A solitary lady stood on the catwalk six metres above the show. She gazed down, making out the figures on the stage below. Heat rose around her as the suspended lights glowed brightly. The bridge walkway both alarmed and exhilarated her, even after all the years being a part of the theatre. She giggled, remembering the fear she once felt on the catwalk. Her manager would make her come up whenever she made a mistake in her work at the theatre.
‘Claire, if you are to learn focus, you must develop discipline. Up you go and close the barn doors on spotlight three!’
Her body would shake, her hands unsteady, it was hard to hold on to the cold metal ladder. Her long skirts or costumes tangled around her legs, making her breathing fast and shallow. Fear ensuring, she crawled along the grated walkway both hands and knees. Now, though, she relished the butterflies that filled her stomach as she silently moved freely from the catwalk to the fly floors, as she moved lights. She could do at a speed she would never have thought possible.
The live orchestra appeared overflowing with instruments and musicians as they came alive with the honeyed sounds of classical melody. She yanked on the pulleys, releasing backdrops as she swayed to the music. Moving the spotlight swiftly from the stage to orchestra pit, placing the bright light on the conductor, she heard exclamations below.
She danced back to the bridge, pressing the hydraulic lift lowering the stage floor.
Suddenly, a loud roar made her look down at the stage. The wooden planks of the stage were painted with pooling blood, bone and flesh shredded from an actor's body.
‘Yes! it is done!’ she clasped her hands.
* * * * *
‘Jesus! bring down the Curtin.’
The direction came too late. The audience screamed, fainted, or sat with their mouths agape!
Back stage actors and stagehands ran in chaotic panic, the stage manager screaming instructions to all who could still comprehend direction. Ring the ambulance, get the police, lock the doors! No one is to leave this theatre.!
On the floor lay twenty-year-old Robert, his dark eyes pleading with someone to help him as he watched the bloodied, mangled space where his legs once were, his usual bronzed pallor pure white. His sight blurred as the faces of his fellow actors faded in and out. Julie, his beautiful Julie, held his hand. The fear in her face concerned him. His eyes pleaded with her that everything would be alright.
His body betrayed him, going limp, continued speech impossible, his eyes no longer able to stay open. He heard Julie's heart-breaking scream as he felt the pull of his soul leave the remains of his broken body. Looking down, he could see the whole backstage, with people everywhere. The stage manager pumped Robert's lifeless corpse with an unwavering determination as Julie collapsed, her understudy picking her limp body up and taking her away.
‘Julie! Don’t go, I am still here! Julie!’
His voice, lost on the retreating girl. She did not look up; she did not see or sense him. Instead, she remained cocooned in her understudy’s arms. He let out an anguished yell which no one heard. Not one of his troupe, that is. He turned at the sudden voice behind him.
‘You are here at last!’
Cried a woman’s voice. Robert brow furrowed. He knew the voice, he knew her face, but how, he could not place it.
‘Gilbert, Gil! It has been such a long time! When you walked back into the theatre, I knew at once we would be together!’
A shot of memory hit him like a surging wave.
‘You are a dream; I have seen you in my dreams!’
‘Yes, it is the only way I could be with you. Those dreams have proved we should be together forever.’
Robert felt a darkness engulf him
‘You did this to me! You killed me!’
‘Not you, only the vessel that kept us separated. I once let you go, and you did not return. I couldn’t allow that to happen again!’
‘But lady, I don’t know you! I don’t know why you came to me in dreams, and I want you to put me back to where I belong.’
She giggled at him and stepped closer. He could smell a sweet lavender and jasmine, the scent filling him with a dread he did not understand. Taking a step back, he gulped at such a feeling of repulse. The woman, ethereal, attractive but somehow fractured, turned her head to the side.
‘Now Gil, you should know I will never give you up. You and I will be together and only then will life begin again.’
She reached for his hand and kissed it before dancing around him.
‘I am the only woman for you, remember? That is what you told me in your last life. Or perhaps it was the one before. It matters little, for you swore to me your loyalty for eternity.’
Robert felt his mind flash. White flames engulfed his thoughts, and, without warning, memories spun. Memories not of one life, but of many. There in the past showed a time when those he loved called him Gil. Only then did he remember her. A beauty, her charm her essence captured him. Then came the jealousy, the sweet, sublime actress gone, replaced by an insidious woman. She crushed everything he loved or admired. Losing his family, his friends and even strangers, who showed him kindness, obliterated by her, she maimed, killed or destroyed all. The monster looked up at him, her mouth pouting, eyes sulky.
‘Don’t remember the bad parts, Gil! Remember how I would do anything to make you happy!’
He looked down, watching his limp body which housed his soul for twenty years, now being placed on a stretcher and rolled offstage for the last time. Realisation hit him.
‘I am dead because of you!’
‘We are dead together, and we can be together forever. Remember how much you wanted me! Remember the way you yearned for me and forget all the things that upset you. I am here now to be the girl you loved.’
‘You were never the girl I loved. You simply masqueraded as a person I admired and cared for. Now you have killed me when I found a genuine love!’
The lights flickered, globes shattered, he could hear the screams from below as bits of fractured light bulb dropped throughout the stage.
‘She is nothing! An insipid fool with sentimental eyes and nothing else!’
Robert shook his head slowly.
‘You cannot let go of your evil soul. I will not remain here with you. There are other places I can go.’
A blinding light enveloped him as She screamed in rage.
‘You cannot go where I can’t go! Come back to me!’
As the light vanished, she collapsed as she released a manic, painful scream. Slowly she composed herself by wiping down the folds in her dress. Looking at the space where he had stood moments before.
‘I will get you in your next life, Gil! I promise you; you will be mine!’
* * * * * *
Julie lay in the dressing room, her eyes drawn to the image of a man who looked so much like her Robert. The Troupe laughed when they read the legend of the Claire-a-belle theatre. When the male lead, Steve came up to his understudy Robert, with the framed drawing of a man resembling him, both Rob and Julie could not help but see the resemblance.
‘The look is uncanny Rob, are you sure you want to be my understudy? Theatre legends always have some truth to them, you know. They say the original owner of this theatre had a lover who left her. She became so devastated she threw herself from the catwalk. The theatre has seen many an accident since then. All who have perished have looked like this.’
She remembered Robert’s astonishment as he looked at the image.
‘Stop fooling around Steve. Your games are not worthy of you. Surely you are not so jealous of my talent you mean to frighten me away with old legends!’
Steve had stomped off, his face red and his fist clenched tight.
She and Rob were excited to be working together at last. They could not understand Steve’s obsession with pranks.
Julie sobbed; If only she had listened, her love lost forever.