Rhee's stuck shapeshifting into animals in the menagerie while the rest of the Floating Circus acts as the Sky King's secret police. By stopping the Prince's assassination she may prove herself— or screw everything up.
I am losing the sense of the bicycle. The pedals beneath my tentacles taste like dead wood and metal. When a wineglass flies at my head I snag it out of the air with one of my eight appendages. Just like I’m supposed to.
It's my shortest act, but trying to work a bicycle as a Giant Land Octopus while catching things is absolutely the worst.
I just have to hold on a little bit longer. One more lap and I’m off to become a unicorn.
Unicorns are easier. More intelligent. They're as close to a person as you can get and still look like an animal—still feel normal.
There’s nothing normal about an octopus.
All my instincts tell me to ditch the bicycle and climb to the far corner of the tent. It won't take much to fade to the bone white of the big top's canvas. I'd be practically invisible.
I should have told Dez about my headache. If I had mentioned how bad my brain has been buzzing all day he would have changed the show. All I have to do is give him a signal.
Except—I don’t remember the signal.
The audience keeps looking at me. Always looking. Predators everywhere. In the stands. Waiting backstage. Coming for me. They’ll eat me. Hide. Must hide. Away. Disappear.
A sticky, sweet liquid washes over me just as I’m about to release an inky aerosol to cover my escape. Two of my three hearts skip beats as the wine meant for my glass seeps into the breathing sacs most people think are my ears.
Only years of experience in the circus keep me in this form.
Experience and the heat in Dez’s eyes. His face may be painted into an exaggerated smile under his jolly Ringmaster's hat, but only the citizens in the stands could believe he’s happy.
I made the mistake of falling out of form in front of the crowd once.
Dez lifts his arms high then spreads them out. The orchestra’s cue, not mine.
It takes me longer than it should to recognize the change in rhythm.
He’s shortened my act. All my acts.
It takes me even longer to remember I need to tip the glass to show him I’m aware of my mistake before any more wine comes at me.
With exaggerated motions from my tentacles, I force the pedals to spin the wheels so they'll take me out of the tent. With all that effort I prove I’m still his main act and not a confused cephalopod.
It takes repeating name, “Rhee, Rhee, Rhee,” like a mantra in my head. Reminding myself I’m something more than this awkward creature. I spend all my energy keeping the bike headed toward the slit in the tent wall that leads to the crew area.
I change as soon as I’m through.
One giant head becomes a torso with a small head.