Jess Hatton, aged 24. Born in Scotland and raised in the United States, Jess grew up with a musical theater background and a passion for creativity. Previously completed a Bachelors (Hons) in Film and TV Production at Edge Hill University in 2017 and has recently started work as a voice actor.
A sleepy town is exhumed whenever the circus comes to town. For Ash, it’s a chance to find her father and perhaps an intimate relationship with the circus’s ringmaster. Sinister forces beyond our world work against Ash, and she’ll need to read the cards right before disaster strikes.
EXT. CAMAS COFFE SHOP NIGHT
Open to a frog choir in the night. An occasional car passes by. ASH (19), walks out followed by another girl SAM (25). Ash wears dark clothes and black hair pulled back in a loose braid while Sam is covered in piercings and tattoos; two ornate daggers crossed on her forearm is newest. Ash’s eyes seem to glow an unusual pale blue.
You say that every night, answer’s still no.
Cute. Seriously, what a fucking day.
Ash hums in agreement as she locks the door behind them. A small frog hops onto the glass. Ash coos the amphibian onto her hand, releasing it into a bush.
Need a ride home?
Suit yourself. Hey, everything alright on the home front?
Sam, I’ll be fine.
Yeah well, call me otherwise alright?
Ash nods before Sam walks off to her beatup car while Ash walks in the opposite direction. She pauses a moment, reaching into her pocket and pulling out what appears to be playing cards. Pulling one from the deck, she looks at it and grimaces.
EXT. ASH’S HOUSE NIGHT
A bus pulls up and Ash descends. She pulls her coat a bit tighter around herself, shrinking into her collar. She approaches the third house on the street and enters
INT. ASH’S HOUSE NIGHT
No answer, but the TV can be heard from the living room. Ash enters to see her mom, JOCELYN (47), laying on the couch bundled in a jumper and piles of blankets.
Hey, feeling any better?
Jocelyn GRUNTS in response, not turning to face her.
Have you eaten?
Yeah. We’re out of milk again.
Ash leaves and heads for the kitchen. Jocelyn picks up the remote to turn up the volume, wrapping herself up tighter.
INT. KITCHEN NIGHT
Ash opens the fridge and pulls out a plate of leftover spaghetti. She sets the dish in the microwave, pushing a few buttons and starting it.
Hey, can you make that tea again? For my throat?
Ash moves towards the cupboard, opening it and pulling down small jars of loose leaf tea. She drizzles honey into a cup before mixing in different portions of tea.
INT. ASH’S ROOM NIGHT
Ash slams the door shut with her foot, carrying her dinner with her sleeves covering her hands.
Hot hot hot hot!
She sets it down on her desk, shaking out her hands. Her room is small, square, covered in band and movie posters from all decades (MCR, Misfits, Bowie, Goonies, etc.) Blue Christmas lights gives the room in mystical glow.
Ash walks over to a shiny Harry Potter poster over her unmade bed, lifting it up to reveal an aged flier for a circus. The border is comprised of an alternating pattern of swords, cups, wands, and pentacles.
A photo of a man with the same eyes as Ash is tacked to it. She walks back to her miserable dinner but in the process knocks over her bag onto the wood floor and spews its contents, including a deck of tarot cards, all over.
Ash quickly sets about gathering the cards, pausing once she spots the Fool laying face up, reversed. She grabs the card tentatively, looking at all the rest of the cards.
So, holding back huh?
INT. ASH’S HOUSE NIGHT
Ash comes back to the living room, carrying the deck; Jocelyn hasn’t moved.
Hey, you busy?
Jocelyn hums and looks up at Ash, then down to the cards.
Her expression sours.
Can I do a quick spread?
Ash starts to shuffle the cards but Jocelyn reaches out, stopping her. Ash freezes violently at the touch.
Dad used to cheer you up with these.
Take those away before I toss ’em.
Ash holds the deck closer to her chest instinctively.
Jocelyn sighs and gets up from the couch.
I’m going to bed.
Ash watches Jocelyn go upstairs.
INT. COFFEE SHOP DAY
Ash taps on the counter with her fingers, her other hand going white with tension. A line of customers mull angrily behind him
Sir, I have a line
Just one minute!
Behind her, Sam groans.
Hurry up dammit, I have to catch a bus!
I’ll have a black americano, small.
Sam slides the coffee along the counter, already made.
RUDE CUSTOMER (cont’d)
Wow, so fast!
He takes the coffee and leaves.
That’s what he gets, every. Fucking. Day. Alright you all, tell me your poison now, I’ll get them out faster!
Each customer down the line shouts out their coffee until
Earl Grey, with a swirl of honey if you please.
Sorry but we’re out of
As she leans out to speak with the strangers (LUCE (Young looking, genderless), a suave fellow wearing a blue coat lined with silver trim and buttons and a bowler hat to match, Luce makes eye contact and smiles.
Really? What a shame.
By now some of the other customers have turned to look as well. Sam leans in whispering
Hey, wanna take your break now or are you gonna stand there looking like a fish all day? Go!
Sam pushes her off the till and takes over serving and making drinks. She is an artist with the mugs, tossing and juggling them with ease. Ash trips, before making eye contact with Luce. She gulps then quickly dashes out back.
Alright who wanted the caramel cappaccino with almond milk?
Luce watches Ash leave.
EXT. COFFEE SHOP DAY
Slam, the back door shuts and Ash sighs, sliding down against the wall and landing on the sidewalk. A car whizzes by before she reaches into her apron and pulls out the deck.
Shuffling the cards idly, some redneckteens pass by.
Hey, witch! Lost your broomstick?
Ash flips them off as they laugh, pulling each other away. A card falls out of the deck and lands face up; the Wheel of Fortune.
Could use some luck right now.
Suddenly, applause from indoors. Ash jumps up and quickly scrambles back inside.
5.INT. COFFEE SHOP DAY
A crowd has gathered on the center floor, Sam paused in making coffee. The milk starts to boil over and she rushes to stop the steamer.
A shower of sparks shoots up towards the ceiling. Ash pushes through to see Luce in the middle. Luce holds a handkerchief on their hand, pulling it back to reveal a blue toad. The toad croaks and leaps into Ash’s hands.
Ah, there you are. Come, come here.
Luce motions Ash forward, the toad still croaking in her hands.
I don’t think I caught your name earlier?
Um, Ash, can you please cover that fella with your hand?
She does so, awkwardly. Luce covers her hands with theirs and looks directly into her eyes.
Such captivating eyes
Sam whistles and smirks.
Uh, yeah. Who are you?
DuBlanc, Luce DuBlanc.
Luce opens Ash’s hands to reveal a blue bird; mechanical, dolllike. The bird takes flight.
Shit man, health and safety?
Luce removes their hat for the bird to alight on their head, replacing the hat where it was.
And that is only the beginning folks, tonight only is a special performance of our show Cirque d’Etoiles and I do hope to see each one of you there.
They bow and tip their hat, the bird having disappeared. Out of the hat, fliers flutter up and around the space, while the audience makes a mad grab for them. Luce hands one to Ash.
Ash looks down; the flier is identical to the one on her wall, except the name is different.
Hey waitShe looks up, Luce is gone. Ash is left dumbfounded.
INT. ASH’S HOUSE NIGHT
Ash runs through the front door, letting it slam against the wall startling Jocelyn. The flier in her hand rustles as she shoves it in Jocelyn’s face. Jocelyn freezes.
It’s the same as dad’s! It’s his circus, they’re back!
Ashley. Get that thing out of this house.
But, this could be our chance! We can find out what happened to dad!
If you so much as think about setting foot in that circus then…
Then what?! Why do you hate the circus so much?
Well go then if you want! But don’t think…
She trails off, breaking down into tears. Ash stands there, reaching out but not quite touching.
I said GO!
She claws at Ash, catching her hand with her nails and ripping the flier. Ash reels in shock, bright red welts flaring on her hand as Jocelyn continues to sob.
Ash takes a few steps back, before grabbing the ripped pieces from the floor and runs upstairs.
INT. ASH’S ROOM NIGHT
Ash storms into her room, clutching the crumpled flier as she flings herself to her bed. She fights tears, before sitting up and ripping her longsleeve shirt off. Her arms and parts of her stomach are covered in scars.
Hands shaking, Ash unfurls the flier. Her fingers lands on the date for the circus performance.
TONIGHT ONLY; WITNESS THE WONDER OF THE CIRQUE D’ETOILES!
MIDNIGHT AT THE PIER
Ash reaches into her pocket, pulling out the tarot deck.
She grabs a new shirt and jumper from the floor. The crumpled flier immediately gets shoved into her pocket.
The window slides open, Ash swinging a leg out on to the roof. Breathing hard, she slides out and silently closes the window behind her.