Drama Inspirational

Midnight at the Old Opera House, all lights off. 

Medea feels her way, the soles of her bare feet on the cool wooden floors, fingertips brushing the smooth round edge of the intimate dining table, holding on to the table-top until she feels the next table, making her way from table to table in the pitch black, inward from the periphery, counting silently, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, until she reaches the table at the center of the dining space. As she pulls out the chair, its legs scrape on the floor, and she imagines for a moment that there is an answering echo somewhere in the cavernous space, another chair being moved a fraction of a second later. 

She sits down on the thick velvet-covered seat-cushion and puts her elbows on the table, her face in her hands. She sobs.

A chill air brushes her cheeks, carrying with it the faint scent of stage makeup and old silk. 

A tender touch, cold as marble, grazes her arm. 

Medea reaches out, but there is no-one there. 

Then, she feels the cold brush again, and this time it lingers, the unmistakable touch of fingertips dimpling the skin on her upper arm, but when Medea reaches for the unseen hand, it is not there.

“Why are you so sad?” whispers a voice as delicate as lace.

“Who are you?” Medea whispers back.

"I am Evelyn." A rustle of tulle seems to pass by Medea, and the scent of roses, mingled with the sharp tang of sweat and exertion, fills her nostrils. “I danced here. Ballerina. More than one hundred years ago. When I was alive.”


“I know you. You danced here too. Prima Ballerina.”


“But not anymore.”

“No. I am done dancing. Age catches up.”

“Not for me. I died young.”

"I am sorry."

"Don't be. It was a good life. I loved dancing. Are you sad because you don't dance anymore?"

"There's that." Medea stops to reflect. First on the question. Next on the situation — this conversation with a ghost in the pitch black Old Opera House, the fact that it feels natural, that she is not afraid. Then, returning to the question. Why is she so sad? "I suppose," she says, finally, "it's loss, all the losses adding up, the loss of my youth, the loss of dancing, God how I loved the dancing, the stage, the audience, all gone, and now the final loss ... him, Jason."

"Your husband? Is he dead? Perhaps I can see if his ghost wants to —"

"No, he's not dead. It's worse."

"Worse? I don't understand."

A soft sob echoes through the room, then builds into a wailing. 

"Rosalind," Evelyn chides, "we were talking." Then whispering in Medea's ear: "Rosalind is always sad. She was a young chorus girl who died of a broken heart. Her sadness lingers."

"Can't you see," Rosalind keens, her high voice breathing out in a sigh, and a feeling of profound sadness washes over Medea, so deep and resonating that it pulls at her heartstrings. She can taste the saltiness of fresh tears that are not her own, as Rosalind continues in a choked whisper: "Her husband left her. For another."

"You are right," Medea says. "Isabella — Belle — a young ballerina. Belle is me, twenty years ago."

"Another dancer?" Evelyn asks.

"Yes, but Belle is young, bright, promising — not old, worn down, bitter, frustrated, like me, no wonder he —"

"Stop!" A booming male voice fills the room, followed by a haunting melody, echoing off the walls and wrapping around Medea like a shroud. 

"I am Hugo, the voice of the opera house." The melody grows louder, weaving a mournful dirge that resonates deep within her chest. "I was an opera singer. I was young, bright, promising, just like her, this 'Belle' that you envy. Like Evelyn, like Rosalind, I never had the chance to grow old. Like them, I died young. And so, my promise was cut short, never fulfilled. You, Medea, have fulfilled your promise. We have watched your progress all these years. Look back with pride."

"But what is there now to look forward to?"

A rhythm starts up, slow and steady. Medea feels as if the tempo of her heartbeat has been taken over by an external force, matching the rhythm surrounding her.

"I am Felix." The voice is that of an old man. "I was the orchestra conductor. I lived a long life, and I was able to pass on my knowledge to the younger generation. I have haunted this place so long now that I barely remember the prime of my own days. Frankly, my time in the spotlight is unimportant compared to the many talents I was able to help develop. I linger here because I love more than anything the fulfillment of human potential. I experience now the wonder of the talented proteges of the proteges of my proteges. And I am filled with joy. You ask: What is there to look forward to? You will find out when you live through and for others. Then you will feel the never-ending joy and pride of seeing them blossom, knowing you had a part in nurturing the greatness within them."

"But she will never get there." It's Rosalind again, her voice keening. "I understand you Medea. I understand that you can't let go. You can't move past the betrayal. It consumes you."

"Maybe we can help her," says Evelyn.

"What she needs before she can move on," says Rosalind, "is a taste of revenge."

* * * 

"So this was Medea's idea," Adrienne LeBlanc asks, "making the Old Opera House into a restaurant?" Adrienne is the renowned art director of the city's most prestigious theater company.

"I give her full credit," Jason Brooks says. He is a famous food critic, ex-husband of Medea, and part-owner of the Old Opera House restaurant.

Jason has invited Adrienne as a favor to his new girlfriend, Isabella "Belle" Martinez. Adrienne has the reputation for turning unknowns into stars and a keen eye for raw talent, with the power to make or break careers in the world of performing arts. The three of them are sitting at the center table in the Old Opera House restaurant, the same table Medea had occupied the night before.

"How magnanimous." Adrienne scrutinizes Jason with her sharp, cunning eyes peeking out from under the silver bob. "I would have thought that you would take some credit at least for bringing in Chef Maurice and the patrons that showed up on this opening night out of curiosity about your restaurant — to critique the critic as it were."

"I mean, I give Medea full credit for the idea. She loved this place when she performed her. When they moved the opera to the new location, she saw the potential. It was her concept."

"Hmmm," Adrienne says. "I suppose giving Medea the credit is the price you pay for you being the guilty party, breaking up your ... partnerships."

"Oh, we are still partners," Jason says. "In the restaurant venture, that is."

"So, Belle, you're the new partner," Adrienne turns to Belle, "in Jason's other venture. Have you set a date for the wedding yet? You must invite me, my dear."

Before Belle can answer, the lights in the Old Opera House begin to flicker on and off, and the voice of Hugo fills the space like a mighty river of sound, powerful and deep.

"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Old Opera House grand re-opening. Bon Appétit! And ... Happy Halloween!!!"

The lights dim until only the candles on the dining tables illuminate the restaurant.

"What a voice!" Adrienne whispers. "Who is that?"

"I don't know," Jason says. "This is Medea's show tonight."

"I suppose the grand opening on Halloween was her idea as well?"

Jason nods, then his eyes widen as he cranes his neck to see the floating shapes coming down from the high ceiling. 

They are ballerinas, two dozen of them, all ghostly white, translucent, swirling in the air above the more than two hundred dining guests in attendance for the opening night.

"Wonderful!" says Adrienne. "Whoever she got to do this laser show is good! I need to get the company name. This is better than we have at the Theatre."

The ballerinas come in for a graceful landing, spaced out evenly around the room.

"For the evening's first dish, I am proud to present my very own Hugo's Harmony Soup," the robust, velvety baritone soars as the ghostly ballerinas suddenly hold serving trays and begin making the rounds to the tables, placing steaming hot bowls of soup in front of each guest. "It has a flavorful orchestra of ingredients. A family secret. Enjoy!"

"Hugo? I thought ... Maurice is the Chef, right?" Adrienne asks.

"Last I checked," Jason says. "I don't know this Hugo, but the soup smells delicious."

Hugo's Harmony Soup is indeed a symphony of flavors and aromas. The hearty broth, warmed to a perfect temperature, is filled with vegetables and herbs that unleash a bouquet of fragrances. 

Jason, Adrienne, and Belle taste the richness of the celery, the earthiness of the mushrooms, and the subtle sweetness of the carrots. As they sip the soup, a haunting melody begins to emanate from each bowl, the rhythm of the soup's bubbles popping in time with the ghostly tune.

The main course, introduced as "Felix's Fettuccine", is served al dente with a velvety sauce. Its rich, garlicky aroma fill their nostrils, and the creamy texture of the pasta is a delight to their taste buds. 

Suddenly Jason feels as though he is rushing through his meal, time speeding up, Adrienne’s and Belle's voices sounding like high-speed chipmunk-whines as their spoons whirl in and out of their soup like jazz drummers in syncopated polyrhythm, buzz rolls of spoon-to-bowl-to-mouth. 

At the same time, Adrienne feels as though she's eating in slow motion. She is trying to keep up the conversation with Belle, but hearing her own voice and Belle's replies as deep growling, rumbling — thick and slow-running as molasses.

Then, everything is back to normal, as they finish the main course.  

"Now for dessert." Hugo's voice has a dark, rich timbre. "At your table you will be given one of three choices: Clara's Cream Puff, Evelyn's Eclair, or Rosalind's Raspberry Sorbet."

The explosion of sweet cream from Clara's Cream Puff in Jason's mouth is a dramatic sensory overload. Its sweet, milky flavor contrasted by the puff pastry's crispness is a dance of textures. 

On Adrienne's plate, Evelyn's Eclair begins to twirl on its own accord, its light, flaky exterior and rich chocolate filling creating a ballet of tastes. As the dish spins off the plates and into the air at each of the tables, the sounds of surprised gasps echo in the room. 

In the meanwhile Belle's experience with Rosalind's Raspberry Sorbet is a private melancholic journey. Each spoonful, with its tart sweetness, seems to fill her with a sense of longing and unfulfilled dreams. The cooling sensation of the sorbet is like a sigh — a breath of sadness — on her tongue.

As the lingering taste of Clara's Cream Puff dances on Jason's palate, he begins to feel an uncontrollable surge of emotions. His usual facade of stern professionalism crumbles, replaced by a flurry of over-the-top theatrics. He starts to gesticulate wildly, his voice rising and falling dramatically. 

Across the table, Adrienne, under the enchantment of Evelyn's Eclair, is experiencing her own upheaval of emotions. The eclair, with its balletic movement, incites in Adrienne a heightened sensitivity to the aesthetics around her. As Jason's theatrics escalate, so does her disapproval. Driven by the influence of Evelyn's Eclair, she criticizes Jason's performance, marking it as crude and exaggerated. Every gesticulation Jason makes is met with a scowl, every dramatic expression countered with a dismissive shake of Adrienne's head. The tension between them grows, the screeching notes of their conflicting reactions playing out like a discordant duet. 

Belle sits quietly, unnoticed by Jason and Adrienne who are engrossed in their own dramatics. The taste of Rosalind's Raspberry Sorbet on her tongue triggers an overwhelming cascade of emotions. Each spoonful reflects the tart, sweet memories of her mother, a poignant reminder of her loss. The coolness of the dessert evokes the chilling wave of loneliness that washed over her at her mother's death. Each bite increases the feeling of loss she had been trying to ignore for too long. 

As the intense flavors dance on her palate, Belle remembers the countless times her mother had encouraged her to believe in her dreams. Each reminder is a stab to Belle's heart, amplifying her sense of loss. The sorbet, with its enchanting magic, isn’t just a dessert anymore. Belle is choking on her deep-seated sadness and repressed longing. 

Belle's eyes well up, tears threatening to spill over, as she grapples with the realization that her dreams are destined to forever slip through her fingers like grains of sand.

Belle falls to the floor, sobbing.

* * * 

"Rosalind, stop!"

Medea stands in the middle of the dining room, next to Belle who is writhing on the floor.

The ghost of Rosalind shimmers into visibility.

"You'll kill her," Medea says.

"Why should she live?" Rosalind screams. "I couldn't live with my sadness. Why should she?"

"I understand how you feel."

"You should!" Rosalind wails. "She took your man. Just like —" her voice chokes into a sigh.

"I understand," Medea says. "That is why you took your own life, why you're trapped now, haunting this place. It's not fair what he did to you —" 

"What she did ... she! ... she seduced him. She took my man. He never would have left me. Not without her tempting him. It was her. Her! It was her fault."

"But Belle is not the one who betrayed you." Medea says.

"They are all like her. All like Belle. She did it to you," Rosalind howls. "Don't you hate her? You must hate her. Tell me you hate her!"

All the dishes suddenly rise from every table, then come crashing to the floor, breaking into sharp shards.

"I don't hate her."


Medea moves closer to the shimmering, translucent presence of Rosalind. 

"I don't hate Belle."


"I'm envious of Belle," Medea says, "because she has her whole life in front of her, and she has my man, but that doesn't mean I hate her, and it doesn't mean I wish her dead."

Rosalind hunches over, then looks up at Medea. "Why is it that some people can go on?"

"We learn to live with sadness and loss, day by day."

"I couldn't."

"I know, Rosalind. But we do. Most of us. We move on. Belle moved on from whatever was the source of her sadness and loss. Until you amplified it. What is happening to Belle is not fair. Please release her, let her go."

"Then ... will you stay?"

"Yes," Medea says, "I will stay here with you. I will stay here with all of you." 

Medea looks around at the spirits of the Old Opera House, now visible as misty specters: Rosalind, Hugo, Evelyn, Felix, and all the others. 

The living dining-patrons are rooted to their spots, unable to move from their tables, just watching the spectacle. 

"I will stay with all of you." Medea turns to look at Rosalind. "But you must let Belle go."

Rosalind kneels down and whispers in Belle's ear. 

Belle continues convulsing, but her sobs become shallower, slower. 

Then ... Belle opens her eyes and she looks up at the ghost of Rosalind. She whispers:

"Thank you."

* * * 

In the foyer, Belle clings to Jason's arm.

Jason looks at Medea: "You're sure?" 

"I promised them."

"What kind of life is that, living here with the spirits, the ghosts?"

"It's the right life for me," Medea says, turning away, walking back into the Old Opera House as the doors swing shut with a thud.

* * * 

"Well," Medea says, "we have some cleaning up to do."

"Say no more." Evelyn moves into a perfect relevé, rising to the tips of her toes, bras en couronne, both arms above her head. The broken dishes in the dining room elevate and swirl into the large trash containers held at the ready by the ghostly ballerinas.

"You all did so well," Medea says.

"I felt pretty good about it," says Hugo, his voice soft, not at all the booming force and intensity he projected earlier.

"How would you feel," asks Evelyn, "about staging this kind of performance every night? Well, without the life-threatening bits."

Rosalind blushes, a pink mist rising up her translucent cheeks.

"It could be an attraction," says Medea, looking around at the spirits of the Old Opera House. "I know you did this as a one-off, for me. But how about if we made it a regular event? We can rename this place the Haunted Opera House restaurant." 

"How exciting!" Evelyn soundlessly claps her ghostly hands.

* * * 

"Just one question," Medea says, taking Rosalind aside. "What did you whisper to her, to Belle, to revive her, to let her go?"

"It is something I heard from Felix. I didn't want to believe it. But it's true."

"What is it?"

"Do not lose yourself in the past" Rosalind says, "Do not lose yourself in the future. Do not get caught in your anger, worries, or fears." She pauses. "Come back to the present moment, and touch life deeply." Now Rosalind smiles. "Because you are alive, everything is possible. Life is available only in the present moment. Promise yourself to enjoy every minute of each day that is given to you."

October 07, 2023 00:37

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Chris Miller
08:31 Oct 08, 2023

Very rich, Geir. A great choice of setting and cast. Good stuff.


Geir Westrul
22:12 Oct 08, 2023

Thank you, Chris. I've actually been brewing (cooking, baking) this story through the last 3 contests, and it kept morphing as the prompts were changing, then with this prompt (about starting with the non-visual senses), I got the opening scene, and the story wrote itself from there.


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Mary Bendickson
20:48 Oct 07, 2023

Hauntingly subtle.👻


Geir Westrul
22:15 Oct 08, 2023

Nice! Yes, I had fun with the haunted dishes, and playing out Rosalind's sadness, Medea's sense of loss, into the effects on Belle. I liked the hopeful ending with Medea and the spirits (and it took me by surprise because I originally had a darker ending, but the characters wanted it to go in a different direction, so who am I to argue with the Spirits of the Old Opera House...)


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Annie Persson
18:37 Oct 22, 2023

Loved how even the ghosts could learn something new, and I love the show they put on for the guests. I was there for every bite and every tear, beautifully written


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Geir Westrul
18:11 Oct 07, 2023

Credit: Rosalind's whispered words to Belle that she heard from Felix are, in fact, an assembly of quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh.


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