❯ Employee of the Month – Side Show Freak ( Chapter 13 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
“And now, coming to the stage, the fantastical Boy Genius!” A pale boy slouched out onto the stage. His clothes were tight and yet voluminous at the same time, designed to make a monster of him at the same time as it gave him a mysterious air. Several girls in the front row screamed in fright at the sight of him and clutched at the sleeves of their respective boyfriends.
He grinned at them, baring his teeth. They squealed, one of them now sitting halfway on her boyfriend’s lap. The boy seemed hard put to decide whether he was angry with the mysterious boy or happy that his girlfriend was finally paying attention to him. Apparently he decided to go with the latter, since he began soothing the obviously frightened girl.
Artemis looked away, pale eyes sweeping over the crowd. Behind his blood-red color contacts, a boy stared out. A boy forced to grow up far too quickly. In the back row, a girl caught his gaze, and he stared at the girl. He forced his gaze to move all too quickly. He fought the urge to look back. That girl had looked at him with the gaze, not of fear, but of love. Compassion. Genuine caring for his condition.
He grinned wolfishly at the next group of couples that he saw, delighting in their fear. And then he remembered the girl, and grew somber. But now was not the time to think of this. Now was the time to act, to earn his place in this show. He could not be distracted, or he might not have a bed to sleep in tonight, or food to eat tomorrow.
He smiled and turned to the board behind him, sketching out several diagrams. As he sketched, the diagrams appeared on a larger screen. He proceeded to solve it. Most people looked unimpressed – they couldn’t understand that this was one of the most difficult problems ever presented to the young boy. An old man, most likely a professor or scholar, gasped and clapped enthusiastically.
Artemis turned to smile at the man. An announcer came on, “Now we are accepting questions from the audience. Would anyone like to come to the box office and enter a question?” Immediately, several people rushed to the door, all trying to prove that they knew the answer to a question that the boy genius could not answer. Artemis smiled coldly, the manipulative smile of a boy who could no longer bring himself to care.
A few seconds later, the first question came on. Artemis answered it easily, in a lightly growling voice that inspired both fear and majesty. He surreptitiously rubbed his throat. He hated having to make that sound. It hurt his throat.
The announcer came on, and he soon found himself answering the most random of questions. Some were fairly simple: “What is the square root of sixteen?” Others were not so simple, “Who is the current leader of the Czech Republic?” Others were downright funny, “Where are we?”
Then came The Question. The question that forever ruined his career, “Will you marry me?” Artemis blinked. He balked. He fidgeted. He glanced desperately at the people on the sidelines. But in the end, he had to admit it, “I don’t know who you are.”
The audience gasped. The audience gaped. And then, one by one, they started complaining. A voice rose above the rest and Artemis cringed, “I want my money back!” The five words that could ruin his life.
The manager came on stage, wringing his pale, meaty hands, “I’m terribly sorry,” he shouted, glaring at Artemis. Artemis wisely left.
Employee of the Month – Lemonade Stall
Employee of the Month – Tour Guide