Flight (Ultimate Freak Show)

by IlluminatedToast

Jump! Jump! Jump!

The crowd shouted rhythmically.

Jump! Jump! Jump!

The ultimate freak show, nationally televised every other Sunday, was always well attended. Ticket prices had been persistently too high. Still the event would sell out within minutes after tickets went up for sale as would the official logo jerseys – black, anthropomorphic shape, limbs sticking out at unusual angles, on red ground.

Jump! Jump! Jump!

The ultimate freak had never backed out in the history of the event, despite contractual obligation stipulating the inclusion of such an option. Nobody really understood the reasons behind the existence of such a clause. Insurance purposes were most frequently speculated about whenever the topic was brought up in conversation which on the whole only very rarely happened. After all, the ultimate freak had never backed out.

Jump! Jump! Jump!

Standing high up on the highway overpass, the ultimate freak would often remain still for a moment, look down, and sway a little before ending the show to the swelling clamour of the crowd; releasing people to buy spicy, roasted MisteriMeatz-on-Stixx – usually something cloven-hoofed; or, as annually resurfacing rumour had it, anything that had crawled close enough to the site to die.

Jump! Jump! Jump!

There had been trials with sky scrapers, but due to their height it was judged less than pleasing a spectacle by both, television executives as well as test audiences and focus groups.

Jump! Jump! Jump!

A custom built highway bridge and half a mile of custom built four-lane highway – “nothing but the best” according to the current president’s re-election campaign – had been determined to be the perfect site.

Jump! Jump! Jump!

Although technically illegal, bets would have already been placed on the freak’s trajectory, speed, and shape after impact (the animal category currently soaring in popularity among gamblers from Los Angeles, Zurich, and Dubai).

Jump! Jump! Jump!

Everybody had at least one acquaintance who claimed to have an aunt who used to know a former freak, but no one ever believed in that kind of talk. Especially, as those aunts had a habit of strikingly often being on a cruise or in a sanatorium whenever one would inquire to be introduced to one of them.

Jump! Jump! Jump!

Goooo!

Jump! Jump! Jump!

The crowd roared. This week’s freak was taking its time. Some of them did.

Jump! Jump! Jump!

Market research suggested that delays of up to half an hour heightened the thrill of the show and served to raise overall audience satisfaction.

Jump! Jump! Jump!

Some of the children were bobbing up and down with the rhythm of the chanting. School yard violence and more serious incidents of bullying had been reported to have virtually disappeared ever since the age limit for the ultimate freak show had been abolished. The origins of these reports were unclear, which was of little relevance, as they were widely regarded as fact.

Jump! Jump! Jump!

The freak sat down on ledge. Some did. It was uncommon, but the crowd would mostly just go along with unusual behaviour. No two shows were exactly alike. Some freaks would strike a pose, stiffening like high divers, their arms perpendicular to their bodies as they leapt towards the white hot sun.

Jump! Jump! Jump!

The freak did not move at all. It just sat, facing the crowd. Its eyes were closed.

Jump! Goooooo!

Jump!

The shouting was growing less rhythmical; booing and whistling began to overtake the general noise.

Then the freak did something the crowd could not have expected. It leaned back, pulled its legs up and slid off the ledge back onto the custom built bridge.

The whistling and booing grew louder.

The ultimate freak just shook its head and walked along the piece of bridge to the custom built concrete stairs and climbed down.

The crowd was in uniform uproar now. Spectators tried to break down the fence closing off the stands from the surrounding dusty veldt. The freak had to jump. They had paid to see. There was only one ending to the ultimate freak show. Everybody knew. The freak jumped. That was the rule. The official contract was just a piece of paper. The ultimate freak never backed out.

The ultimate freak was walking down the half mile of custom built highway. He had not been aware of the fact that simply walking away really was a viable option. Of course he had read and signed the contract, all freaks had, but it was common knowledge that the ultimate freak had to jump.

They would probably get him eventually, but he could live another day, another month, another year, maybe even longer, maybe even as one of the crowd again. Every ultimate freak had at one time or another attempted to go in disguise with the hope that the disguise would eventually become reality. Sooner or later, every freak would be found out, given away by some small oversight.

The next day, the crowd would demand refunds. Whether or not they actually were to receive compensation would not be of any greater importance or consequence now anyway.

The ultimate freak does not look back. He keeps walking. A smile tears apart his sunburnt face. He starts running, leaving the tarmac behind, his tattered trainers sending clouds of dust flying up from the dried up ground. He knows that he is not saved. He knows that he has only bought himself some time. He leaps up, throws his fists towards the cloudless sky and laughs, roars, as he stumbles on under the scorching afternoon sun.

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