Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Shattered Windows, Vampires and He Who Stayed

There are children . . . four of them.

[Her voice catches us by surprise. We look down to the dark stage. Though no lights are on, we can still see the outline of the cage and the silhouette of the girl. Beneath the cage sits the children.]

[We count them.]

[There are four. The oldest is under ten and she holds the youngest—an infant girl—in her arms. The middle two are boys.]

I am obligated to these children . . .

[We turn our heads toward the other end of the stage.]


[Click clack. Click clack. Click clack.]

She speaks words of wisdom.

[Head whips from side to side. Voice deepens to a growl.]



[We are startled by the change in Corn's voice; at how he snaps his head from side to side as if . . he were talking to someone who is not there.]


But, she is right.



[The anger erupts from Corn's mouth and if he were any closer to the audience we would fear for those nearest him.]

[We watch as his shadowed form approaches the cage.]


[Snaps fingers. Lights come on.]

[The cage has been lowered. He peers into the girl's eyes. She does not cower away.]

What else?

[His voice is a growl. Spittle flies from his lips.]


[His face softens slightly and he looks to his left.]

Give her a moment.

{Brows crease. Anger flares in his eyes and he cocks his head to the right.]



[For the first time in weeks, our hearts give a collective leap. Something has soured for Corn and he appears to be falling apart.]

[One of us whispers into another's ear. That one follows suit, whispering to another and then another and another. The statement reaches each of us and we are both joyous and terrified at the same time.]

He is arguing with himself. He is a dual personality.

[It is a trait we had not seen up to this moment and we are not sure if it is good or bad.]

[Murmurings fill our ranks. What if's enter our souls.]


The children need me. That is why we can't get married yet.

[Tears streak down her face and her voice is but a whisper.]



[Corn slams his fist onto the stage flooring. The tile cracks and splinters, sinking in an inch or two.]

[He turns from her. Points to the cage opposite her.]

He didn't figure it out in time. Will you?


[We look to where the man had once been. In his place is the pulpy remains of flesh and bones. We see one eye dangling down and through one of the bars of the cage. A dried pool of blood sits beneath it. In the pool is what looks like the man's scalp.]


[Turning. Searching.]

[Corn stomps off the stage and drops into the audience. His anger is visible.]


[Points. Sneers. Lone eye dances with anticipation.]

You're next.

[Snaps fingers. Lights dim. Silver screen drops from the rafters, hiding the cages and the children beneath the girl.]

[The man's eyes snap open. They are not vacant like most of Corn's victims. They hold a contempt in them.]

Let's see you make it out of here alive.

[The nightmare pours from his eyes and onto the screen.]


He is in an abandoned cafeteria. The building is dusty and the walls are made of glass allowing them to see their surroundings outside the cafeteria.

Around him are children and he is one of them—the oldest in the bunch. They all have dark hair and appear to be frail.

They are scared.

"He's coming," one little boy says. They begin searching but none of them leave the cafeteria. Fear oozes from their pores and the outside world feels dangerous.

A dilapidated car drives by, its black exterior flaking away; wheels dusty, windows missing.

He leaves the building and walks to the car. As he looks in he sees the one they fear. The man is not more than a boy himself. Eyes dark, hair the same; skin painfully pale; lips void of color; clothes tattered.

He reaches in and shakes the man's hand. The hand is rough and he pulls it away. The man speaks but he is backing away toward the building. The words are lost to him.

The car drives off and he runs back into the cafeteria.

As he enters, night falls around them. He huddles the kids in the center of the cafeteria. The fear is thick and they all look around.

The man comes back, walking this time. With him, he brings hundreds of others like him. Pale, dark haired, dark skinned, tattered clothes, lifeless eyes. They shatter the windows of the building but never enter.

"We've not invited them in," someone says.

Though they are safe from the vampires, they still huddle in the center of the room, too fearful of what would happen if one of them left their group.

The man and his people leave as the sun rises.

"He'll be back," the little boy says.


Vampires? Broken windows? Night? You're a work of art, young man.

[Corn giggles. Strokes chin.]

You have issues.

[Grin widens.]

What is your problem? Why is your nightmare significant to you?


[His head hangs down on his chest as Corn taunts him. Off to the side we hear the Quelchers howling and moaning. We can feel their hunger in the electric air of the theater.]

[He turns his eyes to Corn. They are not void of emotion and understanding.]

[Corn steps back, scowl on his face.]


You think you know the answer, don't you?


[Man smiles.]

Unfulfilled dreams. Goals never met . . . There are obstacles in my way.


What else?

[Corn whispers.]

[He whips his head to the left as if staring at someone.]



I said shut-up.

[His own hand slaps him across the left side of his cheek.]


[There is a slight screech of pain as Corn slaps himself.]

[We wonder if the dual personality is the one who cried out in pain or if it were Corn himself.]

[At any rate, the other voice goes silent.]


I'm my own enemy.

[The shackles on his ankles snap.]

I'm too abrasive with people and I need to be gentle, to address people in a different way.

[The cuffs on each wrists snap open, releasing his arms.]

I've ignored things about me for too long and they need to be addressed.

[His skin changes from pail to tan, his eyes turn blue, his lips flush pink. His clothes remain dark.]

I have a lot of things that I need to address, to change about me if I am to be happy.



[Corn staggers backward.]

You people are catching on too easily.


[We watch as the theater doors open again and light washes the dark aisles and the remaining audience members. The people are like flowers as they crane their necks toward the light, attempting to get just a touch of the sun's rays on their pale skin.]



[Points to door. Eyes squint against the bright sunlight.]


[The man stands and walks up the aisle.]

[We watch as he reaches the door and looks back. We follow his gaze to Corn, who is limping away, toward the stage.]

[The man slips into a seat in the back row and the doors close as if he had left the theater.]

[We are curious as to why he stayed, but none of us breathe whispers to each other for fear he would be noticed.]

[Darkness envelopes us and Corn stomps away. He yells in anger as he leaves the area, exiting stage right. It echoes in our ears.]

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

No Woods For the Crashing Heart

Come now, what do we have here?

[Eyes narrow, smile widens.]

This one should be quite fun.


[We barely have enough time to adjust in our seats before Corn is stroking his chin, eyes on the young girl near the very back row.]

[Tiny and gaunt. She looks barely old enough to tie her shoes but we all know—or think we know—that she is older than her appearance. At this point, we are not sure what is real and what is false around here.]

[The nightmares continue on. The whispers and howls echo off the walls and ceiling. The quelchers hiss and hum. Waiting. Hungry.]


[Pushing through the people in their seats. He pulls one up and pushes him into the center aisle.]

You can have him.


[The man stumbles and falls. Hands out in front, catching himself. Blood prickles on his palms from the hard floor.]

[We watch the quelchers dash from their hiding spots and tear at the man. His screams pierce our ears and we cover them in hopes of drowning him out. Clothes and skin fall away, blood splatters the floor, seats and dazed audience members.]

[The screams end quickly and blood spills from a gash in his throat. His mouth works up and down, his eyes bulge. Then he is gone, dragged from the aisle toward the many holes in the walls. We see an arm disappear in one and look away. We assume the rest of him has gone the way of the holes as well.]

[Several of our members vomit.]



[He looks to the feeding quelchers. Face turns to sneer.]

Don't play with your food.

[Eyes back at the young woman.]

Do you ever feel you have no control over anything, Missy?


[Her head snaps up and the lights beam from her eyes. The story plays out before us. Black and white pictures dance along the silver screen.]


She sits on the porch of an old house. Next to her sits a young man, his eyes on her and then they both are looking past yard and across an old worn out street to an ancient field of stumps and shrubs. Beyond the field is a tall woods, its trees close together, forming a wall.

They both look up to the helicopter flying over head. Moments later, police pull up in their cruisers. People pour out of the cars and into the fields, flashlights swooping the grounds.

A plane flies overhead. Its engine sputters and then it nosedives into the trees. People yell and run for the trees and then they are gone.

A hot air balloon flies over the house and field. As it gets over the woods it descends, the balloon flapping in the wind. It disappears among the trees.

The police arrive again. Like before, people file out of the cars—too many to fit in the handful of cruisers. They search the field and woods, calling out, but not heard.

The people disappear in to the woods . . .


[Her eyes close on their own and the movie suddenly ends. Her skin is soaked with sweat and she breathes hard.]

[We watch on as Corn glares at her, the sneer on his lips one of pure joy.]


[Opens mouth to speak, but stops when girl speaks.]


We are to be married. But, something is wrong. Something . . . else is in control . . .


[We watch as Corn's face contorts. Blood spills from his rotting eye and he growls.]


[The girl smiles.]



There is more.

[A tear streaks from one of her eyes.]

I'm not sure what it is but I can feel it; I can see it.



[He stands and stomps up the aisle toward the stage. His hand smashes the back of one lady's head. Her neck snaps and the quelchers howl.]

[They start from their holes.]

[He turns to them.]

Leave the dead where she lay.

[Snaps fingers and all is dark. Snaps fingers and the lights are back.]


[The girl is gone from her seat. She sits in another of those cages, similar to the man with the shattered teeth. No quelchers below her. Instead there are children. They sit, heads turned, eyes dark, hair disheveled, faces sad.]

Can you figure it out?

[Corn asks as he lifts one child from her seat.]

Figure it out and you all go free. If you don't, then you all . . .

[He points to the wall, to the many eyes peering out of them. Blood smears the edges of the holes.]


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Fairy Teeth and the One That Got Away

[The harsh steel on steel creaking grates on our nerves. We look from our seats. Down below us a cage hangs at center stage. The young man entrapped in it sits on his haunches. Eyes distant, hair disheveled.]

[Quelchers surround the cage. Drool slipping from their mouths, spattering the floor. Hungry eyes gawk at him. Groping fingers outstretched, touching the steel bars, trying to get to him.]

[But he sits on the floor in the center of the cage, keeping them from reaching him from the bottom.]

[Someone gags behind us when they see what he is doing. A moment passes and there is vomiting. The smell pierces our senses and our collective eyes water. If not because of the odor, then because of the sight before us.]

[The man babbles words we can't understand. We think that is because every couple of minutes he raises his arm to his mouth and pulls off a piece of flesh. He chews it, swallows it, babbles and tears off more, repeating the process.]

[Several of the Quelchers lap at the blood splattered onto the floor and each other.]


The mind is a terrible thing to lose.

[Steps from the shadows. Patch over the dying eye. Other eye ablaze in intensity.]

Once lost, it can be so hard to find.

[Waves hand. Quelchers disperse, growling as they go.]

[Snaps fingers. Cage lowers.]

You haven't figured it out, have you?


[The man looks up. Blood drips from his chin; a piece of flesh dangles from his half open mouth. He cocks his head to one side.]

[Corn reaches in, a yellowed finger stretching toward him.]

[The man snaps out, his remaining teeth clattering together. One of them cracks, crumbles. He spits it out and across the cage.]

[Corn smiles.]


I think we'll leave you there a little longer.

[Turns. Snaps fingers. Cage ascends.]

Who's next?


[We are reminded of a roulette wheel without the tick-ticking of the pegs as it spends, as the spot light searches across the audience. It glances by sallow faces, distant eyes, before settling on a young woman. At one time, she may have been beautiful, but her features betray any attractiveness she may have had.]

[Her eyes do not blink with the glare of the light; her head does not move. There is little to suggest she is still among the living; her breathing is shallow and other than that we might think she was dead.]

[Corn stands at center stage. He says nothing. Only looks on, as do we. His wicked smile falters slightly, but not enough for those in the audience to tell. But, we saw it.]

Roll it.

[The lights die, the film rolls, the woman's head jerks up to the screen . . .]


She is a child, her hair golden, her cheeks pink. She is still innocent of the world's evils and charms. She lies in her bed, pink blanket pulled to her chest and tucked underneath her arms. Her eyes flutter, then open, exposing their brilliant blue.

Except for the night light in the corner, the room is dark. She sits up and lifts her pillow. There are two quarters lying there. A broad smile stretches her face as she stares at the shiny coins.

Her attention is drawn from the coins and toward her closet, slightly ajar. It had been closed a moment earlier. She stands, her heart crashing in her chest. She opens the closet and sees the small creature running through a hole. Reaching out she grabs hold of one of its legs and is pulled through the hole.

In the bright light of the new world she sees the creature running, its feet kicking up dust behind it. She follows.

It runs into a building, the door left open. As she enters she sees them—thousands, millions of heads on pedestals. She almost screams but cups her hands over her mouth. For a moment, she thinks to run away, to try to get back home. Looking closer at the heads, she sees they are fake, their mouths open and many of them missing teeth. Few of them have full sets and most of them are missing at least a tooth or two.

Sounds of giggling feel her ears and she follows it down the hall and into another room. There stands the creature, its body hairless, its skin light blue; small useless wings protrude from between its shoulder blades; long white hair flows down its back; a tail juts out just above the tailbone.

There are more heads in this room, each of these belonging to children. None of them have full sets of teeth, but their mouths are open just like the ones in the main room.

The creature turns, showing her . . . her own face sitting on a pedestal. The tooth she had placed on the pillow sits in the lower gum line just above two other teeth and beside another one.

He smiles and reaches for her . . .


You are strong


[For the first time since coming here, since being drawn to this spectacle of pain and death, we can smile.]

[The woman's features have changed, her hair blonde, cheeks rosy, eyes blue. Her clothes are no longer dark, her figure no longer wilting away like everyone else's]

[The chains around her wrists and ankles have been broken and lie upon the floor.]


[Scowls. Lone eye glaring.]

[Moments pass. His face softens. Sharp teeth protrude from smiling lips.]

You knew, didn't you?


[She nods at Corn's question.]


What does it mean?


[Her lips part and she speaks, her voice golden and loud in the silent theater.]

I am strong and confident. I meet things head on and don't shy away from them. I am careful with my choices and wise beyond my years.

I am everything you are not.


[Laughter. It echoes through the auditorium.]

Everything I am not? Very witty of you. You have passed. You have done what others could not. You may go.


[She stands. Every head in the theater cranes toward her. Corn does not move.]

[The double doors at the end of the center aisle opens, emitting light from an outside world we have not seen in a long while. Dust motes hang in the air, caught in the beams of light. We long to run toward it, to escape.]

[She leaves her seat and pushes by the zombie-like people around her. The Quelchers peek from their holes in the walls and wail as she walks through the exit.]

[The doors close with a loud clang and we are casts in the dark again.]


One is the loneliest number. Will anyone else find their way?

[He laughs. It echoes. We cringe.]