Friday, August 20, 2010

Theatre ghosts

Another of my "epic" dreams today; yeah , you know the ones I mean, the ones that read like a movie script. The ones I can recall in detail years later. This one featured my friends Kim Saunders, Alea Selburn, Dennis Serras, and Jessica Teeter. Hi guys!

I am returning from an evening somewhere in town; the place feels East-coast; older, with a sense of presence you don't really feel in, say downtown Sacramento, or Denver.... even Chicago. The sober seniority of Philadelphia, the somber practicality of Boston. A place where there are buildings that have been standing unchanged for 200 years, block after block.

I am heading towards the theatre where I am currently working as the fight director for a pirate-themed play. It seems like a staged version of something like "Pirates of the Caribbean.". The theatre itself is well over a hundred years old, and has architecture more like a gothic cathedral than a stage. The lobby has high rectangular windows with stained glass, as does the greenroom and backstage area, and the small rehearsal stage.. I'm entering from the greenroom door to the outside, and my friend Alea is with me. We have had dinner together maybe, or have just run into each other in the parking lot. Both of us are just stopping by; rehearsal is over, and we both need to chat with the director perhaps, or the stage manager, some utterly mundane task. As we walk in we are both laughing over a story Alea has just told.

Like all large older theatres, and even a few small ones, this theatre has a reputation for being haunted. This place deserves the reputation more than most however. No one has EVER spent the night here. Props, costumes, and even furniture and set pieces are always found moved the next day. And no one who has ever been there to turn out the lights at night, even if they have people with them, is in the slightest doubt that when the shadows fill the stage, some of them move on their own volition.

This night is different; it's like walking in to the middle of a static charge, or an EMP burst. While the hair on my neck and arms doesn't stand on end, I'm left wondering why they are not, until I realize the psychic pressure is pushing them flat. If this were a horror film, I would be locking the doors in a mortuary. When I turned around, every corpse in the place would be sitting bolt upright, staring blankly forward.

There are a half-dozen people inside, trying in desperation to get everything put away properly and get out. The atmosphere is so intense however that they are bumbling about, or stopping and fidgeting, trying to remember what they were just doing..... Alea and I are standing just inside the door, and staring in amazement at what is going on. Jessica is towards the back of the greenroom area, and she looks like a cat that has been dropped in a dog run full of hyenas. She is moving back and forth in an area maybe five feet long, her arms full of costumes, seemingly unable to decide what to do with them; Dennis is standing by the rack of weapons for the show, with a sword held in his hand, but he seems rooted to the spot. Kim is the only one moving with some purpose; she has seen Alea and I standing there and is running over to us.

Kim already has large eyes; right now, I could put a fresnel lens in one and it would fit like a contact. For the first time I notice that instead of the classic horror-story chill, the room is hot, almost stifling; it's like walking on the tarmac of the airport in Houston in August. Kim is grabbing at Alea and trying to get her to leave, all the time holding her arm like it's her only anchor to reality. Dennis looks at me, and says, in the calm way only he has mastered for understatement "Scott, we seem to be in trouble here..."

The pressure eases for a moment, as I start laughing at this. Everyone else who has heard it is also starting to laugh, and those others most disoriented calm a bit and even manage weak laughter themselves. Whatever force it is causing this draws back, not in retreat, or anger; there is no malice to this at all. Any more than there is malice in heavy rain, or arctic cold. It is simply immense, like a tidal wave or an avalanche. The attitude is more like one of study, and..... waiting.

I can't escape my basic nature. I can see how panicked everyone is, and I'm angry over how badly it's affected Jessica. Kim and Dennis have now moved back towards the door Alea and I are near, all trying to tell us at once how this just swept over them suddenly, and how they knew they had to put everything back properly before they left.... Alea is trying to calm them all down, and I am glaring at the door to the side of the stage entrance. That door leads to a short hallway, with two other doors; the first door inside opens on stairs going to the lofts, the catwalks above the stage and the grid, and to the area above the house. The other door opens on the stairs to the basement and the pit. It stands ajar, as does the one going up; and from there, the sense of waiting and of immense gravity seems to be leaking outwards, like lava penned behind a sheet of plywood

Jessica and Kim seem to realize what I am going to do even before I do it; Dennis is barely a beat behind them, and he steps in front of me to stop me as they grab at my jacket and arms. Alea is too far away, but she turns and look at me as well. I don't know if it's outrage, or frustration, my misplaced sense of chivalry, or a bad decision made from panic; it's not bravado, that is certain. My hands are sweating, I can tell my eyes are wider even than Kim's, and I am not sure I am remembering to breathe. Regardless, I grab a sword from the bundle in Dennis' arms and stalk towards the open door. "What are you doing! How dare you! Look at what you've done to these people..."

My voice fades like a dying breeze. Standing in front of the door now are three young looking children; perhaps ten years old each, one boy and two girls. The clothes they wear look fairly modern, like something you could find at Sears; but the FEEL of the clothes is all wrong, like they are all hand-woven. The children themselves are worse. In spite of the appearance, they feel primordial, they radiate a sense of ancient, like a Pharaoh's mummy... or something even older, something not seen on this earth for millennia. They say nothing, but look at me without expression, so devoid of emotions they could be wax dolls or mannequins. They are utterly horrible.

Before my heart stops, they are simply gone. Stepping from the doorway is a woman, very close to my own height but slender. She is wearing pants and a simple blouse, with a trench coat like jacket. Again, in spite of the seeming modernity, the clothes seem like they are camouflage, perhaps for clothes worn last in 1840. She too carries a sense of incredible energy held rigidly in check, but where the children were terrifying, she is merely scary. For the first time I am aware of breathing again, and I also realize that my hands are trembling. She looks at me and says quietly;" So, what were you planning to do next?"
"I have no clue at all."
"Did the sword help?"
"Uh, not really... habit maybe? These people, these are my friends...."
"Hmm. Yes, I see we have done a great deal to them. A pity that. Walk with me now."

There is little real force to her words, but I might as well be on a leash. I could no more stay where I am than I could hold back the tide with a crossing guards stop sign. What happens next is almost comic. As everyone stands around watching, she leads me to various places in the backstage area, where graffiti has been scrawled on a wall, or designs painted on the floor. Some she approves of; others clearly are offensive or annoying. I even have the temerity to ask if one design that I happen to like could be left instead of removed; it's a little painting on the floor of Oz, from a prior show. She thinks about it for a moment and says "Well, alright, that can stay.."

Then I ask about things like the weapon stands that hold all the swords and rifles. "Oh, those are fine. We like the swords a great deal." In spite of the continuing sense of presence, I have inexplicably relaxed while she has been leading me about. Jessica has joined us, sort of, standing several feet farther away, as has Kim, and both of them are cautiously asking about other things, like the costumes, equipment, if we are even safe in there ever again. Kim asks rather sharply "How often do you think we can stand stuff like this?" The woman looks at her and says softly "If you are careful, it won't happen again."

Now we are standing near Alea and Dennis again, who have formed a sort of human wall with the still badly frightened others behind them. The woman with me looks them over and smiles slightly; whether in approval of their heroics, or amusement at the effort I can't tell. Abruptly she looks back over her shoulder towards the doorway, and what ever she senses there causes her to turn back sharply. "You should take care of these chores on the morrow; perhaps the day after that. You should leave. Now."

With that she turns and strides back towards the doorway, and as she moves her outline wavers and blurs as though she walks through a heat haze. Jessica, Dennis and Alea are herding the rest of the still rather dazed crew out the door; Kim is grabbing at my arm again and pulling me. I can't take my eyes off the shape of the woman however, as she fades out into the increasingly watery images near the doorway. When she is gone completely the distortion vanishes too; and for a heartbeat I can see that beyond the shadowed area in the far hall, there is a boiling deeper area of shadow, held in check still by some barrier I can't see at all. The sword, which I have carried this whole time drops from my fingers as my whole body goes loose. Without Kim and then Dennis as well to grab me, I would collapse on the spot. They manage to get me staggering backwards out into the cooler air outside, and as the door swings shut, shoved frantically by Alea, I have one last image of all the lights inside going out as a wave of utter blackness rolls forward, devouring it.

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