Theatre of Heels: Chapter 3- Curtain Call
(Four Years Ago)
“I’m so very sorry.”
The two still forms sprawled across the stage didn’t answer. He watched the smoke rise from their charred bodies.
He aimlessly walked around them to the front of the stage. The spotlights still glared down on him, accusing. Save the dim lights coming from the still open doors leading to the lobby, the rest of the theater remained dark. He stared at row after row of empty seats within the vast room.
His voice strong and deep rung out across the empty theater, “Sorrow, like a heavy ringing bell, once set on ringing, with its own weight goes; then little strength rings out the doleful knell.”
He made a shuddering gasp and grabbed the sides of his head as his knees buckled. He plopped down at the end of the stage.
To speak, yet to be unheard, to create, but unable to share, somehow felt worse to him than the two smoldering bodies lying beside him on the stage.
He gave the still forms his full attention. He looked away quickly as the unwanted memory replayed itself before his mind’s eye. Thomas and Lilith, who were so beautiful in life, were now burnt parodies of their former vitality. In death, their arms were still locked around each other, seeking mutual comfort in their final moments of shared terror.
Thomas and Lilith’s stage careers had just started to bud, in what promised to be a meteoric rise. They were far more talented than he was at their age. In fact, despite his decades of experience, their craft was honed beyond his theatric abilities now. Yet death, the great equalizer, brought their talent low.
A sob escaped him. He didn’t want them to die. Not really. Maybe not upstage him so much, but to die, no.
All he really wanted was his moment again. To stand in the spotlight and feel his words capture the audience. Tonight was supposed to be his comeback. It was supposed to be the time when Jefferson Stewart’s name rose from the ashes to become a star again. He looked at scorch marks across the stage. No. Tonight’s ashes were only the precursor to his downfall.
He looked out into the dark theater and spoke in his most resounding voice.
“Our revels now are ended, These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
the Solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
He sobbed again, and his hands began to shake. A fog began to form at his feet.
“No!” he hissed. “Get ahold of yourself, man! Do not lose control again. Remain calm. You must remain calm.”
He clenched his hands and steadied his breath. He had lost count on how many times he had repeated these words.
He started the mantra just after the event had . . . transpired. He uttered it aloud even when he couldn’t find his outer voice. He yelled it to be heard over the screams of the audience, actors, and stagehands’ mass flight. He shouted it over the thundering itself. After everything he lost in this night, he did not want to lose his voice too. He needed to be heard, even if it was only by himself.
“That’s important to you, isn’t it?”
Jefferson looked up sharply. Electricity sparked out of his eyes.
“Please remain calm, Mr. Stewart. I am not here to hurt you.”
The man that spoke sat in the middle of the fourth row of seats with his feet up on the row before him. He was smartly dressed in a dark suit, but for some reason, Jefferson couldn’t make out his face. A sword rested over his lap.
“Are you here to kill me?” Jefferson asked.
The other man shrugged. “Maybe. I guess that depends on you.”
Jefferson pointed at the burnt bodies. “I murdered two innocent people tonight. Are you saying that such an action doesn’t warrant harsh retaliation?”
“Actually,” the strange man said thoughtfully, “if what my psychics tell me is true, you didn’t murder anyone. Technically speaking, you committed accidental manslaughter.”
“That is hardly a comfort for the dead,” remarked Jefferson.
“I do not believe that it is a comfort to them at all. I am told that Thomas there, had left behind a wife and a six-month-old daughter. The young actress, Lilith, was the only child of her parents.”
“Oh, dear God! I didn’t know!” cried Jefferson. His torso began to rumble and quake. Gray fog started to emanate around him.
“Reign it in, Mr. Stewart. I know you can.” The strange man said from only a few feet behind him.
Jefferson's head whipped around. “How did you‒‒”
The other man shrugged again. “Considering what you can do. You had to know that you would not be dealing with a common police officer.”
“You’re a superhero?” asked Jefferson.
“Let’s just say, that I’m an interested party.”
“Interested in what, pray tell?”
“You, Mr. Stewart, and what you can do.”
“You are assessing what kind of threat I am?” asked Jefferson.
“Heavens no. I’m here to see if you can be of any use to us. If we thought you were a threat, my team would have already taken you out of the equation.”
Jefferson's eyes widened. “You’re not alone.”
“Where is your team?”
The sword blade suddenly appeared at Jefferson’s throat. “Besides,” the other man said softly in his ear, “if I thought that you were a threat, we would not be having this rather pleasant conversation right now, would we?”
Jefferson froze as he eyed the blade. He carefully said, “Then what is it that you want?”
The other man pulled the blade away. A moment later, he spoke from his original position from the fourth-row seat, “I guess you can say that I am here to discuss your options.”
Jefferson frowned. “My options? I don’t understand.”
“You are Mr. Jefferson Stewart, a veteran Shakespearian actor, turned accidental killer when your life stepped into the metaphysical.” The mysterious man ticked off several fingers as he spoke. “To be frank, your old career is dead as Lilith and Thomas there. Life, as you know, has changed forevermore.”
Jefferson shook his head. “I apologize, but I still don’t understand.”
Jefferson thought he saw a hint of a smile on the other man’s shadowed face. “Mr. Stewart, I am here to discuss your future.”