“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Though I took the path less traveled by, it wasn’t a matter of choice. My road was paved for me from the moment I was born. My name’s Kurt Wagner. In my infancy, I was orphaned by my mother. It has not yet been brought to my awareness what the circumstances were that caused her to give me up. Was it because she didn’t want me or simply a maternal instinct to protect me? I guess I’ll never know. Regardless, I won’t give up searching for answers.
Fortunately enough for me, I managed to live and was taken in by a very affectionate gypsy queen of sorts named Margali Szardos. Though she’s not my biological mother, she loves me as if I was her own and has gone to great lengths to keep me safe. She hasn’t given me all the answers as to why I’m here or what my mother and father were like but I suspect that she’s withholding information from me for my own good. There had to be some reason they gave me up. I can’t imagine a parent who wouldn’t want to see their child grow up. I know I would want to witness my child blossom before my eyes. Then again, I’m young and I still have a lot to learn.
As a youth, my foster mother Margali noticed my penchant for agility and acrobatics. From a very young age, she decided to do her best to cultivate my talents so that I may have the best future possible. Now, I am sixteen years old and currently a performer for Herr Max Getmann’s Circus. He is the ringleader of our little ensemble. You would think that the leader of our group would be supportive and accepting of us. However, the reality is quite the opposite. Everybody else understands each other although we have distinct abilities that set us apart. Except for him! It seems as if Herr Getmann has an ulterior motive. I can’t tell what it is though. Perhaps, he’s in it for the money. Whenever we’re practicing for our performances, he shouts at us abrasively if we do anything slightly wrong. This goes for everybody especially me. There is one moment that stands out vividly among the rest. I remember that we were preparing for a show. He asked me to repeat my routine as he yelled over and over, “Again!” Eventually he got so tired of me doing it wrong, he stormed up to me, salivating at the mouth, screaming, “You can’t do anything right can you? Bastard child. All I ask of you is to do this correctly, yet you continue to screw up.” I could understand why he was frustrated. I am the main act so the pressure to perform well is highest for me. Though he was angry, I did not believe that it warranted that intense of a reaction. My rage consumed me as I clamored, “Nobody calls me that!” He struck a nerve in me. I swung a heavy right hook at his face but missed completely. Herr Getmann punched me in the gut after which I was brought to my knees. I could see the shock on the face of my compatriots. I don’t think they have ever witnessed me when I have been that angry. I don’t know what was more unnerving to them- my threshold for anger or the heartless nature of Herr Getmann. From that day forth, I despised him with a passion.
Besides the persistent barrage of abuse from Getmann, life in the troupe can be quite interesting. We do multiple shows within the European continent. I am surrounded by some extremely talented individuals. Sword swallowers, strongmen, fire spitters, and trapeze artists are just a few of the people I get to commingle with on a daily basis. I feel that this is an environment where I can be safe. They don’t judge me for my appearance. I guess they think it’s a costume or makeup. I don’t look like normal humans. Average humans don’t have a tail and azure skin. The tail does come in handy on occasion. I can use it to grip objects as well as for the purpose of self-defense if ever faced with the danger of physical combat.
There are others like me in our troupe. By that I mean they seem to exhibit characteristics that normal humans do not possess. For me it’s my appearance, but these individuals seem to harbor special abilities. It’s unusual because we’re hidden in plain sight. Nobody expects us to be strange because we’re in a setting that thrives off of our diversity. This is a place where it’s okay to be different. Our act includes a variety of people from a myriad of backgrounds and upbringings. There is this one illusionist (or so he claims) from Russia named Alexei Fyodorov. He goes by Alex for short. His trademark is his ability to disappear without a trace and reappear on a whim. We have branded him with the nickname, “The Vanisher”. Everybody thinks it’s just a gimmick but I believe there’s more to it. I think he was born with it. His twin sister Ilana also participates in the performances. My foster mother Margali, better known to me as Ms. S, is responsible for recruiting so she spends a majority of her time behind the scenes.
One day after rehearsal for our performance, I paid an unexpected visit to my foster mother to ask some questions about my birth parents. I was curious because at this point I knew little to nothing about them not even their names. That’s the least that she could give me. When I came to see her in the tent, I caught her in the act of performing magic. She was casting spells and concocting potions. In utter shock I gasped, “Mom!” She turned around swiftly after which she said, “Honey, you’re not supposed to be in here. What do you need?” I answered, “Well, I was going to come in here and ask a few questions about my real parents but now it seems I have more questions than answers. Since when have you been able to do magic?” She replied, “I’ve always been able to do magic, I’ve just never done it around you. Your life has already been difficult. I didn’t want to add this to the mountain of concerns that you’ve already dealt with. All I wanted for you is a normal life.” I was dumbfounded. It shouldn’t have surprised me. I am in a place where spectacular feats are routine. “So you’re a sorceress? What else have you been keeping from me?” I asked her. She responded, “Yes, I am a sorceress. I promise, I’ll tell you everything you want to know if you’re able to keep this a secret.” In my confusion I lashed out at her inquiring, “How am I to know you did not snatch me from my real parents? How do I even know that you care for me at all?” She claimed, “You’re just going to have to trust me. I’m all you’ve got right now.” I nodded reluctantly and then she proceeded to tell me about my real family. “Your mother’s name was Raven Darkholme. She was a shapeshifter posing as a German baroness at the time. She was married to a man named Baron Christian Wagner but that was not who she truly loved. While still married to Wagner, she had an affair with a man known as Azazel. Though Azazel is your biological father, he wanted you to be raised in a fairly stable environment so he thought it best if you were raised under the parenting of the Baron. During the process of child labor, your mother revealed her true form. The stress of it all must have proven too much to bear. Shortly after, news spread of her ability to take the form of other people.” Taken aback by this revelation, I asked “What happened when the Baron discovered that she was more than human?” She explained, “The Baron awestruck by this sudden discovery panicked. Humans have a long history of fearing what they don’t understand. Word got around the village that she was enhanced. The people were outraged. They flocked together in droves in order to drive her and any of her kind out from their dwelling place.” I replied, “You speak of humans as if they are spiteful and unloving. However, I have found living among the members of this act that it is quite the opposite. The people here are warm and accepting with the exception of Getmann. What have I missed?” “Kurt, you have been sheltered within the comfort of our little sideshow here. The outside world is a brutal, dark place. Though there is the occasional light at the end of the tunnel, one must be in a constant search for it. After all, you’ve just heard what happened to your mother when people found out that she was special. How do you think you would have fared if I let you roam free in the world without you by my side? The world will chew you up and spit you out if you’re not careful.”
There was still so much that I needed answered. I proceeded to ask her more questions. “How did she manage to get me to safety if the mob chased her out of town?” I asked. Ms. S. told me, “To say your mother is resourceful is an understatement. She put you in a basket in an attempt to not draw attention to you. One thing you should know about her is that when she takes the form of another, she also adopts the characteristics and abilities of the person that she is imitating. In this instance, she took the form of a superhuman with the power to blend in to their environment. As she distanced herself from the crowd, she found an area that gave her the chance to catch her breath and wait for the hysteria to die down. Once the mob dispersed, Raven found a nearby river and floated you across the stream hoping that you would find somebody else who loved you like she did.” “One more question”, I implored. “How do you know so much about my mother if you two have never met?” Ms. S answered, “I have this crystal ball. To not draw suspicion to myself, I have been acting as a fortune teller at the carnival. In the meantime, I viewed your mother’s struggle during pregnancy and what occurred after. I had no idea who she was. I just thought I should help. It seemed like the right thing to do.” At this point, most of my questions were answered. I gave Ms. S a long hug placing both of my arms around her in a warm embrace saying, “Thank you! I appreciate all that you’ve done for me and my mother. I just wish that I would have the chance to see her.” Tears dropped from my eyes like rain. She could see the pain that was inside me, that which had afflicted me for so long. The embrace finally ended and I started to walk away. Choked up, Ms. S reassured me “Kurt, I just wanted you to know that you can come to me for anything. Ever since I took you in, you have always held a special place in my heart.” I nodded shyly, speechless at her remark as I moved along and exited the tent.
A few months passed after this conversation. Per usual, we were still performing shows. However, consistently less people were in attendance. People eventually got bored and stopped coming. Unfortunately, this pattern did not change. This infuriated Herr Getmann. He opted for our practices to be longer so that we could perfect our routine. During one of these practices, we were taking a break and I was juggling some flaming torches and I tossed one of them too high and it lit the big top ablaze. Needless to say, Herr Getmann was anything but ecstatic.
One day during rehearsals he exclaimed, “Ms. Szardos, may I have a word with you privately?” She agreed. The conversation between the two was heated as I overheard their voices which continued to grow louder in volume the more they talked. As they walked off, Getmann explained, “Lately, a lot of people have stopped showing at our performances. I think it has something to do with Kurt. He is the main event of course. If there is something that is causing the show to decline it is him. Therefore, I have a proposal.” My foster mother could tell that this was bad news. She said, “A proposal? What do you mean a proposal? Kurt’s just a boy. You don’t expect him to be Houdini do you? He’s trying his best.” Getmann elaborated, “Ms. Szardos, your son has a tremendous gift. I recognize that more than anybody. However, his act is becoming dramatically lackluster. And that hits us right below the belt in ticket sales. If we don’t sell tickets our act doesn’t exist. It is a vicious cycle.” I heard what he said about my performance however I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation. It must have been a heated one because my foster mother’s face became increasingly red and eventually she shouted, “I’m not letting you do this! Kurt’s my son!”
Ms. S. had two children besides me- a son named Stephan and a daughter named Jimaine. They happened to be my best friends in Gettman’s circus. Stephan was always concerned that because he came from a magical bloodline that he may end up performing evil acts. Stephan confided in me that if he were ever to kill someone, that I should take his life. I don’t think if I had to make that decision if I could follow through with it. We have grown too close. Stephan is the nearest thing I will ever have to the brother. Thankfully, he has not hurt anyone yet.
In the circus, the performers do everything together. We eat meals together, play games with each other, and do other activities. It’s as if we have an invisible tether that binds us. Getmann has threatened that bond. We were eating lunch when Ms. S pulled me aside. She spoke very quietly to me, as if to be secretive saying, “Kurt, we must leave this place as soon as possible.” I asked, “Why?” “It is not safe here anymore” she said. I questioned, “What do you mean ‘not safe’?” She replied, “It’s Getmann. He told me that you’re a flight risk. He was adamant about selling you to a different troupe simply because the sales for the circus are dropping. He said we had a vast array of talent that we are overlooking and I should be concerned for the circus as a whole. He wants to replace you.” “How did you respond?” I asked her. “I told him that I was not going to do it. I told him that you’re my son and that what he was planning to do was unethical. I feel like there’s a whole lot more to it than he’s telling me. I’m not going to let him take my son away from me even if I may not be your actual mother.” “When do we leave?” I demanded. She explained, “We’ll head out early tomorrow morning. Pack your belongings and get a good night’s rest so you’re ready to go. Tell Stephan and Jimaine so they know as well. I’ll wake you guys up and then we’ll be on our way.
That night I could not help but thinking about leaving everything behind. It must have been how my actual mother felt when she had to let go of me. This was all so sudden. I met so many nice people and was not sure if I was ready to just uproot it all. I had no idea what to pack so I stuffed a few dress shirts, some khakis, a jacket, pairs of boxers, and whatever else I could fit into a brown leather bag. It was of the utmost importance I packed the necessities and that I abstain from packing anything excessive.
I shared a room with Stephan and Alex. Alex was a rock hard sleeper and Stephan snored loudly through the night. When I packed my clothes, Stephan heard me and he asked, “Kurt, what are you doing?” I responded, “Stephan, mom said that we need to leave. It’s not safe.” “Why isn’t it safe? You’re acting crazy Kurt”, he suggested. In a frantic state, I shuddered with fear. Trying to gather my thoughts, I paced around the room. “Listen, Stephan I’ll explain later but tell Jimaine. We’re planning to leave tomorrow morning. Oh, also pack your stuff.”
That night, I was so afraid to close my eyes that I just spent hours staring up at the blank ceiling. I tried breathing deeply until finally I could rest. It took a while but eventually it worked. That was probably the worst sleep I had in weeks. I tossed and turned throughout the night resorting to bury my head in my pillow. Nervous sweats also came upon me despite the cold temperature of the room. When I finally fell asleep, I had a dream that I was on a boat going across the Atlantic. Stephan, Jimaine, and my foster mother were all with me. We were visiting the United States of America for the first time. In this dream, Ms. S, Stephan, Jimaine, and I toured the country with our troupe. Except there was something different about it. Herr Getmann was no longer the ringleader. Was this a premonition of things to come or simply just a fantasy of mine?
As I arose that morning, I opened my eyes to complete darkness. I could see absolutely nothing and it was hard to breathe. I heard voices talking to each other including one that was faintly familiar. However, I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Immediately, a burlap sack was pulled from my head which revealed a blinding light. I turned to my left and saw none other than Herr Getmann standing above me. He had a microphone in his right hand after which he addressed the audience, “Good evening ladies and gentlemen! Now up for auction is young Mr. Kurt Wagner. The perfect specimen of athleticism and vigor he would be an excellent addition to any company. Kurt specializes in acrobatics and aerial performances. His indigo skin and tail are sure to draw a crowd. Shall we start the bidding at one thousand dollars?” What the Herr lacked in physical acumen, he compensated for in showmanship. I didn’t know whether to be offended or pleased that he finally acknowledged my talents. I also found myself quite astounded. I didn’t know that there was a black market for this type of activity. One of the bidders howled, “How about a demonstration of his abilities? After all, a smart buyer does not make a purchase without first knowing what they are getting out of the deal.” “As you wish” the Herr insisted.
This was it, my perfect time to escape. He was required to release me from bondage, at least temporarily, if he desired to receive payment. I looked down at my hands and saw that I was handcuffed. The Herr grabbed a key from inside his pocket which he used to free me from my shackles. I could see the disgust on his face as he took them off of me. He whispered to me, “Show them what you’ve got, Kurt! Don’t screw this up for me otherwise you’ll never see your family again.” I carried on walking away from Herr Getmann. He was surrounded by men, most of which I presumed to be armed. I strategically took a path that gave me the trajectory to give me a running start toward one of his men. If these were my last moments alive, I was going to make them count. As I ran toward them, I did a series of cartwheels and flips which I followed up with a kick to the face of one of his associates. I managed to take him down, however I was quickly captured by a swarm of his henchmen. He rapidly pulled out a pistol and said, “Your insolence and foolishness will not be tolerated. I am going to savor this moment.” Unexpectedly, I teleported out of shooting range of the Herr. However, I was still outnumbered.
Just when I thought all hope was lost, my foster mother and her children came to my aid. They must have realized that I was missing when they woke up and I was not there. Ms. S wielded a fiery sword which she used to dispose of Getmann’s men. Jimaine was the next to show up teleporting and shooting projectiles of force at Getmann. Finally, Stephan made an appearance. Once the Herr was on the ground, Stephen punched him in the face repeatedly until he drew blood. He then stated, “I should kill you for all the pain you’ve caused our family and people like us.” Getmann retorted, “Then why don’t you do it?” Ms. S and Jimaine restrained Stephan but they could not stop his momentum. In an effort to save him from himself, I yelled, “Don’t do it! It’s what he wants!” The bidders erupted in a state of panic. Ironically enough, we were monsters to them.
Stephan panted, exhausted from the energy that he used to dole out punishment on Herr Getmann. He finally regained his composure after a while. We were all relieved that the Herr’s threat had been neutralized. Or so we thought. Ms. S in a moment of reprieve said, “I think that was enough chaos for one day. Are you guys ready to go home?” The answer was unanimous. We hurried through a dense forest filled with bushes. Stephan tripped on one of the plants and I proceeded to pick him up. I heard the rattling sound of foliage and an emphatic bang afterward. I saw Ms. S. fall face first. Herr Getmann was on our trail the entire time and had shot my mother in the calf. We all rushed to her assistance. Mother gracefully waved her hands in the air and a portal appeared. She muttered to me, “Kurt, you must go for your own good! Find your real mother. You’ve seen how grim the world can be. Be the light that illumines the darkness of this world!” I grasped her softly by the hand and pleaded, “No mom, I won’t leave you!” Jimaine urged me to leave declaring, “Go! Stephan and I will take care of her.” I stepped through the portal as another of Herr Getmann’s bullets grazed my shoulder.
As I went through the portal, I felt a sensation unlike any other. It was as if I was soaring through a cloud of nothingness. I was existent, yet it felt as if I had no form. When I made it through the portal, I stumbled onto my side. I was covered in a film of dirt and there was a searing pain in my shoulder. I attempted to pull the bullet out but it was not an exit wound. I grimaced in agony at the pain and instead of removing the bullet allowed it to remain for the time being.
I lifted my weary eyes and saw in front of me a large building. It appeared to be some sort of educational institution. This school looked to be one of prominence with an abundance of amenities. It had the features of a mansion equipped with a tennis court, a private jet, and other luxuries. Compared to the events that have transpired in my life, this seems to be a much needed blessing. I dragged my aching body to the gates. Beside the gates, there was a brass plaque encased in brick and mortar that read, “Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.” Drained of my vitality, I leaned against the brick where I proceeded to languish. The rough texture of the brick did not bother me at all as I was too exasperated to care.
When I woke, a student found me lying at the gates. He called out saying “Wait right there!” The bespectacled, brown haired male student before me darted inside with the velocity of a jungle cat. When he returned, a man in a wheelchair accompanied him. I guess he was the dean of the school. As he drew nearer, the gates opened slowly. He was a truly genial man and greeted me with the highest regard as he introduced himself. “Hello, Kurt. My name is Charles Xavier. I believe that you may be in the right place.” Completely bewildered, I asked, “How do you know my name?” He kept his mouth shut yet his English accent reverberated in my head as he explained, “There’s a lot that I know about you beyond your name, Kurt. I know that you’ve spent your entire life in a circus. I am aware that your biological mother was forced to give you up. I know you are unique and gifted people deserve a chance to flourish at my school. That is, if you are willing to accept my invitation to attend. This is a one-time offer. Give it all the thought you need but I see a bright future in the days ahead for you.”
For the first time in a long time, there was a glimmer of hope. I could tell that Xavier’s proposal was sincere. All my life I have been searching for the tiniest remnant of solace. Something in his eyes revealed the nature of his intentions. Was it true that he knows my mother? This was an incredible opportunity placed in front of me but still I was hesitant to accept. Why would a man who has just met me for the first time offer me a chance to attend his prestigious school?
Lately, I have been torn between the nature of my being. My foster mother saw the good in me despite my devilish appearance. It has been a constant struggle to deny the violence and evil that pervade my heart. It seems like all the good that I’ve done in my life has resulted in turmoil. A part of me wished that I let Stephan kill Herr Getmann. In fact I wanted to take his life myself. Yet the other half did not allow me to be overpowered by my malice. I took the road less traveled by. This is a genesis, a new beginning. My foster mother’s words will resonate with every fiber of my being. “Be the light that illumines the darkness of this world!” I will carry my torch to light the flame for others.