“We have to move again,” Big Sister sighed.
“Surely not, we’ve barely been here a week!” said the doctor.
“I’m afraid so,” Big Sister continued, her sigh was like the blowing wind, and the tent blew back, “There’s been muttering and murmuring in the town. I hear they’re gonna come and try to burn us out. You know I can’t abide a fire. And everything is so dry; the lot would go up in black smoke and then where would we be. Without a roof over our heads and winter fast approaching.”
“But we don’t have a roof over our heads now,” the tattooed man whined, his voice was thin, like a woodwind instrument with an old reed, “we ain’t got nowhere to go.”
“What do you want,” said the younger sister, “I can’t magic up a place where we can be ourselves, where we can be free. You know I would if I could. Hell, I’d give anything for a place we could call our own.”
It was two months later, as they ended the worst traveling season in ten years on the road, that The Beautiful Man appeared. In a convoy full of freaks he stood out. He was symmetrical, lithe, tall. He smelt of roses and his eyes were the colour of the sunrise. And his smile … his smile stole you away, heart and soul. He said his name was “Lou,” but these being circus folk and with a fondness for giving people a new name, they called him “Angel.”
“I know a place,” he told the sisters, “it lies a long way from here. But it is a place where you can find a home. A place you can settle down. A place you can be yourselves. It can be yours.”
“We ain’t got enough money to last the winter, Angel, we can’t afford no home,” said Big Sister, “we can barely afford to feed the animals.”
“But this won’t cost you a cent,” he told them, “it ain’t that kind of contract; not that kind of contract at all.”
“So, what will it cost?” asked the younger sister …
The World of Freak Show
The last three decades saw the world change. Like some biblical apocalypse, rulers became more inclined to look after the interests of the rich, the white, and the already powerful. At the same time they were less willing to look after the sick or unfortunate. There we no jobs to go around. The foreigner, or the stranger, became The Enemy; somehow they were to blame for everything that went wrong. All the meek inherited was culpability.
The world of our larp is a harsh one, but it is increasingly not unlike our own. The cities of Europe are decaying — times are bad for everyone, not just the freaks. Maybe there are pockets of wealth, but in general things have stopped being shiny a long time ago. Slums are everywhere and freaks are the lowest of the low. No one cares about them other than as a form of cathartic entertainment; folks pass by and think “at least we’re not like them.”
Governments will not waste money on anyone who is non-productive. Those who are outside of the accepted norm are unemployable and therefore a drain on society. There are no friends to be found in positions of authority. The world is pro-austerity, pro-business, and nationalist. God help you if you get sick. And speaking of God…
The Christian Church has changed too. When the USA closed its borders and started to repatriate even second and third generation immigrants, many Scandinavian-Americans were sent back to the land of their forefathers. Bringing with them a form of Southern Baptist Christianity that merged with Finnish Lutheranism. This New Christianity quickly spread. A religion that frowns on excess, on entertainment, on conspicuous consumption merged with fire and brimstone. The Freaks are a manifestation of the end times. They are at best not to be trusted, at worst the instruments of evil.
For seven years there have been droughts and floods. In America the dust bowl has returned and the farms are barren. There is not enough food to feed the world. Elsewhere the seas are rising. The Netherlands are underwater. The phrase “remember the low countries” is used as a dire warning for the power God has to punish sinners.
What is a Freak Show?
The freaks have resorted to the only thing they can to survive. They are selling their otherness and have created a space from themselves where they can exist, the traveling freak show. People can gawk at them, be horrified or awed for entertainment and maybe even explore what is usually impossible for them. To the rest of the society the freaks are safely contained in the freak show, but to the freak family the Freak Show is also freedom. Inside the Freak Show they can be what they are without hiding.
Since the Freak Show is outside normal it also feels like a place where everything might be possible. There is constantly magic in the air. The fabric between real and unreal is thin and easily crossed.
The larp tells the story of The Norman Sisters Freak Show, the last one of them all. It is a traveling show put together from a mixed bag of people that the sisters have gathered. Some of them they have saved from the streets, from orphanages, or from mental hospitals and asylums. Some freaks have come to them or joined from other traveling groups. Sometimes a person or two leaves the town with them, who — for many reasons — have chosen to run away to join the circus.
The time of traveling carnivals, circuses, sideshows and freaks shows is already gone. It’s impossible to compete with all the other entertainment available. The Norman Sister’s group is the final refuge for the freaks. Joined by refugees from the other freak shows they’ve been on The Road for a lifetime, or more.
The larp starts with a glimmer of hope. The Norman Sisters have made a deal with Lou, who the circus folk call Angel because of his manner and looks. Lou offered them a place of their own in exchange for one show on Halloween. Sure it was a strange deal, and there is that old tale of performing on Halloween, but this might be the only chance they’ll ever get. So the Sisters agreed, signed the papers and got an abandoned, run down, forgotten amusement park in a city by the sea. Now the freaks have a chance to build a home, a stable base from which to grow and possibly gain a way back into a society that hates the outsider almost as much as it hates itself.
Some people in the Freak Show are restless, some believe that this might work. Some are making protective spells to keep the devil out. There’s a lot of talk on who the Angel actually is and why did he offer such an odd deal. Is this salvation or damnation? Halloween is tomorrow night and the deal will be kept.
But the freaks keep practicing their acts, they keep working, that’s what they do to survive.