The curtain opened. A bright light shone down on me and shriveled into my eyes, forcing me to squint. I tilted my head away from the harsh stage light and focused on holding myself up. I was unexplainably weak, and the putrid excuse for clean air slithering down my throat didn’t make the situation much better. Every one of the audience members leaned forward in senseless interest, preying on my anguish.
“Here we have him. Here he is,” Ravon hissed into the microphone. He smiled menacingly at me and raised a crooked arm in my direction. His fingers spread outward, his dirty palm faced the sky. He let out an enigmatic chuckle as the crowd buzzed with sinful intrigue.
I shivered at my name, at the horribly wretched way Ravon said it. Of course, it was all for show. He would never act this way to me in person. He would never find the cruelty to bar me in chains and display me in front of hundreds of people unless I had suggested it. These people wanted to see a monster, so why not give it to them?
I smiled maliciously at the crowd and tilted my head to the side. Slowly, I raised my chained fists and gradually unclenched them until they faced upward, gripping at some unreachable help. I sucked in a deep, soiled breath and tried to stop my sudden shaking. I knew how things went, though. I’d done the act before. I only had a few more seconds of peace before all hell broke loose.
My smile turned into a glare, and my vision turned from bright to black to red. A few people close enough to see my face gasped, staring in confusion at my blood red eyes.
“Be careful not to upset him. He could tear you apart,” Raven said darkly, looking back out over the petrified crowd. He followed it with another evil chuckle, and turned to watch me as I forced another change. He’d seen me do it plenty of times before, but each time he seemed to gain more and more interest. It was only natural.
I felt the familiar shift in my back, and I stumbled down onto my knees in agony. I let out a long howl as fire ripped up my spine and curled around my head. Deep, pounding spirals of pain vibrated down my teeth as they sharpened into fangs. My scream turned animal as my grasping hands tightened and claws began to sprout from my fingers. I’ve never felt anything worse in my life.
I bent my head down until it almost reached the floor. My back popped and cracked, shifting until the vertebrae became sharpened and stuck awkwardly though my skin. It made me look like a dragon, I remembered. Like a hideous, half kid, half monster.
Fortunately, for the circus, that’s exactly the image their looking for.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Raven uttered proudly. I could hear the wicked smile in his voice. Knowing what was to come next, I kept my head down and focused on working the burning sensation up my throat. The crowd seemed radiate fresh terror. Then came the ringmaster’s words.
I jerked my head up and opened my mouth. In an almost delusional state, I watched as the fire came pouring out of my mouth, accompanied by a spine chilling howl.
That’s right. I was breathing fire.
“Run!” An audience member suggested. “Save your children!” another one said. “Kill it!” “It’s evil!” “It’s crawled out of hell!”
Bingo! That’s the one I was looking for. See, they’re actually right. I have pretty much crawled out of hell.
I’m not a beast, but something much, much worse.
I’m a demon.