This not going thing sucks.
Like, vampire-bite sucks.
We’ve been walking forever in the trees and the sun is almost up. There haven’t been any sounds of monkey-people, but every time something makes a sound, I think that’s what’s making it. And then Harper comes into my mind and I want to help them again.
But I can’t.
But they might die too, if you don’t help...
Shut up, I tell myself. I’m starting to go mad with this guilt stuff.
First, it’s the guilt that I don’t live up to Dracula’s standards. Then it was Adam. Now it’s the Carnies.
Why can’t I just come across one person that I don’t feel bad for?
Well, I did, if you count Bellis...
“Hello there,” I hear, and I jump as I’m shook from my thoughts by the rusty voice.
I turn to see an old woman holding out an apple to me.
“Are you hungry?” My stomach lurches at the smell, and I grimace.
“No, sorry,” I say, almost laughing at myself.
I feel like Snow White.
The old lady squints at me and studies me as I walk by.
Suddenly, she’s in front of me, trails like smoke of color trailing from her and behind her.
“You’re not human,” she hisses.
“No, ma’am,” I smile forcefully. “Afraid not.”
“Hm,” she mutters, and colors she wears surround her.
Before me stands a woman with dark hair and bright orange eyes.
“You’re a skin-walker,” Adam proclaims in awe.
Something inside of me ignites. Is it jealousy?
“Yes,” she says softly, snapping her head to look at Adam. Her face is completely serious and her eyes narrow. “A very territorial skin-walker.”
Adam nods, but he keeps his smile, as if nothing has happened, and that he isn’t walking around with the vampire that drank his brother dry.
I shiver as another pang of guilt hits me.
“My name is Kiera. What are you doing on my land?” she asks, dropping the apple. It hits the ground once and rolls to the roots of a tree covered in moss.
She wears a long dress, the color of green with gold trim on it. Her auburn hair falls to her back and her skin has a bluish tint to it.
“Passing through,” Harold says coolly, slicking his hair back.
“If you’re a skin-walker, where’s the skin you wear to shape-shift?” I ask, crossing my arms and diverting my mind to something else.
She looks at me and sucks in her cheeks, making her cheekbones look like Angelina Jolie’s when she played Maleficent. She pulls up her sleeve, and a bracelet of old wrinkled skin is wrapped around her wrist. I cringe at the image and the thought of her ripping...
“There. Come with me.”
We follow her around trees twice as wide as I am, and to a little house made of spindly sticks. We step inside. The room is bigger on the inside, so much bigger. It reminds me of the Tardis in Doctor Who, except that it’s more primitive and cluttered with knick-knacks and jars with random things inside of them. The shelves that hold them line the walls both up and down and sideways. In the center of the room, there is a long wooden table with chairs all around it. A bouquet of flowers rests inside a vase on top of it, giving more color to the already over-colored room.
“Don’t touch anything,” she hisses.
“You have a lot of stuff in here,” I mutter, looking around.
The back wall is filled with furs and skins of different colors and types. She places her old-woman-skin-bracelet among them.
Kiera turns around, her eyes changing to blue like dropping food coloring in water and her skin shifting from a slight blue into a beautiful tan color.
“What are you doing here?” She asks, looking at each of us. “It’s strange seeing two vampires wandering around in the woods together. Especially with a fairy.”
“Long story,” I say quietly.
“She’s running from the Ring Leader,” Harold cuts me off, and I look at him. A slick smile has spread across his face. “He runs the carnival at the edge of the forest on the east side. He tried killing her, but she made a wish and she entered back into the moment she was about to die, making her live again. He knows she didn’t die, so he wants her dead.”
I let him tell the story and Kiera drinks it all in, telling us to sit down.
“Wow,” she says, sarcasm dripping from her words in her voice. “You must know everything, or something.”
She rolls her eyes and I smile.
“That’s why I don’t have wishing fairies as friends. Tell me your names.”
“I’m Adam,” Adam says, putting out his hand for her to shake.
She doesn’t, and he pulls away awkwardly, tapping on the chair to ease his embarrassment.
“I’m Vanessa,” I say. “Or Rochelle. Depends on where I am.”
“Ah,” she says, eyeing me suspiciously. “You have burdens on your heart, weighing you down don’t you?”
Kiera stands up and walks over to me. She squats down to where we are eye-to-eye, and she touches my arm. For a split second, I’m looking into my red eyes as she transforms into me.
“Yes, you have quite a few. So much guilt and regret...”
“How did you do that? How do you know that?” I ask, suddenly flustered and embarrassed.
Kiera stands up, changing back, and I do the same. She’s taller than I am, but I know I’m stronger if I need to protect myself from her.
Right now I’m just scared. And it’s not because I think she’s going to fight me. But I’m more afraid about what she knows about me, what I don’t even want myself to know.
“Why didn’t you go?” She asks quietly. “You wanted to. You knew it was the right thing.”
“If I went—”
She puts a hand up to silence me.
“Do you remember what Harold said?” She asks quietly. “About the future? About how it changes?”
I look over to the boys, both of them listening intently. Adam’s confusion reflecting on his face and Harold’s is showing his smugness that seems to come with his knowledge.
“That it’s up to me,” I mumble. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Because you’ve been selfish for far too long, Vanessa.” Her voice is soft and comforting as she places her hand on my arms, but it cuts like a knife in my heart. “I can feel it.
“Don’t be afraid to listen to the human part of you. Sometimes that’s the best quality anyone can have. Being a human is a wonderful thing... I learned that the hard way. Don’t go down the road I went down and lose all of your humanity. It’s a long, lonely, selfish road. You end up realizing you were wrong about what you wanted all along, and by the time you do realize it, it’s too late and everyone you love is gone and you can’t even remember what it’s like to be human anymore, Vanessa...
“Live with the human inside of you, and let her bleed through, no matter how much it hurts, no matter how much you wish she wouldn’t come through. Having a soft side isn’t weakness. Sometimes it’s the toughest quality someone can have.”
I start to protest, but the ball has returned in my throat. Could that be true? Could being soft towards something make you stronger?
And what do I want? Can I really let all those people in the carnival suffer because of me, because I didn’t want to die, when I was supposed to anyway? When it’s probably inevitable anyway?
What do I want?
Something inside of me wishes we hadn’t followed her into her house, wishes that I wouldn’t have asked questions, told her my name, wishes that I was home with Dracula, reading a book or watching television…
But that part is selfish. And she’s right. I’ve been selfish for too long. I haven’t done any good in a long time. A part of me likes the feeling of being a hero, being the girl, the vampire, that saves the carnies and destroys, slays, the Ring Leader.
What do I really want though?
I want to help.
I want to save them.
Even if it’s at my own expense.
I close my teary, stinging eyes and nod, facing the truth. I’m going to go back, whether I like it or not. I’m not heartless, and the human part of me is tugging at me hard, telling me that I’m not, that I need to do this, no matter the cost.
“Okay,” I sigh. “Okay, I’m going to save them.”
Kiera removes her hands from me, and smiles.
“Don’t think I’m all soft and mushy because I said that,” she warns. “I’m actually pretty tough and durable, if you ask me.”
“Are you saying you want to help?” Adam says, and my heart flutters as I realize he’s behind me now.
“Definitely. I think I could come in handy. Besides, I haven’t had this much action in fifty years.”
“I have an idea,” I say. “But it’s risky.”
“What is it?” Kiera smiles curiously.
Harold giggles as he flutters up beside the little huddle we’re unconsciously forming. “Let’s get to a-changing your fate. Maybe.”