“You see Petr” Karson said to the bound man who was most certainly not called Petr “it’s a simple thing these days. The play, the theatre, aaah even the fawning crowd. It is all naught wouldn’t you say?”
The man who was most definitely not called Petr mumbled something. Karson stopped his slow pacing, turning to pout at the bound little man. Petr tried to say something, the thick knot of torn fabric causing his words to devolve becoming a shining line of dribble.
“Pity” Karson pouted, suppressing a snort. “But then what you would say wouldn't be much better. You see Mr Petr, my dear and small fellow, you have not seen, have not read, have not breathed the plays and forms and theatre I have engorged. They say you are the centre of it all, the main little man of the crock-brigade.” Karson hefted a pail hand, his long claws clasped tight around three yellowed reams of paper. “I can enlighten you, Mr Petr. Would you like that, my main man?”
Petr growled, the stream of saliva increasing as his small fat face twisted into an angry snarl. Karson saw fear there, nestling within the pinched pug eyes. He stepped closer, careful not to turn his back towards the darkness that swallowed half the chamber. He raised a fevered claw so that the wretched stage hands eyes where completely lost within the mass of mouldering yellow pages.
“Montaign’s Dance Macabre. Elizabet’s Apocalypsicon. The King in Yellow!” Karson fairly screeched the last, his voice grating from a throat made raw. “So much...so much sweet Petr. This is literature my friend, sweet enlightening literature. And after years wasted in theatres, rotting in second rate roles and spitting wastrel bars! Don’t you think it is at least kind of me to let you in on my little enlightenments Petr. Truly, you could be much more please about my charity.”
Petr snarled something behind the sodden rag in his mouth. Karson leaned back, rubbing his temples where a burgeoning head ache was threatening. The stage hand strained in his seat, beads of sweat building on his sunburned forehead. Karson saw the bulge of knotted forearms straining, saw how the torn lengths of curtain strained under the little man’s rage. The actor sighed.
“Oh Petr. Don’t you think this is a little childish. My man, you will always be someone’s main man still. They can't fill every leading role with me. There will always be the second-rate stages, the weak slum squatting cheap shows.” Karson reached into his pocket, tearing the silk length of a handkerchief from its confinement. His eye caught the red tint at the materials corner, the strong note of scarlet bold against the weak cream lining. He smiled, revealing too much of an all too white set of teeth.
“Well I cannot say I didn’t anticipate this Petr. All those years in theatre school and you didn't think I noticed it? The slight jabs and jibes every time I took the stage, the back biting commentary whenever you thought I couldn’t hear you. It’s a wonder you ever got as far as you did with a mind like yours” he sighed then, exaggerated and long as his hand reached once more to his pocket. “But as they all say at the hights...’no matter in the end.’”
Karson saw the little man’s eyes widen as he brought the item from his pocket. The man who was most definitely not called Petr froze, the trembling force of his muscled body stilled. Karson held the knife out before him, marvelling at the soft way the strange steel curled in Damascan beauty. Harsh yellow light burned down from above, straining at the pair so that one wall of the chamber remained in complete darkness. There was a harsh intake of air as of a breath. Karson ignored it, feeling something at the back of his mind stir.
“In truth this is really nothing” the actor said, his sad pout growing. “Mina’s rejection hurt much more. She was so bold about it!”
Karson sighed, the exhalation long. He returned his gaze to Petr. Some part of him quailed at the sight, filling him with doubt. He snarled, his face contorting. Of course this was Petr! Who else could it be? No one else met him in the winding theatre corridors with as much disdain, as much pouting supremacy. The little man did not move as he moved closer, inwardly smiling at the slow predatory gait he adopted. Karson hefted the clawed manuscripts before his captive, a smile swelling across the length of his features.
“But no more. Oh dear, sweet Petr. I know you loved her so. The two of you always behind my back, always far from where I could learn with my own ears and my own eyes. But walls talk my friend. Save a relationship? Why should I do that, sweet Petr, when I have such great works clutched in my hands? With these my one true love, my sweet theatre herself, she will be mine...mine forever.”
Karson stared down, the narrow slits of his eyes boring into the man who was not Petr. He raised the knife, the coloured steel rising above his head. The air froze in that moment. Anticipation swelled the air to a chocking weight.
“Goodnight sweet Petr.”
Red fountained. Somewhere someone screamed. Karson froze as metal screamed overhead. A heavy thump sounded, echoing in dramatic finality behind him.
The man that was most certainly not Petr blinked, gasped, then smiled a broad piggish smile. Karson stood up, a smile gasping the length of his features. The small man before him leapt from the seat, the length of torn fabric which had bound his wrists falling to the floor behind him.
“Bloody good work my boy” the small man hissed, the saliva drenched gag falling from his mouth in an explosion of fluid and expelled air. “Bloody damn fine work. Your best yet. Act two is in the bag! Oh they’ll see! They'll see! But stay sharp man. Intermission is twenty minutes here, long enough for a cocky little git to get soft, lose his gift.” the man who was not Petr came forwards, slapping a muscled hand on Karson’s arm. “Keep it loose. Keep it tidy. Keep playing that nasty piece of work Karson well and the whole bloody theatre industry will be biting the bit to get a hold of you son.”
The little muscled man darted of, his face contorting and reddening even as he moved off. From somewhere a girl entered the set, reaching down with obvious distaste to grasp the wet rag that had been the director's gag. Karson watched, momentarily confused, his hand rising once more to stroke the ach at his temples. He turned, inspecting the heavy length of fabric which had fallen to obstruct the heavy blackness of the far wall. Sounds emanated from the other side of the heavy red fabric, growing in trembling confidence. Karson blinked, imagining the great mass of people which must have called that darkness home.
“Costume change in five Mr Lamnley” the disgusted girl called out. Karson turned, watching her go with the stark grimace still on her face. She reminded him of someone, someone who he thought he might have known. His vision swam for an instant, the periphery swelling with ghost impression; a murder, a woman bound, a knife falling, the smug snap of a man behind him as he stalked from the scene of another little justice.
“Yes” Karson gasped, his voice trembling. He looked down, seeing the crushed mass of manuscripts, the cold cleaned edge of the foreign blade. He looked at the small note of red upon the corner of the fallen handkerchief, his head pounding to the beat of his rising heart. He felt his cheeks flare as he raised his head. The stage girl was stood there, revulsion at the wet gag in her hand still plain.
“Yes” he smiled, confidence returning to his voice. “Lead the way my dear. Lead the way dear, sweet Mina.”