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Posts Tagged ‘South Pacific’

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel IX

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on December 21, 2017 at 12:06 pm

(“Oh my. I’d love to read this. I’ll just dive in to the most recent episode,” said the Well-Meaning Reader.
That’s not the best approach,” said Edward. “Instead, start here. That’s the beginning of the story.”
But – I don’t understand! You want me to read it, don’t you?”
Yes.”
Then why does it matter where I start?”
Because there’s a beginning. And stories are better if begun where they begin. Like right here.”
Oh! I understand now.”
Do you?”
Yes: begin at the beginning of this episode.”
Oh my,” said Edward. And thus began the Day Drinking.)

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

No time for regrets,” Weedbeard says. “We’ve got to document his memories before they fade.”

And, already, my memories are dimming.

All business, Judy says, “No time. The Stillness will cease, soon. Edward, stand up.”

Of course,” says Weedbeard. “Better to re-set, then check in with our young adventurer in a few days. How’re you doing, Edward?”

Letting Weedbeard and Judy to help me up, I feel a pleasant euphoria wash over me. I say, “Better than morphine.”

Ah yes,” Judy says, leading me to the warded basement door, where she pauses as Weedbeard blows a handful of powder through the doorway. It crackles as it moves past the wards, then poofs huge into the space beyond. For a moment, we are wreathed in an intense wave of Cinnamon. The shadows in the doorway lighten.

Judy and Weedbeard relax visibly. He steps through before us, and I see from his movements that he’s had military training; I catch a brief glimpse of jungles and helicopters, just a flash, and I say, “This euphoria … does it carry perceptive spelunking?”

They both turn and look at me.

You’re going to have to watch him very closely, Bill,” Judy says.

Weedbeard gestures for me to step through the doorway and, guided by Judy, I join him. As this is happening, he says, “I plan to. I’ve got eyes in the back of his head.” He touches the back of my head with his right index and middle fingers. I feel a warmth, a security flow over me. “Try to avoid darkness, young man,” he says. “It’s easier for me to see you in the light.”

They place me just as I was when they arrived, both stepping back through the doorway.

Time for me to skedaddle,” says Weedbeard.

You going to give him something to jog his memory?” Judy says. “You’ll need a hook to be able to pull any of this back up from the depths.”

Weedbeard says, “Oop. Yep. Whew. Tired. Okay: eyes front, soldier.” I smile, laugh, look front. He holds a card in front of my eyes. I see the words on the card, I comprehend them, but he says, “You feel high as fuck right now. This card is an anchor in your memory. It will draw you to find us, to find me. Think of coffee when pondering its origins. Not on the front burner, but simmering in the back. Do you understand, Edward?”

Yes,” I say. “Card, coffee, back burner. I’ll find you, Mister Wizard.” I am high as fuck right now.

Weedbeard chuckles, tucks the card into my back pocket. “In about fifteen seconds, you’ll wake up. You will have no conscious memory of anything that’s happened since you stepped into this doorway. Do you agree?”

I hope this lasts through rehearsal.

I agree,” I say. God, it would be nice to be high during rehearsal.

Weedbeard is silent a moment, then says, “I go now. In by the sunset …”

Out by the moon,” Judy says.

But I just can’t allow myself that breach of professionality.

Also … this door has always been here, standing open. Those stairs are creepy. I wonder what’s down there. Holy shit … I just heard the Ma-maaa –

“There you are!”

I jump. Judy is right outside the door.

When the hell did she get there?

“What are you doing in here?” Judy steps in next to me, looking down at the basement door.

“Did you hear that?” I say

“Hear what?” she says.

“That sound, like a broken baby doll crying,” I say.

“A broken babydoll? Reminiscing about our ex girlfriends, are we, Edward?”

“Ha! No, I mean a doll, like a doll that looks like a baby. The kind that go, ma-ma, and cry and stuff.”

Judy is silent a moment before saying, “You heard that from down there?”

“Yep.”

“That’s not good, Ed. I think you should stay away from this door. You might be tempted to go down there. That’s dangerous.”

“Why?”

“Asbestos. We never go down there anymore. That door down there’s supposed to be closed,” she says. Her voice echos back from the darkness below. “Baby dolls in the dark. That’s creepy. Whew. Anyway Ed, Allison has something for you to try on. Let’s get away from painful death,” she tugs at my right shoulder, pulling me out into the light.

The theatre is alive with sounds and conversation.

Where was everybody two minutes ago?

shwrrrryoink! –

I’m yanked backwards, not into the closet but up and through and falling to land with a jerk, sitting upright on a hard wooden chair.

I open my eyes.

I’m at Weedbeard’s table. He’s across from me, and on the table in front of him are a cloth with a mirror atop it, and on the mirror, spread out everywhere, are powders, herbs and minerals. It looks like a very messy, haphazard art project. Weedbeard is panting. He looks half dead.

Do. Not. Ever. Do that. Again,” he says.

Something huge pounds on the house three times. We jump.

Ghost Child Mary walks out of the wall and points at Weedbeard.

Mama says you better get him under control or he’s going to unravel all the secrets!”

Head in his hands, Weedbeard says, “Oh fuck.”

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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.

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 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 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!”

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

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on October 10, 2017 at 11:34 am

(This part is not where to start. Be not the silly person. Instead, start here.)

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

I roll to my right, thrusting my left hand toward where I remember the door being. In the instant I reach, my eyes open and I see things in stillness and slow:

Weedbeard has cast the bag inside out; its contents, I can smell, are the saltiest salt that ever salted. They cut through the air like tiny diamond bullet crystals, slicing through the buttery light which has spread up the stairs and wrapped Weedbeard’s feet. They leave trails of clarity where they’ve sliced through the light: ordinary reflected daylight somewhat penetrating the gloom of a dark stairwell; I find unexpected comfort in that.

The turkeybaby and sporangia are turning back toward Weedbeard, screaming. The pink of the meatfrond is burned black everywhere the salt is landing.

Judy is reaching for my hand as I sprawl across the dusty red concrete floor; Obi-Wan-point-five jumps in over me. And though the voice in my head has been saying,

No, no, no, no, no I am already on your face, in your eyes, your hair, your pink and muscular tongue,

Obi-Wan-point-five says loud and clear, “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York!”

Judy grabs my hand on the word sun, pulling me out on my back. Once I’m through the door, the voice in my head dims significantly, though I can still hear it:

Oh my oh my oh my how I would enjoy to rip that tongue from your muscular manly mouth

Its words are growing dimmer by the second, but on this side of the door, I hear:

“Ma-MA! Ma-MA!”

What eldritch strangeness is held at bay by this warded door? And why does it turn my inner monologue Lovecraftian? I shake off the Howard Phillips, trying to ignore Dolly Lurker’s fading voice in its unpleasant discord with its baby doll noise, focusing on what I can see: as he lands, Obi-Wan-point-five turns his back to the wall and sloping ceiling of the stairwell, pushing Weedbeard back toward escape. Weedbeard falls to the ground half on top of me, just outside the door.

for indeed your words are your power and I will sap you of it before I devour you.

“Ma-MA-MA! Ma-MA-MA-MA!”

I grasp Obi-Wan-point-five’s plan in an instant. The salt and oil are holy – or he believes they are. He is anointed and safe. He’ll push Weedbeard free, burning with salt the turkeybaby and sporangia that try to touch him, then follow.

Except that his shoes are slick with oil.

Obi-Wan-point-five slips backward from the force of shoving his friend to safety. As Weedbeard lands, Obi-Wan-point-five comes down hard on both knees, right on the edge of the top step. I feel sympathetic pain in my knees, hearing bone shatter.

“Ma-MA! MA-MAAAAAAAAAAaaaahhhhghghglerlklkggggllllllle!” It sounds triumphant, gurgling and frothing in delight, echoing in the stairwell and again from deeper in the basement.

A hand grasps Obi-Wan-point-five’s right shoulder. He looks at it, and though it is burning from the salt, it stays. Claws grow and dig deep into his flesh. Another hand, delicate and ladylike, grasps his left shoulder; he turns to look at it and sporangia on the wall to his left burst black spores the size of cotton balls in his face. He gasps, inhaling them by the thousands. He tries to cough, but they’re forcing their way into his lungs.

Obi-Wan-point-five’s eyes grow too large. More spores burst from around him. They were black at first, now they’re pink.

His eyes turn golden. Cotton candy colored spores are covering him, burning away from the salt, but covered over again by millions more in an instant, until a layer forms and falls off like a strange sweet shell in your Americana nightmare carnival: the salt is neutralized. All this in seconds.

The third hand snakes around his right side, into his pants.

Obi-Wan-point-five loses all control, emitting high-pitched, terrified screams. He is fighting like mad, unintelligible phrases bursting from his mouth: “Browning! Pyre! Cinderella! To bring my to outfit and now become necessary!” There is a sound like tearing cloth and I realize it’s the sound of his flesh ripping open. His screams are just screams now. Fluids stain the crotch of his khakis, running like rainwater down the steps behind him.

The porcelain skin. The grin too wide, stretched beyond the cheekbones. Like a smile pulled to ripping by the cruelest uncle with his too-thick fingers. The huge square teeth clattering the clatter of old shutters in a windstorm, Dolly Lurker’s face is next to Obi-Wan-point-five’s head, turning slow like a sloth to look at us – and I know now it’s been moving up behind him this whole time. A whisper in my brain ears:

Oh no, no, no, no, no, I’ve been moving up behind you for three years my tasty. Oh my, oh my, oh my, yes.

“Ma-MA! Ma-MAAAA! Play time!

Creaking and clattering from behind the teeth explode giant spider legs, grabbing at the doorway and yanking Dolly Lurker’s face forward, slamming into the wall and the doorjamb with force enough to shake the building. The mouth is vast and the hands (now small, ineffectual, paper hands) bat Obi-Wan-point-five side to side a couple times — like a playful kitten with a doomed mouse —  before smacking him inside.

The teeth come down, half-open, flapping like loose cupboard doors. I see his right rib cage and left clavicle crushed; nude white bone protrudes, jagged. His abdomen is pierced, his small intestine caught on a splintered bit of square tooth; the smell of hot dark shit and bright copper blood says death is near. His body is jerking involuntarily, like a man healed by a televangelist. Three of his fingers have fallen to the dusty red concrete, just inside the door. One of Dolly Lurker’s hands bats him farther into the gaping maw.

Obi-Wan-point-five is still screaming, but now it’s the scream of a man falling, falling, falling. There’s a tug, then a tautness and a twang before his intestine rips from the tooth and follows.

Dolly Lurker is slamming its face into the doorway, pushing through. The corners of the door are sparking little purple sparks. 

The wall is cracking.

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

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on October 9, 2017 at 11:43 am

(Applebee’s sucks. In your heart of hearts, you know it’s the Fuller House of chain restaurants. If you love both of those things, you probably won’t like this story. If you loathe both of those things, you’re in the right place. Start here.)

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

Lanky dark hair just beyond the doorjamb moves in a breeze I can’t feel. I see it now: an eye. Golden iris, pupil far too large. Locked onto me. Skin porcelain white. A gigantic, goofy grin, with way too many huge square teeth. The expression in that one eye: towering, giddy, ravenous rage. A clear thought forms in my head, the entire sentence sounding inside my cranium as though spoken, It wants us dead, and it wants to be the deadening.

Then another voice speaks in my head, shadows of terrified screaming beneath every vowel; my ears itch inside as it slithers around in my brain, unlocking every worst memory, breathing fresh fuel into every fear and insecurity:

No, no, no, no, no, my tasty, I am the deadening. Oh my, oh my, oh my, yes. I am the deadening. I am the deadening.

I shake my head against its slithering brain eggs; the nodule and sporangia all shift to focus on me with wet squish and plorpings. I’m trying to ignore the whirlwind of bad memories in my mind.

No, no, no, no, no, my tasty — all of the things. You remember all of the things. They are your esssssssence. Why try? You are that rejected ring. You are the miscarried child. 

Weedbeard says, “Alan, now!”

I can see outside the door, at last: Judy is there, and now there’s a face to the voice of Alan – it’s Obi-Wan-point-five! He’s throwing a Crown Royal bag full of something that isn’t a bottle to Weedbeard, who catches it without looking, eyes on the nodule. Obi-Wan-point-five is covered in oil. Judy is upending a box of kosher salt over his head, then pouring on more — olive? — oil. There’s another box of kosher salt nearby. I want to make a joke about savory sex, but I’m afraid to speak, and the voice in my head won’t stop:

You are the broken heart, abandoned promises, mistaken love, foolish indiscretion, erotic obsession, shameful indulgences, every dark and bad thing you work so hard to hide is why you should give up.

The nodule and sporangia shift back to Weedbeard – shphleurk-pop-pop-pop! – when he catches the bag, but I can’t stop shaking my head – I can feel it moving in there! – and they shift back to me, the frond fluffing to cover the ceiling and come halfway down the walls. It sounds, I realize, like a tom turkey puffing up his feathers. This strikes me as funny, until the nodule presses against the skin surrounding it, stretching the skin thin enough that it looks like the nodule will break through.

My tasty, when you tell this story, others will come looking for me, and oh how I want to be found.

It’s the face of a turkey. If a turkey was part vulture and part newborn baby. Grinning, with wriggling tongues for teeth, its eyes crudely-chopped mismatched triangles like a psychopathic jack-o-lantern. There’s a flickering light inside, casting horrid little shadows on the inside of its skull. It’s the light of a candle made from human tallow. How do I know that?

I am the one standing at the foot of your bed, that’s how.

Weedbeard is muttering something over the open Crown Royal bag, moving his hand in a pattern as he does so. The turkeybaby is getting closer to my face, the sporangia growing darker, like they’re engorged with blood.

I am in your closet, watching you sleep. Sucking at your dreams.

“You’ve got one chance, Edward,” Judy says, all calm business, tearing open and dumping the next box of kosher salt on Obi-Wan-point-five, “But you’ve got to shut your eyes. Trust me. Shut your eyes, and when I say NOW, you turn and reach out your left hand. We’ll try to get you in time. Edward? Shut your eyes.”

Mine are the grabbing hands waiting under your bed, reaching up to touch you.

I do as she says, shutting my eyes. Something warm and wet gloms onto my face, wrapping my head in flesh, clogging my nose, sealing my mouth shut. I try to breathe, to scream. I can’t!

I use your mouth to spill my seed in your lungs. Hold real still. Hold
real still. Hold real still.

“Edward, listen to me,” Judy says, her voice still low and calm. “It’s making you think you’re suffocating, but you’re not. And if you open them again, it’s going to breathe those spores right into your eyes and you will be lost to us forever, with no memory of any of this. Be ready, Edward; to your right, with your left hand. Trust me, you’re breathing. Just trust – NOW!”