Thursday, March 6, 2008

Little Girl Lost and the Horse With No Eyes

[He stands atop a rafter, looking down.]

They file in nice and orderly. What a polite group of victims . . .

[Puts hand to mouth in mock surprise]

Oooops. I mean what a polite group of spectators. I didn’t expect so many for such an early show. Look at them all. Go ahead. Look.

***

[We peer from the rafters, all of us gazing on the subjects below, their faces gaunt and sallow; eyes dark, bags beneath them; lips as red as their skin is white; black clothes—those of the dead and the living—don their bodies.]

[Each row fills before the one behind it. Tiny lights line the aisles, casting a glow on their feet. What is that we see? Shackles? We scan up to a set of hands, held in place by cuffs, chains running to the ankles.]

[Each seat is taken and we can see women and men alike, none younger than their early twenties, but some as old as ancient could possibly be. They look straight ahead, their bodies erect in their stadium seats, hands in laps, feet out in front]

Ha ha ha ha. This is going to be great.

[He looks up at us, his eyes wild, his face stretched into a Joker’s grin, his hair sticking out in tufts and we collectively cringe at the sharp yellow teeth that match the sickly yellow suit he wears, right down to his yellow shoes.]

***

[Drops to the floor. Claps hands together. Lights come on.]

Good evening. Welcome to my Theater of Nightmares. You are all here as my guest, as my . . . subjects.

[Laughs.]

You can’t leave. I made sure of that. The last show I did someone got up. Ste-vie wasn’t too happy about that.

[Points to a wall behind him. Light flashes by it. A body hangs against the wall. Steel spikes have torn through its flesh in its shoulders and legs; eyes missing, black paint smeared around the sockets. Steel wire stretches to the ceiling.]

[Snaps fingers.]

[The body dances.]

[Snaps fingers again and the body stops.]

I won’t be making that mistake twice.

***

[A screen rises from the floor, taking up the stage. We watch from our perch as our host steps in front of it.]

[The lights dim and then it’s dark. We see nothing, our hearts race and hairs prickle on our necks. Someone’s bladder releases. A spotlight appears and our host is in the center of it, his arms outstretched at his sides, a blazing yellow top hat on his head.]

I am Corn. I am your Master of Ceremonies. I am all you have or ever will have. I am in you. I AM YOUR NIGHTMARES.

[The spotlight dies and comes back to life on one of the spectators. She is a woman in her forties, we presume. Long dark hair, streaked with gray, sullen eyes. Her bottom lip quivers.]

You. Welcome to the Theater of Nightmares.

[He snaps his fingers and everything is dark again, except for the screen. Black and white images dance across it. We can hear the tick tick tick of the reel…and we see the nightmare unfold from her point of view.]

***

She runs through the house, eyes frantic, hands out in front of her, but she can’t see them. Each step is like being on air. She touches the walls, leaving dark handprint smudges in her wake.

Turning, she continues through the house, opening doors and peering into each empty room.

“Where is it?” she screams. Her mouth moves but nothing comes from it.

She darts down the hall, her mouth open, screams drowned out from the sounds of her heart’s rapid beating and the rush of blood in her ears.

“Where is it?”

Door after door is opened but all the rooms are empty. The scenery changes and she stops. A different house, familiar territory.

“Where is it?” she screams again.

Throughout the new house she runs, tears stream from bulging eyes. Blood drips from fingers barely visible in the darkness of the building. Around a corner and along another hall. Through a door, she steps into the brightness of a long white corridor. No doors. Her eyes go blind and try to focus.

It giggles, small and childlike. She spins, sees nothing, runs again. Blood drips from her nose and into her mouth.

"Help me." She knows she screams but can't hear anything but the child's laughter.

She is upon a door that wasn't there a moment earlier. With the laughter growing closer she opens it, steps in, shuts the door behind her.

In the center of the room sits a pink rocking horse, its brown yarn hair matted, its saddle seat dusty; the glass eyes are missing and the wood is chipped in places; the black painted mouth is upturned.

She smiles and stumbles to the horse, dropping to her knees in front of it.

"There you are."

She is young again, her features like a child's. The room radiates as her fear washes away. She hugs the rocking horse and pulls away. Her head cocks to one side and her mouth drops open.

The horse's mouth opens and snaps shut . . .

***

[ . . . and we are thrust back to the rafters of the theater. Her scream echoes in our ears and we barely here the tick tick tick of the reel with the nightmare's end.]

[Darkness envelopes us and we shiver at what we just witnessed. The spotlight appears on the woman's seat. She is gone. In her place is the mane of the rocking horse and two dark green glass eyes.]

[Our host appears again, his hat in his hands, his face stern, his eyes still maniacal.]

***

[Sets hat on the floor. Gazes to the empty seat.]

Your dreams. Your nightmares have meaning. All of them are pieces of you trying to get out. Your dreams. Your nightmares are you.

Rooms. Halls. Horses. Houses. Darkness. Blood. Light. Eyes. Or the lack there of. Even the subtlety of something like rocking, as in a rocking horse, means something. They are pieces to a puzzle that you must solve, must figure out, before they figure you out.

***

[Holes appear in the wall. Beasts appear in them, their sharp teeth somehow shining in the darkness. A scream tears through the room. We know immediately that it is the woman. The beasts laugh and are gone.]

***

[Waves hand toward empty seat.]

Don't worry about her. She has her own problems, her own issues to deal with. She will come to terms with them . . . or not.

[Smiles and stares into the crowded seats of the theater.]

Who's next?

***

[The spotlight clicks off and we are left in the dark. And sleep calls to us…]

###

*Special thanks to Chris Bartholomew for this installment's dream concept*

1 comment:

Erik Smetana said...

Crazy, cool stuff. Looking forward to more.

-Erik