Hilda drags me into a small white tent with colored ropes and nets draped everywhere in the outside and the inside. It looks like something a stereotypical gypsy would camp out in, only on a much, much larger scale.
“Come dear, we must get you ready.”
“Um, Hilda?” I start to ask
“Yes, Rochelle?” She turns to me from the vanity she was scrounging around on for makeup and jewelry.
“How did I end up here?”
She looks at me with pity.
“Oh, my, you don’t remember, do you?”
I shake my head slightly.
“You must’ve caught amnesia. Oh, dear.” She clasps her hands together and takes a step toward me, her eyes pitying me. “Alright. Rochelle, the Ring Leader found you when you were young, and he took you in. He discovered you were exceptionally flexible when you turned seven, and that you had a passion for being an acrobat and a contortionist. So he added you to his act. Ever since then, your stage name was Elastica. You’re very popular with the youngsters,” she smiles wide at me and turns back to the vanity.
“But my name isn’t Rochelle. It’s Vanessa.”
The fat woman bursts out laughing. “Honey, you have it bad! Vanessa? Ha! How absurd! Now we must get you ready. No more lollygagging.”
She has me sit on a stool that spins a full three hundred and sixty degrees and is topped with a red velvet cushion. It looked comfortable.
Hilda slaps makeup onto my face and teases my hair so high and so big, it feels like I have a poodle on my scalp. My red hair literally looks like a circular bobbing flame.
Then she crushes my ribs in a corset and a silky blue blouse. She sticks me in a gigantic tutu of the same color, and it sticks out so far that I can’t put my arms down all the way. I look ridiculous.
“How am I supposed to do acrobatics with this dress?” I ask breathlessly, the corset not letting me breathe.
“No idea, sweetie. But you do! And… done!”
I look like I just stepped out of the movie It.
“Uh...” I gape in shock.
“Well, I’ve got to go get ready, my dear,” she says happily and bounds away, her rolls of fat jiggling behind her.
I stare into the cracked and dirty mirror in horror.
“Ohh! Honey, you’ve got to fix that.”
A tall, slender man had strolled into the tent. He wears circular glasses and a long striped outfit that reminds me of Betelgeuse.
“You don’t want the crowd seeing you like this.” He says.
He walks into the tent a little more, the sharp edges of his bone structure extremely prominent in the sunlight refracting through the tent. “I heard you lost your memory. The fat lady, Hilda, is such a gossiper. And so very loud, too. She’s the fattest lady in the world, or so the Ring Leader says. She means well, though. I am Bernard, the skinniest man in the world. Hope you remember me. And good luck fixing Hilda’s mistakes.” He chuckles, his eyes sweeping over my figure in humor, and steps out with his long, monotone, droning sound of a voice.
“Good luck fixing Hilda’s mistakes,” I repeat in a mocking tone. “Whatever. Who does he think he is? Telling me what to do. I don’t even know what’s freaking going on! Ugh. Humans irritate me,” I complain quietly as I hit the vanity with my weak human fist. The items on top of it shake.
I’m human now though…
I tear off the beautiful blue top and rip off the corset—it feels so good to breathe again! I take off the skirt, stripping down to my bloomers and my under shirt. I walk over to the closet and pull out a blue top that almost looks like Princess Jasmine’s from Aladdin and some blue pants that look like they belonged to a genie. Slipping those on, I spot a pair of gold slippers that look my size, which, thankfully, they are. I put those on and stride over to the vanity. I shutter. Oh the horror of my face.
I pick out a comb and start to brush my tangled hair. I pull it back into a ponytail with a rubber band, and pouf it up in the front. I fishtail the top half of my hair in the ponytail and tie it at the end with another rubber band that I spot on the vanity. I look around for a cloth to clean my face with. That’s when I see a tear in the tent opening.
I walk over to it, and try to rip it from the rest of the tent.
It’s not ripping.
“Ugh, this mortal body is so weak!”
I yank harder.
Finally I get it to tear, but the tent collapses around me. All I see is white darkness fill my vision, and the weight of the heavy fabric makes me fall to the ground, the grass making my skin itch.
“Are you kidding me?” I mutter.
I fight my way out from under the white cloth, pushing ropes and fabric to the side, and see people just staring at me as I come out of the fallen tent.
“Move along!” I screech in annoyance. “Nothing to see here!”
“FIVE MINUTES TILL SHOWTIME!” I hear the announcer shout through a megaphone.
“Well?! Go on, get going!” I yell at the random personnel’s that stand gaping at me like idiots.
The people finally start moving their own ways as I turn around to the tent that’s completely collapsed and exhale.
“Really?” I grumble, frustrated.
I have trouble ripping a piece of the white tent off once again, but I’m glad I know nothing will tip over this time.
I try to wipe as much of the makeup off of my face that I can, without looking into a mirror to see if I still look clownish. I can’t anyway. It’s all buried beneath the sea of white called a tent.
A tiny man grabs my knee and starts to pull at the fabric to get my attention.
“We gotta go!” he shouts at me.
So this is my life now.
I run into the back of the enormous red and yellow striped tent with the little man and see they are already starting.
I can hear the crowd roaring inside the thick layer of sheets.
“WELCOME, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, TO THE FREAK SHOW!” The Ring Leader yells over the vast audience, who had obviously come from far and wide to see this show. I wonder what’s so special about it...
The tent is the biggest one I’ve ever seen. Who knows how many people it can hold?
He calls out the carnies one by one, and sometimes in pairs, each performing like no other entertainer I’ve ever seen before. Each one is different in their own way, and their routines… it’s like watching a Cirque du Solei performance. Almost. I’m guessing that I’m the acrobatic part or whatever, but it’s still overly incredible…
I know I’m going to have to come up with something quick. I’m supposed to be a flexible acrobat. Well, I have always been flexible; it helped me with my vampirism. And I don’t know if I’m still as agile as I was before the wish.
I stand backstage, tensing up. There are only two of us left in line—a girl with the tail of a monkey, and me.
“Rochelle! Why aren’t you stretching? You always stretch before a show! We’re on next!”
“Yes! Hurry! Stretch!”
I start to stretch everything I can. It feels so good on my body, but it feels strange as well. My muscles were always tense, but flexible and ready when I was a vampire—before all of this happened. The Vampire-to-human thing. But do I regret making the wish? Not yet.
“Do you remember the routine at all?”
“Of course!” I feel sweat drip down my forehead.
“No you don’t! Hilda said that you caught amnesia! You don’t remember! Oh, God! What are we going to do?!” Her tail is going haywire as she speaks.
“Er, we’ll figure something out!” I say quickly.
“But if you mess up, the Ring Leader will have your head!” She gasps. “My head!” She goes pale. “Oh, no, no, no, no, no! I need my head! I still have a life a head of me! If I ever get out of here... No! We have to do something or else—Oh! I don’t wanna die!” She cries to me.
“No! Everything’s going to be fine! I’m not afraid of the crowd or even the Ring Leader. I’ll come up with something, I promise.”
“Just trust me!” I say as I grip her by the shoulders, recalling every acrobatic stunt I’d ever seen. Or trying to. Stupid human memory.
“AND NOW, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR... HARPER AND ROCHELLE!”
I feel my heart skip a thousand times a minute as I realize Rochelle was my name now. That’s also a weird feeling, for my heart always beat faintly and was always quiet when I was a vampire, and never skipped like it is now.
My mouth goes dry as I step out into the ring, people applauding and whooping, calling out my stage name, Elastica. Harper leads me to a ladder and tells me to climb. Sweat gathers in my palms and tries to make me slip off of the rungs and fall to my death. I start to climb for the—the tightrope. Oh, man, there’s a tightrope. I can feel adrenaline speed through my veins like cars on a highway, and I feel my stomach doing backflips in my body. My heart races, and the orchestra on one side of the audience starts to play a suspenseful piece of music, as if it’s needed. What kind of carnival has an orchestra?
Nausea hits me like a brick wall as I stand up on the platform. I look over to the other end of the rope. Harper is already strutting across toward me.
I take a step, and feel my body lose its balance and pitch forward towards the ground.