The Ringmaster was a tall, thin man dressed in black slacks and long-sleeve button-up shirt. His black top hat cast a long shadow over his face. He stood in the middle of the circus tent paying no attention to the group as they walked closer to him. An elfin like creature scurried past the group carrying a blood-red tail coat. With a flourish the Ringmaster put the jacket on and turned towards the ragged group of teens.
Hoping to get a better glimpse of his face, Astin sped up his pace. Sloane pulled him back before he got too close.
“Hey, careful. There’s something you should know about him,” Sloane said still holding Astin back. There was a look of worry in her tired eyes.
Before she could finish the Ringmaster had removed his top hat revealing his face, or lack there of. Instead of the normal facial features of a man he appeared to wearing a mask made of a lightweight, black fabric. Astin likened it to something a super hero would wear.
He had no eyes, just deep sunken craters where his eyes once were, but yet Astin could feel him watching the group. He had no mouth, yet he began to speak to all the teens, able to hold a different conversation with each.
The Ringmaster tilted his head to one side, as though he were inspecting Astin from head-to-toe, sins-to-soul.
“You have traveled a long way, young Star Catcher,” in a voice that was surprising light and breathy for a man so tall.
Standing in immediately in front of him, Astin guessed the man was at least seven feet tall. Looking up at him made his neck ache.
“I’m not the Star Catcher,” Astin said attempting to stand as tall as he could.
“Then, who are you?” The Ringmaster asked allowing the words to linger on the air between them.
It was a scene straight out of Alice In Wonderland, but unlike Alice, Astin was sure of who he was. He was Astin Rhys Young and he was in a dream and…
It was turning into Alice in Wonderland.
“You’ll find no Mad Hatter or Queen of Hearts here my dear boy,” the Ringmaster said waking Astin from his drifting thoughts.
Taking Astin’s chin in his hand, the Ringmaster turned Astin’s head to one side and back to the other much the way his mother had done when checking to make sure he had washed behind his ears. The Ringmaster’s long fingers, though gloved, were ice-cold on his face.
“Look,” Astin said jerking out of the man’s grasp. “I’m here to return this bracelet so I can get out of this dream and on with my life.”
“Your life? I can’t imagine there’s any sort of life for you outside of this dream, as you call it.”
Astin thought for a moment. Whatever spell the Ringmaster had put over him was working, he couldn’t recall why he was in such a hurry to get back to a life he had always hated.
“Are you the caterpillar or the Cheshire Cat?” Astin asked.