ewhightower

Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

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.

Advertisements

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.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel III

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on October 17, 2017 at 12:06 pm

(Hi, friends! New to this story? Avoid the spoilers below; start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 12, 2001 – Dark Carousel III

I resist at first, but Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit leans in and brushes her lips across mine. I follow. She leads me past what I now know are the stage left stairs. Nobody sees us. We’re among picnic tables, turning right and going down three steps to a shadowed terrace. She draws me to the darkest corner, furthest from all sources of light. In the moment, goosebumps and arousal fight for dominion.

Re-visiting the memory, I’m galvanized by fear:

We’re on the rooftop picnic terrace above the mens’ dressing room.

As if on cue, a sound floats from the trees on the dark slope beyond:

“Ma-Ma … Ma-MA …”

It’s like a whisper; it could be mistaken for a night bird. I didn’t notice it at the time. My impulse, in the clarity of hindsight, is to turn and run. Only for some reason, I can’t flex this memory. I’m stuck. And Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit is kissing me, so it’s much easier to just give in.

“Close your eyes,” she says. I do. She says, “The moon is waning, did you know?”

“Yes,” I say. “My mom’s an astrologer – ”

She stops my mouth with another kiss, then says, “The moon is waning and the dust will blow.” Then she knees me in the balls.

I gasp, eyes popping open, as she blows something in my face. It’s powder or dust and I feel little bits of it get in my eyes and on my lips. I’m gasping, choking, sputtering. I can feel my eyes swelling up. The urge to rub them is overwhelming. “What the fuck was that?!” I say, raspy, coughing.

“The webs of fate have all been spun,” she says, and she sounds ecstatic. Euphoric. She puts something on her tongue and kisses me, shoving her tongue into my mouth as she pushes me to the cold hard concrete. I’m trying not to cough into her mouth, but whatever is on her tongue is in my mouth now, and it’s crunchy. Like, bugs crunchy.

At the time, I thought she was trying to be kinky. Clumsy, embarrassing, potentially fatal kinky, but still — sex.

Pulling up my shirt, she breaks the kiss. Knowing what I know now, I realize she isn’t really trying to undress me. The concrete is cold and rough on my low back. I want to tell her this is really uncomfortable, but it feels like my throat is closing up.

“Ma … ma?” from the shadows in the trees just beyond the terrace. It sounds excited.

She’s whispering, grinding against me, and I hear her words this time: “This day’s the last you’ve seen the sun. This day’s the last you’ve taken bread. This day’s your last, your end’s begun. The dark moon grows, your breath’s unspun, the webs are strong, you’ve lost the sun, your lust is crumbs, the bread is mold – ”

I want to tell her I’m surprised at her use of internal rhyme, because she’s strictly an ABAB kind of girl — but I’m distracted by the click of something metallic. I try to open my eyes. They’re swollen mostly shut. In spite of that, I can see movement now among the branches, in the darkness beyond the terrace. A shape is coming closer.

Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit puts a cold, sharp blade against my low back, on the left side. She says, “I promise you will Not.” The blade cuts into me. “Get.” I struggle back from her, trying to push her off, but her fingers are pressing, rubbing a stinging substance into the slice. “Old!

Even with my eyes swollen mostly shut, I can see something strange in her face: her left eye has something shiny in it. Something … golden. I marvel at it a moment before the shape in the darkness raises up above and behind her. It looks like a fleshy scorpion’s tail, but all wrong. Unnatural and revolting. It jiggles as it moves with such wrongness that I sit up fast and straight – smacking my head into Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit’s nose.

She cries out, clutching her face.

Electric light floods the terrace. The thing of wrongness is gone. Blood is pouring down Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit’s face.

“What the hell’s going on here?” I hear a familiar voice. “Laurabell? Is that you?

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel II

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on October 16, 2017 at 12:07 pm

(This is a serialized narrative. I’m telling this story in order. To avoid confusion and spoilers, start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 12, 2001 – Dark Carousel II

“Oh sure, she’s so hot you fainted,” Billy is saying. There’s mockery there, but deeper down I hear the venom that would eventually poison our friendship. With my eyes shut, I regain some perspective: I’m in another memory. It’s Friday, July 12, 2001 – we’ve just watched Noel Antonio Escobar give a lovely singing of Billy Bigelow in Carousel at Woodminster Amphitheatre, Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit (who would later choose Laurabell Beaujolais as her stage name, of course) is my … undefined intimate romance. I’m twenty-seven years old, I’m not in any pain and I have yet to make the cascade of mistakes that characterized my 30’s.

The jingling has stopped. Wait, why was I concerned about bells?

I open my eyes.

All of this has happened in seconds. I stand back up, a little wobbly. Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit is “concerned,” Billy Seltzer rolls her eyes. The cast of Carousel is bowing. I applaud, whistling. They bow again.

I bellow/sing, “Escobaaaaaaaaaar!”

People in front of us turn to stare at me.

Billy Seltzer takes two steps to our left, pretending not to know me.

this is something she will do in the future on a much larger scale, then pretend she didn’t do it and tell mutual friends that she doesn’t understand why I “abandoned our friendship” …

Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit puts her hand on my arm in an attempt to “calm” me.

this is something she will keep doing over the next many months – try to control my behavior, to edit my demeanor, to gently chastise me for not spending every waking moment literally polishing the figurative golden statue she demanded I sculpt of her in my heart …

These prophetic memories are less disorientating than the first. I find them useful: they’re like emotional ballast, keeping me stable – reminding me that I’m just a re-visitor here.

But why am I here?

The curtain call is over, people are gathering their things and leaving. Our seats are in the back of Section 4, which is house-right of the center section.

“It’s gonna take him a minute,” Billy Seltzer says. “Let’s sit. I fucking hate the crowds.”

A young mother walks by with a sleeping toddler in her arms. They’re jingling! Terror shocks through me and I give an involuntary fight-or-flight twitch: backwards over the seats to the back of the house, sprint for the entrance — this escape path is clear in my mind. Then I see that the toddler is wearing a onesie with little jingling bells in the peak of its elfin cap.

I relax. But — why am I relaxing? Why was I scared? There’s something nibbling at the back of my mind.

Alarm fades and the question follows it to sleep. We watch as parents and grandparents are gathering their sleepy, unconscious or bored kids and grand-kids for the long trek back to the cars. I hear more than one grandparent say, “Did you like the show, honey?”

I let those people get far away, then say to the ladies, “As though a child of six is going to be just riveted by Carousel? This baffles me: grandparents being excited to take their grandchildren to see Rodgers & Hammerstein. These shows are not fast-paced, the subject matter tends to be a little bit heavy, and kids aren’t going to relate to any of the characters.”

I’m talking a little too loudly, making an aesthetic proclamation. Strutting for Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit. Watching myself do this, I cringe at the memory. I don’t say it, but the words may as well be silently appended to the beginning of every sentence: I went to the Boston Conservatory, and …

“You don’t know that,” Billy Seltzer says.

I say, “Little kids are going to say, ‘Golly, I sure do want to be Curly in that dream ballet down there’?”

“I think the Dream Ballet might have a lot to do with certain little boys realizing they might need to do some musicals,” says Billy Seltzer.

I laugh. “You have a point. We must proselytize! Bring all your grandchildren, conservative grandparents, and let Musical Theatre work its bright and sparkly charms!”

Billy Seltzer is smiling, but she turns away; I see it in her eyes: a jealousy I didn’t catch at the time. “I’m heading down,” she says. “I think there’s a bathroom down there.”

there wasn’t …

“We’ll be down in a minute,” says Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit. As Billy picks up her jacket and blanket, Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit takes me by the hand and draws me away, to the right, up the last few steps to the back of the amphitheatre, heading toward the actual restrooms. She’s turning to smile at me, allure her clear intention.

she may as well be wearing a neon sign …

I figure we’re heading for the restrooms and I want to ask her if she’s going to poop with that same expression on her face, but she turns left at the top of the far house-right stairs, drawing me down. I follow, of course, and when she pauses at the fork in the stairs, I see right through her pretense of debate. She knows exactly where she’s taking me. She turns and looks at me, an eyebrow arched in sexual promise, then draws me toward the cement walkway on the right.

At the time, I had no idea where it went. Now, I see it with two sets of eyes: not knowing in the moment where we were going, and the knowledge what happened when we got there, which – until now – I had entirely forgotten.

I try to pull back, to stay in the light.

It’s impossible.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on October 13, 2017 at 5:04 pm

(Tell your friends to read this story so you guys can chat about it over absinthe. Tell your enemies to read this story so they will come to you and say, “Why did you tell me to read that? Now I’m afraid to poop. I’m so afraid to poop!” Because your enemies are clearly idiots. Start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 21, 2017 – Dark Carousel

Judy steps between Weedbeard, myself and the door. She fixes her eyes on mine. She’s calm, firm and strong like Half Dome. She says, “Ed, I want you to think of a girl you once knew. That may take you some time – I know a lot about you.”

I laugh at that – and manage to push Weedbeard back a step.

Judy is still speaking, though: “This is a girl whose eyes looked blue when you met her. She came along at a time when you needed healing, and at first you thought that she might be the one.”

This tickles memories from over a decade ago, but there is power welling inside of me, filling me from my feet upward.

Judy is distracting me with her damned words: “Again, Ed, that could describe a lot of the women in your past – you’ve needed healing all your life. And that’s okay.”

The power is reaching my heart. If Judy would just shut up, I know that – very soon – I’ll throw Weedbeard through that door and leap after him, just to prove that there’s nothing there and we’ve won!

Judy plants her feet and places her hands before her in a stance of, what, conjuring? Protection? It looks familiar to me, but from where? She says, “What makes this girl different from all the rest is that her eyes didn’t stay blue. In fact, they never were. Not since before the first time you saw her. But you saw the slip of her mask. On a very specific night, in a very specific place – they turned from blue to … ”

“Golden,” I say.

The world flips over. Everything on the floor crashes through the ceiling. I need to escape before it lands on me, so I slip straight down – only, up – through the floor.

And I’m falling. There are hundreds of people below me, screaming? No, cheering –

I land with a slam and a lurch and I hear myself say, “Earthquake, sorry, I’ve eaten too much garlic,” to the lady next to me.

She doesn’t notice because everyone’s on their feet, cheering as Julie Jordan is taking her bow. And now here comes Billy Bigelow – and it’s my old friend Noel Escobar. “Holy shit, we’re at Woodminster!” I say.

“Of course we are, silly,” says a young, sultry voice to my right.

I turn and there she is. Brunette. Blue eyes. Full lips. Porcelain skin.

cracking porcelain, paper hands …

I brush that thought aside, noting that it would make a good detail in a short story about a haunted theatre. I take her in my arms, kissing her full on the mouth. She complies, willing, and as I feel her press her body against me – firm, full breasts; muscular thighs – I am overcome with incandescent desire. The people around us fade away and I am unzipping her jacket, reaching to –

“Jesus, Edward, calm down – it’s not that cold!” This from my left and the spell is, well, not broken exactly, more like put on hold. I turn and that lady isn’t a stranger; she’s my friend Billy Seltzer – friend and former lover, she who eventually regretted introducing myself and the Sizzling Bhuddist Yam Pot to my right: Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit.

I haven’t seen Billy Seltzer in over a decade …

For a moment, I see events yet to come as though recalling their memory, and the world splits in two: my eyes lose focus, vision splitting and going sideways as I land heavily on my ass in a hard plastic bleacher seat. Everything is spinning and I hear, faintly, something I don’t want to hear at all: underneath the applause and cheering, bells.

Jingling.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R X

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on October 12, 2017 at 11:54 am

(Sometimes you are dusty. Let these mummified hands brush you clean. Listen to their first insidious whispers here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 21 2017 – C&R X

As he braces himself to fire,Weedbeard’s right bootheel touches a small patch of the insect grool and is burned away on the right side. He doesn’t notice, racking a fresh charge with a lever on the underside of the shotgun as he shouts, “Rocksalt, Fatherfucker!” The second blast is a dull roar; my ears are still ringing from the first.

The blast of salt tears through the baby doll, its larval plorper and the rotting hand, burning chunks splattered backwards onto Dolly Lurker’s porcelain skin – which now cracks, like actual porcelain. Dolly Lurker is gnashing its giant flapping shutter trapdoor teeth, breaking spider legs with juicy, meaty chunkings; the arm of the rotting hand holding the nightmare baby doll jutting off at an odd, jaunty angle like FDR’s cigarette holder. We have nothing to fear but a giant mouthful of spider legs! This thought is all mine, and it’s a relief to not hear others in there.

Weedbeard racks a third charge with the lever – I look over: this is a revolving shotgun. I say, “Fucking rad!” – but I’m drowned out as Weedbeard bellows, “Thrice-blessed by Rabbis, Priests and Pagan Conjurers! Smoked in the Smokey Smoke of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme!”

As he says those last five words, ancient harmony wells up around us: thousands of monks, angelic choirs, every hippie who ever lived? Whoever it is, there is a moment of soul-wrenching beauty as that harmony coalesces around Weedbeard. He fires the shotgun on the button of the musical phrase.

There is a strange stillness to the blast – the salt crystals meet a barrier in the air for an instant, but the words Smokey-Smoke appear in the air, in a circle, around the blast. Is this the smoke of the blast, or the smoke in which the salt was smokey-smoked? I don’t know. But it puffs out into those words and then is sucked into every shard of salt – and the barrier is broken.

Dolly Lurker is blasted back against the wall, shrinking, two hands reaching up to hold its cracking face together, spider legs scrabbling at odd angles for purchase on anything. One of them is caught on the doorjamb of this upper door and rips out, falling to the floor with a clatter. Weedbeard has racked a fourth charge and blasts the leg away from the door; it shatters, but even the shards twitch and jumble about. I have a feeling that they’d slice anyone they could reach right now.

“Ma-MA! Ma-MAAaaughlghghghllllrrrrrghhhhh … ” Dolly Lurker sounds like it’s back down at the bottom of the stairs. I’m standing – when did that happen? – and I move toward the door to look.

Judy and Weedbeard both grab my arms and pull me back. I’m fighting them. Why?

“You heard the voice, didn’t you, Edward?” Judy says.

“It’s got a deeper hold on you that it would if you’d never heard it,” Weedbeard says.

They’re strong, but I’m determined to look through that door. I’m dragging them toward the opening. It looks innocuous. Just a doorway. I say, “How do I tell you both to fuck off but in a very respectful way?”

Weedbeard steps in front of me, grabbing me by the shoulders. I’m able to push him toward the door. I’m not usually this strong. “This is why I told you the memory was unsafe!” he says. “This doorway is warded and therefore acts like a portal – memories are malleable and can be changed here! You passed out when Alan fell, you didn’t see all of this. You need to step back to your present before you alter this leaf of time!”

But I’m pushing him. We’re almost at the door. I’m winning.

It feels so good!

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R IX

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on October 11, 2017 at 11:45 am

(Do you like the marzipan? Yes you love the marzipan! Do you like the licorice? Maybe not the licorice! Only take a bite. Only take a bite. Bite and bite and suck the taste: licorice and marzipan, everything that’s moist. Take your first nibble here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 21 2017 – C&R IX

It’s like a cartoon. Dolly Lurker is thrilled with this turn of events, eyes lit up as it regards us, pausing before slamming into the doorway again. Another pause and it’s clapping its weird tiny hands like a giddy, evil fop before the next wall-shaking assault.

“How long since these wards were refreshed, Judy?” Weedbeard says.

“No way to know, Bill. Alan was in charge of this portal.” Judy is running toward Joel’s office, all business.

Another fully-voiced sentence in my head, What vast emptiness awaits all devoured by the deadening? It’s the other voice – the not Dolly Lurker voice. Good to know I’m hearing multiple voices. But this question has been nibbling at the back of my mind: how far down will Obi-Wan-point-five fall before he lands? I still hear him screaming as he falls.

“Do we know the basis of his warding?” Weedbeard says.

“I think he was trying to charge it up right before he stopped making sense,” Judy says, stepping into Joel’s office.

Dolly Lurker is whispering something to us, gesturing us closer with its little paper hands. It wants us to come closer, but Weedbeard and I scoot back. Dolly Lurker frowns, then grins bigger than before – we can hear its mouth stretching – and a veritable forest of jagging, grabby giant spider legs vomit forth, scrabbling at the floor, their massive raptorial tarsus claws gouging the concrete. In my mind I hear,

No, no, no, no, no you will not get away. Oh my, oh my, oh my, no you will not.

Aloud, “Ma-MA! Ma-MAAAAAAAAAA!

One of the claws is reaching, scratching at the upper left corner of the doorway, searching for a target I cannot see. It flinches as the little purple sparks of the warding singe its long, thick tactile leg hairs.

“Will the wards hold?” Weedbeard says.

“I’m not waiting to find out!” this from Judy as a shotgun roars over our heads. Judy is knocked onto her ass from the force of the blast. All sound fades as it tears into Dolly Lurker, sizzling black burns that send the spider legs back into that still-growing mouth for a moment; they’re in there, glistening, their tactile leg hairs rustling as Dolly Lurker’s face lights up in beatific rapture.

“It’s breathing! Gun!” says Weedbeard, reaching to catch it — again, without looking — as Judy throws the shotgun.

A massive, gnarled hand punches from the center of the bunched spider legs – fingers blue-black with deep, dry gangrene – punching all the way out and through the door. A wave of decay rolls from the hand, and the memory of chunky rotwater boils over in my mind. Clutched in the hand is a squirming baby doll, its face scarred and stitched with a patchwork of different colored skins, some light, some dark, some fresh and soft, some old and leathery. They look like actual human skin. One eye is blue, its eyelashed lid blink-blink-blinking at us. The other socket is dark, but not empty. Something wet and larval squirms in that darkness, and under the cloth of the baby doll’s body is a squirming mass of living insectoid terrors, devouring and hatching by the billions every second, their juices and chunks staining the cloth and dripping through to land like gooey, sinister espresso, thick and sizzling on the concrete.

“Ma-MA! MA-MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” Dolly Lurker’s screeching would deafen anyone not already ear-numb from a shotgun blast.

Something is worming its way out of the dark eye socket, a sleurmy winged plorper. The baby doll’s fingers twitch and clutch at the air, its mouth opens to show way too many square teeth.

“It’s larval!” Judy says, “Kill it before it lands!”