They say that when Tracy was born, Tracy chewed out of the womb. Tracy’s mother was dead long before the birth and Tracy’s father was a normal, they said.
Tracy Wonder, was the name the Freaks gave the child. Forever small was Tracy. Fingers too long, face too gaunt. Bones that popped in places bones were never meant to pop.
Tracy never found romance, but watched the children in the church yards they would pass. They cackled as Tracy watched, silently perplexed by the sounds they made. Once Tracy tried to get close and they screams curses in mock pain and scattered to hide among the headstones.
This was a sound Tracy understood.
The sound came from the back carts and covered wagons of the traveling circus where the ring crier always said no one was allowed, sounds that broke and screamed like no animal Tracy had ever heard.
The Clawed Man was always smaller than Tracy, but always seemed to know where the best marks in the crowds were, so Tracy followed the Clawed Man. He had to best collection of bright brass pocket watches and dark glass cuff links and little dice made of bone that the Clawed Man would paw with his one good hand when he was quiet and wheezed hypnotically to himself.
The Clawed Man was the first to talk about Tracy’s mother. She wasn’t any normal witch, the Clawed Man had hissed one day, the tiny bone dice rolling in his good hand. She lured men to the circus with the promise of her coven’s companionship when they would pass on the outskirts of the desert towns, the only towns left as far as the Clawed Man knew. She and the others would take the men into beds, lulling them into unnatural slumbers.
She had to eat them while they were still alive, the Clawed Man explained. Or else she never would have been as strong as she was.
But Tracy had changed all that. When Tracy’s mother was pregnant, she had never been so hungry. Her coven combed the scattered settlements, turning camps to ghost towns.
No one knew what to do when Tracy was born. But they had kept the wagon locked for days before the Spine had ventured into it first, broken-backed and slow, but strong. The Spine never spoke, but had carried the child out for the Freaks to see, the squirming thing that looked like a Normal, almost. If you didn’t look too closely or for too long. Even the Freaks couldn’t stare without turning away from reasons they could not and did not explain.
And when Tracy would ask about the father, the Clawed Man would shove the dice deep into his pocket and shuffle off, murmuring faintly to himself.
So Tracy would go sit under the big top, and listen to the crier, his sticky voice booming on the last place on earth, the place no one remembered but them. How they had prepared. How the truth had always been there. They were it, the crier promised to all that huddled and dragged through the only days that were left. They had seen the last of it, after all. There was no hell or heaven. It was all the same now. This was all that was left. And Tracy would listen to the wails of the crowd begging and praying for more, for anything at all. But finding nothing.
But then one day, Tracy’s father came back.
And that was the day Tracy learned to kill.