I fall off of the rope and, quickly, I angle myself to grab it with my hands. I feel the force yank at my shoulders, threatening to tear them away.
Gasps and shouts erupt from the audience.
I try to pull myself back up, but my arms reject that idea. I’m not as strong as I used to be anymore. I’m not a vampire.
For a moment, I scold myself for making that wish.
Then I go back to focusing on what I need to do.
If I was still a vampire, I could have been all the way across the rope by now. AND if I would have fallen—should I have fallen to the ground—I would have been perfectly fine, and the threat of death wouldn’t be smiling up at me, ready to embrace me in its cold, spindly claws.
I look down. The ground is so far away... if I fall, if my hand slips, if I let go, this human body won’t survive.
I start to rock myself back and forth, and I try to swing my legs over. Chatter bursts through the tent from the people as they watch with open mouths and wide eyes.
One leg over, and I now hang upside-down by my knee. I pull my other one closer to me and wrap it around the rope, hanging from it like a child on a playground.
I smile at the memory of doing so. Dracula would show me his bat trick, where he would transform from the monkey bars in the middle of the night when I was a child. He still hadn’t shown me how to do it by the time that night came around where I made that wish. He said he was waiting for the right time, for when I matured enough to take on the responsibility of that.
He explained that it was like getting a car when you turn sixteen. So much freedom, but so little responsibility, unless given at the right time to the right hands.
I hadn’t agreed with him of course, because I really wanted a car and to learn how to morph into a bat when I turned, but he said I could have one or the other. I could have the car sooner, or I could wait and have the power to change into a bat.
I was impatient.
I chose the car.
My muscles scream as I pull myself up and manage to sit atop the narrow path of the rope. I hear cheers and smiled a little bit.
This is thrilling! You know, if you look past the whole possibility of death.
I put my feet under me and stand up, my heart wanting to jump from my chest. My heart had been silent for so long, that I’d forgotten what it was like to be a human.
I am human.
That’s what the heartbeat tells me.
And I think I like it.
That’s what my brain tells me.
My arms out like an eagle, I walk, with a lot of trouble, to Harper.
I’ve done it.
Alive after being dead for so long. I’d forgotten this.
I smile at Harper, almost losing my balance again.
“You ready?” She asked.
All the color drains from my face.
She smiles. “Take my hands and don’t let go.”
I shakily grab her wrists and she takes mine.
She jumps off
A scream erupts from my mouth as we fall.
Suddenly, we stop falling, and we swing around. I look up and see her holding us up by her tail.
Smiling, I look up at the ceiling. I see the bars the acrobats that do all those cool things in the air used. They aren’t that far away from us.
“How strong are you?” I ask her as the audience roars.
“Strong enough to hold you!” she shouts over the sounds in the tent. “What are you planning?”
I reach out with one hand, Harper swinging me to the side, and I grab the rope with both of my hands, my feet dangling above the ground.
“My ankles,” I say, and swing them to her.
In one fluid motion, she takes ahold of them, and I swing to the side. The audience responds and a smile spreads across my face.
I reach out and grab the bar appearing above me as I swing, feeling Harper let go of the rope. She dangles from my ankles, and I swing her with a grunt to the other bar. Her tail catches it, and she climbs up on it and sits.
“Swing to me,” she says, beginning to rock back and forth to gain momentum.
I nod and move my legs back and forth like she does.
“Now let go and flip. Watch for my hands!”
Almost at the top of my last swing, I let go and curl myself into a ball.
But I’m not spinning fast enough.
I miss her hand.
The crowd gasps and I feel the scary sensation of falling to my death again.
What if these are my last moments? The crowd cheering and the ground rushing up at me too fast to calculate in my brain, and my mind abandoning me because it doesn’t know what to do. It only knows that it will soon be out of a body to function in.
What if this is it?
Suddenly, I feel Harper’s tail around my leg, catching me, followed by a hand. I breathe a sigh of relief and I scold myself for being so stupid. Of course she was going to catch me. If I died, I bet she would too, and not by falling off of a bar fifty feet up.
I twist around to see her eyes widen. I’m slipping.
“Quick, make it look like we’re finished by putting out your hands. They’ll bring a net out to catch us.”
I nod and smile forcefully toward the audience, throwing out jazz hands to symbol we’re done. They applaud and cheer, and I watch as a group of people carries out a net.
I’m still slipping, and they are only half way under me.
I quiet a cry from my throat as the net catches me, springing me up a little bit and burning the backs of my arms.
I groan and roll out just as Harper drops in.
“Bow,” she says quietly, taking my hand and swinging it up into the air.
We bow, and I walk away from the ring.
“You did great!” Harper calls behind me as I continue my journey to leave the premises of the main tent.
The white tent is back on its feet when I see it, and I touch the place where I tore the fabric. Is this really what I wished for? Is this what I wanted? Don’t get me wrong, it’s thrilling… but it’s so dangerous…
I walk into the space between the fabric walls and stop in my tracks.
Sitting on the stool before the vanity is the Ring Leader, and he is watching me carefully with puckered lips and from behind dark sunglasses.
“You seemed to have trouble tonight, Rochelle,” he says smoothly. “Any problems recalling what your routine was?”
My brain seems to stop working and my heart starts to pick up. I can feel myself becoming flustered and my face growing hot.
“Uh, no sir. Sorry, I just... I took a wrong step.”
“Ah,” he says, nodding.
I kick myself mentally. I’ve never had trouble lying before. It just came with the job of being a vampire. But now that I’m human...
“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow for rehearsals,” he says, standing up. “But if you fall off of that rope once more, I’ll make sure you will never see the light of day again.”