THE AIR OF ANTICIPATION
The black sign painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates reads:
Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn
“What kind of circus is only open at night?” people ask. No one has a proper answer,
yet as dusk approaches, there is quite a crowd of spectators gathering outside the gates.
You are amongst them, of course. You stand in the fading light, a scarf around your neck
pulled up against the chilly evening breeze, waiting to see what kind of circus only opens
once the sun sets.
The ticket booth, clearly visible behind the gates, is sealed and barred. The tents seem
motionless, their flaps wrinkling gently in the wind. The only movement within the circus
is the clock that ticks by the passing minutes. The circus, usually bustling with life, now looks
completely still, as if even ghosts have abandoned it.
The sun disappears beyond the horizon and the remaining light smoothly transforms dusk into
twilight. The people around are growing restless from waiting, a sea of shuffling feet,
murmuring about finding someplace warmer to pass the evening. You yourself are debating
whether to depart when things start happening. First, there is a popping sound, hardly heard
over the conversation. A soft noise like a kettle about to boil for tea. Then comes the light.
All over the tents, small lights begin to flicker, as if the entire circus was covered in
particularly bright fireflies. The waiting crowd quietens as it watches this display
of illumination. Someone near you gasps. A small child claps his hands with joy at the sight.
When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the noise stops and the sign
The letters, which are stretched across the top of the gates and hidden in curls of iron, are now
slowly surfacing. They pop as they brighten, some accompanied by a shower of glowing
white sparks and a bit of smoke. Trying to avoid being burnt by the sparks flying all around,
the people nearest to the gates take a few steps back apprehensively.
At first, it is only a random pattern of lights. But soon it becomes clear that they are aligned
in scripted letters. First a C is distinguishable, followed by more letters, a q and several e’s.
When the final bulb pops alight, the sign is finally legible, extremely bright and impressive.
Le Cirque des Rêves
Some in the crowd smile knowingly, while others look questioningly at their neighbours.
A child near you tugs on her mother’s sleeve, begging to know what it says.
“The Circus of Dreams,” comes the reply.
adapted from The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern