Home > The Vampire's Assistant (Cirque Du Freak #2)(5)

The Vampire's Assistant (Cirque Du Freak #2)(5)
Author: Darren Shan

"Evra Von what?"I asked.

"Just plain Von,"he said, rubbing his stomach. "You hungry?"

"Yes,"I said, and went with Evra to get something to eat.

The camp was alive with activity. Since there had been no show the night before, most of the freaks and their helpers had gone to bed early, and so now they were up and about earlier than usual.

I was fascinated by the hustle and bustle. I hadn't realized there were so many people working for the Cirque. I'd thought it would just be the performers and assistants I'd seen the night I went to the show with Steve, but as I looked around I saw that those were just the tip of the iceberg. There were at least two dozen people walking or talking, washing or cooking, none of whom I'd seen before.

"Who are all these?"I asked.

"The backbone of the Cirque Du Freak,"Evra replied. "They do the driving, set up the tents, do the laundry and the cooking, fix our costumes, clean up after shows. It's a big operation."

"Are they normal humans?"I asked.

"Most of them,"he said.

"How did they come to work here?"

"Some are related to the performers. Some are friends of Mr. Tall. Some just wandered in, liked what they saw, and stayed."

"People can do that?"I asked.

"If Mr. Tall likes the look of them,"Evra said. "There are always openings at the Cirque Du Freak."

Evra stopped at a large campfire, and I stopped beside him. Hans Hands (a man who could walk on his hands and run faster on them than the world's fastest sprinter) was resting on a log, while Truska (the bearded lady, who grew her beard whenever she wanted) cooked sausages on a wooden stick. Several humans were sitting or lying around.

"Good morning, Evra Von,"Hans Hands said.

"How are you, Hans?"Evra replied.

"Who's your young friend?"Hans asked, eyeing me suspiciously.

"This is Darren Shan,"Evra said.

"The Darren Shan?"Hans asked, eyebrows raising.

"None other."Evra grinned.

"What do you mean, The Darren Shan'?"I asked.

"You're famous in these parts,"Hans said.

"Why? Because I'm a"- I lowered my voice - "half-vampire?"

Hans laughed pleasantly. "Half-vampires are nothing new. If I had a silver dollar for every half-vampire I'd seen, I'd have..."He scrunched up his face and thought. "Twenty-nine silver dollars. But young half-vampires are a different story. I never saw or heard of a guy your age living it up among the ranks of the walking dead. Tell me: Have the Vampire Generals been around to inspect you yet?"

"Who are the Vampire Generals?"I asked.

"They're -"

"Hans!"a lady washing clothes barked. He stopped speaking and looked around guiltily. "Do you think Larten would enjoy hearing you spreading tales?"she snapped.

Hans made a face. "Sorry,"he said. "It's the morning air. I'm not used to it. It makes me say things I shouldn't."

I wanted him to explain about the Vampire Generals, but I guess it would have been impolite to ask.

Truska checked the sausages, pulled a couple off the stick, and handed them out. She smiled when she came to me, and said something in a strange, foreign language.

Evra laughed. "She wants to know if you like sausages or if you're a vegetarian."

"That's a good one!"Hans chuckled. "A vampire vegetarian!"

"You speak her language?"I asked Evra.

"Yes,"he said proudly. "I'm still learning - it's the hardest language I've ever tried to learn - but I'm the only one in the camp who knows what she's saying. I'm excellent at languages,"he bragged.

"What language is it?"I asked.

"I don't know,"he said, frowning. "She won't tell me."

That sounded weird, but I didn't want to say anything to offend him. Instead, I took one of the sausages and smiled thanks. I bit into it and had to drop it immediately; it was piping hot! Evra laughed and handed me a glass of water. I drank until my mouth was back to normal, then blew on the sausage to cool it down.

We sat with Hans and Truska and the others for a while, chatting and eating and soaking up the morning sun. The grass was wet with dew, but none of us minded. Evra introduced me to everyone in the group. There were too many names for me to remember at once, so I just smiled and shook hands.

Mr. Tall soon appeared. One minute he wasn't there, the next he was standing behind Evra, warming his hands over the fire.

"You're up early, Master Shan,"Mr. Tall remarked.

"I couldn't sleep,"I told him. "I was too - "I looked over at Evra and smiled "- wound-up."

"I hope it will not affect your ability to work,"Mr. Tall said.

"I'll be fine,"I said. "I'm ready to work."

"You're sure?"

"I'm sure."

"That's what I like to hear."He pulled out a large notebook and flipped through the pages. "Let's see what we can find for you to do today,"he said. "Tell me: Are you a good cook?"

"I can cook stew. Mr. Crepsley taught me."

"Have you ever cooked for thirty or forty humans?"

"No."

"Too bad. Maybe you'll learn."He flipped through another couple of pages. "Can you sew?"

"No."

"Have you washed clothes before?"

"By hand?"

"Yes."

"No."

"Hmmm."He flipped some more, then snapped the book shut. "Okay,"he said, "until we find a more permanent position for you, stick with Evra and help him with his chores. Does that sound fair?"

"I'd like that,"I said.

"You don't mind, Evra?"he asked the snake-boy.

"Not at all,"Evra replied.

"Very well. It's settled. Evra will be in charge of you until further notice. Do what he says. When your colleague-in-blood arises,"- he meant Mr. Crepsley - "you're free to spend the night with him if he so desires. We'll see how you do, then make a decision on how best to utilize your talents."

"Thank you,"I said.

"My pleasure,"he replied.

I expected him to suddenly vanish then, but instead he turned and walked away slowly, whistling, enjoying the sunshine.

"Well, Darren,"Evra said, sticking a scaly arm around my shoulders, "looks like you and I are partners now. How do you feel about that?"

"I feel good... partner."

"Cool!"He slapped my shoulder and gulped down the last of his sausage. "Then let's get going."

"What do we do first?"I asked.

"What we'll be doing first every morning,"Evra said. "Milking the poison from the fangs of my snake."

"Oh,"I said. "Is it dangerous?"

"Only if she bites before we finish,"Evra said, then laughed at my expression and pushed me ahead of him to the tent.

CHAPTER NINE

Evra did the milking himself - to my great relief - then we brought the snake outside and laid her on the grass. We grabbed buckets of water and scrubbed her down with really soft sponges.

After that, we had to feed the wolf-man. His cage was near the back of the campsite. He roared when he saw us coming. He looked as angry and dangerous as he had that night I went to see the Cirque with Steve. He shook the bars and lunged at us if we got too close - which we didn't!

"Why is he so vicious?"I asked, tossing him a large chunk of raw meat, which he grabbed in midair and bit into.

"Because he's a real wolf-man,"Evra said. "He's not just somebody very hairy. He's half human, half wolf."

"Isn't it cruel to keep him chained up?"I asked, throwing him another slice of meat.

"If we didn't, he'd run free and kill people. The mix of human and wolf blood has driven him mad. He wouldn't just kill when he was hungry; if he was free, he'd murder all the time."

"Isn't there a cure?"I asked, feeling sorry for him.

"There isn't a cure because it isn't a disease,"Evra explained. "This isn't something he caught, it's how he was born. This is what he is."

"How did it happen?"I asked.

Evra looked at me seriously. "Do you really want to know?"

I stared at the hairy monster in the cage, ripping up the meat as if it were cotton candy, then gulped and said, "No, I suppose I don't."

We did a bunch of jobs after that. We peeled potatoes for the night's dinner, helped repair a tire on one of the cars, spent an hour painting the roof of a van, and walked a dog. Evra said most days were like this, just wandering through the camp, seeing what needed doing, helping out here and there.

In the evening we took a garbage bag full of cans and broken pieces of glass to the tent of Rhamus Twobellies, a huge man who could eat anything. I wanted to stay and watch him eat, but Evra hurried me out. Rhamus didn't like people watching him eat when he wasn't performing.

We had a lot of time to ourselves, and during our quieter moments we told each other about our lives - where we'd come from and how we'd grown up.

Evra had been born to ordinary parents. They were horrified when they saw him. They abandoned him at an orphanage, where he stayed until an evil circus owner bought him at the age of four.

"Those were bad days,"he said quietly. "He used to beat me and treat me like a real snake. He kept me locked up in a glass case and let people pay to look at me and laugh."

He was with the circus for seven long, miserable years, touring small towns, being made to feel ugly and freakish and useless.

Finally, Mr. Tall came to the rescue.

"He showed up one night,"Evra said. "He appeared suddenly out of the darkness and stood by my cage for a long time, watching me. He didn't say a word. Neither did I.

"The circus owner came. He didn't know who Mr. Tall was, but thought he might be a rich man, interested in buying me. He gave him his price and stood back, waiting for an answer.

"Mr. Tall didn't say anything for a few minutes. Then his left hand grabbed the circus owner by the neck. He squeezed once and that was the end of him. He fell to the floor, dead. Mr. Tall opened the door to my cage and said, 'Let's go, Evra. I think Mr. Tali's able to read minds, which is how he knew my name."

Evra was quiet after that. He had a faraway look in his eyes.

"Do you want to see something amazing?"he finally said, snapping out of his thoughtful mood.

"Sure,"I said.

He turned to face me, then stuck out his tongue and pushed it up over his lip and right up his nose !

"Ewww! Gross!"I yelled delightedly.

He pulled the tongue back and grinned. "I've got the longest tongue in the world,"he said. "If my nose were big enough, I could poke my tongue all the way to the top, down my throat, and back out my mouth again."

"You couldn't!"I laughed.

"Probably not."He giggled. "But it's still pretty impressive."He stuck his tongue out again and this time licked around his nostrils, one after the other. It was revolting but hilarious.

"That's the most disgusting thing I've ever seen."I laughed.

"I bet you wish you could do it,"Evra said.

"I wouldn't, even if I could,"I lied. "Don't you get snot all over your tongue?"

"I don't have any snot,"Evra said.

"What? No snot?"

"It's true,"he said. "My nose is different from yours. There's no snot or dirt or hairs. My nostrils are the cleanest part of my whole body."

"What does it taste like?"I asked.

"Lick my snake's belly and you'll find out,"he replied. "It's the same taste as that."

I laughed and said I wasn't that interested!

Later, when Mr. Crepsley asked me what I'd done all day, I told him: "I made a friend."

CHAPTER TEN

We'd been with the cirque two days and nights. I spent my days helping Evra and my nights with Mr. Crepsley, learning about vampires. I was going to bed earlier than I had been, though I rarely hit the sack before one or two in the morning.

Evra and I were tight friends. He was older than me, but he was shy - probably because of his abusive childhood - so we made a good team.

As the third day rolled by, I was gazing around the small groups of vans and cars and tents, feeling like I'd been part of the scene for years.

I was starting to suffer from the effects of going for too long without drinking human blood. I wasn't as strong as I had been, and couldn't move as quickly as I could before. My eyesight had dulled, and so had my hearing and sense of smell. I was a lot stronger and quicker than I'd been as a human, but I could feel my powers slipping a little more every day.

I didn't care. I'd rather lose some strength than drink from a human.

I was relaxing with Evra on the edge of the campsite that afternoon when we spotted a figure in the bushes.

"Who's that?"I asked.

"A kid from a nearby village,"Evra said. "I've seen him hanging around before."

I watched the boy in the bushes. He was trying hard not to be seen, but to someone with my powers - fading though they were - he was as obvious as an elephant. I was curious to know what he was doing, so I turned to Evra and said, "Let's have fun."

"What do you mean?"he asked.

"Lean in and I'll tell you."

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