My hand starts to burn as the Ring Leader focuses his attention back onto me. He pulls at it and I can feel my hand rip open from the spikes all along its length.
I don’t dare look away from the man as I address the person who said my name.
“What are you doing here, Adam?”
“I had to find you and help you.”
The whip is ripped from my grasp and the Ring Leader draws it back again, ready to attack. I almost move out of the way too slowly as he brings it down. It hits the ground with a loud snap and the crowd jumps, screeching and laughing.
Just then, the Ring Leader is thrown off balance, his leg flying out from underneath him by an invisible force named Adam.
I take the opportunity to pin him down underneath one of my boots. The action brings the memory of the old man into the front of my mind, and my stomach twists inside of me.
The Ring Leader chuckles from the ground and I straighten my face.
“Why are you feeling guilt?” he asks, flashing me a malevolent smile.
I dig my heel into his sternum and lean over him.
“Stop trying to read me, old man,” I hiss.
He laughs and his red eyes flash. Guilt takes me over and I can’t stop seeing the poor old man’s face, crying and pleading for help. My gut wrenches inside of me and I feel like I want to throw up. My head swarms and fiery tears spring into my eyes. I fall backwards as he stands up, throwing me off balance. My butt hits the ground and my stomach keeps me from moving.
“Is that all you know how to do?” I manage to croak. “Manipulate people by using your powers?”
“What other way is there?” he asks, walking up to me. “I’m a vampire, remember?”
The Ring Leader spontaneously flies towards the center of the ring, Adam appearing the moment he touches the old vampire to throw hm. Adam stands watching for a moment and I take a steady breath as the guilt fades away.
In a cloud of black smoke, the Ring Leader changes into the form of a bat. The crowd responds excitedly.
I have to let go of the last of my guilt. It’s a human quality, not a vampire quality. Vampires remember everything; humans can forgive and forget. I have to forgive myself if I don’t want him to take control of that part in the pool of my feelings and regrets. I have to forgive myself. I can work through any pain he applies to me; I don’t know if I can stand the guilt.
I forgive you, I tell myself. I forgive you. You didn’t know what you were doing. You were selfish. You were wrong. You’ve changed. You’re no longer fully vampire. Let the human in. Don’t suppress it. Forgive yourself.
I glance at Adam, who is ready to pounce the moment the Ring Leader touches the ground.
“Adam,” I speak suddenly. “Do you forgive me?”
He’s taken off guard and glances at me quickly.
“For what?” he asks, turning back to the bat.
He looks at me.
I am forgiven.
“Stay down,” I tell him. “Don’t do anything. Stay here.”
“Stay here,” I tell him and step towards the changing bat.
The Ring Leader laughs hysterically as I walk up to him.
“You will never win.”
“Maybe not,” I say, stopping a good distance from him. “But I can try.”
I wait for the wave to wash over me. Nothing happens, and I smile mockingly.
He seems perplexed for a minute and tries again. Still nothing.
He grunts in frustration. “Pain.”
I feel the pain wash over me and it takes all I have not to fall to the ground and cry. Instead, I continue to stumble forward, closing the distance between us.
“Pain!” he cries again, louder. I can hear the audience as they start to cheer me on and cry out in disbelief as I elbow my way through his powers. He begins to back up as I reach forward with one trembling hand.
“Who are you?” He hisses.
“Vanessa. The daughter of Dracula.”
He snorts, the cocky smile still playing on his lips.
“Well Rochelle, Vanessa, whoever you are,” he says, and my ears perk up to the familiar line I had heard in Dracula’s vision. “You can’t defeat me. You’ll die if you try.”
This is it
This is the end.
I sprint forward and another wave of pain falls upon me. The Ring Leader picks up the cane at his feet and pulls a stake from the bottom. He rubs the wood against the red whip at his side and it catches on fire. I jump into the air, trembling hands outstretched and claws ready to sink into skin, as he releases the stake from his grip. It smashes through my chest and the fire explodes through my skin. I don’t stop like I did in the vision, but my momentum through the air carries me straight into the Ring Leader. The fire spreads from me onto him and I dig my hands into his throat, blood pouring out.
“I’m not going down until you do, Ring Leader,” I say, spitting his name and crushing my hands around his throat.
I can feel the fire start to push past the pain vampires are unable to feel and my body is starting to react as a human would. I hold back the cries wanting to escape my throat, but hot tears stream down my face. The Ring Leader starts to lose his battle against staying conscious, the fire taking over his pain receptors too.
I roll over onto my back, the fire too large to put out now. I can feel it in my blood, on my skin, in my hair, licking my eyelashes...
I look at Adam, who watches in horror, his eyes filled with burning water. Kiera lays limp in the crowd, the entire tent silent with shock. They didn’t realize this was real. That the Vampire’s Carnival was to defeat a girl with a big ego who had lost touch with her humanity.
I close my eyes and open them again as the fire surrounds me. Even if someone tried to put it out, it would be of no use. Vampires are just too flammable.
“At least the boy is saved,” I say to myself, feeling my skin start to melt and peel from my body.
A blurry blue light hovers over me.
“Thank you, Harold,” I whisper.
“I could grant you one last wish...” he cries over the fire, tears falling down his face.
I nod my head solemnly. I know what to wish for, though I can’t think through the immense pain all over my body. There’s nothing else to wish. He’s already done so much for me...
I look up at him as I feel my brain blacking out.