It was a cool evening, green and textured as a crocodile’s tail. The big top was open and torches threw off a dancing glow that had its own musicality and strangeness. The returning groundsmuck glinted with its own fecund magic.
A second rate clown show was churning away inside the big top, much to the delight of ticket holding suckers. All around the circus grounds, children and lovers fetched in and out of lightness and shadow. The evening was perfumed with a burbling sense of mischief and anonymity.
Lorelei strolled through the night air. He had an object in mind but wanted no one to observe him. His task tonight was scientific and stealthy. He had dressed down for the occasion in a woven shirt, commoner’s suspenders and brown trousers. He attracted no special attention except for the occasional lever boy who doffed a happy cap to him. Lorelei’s coin had bought him snaking threads of appreciative staff.
Lorelei approached the big top. Instead of entering through the flaps though, he made a mild and dispassionate circumference around its loud canvas stripes, picking his way among puddles of groundsmuck. He was looking for something. He knew it would be there, close at hand, even though the object of his interest was — technically — invisible.
Invisibility — as a foundational characteristic — is of particular significance to those in possession of a scientific mind. The scientifically uninitiated can only appreciate invisibility in two ways: as power or as perversion. Usually both together in the service of soaking in ladies at their toilet or in states of dressing. But to a scientist, invisibility is not just a matter of utility (though its utility is undoubtedly powerful). Invisibility as a characteristic challenges notions of what is possible or impossible. Something invisible implies a wider and greater universe than what has already been catalogued.
Absently, Lorelei touched his fingertips to the big top’s canvas tent. He traced a line, enjoying the gentle thrill of thick, acrylic paint. He swept his eyes through the dark, focusing on nothing in particular, waiting for the invisible thing to give up its secrets. He carried on this way for a few minutes, milling around the flanks of the tent until something caught his eye and he halted.
It was already over but Lorelei knew the gist of what he had not seen. A vacant-eyed and expressionless woman was gliding towards the circus tent’s open wings. An indigo ticket was clutched in her gloved hand.
Lorelei strode past her without giving her a second look. He settled near a patch of briar, prepared to wait for as long as necessary.
So it startled him somewhat when, nearly immediately, a lank young man materialized in front of him. The young man had the same, drugged appearance. His eyes were glowing, distant, and absent of thought. With an eerie grace, the young man slipped past the doctor, also in the direction of the circus tent.
Now Lorelei could see it. The vein. It was so effervescent, so slight, it would be impossible to detect during the day time. Even here in the dark, it’s ghostly seam was masked by the interlocking branches of the briar patch.
Lorelei licked his quivering, lower lip. He felt the unmistakable prick of arousal beneath his vestments. He approached the seam and raised a confident, exploring hand.
The seam of the portal was icy to the touch. Undeterred, Lorelei pressed on. To his roaring excitement, his hand dipped through space, disappearing from sight as into a freezing, rushing river. In pain, Lorelei snatched his hand back. All his fingers were still intact, however they were burning and itchy, as though covered in stick pins. A deep and sideways smile gripped the doctor’s face, almost as if he were having a stroke. But he was not. He was consumed with desire. His eyes flashed and his breathing pulsated.
He pulled out a graphite pencil from his breast pocket and gently ran it through the freezing, ghostly sliver. The Hasse-Lieber Reverse Induction Contabulator receded from his mind like a station recedes from the barreling train. Marrionetta too was spiritually obliterated from his fantasy world.
“Darling,” he purred to the portal. “You and I have much to learn from each other.”