Laughter, peals of excited shouts, conversation. Smells became enticing and the mystique of the evening shrouded all, young and old, cradling patrons and workers alike in dark, conniving arms. Above, the stars would shimmer as if dancing along with the Carnival music. In the year that he had become under the employ of the place, Kong had yet to experience everything. There was far too much to do in a single evening. Between his shows, the patrons, and tending to himself he found precious time to actually attend the facility as a guest.
As a child he would have thought this place a wonder; the bright lights, the melodies carried by the wind, the oddities around every turn. He had never seen a Carnival before much less ever been an act in one until finding his way here. It was not something he regretted though he knew in his heart that his family would find it a disgrace to endure such a demeaning thing. He did his best to honor his family and bring pride to what was left of the legacy. But he would not let himself regret the decision he had made.
Still clad in the flowing garment he wore during his show he made his way after a young boy of ten. Hand in hand they wove through the dwindling crowd. Kong’s stick wove from side to side to carve a path though it was for naught. He knew this, yet it had become a habit and trying to rely on a young child for direction did not sit well in his gut. Yet there he was, following pace by pace after the child toward the medical tent.
Kong had managed to get a little too close to the animal pens. He had never seen such a beast up close before and of course in his foolishness and curiosity he had earned himself three, deep lacerations across a forearm. The wounds burned and poured blood across the ground, staining the folds of his attire with beads of crimson. It was here that the young boy had found him and away they had gone toward the medical tent.
“Sir,” the young boy cried, hoping to earn the attention of the person on duty. “Sir! We got’a man here who is injured, sir!”
Finally it seemed the pace slowed and Kong paused. A breath was taken, skin burning from where the lion had opened the skin.
“Please sir,” the young man cried again.
By this point in the day, Kieran would be working the Eli. Watching as rows of children marched up to the cabins of the ride. A young boy ran out from where the medical tent had been and rushed to Kieran’s side. A sweet boy, yelled to Kieran. “Emergency! Emergency! Someone’s been injured!” One of Kieran’s colleagues must have put him up to the task. Thankfully the med tent was close enough to the Eli that he could send his colleague back to watch over it.
He ran as fast as his legs could take him and immediately dismissed his colleague to go watch after the Ferris wheel. He kneeled to the side of the injured man and examined his wounds more closely. “Hello, I’m the lead medic Kieran, I’m going to take a look at yer arm, alright?” The thick Scottish brogue has never seemed to lessen over the years.
Animal wounds, possibly a lion or one of the many other large animals kept within their pens. If left too long it could fester. Kieran grabbed a washcloth from a nearby basin and began to clean the wound. “Yer going to be just fine.” He assured, wiping down the wound as it had been cleaned. He recognized the man from one of the acts in the sideshow but the two had never spoken more than a few words with each other before. He was clearly blind.
Waiting seemed painful.
The young boy let loose of Kong’s lithe fingers and found a crate to push over in an effort to allow the blind man a chance to sit, to rest and keep his strength. The injury was not life threatening exactly, but it was dire enough to need immediate attention. Blood, tacky crimson, began to pool on the ground though it had begun to abate in flow. “Thank you,” Kong murmured to the child, taking a seat on the box to wait. The stick that he used was set gently aside, within reach should he need it, and his attention for it waned.
Hearing the rush of footsteps and the scraping of the earth as someone quickly approached, Kong’s shoulders stiffened and his back straightened out of habit. The introduction was met with a silent nod and an extension of the wounded limb for examination.
His head tilted down as if he were looking more at his lap than anywhere else, though it was often what he did when he listened. “Thank you for your kindness,” Kong finally replied, words soft and quick but friendly enough considering the situation at hand. “I am Kong Liu.”
“Kong, it’s a pleasure.” He replied but all the while he examined the wound. “I’m going to administer some pain relief, but it might still hurt a bit.” He said as the energy flowed through his hands into the area. His pain relief wasn’t as strong as actual medicine but they didn’t have time to let it sink in before the wound became infected.
“Just breathe with me alright? In..” he began with a big breath. “And out.” He ended, letting his healing power take over. Normally he’d have people look away during this part, but it seemed like that wasn’t going to be a problem this time. The skin began to warp so that it could rapidly heal and he could hear the sinews reattach. He knew it was still painful but it would be more so if he didn’t take care of it.
There was no pain that could ever amount to what he’d endured as a child. No complaints, no screaming or crying out. With another silent nod he offered permission to Kieran to do whatever was necessary to at least stop the bleeding. He would follow the guidance of this more experienced man. He had not been expecting what came next, though more relief than pain began to flood through him.
Why he was shocked that the rumors heard on the wind of such a healing process was beyond him. Perhaps that was human nature to be surprised and awed at things you didn’t quite understand. Nonetheless he was grateful for what he was enduring and it showed on those set features like a secret between them.
Breathing began to come and go as instructed - in and then out. Sensation crawled across his skin, ascending the limb and the shoulder. Knitting itself together, muscle, flesh, as if it had never been blemished in the first place.
Healing energy in, bad energy out.
Watching Kong take it in stride, he grabbed a bandage and wrapped the area where the wound once was. There would be no wound left behind but the blood that stained the skin would now go to the bandage. It became commonplace now that injuries were healed more quickly here though no one knew exactly why it was that it happened. He at least tried to give the illusion that they didn’t heal suddenly. “Good.” He said when the bandage was wrapped around his arm.
Finding a spot on a cot near the box they’d given him, Kieran examined the strange man more closely. “I’d ask for ye to stay a while, rest for a moment before ye return.” He’d never been to where this man was from, but he saw a great deal of people in the war. “Can I get ye a spot of tea?” He offered, since he did know many people from there enjoyed tea.
A corner of his lip twitched though it was a brief motion missed in the blink of an eye. The pain was terrible, one he would not wish on anyone though in the scheme of things he could find the raw beauty and power of it in spite of being able to behold it for himself.
No word would be uttered from those lips as to what he had experienced. Kong, probably better than anyone, knew the value of discretion and such a gift or talent was a large one to bear.
At both statements, after a moment was taken to process the words through the accent, Kong would nod. “Thank you.” Tea sounded wonderful, perfect in fact.
His arm would lower to its side appropriate bearing the bandage beneath the folds of his sleeve. Finally he lifted his head and turned to peer in the direction of the accented voice though the moment had fallen into silence.
From the other side of the room Kieran prepared a kettle in the hearth and prepared some leaves to be soaked in and strained. “Looks like ye were meddling amongst the animal pens. Is that what got ye?” He asked, peering over at the man as waited for the kettle to whistle.
He couldn’t blame the man, even without curiosity he was clearly blind. If he hadn’t been blind long, it might be easy to get lost amongst the grounds, especially considering it was never really set up in exactly the same way. Even after nearly twenty years with Zion he still had trouble finding the places he helped construct for every move. “Can’t blame ye, lots of folks come in having got too close to the lion.” Most of them young and stupid.
“I have never seen one up close before,” Kong explained. Not that he could see but he figured that Kieran would get the idea. He had gotten too close, there had been no doubt about that. But he figured that perhaps the large cats did not like the sound of his stick versus his actual presence. Before the tapping they seemed to be just fine, docile and sleeping. “I always wanted to.”
Next time he would attempt such a feat in better company than trying to brave it alone. The idea that he was imposing or bothering anyone, occupying precious time, made it hard to ask for accompaniment.
He was glad that this injury seemed to be more common. That served to alleviate some of the embarrassment. “You are skilled with this.” It was a general statement though he couldn’t pick up on any sounds that didn’t belong to either of them which meant no one else was lingering around.
As if on cue a small, capricious tuft of breeze fluttered lazily by, drawing Kong’s hair back from his face and rustling his clothes ever so slightly.
Hearing the ring of the kettle, Kieran grabbed it from the hearth and began to pour it over the strainers into the copper mugs. The inside was lined with wood to keep the handles from burning. Carefully he walked back to Kong with a mug for him and one for himself. He placed his own down first and then guided Kong’s hand to handle of the mug. “Been doing it a long time’s is all. I’ve seen men in much worse state than ye.”
Guts trailing from bodies, hands still moving after the arms been severed. These were all images he did his best to forget because the reality of it was horrifying. Kong didn’t need to know about any of these things, because who was he to unload such a burden on a man he hardly knew? Maybe in time if they became friends.
“How long ye gone without yer sight then?” He blurted, grabbing his mug and sipping the tea gingerly.
The aroma of the beverage as it steeped warmed his core. There was something to be said about tea in just about any form, it was so soothing and wholesome for the body and the mind. Letting Kieran take his hand, Kong received the copper mug and held it gently. “Thank you. It smells wonderful.” Cleansing, like the rain after a storm.
Upon hearing the confession that this man’s sight had experienced more than a few scratches he found his own heart sinking into the depths of his stomach though he said nothing. A sip of the tea would be taken carefully and swallowed before he addressed the question and the elephant in the room.
“Many decades,” came the reply. “I was five when I lost it.” He had not told anyone yet of his misfortune and here he was laying things out bare for this man, this healer. Maybe there was something comforting about Kieran, maybe these things remained pent up for too long.
Another careful sip and Kong stilled again.
Strange new set ups must have been hell for him when they moved around. Never knowing where anything was seemed awful. He’d have to have a word with management to try and keep it at least similar everywhere they went. Seldom did people with lifelong afflictions want apologies but Kieran so badly wanted to. It seemed unfair for someone to lose their sight so young.
“I’ve seen ye in here before. Take a lot of tumbles do ye?” Perhaps his walking stick could use some improvements. It hardly seemed worthy to stand on, much less to move around with. “Perhaps I can help with that.” He offered.
Kieran wasn’t a carpenter by any means but he could find someone on the grounds who might be able to whittle something better.
“Mm,” came the reply. There was no good denying it; when you couldn’t see, things tended to become treacherous. Falling was not something he liked to do, nor bashing into things, but it happened and he took those with as much grace and wisdom as he could.
“The world is constantly shifting,” Kong explained, lips pulling into a slow, amused grin, “and like the boat on the water I do my best not to capsize.”
And then the offer to help came. Help more? How possibly could this wonderful man be of more assistance. He was willing to listen. “Oh?” The interest and curiosity was there. “You have done so much already. I could never repay your kindness.”
He chuckled at the comment about capsizing a boat. He’d been in that situation one too many times and he’d hate to live life like that. “It’s no trouble. I only do it so ye don’t have to come back to me again with more scrapes and bruises. I certainly don’t want to see any more animal bites.” He nearly scolded, yet his tone was light and the meaning apparent.
“It’s what I’m meant to do.” He said quietly, looking down into his cup of tea. That was his only purpose in this form, wasn’t it? There was no other point to his presence. He wondered if someday he’d reach heaven, but as the years ticked on he began to doubt more and more.
Could he have an amused gleam in his eye it would’ve been there. As it was, Kong’s lips twitched again with a ghost of a smile, the amusement apparent. “Much too kind,” he murmured. “What do I need to do?” There had to be something on his end he could do, could give, could offer.
In his hands the teacup was perched. It had gone ignored in favor of much more interesting things though now it resurfaced and Kong turned to peer down at it as if he could see the liquid, perhaps his own reflection. A sip would be taken, careful, and the cup would plummet again to where it had been.
He thought about this for a moment. If Kong wanted to return the favor than he could let
Kieran help him. “Bring me a large piece of wood and some cloth.” He said, because that’s what he’d need to make a more appropriate walking stick for Kong.
“Once ye got that, come find me in a weeks time. I’ll have it ready for ye.” Kindness was his embedded in his personality, who knew when that had started, but Kieran couldn’t ignore someone in need. Kieran didn’t need a quid pro quo, only wanted someone to let him help where he could.
Those with a plight like his were used to pity; he was not seeking attention, help, for any to step in and take pieces of his life from him that would never be returned. But this felt different. More genuine. A breath was taken and he decided to accept the offer. Nodding, Kong would lift his head.
“I can do that.” He would have Sean assist if his friend was able. Otherwise he would figure it out on his own.
“I will return soon with the items.” Kong found himself drawn to the kinder of the folks, it seemed.
Even though his companion wouldn’t see it, Kieran offered a smile. “Very good. Would ye like an escort somewhere?” He offered, since the young boy who found him seemed to help him get where he needed to be. There was no use patching him up if he had to come right back.
Kong took a moment to savor another sip from the teacup before setting it gently aside on a nearby flat surface. “Thank you, that would be very nice.” The now free hand moved to take up the stick, and then the man himself rose to his full height.
Already his mind was whirring with where to find the objects requested - it seemed like a fun, albeit daunting task but he would prevail.
“Just to the wagons to clean up, if it is not too much trouble.”
“None at all.” He replied and linked his arm with the other man’s to guide him toward the wagons. It was starting to reach a cooler part of the day and the darkness would bring more cold. Perhaps he should stop by his own Wagon, the one he shared with Jack, and throw on a coat.
“How long have ye been with us then? Only seen ye a few times.” He still knew barely anything about this man, only that he had been blind for a long time.
Each step was graceful. He walked alongside his guide toward the wagons, eager to clean up and also to begin the request of finding those items. Whatever could be done with such an odd pair of things he wasn’t sure but he was curious to find out.
“A year now,” Kong replied. Many faces had come and gone, he wouldn’t have recognized a single one of them even if his sight magically returned. He knew others by cadence, tone of voice, by scent. Things others often can overlook.
Time passed much differently for Kieran than it did a lot of the people at the carnival. For ninety six years he roamed the earth as an angel and time tended to slip through his fingers no matter how hard he tried to hold onto it. “What is it ye do?” He didn’t get much of a chance to see many shows. Always running the Eli or tending to people’s wounds, and when the season came to an end he’d help tear down and set up the entire carnival.
“Apologies to ye, don’t get much time to enjoy the festivities.” The truth was that I’d he hadn’t joined Zion, he’d probably never have set foot in a carnival. Seemed like a frivolous activity when people were dying in wars everywhere.
When inquired of, Kong took a moment to consider the question. Was it more complex than he was making it out to be or vice versa? He understood the need to know about other people and while he appreciated the conversation he had not been raised to be outspoken or overly talkative.
“I control the air,” he offered, leaving the statement general. “I have a show at the ten and one.” He wanted to make it a magnificent show, perhaps star on his own one day, but for now just being part of something bigger than himself brought joy.
“You do not have to apologize. We experience what we can as we are able.”
That was fascinating. He’d seen a great many abilities ever since he joined Zion but air control was something else entirely. “Brilliant.” Was all he could manage to say. What could one say to that? It seemed rude to blather on about how it worked. He had a lot of questions pointed at him recently and the less he had to answer the better.
As they approached the wagons he looked around, seeing the one he shared with Jack off in the distance. Things were starting to go somewhere with Jack that he was unsure of, it almost felt predatory to him but that was neither here nor there. Best keep his mind on other projects in the meantime.
“Which one is yers then?” He asked Kong, unsure of which wagon he needed to guide him toward.
Kong offered nothing else in the way of an explanation either. It was something best left to pure demonstration and just then was not the time. If Kieran was that curious then he could always come to see the show. For now he let it rest between them for a better moment.
“Two past Sean’s wagon,” Kong explained. The walking stick would lift, point, at a wagon not too far from where they stood.
Kieran walked with him to the direction of the wagon and when they made it he brought Kong’s arm to the side of the wagon. “Does this one feel right to ye?” He would probably know at this point considering this was where he slept.
“I hope ye don’t mind my company. Been meaning to meet new people.” He spent a lot of his time with Jack and he needed to spend more time with the others at Zion.
The number of paces was counted as they strolled and the scent from the wind told him he was close long before they’d even approached. A nod would come once the assessment had been made, Palm upon wood. “Yes. Thank you.”
And the. Kong would turn to look at the other man, though he had no idea of the substantial height difference between them just yet. “I do not mind. I, too, need to meet others more. I welcome your company any time.” He meant that.
Kieran tipped his ivy cap though the other man couldn’t see and pushed his hands into his pockets. “I’ll be seeing ye around. Come find me at the med tent when ye find those items, aye? If I’m not there I’m at the Eli or in the wagon at the end of the park.” He offered. He would be needed back at the Eli at this point so while he hated to end a meeting as such, duty called.
He began to walk backward to regard Kong as he walked away. “Ye won’t be disappointed in what I’m making ye, I promise that.” A smile came and he hoped it could be felt even though it could not be seen.
From his stoop Kong listened to those lilted words laden with accent, deciphering them easily enough. It seemed Kieran had many hats to wear, each as important as the last. Eager he was to find out what lay at the end of this task.
“I will,” he assured the other man. Was the excitement evident on his features? He didn’t mind either way. A hand would lift in farewell and Kong turned, slipping silently albeit gracefully into his own wagon.