Below is the short story I wrote about Edith and Silvia (as shown in the Character Design page). To give you a quick content warning, there is explicit language used a few times, reference to mistreatment of children and animals, and is 3,500 words long. If all that doesn’t dissuade you, please enjoy! (Also I apologize in advance for the cheesy usage of 1890’s slang. I did too much research into the slang of that era to not use it though.)

The Trapeze Girl and an Unlikely Friend

Deep inside a forest meadow, a small girl stirred from sleep and sat up to see the beginnings of a sunrise peeping through the branches of the willow tree above her. She didn’t remember falling asleep here. She couldn’t remember much of anything for that matter. That was concerning.

“Where am I-OUCH!” Her body was sore and frail and attempting to stand up reminded her of that fact. Now that she was jolted a little bit out of her dazed state, it seemed prudent to recollect herself.

“Okay, okay calm down… My name is Edith, the year is 1892, and I am part of the Jumbo Top Circus,” Edith then noticed the fire damage on her trapeze costume, “alright; I was part of the Jumbo Top Circus… Well I suppose this at least confirms I haven’t received any brain damage…”

This time Edith was able to stand herself up. She surveyed her surroundings. The meadow she awoke in was peaceful and serine. There was a small broke a few feet away. Spotting the broke, Edith limped over to it. She knelt down and began washing the soot off her face. She stared down into the rippling water and the sight of herself in her trapeze costume reflected up at her. The chard yet brilliantly colored leotard with a loose, semi-translucent, sewn in drapery caused the memories to flood back.

It was another grand opening night in a bustling city in Colorado. It was time for Edith’s routine. Since age four, Edith was adopted from her orphanage and forced into the world of flying feats and daring do. She was trained with a few other children to become expert flyers by a strong, stern, and experienced catcher, Claude. Claude taught them to fearlessly climb up to the narrow board, take hold of the fly bar, and leap into the distant grasp of a man who never said, “good job”. It was horrifying yet exhilarating for Edith, yet that day, as she stood high above on the narrow board, instead of watching Claude’s position from the other side of the ring, she was looking down at the crowd. She saw the regular expressions of fear, awe, and some of complete disinterest. None of this was particularly notable to her, but the smiling face of a girl her age caught her eye. Edith heard Claude shout “Ready!”, signaling it was time for her to move. She pulled the fly bar above her head, jumped up and swung away from the board. She was soaring. She didn’t feel like she was flying as usual, instead all she felt was the wind blowing past her.

“Look mother! I want to fly like her!” the smiling girl exclaimed from her mother’s lap. The mother looked warm and loving. Why would she ever want to leave her mother’s embrace? Claude never kisses her head like the girl’s mother does, none of the carnies do for that matter.

“Edith! Now!” Claude’s voice snapped her back into reality. Unfortunately, reality hit her too hard. Edith had let go of the fly bar before Claude could confirm if he had a grip on her or not. She was no longer flying, instead falling- falling fast. The audience screamed; Edith was mute as she plummeted. Right at the last moment her small frame landed in the arms of Leonard, a senior carnie whose clown act was just beginning. Edith’s unexpected embrace with Leonard caused him to lose balance on his unicycle. There was a deafening silence amongst the crowd. Edith jolted upright from her position on the clown’s lap while he groggily sat up. There was a shared gasp, then uproarious laughter as Edith gave Leonard a sheepish grin then reached up and honked his big red nose. The audience was convinced that this was all part of the act and found it delightful. Edith rushed off stage and the show continued without a hitch.

“What the HELL was that, you uppity little bitch?!” Leonard hollered at Edith the minute he was outside of the tent. He lit a cigarette. “Do you think this is some sort of dog and pony show where you little can just waltz about and ruin my act and expect everything to be all hunky dory?!” Leonard took a long drag.

“Leonard, you know that is was an accident. I-“

“I don’t want to hear your bellyaching kid! Go be useful for once, feed the big beast. I would give you a harsher punishment but I’m sure Claude wouldn’t appreciate me breaking some bones of one of his flyers,” He paused, picking up an empty bottle by his seat, “Now go. Scram!”

Edith dashed out of his tent narrowly avoiding the bottle he hurled at her. Edith barely made it a few paces from the door in silence until one of the young prop-hands, Maud, piped up from within the small group of eavesdropping children outside the tent.

“You must have been a real pinhead to have earned that Edith,” her words were met with cruel laughter, “You’re going to need this,” she handed Edith the bucket, “you better hot foot it to its train car now.” Edith silently took the bucket from Maud and pushed past the jeering group and gravely marched towards the train.

The sound of a monkey hollering in the distance sounded, pulling her attention away from her past and instead back to the present. She looked again at her reflection. Edith was stunned to realize she had a couple gashes on her face and her shoulder. How did she not notice that until now? She carefully stood up from the river and dusted herself off. She was going to need to do something about those wounds. From the distance she saw a small stream of smoke rising higher and higher into the sky.

“Well that might be a good place to start,” Edith murmured to herself as she began limping towards the smoke in the distance. Fire may have been the cause of her current conundrum, but the presence of another one might be a good sign. She had hopes that the owner of the fire was friendly. Her stomach growled. She hoped they might possibly have some food as well. With a clear goal in sight and nothing else to do but walk, Edith’s mind began to wander again.

It smelled of rotten fish. The disgusting scent overwhelmed her tiny nose as she slid open the wide door and tip-toed into the train car. She set the bucket she was given down at the entrance and peered deep into the darkness that enveloped the back of the car. Deep steady breathing was audible from within the darkness. Edith did not want to do this, none of the children did, not even the adults either she suspected. Regardless, she was given an order by Leonard and she did not want to get on the clown’s bad side again today.

“Uh, hello there Silvia! I apologize for cutting in! I promise I won’t be rattling about more than I have already. I just, um, have some grub for you!” Edith called into the pitch blackness. She listened closely, a huff of air and the sound of rustling echoed from the void. Edith gulped. She didn’t want to open the window to let the light in, but she didn’t want to venture further into the darkness either. The latter fear won, and she pulled the hatch loose and slid the panel to the side. The second the light slipped into the car the metal bars that divided the room quaked when the bear let out a deafening roar that shook Edith to her very core. Silvia did not like visitors, Edith couldn’t blame her. Silvia returned to all fours from her standing position with a loud thud, prompting Edith to begin her approach. Silvia let out a low growl as Edith picked up the bucket and stumbled closer to the metal bars. Edith was roughly three feet away from the bars- too close for the both of them.

“I just have some fish for you Silvia! That’s all I promise! Please don’t eat me…” Edith pleaded from behind the bucket she held towards the cage. She could see Silvia’s nose twitch with recognition and her eyes dart to the bucket then back to Edith’s eyes. The enormous bear remained hunched over with a snarl on her face. Edith resumed her slow march to the cage, she looked over Silvia closely. This was the first time she had gotten a good look at the monster without the costumes, props, and handlers obscuring her view. Her fur was white with hints of yellow, like the ivory buttons of the ringmaster’s blazer. Her snout was an alien mix of brown and purple. Her eyes were a deep dark black. Her teeth were sharp. Oh dear, her teeth were sharp. Edith almost ended her examination there out of fear of what those teeth could do to her, but she noticed scars along the length of Silvia’s snout. Silvia’s thick fur was matted and tangled. The same paws that showcased deadly claws also were stippled with cuts and bruises.

“You too huh,” Edith sighed as she glanced down at her own bruised arms carrying the bucket. The bear seemed a little less scary to her now.

Edith very slowly, very carefully, poured the fish onto the floor between the bars. Silvia maintained her aggressive stance until Edith was a few feet away from the door on the other side of the car. She smelled the fish, then tepidly began eating. Edith watched for a moment, then ducked out of the train car. She felt like she had learned quite a bit more about Silvia, a part of her wanted to know more. Fortunately for Edith, feeding her was a regular punishment of Leonard’s so Edith was tasked with it constantly throughout the following month. Each time she brought the fish she lingered a little bit longer. She never once yelled and had an air of calm and harmlessness about her so Silvia began to trust Edith enough to sit by the door when she ate. Another month went by and Edith was able to sit right next to the bars after pouring the fish and speak to her quietly. Edith would tell Silvia about her crumby day and would feel oddly comforted by the twitch of Silvia’s ears every time she would speak. The bear would sit and eat, but she was always listening, Edith wasn’t used to that.

The circus’ stay at their newest stop was ending which meant it was time to pack everything onto the train again and head into the next location. Edith was rolling a large barrel that the circus announcer occasionally used as a podium when she overheard Jack, Silvia’s trainer, loudly complaining about the bear to Hilda, one of the dog trainers.

“I swear Hild’, this is my least favorite part of the season. I don’t mind packing up and leaving, but I despise that damn train ride. Silv’ just sits there and yowls the whole ride over and of course I only know this because all the windbags in the car before hers keep giving me guff about it. Now I don’t personally care, but their crap is really putting me in a bad light.”

Edith paused and listened.

“Quit being so jittery, Jack. I know you won’t like this advice, but you could try staying in the car with her and whip the thing till you hear mum. That’s what I do with the dogs sometimes.”

“Hah! Hop talk.” He took a swig from his flask.

“Jack, I’m serious. It’s a pain, but it works.” He stared at her as he took another drink.

“Hey you, squirt,” Jack turned towards Edith, “You think this is some kinda panhandler’s heaven? Get moving.”

“No sir! I just – I can help! I’ll stay in Silvia’s care and keep her quiet for you!”

There was tense pause. “You’re a nutty little tart, aren’t you? I like your brass so I’m not going to stop you. I’ll be enjoying my train ride.”

The heavy door of the train car was slammed shut behind her, the horn blew, and the train began to move. Edith settled into her new “suite” and sat down beside the bars, close to Silvia. As the circus moved from Kansas to Arkansas, Edith and Silvia grew quite comfortable with each other. They passed through Oklahoma, Edith sang and talked to Silvia the whole time.

“I heard from Maud that you were a mother, and that your little cubs were taken away when you were forced to join the circus, Silvia. I’m very sorry to hear that,” Silvia didn’t stir from where she was resting. “I was forced into the circus too. You must hate it here, right?” Silvia responded with a deep snore. Edith chuckled then laid herself down in the pile of hay near the bars and fell asleep as well. They awoke to the blaring of the train’s whistle. The circus was stopping at a farming township in Oklahoma for a quick stop. The locals here were simple and impressionable, the perfect kind of audience. Ever since her performance in Colorado, Edith had been aiming to reaffirm her abilities as a skilled flyer to Leonard, Claude, everybody. Tonight, she was going to gain their respect. The music blared, the lights blinded, and the audience was captivated. She climbed up to the narrow board, flourished her arms for dramatism, pulled the fly bar high above her head, and leaped into the air. She soared like an eagle, this time nobody distracted her. She reached the apex of the swing, Claude grabbed her.

“Gotcha!” He shouted. This meant he had a firm grip on her, she let go of the fly bar. They swung perilously above the ground. Leonard was making laps around the ring with his unicycle. Claude and Edith swung back towards the fly bar again. Claude relaxed his grip and Edith was flung towards the fly bar, she caught it and latched on tightly. Momentum brought her back and she mounted the narrow board with ease. The audience was roaring with applause. The other young flyers waiting on the narrow board had faces of awe. She did it! Edith was on fire! She was simply on fire.

“FIRE!!” a blood curtailing scream echoed from the entrance of the tent, “The circus is on fire! Grab what you can save and throw it on the train. We need to get moving right away!” The performance music had stopped but it was buried under the sound of pounding feet and raving voices. Smoke had already seeped into the tent. It disoriented Edith as she scrambled down the ladder and dashed outside. People were scattering left and right, picking up circus supplies, looking for lost children, searching for water to douse the growing flames. The large freak show booth beside the big top collapsed violently. The children would be found, the supplies could be replaced, and the structures would be rebuilt eventually but Edith realized nobody was going to take the time to free the lives of the circus animals waiting in their cages beside the big top that now was kindling from the destroyed freak show booth. Perhaps she wasn’t thinking rationally, but the cats, dogs, horses, monkeys, lions, tigers, and elephants were going to be too busy escaping the flames to attempt to hurt anyone, they don’t deserve to be left behind. From beside the wreckage Leonard was seen standing in shock. He made eye contact with Edith.

“You! You did this you little damned jade! It had to be you!” Leonard bellowed with blind rage. Unbenounced to everybody, including himself, it was the cigarette he haphazardly tossed to the ground before he got ready for his act that evening that was the true culprit. It went unnoticed and sparked a flame. Edith did not give him a moment of her time. She shouted at him to get to safety as she continued running. She spotted Jack making a b-line towards the forest with an unconscious Hilda slung over his should.

“Jack! Give me the keys to the cages.”

“I don’t know what dotty plan you’re scheming up but just take them. I’m taking her to safety, you better do likewise.” He shook his head then tossed her his keys which she caught as she rushed passed him. She sprinted to the cages, a falling metal sign struck her, she tripped and tumbled. The adrenaline energized her, and she got up, bloodied, and unlatched the cages one by one. Smoke was now obscuring everything; she could only make out the hazy shapes of the next cage ahead of her. She swung open the door to the horse’s enclosure, nearly being trampled by the process. She had only one cage left. The lock clicked open, she held onto the latch with unease. The lions and tigers knew better than to lash out in a time like this, but would Silvia? Edith couldn’t hesitate any longer as the flames began to lap at her feet. She swung the door open and Silvia lurched forward at Edith. She saw Silvia open her mouth wide in a snarl and felt the weight of her body contact her own. Edith saw Silvia’s sharp fangs, then black nothingness. She passed out from the exertion and fumes as her small frail body lost all strength.

“I thought I died.” Edith stated aloud to no one in particular.

The familiar smell of smoke was returning to Edith’s senses. She was close to the campfire. She ducked behind a tree and snuck up closer to the campsite from underneath greenery. She had reached her destination. Edith scanned the clearing with a steady hum.

“It looks like somebody has been here for sure,” she noted the dying flames, “but I think they’re currently away…” The horse supplies strewn around the camp but the distinct lack of a horse or even its rider gave her that suspicion. She hobbled out of her hiding place and moved as quickly as she could toward the tent. She crept inside. There were some things strewn around the tent, a large coat, a rut sack full of supplies, and a published wilderness journal. Edith found some bandages and following some instructions from the journal, she cleaned her wounds and wrapped them up as best as she could. Rifling through the rut sack provided her with another journal. It was a personal journal of the campsite’s owner. “Well maybe he wouldn’t miss some things,” Edith determined upon reading about his wealthy lineage and the hunting expedition he is currently on. She packed up the things she found and threw on the coat. She was about to leave the tent, but she hesitated, picked up the personal journal again, and wrote “Dear sir, I’m sorry for what I have done. – A Hapless Thief” beneath his latest entry. She felt a little bit better about her criminal activity now. She exited the tent and turned around to tie the opening flap closed.

There was a rustle in the bushes and a twig snapped. Edith froze, she had been caught. He returned without her even noticing. How could she have been so mindless? Filled with panic she merely stood there with her back to the increasingly loud, heavy, footsteps. “Sir, it’s not what it looks like…” she forced herself to say. There was a heavy sigh. Edith slowly turned to face him, “Listen, I-“, she was immediately dumbfounded. There before her stood a haggard and exhausted looking Silvia. Instead of a snarl Silvia’s mouth was full of fish. They stared at each other for what felt like forever, then Silvia abruptly dropped the fish and snorted with satisfaction. Not knowing what to do, Edith thoughtlessly approached Silvia. Silvia immediately plonked down on the ground and nudge a fish closer to Edith with her nose. She stared intensely until Edith picked up the fish in confusion. “Did, did you save me last night?” Edith asked blankly. The bear did as any animal would do in this situation, gave absolutely no response and begun eating one of the fish. “And, this is for me?” nothing but content munching was offered in reply. “Well thank you very much Silvia! I should get going for now though…” Edith stood up; Silvia growled. Edith quickly sat down; Silvia resumed eating. “I guess I’m with you now huh?” Edith reached a small hand out towards the massive bear and Silvia quickly nudged it with her nose. The bear then leaned forward and pushed Edith to her back, she nuzzled her head into the girl’s chest. Edith wasn’t used to this affection. With a hopeful voice and the makings of a smile on her face Edith said,

“I don’t think I mind this.”

The Trapeze Girl and an Unlikely Friend

Deep inside a forest meadow, a small girl stirred from sleep and sat up to see the beginnings of a sunrise peeping through the branches of the willow tree above her. She didn’t remember falling asleep here. She couldn’t remember much of anything for that matter. That was concerning.

“Where am I-OUCH!” Her body was sore and frail and attempting to stand up reminded her of that fact. Now that she was jolted a little bit out of her dazed state, it seemed prudent to recollect herself.

“Okay, okay calm down… My name is Edith, the year is 1892, and I am part of the Jumbo Top Circus,” Edith then noticed the fire damage on her trapeze costume, “alright; I was part of the Jumbo Top Circus… Well I suppose this at least confirms I haven’t received any brain damage…”

This time Edith was able to stand herself up. She surveyed her surroundings. The meadow she awoke in was peaceful and serine. There was a small broke a few feet away. Spotting the broke, Edith limped over to it. She knelt down and began washing the soot off her face. She stared down into the rippling water and the sight of herself in her trapeze costume reflected up at her. The chard yet brilliantly colored leotard with a loose, semi-translucent, sewn in drapery caused the memories to flood back.

It was another grand opening night in a bustling city in Colorado. It was time for Edith’s routine. Since age four, Edith was adopted from her orphanage and forced into the world of flying feats and daring do. She was trained with a few other children to become expert flyers by a strong, stern, and experienced catcher, Claude. Claude taught them to fearlessly climb up to the narrow board, take hold of the fly bar, and leap into the distant grasp of a man who never said, “good job”. It was horrifying yet exhilarating for Edith, yet that day, as she stood high above on the narrow board, instead of watching Claude’s position from the other side of the ring, she was looking down at the crowd. She saw the regular expressions of fear, awe, and some of complete disinterest. None of this was particularly notable to her, but the smiling face of a girl her age caught her eye. Edith heard Claude shout “Ready!”, signaling it was time for her to move. She pulled the fly bar above her head, jumped up and swung away from the board. She was soaring. She didn’t feel like she was flying as usual, instead all she felt was the wind blowing past her.

“Look mother! I want to fly like her!” the smiling girl exclaimed from her mother’s lap. The mother looked warm and loving. Why would she ever want to leave her mother’s embrace? Claude never kisses her head like the girl’s mother does, none of the carnies do for that matter.

“Edith! Now!” Claude’s voice snapped her back into reality. Unfortunately, reality hit her too hard. Edith had let go of the fly bar before Claude could confirm if he had a grip on her or not. She was no longer flying, instead falling- falling fast. The audience screamed; Edith was mute as she plummeted. Right at the last moment her small frame landed in the arms of Leonard, a senior carnie whose clown act was just beginning. Edith’s unexpected embrace with Leonard caused him to lose balance on his unicycle. There was a deafening silence amongst the crowd. Edith jolted upright from her position on the clown’s lap while he groggily sat up. There was a shared gasp, then uproarious laughter as Edith gave Leonard a sheepish grin then reached up and honked his big red nose. The audience was convinced that this was all part of the act and found it delightful. Edith rushed off stage and the show continued without a hitch.

“What the HELL was that, you uppity little bitch?!” Leonard hollered at Edith the minute he was outside of the tent. He lit a cigarette. “Do you think this is some sort of dog and pony show where you little can just waltz about and ruin my act and expect everything to be all hunky dory?!” Leonard took a long drag.

“Leonard, you know that is was an accident. I-“

“I don’t want to hear your bellyaching kid! Go be useful for once, feed the big beast. I would give you a harsher punishment but I’m sure Claude wouldn’t appreciate me breaking some bones of one of his flyers,” He paused, picking up an empty bottle by his seat, “Now go. Scram!”

Edith dashed out of his tent narrowly avoiding the bottle he hurled at her. Edith barely made it a few paces from the door in silence until one of the young prop-hands, Maud, piped up from within the small group of eavesdropping children outside the tent.

“You must have been a real pinhead to have earned that Edith,” her words were met with cruel laughter, “You’re going to need this,” she handed Edith the bucket, “you better hot foot it to its train car now.” Edith silently took the bucket from Maud and pushed past the jeering group and gravely marched towards the train.

The sound of a monkey hollering in the distance sounded, pulling her attention away from her past and instead back to the present. She looked again at her reflection. Edith was stunned to realize she had a couple gashes on her face and her shoulder. How did she not notice that until now? She carefully stood up from the river and dusted herself off. She was going to need to do something about those wounds. From the distance she saw a small stream of smoke rising higher and higher into the sky.

“Well that might be a good place to start,” Edith murmured to herself as she began limping towards the smoke in the distance. Fire may have been the cause of her current conundrum, but the presence of another one might be a good sign. She had hopes that the owner of the fire was friendly. Her stomach growled. She hoped they might possibly have some food as well. With a clear goal in sight and nothing else to do but walk, Edith’s mind began to wander again.

It smelled of rotten fish. The disgusting scent overwhelmed her tiny nose as she slid open the wide door and tip-toed into the train car. She set the bucket she was given down at the entrance and peered deep into the darkness that enveloped the back of the car. Deep steady breathing was audible from within the darkness. Edith did not want to do this, none of the children did, not even the adults either she suspected. Regardless, she was given an order by Leonard and she did not want to get on the clown’s bad side again today.

“Uh, hello there Silvia! I apologize for cutting in! I promise I won’t be rattling about more than I have already. I just, um, have some grub for you!” Edith called into the pitch blackness. She listened closely, a huff of air and the sound of rustling echoed from the void. Edith gulped. She didn’t want to open the window to let the light in, but she didn’t want to venture further into the darkness either. The latter fear won, and she pulled the hatch loose and slid the panel to the side. The second the light slipped into the car the metal bars that divided the room quaked when the bear let out a deafening roar that shook Edith to her very core. Silvia did not like visitors, Edith couldn’t blame her. Silvia returned to all fours from her standing position with a loud thud, prompting Edith to begin her approach. Silvia let out a low growl as Edith picked up the bucket and stumbled closer to the metal bars. Edith was roughly three feet away from the bars- too close for the both of them.

“I just have some fish for you Silvia! That’s all I promise! Please don’t eat me…” Edith pleaded from behind the bucket she held towards the cage. She could see Silvia’s nose twitch with recognition and her eyes dart to the bucket then back to Edith’s eyes. The enormous bear remained hunched over with a snarl on her face. Edith resumed her slow march to the cage, she looked over Silvia closely. This was the first time she had gotten a good look at the monster without the costumes, props, and handlers obscuring her view. Her fur was white with hints of yellow, like the ivory buttons of the ringmaster’s blazer. Her snout was an alien mix of brown and purple. Her eyes were a deep dark black. Her teeth were sharp. Oh dear, her teeth were sharp. Edith almost ended her examination there out of fear of what those teeth could do to her, but she noticed scars along the length of Silvia’s snout. Silvia’s thick fur was matted and tangled. The same paws that showcased deadly claws also were stippled with cuts and bruises.

“You too huh,” Edith sighed as she glanced down at her own bruised arms carrying the bucket. The bear seemed a little less scary to her now.

Edith very slowly, very carefully, poured the fish onto the floor between the bars. Silvia maintained her aggressive stance until Edith was a few feet away from the door on the other side of the car. She smelled the fish, then tepidly began eating. Edith watched for a moment, then ducked out of the train car. She felt like she had learned quite a bit more about Silvia, a part of her wanted to know more. Fortunately for Edith, feeding her was a regular punishment of Leonard’s so Edith was tasked with it constantly throughout the following month. Each time she brought the fish she lingered a little bit longer. She never once yelled and had an air of calm and harmlessness about her so Silvia began to trust Edith enough to sit by the door when she ate. Another month went by and Edith was able to sit right next to the bars after pouring the fish and speak to her quietly. Edith would tell Silvia about her crumby day and would feel oddly comforted by the twitch of Silvia’s ears every time she would speak. The bear would sit and eat, but she was always listening, Edith wasn’t used to that.

The circus’ stay at their newest stop was ending which meant it was time to pack everything onto the train again and head into the next location. Edith was rolling a large barrel that the circus announcer occasionally used as a podium when she overheard Jack, Silvia’s trainer, loudly complaining about the bear to Hilda, one of the dog trainers.

“I swear Hild’, this is my least favorite part of the season. I don’t mind packing up and leaving, but I despise that damn train ride. Silv’ just sits there and yowls the whole ride over and of course I only know this because all the windbags in the car before hers keep giving me guff about it. Now I don’t personally care, but their crap is really putting me in a bad light.”

Edith paused and listened.

“Quit being so jittery, Jack. I know you won’t like this advice, but you could try staying in the car with her and whip the thing till you hear mum. That’s what I do with the dogs sometimes.”

“Hah! Hop talk.” He took a swig from his flask.

“Jack, I’m serious. It’s a pain, but it works.” He stared at her as he took another drink.

“Hey you, squirt,” Jack turned towards Edith, “You think this is some kinda panhandler’s heaven? Get moving.”

“No sir! I just – I can help! I’ll stay in Silvia’s care and keep her quiet for you!”

There was tense pause. “You’re a nutty little tart, aren’t you? I like your brass so I’m not going to stop you. I’ll be enjoying my train ride.”

The heavy door of the train car was slammed shut behind her, the horn blew, and the train began to move. Edith settled into her new “suite” and sat down beside the bars, close to Silvia. As the circus moved from Kansas to Arkansas, Edith and Silvia grew quite comfortable with each other. They passed through Oklahoma, Edith sang and talked to Silvia the whole time.

“I heard from Maud that you were a mother, and that your little cubs were taken away when you were forced to join the circus, Silvia. I’m very sorry to hear that,” Silvia didn’t stir from where she was resting. “I was forced into the circus too. You must hate it here, right?” Silvia responded with a deep snore. Edith chuckled then laid herself down in the pile of hay near the bars and fell asleep as well. They awoke to the blaring of the train’s whistle. The circus was stopping at a farming township in Oklahoma for a quick stop. The locals here were simple and impressionable, the perfect kind of audience. Ever since her performance in Colorado, Edith had been aiming to reaffirm her abilities as a skilled flyer to Leonard, Claude, everybody. Tonight, she was going to gain their respect. The music blared, the lights blinded, and the audience was captivated. She climbed up to the narrow board, flourished her arms for dramatism, pulled the fly bar high above her head, and leaped into the air. She soared like an eagle, this time nobody distracted her. She reached the apex of the swing, Claude grabbed her.

“Gotcha!” He shouted. This meant he had a firm grip on her, she let go of the fly bar. They swung perilously above the ground. Leonard was making laps around the ring with his unicycle. Claude and Edith swung back towards the fly bar again. Claude relaxed his grip and Edith was flung towards the fly bar, she caught it and latched on tightly. Momentum brought her back and she mounted the narrow board with ease. The audience was roaring with applause. The other young flyers waiting on the narrow board had faces of awe. She did it! Edith was on fire! She was simply on fire.

“FIRE!!” a blood curtailing scream echoed from the entrance of the tent, “The circus is on fire! Grab what you can save and throw it on the train. We need to get moving right away!” The performance music had stopped but it was buried under the sound of pounding feet and raving voices. Smoke had already seeped into the tent. It disoriented Edith as she scrambled down the ladder and dashed outside. People were scattering left and right, picking up circus supplies, looking for lost children, searching for water to douse the growing flames. The large freak show booth beside the big top collapsed violently. The children would be found, the supplies could be replaced, and the structures would be rebuilt eventually but Edith realized nobody was going to take the time to free the lives of the circus animals waiting in their cages beside the big top that now was kindling from the destroyed freak show booth. Perhaps she wasn’t thinking rationally, but the cats, dogs, horses, monkeys, lions, tigers, and elephants were going to be too busy escaping the flames to attempt to hurt anyone, they don’t deserve to be left behind. From beside the wreckage Leonard was seen standing in shock. He made eye contact with Edith.

“You! You did this you little damned jade! It had to be you!” Leonard bellowed with blind rage. Unbenounced to everybody, including himself, it was the cigarette he haphazardly tossed to the ground before he got ready for his act that evening that was the true culprit. It went unnoticed and sparked a flame. Edith did not give him a moment of her time. She shouted at him to get to safety as she continued running. She spotted Jack making a b-line towards the forest with an unconscious Hilda slung over his should.

“Jack! Give me the keys to the cages.”

“I don’t know what dotty plan you’re scheming up but just take them. I’m taking her to safety, you better do likewise.” He shook his head then tossed her his keys which she caught as she rushed passed him. She sprinted to the cages, a falling metal sign struck her, she tripped and tumbled. The adrenaline energized her, and she got up, bloodied, and unlatched the cages one by one. Smoke was now obscuring everything; she could only make out the hazy shapes of the next cage ahead of her. She swung open the door to the horse’s enclosure, nearly being trampled by the process. She had only one cage left. The lock clicked open, she held onto the latch with unease. The lions and tigers knew better than to lash out in a time like this, but would Silvia? Edith couldn’t hesitate any longer as the flames began to lap at her feet. She swung the door open and Silvia lurched forward at Edith. She saw Silvia open her mouth wide in a snarl and felt the weight of her body contact her own. Edith saw Silvia’s sharp fangs, then black nothingness. She passed out from the exertion and fumes as her small frail body lost all strength.

“I thought I died.” Edith stated aloud to no one in particular.

The familiar smell of smoke was returning to Edith’s senses. She was close to the campfire. She ducked behind a tree and snuck up closer to the campsite from underneath greenery. She had reached her destination. Edith scanned the clearing with a steady hum.

“It looks like somebody has been here for sure,” she noted the dying flames, “but I think they’re currently away…” The horse supplies strewn around the camp but the distinct lack of a horse or even its rider gave her that suspicion. She hobbled out of her hiding place and moved as quickly as she could toward the tent. She crept inside. There were some things strewn around the tent, a large coat, a rut sack full of supplies, and a published wilderness journal. Edith found some bandages and following some instructions from the journal, she cleaned her wounds and wrapped them up as best as she could. Rifling through the rut sack provided her with another journal. It was a personal journal of the campsite’s owner. “Well maybe he wouldn’t miss some things,” Edith determined upon reading about his wealthy lineage and the hunting expedition he is currently on. She packed up the things she found and threw on the coat. She was about to leave the tent, but she hesitated, picked up the personal journal again, and wrote “Dear sir, I’m sorry for what I have done. – A Hapless Thief” beneath his latest entry. She felt a little bit better about her criminal activity now. She exited the tent and turned around to tie the opening flap closed.

There was a rustle in the bushes and a twig snapped. Edith froze, she had been caught. He returned without her even noticing. How could she have been so mindless? Filled with panic she merely stood there with her back to the increasingly loud, heavy, footsteps. “Sir, it’s not what it looks like…” she forced herself to say. There was a heavy sigh. Edith slowly turned to face him, “Listen, I-“, she was immediately dumbfounded. There before her stood a haggard and exhausted looking Silvia. Instead of a snarl Silvia’s mouth was full of fish. They stared at each other for what felt like forever, then Silvia abruptly dropped the fish and snorted with satisfaction. Not knowing what to do, Edith thoughtlessly approached Silvia. Silvia immediately plonked down on the ground and nudge a fish closer to Edith with her nose. She stared intensely until Edith picked up the fish in confusion. “Did, did you save me last night?” Edith asked blankly. The bear did as any animal would do in this situation, gave absolutely no response and begun eating one of the fish. “And, this is for me?” nothing but content munching was offered in reply. “Well thank you very much Silvia! I should get going for now though…” Edith stood up; Silvia growled. Edith quickly sat down; Silvia resumed eating. “I guess I’m with you now huh?” Edith reached a small hand out towards the massive bear and Silvia quickly nudged it with her nose. The bear then leaned forward and pushed Edith to her back, she nuzzled her head into the girl’s chest. Edith wasn’t used to this affection. With a hopeful voice and the makings of a smile on her face Edith said,

“I don’t think I mind this.”