook must have squeezed the chickens to get enough eggs overnight to make a scramble for the whole circus--when he'd been denying he had any eggs at all for the past week. (Reason for deletion: it's a lousy joke!)
, and partially from fear of being caught
Farther away, the conjoined twins worked with a weird rocking rhythm as they harvested side-by-side rows.

Episode 9
Discretion wasn't one of Ginger's rules about how to be a "clown." It was so much a part of how Ginger existed that he probably never thought of it. Would a fish think, "My, how much water there is today!"?
And--most importantly--they didn't feel conflicted (if they didn't like what they were doing) or aggressive (if they really liked what they were doing).
For a dizzying moment, she wondered if the guards would just let her pass without a word. If they did, should she pass like a mouse, quiet and meek, or should she ask them the questions she needed answers to and risk them asking her pointed questions in return?

Episode 10
Nobody who hadn't been looking for it would have seen it. Small bootprints led up to it from the direction of the camp, but there were trampled paths all through the woods. Even here, there was a trail of larger footprints passing by the tree and heading for New York City.
"How will we find her? I don't know what she looks like!" "That's part of her role. I don't even know what she looks like, though I'd wager she's younger than she acts. She flagged her clothing cache; that means she was planning on coming back. She didn't leave anything else there, no explanation, no contact. That means she didn't know for sure that I was uninvolved in whatever it was that caused her to rabbit. Or maybe it was just good sense. When you're facing an unknown enemy, don't trust anyone." "That sounds like one of your rules for being a clown." "Kid, that's just a rule for staying alive."
as the circus gathered to eat--one couldn't go so far as to say enjoy--a bowl of stew

Episode 11

"Is that why you and Ginger had that special moment when you looked all meaningful-like into each others' eyes? He's a nice fellow but he do like his secrets." Isaac gave Christopher a sympathetic look. "You ain't so good at secrets. You could stand to learn something from him."

"I plan to," Christopher said in a stifled voice.

"Somebody always gets more than the rest of us."
"There's always some with more than others," Christopher said slowly, "and so those without will trade whatever they can to become those with."

He was still portly, but from the way his flesh hung on him, he must have been even more rotund before the aether storm and the food rationing.

That was a kettle of worms she didn't care to stir up.

"There's an awful lot of them," Isaac said doubtfully to Christopher.

"True, but see there--they're not stopping anyone from going in. As long as we act like we know what we're doing, we'll be fine."

Ahead of them, a woman wrapped in a heavy shawl walked past the cluster of special patrolmen blocking the wide thoroughfare that led to Port Rumsey. The patrolmen drew back to let her go, but they eyed her sourly. One spit on the ground after she'd passed.

"Yeah, but will they let us leave again? That don't look exactly friendly." The patrolmen grouped together like a pack of dogs guarding their territory: likely to growl at strangers, and quick to bite.

Christopher grinned. "Then we'll sure as hell have something to report. Come on--this was your idea!"

And it was still the only one Isaac had. He inhaled, bracing himself. Part of him wished he had the heavily padded burlap suit he used for training half-wild dogs. He scolded himself for being silly as they walked forward. It wasn't like the patrolmen were actually going to bite him!

One of the patrolmen did growl as they passed, "Traitor! We'll settle yours when the time comes."

Isaac ignored it and kept walking. Show no fear. Christopher hesitated, as if he were going to explain that they weren't actually part of New York, and so this dispute--whatever it might be--wasn't their concern. Isaac grabbed his arm and pulled him along before he said anything stupid.

Ahead of Isaac, the woman he'd followed past the special patrolmen shrugged off her shawl to reveal bare shoulders. She hiked her skirt scandalously high, showing shapely ankles. A saucy swing entered her step. Isaac couldn't keep his gaze from following her. She sashayed around a group of gamblers squatting around a card game and past two sailors lounging against a rope-wrapped shipping crate. One of the sailors shouted something in her direction and made a lewd gesture. She gave him an in-kind response and just laughed when his face reddened.

Episode 12
If a vial hadn't been shielded during the storm, by being underground or out to sea, it was spoiled.

Episode 13

Marigold's always been at the edge, never really a part of the troupe. But now--she's happy."

Isaac opened his mouth to protest, but what came out instead was a strangled-sounding, "And so is he."

* animals: monkeys, alligators, lions, hippopotami, zebras, peacocks, and hyenas.

He shuddered. If he stumbled into hyena territory . . . well, he'd seen the damage their teeth could do when they played tug-of-war with a thighbone. He didn't want to experience it first hand.

With effort, he pushed aside the memory of jaws crushing bone as it splintered and crunched. The smell of baking fish floated out to welcome them to the cottage. Isaac's nostrils flared as he scented the air, and he smiled. Fish would be an awfully welcome change after endless meals of root vegetable stew barely flavored by rabbit or squirrel.

But when Captain Angie smacked her lips with anticipatory glee, he blinked. "You're not tired of eating fish?"

"I'm sick of salt fish and salt beef. The harbor's clogged with filth--not many fish survive there, and those that do, you don't want to eat! Trade goods, like that sausage and chocolate I brought, are too valuable to eat. I'm not going to waste them just because I don't like what we've got for ship's rations." She sighed. "Our cook was one of the ones who jumped ship to find his family. My first mate's not much in the galley, though he tries his best with what we've got. Salt fish stew is lousy, even the first time you eat it. After the hundredth--uck." She raised her nose and sniffed the air. "But that--that smells fine. Fresh fish baking, maybe homemade bread, and I swear I smell apple pie!" She smacked her lips again. "Mm!"

Episode 14

Instead of walking the herd down, she rode her horses one by one to the river. She stayed alert and wary while they drank. She didn't exercise them; they could get their fidgets out on the road. One way or another, they were moving camp today. The thought of spending another night in this location was unacceptable.

We were? Lacey thought.

Christopher answered first. "After we visited the port--and do we ever have a story to tell about that--we had to track down a lead and then the curfew came into effect. Not something you want to mess around with in this town! Why, the things we saw. . . ."

"Oh," the aerialist replied, with such blatant boredom in her voice that Lacey thought it must be an intentional signal. The girl turned to Isaac and animation poured back into her face. "But you didn't find your monkey?"

Episode 16

Ginger cut him off with a snappy salute. "No, sir! This is another matter, sir! Special operative code-named Ginger reporting, sir!"

The Commissioner leaned back, his eyes narrowing. "Are you making fun of me?" he asked in a dangerously quiet voice.

Internally, Ginger winced. Since joining the circus, he'd only acted this sharp and clean-cut as part of a gag. Apparently the joke had rubbed off.

He eased back a notch. "No, sir. The circus is part of an official, governmental information-gathering network," he confided, stretching the truth only a little. "In present circumstances, it's difficult to contact my official superiors, but our mission is more critical than ever."

"Hm." The Commissioner did not appear to be convinced.

"One of your men can vouchsafe my veracity," Ginger said. "Officer Lynlake should possess certain passcodes with which he can verify my identity."

The Commissioner's expression darkened.

"If he survived, that is."

"Oh, he survived," the Commissioner said. "And he and I will be having a discussion about his divided allegiance. What I don't see is how this changes anything."

"With the destruction of formal means of communication, the ability of the circus to travel freely and detect possible problems for the government is--"

The Commissioner waved a hand, cutting him off. "There is no government. And I need no help sniffing out problems. I assure you, they find me on their own." Like you, went unspoken.

Ginger attempted to rally. "Should I find something you need to know, sir, may I contact you through Mr. Lynlake?"

"If you must."

Feeling like he was pushing a boulder up a hill, Ginger persisted. "In order to scout and report properly, sir, preserving our mobility is--"

The Commissioner cut Ginger off. "The circus will get no special treatment."

And the boulder rolls downhill, Ginger thought. To stay in character, he was forced to nod.

"Watching us circus folk get set up always reminds me of watching an anthill. A lot of activity, but not much going on."

The young sailor frowned in confusion.

"Looks like a sardine run* to me," the older sailor said noncommittally. "Lots of pretty shiny things and quick movement."

"I saw a pretty girl in an awfully short dress," the young sailor agreed. "Do you have. . . ?" He trailed off, as if unsure how to finish his statement without giving offense.

"We've got a snake charmer whose charms must be seen to be believed," Ginger assured him. "And a couple of dancers who are light on their feet."

"It ain't their feet I'm--"

Ginger cleared his throat. "I thought I'd come out and sound you boys out about something else, though."



Autopsy reports from Jack the Ripper


Process Notes

Geyser Originally, I wrote the word "geyser" instead of "surge." It was pointed out to me that geyser is a word I habitually mispronounce as "geezer," so I should just not use it when writing something I planned to podcast. I'm sure other odd pronunciations crept through, but at least you are spared the image of a water geezer killing someone.