With Eyes Half Open – Frances Pauli
The circus smelled of magic, of popcorn, dung, and cotton candy. Miranda squinted as she entered, just like the book suggested. She followed the crowd through the gate, then slipped between the wagons, searching for something only half open eyes could see.
Magic dwells in the halfway places, in the between times and the long shadows that cannot be perceived with the eyes wide.
She’d borrowed the book without asking, the one with gold designs on the cover and a layer of dust marred only by her aunt’s knobby fingerprints. Miranda had read the bits of it that she could understand, cradling the tome underneath the covers in the late hours while her aunt slept.
That was how she knew the jugglers were only ordinary jugglers. It was how she knew the strong man and his dumbbells were fake. Miranda squinted at them all and found only disappointment.
Until she saw the bear.
He lay against the back of his cage, striped with the shadows of iron bars and wearing a pill box hat on his wide head. When Miranda squinted at the bear, his edges shifted. The dense, cinnamon fur melted and smoothed. Inside the bear, a man hid. Inside the cage, he stared at her with soft, brown eyes.
Miranda stepped closer, whispered. “I think you’re more than just a bear.”