The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, Westchester County, New York. Two of X-Men’s most senior members - Ororo Munroe, appropriately named Storm, and Hank McCoy, a.k.a. the Beast sit across from a shivering creature known as Vermin, staring him down. Ororo breaks the silence, informing Vermin that he is sedated now, but pointing out that she knows he can hear her, so she will ask him her question once more: ‘Why did you attack Nightcrawler that way? Why were you trying to kill him?’ ‘Because I wanted to taste his blood’ Vermin hisses in reply. The Beast lunges across the table, grabbing Vermin by the neck he calls him the sickest most aptly named monster he knows.
Watching the interrogation from a two-way mirror are, Scott “Cyclops” Summers, Emma “the White Queen” Frost and Bobby “Iceman” Drake, three more X-Men. They listen as the Beast declares that Vermin is beneath human, adding that if he gutted him here, he doesn’t think it would even count as murder. ‘Oh, the melodrama’ Emma mutters as she turns away. Scott asks who knew that Hank was such a good actor, and likens him to Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter. Bobby remarks that he was thinking more like Gene Hackman in French Connection, the first one.
Emma informs her teammates that at any rate, Storm is wasting her time, as she has read Vermin’s mind - what little there is - and in fact, Vermin has no idea he even attacked Kurt. Bobby asks Emma to explain, so Emma declares that it is a mess inside Vermin - like a teeming mass of cockroaches, but Vermin barely remembers being in New York, ‘Let alone ambushing Kurt and his little girl friend‘. Scott informs Emma that technically Kurt and Christine Palmer are not dating.
Emma continues, revealing that there are what seem to be psychic fingerprints all over Vermin’s ganglia and synapses - traces of another presence. ’You’re sating…what, mind control?’ asks Bobby. Emma states that Nightcrawler’s suspicions that darker forces were behind Vermin’s assault may not be entirely unfounded….
Germany, where the X-Man Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner stands on a cliff side, the sun rising behind him. His troubled thoughts are disturbed by his friend and teammate Wolverine a.k.a. Logan and Nurse Christine Palmer who he recently befriended coming up behind him and calling to him. Kurt turns to his friends, his thoughts drifting across the years, memories dislodging like balloons and floating up. The handsome Logan asks Kurt if being here “takes him back”. Christine agrees, pointing out that they are in Bavaria. Nightcrawler replies that it does, and exclaims that even the air tastes different here in Winzeldorf - where he was born and where he was raised.
Kurt remembers the time, where the oft-misguided Margali Szardos, his powerful foster mother, taught him to walk. Margali encouraged Kurt one step at a time. Picking him up she tells young Kurt that first he learns to walk, then to fly - on the trapeze that is, becoming the greatest acrobat of them all! Margali holds Kurt up in the air, asking him how that sounds. ‘My most special boy!’ However, watching from behind a caravan is Margali’s biological son, Stefan - and he doesn’t look impressed.
Nightcrawler smiles after remembering the memory, before explaining to Logan and Christine that the circus where he grew up is in the Black Forest, and suggests that they get as far as they can before nightfall then set up camp. Christine begins to ask Kurt a question, but Logan just agrees with Kurt’s plan.
Nightfall, Kurt, Logan and Christine huddle around a campfire in silence. Nightcrawler tells Logan and Christine that he appreciates them coming with him, but the truth is that he isn’t sure what he is looking for. Kurt reminds them that since Vermin’s attack he has been having dreams, like visions and echoes of his past. Christine replies that they know, to which Kurt declares that he has the unshakable feeling that what is happening now is somehow linked to where he came from, adding that Cyclops would say it doesn’t make rational sense.
Wolverine tells Kurt that it actually does make sense, and claiming that he doesn’t know much, but what he does know is that there is nothing more rational than wanting to go back to where you came from every now and again. Wolverine adds that it is not something everyone can do. Kurt is about to say something to Logan, but Logan gets up, announcing that he is tired, he heads towards his tent, pointing out that they have a lot of walking to get done tomorrow.
Christine tells Kurt that she knows she made him bring her along, and asks if he would rather be alone. Kurt’s eyes just trail off down memory lane, where a teenage Stefan Szardos asks Kurt what it is he is doing out in the woods alone at night. Kurt claimed that he was doing nothing. The present day Kurt and Christine walk towards their tent as Kurt explains that he and Stefan used to play in the woods, and this is where he showed him he could first teleport.
Kurt informs Stefan that there is something he wants to show him, something that he can do. Kurt explains that when he concentrates and imagines himself going to another place - bamf - he goes there. With the smell of brimstone, Kurt disappears from where he was standing in front of Stefan and re-appears above him in a tree. ‘Gott in himmel…’ exclaims the astonished Stefan. As Kurt drops to the ground, Stefan asks him how he does it, but Kurt replies that he doesn’t know, it’s just something he can do. ‘Tricks of the Devil…but how - why?’ asks Stefan, somewhat frightened of his brother. Kurt begins to say that he isn’t so sure, when Stefan pushes him up against a tree and asks him who else knows about this.
‘Not my mother? My Sister?’ Stefan asks, Kurt replies no one. Stefan tells Kurt to listen to him, and declares that his mother can do things too. ‘Teleport, you mean?’ asks Kurt. A wide-eyed Stefan replies that she can things with magic, that she does them in her caravan when everyone else is asleep. That night, Kurt and Stefan stayed up late, and as Kurt peers into the caravan belonging to the women who will become the Sorceress Supreme, Stefan asks him if he sees her.
An awestruck Kurt looks through the window and sees Margali in levitation, her crystal ball glowing and spirits floating around her. During the day, Margali was the circus’ resident fortune-teller - for a dollar she would tell you that your future was bright and full of joy. At night though, Margali Szardos practiced other, darker arts. As Kurt jumps back to the ground, Stefan tells him that it is real, but Kurt replies that he doesn’t understand.
The boys walk away from their mothers caravan, and Stefan explains that their mother taught herself and is still teaching herself, just as Jimaine trains to become a trapeze artist, their mother trains to become a sorcerer! Stefan adds that Margali says it is in all of their family’s blood, that it is their destiny and birthright. ‘Yours and Jimaine’s?’ asks Kurt. Stefan replies yes, before revealing that he is afraid.
Stefan asks what if that part of his family that pulls them towards magic makes him, or Jimaine, evil - corrupts them? ‘Not your sister, Stefan. Not her. Not ever’. Kurt declares. ‘Me, then’ states Stefan. As they enter Stefan’s caravan, Kurt asks him why he would turn evil. Hanging his head as he leans on his bed, Stefan asks Kurt if he is ever afraid that he has been chosen for something terrible but that you don’t even know why? And that you don’t even know if you’ll be able to stop yourself when the moment comes?
Kurt declares that he never thinks about that, when Stefan suddenly pushes Kurt against a wall, and angrily asking him to promise that if he ever starts to change, starts to hurt people, to promise him that he will stop him - no matter what it takes. Afraid, Kurt replies that he can’t - ‘Promise me, brother!’ exclaims Stefan, his eyes burning into Kurt. Confused and frightened, Kurt replies ‘I…all right, I promise. No matter what, I’ll stop you’. With that, Stefan holds his head in his hands.
Lying side by side, in their tent, Kurt concludes that part of his story, informing Christine that Stefan was adamant - like he knew. Slightly puzzled, Christine asks Kurt why he called his sister “Jimaine” and not Amanda. ‘Because that’s her real name. What we called her…when we were teenagers’. Kurt begins another trip down memory lane….
Kurt stands by his beautiful sister’s dressing table, the mirror surrounded by lights. Jimaine Szardos, the only daughter of Margali, ties up her blonde tresses and asks Kurt if he will be watching her in the stands. Kurt frowns as he reminds his sister that she knows he cannot be out in the open like everyone else, not looking the way he does. However a grin spreads across his face as he tells Jimaine to believe him when he says that he will be nearby watching very, very closely.
In the big top’s ring, a clown exits stage left as a fat Ring Master greets the ladies and gentlemen in the audience, beckoning them to look skywards and be amazed by the death-defying feats of Jimaine Szardos…the flying maiden of the trapeze! As Jimaine takes hold of the trapeze, Stefan and Kurt watch her from the shadows, and soon, Stefan asks Kurt if he thinks Jimaine is beautiful. Jimaine begins her leap as Kurt admits that he does, to which Stefan says to him ‘More’s the pity, then, Kurt’.
Teenage Kurt is confused by that statement, so Stefan says to him ‘If you think Jimaine would ever do anything with you…look at yourself - you’re a monster!’ Kurt is shocked by his brother’s cruel comment, but Stefan says ‘Well…aren’t you? Isn’t that why my mother’s so kind to you? Because she pities you?’ Jimaine leaps for the second trapeze as Kurt asks Stefan why he is saying these things.
Suddenly, someone in the audience screams ‘Oh, God - look! The girl!’ ‘The ropes!’ someone else screams, ‘They’ve snapped!’ Jimaine begins to fall to the ground as her brothers both watch in horror. ‘HELLLLLP!’ screams Jimaine, before Kurt leaps into action, ‘Hold on!’ he shouts as he leaps up in the air, catching the surprised Jimaine in his arms, Kurt tells his sister to hold onto her breath, before they disappear in a cloud of red smoke and a bamf.
The simple people in the crowd watch in fear and astonishment. ‘What happened?’ ‘Where did they…’ ‘What was that blue…?’ ‘A monster? A Demon?’ A second bamf sounds the reappearance of Kurt as he wearily sets Jimaine on the ground. Jimaine asks Kurt if he is all right, to which Kurt replies that he is fine, explaining that it hurts a bit whenever he teleports more than just himself. ‘Teleport?’ asks Jimaine.
Jimaine gets to her feet and looks at Kurt in his eyes, placing her hands on his chest she says his name, but Kurt interrupts, claiming that he doesn’t know how or why he can do it, but that he thinks he was born with it, that there is something inside him. Jimaine tries to say what she was going to say once more, but Kurt cuts in again, asking his sister not to be scared, as it doesn’t mean he is a monster or a demon. Their lips draw closer together as Jimaine tells Kurt to listen - but Kurt just tells Jimaine that he has been meaning to tell her, but he told Stefan.
Jimaine interrupts Kurt this time, ‘Please, Kurt, can I just…’ Kurt wraps his arms around Jimaine, who leans into him, lifting one of her legs up as the kiss - to the shock of the Ring Master and the crowd. They break the kiss, and Jimaine begins to say ’Kurt, I -’ but Kurt interrupts and asks Jimaine if she has been wanting to do that for a while now, cause he has. Jimaine smiles, ‘No, that’s not - I mean, I have, yes, but I was going to say “Kurt I think something’s wrong”’.
Kurt asks what could be wrong with - ‘Nothing with us, Kurt, but look around, Nightcrawler - everyone’s dead!’ Indeed, Kurt turns from Jimaine and gazes around the big top, which has large holes in the top of it and the entire audience are now corpses.
Christine sits straight up in the tent, gasping from the nightmare she just witnessed. The good nurse looks over to where Kurt was supposed to be sleeping, but sees him through the tent, standing outside where he is watching the sun rise through the trees. Christine rushes out and begins to ask Kurt if he is all right, to which he replies that he is. Christine asks him if he is sure, pointing out that he looks exhausted, like he hasn’t slept.
Christine puts her arms on Kurt’s shoulders and asks him if he has been out here all night, pointing out that his sleeping bag wasn’t unfurled, and he is sweating. Wolverine approaches them and asks Christine and Kurt if there is a problem. Kurt looks at his friend and replies that there isn’t, to which Logan declares that they can pack up and get going now, because he is smelling something that is making him think they need to get to the circus pronto.
‘You’re smelling -? Oh, right, you’re Wolverine, I forgot,’ mutters Christine. Kurt asks Wolverine what is going on, to which the rugged X-Man reveals that he can smell blood, fire and rot. ‘Nothing good at any rate’ remarks Logan as he motions the other two to get packing.
Kurt, Logan and Christine press further into the woods, Logan’s words echoing in Kurt’s head, while his stomach twists into a hangman’s noose. Above them, the sun blazes, burning up the morning fog. But down on the ground where they are, Wolverine reveals that they are getting real close now. Kurt knows Logan is right, and old memories, old patterns, old instincts all surface now, like muck-dwelling fish coming back to life with the Spring thaw.
Kurt almost believes that he could close his eyes and pick his way through the trees just by remembering what their bark felt like beneath his fingertips. These paths are trampled and travelled by circus folk for decades - longer than decades - are the veins and arteries that wind their… ‘Wait - I remember - The Winding Way!’
Suddenly, Wolverine stops, a look of shock on his face which spreads to Kurt and Christine as they see what awaits them beyond the ridge. Wolverine declares that the bad dreams Kurt has been having that made them come here are about to get worse. For beyond the ridge, Nightcrawler’s former circus home is ablaze.