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Chapter One

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Hi, guys. So I know a lot of you weren't expecting me to start this story for at least another couple of months, but... I kind of got inspired. Really inspired. I planned the whole plot and wrote the first chapter in the space of two days. So, yeah. I'm not sure what exactly is happening with Room Service at the minute -- I'm just going with the flow on that one. This is my next serious full-length novel, and I hope you enjoy it :)


            They say time is a circus, always packing up and moving away.

            In many senses, that's true, and I'm more than qualified to comment. But saying this is also missing something; it only paints half the picture, cutting out the best part.

            You see, for there to be packing up and moving away, there first has to be the pulling up and unloading. There has to be the pitching of trailers, the cranking of rusty metal, the hauling of ropes until the colors of the big top sail amongst the clouds. Then comes the clinking of loose change as coins exchange hands and the tangible buzz of speculation that precedes the first show. It all comes before.

            And for me – someone who'd lived, breathed and slept this cycle for as long as I could remember – that was always the best part.

            At first, Sherwood, California was just another brief stop on our cyclic road trip: another thumbtack on the giant map of the United States pinned to the inside wall of Aunt Shelby's trailer. It had been there for years, stretching well beyond a timespan I could remember, and over its lifetime had collected such an abundance of pins that the entire American landscape had been severely butchered. I didn't know exactly how the ritual had got started; all I knew was that each time we pulled up in a new field, the first job of the day was to stab a permanent hole in our new location, and the pin would sit there long after we'd gone.

            Sherwood sat at the northern end of California, close to the Oregon border to an extent that its red thumbtack couldn't be contained within the state itself. There was nothing spectacular about it in the slightest; when we'd pulled up onto the vast stretch of greenery that was set to be our home for the following two weeks, it held no features that could've distinguished it from our previous settlement. The town itself was unassuming, its very essence neither daintily small nor dauntingly huge.

            It was nothing special. Then again, neither was I.

            The elements that constituted our arrival into that town – and all those before it – were a strange mix. Of course, there was the communal atmosphere: the nervous energy fuelling frantic conversation about openings and finales; the creaking of training equipment in last-minute sessions; the long-awaited showers after finally being hooked up to a water supply. On top of this, though, I had habits of my own.

            In many ways, it was like the map on Aunt Shelby's wall; I couldn't pinpoint exactly when or how it had started, but it had become a recognized ritual amongst us. And so when, hours after we'd piled into our newest field of residence, usually after a grueling training session under Silver's watchful eye, the other guys realized I was nowhere to be found, they could always work out where I'd gone.

            I wasn't superstitious, or anything of the sort, and struggled to find an explanation as to why it always happened that the quality of the food in the first restaurant I came across foreshadowed the fate of that evening's show. The method may not have been strictly tried-and-tested, but I'd yet to come across a place it'd been wrong. Take for example Claremont, Idaho: after leaving the diner halfway through my nauseatingly undercooked meal, ticket sales for the opening show hit an all-time low, leaving the evening to turn out a total flop.

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