The Circus left that night.
In the darkness—out of all the countless tents that morning—only the Big Top remained, its red and white stripes showing gray in the dim moonlight. It was drained of color. Clouds scudded across the sky, casting strangely shaped shadows along the ground—curving and rippling, seeming to rise up from the grass to grope the surroundings.
Everything had been packed up—vendor’s booths, animal tents, performer’s tents, wagons, trollies—disappearing under the fabric of the big tent. It was almost like magic.
Nothing breathed that night. It was quiet; the type of quiet that makes shivers crawl along your skin, or perhaps the kind of quiet that suffocates you. That is to say, it was not a good quiet.
In the thickness of the dark, unseen by any, a huge cloud left its track in the sky and descended toward the open field where the tent stood, alone. It came closer and closer, billowing and getting bigger and thicker before finally settling right above the Big Top. It hung there from an invisible string, the unseen puppeteer using a master’s touch. Then it enveloped the tent, coming down to the ground and wrapping around it until the tent could no longer be distinguished in the thick whiteness.
Slowly, carefully, the cloud rose back up, higher and higher, carrying the tent within it. Farther into the sky it flew, until one couldn’t separate it from the other clouds.
The night sky hadn’t changed. It was the same as ever. Clouds puffed and evolved into odd configurations; a dragon, an ice cream cone, a trolley flitting across the pockmarked face of the moon.
And one looked rather like a very large Circus tent.
The Circus had gone.