A Pantomime of Deviltry and Debauch in Seven Acts
PERFUME OIL BLENDS
Presented in an amber apothecary vial.
++ ACT 1: THE PROLOGUE
Tattered and stained parchment signs lead you through a maze of dark woods and damp leaves; a curl of opium smoke, black musk and floral perfume compels you through the darkness towards the firelight in the distance. The faraway wailing of a phantom calliope grows louder as you approach the isolated clearing, and creaking gates announce your arrival. Massive crumbling statues adorn the gates, depicting a surrealistic scene of cavorting imps, grinning demons, and heavy-lidded succubi. A huge neon sign hums and sparks, marking the entrance:
It flashes, “Carnaval Diabolique”.
It is midnight on the midway, and in the air, the scent of nighttime rain, ozone, and heavy summer blooms mingles with thick incense, and a disconcerting blend of sugar and brimstone. Black and orange banners flutter in sinister gaiety, snapping weirdly in the chill breeze as lightning slashes through the sky. In the gloom, the Carnaval thrums with life and unlife; the murmuration is low-pitched, punctuated by gasps, soft cries, and moans, and the smooth, resonant voices of the carnaval talkers, grinders, candy butchers, and pitchmen carry over it all.
The Candy ButcherAdd to cart
An exquisite, enigmatic woman sidles up to you, bearing a tray of strange, dusty curios, chocolate creatures, serpentine taffy, and candied skulls. Her skin is dusky, her eyes are heavy-lidded and sensual, her hair is the fine, soft white of spun sugar, and her skin is softly scented with cocoa. She holds a shrunken head aloft, and beckons.
Bittersweet chocolate with a heavy cream undertone.
++ ACT 2: FIAT NOX
A surge of warm, dark bodies buoys you along, pulling you past the crowded, candle-lit entrances to innumerable tents striped in bone white, blood red, pumpkin orange and twilight violet canvas. Through the shadows cast by the gaslamps and swinging red lanterns, you move through the ghoulish entertainment.
Mme. Moriarty, Misfortune TellerAdd to cart
A colorless woman bursts from an elaborate gold and ruby tent and faints dead at your feet. Soft laughter emits from the dark entrance to the tent, and the scent of musk, black fruits and incense touches your senses. Looking up, you see that the sign hovering above the unconscious woman is adorned with images of the Major Arcana’s Tower and reads:
“Mme. Moriarty, Misfortune Teller.
No fate too grim, no future too bleak.”
A tiny woman with floor-length black dreadlocks walks out of the tent, stepping over the prone body. She is clothed in deep red wrappings, and is bedecked in golden ornaments bearing alchemical symbols and charms representing eternity, chance, and wisdom. She pauses, looks you over slowly, and then flicks a tarot card at your feet.
Red musk, vanilla bean, pomegranate, black currant, patchouli leaf and wild plum.
The Organ GrinderAdd to cart
A handsome, dark-skinned man weaves and dances his way through the crowd. Veves have been burned into the face of his old acoustic guitar, which he strums casually as he strolls though the crowd. A winged Capuchin monkey is balanced on his shoulder, holding out a rusty metal cup. The guitar player’s melancholy chords begin to mingle strangely with a cacophonous jangling sound. The discordant symphony grows and swells as he moves toward a cloaked and hooded figure; this spectre’s skeletal hands operate a dilapidated barrel organ that stands at a crossroads in the midway. As they come together, the music hits a nightmarish crescendo; your heart heaves with longings unfulfilled, your vision swims, and your head is filled with whispered incantations and gallows secrets. In that instant, you suddenly understand the profundity of deals made in Heaven and Hell, and the price of desire.
Almond milk, sarsaparilla, tobacco smoke, High John the Conqueror root, coconut hull, black patchouli and white pine bark.
Pulcinella & TeresinaAdd to cart
Your eyes are drawn to a gilded miniature stage whose sign reads: “All Praises to the Lord of Misrule!” Upon the platform, a sneering wooden jester waltzes with a hollow-eyed and bleeding wooden maiden, while a wooden devil floats above them.
Labdanum, cedar, teak and red rose.
Melisande, the Puppet MistressAdd to cart
Behind the diminutive stage, the puppet mistress stands, a pale and grinning Professor, the Lady of Chaos. Her hands are tangled in web-like strings; a swazzle peeks through her violet lips. Behind her, you see a wavering image, with all the vague haziness of a mirage: a leaping coyote, a flame-haired and scarred Norseman, a glittering golden spider, a laughing monkey, a leering satyr, a shadowy flutist, and an African youth dressed in black and red.
Jasmine sambac, dark musk, violet water, vanilla bean and mimosa.
Doc ConstantineAdd to cart
As you pass the tiny stage, you come across a large canvas tent, illuminated within, the exterior dotted with odd splatters. In front of the tent stands a scorched wooden cart covered in a jumble of bottles, jars, vials and twisted steel implements, and an elaborate, gold-gilded sign reads:
“Doc Constantine Cures What Ails Ye!
Liniments, salves, potions and elixirs for every malady of the body and spirit!”
A scream splits the air, jarring you. You see shadows move jaggedly within the tent, there is another scream, and all is suddenly still and silent. After a long heartbeat, the door flap opens. A man steps out wearing a crystal-eyed schnabel mask in the style of medieval plague doctors, carmine streaking his sleeves, vest, and the blonde hair that crowns him. He pulls off the mask, and you see a handsome figure, almost beatific. He rolls a cigarette, lights it, takes a deep pull, and winks at you slyly as he gestures at the multitude of concoctions he has for sale. A bent crone, her body as bowed and knotty as an ancient oak, shuffles up to the wagon with rosy-cheeked, tow-headed maiden following her at a small distance. As she approaches the doctor, the crone gestures at herself, running a gnarled hand down her body in a sweeping movement, and casting a sideways glance at her grandchild. Smiling an angel’s smile, Doc Constantine hands the old woman a potion the color of cold, congealed blood. She drinks it quickly, gasping. Before your eyes her body shimmers and blurs, and a shower of dark sparks seems to engulf her. Where the crone stood, there is now a voluptuous, raven-haired vixen, vibrant, sensual, at the prime of her life and sexual vitality. Her shriek of joy is interrupted by another’s scream of shock: the rigors of age have not vanished; they have moved aside, and the young woman has aged horribly, taking on the crone’s burden.
Sheer musk, cedar smoke, fir needle, chaparral, black amber and leather.
Xanthe, the Weeping ClownAdd to cart
From the corner of your eye, you see what seems to be a swirl of pale, translucent spirits. Ghostly in form, their faces are masks of pain and fury. Their insubstantial bodies churn and roil around a hissing, wailing clown. Her greasepaint is smeared with tears, and her fanged crimson mouth is turned down in a vicious scowl while blood drips from her lips. Her costume is torn and threadbare, and a steel-bright glint around her waist draws your eyes to an arsenal of razors, knives, and cleavers hanging from her belt. She swats futilely at the spirits as she shoves and scratches her way through the crowd.
Guava, orange peel, white pepper, spun sugar and apple blossom.
Iulia, L’Artiste du DiableAdd to cart
A chittering buzz rises from a small crowd that has gathered around an opulent velvet-draped tent. Some are fidgeting impatiently; others try in vain to peep within the tent. Within moments, a slim, stunningly handsome man emerges from the entryway to the sound of gasps and scattered applause. His face is lit with fierce joy, and he bows almost smugly to the assemblage. Grabbing a flirtatious blonde from the mob, he kisses her in a rush of mad passion, his arm encircles her waist, and he leads her directly to a nearby opium den. The crowd disperses, and curiosity pulls you forward. You push open the fringed, beaded tent-flap and enter the dimly-lit room. A lovely, voluptuous redhead stands before an ornate antique easel. Her luminous alabaster skin and the phosphorescence emanating from her paintbrush seem to be the only source of light. As you adjust to the gloom, you see that the walls are covered with atrocities: an exhibit of dissolution. The myriad canvases show men and women in various stages of rot and decay, a panoply of indulgence, teeth set in fury, mouths leering in lust, hands grasping greedily.
The scarlet woman turns her gleaming sightless eyes towards you and, in a husky, compelling voice, she speaks:
“Why let the years tear at your youthful splendor? Why let the mark of your sins stain your fine features? Will you let the cold, creeping grasp of time and the toil of temptation mar your visage? Why should the pleasures of our flesh wreak such havoc?”
She leans in close to you and whispers, “Let me capture your soul on this canvas in oil and blood, and you will be beautiful forever.”
White tea, sugar cane, orange blossom, rockrose, lemon balm, white mint, and honey.
Theodosius, the LegerdemainAdd to cart
A flash of light and the smell of sulfur seize your attention. A vast black tent stands before you, subtly glowing with an unnatural, almost phosphorescent light. This tent has no pennants, no ornamentation, save for a carved ebony sign, lettered in silver:
Legerdemain, Medium, Conjurer
One thousand years of marvels.
Enter at your peril.”
Another flash blinds you, and from a swirl of smoke a rakish, devilishly handsome man appears, long black hair falling down halfway to his waist, elegant and sinister in an inky silk tuxedo and a voluminous cape. The shadow he casts against the tent, oddly, seems to be that of an enormous corvus, and his eyes radiate a deep azure light. Staring fixedly at you, he snaps his fingers, and two bolts of violet lightning strike the ground on either side of him, blinding you momentarily. As your eyes adjust, you see that two lovely, slender, waiflike women now stand upon the scarred ground beside him, dressed in tattered ballerina costumes the nebulous color of smoke. Turning to his right, he touches the woman’s lips and says, “Seachd seachd uair!” She opens her mouth, and a flock of diminutive bats fly forth from her throat. Turning to his left, he touches the other woman’s hair and repeats, “Seachd seachd uair!” What once was a gleaming mane of stark white hair is now a nest of writhing vipers. She opens her mouth, baring fangs, and spits forth a thin stream of venom. The Master swirls his cape, which suddenly seems to grow and twist like a living shadow, and in a final flash of red lightning and a deafening thunderclap, he and both his assistants vanish.
Earl Grey tea leaves, a white fougere, jasmine leaf, pearlescent white musk, and vanilla bean.
Antonino, the Carny TalkerAdd to cart
As you approach an enormous patchwork tent, a curious sound catches your attention: the rattle of bones and the tinkling of tiny bells heralds the arrival of a gaunt and ghastly creature. An animated skeleton dressed in a jester’s motley saunters towards the front of the tent, waving an orange and black striped cane at the crowd in an effort to clear a path. The jester makes his way past the fog-shrouded, faded, colossal posters that adorn the tent to a platform in front of the massive tent’s entrance. His ivory smile frozen in a gleeful rictus grin, he steps up onto the platform, taps the cane three times, and the jester costume vanishes. Suddenly dark eyes appear in the empty sockets, bones are wrapped in muscle, sinew grows over the bones, blood fills rapidly appearing veins. Before your eyes, the skeletal jester has become a dapper, handsome man, dressed in black and orange, with a skull-ornamented straw hat tilted jauntily upon his shining black hair.
His smile is slick and conspiratorial. With a flourish and arcing wave of his cane, he booms:
“Step right up, ladies and gentlemen! This is Carnaval Diabolique’s notorious 13-In-1: the finest freak show in all the Hells! What marvels await you, you ask? Simply the strangest and most fantastic creatures, human and inhuman, gathered for your entertainment, enlightenment and erudition!”
With the cane, he gestures at the gigantic posters that adorn the tent. The images, once hazy, suddenly come into focus.
“From the depths of the Black Forest: Arachnina, the Spider Girl! From the rain-swept streets of London: Hope and Faith, the Siamese Twins! From ruins of old Aquae Sextia: Wulric, the Wolf Man!
“Thalassa, the Galapagos Mermaid! A vision of life-in-death, Eshe!
“All in all, THIRTEEN anatomical curiosities, miracles of genetics, magick and science, masters of marvels, ALIVE ON THE INSIDE!”
White musk, wild plum, vetiver, black coconut, verbena, fig, and lavender.
++ ACT 3: FIAT NOX
Before you stands a tent, striped in orange and black canvas. The tent seems impossibly large; its tattered black banners snap in the chill wind. The Carny Talker slaps his cane upon a bare spot on the canvas wall, and a huge golden mouth bursts forth from the fabric forming a gleaming fanged entryway illuminated by flashing white bulbs. An ornate sign unfurls above the doorway, and in a florid script it reads, “The Parliament of Monsters”. The Carny Talker grins at you malevolently, gestures at the gaping maw with his cane, and barks, “Step this way, my friends! Through this doorway you will find the most magnificent and mind-shattering marvels of the multiverse! Each and every one of these fantastic and fearsome freaks has committed their spirit, nay! — their very soul! — to an unlife of unrepentant sin and unwholesome debauchery! Not simply a common display of human and inhuman oddities, these are both the shunned and misbegotten children of nature, and those whose very visages show that they have willingly and – YES, eagerly! — walked the crooked path of turpitude! Their sins ARE their salvations, as you shall soon see, my friends, and these marvelous monstrosities present the tapestry of their depravity to you in all of its ghastly glory and sinister splendor! EACH is a Prometheus of perversity! THIS, and THIS ALONE, is the finest display of decadence and depredation in all the hells! Yours, for your education and elucidation, for a nominal entrance fee…”
He tips his hat, grins, and steps aside, gesturing for you to enter.
The Parliament of MonstersAdd to cart
You pass through the golden mouth, and find yourself inside a narrow, cramped corridor. Large wooden paintings of skeletal hands crook their bony fingers, leading you forwards. At the first turn, you hear a bizarre jumble of sounds: the high-pitched sound of gears grinding, metal on metal, the sound of sultry, low-pitched laughter, a clattering, wings flapping, soft hissing. Suddenly, a sharp howl pierces the darkness. As you make your way around the corner you are momentarily blinded as floodlights flicker to life, and thirteen gold-gilded stages are illuminated, bathed from beneath in sinister, caramel-colored light.
Dust, incense, wet tobacco, singed straw, and a curl of opium smoke.
Arachnina, The Spider GirlAdd to cart
You move towards the first stage on your right, and as you walk, you feel something brush across your cheek. Something about the softness of the phantom caress makes your skin crawl, and you flinch involuntarily. At that moment, the Spider Girl strides haughtily onto the platform, her stiletto heels clicking a strange staccato as she walks. Her body is wrapped in skin-tight strips of black PVC, and the gleaming vinyl glistens in stark contrast to the alabaster skin on her six pale, white arms. She gestures to the rafters above with a graceful flick of her blood-red nails. In dread, your eyes are drawn skyward: above her, in a gossamer snare, web-shrouded bodies twist and struggle.
A swirling, hypnotic perfume of black currant, poppy, red and black musk, lilies, nicotiana, tobacco tar, and patchouli.
Eshe, A Vision of Life-In-DeathAdd to cart
Moving counter-clockwise through the room, you come upon the next stage. The backdrop is shredded, and seems to have been torn in a fury. On the remaining half of the canvas, you can barely make out a faded illustration of the sun setting over a pyramid. On the center of the platform, an elaborate golden sarcophagus has been set upright and propped up towards the edge of the stage. Beside it, upon the ground, sits a hooded lantern. A woman’s image is painted on the front of the sarcophagus, and upon the gold limned body, a tale is being told in hieroglyphics: scenes of murder, carnage, and grotesque, mad passion. Although you do not know the language, the inscription upon the tomb translates within your mind, and the words burn behind your eyes as if they were written in blood and fire: “The Guardian will never part the veil for her soul. Mighty Sutekh, have pity on us all.” A thin, dark-skinned man wearing a linen loincloth climbs onto the stage. His form is frail and withered, he is impossibly old, yet his long, straight hair is as black as the night skies. With solemn, reverential gravity, he slowly moves the casket lid aside. Within the box, you see a skeletal figure wrapped in stained, ragged cloths, draped in a mauve cloth. The dark-skinned man bends low, and lights the lanterna magica. From within the glass, images begin to form, and glowing alchemical symbols cast their eerie light onto the mummy. As the lights touch the creature, the desiccated body swells, and with horrific, agonizing slowness, a woman’s form begins to appear within the wrappings. At her chest, the rotted wrappings burst, exposing sinew and the glinting white bones of her ribs. Her hands reach towards her face, and with a screech of agony and eons-long rage, she tears the gauze from her glittering black eyes.
The perfume of life-in-death: embalming herbs, black myrrh, white sandalwood, black orchid, paperwhites, olive blossom, tomb dust, and Moroccan jasmine.
Faiza, The Lady of SerpentsAdd to cart
Upon the next stage, a primitive cage has been erected. It is made of heavy, dark sticks bound with strips of deep brown leather. The stage is as dark as pitch, and from the shadows, you hear soft hissing, spitting, and an ominous chorus of weird rattling sounds. You approach with some trepidation, and peer between the bars. Your attention is seized by writhing forms on the straw bottom of the cage. As your eyes adjust to the gloom, you realize that the floor is seething with serpents, dark and colorful, languid and large, swift and small. You hear a sultry chuckle, and you see bright, unblinking emerald eyes staring at you from the corner of the cage. A woman crawls through the snakes, her scaled body as sinuous and lissome as the creatures that share her home. She reaches towards you languorously with her sharp-clawed hands and sighs.
A sensual blend of twisting, exotic, serpentine oils: black amber, oakmoss, green sandalwood, bergamot, jasmine sambac, gardenia, orange pulp, black cardamom, vanilla, blackberry, black musk, blackened vanilla husk, white honey, ti leaf, and ginger.
++ FAIZA’S COMPANIONS: THE SNAKE PIT
Hope & Faith, The Siamese TwinsAdd to cart
A huge crowd mills in front of the next stage. You hear the din of their voices, chattering in a Babel’s fall of languages, laughing and buzzing with a strange anticipation. As you get closer, you notice that they are wearing a motley mix of clothing from ages past… all rotting, all in shreds. In the sea of faces, all bearing a similar chalky pallor, some stand out: there is a woman in a threadbare Burgundian gown, a young man in torn breeches and sagging slops, a maiden in a dagged-sleeve houppelande that is splattered with cruor, a snarling Victorian rogue with a battered silk top hat, and a vacant-eyed man in a shredded Confederate uniform. As you make your way through the crowd, you feel cold fingers pluck at your clothing, and the hard, almost glassy skin that you brush against radiates an unnatural cold. You hear tittering sighs as you push through the gathering, and your skin prickles as you feel icy breath upon your neck. Abruptly, someone cries out, and the strange congregation begins clapping a steady rhythm. Their voices rise in a tintamar of ghastly cheers as torches flare to life. The firelight illuminates a gargantuan, shining black stake in the center of the stage. It is festooned with black ribbons, drooping moss, and viciously-colored poisonous blooms in a playful, grotesque mockery of a Maypole. Two women, clutched tightly in a brutal embrace, spin onto the stage, shaking a tambourine and clacking a hembra in time with the clapping. One is clad in violet, with violet tresses to match; the other is a vision of swirling rose. Their long, waving hair whips in manic arcs as they twirl, stomp, and pirouette around the onyx shaft. The crowd becomes more and more frenzied as the dance reaches a mad crescendo, and suddenly you realize that the two are one: they are conjoined, identical twins, bound eternally at the ribs. The violet sister, caught in the throes of the ritual’s passion, throws her head back and moans. She bares a set of gleaming white fangs and bites deeply into her sister’s neck. The rose maiden screams in joy, and returns her sister’s violent kiss as the crowd explodes into Corybantic mayhem.
Simplicity and innocence, gleefully despoiled! Hope is sugared rose, Faith is sugared violet. The sisters are inseparable, and may only be purchased together. Presented in a velveteen pouch. $48.00.
Isaac, The Living SkeletonAdd to cart
To your side, you hear a man’s deep whisper, “Slowly I turned… inch by inch… step by step….” A scream interrupts him, and a roar of laughter pulses through the shadowed hall. Following the commotion, you move to the next stage. A bone-thin man moves across the stage, and sits upon an overstuffed, threadbare armchair. A battered violin is propped against the chair’s side. The audience starts to dissipate, and you realize that you must have just missed his performance. Relaxing, he reclines lazily, and as the light falls on his face, you come to realize that he is truly skeletal: a thin membrane of skin covers most of his body, but in many places, bone is completely exposed. He winks at you, and chuckles at your obvious discomfiture. The sweet smoke from his cigar touches your senses, and you hear the soft clink of the ice as he swirls the bourbon in his tumbler.
“Late for the show, are ya, friend? I’ll tell you a quick one, and then you’d best skedaddle. I have better things to do than sit here and be gawked at all night.” He takes a swig from his tumbler.
“A man goes to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist says, ‘I think you’re crazy.’ The man says, ‘I want a second opinion.’ The psychiatrist shrugs and says, ‘Alright, you’re ugly, too.’”
His attention is diverted by a scantily clad woman in the audience beside you, and he leers at her. “Hello, nurse!” he growls, and leans towards her lecherously. “How’s about you come back to my dressing room, and I show you my stamp collection?”
Bourbon, black tobacco tar, dry bone, bay rum aftershave, and sleazy cologne.
Meskhenet, The Vulture MaidenAdd to cart
The ringing of a gong seizes your attention, and you follow the sound to the next stage. It is empty, devoid of any backdrop, and the platform is dark. A haze blankets your vision, like heat radiating off of the desert floor. You hear the sound of hands clapping a steady rhythm, and within moments, the haze begins to coalesce into the forms of a troupe of ghostly women, clad in linen shifts. Their wraithlike hands pluck at the strings of translucent zithers and harps, shake spectral sistrums, and their pallid lips blow upon ethereal flutes. The music that they play is discordant, otherworldly, and seems to be at once a funeral dirge and a paean to life: a triumphant lamentation. As the sound swells, you hear the beating of wings in the distance, and a keen, a siren’s ululation, joins the haunting melody. As the song reaches its eerie crescendo, a beautiful winged woman alights on the stage, summoned by the phantom song. Her skin is dusky brown, and the vigor of her youthful body seems in conflict with the depth of grief reflected in her eyes. Her wings spread out behind her in morbid majesty, and she takes flight. Her dance is, itself, a visible act of mourning, and is almost sensual in its sorrow.
Frankincense, hyssop, hibiscus, river reeds, orris root, palm frond, and olibanum.
Thalassa, The Galapagos MermaidAdd to cart
A massive glass tank is positioned on the stage, decorated with a rough canvas painting of sand and sea. Within the tank, you see a swirl of ivory, coral, and russet. After a few rushed passes, the furiously moving creature slows and makes her way towards the glass. As she approaches, you see that her features are lovely and delicate, and though her pearl-adorned torso is that of a beautiful, slender woman, her bewitching face is crowned by lethal spikes and instead of legs she has a writhing serpentine tail. Upon spotting you, her dorsal spikes flare, and she sneers maliciously. She slaps the face of the tank with her powerful tail, and you hear a crack and groan as the glass fractures under the strain.
Seaweed, kelp, salty ocean spray, bitter almond, night-blooming jasmine, frankincense, and benzoin.
Tiresias, The AndrogyneAdd to cart
Upon the next stage, a spotlight is focused on a mammoth bronze sculpture of two snakes entwined. Their bodies are wrapped around each other in an intimate embrace, and their tongues touch suggestively. The deep, somber boom of a standing bass leads into a twelve-string guitar’s plaintive moan, and as the music swells, a stunning, statuesque woman steps out from behind the statue, her fierce and regal face in profile. The spotlight dims to a deep amber-red, and shines a dark, sanguine light onto her, tinting her long, wild hair the color of blood. She sings:
Sunday is gloomy, my hours are slumberless.
Dearest, the shadows I live with are numberless.
Little white flowers will never awaken you,
Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you.
Angels have no thought of ever returning you.
Would they be angry if I thought of joining you?
She turns, and abruptly faces left. Her features are coarser, more masculine, and you notice the rough, dusky shadow of an evening beard on the singer’s face. On this side, the hair is cropped short, and as s/he sighs and begins the next verse, you hear the voice deepen to a weathered, sorrowful baritone.
Gloomy is Sunday; with shadows I spend it all.
My heart and I have decided to end it all.
Soon there’ll be candles and prayers that are sad, I know.
Death is no dream, for in death I’m caressing you.
With the last breath of my soul I’ll be blessing you.
The singer turns to face the audience, and your senses reel. On the left side, the features are sharp, but feminine. You can see the curve of her breast, the soft fullness of her hips, the arch of her fine brow. On the right, it is the body of an Adonis, muscular and commanding. You see that a thick seam runs down the center of the body, stitched roughly.
Though the vision is disconcerting, the warmth and passion in the singer’s voice swells inside your heart, and you are spellbound. Enraptured, you realize that though the gender is opposed on either side, one soul binds the whole.
Dark, moody, and bittersweet: black currant, patchouli, tobacco, cinnamon leaf, caramel, muguet, and red sandalwood.
The Wild Men of Jezirat Al TennynAdd to cart
You are shocked out of the torch song’s melancholy mood by shrieks, hoots, and yowls. You move to your left, and see that instead of a stage, a gigantic iron cage has been hung, hovering a few feet off of the ground. Elaborate, delicate silver sigils are engraved upon huge iron disks that have been mounted to the sides of the cage, and they flicker and spark whenever one of the wild men touches the iron bars that imprison them. The backdrop depicts a blistering volcanic eruption, spiked with thick luminescent bolts of lightning. Several beings are held within the cage, male and female, spanning every age. They flash their razor-fanged smiles at you malevolently as they anxiously crawl, pace, and stalk the length of their prison, stopping occasionally to pose and preen as they gossip with one another in an unrecognizable guttural, grinding language. Their tattooed skin glows an angry crimson, curving horns protrude from their skulls, and their eyes blaze with unholy light.
Fiery, primal, and precociously diabolical: red amber, Spanish moss, Indonesian patchouli, ambergris, sweet ambrette seed, red pepper, two cloves, and vanilla flower.
Wulric, The WolfmanAdd to cart
A lively tune is being played nearby; it is syncopated, a disjointed song, but perky and upbeat. As you turn to the next stage, you see the broad back and shaggy hair of the next performer. He is seated on a stool in front of a battered upright piano. Wire pokes out from holes in the back of the decrepit beechwood, and broken pinblocks are scattered on the floor. A bowl of glistening viscera has been plopped on a small end table next to the pianist. You can see that the ivory keys of the piano are smeared with blood. He pounds and tinkles the keys merrily, and laughs to himself. The man turns to the audience, and his unkempt russet hair, feral yellow eyes, wild balbo, and chin curtain beard betray his lycanthropic nature. He smiles widely, innocently, and waves his red-stained, black-clawed paw in a genial welcome. He bellows cheerfully, “Hi there! Make yourself comfortable! Don’t you look absolutely necrolishious! HA! HAHA! I just made that word up!” He laughs again, turns, and resumes playing the piano. The rambling tune picks up pace, and he plays with a showman’s flourish. The song slows as he chats with the audience from over his shoulder. “You know, my ex-girlfriend was a real handful, but really… I’ve never known a woman that was as tender as she was. She was all gushy, and well… to be honest, she just fell to pieces for me. Eventually, things ran their course… three courses, really… and, as they say, nothing lasts forever. But I’ll always have a piece of her, here… close to my heart.” He chuckles, and pats the chest of his patchwork overcoat.
In the distance, possibly from Meskhenet’s stage, you hear one of the phantom musicians give Wulric a gratuitous rim shot.
Friendly, charming, and cuddly, but possessing one hell of a mean streak: cocoa absolute, French vanilla, birch tar, lavender, bourbon vetiver, wild musk, cardamom husk, clary sage, and cistus.
Zarita, The Doll GirlAdd to cart
A tiny woman stands in the center of the stage, the perfect woman in miniature, her copper hair bouncing in elegant curls. She is surrounded on all sides by a necropolis of maimed, mutilated stuffed animals, decapitated fashion dolls, and eviscerated wooden figures. It is a strangely ghastly tableau: the disemboweled toys ooze fiberfill, batting, and sawdust from their gaping wounds. In one dainty hand she clutches a shard of glass, and in the other she nimbly twirls a razor blade. Her face is twisted in a grimace of mad ferocity, and she hisses as she brandishes her makeshift weapons at you. “Play with me?” she growls.
Soft, yet sociopathic: white carnation, iris, orange blossom, poisonous pale white berries, and sugared cream.
Priala, The Human PhoenixAdd to cart
As you come to the final stage, you see a spotlight focused upon a large pile of pitch-black ashes on the center of the floor. A parchment scroll has been tacked to the foot of the stage. It reads:
Now I will believe
That there are unicorns; that in Arabia
There is one tree, the phoenix’ throne; one phoenix
At this hour reigning there.
You catch a whiff of burnt cinnamon, and a whirlwind begins to form within the center of the cold pyre. The ashes rise, condense, and coalesce into the dusky form of a woman. She shakes her body gently, tossing her hair, and the ashes fall from her skin. She is perfect, radiant: not a single cinder mars the flawlessness of her countenance. Her body seems to cast a shadow shaped like a triumphant bird, wings outstretched, onto the blank taupe canvas behind her. Her eyes are closed, and her head is bowed; her expressionless face is enigmatic. Her dark eyes begin to glow, and her mouth turns up in a secretive, intimate smile. She throws back her head and extends her arms, and suddenly the scent of smoldering myrrh assails you. Within moments, the woman explodes into flame, and you see that her face is now a vision of passionate ecstasy. The turbulence of the conflagration whips around her violently, and gouts of flame burst from her body, igniting the canvas behind her. She raises her arms in exultation, and through the flames, you see both the outline of her scorched black skeleton and the shadow of the phoenix triumphant.
Three deep, dark myrrhs, smoke, cassia, and cinnamon bark.
++ ACT IV: THE INTERLUDE
The flames leap from Priala’s body, touching the dry canvas walls, setting the 13-in-1 aflame. Squinting your eyes against the blinding bursts of light and motion, you see a sign on the wall that reads “TO THE EGRESS”. Staggering through the fire, you make your way out of the tent and back onto the rain-slick Midway.
Stormclouds Over the MidwayAdd to cart
In your smoke-addled confusion, the Midway seems strangely empty and devoid of life. The tents that line the path appear distorted, out of proportion, and cartoonish, their angles arching menacingly.
For a moment, the only sound you hear is the soft squelch of your boots on the damp ground. As your eyes adjust, the tents right themselves, the sounds of the Midway swirl around you, and you feel the press of the crowd against your body. The Calliope’s eerie drone lilts above the swelling chatter.
Wine-colored storm clouds are gathering, and the scent of incense and ozone is thick in the wet air.
Thunder-charged ozone, plum-colored incense smoke, opium tar, and wormwood.
Nibble Nibble GnawAdd to cart
Looking down, you see a scattering of breadcrumbs strewn on the packed soil and straw at your feet. A waft of candied apple and pancakes embraces you, as you follow the crumbs on the path. The scent intensifies: sugared nuts, crushed candies, hot gusts of chocolate, and you find yourself standing before a small booth constructed of cakes, pastries, sweet breads, and a cascade of candy tiles. Shards of clear sugar glint in the ambient firelight of the Midway, and an old woman emerges from the shadows within. She extends a gnarled hand to you and rasps, “Oh, you dear, what has brought you here? You look like skin and bones; a strong gust of wind would spirit you into the air. Do come in, and visit with me. No harm shall happen to you.”
KnucklebonesAdd to cart
You hear a clatter on the ground behind you, and a small bleached bone smacks against your foot. Cloaked in shadows between the tents, three men crouch playing knucklebones. Distress clouds the face of one of the men, while another bursts into a wicked smile and the last one sighs in relief. Scooping up his winnings and shaking his head, the victor makes a soft ‘tsk’ noise as he reaches towards the loser’s chest, positioning his hand over the man’s heart. Pressing forward, his hand moves through cloth, flesh, muscle, and bone to extract the beating organ. Tossing the heart onto the ground, he says to you, “Mind handing me those bones, buddy? I’ve got a game to run here.”
Black musk, bay rum, lime fougere, orange blossom water, gin, and tobacco.
L’Heure VerteOut of Stock
Recoiling, you back away from the dicing. A large tent striped in many shades of green grabs your attention, and you walk towards it. You peer inside the open tent flap and see a room crowded with people in various stages of profound intoxication. Tables are littered with glasses filled with thick, cloudy emerald liquid, and candlelight glints on discarded silver spoons. The scent of spilled absinthe, opium smoke, lilac blossoms, and rose water permeates the stifling air of the tent. As you close the tent flap and turn to leave, you see a scantily clad server bend close to a rugged laborer that is sitting slumped in a sagging chair. A low velvety voice voice asks, “Another drink for you, Monsieur Lanfray?”
Spilled absinthe, scorched sugar cubes, opium smoke, lilac blossoms, and rose water.
Solanine, the Flower GirlAdd to cart
In the distance, you hear the discordant tolling of churchbells, uneven and strangely triumphant. As you turn towards the beckoning clang, you feel something brush across your neck: a gentle caress before a hundred pricking trichomes tear at your skin. There is a sudden whipping sensation and a clench of movement, and your throat is clamped in a rigid green noose.
A raspy voice whispers, “Pardon,” and the grip on you loosens.
A woman stands behind you. She holds a basket overflowing with creeping vines and flowers: razor-thorned roses, vibrant bursts of oleander, drooping cascades of wisteria, sprays of white hemlock and lily of the valley, bruise-blue pillows of aconite, purple-veined henbane, and the snapping jaws of monstrously large flytraps, glistening wet with mucilage. Her clothes smell faintly of manchineel smoke, and her fingertips are stained green. She smiles and shudders as the green tendrils that surround her writhe and contract. She plucks a red-spotted mushroom from her basket and places it gently in your palm before turning away.
The ChapelAdd to cart
You come to a building that seems to have been hastily erected from splintered wood, stone, and plaster. Flickering light from within sparkles out through blood-tinged chunks of glass that have been wedged into the arch entrance. You push open the thick velvet curtain that covers the mouth of the building and look inside. The chapel is small and cramped, and the air is thick with heavy incense, bitter wine, sulphur, and the coppery scent of blood. A massive stained glass window is set against the back wall, glowing brightly.
In the center of the room, a groveling figure is crouched before a woman draped in purple-black clerical robes. The woman’s eyes are filled with righteous hellfire, and she extends a hand in benediction to the man who has fallen prostrate at her feet. He murmurs, “Libera Te Ex Caelum”, and she gestures for him to rise. As he gets to his knees he winces in pain and moans in a strange expression of ecstasy, and you see small horns growing from his skull.
Black incense, bitter wine, brimstone, bile, and blood.
The GrindhouseAdd to cart
Throaty laughter captures your attention. Across the lane you see a buxom Venetian woman standing before a huge black and red striped tent. Her head is inclined towards a dapper, leering man, and they appear to be sharing a private joke. He reaches into his waistcoat and produces a gold coin. The woman plucks it from his fingers. He bows, and walks into the tent with a swagger. A sign flashes above the tent flap in letters that seem to be aflame: The Grindhouse, Dead or Live Girls.
The Madam turns towards you and smiles. As she approaches, someone within the tent strikes a few keys on a tuneless piano, and begins to play Jelly Roll Morton’s ‘the Crave’. The light within the tent illuminates the interior, shining behind the silhouettes of naked women gyrating lewdly upon raised stages, writhing in time with the music.
In the distance, behind the tent, you hear a whip crack, and a man’s scream. Tittering laughter follows, and the screams continue.
“Voulez-vous un morceau de la boîte de bonbon?” she asks, gesturing gracefully towards the tent.
The Madam’s perfume envelops you.
Florentine iris, red musk, mimosa, magnolia, Damascus rose, clove, and vanilla bean.
Behind the VeilsAdd to cart
Blood-red light cascades through languorous folds of sheer cloth. Hell-bright embers breathe into the gloom as billowing ribbons of thick, dark incense wrap their tendrils of smoke around your body like the curious hands of a lover.
Heady red musk, myrrh and honey, drops of cinnamon and crushed cardamom pod, the taste of opium-laced black wine, sweet oudh, and threads of saffron.
++ THE GRINDHOUSE
A cluster of wooden wagons stands off to the side of the Midway, removed from the bustle of the dirt-caked makeshift street. A bonfire burns in the center of the lot, shining its light on a tattoo-covered woman. The images embedded in her skin writhe like living things, and the sigils that mark her glow faintly. She is filing her nails and smoking a cheroot while chatting idly with an impassive naked blonde who has been hoisted into the air by thick, gleaming meathooks. The blonde is pinioned; the blackened metal cables that bind her hang tightly from the branches of a massive grey oak. Her skin seems strangely translucent, and her veins and arteries are boldly visible. Two painted signs are propped, sideways, against the side of the tree:
THE ILLUSTRATED WOMAN
THE TORTURE QUEEN
The tattoo’d woman winks at you as you pass by. “Break time, honey,” she growls, as she blows a smoke ring in your direction.
The Blood GardenAdd to cart
Vast open tents have been erected further down the lane. Ornately carved wooden poles support swaths of drooping black lace and blood-crusted burgundy velvet. Grapevines and ivy creep over the beams in the tent and curl like cocoons around bodies that hang upside-down in the caliginous gloom of the tents. Within the shadows, pale figures recline on divans covered in moldering, frayed fabric. As you pass, a feral, white-haired man hoists a tall-stemmed crystal glass of deep red liquid in a toast to you.
Blood accord, bitter clove, English ivy, Tempranillo grape, red currant, oak, leather, blackberry leaf, and ginger lily.
++ BPTP HAIR GLOSSES
Bedeck your locks (or snakes or horns or whatever you’re sporting up top) with scents gleaned from the Midway! Smell like you’ve stepped right off the platform of Carnaval Diabolique’s 13-in-One! Visit Black Phoenix Trading Post, our sister sideshow.
AMBER AND STEEL HOOKS
With a touch of oak bark and bourbon vanilla.
BOURBON & BONE
Clacking white sandalwood drenched in whiskey and a puff of cigar smoke.
CRACK OF THUNDER
Streaks of blue-white lightning slashing through a plum wine sky.
LA ROUE de MALHEUR
Red musk, blackened patchouli, opium tar, inky oudh, champaca flower, pomegranate pulp, frankincense, and tobacco.
Blood-spattered cotton candy.
NERVES AND SINEW, WOOD AND CLAY
Taut red strings of daemonorops draco and licorice root tugging on carved oak streaked with vetiver and clove with bright nerve-sparks of frankincense and elemi.
RAZORS IN A DOLL’S HOUSE
Rose water, cognac, and lace slashed with gleaming silver.
Red sandalwood, myrrh, cinnamon husk, and copal bound with blood, currants, and red wine.
Icy blue musk, eucalyptus, white pine, and opoponax.
WHO IS NIBBLING AT MY HOUSE?
“Save your slobbering,” said the old woman. “It doesn’t help you at all.”
Caramel apples, cardamom cakes, hazelnut cream, and butterscotch.