I am going to tell you a story.
It is a story of revenge and love, hope and despair. A story of two Lovers. He was like ebony, She like newly fallen snow. One dark, one light, perfectly balanced. For centuries They loved each other, traveling the world and watching it change as They stayed the same.
They dressed and acted like nobility for a time. This allowed Them to be invited into noble houses and parties where They fed on the unsuspecting, hedonistic elite. They never killed anyone, Their appetites were not insatiable. Just a little nip here and a little bite there was enough if taken from all the guests.
There were always a lot of guests.
“Ow! you bit me!” one guest would say. “Oh, I am terribly sorry!” One Lover would say as They licked their lips. Then, the guest would become enamored and forget, only to be bitten again and again. Eventually, The Lovers would leave Their prey and move to the next one. The guests would wake up, groggy and weak and blaming it on the party and drink the night before, never remembering The Lovers were even there.
Sometimes The Lovers would keep away from others, preferring Their own company. Many nights would be spent in each Other’s arms. Often He would ask Her why She loved Him, why She stayed. She would look at Her light hand in His dark one and say only, “There cannot be light without the dark.”
Eventually, The Lovers became bored with the nobles of the world and set out for something new and different. A carnival, They had seen, and decided to join. It would be a nice distraction with new people coming to see Them every night. The carnival had many people working there, many like Them who did not fit in with the rest of the world. It was natural for those considered freaks to gather together in such a way. After all, this way they could be celebrated for their differences, not persecuted.
The Lovers became acrobats, flying through the air without nets. They were a sensation with the crowds who wondered how They were able to hit Their marks so perfectly and never fall. There were always the admirers as well. These admirers would come to the carnival to see the flying Lovers and came to Their tents after Their show to admire Them more.
There were always a lot of admirers.
The Ringmaster didn’t mind. He knew who and what They were. As long as They didn’t harm the Family, They could do as they wished. They brought in many, many patrons to the carnival, and for years this is the way it was. When the Ringmaster retired, he gave the carnival over to The Lovers, knowing They would live to take care of the people who worked there. They happily agreed as all of them were a Family.
For decades The Lovers ran the carnival. Feeding on the patrons, taking care of their Family. They made a lot of money as they traveled, and no one there wanted for anything. It was bliss.
One day, a man became obsessed with Her and jealous that He had Her. The man would stalk Her around the carnival, but she didn’t pay any mind. In Their own hubris and boredom They let him think he could catch Her.
It was this vanity that was Their undoing.
The man, quite by accident, found out what He was. Sneaking around the tents looking for Her, the man saw Him woo and then feed from a young patron. He didn’t stay to see that the girl was alive, only ran for help to destroy the monster that stood between him and who he perceived was his love.
She wasn’t there with Him that night, only by chance did She decide to walk in the moonlight. But when She returned, She found the carnival in flames. Screaming, She ran into the fire looking for Him. Her Family tried in vain to put out the inferno.
She ran to Their tent and found Him on the ground, a wooden stake through His heart. She fell beside Him and gathered Him in Her arms as He gasped his last words of love to Her, flames all around Them both. A sound that was little more than a primal scream of loss escaped from Her throat as Her Lover dissolved into a pile of ash in Her embrace. Tears streamed down Her face in despair as the cold knowledge of His absence took root in Her heart.
Then came the screams of rage.
The Last Lover swore to make the man pay for what he had done to Her and to Her Family. She stepped from the burning tent as if the flames were of no consequence. What was left of Her Family heard Her screams and huddled outside of the blazing tents.
She emerged from the ruined carnival as the flames engulfed the entirety of it, as if she were a minion of Hell being released. The man and his henchmen had long since gone, but She could still smell their scent in the air.
It had been many, many centuries since She last had to hunt.
She followed the scent of the henchmen that burned down Her life and took their lives as payment, one by one, savoring the feeling of their spark leaving their bodies. When she got to the man’s house, though, she stopped. In the window she saw the man had a wife and child.
She didn’t stop out of pity or empathy.
She waited for them to go to sleep and, in the darkness, took the man back to what was left of the carnival where Her Family was waiting. They chained him in a cage and She fed from him at Her leisure and the Family rebuilt the ruin of the carnival. She kept the man in that cage for decades and used him as her only source of nourishment.
Even as the carnival traveled, I kept him.
Do you recognize him? Over there in the cage? Not much of a man, anymore. Old and decrepit. I kept him here for you. So he could see how his child had grown and you could finally meet the father you never really knew. Yes, you see it now, don’t you? Now you understand.
Don’t be so shocked. You came here to see me, did you not? Young and bold, hearing all the rumors, wanting to know more, thinking you would not flinch.
But you are flinching now, aren’t you? Now that you are confronted with the truth of it.
No. Your father did not abandon you. I took him then, like I will take you now. You will take his place. But not before he sees you. Not before he sees me take his Family away like he took mine.
There can be no light without the dark.
Carnival by Idgie Stark is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.