by Renee Y. Brown
“Here it is, folks! Just as you remember it, with all the laughter, all the tears… all the glory and all the gory… all the sex and all the slaughter… all the love and all the loathing… this is the show you can’t miss, the one you can’t ignore because you were all in it! You are the stars of the show, you humans, here at the Cosmic Carnival of Human Souls! Here’s your last chance to feel the fear except this time you know it’s not real! Ride the Earth roller coaster one last time here at The Earth Show! Any time, any place you wanna go in Earth history, even before you humans became the stars! Five billion years to choose from! Come one, come all, and just for you it’s all FREE!”
The middle-aged woman on the barker’s platform stepped out from behind the podium to hold out her arms in an expansive gesture trying to get the attention of people passing by. She wore a full circular black skirt studded with flashing silver sequins and puffed out from beneath by a thick crinoline. Over her cleavage made by a push-up bra was a tight pink sweater glittering with multi-colored faceted beads. Red high heels matched her red lipstick.
She fluttered her false eyelashes at a hunky Roman soldier who just shook his head. She patted her burgundy bouffant hair-do and sighed.
A teenaged girl sat on the edge of the barker’s platform swinging her legs. Those legs were encased in knee-length black capri-pants. She wore ballet flats and a plain white t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up to her shoulders. In between words she stuffed her mouth with handfuls of pink cotton candy.
“I mean come on,” the girl said, “seriously, ‘feel the fear except this time you know it’s not real?’ It wasn’t ‘real’ the first time around. They all know that now. All you’re doing is pissing them off.”
“That’s the point,” said Mom. “If just one of them is interested in taking the trip back to Earth then the whole damn lot isn’t ready to move on.”
“You think you’re going to entice them with fear?”
“Humans are fear-motivated beings.”
“I hope they’re beyond that now,” said the girl, filling her mouth with another handful of cotton candy. As the pure sugar melted in her mouth she looked up. Her long brunette pony-tail hung down behind her head.
“Jeez,” she said, “do ya think ya coulda made it any gaudier?”
The girl referred to the backdrop behind her Mom on the platform. It was a huge canvas illustrated with scenes from Earth history. If someone focused on it long enough they could see any event in the five-billion year existence of Earth. They could see anything they wanted to, including scenes from their own lives.
“It’s a carnival,” said Mom. “Everything is gaudy.”
“Including you,” quipped the girl.
“Hush up or I’ll give you zits.”
“Ha! As if that’s the worst you could do!”
There were billions of humans at the carnival and Mom sensed more than a few curious non-humans.
A man dressed as a medieval knight walking with a medieval lady passed by the platform. Mom leaned forward over the podium.
“Ah, a knight in shining armor! Good sir, wouldst thou and thy lady wish to go back and re-experience a grand tournament or bountiful feast?”
The man stopped and looked at her.
“First off, I’m not wearing armor, it’s chain-mail,” he said. “Second off, nobody in the Middle Ages ever talked like that. Thirdly, NO.”
“All right,” Mom said, “forget the lingo. But obviously that must have been the best lifetime for you two or you wouldn’t be dressed for it here. Wouldn’t you like to go back and re-experience the real thing?”
The woman glared at her.
“The ‘real thing’ sucked,” she said. “We’re dressed like this because we found each other in that lifetime.” She looked adoringly at the man who returned a joyful, loving smile. “We were happy in that lifetime but that’s our business and we live it forever. We don’t need to go back to Earth.”
Neither of them looked again at Mom. They just walked away.
The girl stopped pulling cotton candy from the cardboard cone and used her free hand to give a ‘thumbs-up’ gesture.
“Way to go, Mom,” she said. “You’re not even trying, are you?”
Mom turned towards the girl and propped her elbow on the podium and her other hand on her hip.
“Do you want me to?”
“Then cut the crap.”
The girl shrugged.
“I don’t even wanna be here.”
Mom leaned forward.
“Well, other than me, you’re the one who knows humans best.”
“That’s not my fault.”
The girl pulled the last of the cotton candy from the cardboard cone then set it down on the platform next to her. She picked up a small hand-held transistor radio and put it against her ear. Mom heard muffled 1950’s rock-n-roll music.
A young woman with purple hair and piercings stopped in front of the platform and looked at the backdrop.
“Whatever you see you can do,” Mom said. “Wherever you want to go you can go.”
The woman looked at Mom.
“And whoever I am, I am. And I am so done with Earth.”
“Done to death,” said her daughter without even looking up.
The young woman snorted and walked off.
“You’re not helping,” Mom said to her daughter.
“Not here to help,” she replied, swinging her legs to the rhythm of the radio music.
Mom’s gaze locked onto an exceptionally handsome and well-groomed man wearing a fashionable 21st Century business suit that fit him perfectly. He slowed down his walk to glance at the backdrop.
“Hey!” Mom shouted. “Every girl’s crazy ‘bout a sharp-dressed man!”
He stopped and stared at her with gorgeous green eyes under jet-black hair.
“ZZ Top? Are you kidding me?”
“You were a teenager in the 80’s,” Mom said. “That was a fun decade.”
“Not for me. I got my ass kicked regularly for being a nerd.”
“Ah, but you became a millionaire dot-com entrepreneur in the early 21st century. Now that had to be a good time.”
“And I lost it all in the crash of ‘08. What’s your point?”
“0-8, 8-0, you humans are so linear,” Mom said. “You’re dressed for the pre-crash. Wouldn’t you like to experience those high times again?”
He looked down at his custom-tailored designer suit.
He looked up at her again.
“I met my wife when I was homeless after the crash. I only wear this because she likes it. I’m just waiting for her. She went to get a funnel cake.”
Mom snorted and huffed. But she wasn’t giving up. She pointed at him.
“Before this lifetime you were a mentally-ill woman experimented on by the Nazis then worked to death in a concentration camp. Wouldn’t you like to go back and assassinate Hitler?”
The man had a stunning smile.
“Forgave him eons ago,” he said. “Besides, that’s not the way.”
A woman with tangled dirty hair and dressed in ill-fitting frumpy clothing walked up to him. She held a funnel cake.
He turned to her and put his arm around her shoulder and leaned forward to kiss her. He looked at her like she was the most beautiful creature in the universe. They walked away together sharing the funnel cake.
“Ha!” her daughter snapped, “he got you!”
“Why? Because he’s hot?”
“No, because he’s right. If one good soul had stepped up in 1930’s Germany as an alternative to Hitler, someone who would’ve solved the country’s problems without blaming the Jews and committing mass genocide and starting a war, that’s the way.”
Mom leaned against the podium.
“Goddamned free will,” she said, “it’s a bitch.”
“That’s why you’re not getting any business.”
A little girl in a frilly lace Victorian-style dress with a big bow in her long blonde hair stopped in front of the platform and looked up at the backdrop of Earth history scenes. She held a huge lollipop.
“Earth, huh?” She licked the lollipop.
“Yes,” said Mom. She gripped the sides of the podium. “You’ve never been there. I can guarantee you an era where you’ll experience great food, great entertainment, great sex…”
“Sex?” The little girl pointed the lollipop at her. “I’m not human, remember? I just put this costume on to blend in. My people don’t do ‘sex.’”
Mom really got into her carnival barker persona.
“But you do eat, correct? So how about food? You like movies? TV? Gladiator fights? Global environmental devastation?” She leaned forward over the podium with a leering grin. “Atomic bombs…”
The little girl shook her head.
“I’m only here for the rides.”
“If you want rides Earth history is one big theme park.”
The girl took another lick of the lollipop and put her free hand on her hip.
“Shouldn’t you be hawking this planet to the people who lived on it? We’re not interested in those kinds of rides.”
“All souls are up for new experiences.”
“Not boring ones.”
The little girl turned around so fast her hair ruffled with the breeze.
“Oh c’mon, Mom, jeez, stick to the humans,” her daughter said.
Mom snorted and cracked her knuckles.
“I’m just testing my skills here.”
“You’re just wasting time.”
Mom turned to her daughter with both hands on her hips.
“Do not use the ‘T’ word to your mother! I raised you better than that!”
Her daughter took the radio away from her ear and put the little vinyl strap attached to it around her wrist. She picked up the cardboard cone then she slid off the edge of the platform and put her feet on the ground.
“I’m gonna go get a Coke.”
“Hey, bring me one, would ya?”
“Sure, whatever.” She threw the cardboard cone into a nearby trash can.
While her daughter was gone more humans came by, one by one and two by two and entire families and entire tribes and entire nations and entire civilizations.
Nobody wanted to experience The Earth Show.
Finally a tall, ebony-skinned woman dressed in the creased white linen garb of an early Egyptian stopped before the platform. The woman was beautiful, adorned in heavy gold jewelry set with colorful precious stones and her eyes outlined with thick blue kohl. Her black hair was delicately and elaborately plaited with tiny gem-like beads woven in.
She had noble elegance and grace and looked Mom directly in the eye.
“I know who you are,” she said calmly.
“Well I know who you are,” Mom quipped.
“My people had many gods,” said the woman, “but I don’t believe in religion.”
“Neither do I.”
The woman raised her painted black brows.
“Then what about the Bible and the Ten Commandments and all that?” She spoke the words with disdain.
Mom leaned forward over the podium and fixed her heavily-lashed eyes on the Egyptian’s heavily-outlined ones.
“There is no universal law that begins with ‘thou shalt not.’ That didn’t come from me. Someone got me confused with somebody else.”
Mom pushed the sleeves of her pink sweater up to her elbows. The Egyptian lady didn’t seem impressed.
“Anyway,” Mom said, lifting her arms and spreading them wide, “it all turned out well in the end, didn’t it? I mean, here you all are, every single human who ever lived on Earth…”
Her daughter returned with two cans of Coke.
“Mom,” she said, “humans only ever lived on Earth.”
“Well that’s the point of the show,” Mom said, lowering her arms. As her daughter walked up the steps to the platform she put her attention back on the Egyptian.
“Don’t you wanna take a trip back for some reminiscing, a little nostalgia?”
“No,” the Egyptian said emphatically. “I’ve had quite enough of that place.”
“You’re telling me,” said her daughter, standing just behind her.
The Egyptian lady adjusted a bracelet on her wrist.
“Well then,” Mom said to her, “enjoy the rest of the carnival. The tab is on me.”
“It’s about time,” the lady said. She lifted the hem of the long linen gown so she could walk, revealing slender ankles and simple reed sandals.
When she was gone Mom turned to her daughter.
“Thanks,” she said, taking the offered can of Coke from her.
“You don’t really want one of them to go back, do you?” Her daughter popped open the can. “Why would you? Why would they? I wouldn’t!”
“You did,” Mom said.
Her daughter’s jaw dropped.
“Because you kept sending me! No wonder I’m sick of the place! What was I supposed to do, say ‘no’ to you?”
She stepped forward towards her Mom, holding the can in her left hand while pointing to herself with her right.
“But I am saying ‘no’ to doing it again on any other planet. Next time get another one of your offspring to go ‘spread your word.’ I’m retired!”
Mom rolled her eyes and sighed.
“Kids,” she mumbled to herself. “What are ya gonna do?”
As she popped her can of Coke open she noticed a strange-looking, wild-eyed little man in non-descript attire staring at the backdrop as if transfixed by it.
“Uh-oh,” her daughter said.
His eyes roamed the backdrop as one scene after another appeared to him. He went from grinning to laughing then sighing and sobbing to laughing again.
Her daughter moved in close next to her to speak in a whisper.
“Why would anyone come to the carnival in their incarnation as a serial killer?”
“Beats me,” Mom said.
Mom took a drink of Coke then handed the can to her daughter. She turned back to the podium.
“Welcome, sir,” she said. “Interested in taking a little trip?”
“Don’t tell me what to do,” he said, never taking his eyes off the backdrop.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Mom said. She folded her arms under her boobs and leaned against the podium. “god forbid I interfere with free will.”
The man kept staring at the backdrop, nothing moving but his eyeballs. Then he snickered.
“I could go back,” he said, his eyes finally settled at a fixed spot on the backdrop. “I could go back and kill them all again.”
“You could,” Mom said.
“I could go back and kill even more,” he said.
He turned his head away from the backdrop and seemed to stare at nothing somewhere off to the side. Then he turned his head to stare at the backdrop again.
“I could go ride on the roller coaster.”
Mom and daughter glanced at each other, then at him.
“Wow!” He clapped his hands together. “This is gonna be so fun!”
He cackled with apparent glee and threw his arms up in jubilation. Then he ran off in such a hurry he kicked up the dirt with his shoes.
Mom and daughter let out the breath they were holding together.
“That was close,” said her daughter.
“Not really. Who can resist a multi-dimensional roller coaster that travels faster than light?”
She held out her hand for the can of Coke.
Her daughter pursed her lips in a sour twist that relaxed into a wry grin.
“He was testing his own free will,” she said to her Mom.
“It’s not just a bitch, it’s a bastard. Cheers.”
They clanked cans and both sat down on the edge of the platform. Mom spread out her big crinoline-plumped skirt and kicked off her high heeled shoes.
They both sipped their Cokes silently for a while.
No more potential customers came wandering by but the rest of the carnival was going strong.
“So,” her daughter finally said, “all those times you sent me there to be imprisoned, tortured, burned at the stake, crucified… it was all because of free will.”
“They were just so damn stubborn,” Mom said. “Sorry about that. My bad.”
She swung her legs.
“You didn’t suffer as Buddha.”
“No, I was bored to death.”
“Achieving enlightenment isn’t always exciting.”
Her daughter’s response was raised brows and a smirk.
“What,” Mom said, “getting tortured and burnt and crucified was better?”
“I’m just saying there had to be more pleasant ways to get their attention.”
“Not for most of human history. It took a long, long time before they started taking their collective focus off of fear and putting it on forgiveness. They had to stop living in the past and move on to the eternal now.”
Mom stuck out her right arm with the hand holding the Coke and pointed it at the bustling carnival.
“And now here they all are and that’s the reason we’re not getting any business. So we’re done. Time to pack up and move on ourselves.”
Her daughter let out a sigh of relief.
“Finally. I was done with humans when they made themselves extinct. Lesson learned too late.”
“Ah, it’s never too late for consciousness, even the human kind. Fessing up to their own extinction was a big step but refusing to go back is the last step. After all, they couldn’t stay on that planet forever. The meek had to inherit the Earth.”
Her daughter put her can down on the platform.
“Yeah, what about that? Are you doing the evolution thing again?”
Mom tilted her head back and chugged the last of her Coke.
“Ah, refreshing.” With the tip of her tongue she licked a small drop off her lower lip. “Best invention of the human species, this Coke.” She held up the can and looked at it like it was a precious gem. Then she lowered it to her lap and shrugged. “Anyway, the humans killed off so many other species the ones left are mad as hell and ain’t gonna take it anymore! They want to be left alone so it’s hands-off forever more.”
She slid off the platform trailing her full skirt behind her.
“Help me put this stuff away.” She tossed the empty Coke can over her shoulder.
“Thank god,” said her daughter.
“Oh, so now you’re grateful!”
“It’s just an expression, it doesn’t mean anything, don’t get carried away, jeez.”
Her daughter slid down from the platform and put her empty can in the trash. When she returned the platform, backdrop and podium were melded together in a single 2-diemsional flat plane. Mother and daughter folded it over and over like a big blanket.
Her daughter let go when it was folded small enough to handle alone. She continued folding until it was the size of a postcard.
She laid the postcard flat on her hand and held it up to eyelevel.
“Five billion years,” she said, then closed her hand and crushed the postcard Earth into a wad. She tossed it over her shoulder like the empty Coke can.
“So,” she said to her daughter, “whatta ya wanna do now?”
Her daughter smirked.
“Elvis is live in the 11th dimension,” she said.
Mom rolled her eyes.
“Enough with the Elvis already!”
“You can never get enough Elvis! After all, he’s the king!” She swiveled her hips. “Uh-huh.”
Mom put her hands on her own hips.
“And you were ‘king of kings,’ remember?”
“Ah, get over it,” she waved her hand. “I have. You coming or what?”
“Naw, I think I’m gonna check out the rest of the carnival.”
“Why? You created it.”
“But the humans are cooking and I have a craving for a corny-dog. And,” she said, pointing up, “biggest roller-coaster in the multi-verse. I created it but I haven’t had a ride yet.”
Her daughter sighed.
“We have nothing in common. Sometimes I wonder how we can be related.”
Mom smiled, then snickered, then guffawed and burst out into full-blown bellowing laughter. Her daughter finally cracked a genuine smile and soon joined her in laughing.
Their combined laughter rippled out across the multi-verse and bang!
Somewhere a new universe was born.
Renee Y. Brown is an army veteran and retired journalist now writing fiction and poetry. Her Linked-In page is at: www.linkedin.com/pub/renee-y-brown/6/682/86b/