Dead Realm Theater

Written in response to: Set your story at the boundary between two realms.... view prompt


Contemporary Drama Fiction

“We won’t be able to get in, Kammi Nakayama whined. “The doors are going to be all locked.” She crossed her arms, rubbing them briskly. “It’s so cold out here, why can’t we just go back to my basement and play a drinking game or something?”

Kammi and her friends were standing in a four-foot-wide alley next to an old Broadway Theater.

“You’re aren’t scared are you, bestie?” Ruth teased her.

“That’s what you always say. I’m not scared, I just think it’s a bad idea to get arrested for breaking and entering,” Kammi snapped. Why am I going along with this? Contacting a dead child on Halloween is not my idea of fun. Kammi asked herself this, but she already knew the answer.

It was a small act of rebellion against her old-fashioned, strict parents. They had been raised in Japan and emigrated here in their twenties, but they still clung to their old ways of honor and propriety.

“Don’t worry, I’ve done seances before,” Ruth patted the tote bag slung over her shoulder where she had packed salt and candles.

“Yeah Kammi, stop worrying so much,” Ruth’s boyfriend Lamonte said. “You’re right about the door being locked, though.”

 “There’s a boarded-up window there,” Kammi pointed. “Maybe we can get in that way.” And it’s better than busting the lock on the door, she thought.

Lamonte went over and tested the window. The boards were soft with rot and came off easily in his hands. He turned and narrowed his eyes at Kammi. She shrugged in response to his puzzled look.

“Lucky guess,” she said, flicking her black hair over her shoulder.

Lamonte was on the basketball team and tall enough to reach the window to pull himself through, once he got the boards off.

“Yeah! Go on baby, you got this!” Lamonte’s Ruth encouraged him. It had been her idea to come down to the abandoned Gaston LeRoux Theater on Broadway.

“Someone is going to see us and call the cops,” Kammi said, looking around. If I get arrested, my parents will probably kick me out. Maybe I could go live with Ruth, so that might not be so bad.

“It’s dark back here. No one is going to see us, don’t worry,” Keith said. He and Lamonte were on the high school basketball team together and had been best friends since eighth grade. He put his arm around Kammi.

He’s so cute! Kammi thought, laying her head on his warm shoulder. He had asked her out a few times, but Kammi was hesitant, knowing that her parents wouldn’t approve of him, mainly because he wasn’t Japanese.

“Damn, I can’t fit through here,” Lamonte said as he backed out and dropped to the ground again.

“I can fit,” Keith’s twin sister Natalie spoke up. She backed up and took a running jump at the window, pushing off the opposite wall and diving through like an acrobat.

Ruth’s eyes widened in amazement and she shook her head. “Knew I shoulda took gymnastics instead of cheerleading!”

Less than a minute passed before Natalie unlocked and opened a narrow door near them.

“It’s so dark in here,” Kammi said as the group entered, single-file. She hesitated. I don’t want to stand out here in the alley alone. They’ll probably get themselves in trouble if they don’t have someone with a little common sense, with them. Kammi sighed and followed her friends into the theater.

The walls were blackened from the fire that had claimed the lives of many actors, years ago. The air smelled musty and the floor was warped and buckled in places, so they had to walk carefully. The group was in a tight corridor that led past dressing rooms with faded names on the doors of long-dead performers.

“Look,” Ruth whispered, pointing at two doors next to each other. “Steven and Diana Daye. They were real, and they died here, along with their daughter.”

“So sad,” Kammi said, her eyes drooping at the corners. So it’s true, not just a made-up story to scare people. “Why are you so sure this place is haunted?” Kammi asked Ruth.

“People have told stories of seeing a little girl with a scarred face, moving around in here. Workers have seen her, and other people. That’s why they stopped repairing this place. It’s owned by the city now, but no one wants to buy it,” Ruth replied.

Kammi’s ears buzzed, and time seemed to slow down for a couple of seconds. A wave of dizziness washed over her and she felt like the room was slowly spinning. I’ve heard Ruth say that before. And this place looks familiar, but none of us have ever been here before. Why?

The dizziness passed and Kammi shook her head as she tuned into Ruth and Natalie’s conversation.

“That’s crazy,” Natalie said. “I’d love to own a haunted theater. I can’t wait to talk to her. Or the other ghosts, I bet there’s several here.”

“That is what we are here to find out. Let’s find the main auditorium and set up on the stage,” Ruth said.

“Why there?” Kammi and Natalie asked at the same time.

“Because that is where the family spent the most time; if Erika’s spirit is here, it makes sense that she will be drawn to the place where she was happiest--the stage.”

“Going to contact the ghost of Erika Daye...woooo!” Kammi said, wiggling her fingers in front of her face and making what she thought was a spooky ghost noise.

“Don’t make fun of it,” Lamonte said, “You’ll piss off the ghosts! It’s bad enough that you’re a skeptic.”

“Lay off, man. She was just joking. Stop making it all so serious,” Keith came to her defense and Kammi grinned up at him.

Despite her joke, Kammi was taking this seriously too, her stomach roiled with nervousness. Something feels off about all this, and not just ghosts, there is something else.

The main auditorium was an opulent cavern, with tall ceilings. Under the coating of soot, they could still see the gilt archways and the crimson of the heavy velvet curtains that hung over the pitted and dusty stage.

“Does this place seem familiar to anyone else?” Kammi asked, looking around.

“What do you mean?” Keith asked.

“I feel like I’ve seen this place before, inside I mean.”

“Like you’ve seen pictures of it?”

“Yeah, that must be it,” Kammi shrugged.

Ruth went over and climbed the stairs onto the stage, where she drew a large salt circle and set four candles around the outside of it, at each of the points of the compass.

“Everything is ready for the ritual,” Ruth said as she lit the last candle. 

 Hidden in the shadows above them on the catwalk, a young woman watched and listened as the group sat in the center of the salt circle and used the ouija board. “We wish to speak to the spirit of Erika Daye,” they all chanted as they rested their fingertips on the planchette.

The young woman’s dark hair was braided, and she wore a black cloak, with its hood pulled over her head. A white mask covered her face, her blue eyes watched through the eye holes cut in the mask.

“Ssh, Hamlet,” She whispered to the large white rat perched on her shoulder. “Be patient, it’s not time yet.” 

She observed the group of friends below. Waited.

“Are you here, Erika?” Ruth asked, her eyes still closed. “Erika Daye, if you are here, will you speak to us?”

Without warning, the ground began to shake, and the floor and walls groaned. Crashes echoed in the darkness as timbers fell, and lights fell to the stage around them and shattered. The flashlights were knocked from Lamonte and Keith’s hands, rolling away and causing crazy shadows to dance over the walls.

“It’s an earthquake! We have to get out of here!” Natalie shouted as everyone staggered to their feet, choking on the dust that filled the air.

“Don’t leave the protection of the circle!” Ruth shouted.

Everyone froze at her words and gaped with wide eyes. No one had the chance to say anything, because at that moment, with a groan and the crackle of splintering wood, the heavy velvet stage curtain slammed on top of the group, followed by pieces of metal scaffolding and sections of the ceiling.

“Let the games begin!” Ghost whispered to Hamlet from her hiding place. 

Meanwhile, Keith and Kammi crawled out from under the curtain, which had caught fire from the candles. “Is everyone ok?” Keith asked, helping Kammi pull their friends out. Everyone spoke in the affirmative as they stood up and dusted themselves off. “A little bruised, but I think we’re all ok,” Natalie said.

“We have to get out of here,” Kammi said. “This was such a bad idea. I told you!”

This time, no one argued with her. Lamonte went over and pushed on the door that they had entered by. “Hey, it’s locked!” He said as he turned to look at his brother and his friends. “Who in the hell locked the door?!” He shouted.

“The ghosts?” Kammi asked in a quivering voice.

An icy wind started blowing, echoing through the cracks in the building, moaning like a cat in pain. In the distance, another rumble shook the floor under their feet. “Oh, no not another earthquake,” Kammi shrieked, crouching down and putting her arms over her head. 

Lamonte and Ruth banged on the door and shouted for help, while Natalie looked around for another way out.

“We have to put the fire out!” Keith yelled. The others turned to see that the fire had spread rapidly and the entire curtain was burning.

“With what?” Natalie shrieked.

They all jumped as deep guttural laughter floated back and forth, echoing across the room. It was impossible to tell which direction it was coming from.

“This is too scary, even for me,” Ruth said, shaking her head. “Let’s just go out that window!”

“Good idea,” Lamonte said as he shone his flashlight on the window Ruth pointed to. “Oh crap! Guys, look!”

Their eyes tracked the beam of his light and saw that someone had put the board back up over the window. Lamont and Keith ran over and punched it, trying to knock it loose. “Somebody nailed it back up, it won’t budge,” Lamont said.

“Let’s try those doors,” Natalie said as she pointed toward the double doors at the back of the theater. “I think they lead to the main lobby, then we can just run out the front door.”

The group followed Natalie toward the exit, but suddenly a hooded figure stepped from behind the last row of seats, flinging its arms wide and blocking their path. Its face was dark green, and deformed, with pure black eyes and knobby horns coming out of its forehead. It laughed, the sound like chains dragging through thick mud. Its black robe rippled and billowed in the icy wind that suddenly kicked up.

They all shrieked and backed up like frightened cattle. “The ghosts aren’t going to let us leave!” Kammi wailed. Keith put his arm around her to comfort her as she trembled and squeezed her eyes shut.

A few moments passed, and Kammi realized she couldn’t feel the warmth of Keith’s arm anymore. She opened her eyes and looked around. Her friends were gone. The wind and the weird noises had stopped.

The figure in front of the doors lowered its arms and stalked toward Kammi as she backed up, stumbling over broken floor tiles, fallen light fixtures, and seats as she cringed away, with her hands raised, palms out. 

“S-stay away! I just want to leave, let me leave! You let my friends go, you can let me go too, we just wanted to talk to Erika Daye, we didn’t mean any harm!”

The creature stopped, It slowly reached up and pushed the hood back, pushing the mask to the top of its head with the other hand.

Underneath, Kammi could see it wasn’t a demon, but a young woman, a few years older than Kammi. The woman’s face was scarred, and it looked like it had been badly burned and had healed into twisted and bumpy scars. Her dark hair was braided and hung over her shoulder.

“You say the same thing every year. I AM Erika Daye. I didn’t die in the fire; I’m still very much alive.” Erika’s eyes and mouth drooped in sadness.

“Where are my friends?” Kammi’s voice trembled, and she swallowed convulsively, her mouth and throat were dry.

“They went back.”

“Back where?” Kammi squeaked.

“It’s after midnight, not Halloween anymore. The portal between the living and the dead realm is nearly closed.”

Kammi just shook her head. “What does that have to do with anything? I want to know where my friends went. After that weird earthquake, we..uh…” Kammi trailed off as she noticed her hands.

They were fading, becoming translucent. “What’s happening?” Kammi shrieked, hyperventilating.

“Kammi, I’m sorry. You and your friends died in that earthquake. I couldn’t save you. I’m so sorry, I tried.”

“N-no, what are you talking...we didn’t die, we crawled out from under that curtain,” Kammi gestured behind her. “We were fine!” Her voice was high-pitched and squeaky now.

“Not that one. That earthquake wasn’t real, it was a paranormal echo of the one that happened five years ago. It repeats every year, the same way that you and your friends repeat the events of your deaths, every year on Halloween.”

Kammi just kept shaking her head, her eyes wide. “Why are you doing this?”

“You all wanted to talk to the ghost of Erika Daye, so I obliged. The rest, the voices and locked doors and wind, that was all theatrics.”

Erika shrugged. “I did grow up in this theater, after all. If nothing else, I know how to put on a show. I wanted to give you a haunting experience, that was what you all seemed to be looking for. That's all I can do. When that quake happened five years ago, you and your friends were crushed and suffocated under the debris. I wasn’t able to move it to pull you guys out. I called an ambulance, but by the time the rescue teams arrived, it was too late.”

“No. You’re lying. I’m not dead. I can’t be dead. I would know!” Kammi shouted, stomping forward with her fists balled up.

“Think back. What were you doing just before you and your friends got to the alley, just before Lamonte pried the boards off the window?”

Kammi struggled to recall “I don’t know, it’s hazy. How did you know that it was Lamonte that pried the board off?”

Who is this weird chick, and where are my friends? Kammi wondered.

“Because this all happens the same way, every Halloween. I’ve come to look forward to it, my own paranormal theater, with my friends. I use a wind machine, with a generator, and hidden speakers to produce those sounds you heard.”

“Okaay,” Kammi said slowly. “I believe that part, that you were doing all that stuff. But I would know…”

“Look at your hands,” Erika said.

Kammi did. And screamed. Her hands and arms, all of her, were transparent and colorless. She shook her head violently.

“I can’t…”

Erika never heard what she was going to say because Kammi vanished before she could finish her sentence.

Erika’s shoulders slumped and she stared at the floor. The theater felt darker and colder than it had before. Hamlet squeaked, from his perch on her shoulder.

“I know, Hamlet, I know. They’ll be back again next Halloween. Let’s go home.”

October 28, 2021 20:09

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