I see you haven’t gotten enough of the Dark Carnival yet.
Welcome back for more thrills and terrors to carry you into the night!
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But wait! Before you begin…this story has a soundtrack. So click it and start reading!
She’s Gone–The Black Keys
Heaven’s On Fire–Kiss
Heaven’s On Fire
by Kristen Strassel
The crowd gasped as Katrinka tumbled from the sky, wrapped in her silks. That was my cue.
Compared to Katrinka, I was a chicken shit. She twisted herself in silks high above the crowd, relying on nothing but her strength and grace to keep her whole. All I had to do was rely on my brain short circuiting.
It hardly seemed fair as the lights fell so the crew could clear Katrinka’s silks and the crowd erupted in a chant. For me.
“Holly! Holly! Holly!”
My heart thrummed in my throat and I had to close my eyes and swallow deep to keep the emotions at bay for just a few minutes longer.
“Ladies and Gentlemen!” The emcee boomed. “Please welcome the hottest girl in Sin City…Holly Octane!”
I walked slowly as a dim spotlight trained on me to the beat of “She’s Gone” by The Black Keys. A small fire awaited me in the middle of the ring. My costume shielded me from the crowd. I couldn’t expose that much skin. Yet. Bad things could happen. Like Katrinka, I had little room for error.
I tipped my top hat to the audience, circling the fire as I dropped my cropped black blazer. I gyrated my hips to the slow beat of the song, exaggerated by the bustle skirt attached to my blood red corset. I tossed my hat to the crowd, and then ran my hands down the length of my fishnet clad thighs. I concentrated on the crackle of the fire. Peaceful and beautiful.
I plucked the batons from the fire like any other girl would take a rose from a garden.
The burn was beautiful.
I twirled them thoughtfully, moving them slowly through my fingers. I twirled the flames around me, over my head and underneath my raised leg. As the song ended, I threw the sticks high in the air, the fire illuminating the audience. Their faces flashed in my soul. Fireworks exploded in my brain as I ripped open the front of my corset, whipping it around over my head as the batons fell in the dirt at my feet. I tossed the garment in the dirt hard enough it left a cloud as it skidded away from me.
Now just in glittery star pasties, sparkly booty shorts, and fishnets, I dropped to my knees and crawled toward the fire where one more baton waited for me to pluck it the from the flames. The crowd knew what happened next. I rolled back on my heels and rose to my feet. As Paul Stanley wailed the opening of “Heaven’s On Fire”, I swallowed the flame.
The theater went dark as the song kicked in to full gear. I let the fire course through my body, flooding my belly, and making my limbs tingle. I opened my eyes, with the fire inside me, I could see as if it was midday. This was the first time I let myself look at the crowd. I saw them gaping at me, lust in the eyes of some, disgust in the eyes of others. Good girls couldn’t eat fire.
Every night I saw the same faces. The ugly, twisted, taunting faces. Judging me. Calling me a freak. They were right.
Good girls didn’t burst into flames.
Fire dripped from every pore. It surrounded me like a cocoon. This is where I felt safe. No one could reach me here. I raised arms over my head and did a forward flip through the air as the crowd erupted. I jumped the metal pole that held up the imaginary tent, swinging my legs in midair as my hands slipped around it. I shimmied up to the top, and then slid back down, into a full split. The flames exaggerated my every move. Coming back to my feet, I put one leg back up on the pole, again circling it in a split.
I stopped for a moment, my back to the pole, the flames licking the metal. I took 3 cartwheels to make it to the chemical shower. I had just enough time as the song ended. As I pulled the cord, the foam fell and extinguished me. The lights went down so the crowd wouldn’t see my body, exposed. No fabric could survive my act.
Silence. Every time. Like the couldn’t believe what they just saw.
I didn’t like to talk to anyone after my act. Performing drained me too much. Emotions conjured my flames. I saw things I shouldn’t Things I didn’t want to. The same things over and over. It was a vicious cycle I didn’t know how to stop. I needed to be alone until I could get my thoughts in order.
Darkness greeted me in my dressing room. I never turned on the light right away. Instead I leaned against the door and listened to my heart throb against my eardrums.
Let it drain, Holly.
“Bravo.” A male voice in the dark startled me. My eyes flew open. No. Not again.
One person applauded. Was there more than one of them? I could feel the heat rising inside. Not now, not here. Too dangerous. I squeezed my eyes closed to tamp down the fear. The flames.
When I could move again, I wiped my hand against the wall looking for the light switch. My eyes widened when I found Cash Logan in my dressing room.
He laughed at my expression. Obviously, he liked scaring people. Or at least, he liked scaring me. He moved around the room, running his finger over the clothes I’d laid on the back of my chair to change into.
I shuddered. The most powerful magician in the world was in my dressing room, violating my things. He might as well have put his grubby fingers right on my soul. There had been rumors that Cash would move his show from New Orleans to Las Vegas. No one in our show wanted that. Cash Logan in Vegas would mean the end of Le Cirque Macabre.
Why didn’t Rainey tell me he was in town? Her booth was right in the lobby. My girlfriend was a seer; more than a fortune teller, more than a medium. She could see the future like most people watched the evening news. Unless…
Shit. Cash Logan was a vampire.
“What do you want from me?” My voice shook, and I had to almost scream to make it more than a whisper.
He approached me, coming way too close, pawing at a handful of my plush robe. I couldn’t breathe. “How do you do that, Holly?”
“Do what?” It was as good a time as any to play dumb.
His lips spread into a lopsided smile, making his beard rise. If I wasn’t terrified, maybe I could appreciate the view. He looked down at me, unblinking as his free hand rested on the door above my head. His eyes looked like the sky, mesmerizing and beautiful. Almost like mine.
“You know what I’m talking about, Holly.” Now his lips moved against my cheek, whiskers tickling my skin, the tips of his long, dirty blonde hair brushing against the opening of my robe. “Your fire dance. How do you do that?”
“I’ve always been able to do it.” I looked away from him, but he moved my face back to his, his cool fingers burning my skin worse than any flame ever had.
“No, you haven’t. Something happened to you. It brought the flames to life.”
I couldn’t breathe. He knew. “Stop it.” I whispered. “I don’t know how to control it. I know you can’t survive fire.”
“And that’s why I need you.” He said. “I know you can hear what the crowd thinks. I know that’s what sets you off, so to speak, every performance.”
How did he know that? I’d only told Rainey. Rainey’d never rat me out to some freaking bloodsucker.
“You think I’m going to help you? You’ll put us all out of a job.” I wrestled my face free of his grip and pushed myself off the wall.
Cash grasped me, fast and hard. Any harder and he’d snap the bones in my forearms. “This is more than just a circus act, Holly. I’m talking about survival for my kind. For you.”
“If you’re going to kill me, just do it now. I’m not going to let you use me like some science experiment and then just suck me dry.” I forced myself to meet his eyes. I felt foolish, still covered in extinguishing foam and smudged stage makeup, challenging this monster.
“You don’t know what you are, do you?” He actually looked surprised. He loosened his grip and I rubbed my arms to bring the feeling back to them. To shake the cold from my skin.
I sighed. He was right. I opened my mouth to speak and closed it more than once. I had no snappy comeback. “What am I?”
The truth couldn’t be any worse than not knowing.
“My god,” he said almost to himself. “I think you need me more than I need you.”
Kristen shares a birthday with Steven Tyler and Diana Ross. She spends each day striving to be half as fabulous as they are. She’s worn many hats, none as flattering as her cowboy hat: banker, retail manager, fledgling web designer, world’s worst cocktail waitress, panty slinger, now makeup artist and aspiring author. She loves sunshine, live music, the middle of nowhere, and finding new things to put in her house. Kristen is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary. Twitter Facebook Website
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