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Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel VIII

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on December 8, 2017 at 11:07 am

(New? Start here. I’ll have more fun answering questions if you’ve gone to the trouble of reading all that has come before. )

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Saturday, August 3, 1996 – Dark Carousel VIII

Ah, but something strange happens when we go through the door to the women’s dressing room. A quelling, calming, dampening settles over the pretty hag for whom I once had le boner debonair. I can see it in her face: she wants to inflict, to spiritually maim, but she cannot. She glances from side to side, casting about for some culprit, some target upon whom to unleash her carcinogenic petulance.

Dissipation is the best word to describe what happens to her energy. Even my tether is weakened, and, following a hunch, I step outside the women’s dressing room to inspect the door frame.

Sure enough: at every corner of the door, a coin affixed so long ago that multiple layers of paint have smoothed it to the point of near-invisibility. Yet I can see, from each coin, a line of white light connecting one to the other and all converging on the central point on the door. I look at the door itself and there, beneath decades of paint, a similar coin. All the lines of white light connect to it, but also to the invisible spot where it would be if the door were closed.

I lean in toward the coin on the door, and I smell Cloves, Cinnamon, Rosemary, Orris Root – someone is dressing this quincunx regularly. This is a powerful, protective enchantment: it filters negativity. I want to inspect it further, ascertain the nature of the coin: silver “Mercury” dime? Buffalo Nickel? Wreathed Lincoln? Something whisks me into the room, though.

To my eternal delight, there are some naked titties here and there. I won’t go into detail. It was a different time. And that’s not what pulled me in; Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit is at her station, in front of the makeup mirror, just staring into her reflection. For a moment, I think it’s she who pulled me in. But then I hear, from outside the window:

“Mama! Mama!” I glance up and there’s the little girl, her eyes still missing, looking in the window. “He’s looking at all the naked ladies! He better not stay too long, Mama! He’s got something snakey following his every tiptoe.”

I want to ask this eyeless ghost child some questions, but time shifts: costumes have changed and I hear the cues for the Act I Finale: Wells Fargo Wagon. I’ve missed an entire act, but that doesn’t matter.

I follow Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit out of the women’s dressing room and darkness blossoms around her like sharp and addictive peacock plumage. She’s heading to the upstage crossover. In the shadows there, she kicks a box.

I hear a horse whinny stage left. Not a happy whinny, either.

Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit kicks the box again and the horse offstage left screams. I hear men’s voices raised in alarm as I follow her further stage left and she sees the horse being led out of the scene shop. It sees her, too, and tries to retreat. Eyes wild, rearing up. Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit smiles and waves at it, then crosses right to make her entrance from that side of the stage.

Some of the people smile at her. Most avoid eye contact, inspecting walls. One older lady makes the sign to ward off the Evil Eye, and Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit turns immediately in another direction.

“Mama! He doesn’t understand love at all!” I follow the voice and, standing at the top of the stage right stairs that lead to the roof of the theatre is that ghost child in her church couture. Her scowl is more disturbing for the lack of eyes.

fwap!

I’m back in my seat, Wells Fargo Wagon is reaching its surprisingly operatic climax and the flats upstage center open, the horse pulling the Wells Fargo Wagon onto the stage.

Except the horse freaks out: rearing, hoofs flailing, it cracks the skull of the youngest Shinn girl.

Kicking, it shatters the face of the curvy ensemble lady who only wanted some cake.

Biting, it takes a chunk from the face of Widow Paroo. The audience, screaming, flocks for the exits. Children’s bones are shattered under the feet of their own families. Fire springs up in the set. Actors are trapped.

Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit holds her hand close to some flame, like a sleepy Girl Scout toasting a marshmallow.

“Mama! He’s got all twisted!” I glance to my right and there’s the eyeless ghost child.

“What’s your name?” I say.

“Mary,” she says. “And Mama says you’re a damn fool if you think you can stop this. The book must be fed!

Her voice echoes over the amphitheatre, and every mother in the place falls sobbing to her knees.

fwap!

I’m backstage again, with Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit. She goes to kick that box –

And the box is moved. By an old man in a black coat, with a full white beard and crazy white hair. He says, “But when I am I to get back home, I’m sure I cannot tell, sir: I haven’t half the chance to get back there, that I have to go to hell, sir.”

Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit falls back to land on her ass, then scrambles away – back the way she came, to her proper stage right entrance. I glance back toward the old man.

He’s gone.

Who the hell was that?

Ghost Child Mary is no longer at the top of the stairs.

The music reaches its climactic –

fwap!

I’m in my seat and the horse enters.

I rears, the audience gasps.

The horse is controlled. Nobody is injured.

I train my binoculars on Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit.

Her golden eyes are staring directly at me. Bright and sharp, like coins polished on demonic labia.

Mama says you better listen to Weedbeard,” a voice whispers from my left.

I smile.

Thank you, Mary,” I say.

I lower the binoculars and I’m falling forward, the floor crashing through the ceiling – only, backward – with a morphine nausea. Except it’s fading.

I’m lying on my back. Judy and Weedbeard are standing over me.

Holy shit,” I say.

We should never have hired you,” says Judy.

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Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel VII

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on December 7, 2017 at 11:16 am

(Start here if this is your first time reading this series. This story is told in order, and believe it or not, the narrative works better that way. )

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Saturday, August 3, 1996 – Dark Carousel VII

Dandelion umbrels swirl down around me again and I float to my left, my feet setting gently down on the asphalt near the stage door.

Elsa, Scott and Billy “Squirt” Seltzer are all there, Billy still looking at me all moon-eyed. Scott is disdainful, Elsa is pretending to be exasperated with me – but she watches closely. I can feel her concern.

We’re waiting for Ken Ross. I’m watching the stage door. A couple, a man and a woman, stand nearby, talking. The man has his back to me. It takes a moment before I realize he’s talking to me:

“Edward. Do you hear me? Edward. Clear your throat if you hear me.”

It’s Weedbeard! I clear my throat.

Good. We lost you for a moment, there. Which means someone or something is bending this memory. Which shouldn’t be possible. Edward. There’s a chance she might approach you. Do. Not. Let. Her. Touch. You. Cough if you understand.”

I cough.

Elsa says, “You allergic to waiting?” She looks at Scott, “Me, too.”

Mama! Mama?!” I whirl at the sound, and stumbling down the redwood path from the box office to the stage door is a little black girl, nicely dressed, maybe seven years old. She’s got a teddy bear clutched to her. She’s mostly in shadow, fog enveloping her every step. Turning to look back the way she came, she stops. The back of her head illuminated, her hair in neat pigtails.

I think, She’s dressed for church. In 1960.

She turns, her face in a shaft of foggy light. Her eyes are empty holes.

“Mama says you better not stay here, Mister,” she says.

I want to look behind me. Is this a prank? Before I can turn, a hand grasps my shoulder. I look to my left. Weedbeard of 1996 still has his back to me, but from the back of his head – from within mostly dark but thinning hair – his current face pushes through. He’s bellowing words that sound like, “Ringeable! Dingeable! Scringeable!” He’s staring at my hands.

I look at his arms; they’re bent all wrong, reaching for me. I take both of his hands and —

fwap!

I’m back in my seat, binoculars glued to my face, but rather than a field in the moonlight, I’m pulled through the binoculars and –

— fwap!

I’m right next to Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit, on the stage, as she’s exiting during Iowa Stubborn. I follow her like we’re tethered. As she walks offstage, she pulls a ribbon knotting some aspect of Zaneeta’s younger sister’s costume in place. The little girl playing the youngest Shinn trips and falls, gouging her knee and bleeding badly, surrounded by concerned adults.

I see Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit’s face as she proceeds offstage: calm, smiling, secure.

I also see Judy seeing the whole thing; Judy turning to look at someone else, someone off in the shadows …

Louella! She of the Aughra-like features and less-charming personality. Her expression is passive; she might have been watching a freight train pass, her thoughts elsewhere. But Judy tilts her head and Louella gives the barest of bare shrugs: left shoulder only.

Judy shakes her head, moving in to speak to Louella.

I want to stay and hear what they say, but I’m tethered to the fiend I used to date, and she’s on the breezeway. I zip after her, and apparently she’s had some meaty garlic dishes of late, because she’s let fly some farts of truly epic stench. A couple of handsome young men are whispering intimately near one of the columns. Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit stops to stare at them.

“What?” one of them says. I recognize Tommy Djilas.

“I would never judge you,” she says, all sincerity. “I would never.”

Something in her words sends ice up my spine. The boys separate. Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit continues toward the women’s dressing room. I hear the boys coughing and gagging behind us from her assreek.

There’s a curvy ensemble member standing near a cake on the desk outside Harriet’s office. She’s lifting a bite to her mouth. Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit smiles huge and, laughing, says, “I love how free you are! Nobody needs consequences anyway! Does your husband call these days?”

The woman’s face crumples. She sets down the cake and Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit walks into the women’s dressing room – where I expect to see her wreak havoc among the ladies, spreading seeds of negativity that will grow into bitter fruit from the thorniest vines.

I’m plagued with sudden dismay: How did I never see this aspect of her when we were dating? Why did I have no memory of her golden eyes before tonight? Close on the heels of this thought comes a deeper, more alarming concern: What else have I done that I’ve forgotten?

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel VI

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on December 6, 2017 at 11:43 am

(Reader! Are you new? Welcome! Guess what? Start here. It will be a lot more satisfying.)
Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 12, 2001 – Dark Carousel VI

The row in front of us turns to shush and scowl at me.

“Pervert,” Elsa murmurs.

No, I’m talking about her eyes. Just her eyes. They were golden. As in, shining and golden,” I whisper. “I can’t believe you didn’t see it.”

“No doubt you want to go talk to her afterwards,” Scott murmurs, scratching the back of his neck with languid fingers.

“I’m pretty sure I don’t,” I say. And it’s the solid gold truth.

Dandelion umbrels swirl down around me and then clear away, we’ve moved forward in time and Billy Seltzer has moved to sit to my left, in a section of seats vacated by grandparents upset at my language. Billy Seltzer is trying to hold my hand. Her palms and fleshy and wet. It’s odd. I’m not comfortable with it. She won’t stop trying to hold my hand. How do I ask her to stop without causing an international incident?

It’s the scene after “76 Trombones” — Zaneeta enters with her friends. I raise the binoculars, glad of the escape from Billy “Squirt” Seltzer’s clammy palm shenanigans. I zoom in on Zaneeta again. Harold Hill is telling Tommy Djilas to escort her to the library. She smiles. Right at me.

Her eyes turn golden.

I can’t look anywhere else. They are huge and bright and I’m very sleepy now. I’m ready to go to sleep forever. Her eyes are filling the binoculars with light. I hear a voice … is it singing? … or screaming … and her eyes are inside of me. I can feel it, they’ve passed through my own eyeballs and are in my brain. Which is where they were supposed to be, I realize. This is where they belonged all along.

I open my eyes. I’m lying on my back in grass, outside, at night. The only light comes from a gibbous moon. It’s cold. I sit up. I’m in a large field. There’s a structure of some kind nearby, and thick tule fog wreathes the field with its eldritch creep.

Taking off my glasses to mop the fog from them with my shirt, I realize I’ve been here before. Right? It feels familiar.

There’s a sound behind me, like a group of people running in unison over the field. I turn around, standing up. Tule fog eddies around me, settling as I stand surveying the field and the surrounding trees.

There’s nothing there.

From behind me, echoing in the darkness, I hear, “Mama! Mama!

For an instant, I’m frozen in fear. Until I realize it’s the sound of an actual child calling for her mother. Unthinking, I run in that direction.

“Edward!” Elsa slaps me on the back of the head, cold water shocking me to awareness. I feel the binoculars slam into my chest, their plastic strap pulling hard at my neck.

The show is over. The seats are almost entirely empty. Scott is still shaking the last of a water bottle over my head, saying, “The Lord commands you: awake!”

“Fuck, did I fall asleep?” I say.

“No, asshole, you sat there like a pervy peeping tom, binocularizing the hotties in the show all night,” Elsa says.

“Actually, he didn’t move,” Scott says. “So … points for commitment.” He’s languid at his neck again.

“I don’t remember anything,” I say.

“Sure you don’t,” Elsa says.

I look at Billy Seltzer. She looks scared and upset. Oh fuck, she’s mad I didn’t hold her hand, I think, until I follow her gaze.

There are about ten other places in the amphitheatre where people are sitting up, binoculars stuck to their faces, surrounded by their family or some ushers. Each one is stock still, unresponsive.

Elsa looks where I’m looking. So does Scott.

“Um … creepy. Is this one of your long-form pranks, Edward?” Elsa is trying to sound nonchalant.

“Let’s go see Ken,” I say.

It’s an unseasonably warm night. But as I stand, I’m shivering like I’ve got a fever.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel V

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on December 5, 2017 at 12:06 pm

(You are like orange juice and toothpaste if you start with this episode; instead, start here.)
Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Saturday, August 3, 1996 – Dark Carousel V

No falling, no cheering this time: I set down simple and safe … on a hard wooden bench.

I hear a large chorus singing,“We can be cold as a falling thermometer in December if you ask about our weather in July … ”

The umbrels clear. I’m at Woodminster. I’m in the audience again, it’s 1996, and the show I know all too well: The Music Man. There’s something heavy around my neck; I look down, delighted to discover that I brought my Dad’s gigantic binoculars. (I called them Cleavage Scopes. It was a different time.) Grinning, I look around. I’m with Scott and Elsa, we’re here to see Ken Ross as Mayor Shinn – and I scan the wider crowd for a younger Weedbeard or anyone from my recent adventures.

I see nobody I recognize beyond my companions, and – wait, there’s Billy Seltzer, on the other side of Elsa, to the right of Scott and myself. Of course, she came with us! That’s the summer we met Billy Seltzer, when she still went by Squirt – a nickname of dubious origin. Scott couldn’t stand her. I look to the stage, avoiding eye contact. It’s the middle of “Iowa Stubborn,” and here comes Mayor Shinn (Elsa cheers, “Woo-hoo! Ken Ross!”) … Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn … and Zaneeta. I’ve done the show; I don’t remember Zaneeta entering there.

“She’s cute,” Elsa whispers.

“Who?” I say.

Billy Seltzer whispers – way too loud — “That’s Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit. She’s a spoiled little twat. Nobody likes her.”

“Which one?” I ask.

“Zaneeta,” Billy Seltzer whispers. Again: way too loud. Everyone around us has heard everything she said. Head in his hands, Scott whispers so only Elsa and I can hear, “Why did we invite her?”

Elsa laughs and Billy Seltzer leans in, saying, “What’s so funny?”

“What kind of a name is Zaneeta, anyway? Sounds Hindu,” Elsa says.

“A Bollywood Music Man would be amazing,” I say. Something about this scene is nagging at me.

Scott says, “Sure it would, Edward. Just like Ragtime would make a good musical.”

“It’s got an inherent musical…ibility … You know, I don’t think she enters in this number,” I murmur. Something glints on her face.

Her eyes?

“Did you guys see that?” I say, raising my binoculars to focus on the stage and zoom in, specifically, on Zaneeta.

She’s exiting with her family. She turns, grinning at the audience as she goes, she’s looking right at me – and her eyes. They’re golden.

I say, “Holy fuck! Did you see her eyes?”

Why was she looking right at me? I don’t even know this girl.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel IV

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on December 4, 2017 at 11:43 am

(Welcome! New reader? Avoid spoilers; start here.)
Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 12, 2001 – Dark Carousel IV

It’s Judy! She’s come to save me!

Then Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit bursts into tears and I realize, in horrid clarity, how this looks. There was a thing! I want to say. A giant, jiggling, fleshy scorpion’s tail! Yeah, no, that’s not going to help me.

“Who the hell is that you have with you?” Judy says. “Is he hurting you?”

I want to run, but I realize that would be the worst thing to do. I turn to speak.

“Whoa! What bit you in the face, mister?!” Judy steps up close. “Thirty years as a nurse and I’ve only seen an allergic reaction like that once or twice! Looks like you kids might have rolled in something nasty up here. There’s rats, you know. Better come with me.”

Which is how, I now realize, Harriet knew who I was when I came to that audition. Judy separated us, got the story from Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit – calling her only Laurabell the entire time. I overheard her correct Judy again and again, and I realize now that Judy was intentionally mocking her.

All this as I sit in Judy’s office, blinking into eye cups filled with saline. Someone keeps filling them and handing them to me. I hear a voice I now recognize as Harriet’s saying, “Who gets rat poop in their eyes?!” Before a door opens and she gasps. I’m focused on rinsing my eyes over this trash can, and I’m deeply embarrassed and ashamed to look at anybody. “Do we need to take him to the hospital?” Harriet says, closing the door.

Judy says, “I don’t think so, let’s give it a few minutes …” and they move off.

“You’ve probably noticed that you can’t move in this memory,” a voice says, and I about hit the ceiling. I turn my head and there, barely visible through my swollen eyes, is a Weedbeard in his late fifties – his hair and beard are more salt and pepper than silvery white.

I try to speak; I can barely croak.

Weedbeard laughs and hands me a refilled eye cup. “Can’t speak out of turn, either. That’s because this memory is so distant for you, and because it’s fixed. You’ve been marked. While all of this is rinsing out of your eyes, and while your lungs and mouth will recover, it’s the cut on your low back that festers. And, long after it’s scarred and faded, you find yourself injuring that leg, that foot, that hip – in theatres. Or in times of turmoil. And now you’re drawn back here, because it craves you all the more for having been denied its chance to devour you the first time.”

I want to ask so many questions!

“I have to make this quick, our time is short. No doubt you have some questions; and here’s the thing, Edward: you can ask them. But you have to get back to the now first,” Weedbeard says, and now he’s spraying saline solution into a small plastic cup.

I try to nod a question of what are you doing at the cup in his hands, but it’s impossible. And I’m dimly aware of another conversation, the one that happened at the time: he was asking me about myself, which lead to questions about how I knew Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit, where I was going to school, my goals in life. I was pontificating on Sondheim, of course. Like an ass.

In this memory overlay, Weedbeard is adding what looks like more salt to the saline solution, from a pouch in his pocket; and from another pouch, herbs. He’s saying, “In order to do that, you have to fall farther back, to the first time you saw her. The first time you saw the truth of her eyes. Because you’re one of the only people outside of our group who even knows how to look beyond her mask.”

I smell Chamomile, Rosemary, Cinnamon – with something darker, earthier. Weedbeard stirs them together with a wooden coffee stirrer, leaning in to say, “And, if I may speak frankly, you have unique insight because you’ve been physically inside of her. But that moment, when you first noticed her eyes, that’s the dandelion umbrel of connection from which this insidious weed has sprouted in your heart, soul and mind.”

Weedbeard dumps the salty herb brine over my head and says, “Iter cito per iter Deorum!”

I gasp, shaking my head, completely clear of all allergic reaction. I can move! I turn to ask him a question, and Weedbeard throws a handful of Dandelion umbrels into the air.

I say, “Teach me to do this stuff!” Before I can finish the sentence, they tornado around me and I’m flying in their giggling embrace. And though I feel warm and safe right now, I have the distinct feeling of impending doom.