I feel my hands start to tingle as the lead monkey walks toward me. She holds the fire in her hands with a deviant smile on her face. My breathing gets short and panic starts running through my body.
This is how I go... I hear myself thinking. I burn.
She stops walking and drops the fire. I watch it spread across the leaves. She lets out a howl and the other monkeys do the same, dropping their torches. They step back from the ring of fire, and I’m left alone inside of it with the monkey-girl (at least that’s what it feels like, although I know Adam, Kiera and Harold are still in here with me).
“So what’s your choice, vampie?” She cackles. “Either way, you die.”
I look at her with fear, anger boiling inside of me. I could go with her and die at the hands of the Ring Leader, or I could die in the flames spreading across the forest floor.
“No,” I say quietly, glancing at Harold, who is hovering a little ways away from me. “No, I don’t die here.”
“The future has already rewritten itself, Vanessa. You die where you die.”
“Shut up,” I hear the monkey say as she takes a step backwards to the fire. “No more yik-yak. It’s either come with us, or burn. The Master said that that would get rid of you for good.”
I look all around at the growing fire. The monkey-people back away from it as it grows, their chatter engulfed by the crackling of the flames.
“Obviously he doesn’t know about vampires,” Kiera says, pulling boldly forward. “Fire only aggravates their—their—”
“Skin!” Harold chimes in, trying to impress her.
She gives him an ‘are you stupid’ glance and sighs. “Yes. It aggravates their skin.”
She glares at Harold, but the lie seems to do the trick.
“But master told us—”
“Well!” Kiera proclaims loudly, clapping her hands together. “I guess your precious Master lied.”
The lead monkey crouches down and lets out a low growl.
“Master never lies. Don’t insult him like that.”
She glances at me as she slowly slips on one of her skins.
“Everyone lies, buttercup,” she laughs as she slips the grey fur fully onto her wrist. “Even the Ring Leader.”
The monkey leaps forward, her gnarled hands reaching for Kiera’s throat.
Before she knows it, Kiera’s wolf jaws are around her arm and throwing her to the ground with immense force. The monkeys around the ring of fire howl in anger. They’re stuck behind the fire, obviously more afraid than I am of the Flames.
The monkey-girl squeals and screams as she claws at Kiera’s grey snout to get her off. The blood starts to run down her arm and I can feel my throat start to sting. I try to look away, but my brain has seen the target. The venom starts pumping down my fangs and I start to breathe slower as I lock in on the wound.
“Vanessa, fight it,” I hear.
“Vanessa... argh... fight it.”
The blood. Oh the blood...
I turn around and come face to face with another vampire. He seems to be struggling with the temptation of blood. Of the sweet, warm…
The burning in my throat goes away and I remember where I am.
“Adam,” I say, shaking him. “Adam!”
He looks at me, snapping out of the trance.
“Thank you,” he whispers. “We need to get out of here.”
“How?” I ask. “One touch of the fire and we’re...”
Adam sighs, purposefully keeping his eyes away from the screaming monkey-girl.
“Duh,” I hear him say and laugh at himself. “Your power.”
I groan and look around me. Duh is right. I’m so stupid...
I look around.
They’re going to eat my friends.
They’re going to murder the carnies if I don’t show up.
I could poof us all out of here in a second.
The monkey I’d transported to the clouds falls to the ground, the fire taking over its broken body.
I picture an open field. I don’t know where it is, but I picture it. The calmest place and the most beautiful place.
I put my hand on Adam’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” I say, and he disappears from view.
I turn to Kiera, who has released the monkey-girl. She dashes through the flames, falling into them, and I hear her cries of agony as they take her too.
“What’s your plan?” She asks after changing back, pulling the fur off.
“It might gross you out—”
“I wear skin from dead animals and people that I have to rip off myself. Try me.”
I smirk and look at Harold as he flutters up by Kiera.
“Follow me,” I tell him, and hold my leg out. “And, Kiera, this is going to hurt me more than it’s going hurt you.”