The monkey-people look at me strangely at first, but they soon lead me to where I asked to be taken. Harold flutters behind me, leaving a dissipating fairy trail wherever he goes.
I march forward, on to my death. It’s strange to know that you’re really going to die, and not wake up as another creature or being in the world that doesn’t exist to many humans. In a world of my own…
The trees above us cover our heads, protecting me from the sun, for the most part. My skin is raw where I keep scratching it because of the irritation of the small amount that’s actually getting through.
I remember the day Dracula told me he was a vampire. I was small and young and I was so naive. Too naive, if you ask me.
“Why is your name Dracula?” I asked him as I sat in his lap. “People say he’s a vampire.”
He chuckled and looked down at me, his blue contacts letting a bit of red seep through.
“Do you think I’m a vampire, Vanessa?”
I looked at him in deep thought.
“Hm,” I huffed. I reached forward to touch his face, and I pulled at it. It was like human skin, and it felt like human skin. “No. Vampires are supposed to be ugly and old. And scary. You’re not any of those, daddy.”
He busted out laughing and I went wide-eyed. I didn’t know why he was laughing. Did I do something wrong?
“Oh, Vanessa,” he sighed. “So young...”
He kissed me on the forehead and smiled at me.
“What if I told you I was a vampire?” He teased.
I shrugged. “I dunno... I would ask you not to drink my blood.”
“You would ask me not to...” he laughed and shook his head. “You really are something else, kid.”
I crossed my arms. I didn’t like being told that. It made me feel different. And different was bad. Everyone hated different, and I didn’t want them to hate me.
“What?” I whined and he looked at me, his laugh still touching his eyes.
He set me down on the floor and grabbed the case for his contacts. Sitting down across from me, his hands held out the case so I could see.
I opened it to see what was in it, not knowing exactly what it was at the time.
“Ew,” I cried as Dracula pulled the blue irised contacts from his eyeballs and gently set them in the circles. “Whoa... You have red eyes!”
Dracula nodded and smiled.
“Vanessa, the vampire your friends told you about... Dracula—I’m him.”
“What?” I asked, and he nodded. “But you’re not old or ugly or scary.”
He nodded again and smiled at me.
“I know. Those are just rumors to scare children like you.”
“So, am I a vampire?” I asked in awe, looking down at my hands.
Dracula laughed and shook his head, taking my warm hands in his cool ones.
“No, but one day, you can be.”
And one day, you’ll regret the decision, I think to myself as the light from the sun starts to dim.
No I don’t regret it... I tell myself, backtracking. I love being a vampire...
I shake my head and pick up my pace. Some of the monkey-people have drifted away to chase a rodent or an animal that looked good to eat, letting their hunger get the best of them.
You could get away if you wanted to, I hear my brain tell me, You aren’t really ready to die yet, are you?
No, I answer myself.
No one is really paying attention to me. I could easily escape if I wanted to. I’m faster than anyone here and I could tear whoever follows me to shreds in a millisecond if I had to.
Besides, I want to live. Isn’t that why I became a vampire in the first place?
Something inside me tells me that I’m wrong, that that’s not the reason why I turned.
But what else could it be?
I hear Herold panting and I hold out my hand for him to rest on.
“Whew, thank you!” He wipes his brow. “I am sweating like Bigfoot in a desert.”
“Hold on,” I whisper.
The trees blur around me as I take off, Harold quieted by the sudden rush. I hear the squealing of the monkeys and the pounding of their fists and feet as they try to keep up with me.
I smile as I realize I’ve gotten away, and I keep running, just to make sure. This wouldn’t be a good moment to be overly cocky.
I reach the end of the trees, just before the sunlight can reach me and I look out into the distance. A sunset. Something I haven’t seen since—
No more human thoughts, emotions, feelings... I’m a vampire now. I’m anything but human.
But something still cries out from inside of me, telling me that this isn’t where I belong, that I need to be human, that I need to change back.
That I need to make that wish once again.
“Now what?” Herold asks, breaking my trance.
I look at him and sigh, the monkey-people’s noises long gone, and night falling slowly on the horizon.
“Now you’re going to grant my wish.”
“Which is what?” Herold asks, cracking his knuckles.
“I want to know what happened in the past. Why I said no to the Ring Leader and whatnot. Why he’s so ticked at me.”
“Okie-dokie. Just gotta wish it.”
“I wish I knew what happened the day the Ring Leader began to hate me.”
Herold nods and waves his hand in a circle, creating blue sparkles. It surrounds me and takes hold of my vision, thickening to where I can’t see through it. I feel myself be lifted up into the air and spun.
My body suddenly hits the ground. I’m inside of the main circus tent in the carnival.
Sitting up, I feel one of the seats in the audience below me.
“He can’t see you,” Herold says quietly and sits next to me, the seat swallowing him whole. He looks like a tiny doll.
The front flaps open, and I walk in wearing a raggedy peach dress with navy blue stripes down the skirt. I was barefoot, besides faded blue stockings riddled with holes.
“You wanted to see me?” I ask, my braided red hair falling over my shoulders and my green eyes bright as the sun.
Suddenly, my heart aches, wishing I could be human again. I clear my throat and focus my thoughts of what is happening before me instead of things that I know I don’t want.
Don’t think I want, anyway...
The joy erupting from the Ring Leader’s mouth startles me and I look at him. He’s smiling at the other me, his arms outstretched.
I watch myself walk forward sheepishly and as he envelopes me in a hug. My face looks awkward, like I don’t know what to do in a situation like this.
He pulls me away and looks at me from arms-length.
“My, how you’ve grown,” he smiles.
“My, how you haven’t,” I hear myself say jokingly in a higher pitch then normal, trying to relieve tension.
The Ring Leader laughs and lets go of my shoulders.
“Hilda said you were needing to talk to me?” He asks.
“Dang it, Hilda,” I hear myself whisper.
“Come again?” The Ring Leader asks suspiciously.
I see myself shake my head. “I was wanting to ask you if you could watch our act.”
“Sure!” He clapped. “I love watching you and Harper at your finest!”
I nod and look at the dirt floor. “Um, well, it’s not just me and Harper.”
The Ring Leader goes quiet and I watch as his face twists into anger. “What do you mean it’s not just you and Harper?”
“Well, I was thinking—”
“You were thinking!” He shouts to the top of the tent, exasperated. “You were thinking what, exactly?”
“That we needed an opening, and the best way to have it is by having one big performance, and to put another one at the end. It would be miraculous and—and splendid. More people will—”
“No,” he hisses.
“No? But you haven’t even seen it—”
“I said no!” he shouts, turning around and glaring at me. “You are not the Ring Leader—I am! You do not get to tell me what I should let you do.”
“I should kill you,” he says suddenly, quietly, and I watch as fear creeps into my bright green eyes. I cower beneath him as he looms over me. “But I won’t... on one condition.”
I see myself nod as a tear falls down my face.
I was a pathetic human.
Not much of a better vampire.
I push away the thought angrily. Why do I keep having these thoughts? Stupid brain.
“You join me,” he says, running his pointer finger from my temple to my chin. His eyes flicker down to the large vein in my neck.
I feel like I want to hurl as I watch him.
I see my eyes open wide, and I shove him away (more like shove myself away... he’s a vampire. He won’t move unless he wants to).
“No,” I say sternly, and ball my fists up at my sides.
Okay, maybe I wasn’t as pathetic as I first thought. I mean, I was standing up to a vampire. He could have torn me apart with one hand.
“No?” The Ring Leader asks, dumbstruck. “No one ever says no to me.”
“Well, there’s a first for everything,” I say as I turn towards the entrance.
I see him rush before me and block my path. I back up, my eyes revealing how afraid I am. He’s in my face again and he pushes me down, dirt flying up into the air.
“You know what I’m capable of, Rochelle...” he hisses evilly.
I watch myself crab-walk backwards to get away.
“And you’re going to get the worst of it.”
I scream, but his hand is over my mouth before any sound can come out. I watch as he smiles when a tear tumbles down my cheek.
With his other hand, he picks me up by my hair. My scream makes his hand vibrate, and I reach up to try and relieve the pain. Tears start to fall down my face like a waterfall, and he sets me down on my limp legs.
“Stand up,” he commands me. “Stop resisting.”
I can see myself pulling away from him and trying to get free.
He smacks me on the head, and I watch as I stumble. A red mark in the shape of his hand appears. I’m quiet then, my eyes trying to focus and adjust to the light. He moves my face with his hands to where he’s staring into my eyes.
“You really were a great contortionist,” he whispers mockingly.
He opens his mouth, revealing his fangs and I look away. My stomach is in knots and I feel sick. I know what’s coming next. I’ve done it hundreds of times over the years. I never liked it... but it was necessary.
Like Adam’s younger brother, Brandon...
I feel a tear fall down my face, stinging as it does.
“Look,” I hear Herold whisper, and I look up.
The Ring Leader is carrying my body through the tent, and he exits into the daylight. His hat and clothes cover him enough to where he doesn’t burn in the bright sun.
I stand up, Herold holding onto my hair, and walk behind the Ring Leader. The sunlight burns my skin, but I have to follow him. I have to know where he’s taking me.
He starts to run, his body turning into a blur. I follow suit, Herold crying out.
Up a hill, through some grass, and into the woods opposite of where the Underground City is, he stops and sets me down on the ground.
“It was a pleasure knowing you,” he says quietly and stands up.
The Ring Leader looks around and takes off back to the carnival, as if nothing had happened.
“I’m dead?” I ask Herold.
He shakes his head. “He didn’t drink all of your blood. He thought he was done, but his senses are really dull. He’s been a vampire for centuries, and those things wear down quickly, just like hearing and memory does with humans.”
“How do you know this?” I ask him.
“I know everything,” he smiles, and I look at him curiously.
I watch myself breathe unsteadily, my body white as a cloud. My heartbeat is faint and I see a drop of blood fall from the bite mark.
I don’t know how long we stand there watching, when, suddenly, a blue light catches my attention. I watch my body float up in a blue cloud of fairy magic and into a standing position. My eyes flicker open.
“Enter you,” Herold says, and I look at him. He waves his hand and blue fairy magic surrounds us, bringing us back to the woods. The sun is set now.
“How did all of that happen?” I ask. “If Dracula took me in when I was a baby—”
“You wished you had never become a vampire, Vanessa, and my magic decided to cancel out the variable of a vampire father completely, I guess.”
“You guess?” I ask. “Something you actually don’t know?”
“Magic is unpredictable,” he says sourly.
“But wouldn’t that make the Ring Leader like my father if he raised me instead?”
Herold shrugs. “You were brought up by Bernard, the skinniest man, and Hilda, the fattest woman. Strange how those two are around each other... but yeah. That’s pretty much what happened. It’s not the same.”
“So you changed my life?” I ask, feeling angry all of a sudden.
“The magic did,” he corrects me. “Or, in other words, you did.”
“So I changed the future?” I ask, leaning up against a tree.
The crickets around us start to chirp.
“Yes. But the future can always be changed back. If you’re careful.”
“How can I make myself live?” I ask, feeling the stinging of the tears. “How can I make everything normal again?”
Herold looks at me sadly.
“Only you can decide that. Your future is up to you.”
I groan and hit my head against the bark.
I turn around to see eyes glowing through the dark, staring back at me.