Chuck is back with us again and has gotten us to choose between two sub-genres. I'm not sure where mine lands... a little bit of everything I think.
When you travel with a carnival, it’s not really a life. You never stay in one town for long, so you can’t put down roots. You’re always feeling as though nothing is permanent – because, let’s face it, it’s not. And you can’t really become close friends with anyone outside the carnival; so you keep to yourself a lot of the time.
I joined the carnival when all the hopes of finding a job in this one street town had run out. The electronics factory had closed down soon before I graduated high school. I didn’t make the right scores to get into university and I couldn’t scrape together enough money at the post office to pay rent anywhere in town.
Yep, this place was dying pretty darned quick.
And if I didn’t leave, I’d die with it.
So, when the Stephens Brothers Circus breeze through to fill up their trucks for the last haul until the next big city, I asked if there were any jobs going with the crew.
The manager looked over at me, one of his horns twitching a little as he sat in the driver’s seat of the eighteen-wheeler, “Do you really want to join us?”
“Yes... there’s nothing for me here.”
His brilliant green eyes regarded me, “Sure. Jump in, kid! I’ll find you something.”
I grabbed my duffle bag and raced around the other side of the cab, climbed up and sat in behind the manager, “Thank you!”
He looked over his shoulder at me, “Well, at least you know where to sit; and didn’t just assume you were going to sit next to me – that’s a good start right there.”
Weeks passed by and the Stephens Brothers Circus had hit the next big city on its tour of the country. I worked hard at whatever the manager gave me to do. From cleaning up after the animals, to cleaning up the big rings inside the place after a performance, I did the job. I never questioned the work Marcus (the manager) put to me. I wanted to earn money and so I did as I was told. In return, Marcus helped me out with accommodation, clothes, food and anything else I needed. He knew I wanted to travel, make a decent living and get myself out into the world... and he was doing that just for me.
Another few months passed and I had been given a proper place of my own to live – my very own RV for passing my driver’s license test! Now, all I needed to do was to fit it out the way I wanted; and it would be my home. Marcus made my life sweet. He let me work any hours I wanted and helped me keep my ride on the road.
He was my hero as he took me under his wing.
A year had flown by and Marcus and I were as close as employee and boss could get without it being weird. He had let me travel with the Stephens Brothers Circus and I felt as though I had been with this crew forever... forgetting that I had come from a town which had vanished into the dust bunnies of time soon after I left school. I hadn’t realised how long I had been on the road, not until he knocked on my door and sat down with me.
“We’re heading towards your home town, Laney.” He smiled, “Do you think it’s changed much?”
“Last I saw it, it wasn’t anything but empty.” I poured him a scotch neat and put it next to him, “How could it be any different?”
“You never know.” He said, “You may want to stay there.”
“I’m enjoying myself way too much.”
He sunk the drink in one gulp and stood looking at me with a small smile on his face, “Okay then. This means you’re on board for good?”
“Yes.” I nodded.
He left and I turned in. It was late and we had to get going early to make it to the next township. Not long after I turned out my lights, I had weird dreams. Dreams about somebody drinking from my arm – and yet I couldn’t move. Then, I was given wine to drink... sweet, delicious... then darkness. A struggling stranger was shoved into my arms and I had a dangerous hunger overtake me – a hunger I’ve never experienced before.
“No!” I screamed sitting up, looking around, finding I was alone. But as I looked down I found marks on my arm, as though it had been pierced by... no it couldn’t have been. I sighed remembering, “After all, I work in a circus, anything is possible.” I laid back down and closed my eyes.
By the time we arrived at my old home town, things had definitely changed. It had gone from a dustbowl and a dying community to a tiny township of brilliant colour and business. But I didn’t want to see it, I didn’t want to visit my parents – who had been searching for me since I left. I stayed within the grounds of the Stephen Brothers Circus, away from the normal people, because I knew there was something different about me. I knew because of how they made me feel as they walked past in the daytime, while I stood in the shade of the main tent.
“Laney.” Marcus’ large blue form dressed in his usual green suit was by my side, “I see you’re feeling better.”
“Who turned me into a freak?”
“You wanted to stay. To stay, you have to become a freak... this is what these places are about.” He said.
“Who?” I looked at him, “I loved the sunlight... sunrise was my favourite time of day. Now I can’t go outside without ... tell me.”
“I can’t.” He said, “When I heard you scream, I found him leaving your RV and killed him. He didn’t give you a choice; you should have been given a choice. Now, you can never leave.”
“Now, I’m stuck this way.”
“I’ve created a show for you, so you can earn your own keep.” He said.
“Oh, I can just imagine it... you put up a mirror and I’m not there... then you get me to drain some poor bastard!” I snapped, “What else are you going to do? Make me fly?”
“Well, not drain anyone, just show them you can drink blood from the vein – theirs.” He said.
“Nobody will do it.” I shook my head.
Surprisingly, people were quick to see if another human would drink their blood. Yes, you Humans are disgusting. You love to see others get hurt in the worst possible ways. And watching a vampire drink from your own arm is apparently a real turn-on.
And you lot think I’m weird.
Now, you have to understand, I didn’t like doing this. I was turned without my consent, and now I was taking your blood for money – and you all let me do this. It got to a point where you all seemed to blur into a long night of the same faces and reactions.
But then, I came across somebody who had the most amazing scent. I looked up at her and found she was beautiful. As soon as I touched her skin, she smiled, “Are you sure you want me to pierce your flesh?”
“I’m paying you to.” She said handing over the cash.
But this didn’t feel right. There was something about her where my senses screamed at me to run away. I squirmed in my seat slightly, frowned and looked around at the rest of the side show around my tent until I caught Marcus’ eye and he walked straight over to me.
“Is there a problem?” he asked.
“I’m getting bad vibes coming off her. She’s far too excited about this.” I said, “This is not the first time she’s been bitten.”
Marcus looked at her, “Recite a poem for me.”
“Could be a nursery rhyme; anything.” She started reciting ‘Three Blind Mice’ and he shoved her money back into her hands, “Get out of here! We don’t need a gypsy screwing up my work!”
“You don’t understand... I’m trying to help. I’m not a gypsy.”
I watched her leave and wondered if I knew her. Turning to Marcus, “What did you mean by ‘screwing up my work’?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Yes you did. And if she’s not a gypsy, what is she?”
“Don’t worry about it, Laney.” He snapped, “You wanted to stay and now you’re staying.”
“Yeah, now I don’t have a choice. You asked if I wanted to leave, and when I wanted to stay, I was sired that night. So tell me, what could she do?” Marcus muttered something about getting to the main ring and walked off. I closed my tent flap as I had to think about what had just happened. Not long after, the girl came back, “What do you want?”
“I’m not a gypsy. I’m a witch. My name is Kelley, I can help you, Laney.” She sat down, put out her arm, “Marcus had you turned on purpose because you wanted to work the carnival circuit... so he could have you as his slave. But to have a slave, he needed you to be a freak. If you had a soul, you’d be useless to him; and you’ll find your way home.”
“Drink from me... it’s a blood spell. My coven is performing the rites as I sit here waiting. We’ve been waiting for you to return, Laney – especially your folks – so we can destroy this circus.”
I took up her arm, felt my face change and drank from her. Kelley became my hero, because she was right. My soul was something which helped me find my way home in more ways than one.