Immediately, noise stops and I feel safer. More slack. Ira told me to stay right here. Right here on the earth floor. My hands are still shaking, but my shoulders are still. My mouth is open, a dying vibration emerging. My throat feels raw. There is no more than a ringing in my ears. Ira will be back. I trust Ira to be back. I roll somehow. I lie on my back, and my coughing makes no noise. My eyes move to the triangle of light in the gap in the tent flaps. So dark. So dark. There’s half a moon staring at me. I stare right back. It’s dull tonight.
The triangle widens. Widens slowly. Widens. A woman. Her hair is blond-brown. She is kneeling next to me. Her shoulders are round and when she touches and lifts my head I can tell it is Ema. She feels under my hair. Maybe for blood, then she shakes her head up at Ira who appears to relax. Then Ira gets a box from behind him and puts my feet up on it. They feel so heavy and his hands so delicate, like icing-sugar flowers. Ema picks up a cup of water she must have brought with her, and helps me to drink it. My throat feels rough and, when I swallow the water, I taste blood. I try to cough but all that comes out is a dark and quiet growl that no one except me hears. It takes me days, it seems, to drink it all. It’s so cold.
Am I not? Breathing? I close my eyes. Focus. Breathe. No, they’re right. My chest is tight. I am not breathing. Panic! Ema hits my chest. I open my eyes and stare into hers. How am I not breathing? I want to. My muscles are tensed. I’m shaking because of this. Ira yells and runs off, and Ema’s voice is low in my ear, panicking, instructing me to keep calm. Breathe. Why do you keep telling me this? I cannot! Ira! He’s holding something. His voice is quick and rushed.
-Muscle relaxant, Ema, put it in his arm.
-A- alright. Where?
-Upper arm. Quickly! You can see a vein!
A sharp pain into my arm, into a blood vessel. I cannot cry out as I am totally breathless. Then, relaxation. Then, darkness. Then a low, slack-jawed moan. Then. Dark. Re
I have to keep still.
I hear them.
My nose itches.
But I stay still.
Breathing. Trying not to sneeze.
I hear Ema.
-We should move him. He’s not safe here. What if this happens again? We’re in a bloody field. What if he goes out and collapses again?
Ira is smoking. We cannot be inside.
-That won’t happen. I won’t let him walk off.
-Maybe we should… talk to him about retiring.
-Retire the Moral Hate Circus?
-No, Ema. Have just the Screamer retired.
-He won’t like that. Besides, he owns the circus.
-He can’t do it, though. He can’t carry on, clearly.
-But he wouldn’t retire! You can’t expect the Screamer to retire.
-No, Ira. You want him to, and you think he will. I tell you now, he will not retire over this.
I won’t leave my Circus.
How could you think that! It’s mine. My Circus!
At least Ema understands me.
The scent of smoke dwindles.
-Which one has cataracts?
-Which one? I raise my hand. Rub my nose. Relief.
-Oh, um, none. I don’t think.
-One does. Which one said he’d seen a blimp? Heckler?
-I think it was, yes.
-Damn. Cataracts. Heckler’s got cataracts.
-Heckler doesn’t have cataracts. Ema’s confused.
-Yes. He does. He saw a blimp.
Sigh –Blimps don’t exist. Ergo, cataracts.
-How do you– never mind. Um…
-Screamer, do you know what happened? Can you open your eyes?
-Can you try to? Open your eyes?
There’s an awful lot of sighing happening.
-I’ll try. Don’t move. Ema touches my eyelids. Cold hands.
Pulls them open.
I’m in my tent.
So dark! Has she actually opened my eyes?
I laugh into it.
-Screamer? Ema says and the she sounds scared.
-I’m fine. Promise.
I go to get up. Swing my legs to the grass floor.
My stomach turns.
I vomit instantly.
My arms collapse but Ema is there, catching me before I fall.
Into my own puke.
She forces me down onto my camp-bed.
-Just lie here, okay? she says firmly.
I’m on my own. Again.
This time, I am not scared of being alone.
I embrace it.
Isolation. She touches me and calms me, presses my belly with her strange invisible arms, so I have to sing to her. I consider a song. Then I feel her arm around my shoulders and her breasts on my chest. Her legs between mine. Her invisible hair on my face. I sneeze and I feel her laughter against my ribcage and pelvis. I let my voice out. For her. I let it out loud.
I miss the note completely.
She raises her head, concerned and I apologise through my sad eyes, as I gaze into her transparent ones.
I try again. And she smiles as I hit it. Invisible lips.
-boh-nee lies o’er the
-boh-nee lies o’er the
-boh-nee lies o’er the
-my boh-nee to
And I laugh long loud, to my sweet Isolation. She, my bonny, lies over me. On me.
We move, we writhe on my camp-bed, her on top of me, as if we’re in a music video. I move slowly, my hips, my shoulders, my head, humming a loud note, and she is above me, moving the same body parts but in the opposite directions to mine.
-My boh-nee, my boh-nee. I say into her unseen ear. I laugh and laugh at how I’m talking.
Hushed and low.
I speak to my bonny, to my Isolation, my sweet, mysterious mistress.
Her voice exists and doesn’t exist, but it howls silently in my ears as she sings to me now.
It both exists and doesn’t.
It’s hollow and filled.
Breathy and strong.
Loud and quiet.
I can never hear her but I can never block her out.
I grind against her as she touches me with her invisible hands and her voice.
I want to tell her I love her.
Even though I know nothing about love.
I want to tell her.
I love her.
I love my Isolation, so splendid and beautiful her voice is.
I am her bonny.
She is mine.
I am hers.
My sweet Isolation and me.
I will not scream around her.
I am afraid.
Afraid of frightening her.
Don’t go, Isolation.
Never leave me.