Speculative Horror

“I just need some air. Please.”

“Oh my God, fine! Fine! But we’ve already lost half an hour because of this little incident. We don’t have the time, Hyo. You’re holding everyone up, you know that?”

“I know. Sorry. I’ll be fast.”

“You’d better be.”

Hyo held her tongue as she turned around and headed towards the stage. Despite having barely recovered from a panic attack, she still had to spend the better part of ten minutes convincing her manager to let her have just five minutes to herself. She didn’t know what triggered it. One minute she was in the dressing room with her bandmates, packing up belongings before they had to be on the bus, and the next she was on the ground in the fetal position.

Exhausted. Hungry. Depressed. Anxious. 

She was done. Done with performing and with touring, and maybe even with music all together. But she didn’t know how to tell anyone that, let alone herself. 

She stepped out from behind the curtain and onto the dim stage. Taking a deep breath, she noted the residue from the fog machine in her nostrils. She held her breath for as long as she could, letting it out slowly as she scanned the dark, empty space. 

Maybe she’d be able to get through this summer of touring. 

Maybe she could do it. 

Maybe she’d be alright. 

Maybe three more months wasn’t that bad.

She took another breath as she walked towards the foot of the stage. She knew she didn’t have much time, but she wanted to soak up what little time to herself she could. She sat down and dangled her legs off the edge like a child. A carefree, happy child. As she looked across the dark concrete floor, it was hard to believe that an hour ago, this room had been full of almost twelve-hundred people. Twelve-hundred people who paid money to spend their Friday night dancing and jumping, singing and screaming as five pretty girls led them in doing so.

The girls of Lymitless were mechanical dolls, singing mechanical songs for mechanical crowds. Hyo knew this, but she wondered if anyone else did.

Maybe she didn’t want to get through the summer tour, after all.

Maybe she couldn’t do it.

Maybe she wouldn’t be alright.

Maybe three more months was too many.

It was strangely quiet and still, even for a large empty room, and she wondered why her manager hadn’t come looking for her yet. But she didn’t worry about that for long; she wanted to take in every moment of this brief time she had to herself. She looked out across the dark concrete ocean, spying what debris she could see that had been left behind by fans: empty plastic bottles, torn posters, arm bands, and fading glow sticks littered the floor. She was wondering why no one bothered to use any of the hundred trash bins throughout the venue when she was caught off guard by sudden, slow movement out on the floor.

A man slowly made his way towards her. He had something in his hands. As soon as she realized it was a broom, Hyo assumed he was a member of the post-show clean up crew.

“Show’s over, miss,” he called from the middle of the floor.

“Yes, sir. I was just leaving,” she called back. She couldn’t see him very clearly, but he sounded friendly.

“Wait a sec - are you one of ‘em?”

“Excuse me?”

“One of the singers from the show. You’re wearing that same sparkly getup they were wearing at the end there. You one of ‘em?”

“Uh, yes sir.”

He was closer now, but she still couldn’t make out his facial features.

“Well, I’ll be damned! Me, talking to a starlet - who’d a thought?” 

The man stopped walking, and stood in the middle of the floor leaning up against his broom. 

“Yes, well. Thank you for cleaning up after us,” she said, not knowing what else to say. 

“You’re pretty famous then, aren’t you? All these people come out here to see you, after all.”

“Yeah, I guess we’re starting to be a bit more known.”

“Trendy tunes, you know, they’re not much my style, but all you young singers, you’re talented. No one can deny that even if they don’t like your music. Don’t let people say you don’t have talent just 'cause they don’t like your sound. Used to play in a band myself, kind of a bluegrass trio, but we weren’t really in blue grass country, you know what I mean? Not much ever came from it, if you couldn't tell, but still played a bar or two each week for a couple o’ years. Not much money, but not a bad time either, that’s for sure. Do it ‘cause you love it is what I'm saying. Not for the money, you know?”

The man, still leaning against his broom, paused and Hyo didn’t know whether he was reminiscing about his bluegrass days or waiting for her to respond as she still couldn’t make out his facial expressions.

“That’s a nice story, sir,” she finally said. “I, uh, I’m sorry though, I need to get going. Everyone’s waiting on me.”

“Are they now? Well, best be goin’ indeed then. Sorry to hold you up.”

“Not at all. Thank you, sir,” she said with a smile, not sure he could see her face any better than she could see his. She stood up and had begun walking towards the back of the stage where she had come in before, when the man called out again.

“Can’t leave that way, I’m afraid.”

“Excuse me?”

“Backstage is all closed off now. You’ll have to leave through one of the floor exits, walk ‘round the back of the building to get to your bus.”

“Oh, um…I’m sure they’ll still be back there though. I was barely here five minutes.”

“Nah, you’ve been a bit longer than that.”

“Well, maybe ten minutes, but-”

“Wrong again, kiddo. It’s been at least a good hour, maybe two.”

Had it really been that long? Everyone would be furious with her. How had she lost track of time so badly? But why had no one come for her?

“My manager would’ve been pissed at me. She’d have come to get me, so it can’t have been that long.”

“You can try it, but I promise you’re not gettin’ anywhere that way.”

Hyo turned back towards the curtain, pulling it open before immediately stepping back in shock. She turned around to look at the man, who seemed closer to the stage now, but remained standing still, leaning against his broom. She turned back to the curtain where she was sure she had come through just moments before and pulled it open again.

Where once had been a backstage corridor leading to dressing rooms, there was now only a brick wall.

"What the hell?"

“I told you, Hyo. You’re not gettin’ through that way.”

She heard her heart pounding as she turned towards the man who now stood in the center of the stage. He was still leaning on his broom, and she still couldn't make out his face.

“H-how do you know my name?”

“We all know your name,” he said, and Hyo’s stomach twisted as he motioned for her to look behind him. The once empty floor was now filled with hundreds of faceless people.

“I don’t understand!”

As the man stepped towards her, Hyo stumbled backwards, bumping against the brick wall. She opened her mouth to scream, but no sound escaped. Cupping her hands to the spot where her mouth once had been, she stared at the faceless man as he strolled towards her.

“You will soon enough, kiddo. You will soon enough.”

June 04, 2023 21:41

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Glenda Toews
00:27 Jun 18, 2023

Oh, the ending... the poor girl. First digging herself out of a panic attack only... uuuggg! Very creepy. Very unexpected ending Brittany.


Brittany Butler
21:11 Jun 19, 2023

Thanks so much for reading - I felt sad for her too!


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Lyle Closs
06:48 Jun 15, 2023

Nicely written. The ending really caught me by surprise. Great stuff!


Brittany Butler
13:54 Jun 15, 2023

Thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed it.


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David Sweet
14:46 Jun 12, 2023

Creepy! Very well paced and the dialogue is very natural. This has definite Twilight Zone vibes. A great take on the prompt. Welcome to Reedsy. I wish you well on all your writing endeavors. Keep writing!


Brittany Butler
17:20 Jun 12, 2023

Thank you so much! I was 100% going for Twilight Zone vibes, so I could not have asked for a better compliment - thank you. It means a lot. I'm also glad to hear the dialogue and pacing worked well. Finally, thanks for the warm welcome and writerly encouragement!


David Sweet
20:35 Jun 12, 2023

Anytime. I believe we should all support each other. Good luck in everything. Let me know if you have any other questions.


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