“How much time do I have?” She asked.
“Twenty minutes, Miss Susan,” the stagehand replied before rushing off to climb the scaffold and manage the lights.
The theatre was filled to the brim with people. An audience awaited the famous cast to begin their opera, At the Helm, an epic tale of bravery and treachery. Susan had the lead female role of ‘Eliza’ and on most nights she would feel a lot more relaxed, but not tonight.
The male lead, ‘Roderick’ played by Carlton, was passed out in his seat. The snoring from his open mouth was only deafened by the commotion back-stage. Everyone was working their hardest to set everything up while Susan tried to wake Carlton. However, his sleep was induced by heavy drinking the night before. Susan was slowly becoming more frustrated by the aloof actor and began kicking at his boots. It was only when he fell out of the chair did he finally wake up.
Carlton snorted and coughed as he climbed back to his feet. Susan watched with little empathy as the drunk sapping away at her confidence for tonight’s show.
“Have they begun?” Carlton asked rubbing his tired face. As he did the voice of the narrator roared on stage, setting the scene for the people. “Ah, get make-up.”
“Get them yourself, Carlton, you know I don’t take orders from you,” Susan sniffed. “You will be on after my song and you best make sure your voice is ready.”
“My voice is always ready.”
Carlton rushed off to make-up, his costume still maintaining its red glow despite all these shows. Susan could not believe a pig of a man could keep his costume so clean. She herself wanted to maintain such cleanliness, but a new stain would appear on her dress every show. Shaking that pain from her mind, Susan prepared herself and went behind the curtain, standing on the mark and puffing her chest out.
“Cold, Susan, you are cold and fierce,” Susan murmured, her pre-show ritual. “Treat the audience like everyone else, treat them like the scum of the earth because that is who they are.”
The curtains parted with her lips, the music filling the theatre followed shortly by her voice which uplifted even the most down-trodden audience member. She sang with beauty and passion. Her eyes were uncaring, but her heart felt the pains of the world. She walked along the stage towards the actor who played the beggar. Susan bowed while the music dipped only to bring it back home with her powerful voice.
The crowd was hushed, their awe noticeable and Susan fought to not let it go to her head. It was a euphoric experience to be on stage. She followed each step of the beggar as he made his way around the props. The two soon broke into dance and the beggar’s voice sounded after her last note. The two went back and forth like this till the songs ending. The curtains drew to a close and as darkness fell on the stage within a few seconds the next scene was set and Carlton took the place of Susan. Of Eliza’s journey through the streets with the beggar the noble gentleman, Roderick, arrives at the city harbour, climbing off his military vessel.
Carlton’s scene did not matter much to her, Susan went to wardrobe and make-up once more to ensure everything was in order. Donning her new dress she collected herself once more and murmured her next ritual.
“You are scared, you are lonely,” Susan whispered. “The world is big and you are small. You must live.”
Once done she the curtains parted and she sang out, only to stop. There was no music to precede her and nor was there anyone in the seats beyond the stage. There was only silence and the sound of her voice which was cut off too soon. Susan scanned the seats and boxes of the theatre, but there was nobody. She turned to look at the curtains, but there was nobody watching her. There was nobody behind the stage readying for the next scene. Susan was all alone and she began to sing.
Eliza poured her heart out to the empty chairs. No music was necessary to accompany her amazing voice. The song drifted from the slow and ponderous to the bitter and distraught. The song told a story of heart-ache and fear, describing Eliza’s exact feelings, but once more, she was alone and she was scared. Eliza finished her song and lowered her head, clutching at the pathed parts of her dress and murmured her sadness. Her song ending she spoke to the darkness.
“Here I stand, a long way from home with nary a hope in the world or a hope in my heart,” Eliza cried. “I am abandoned and lost, a foolish child chasing a foolish dream. What made me believe in such tales of success and happiness? There is no happiness in this world, only lying beggars and dark clouds…woe is me for having become another fault in this world.”
“Who says such sad things?” a voice called across the stage. A young man entered form the side, dressed in the noble uniform of a soldier, but the bags he carried told Eliza he was on leave. “I have seen many a dark thing in my travels, many a sad thing as well, but none have ever spouted such misery before.”
Roderick dropped his bags and took up Eliza’s hand in his.
“Don’t say such things now,” Roderick told Eliza. “You are going to make it in this world, you need only hang onto what is important. Hang on, Susan, hang on. Help is on the way.”
Susan gripped Roderick’s hand as tight as she could as she lay on the stage. She felt the blood begin cool on the side of her head, but there was nobody on their way. The stage-hand who worked the fallen light stood frozen with pale guilt. Realized there wasn’t much time, Susan stared up at the fearful face of a hung-over actor.
“Curtain call, Carlton,” Susan told him. “It’s time we went home.”
Susan closed her eyes and faded with the music.
Be sure to follow!