An Excerpt from GOT FANGS?
“What do you want to do first—have your aura photographed, or see the witch and have her cast a spell?”
You know that creepy kid who saw dead people in The Sixth Sense? He’s Norman P. Normal compared to me.
“I want to see the demonologist. I’ve had a bad run of luck lately, it could be due to demons. He can tell me if I’ve been demonized.”
OK, so the kid could see ghosts, I’ll give him that, but was his mom a bona fide witch?
“I don’t know that demons would give you bad luck, John. That sounds more like a curse. Maybe we should see the witch first and have her check you over for curses.”
Did he spend his days traveling around Europe with a group of people who knew more about ghosts, demons, and various assorted weird things than stuff like ATM machines and cell phones and the latest hottie on American Idol?
“I heard they have a vampire who drinks the blood of a volunteer each night! I’d love to see that!”
Oh, yeah, I forgot the vampires. Not that GothFaire had any, but still, what was I thinking?
“Hey, Lynsay, take a look at that girl. She looks odd. You think she’s part of the show?”
I bet the Sixth Sense kid got to live in a normal home with a normal mom, and go to a normal school with other normal kids. Shoot, I’d be willing to put up with a little “I see dead people”-ing in order to have all that normal around me.
“Shhh, she might hear you.”
The two people stopped in front of me, a girl and a guy probably a few years older than me using the opportunity to give me the once over. I tried to look like there wasn’t anything unusual at all about standing in front of a tent with a big red hand painted on the side, shoving my own hands in my pockets just to make sure I didn’t touch anything. Don’t touch, don’t tell, that’s my policy.
“It’s OK, she probably doesn’t even speak English. She sure doesn’t look normal, not with all that white skin and black hair. Maybe she’s one of the Goths?”
Or maybe I just happen to have an Italian father and a fair-skinned Scandinavian mother? Ya think?
The girl giggled. I sent up a little prayer to the Goddess that Imogen would get her butt in gear and come back to her booth so I didn’t have to stand here and let the rubes gawk at me.
Rube—that’s one of those words you pick up when you travel with a freak show.
“Maybe she’s one of the vampires! She looks like one, don’t you think? I can see her drinking your blood.”
I turned my back so they wouldn’t see me roll my eyes. It might be rare to find Americans this far into Hungary, but I wasn’t so desperate to see my countrymen that I wanted to drink their blood. Besides, everyone knew only guys were vamps.
“Francesca, I’m so sorry!” Imogen hurried past the couple, her long blond hair streaming behind her as she dodged behind the table and grabbed the sign and easel that announced she was available to read palms and rune stones. She ignored the couple watching as she set the easel at the edge of the tent, popping the sign onto it as she chattered in her trademark Imogen style—breathy soft accent that was part British, part something I couldn’t put my finger on, not that I’d been in Europe long enough to learn how to say anything more than: hello, goodbye, thank you, how much is that, and I wouldn’t let my dog use that toilet, where is a clean one? in three different languages (German, French, and Hungarian, for those of you who are aching to know).
“Thank you so much for watching my things. Absinthe insisted on seeing me—evidently there’s been another robbery. Oh, bless you, you didn’t touch anything. You know I don’t like anyone to touch the stones, and Elvis was after me again to help set up, which is ridiculous because you know he has an orange aura, and orange aura-ed people are absolutely death to me before I’m supposed to read. But I have something exciting to tell you! My brother is coming to see me!”
I straightened up out of my perpetual slouch and gave the couple a big, toothy grin to show them I didn’t have fangs. I was as tall as the guy (six feet), and as big or bigger than him. He looked a little worried about that fact. The girl blushed a little, and grabbed her boyfriend’s arm, dragging him off toward the big tent, the one where the band plays after the magic shows.
The irony of the moment didn’t escape me. I’m like that. I see irony a lot. You know what? It’s a pain in the butt. “They thought I was a vamp,” I told Imogen as she shook out her blue casting cloth.
She cocked one golden eyebrow. “You? You’re a female.”
I resumed the slouch that made me look less like a burly football player, and tugged at my t-shirt in an attempt to make myself look smaller, prettier, thinner…you know, like a girl. “Yeah. Guess they don’t know the rules.”
She muttered something that sounded like peons, and arranged three stone bowls of rune stones along one side of the casting cloth. “Absinthe says the band ran off in the night with the last week’s take, but Peter said they didn’t, that only he and Absinthe know the combination to the safe, and that it wasn’t forced. She’s gone to Germany to find a new band.”
I chewed on the chapped skin on my lower lip. This was the third theft in the last ten days. Although I hated to agree with Absinthe, if the band skipped out during the night, it did sound like they were guilty. “What are they going to do about tonight?”
“Peter is hiring a local band. I hope they’re good, the last few bands he’s hired have been abysmal beyond belief.”
I tipped my head to the side, tucking my hair behind my ear, wishing for the one thousandth time that it was anything but straight, straight, straight. Other people have curly hair, even my own mother has curly hair, why can’t I? “You’re the only person I know who’s heard Mozart play in person, and still thinks Goth bands are the best.”
Imogen gave me one of her sly smiles. “Mozart was a brat. Gifted, but still a brat. But The Cure—now that’s music!”
See what I’m talking about? Is it normal for your best girlfriend to be a four-hundred-year-old immortal?
“What’s wrong, Fran? You look upset about something all of a sudden. Has Elvis been bothering you again? Would you like me to—”
I shook my head. “You know he doesn’t see anyone but you. And besides, I’m bigger than him. I think he’s afraid I’ll beat him up if he tries to get busy with me.”
Imogen stepped back from lighting scented candles, tipping her head as she looked me over. Her head tip was much nicer than mine since she had long, curly hair, whereas I had a short jaw-length pageboy full of straight black hair that refused either hot rollers or a perm’s chemical wooing to give it body. “I see. You’re feeling inadequate again.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that. Nicely, because I like Imogen, but still, I had to laugh. “Again. Yeah, like when am I ever not inadequate?”
“I think the question is rather why do you feel you are?”
I glanced around to make sure no one was near to overhear us—not that some of the people connected with the GothFaire had to be near you to listen in (I’ll bet you my whole summer’s allowance that the Sixth Sense kid didn’t have mind readers eavesdropping on his thoughts). “You want the list? You got it! First, I’m approximately the size and shape of your average high school linebacker.”
“Don’t be silly, you are not, you’re a lovely girl, tall and statuesque. Men are going to be falling at your feet in a few years.”
“Yeah, falling over in fright,” I said, then quickly moved on before she was forced to say other nice things about me. You only have to look at me to see I am a big, hulking monstrosity. I didn’t need tiny little petite pity from tiny little petite Imogen. “Second, my dad remarried a girl only a couple of years older than me, and told me he needed six months alone with her to get settled, which meant that when my mom took a job with a European traveling fair, I had to go with her.”
“I’m sorry about your father,” she said, her forehead all frowny like it really mattered to her. That’s one of the things I like so much about Imogen—she’s honest. If she likes you, she really likes you, all of you, and stands up for you against who or whatever is making your life a living hell. “That is wrong of him to banish you from his life. He should know better.”
I made a face that my mother called a moue. “Mom says he’s having a mid-life crisis, and that’s why he bought a sports car and got himself a trophy wife. It’s OK. I didn’t really like staying with him very much.” Bzzzt! Big fat lie. I hoped Imogen’s lie detector wouldn’t catch me on that one. I hurried into the next complaint in case it did. “Third, the fair isn’t a normal fair, the kind with popcorn and cotton candy and hokey country singers, oh no, this fair is filled with people who can talk to the dead, do real magic, read minds, and other weirdo stuff like that. One minute I had a (relatively) normal life with normal friends and a normal school, living with an almost normal mom in Oregon, and the next I’m Fran the Freak Queen, spending the summer hanging out with people who would give most people a case of the willies that would last them a lifetime. If that isn’t something to look upset about, I don’t know what is.”
“The people here aren’t freaks, Fran. You’ve been with us long enough to see that. They’re gifted with rare talents, just as you are.”
I stuffed my hands deeper into my pockets, the soft silk of the latex gloves brushing against my fingertips. My “talent” was something I didn’t like talking about. To anyone, not that anyone but Imogen and my mom knew about it. I think Absinthe suspected, but she couldn’t do anything about it. She was afraid of what Mom might do to her if she tried to mess with me.
OK, sometimes it was handy having a witch for a mom. Most of the time it just sucked, though. What I wouldn’t give for a mom who was a secretary and knew how to bake cookies…
“You don’t think I’m a freak, do you?” Imogen’s blue eyes went black. That was one of the things her kind could do, she told me. Their eyes changed colors with strong emotions.
“No, not you, you can’t help it if your dad was a vampire.”
“Dark One,” she corrected, fussing with the candles. They were special ones Mom made, invocation candles, bound with spells and herbs to enhance clarity of mind and communication with the Goddess.
I nodded. One of the first things Imogen had told me about the vamps was that they like to be referred to by their proper name: Moravian Dark Ones. Only the guys were Dark Ones, though, the women were just called Moravians. “You’re not a freak just because your dad was damned by some demon lord. It’s not like you drink blood or anything.”
Imogen shrugged. “I have. It’s not very good. I prefer Frankovka.” That was Imogen’s favorite wine, the only thing she drank. She had cases of the stuff she hauled around with her from town to town. She said it reminded her of her home in the Czech Republic. “I think, dear Francesca, that what you need most is a friend.”
I kicked at a lump in the grass, and watched out of the corner of her eye as she made a few symbols in the air. Wards, she called them, protective devices like a spell that you had to draw in the air. All vamps…excuse me, Moravians…could draw wards. Mom had been nagging Imogen to teach her how to do it, but for some reason, she had refused. “I’ve got friends, lots of friends.”
That was another lie, I had no real friends back home, but I figured I didn’t need to make myself sound any more pathetic than I already did.
“Not in Oregon, here. You need friends here.” She didn’t look up as she traced another symbol into the casting cloth.
“I have friends here, too. There’s you.”
She smiled, and beckoned me forward. I leaned forward, the back of my neck tingling as her fingers danced in the air a few molecules away from my forehead. She’d drawn a protection ward for me once before, when I first arrived and Elvis—the resident flirtmeister—tried to hit on me. Having a ward protect you was a strange feeling, as if the air surrounding you was thick and heavy, like a cocoon. I’d never seen a ward actually work (Mom had a few words with Elvis, words like “manhood shriveling up and dropping off if you ever lay a finger on her”), but still, it was a nice gesture for Imogen use up a little of her power on me. “I am flattered, Fran. You are, indeed, one of my best buds.”
I tried not to smile. Imogen spoke like something out of an old English movie—very rich vowels, all proper and perfect grammar, with a lot of big words like a professor who dated Mom used, but mixed into that was a handful of hip slang that sounded odd in comparison. She didn’t know that, though, and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. “And I like Peter, too. He’s nice, when he’s not groveling around Absinthe.”
“Yes, he is. They are the strangest pair…” She set the little box she keeps her reading money beneath the table, and dusted off the chair. “Did you know that they are twins?”
I shook my head. They didn’t look like twins. Absinthe had pink hair, pencil thin eyebrows, and a brittle smile, while Peter was short, balding, and had nice, gentle eyes. I had heard they had bought the Faire off of the group of people who used to work here, a group that scattered when it turned out the previous owners were psycho killers who had murdered a bunch of women all over Europe.
Do you wonder that I want to go home?
“They are, despite not looking like one another. It’s almost as if one has all the good traits, and the other the regrettable ones.”
I grinned after a quick check to make sure no one was nearby (you can’t be too careful where Absinthe is concerned). “And then there’s Soren. He’s a friend, too.”
“Yes, there is Soren,” she said as she down, straightening her Stevie Nicks retro-seventies frilly lace shirt. I could tell she was trying not to look all knowing the way adults do whenever you talk about a guy your own age. The thing is, Imogen looks like she is just a couple of years older than me, about twenty, so sometimes I forget that she’s lived as long as she has, making her more adult than any adult I knew. “He is a very sweet boy.”
“He’s OK,” I said, really nonchalant. I didn’t need Imogen telling everyone I had a crush on Soren. I didn’t, in case you were wondering. Soren was fifteen (a year younger than me), had sandy hair and a face full of freckles, and was three inches shorter and probably fifty pounds lighter. He was, however, the only other person in the Faire who was close to my age, so we hung together.
“I think perhaps—” Imogen looked up and smiled brightly at three young women who approached her table. They asked her something in Hungarian, and after giving me an apologetic glance, she answered and waved them into the chairs on the opposite side of the table. Customers. I was a bit lonely and would have liked to stay and chat with Imogen, but one of the first things I’d learned when Mom dragged me here a month ago was that paying customers came first. I gave Imogen a little wave and went off to see what Soren was up to.
The GothFaire is usually set up in a basic U shape, with the big tent at the bottom of the U, and two long wings containing the individual tents, with all the “talent” along one side, and vendor tents along the other. The tents weren’t camping tents, they were made of heavy canvas, painted in wild colors with even wilder designs, all of them open-fronted, some also having wooden panels for strength. Most could be quickly set up or torn down, and packed into long canvas bags. Soren mostly helped with the setting up and tearing down part, but he also did odd jobs, stuff his dad (Peter) was supposed to do, but never had time to get done.
I wandered down the line of tents, weaving in and out of the early Faire-goers, listening, but not understanding, the different languages around me. The big lights lining the aisles had been turned on since the sun had just gone down, casting eerie shadows in the little dips and hollows of the grassy field that held the faire. Enticing, spicy scents came from the food vendor tents, blending with the faint lingering smell of the sun-warmed earth beneath my sandals. I waved at Mom as she counseled someone with a spell. Davide, her cat, sat looking like a black meatloaf on her table, his front paws tucked under his chest, his white whiskers twitching as he watched me walk by. Davide doesn’t really like me, but I put up with him mostly because I like cats, but also because Mom said he was very wise.
A cat. Wise. Whatever.
I found Soren down with a bunch of guys in matching denim jackets unloading amps and sound equipment from a battered old truck. The replacement band had arrived.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey,” Soren said back. We’re cool that way.
“What’s the band called?” I asked as he struggled with an amp that was almost as tall as he was. I hefted one side of it onto my shoulder and helped him ease it off the truck and onto a dolly.
“Crying Orcs. They look great, don’t they?”
We both looked at the guys clustered around a sound board. I shrugged. “They look like all the other bands.” I’d die before I admitted it, but Goth wasn’t really my style. I was a ballad girl. I liked Loreena McKennit and Sarah McLaughlin, women like them. Guys singing about wanting to slash someone’s wrists and watch their blood drip away forever just left me kind of cold.
“I heard them last night. They’re good. You will like them.” I shrugged again. “Take this in for me, please? Give it to Stefan, he’s the man with one ear.”
Soren dumped a heavy coil of cable in my arms. I grunted a little when he did. Darned thing weighed a ton. I carefully edged around the amps, stacks of sound equipment, and assorted crates, and stepped out into the alley between the truck and the tent.
Right into the path of a motorcycle.