Sacha was deep inside of her own mind, somewhat trapped in the surreal plain of a dream that seemed to be more a step back in time than a gathering of unconscious thoughts. She walked through wet grass with bare feet, the night sky above full of twinkling stars and a thin slice of white moon that seemed to be smiling down upon her. The carnival was fast asleep, all of the rides safely tucked into bed until they were woken again the next day. A single light remained on the grounds, which spilled out from the sideshow tent and crept across her toes as she approached the canvas entrance—there was a low voice and other noises that had gained her curiosity, causing her to wander towards it. Cautiously peering through an open flap, she spotted a figure moving in the back of the tent where the lamp’s revealing rays did not reach, eyes cutting through the darkness to recognize her father’s tattooed skin. However, she knew that Damien was not the same loving Dad whom had often tired her out with a fun-filled day. For quite some time he had become someone else, and while it was a bit frightening at first, she had slowly learned to love him just the same. Dressed in nothing more than dark blue jeans, his sandy blonde hair was tousled and slightly dirty, the humid Summer air pulling the locks into disheveled curls. This was a whole different side of the man that she greatly admired, and could not help but wonder why he felt the need to hide it from her. There was nothing he should have been ashamed of, yet it seemed as though he was burdened with his secret, perhaps even allowing it to consume him.
Violent outbursts had not been in Damien’s nature for most of his life, and the choice to become extensively tattooed came with much respect from his fellow Carnies, earning him a coveted position in the sideshow. The negative aspect was plenty of ignorant comments that were mostly voiced from men who were inked and had served their time fighting for their country, feeling as though they had earned the right to carry symbols of heroism and honor. One day he had been pushed too far when a group of sailors dragged him off stage in the middle of a show, tied him up in heavy ropes and then tossed him into the ocean. They laughed heartily over beers later on that evening, perhaps even boasting about how easy it had been. Damien had managed to escape the bonds thanks to quick thinking and experience with escape artistry, vowing revenge on those who almost took his life as he prowled the streets in hopes of finding even one of those cowards. Much patience was exhibited and rewarded when a sailor he recognized stumbled out of a bar, searching for a dark place to relieve the bladder. Clutching a straight razor, Damien made his move so quickly that the sailor had no time to react, blood spilling from his throat as he dropped to his knees. The adrenaline flowed with electricity that had never been felt before, motivating body and mind with primitive instincts that led to an evening of decadence not remembered come the next day.
This was only the beginning of what would become Damien’s rage, which created much confusion and internal struggle while he had to perform the duties of a single father in addition to being a major part of the sideshow and running the carnival. With so many things going on at once, it was hard for him to manage the lustful desires and keep what he felt was more of a demon than another part of himself at bay. That bastard had a bad temper which flared hard enough to burn friends and foes alike, not to mention his little girl on some occasions. He found it difficult to understand why Sacha did not want to run in terror, but her loyalty and love meant enough for him not to question the devotion. At that point she had already seen him as the Geek, and so he knew there was nothing that could keep her from wanting to be by his side. Nonetheless, she was a young girl who deserved happiness, which he would do anything to give her.
Michael sat in a tent behind the sideshow, nervously waiting for what Damien was going to say considering that he had just been caught kissing Sacha. It was a bold move, but who else would have been able to gaze at his scar and not be repulsed? All of the other girls made fun of him, called him names and refused to even speak to him because of it—not Sacha though. That kiss had been certainly more than daring, but the way she looked at him stirred up feelings which did not exist before and he had merely acted upon them. There was no way to have predicted Damien would exit the sideshow tent at that precise moment, the corner of his shirt slightly tinted with blood as he stood in the entranceway.
“Come here,” he had nearly demanded, shooting Sacha a look which instructed her to distract herself somewhere else.
An explanation was being created as Michael watched him smoke a blunt and sip on whiskey. It would be easy to convince him with poetic words that the gesture had been nothing more than an overzealous teen acting on impulse but also followed what his heart was saying. Surely Damien knew what it was like to love, and understanding the whole situation had just been an innocent gesture, he could not be angry.
“What were you doing with my daughter?” Damien inquired abruptly.
“It was nothing,” Michael replied, voice quavering slightly.
“Oh? Well it sure as shit looked like something. I give you my trust, a job in the carnival, and take care of you because no one else will. How am I repaid?”
“Listen, I am sorry—”
“Sorry?” Laughter echoed in the tent. “Son, you do not even know the first thing about being sorry.” Deeply inhaling the blunt, he carefully studied the nervous young man who sat before him. “There is a price to pay when one commits a sin against the King, and I wonder if you are prepared for such a penance.”
“What I was trying to say, is that I apologize for being so forward with Sacha and meant absolutely no disrespect to either of you.”
“Do you like her?” Damien inquired, savoring a shot of whiskey and a smile.
“Yea, I guess.”
“What do you mean ‘guess’? Either you do, or you do not.”
“I love her,” Michael blurted out, unable to contain his emotions any longer. “She is the most beautiful girl that I have ever seen, and I wanted to kiss her! And I would do it again in a second.”
“There it is!” Damien laughed. “You think that you love her and so you kissed her. Sounds touching.”
“What is it to you?”
“Everything.” Damien’s expression grew quite serious as he shifted in the chair and continued to smoke the blunt. “Michael, I have plans for how I want everything in the carnival to run, and I do not like it when people intrude upon them. Sacha is quite valuable to me, and do you want to know why?” A mad grin came to his lips. “She knows your darkest secrets even if you do not tell her, because she will always be able to see the truth in your eyes. Such a gift cannot be wasted and it would make me quite angry if someone were to take her from me. Do you know what I am like when angry?”
“No,” Michael quietly replied.
Damien stood up so that he towered over the boy, his tattooed hand easily swallowing the slender neck. “If I ever see you touch my daughter again—if you even look at her the wrong way—I am going to fucking kill you, understand? Entertain your fantasy of love with someone else—Sacha is not for you.”
Michael could only furiously nod in agreement, his lungs beginning to struggle for air as those strong fingers crushed his throat.
“You talk to her all friendly like, but nothing more. She already has a suitor, and you will not come between them, or you shall find yourself staring into the face of death.” Damien released the hold but continued to stare down at him. “Now go.”
Michael slowly rose from the chair, wondering if Damien had gone completely mad as he exited the tent. The man who spoke to him certainly seemed the same, but his eyes carried an intensity not seen before and the threats were definitely real. Many people had whispered about the carnival’s King and his infamous temper, but having been witness to it certainly gave Michael an uneasy feeling. As a result of fearing for his life, never again was he going to attempt courtship of the lovely Sacha, but that would be easier said than done. For a young teen, the feeling of love was not one which could be erased by the whims of a madman. The only thing Michael could think of to keep her away was one that also made his mind shudder.
After leaving the carnival, he sought out a dark spot under the boardwalk, having made a deal with some junkie that he randomly encountered stumbling around the empty beach. There was a heroin-filled syringe poised over his arm as tears slipped down his cheeks, part of him knowing that this was not something he wanted to do. At the same time, it was what needed to be done in order distance himself from Sacha, as well as maintain his journey in the land of the living. The sharp point of that drug-kissed needle slipped into his skin as he vowed to be nothing more than a friend to her. He was still unsure of what to make of Damien or the events that had just taken place. Those thoughts were far from his mind as the heroin slowly worked through his body, eyes fixed on the rolling waves of the black ocean.