This was written for the SubrealiCon Challenge, wherein all
SubrealiCon Day-Two attendees were challenged to write a fanfic
inspired by something inside the local Ripley's Believe It Or Not
Museum. I was going to do a tale about Robert Wadlow, the tallest
man ever recorded, but he died too long ago (moment of respectful
silence) for me to be able to haul him into a Marvel setting. So
I let my mind wander a little further, and this is what popped into it.
I apologize if it's rather TCPish -- it just happened this way.
Marvel's is Marvel's, Ripley's is Ripley's. Feedback is not expected
but appreciated at
firstname.lastname@example.org. And unless you're Trisha
Sebastian, please ask to archive, I'll say yes, I just want to
know where it's going. :)
You enter. You look. You stare. You gawk. Sometimes you laugh
and sometimes you gasp and sometimes you just scratch your head in
bemusement and walk away, to the next display. Sometimes the very
littlest among you burst out into tears and must be rushed through a
particularly scary pool of shadows to be comforted in the bright
lights of a more friendly area.
Most commonly, however, you feel guilty. You know you shouldn't stare,
that you shouldn't laugh, but you do, because "it's okay." None of it is real -- none of it is alive, none of it stares back at you with all-too-human eyes. The few eyes that do stare back are nothing but images on paper, glass marbles within plaster heads.
But it's still wrong to stare.
So you laugh, and you talk in too-loud voices, or perhaps you sympathize aside to a companion. Words and gaiety neatly cover up the fact that you can't...tear...your....eyes...away. You're not allowed to look THAT interested, after all. It's sick. It's not right. Or is it? You're not allowed to stare at the "real" freaks, after all -- the ones in the wheelchairs, the ones with seeing-eye dogs, the ones with different-colored skin. You're not allowed.
But you do, don't you? When they aren't looking. When they're not looking at you. When your friends aren't watching. You have to look. You mean no harm, of course. You just have to look.
Do you look because you wonder what it might be like to be someone like that? I think you do. No matter what emotion is skulking nervously across the surface of your mind -- disgust, admiration, astonishment, horror, pity, lust -- somewhere deep down inside of you, just for a moment, something whispers "What does that feel like? What if that was me...?"
I wouldn't know. But I think so. I think you do.
Here, though, you're allowed to stare. You buy your ticket and thus justified you move on ahead into the shadows -- as every good voyeur knows, you can look all you like as long as you stay in the shadows. You'll notice here that the brighter the lights, the lighter the sights -- you can only see clearly that which society says you are allowed to look your fill. It's in the darkness where the oddities creep...the instruments of death, the tales of horror, the bizarrities of nature.
And you stare.
Because here, the freaks are not truly real. They died many years before, or they never quite existed in the first place. Which is why you pay money to enter here -- to stare -- even though outside the freaks are more bizarre than anything between these dusty walls.
And there are more of them every year, aren't there? No longer merely "freaks" of color and disability and social class, but true freaks of genetics. You pay good money to stand here and gaze furtively at a statue of a man with two pupils in each eye, a man who died hundreds of years ago in a country you can barely imagine, when all you have to do to see a man with wings or a man with tentacles or a man with bright green skin...is to step outside.
Into the sunlight.
Where you're not allowed to look.
Who am I? Why, I'm all around you. I'm the carpet under your feet. I'm the cobwebbed rafters above your head. I'm the turnstile, the fake vines, the painted plaster stones. I'm the glass through which you stare; I'm your reflection, gazing past the faint image of your own mutated visage into the empty eyesockets of the skulls of a two-headed child, wondering if it would be worse to be something like that...something that doesn't bear the witchbrand of "tainted genes" but merely the far older stamp of misguided nature. In this momentary peace, in this brief period of grace from the social mores of society, you wonder.
What am I? For as long as you're wandering within my walls, I'm you.
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