THERE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE AUDIENCE

Submitted into Contest #123 in response to: Start your story looking down from a stage.... view prompt

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Black Crime Suspense

THERE   AT THE BOTTOM OF THE AUDIENCE

It was a bit of struggle to clean the stage after that show which, they said, had really enjoyed , and excited  the spectators. They had talked about it in television…..They said, since she hadn’t seen it. No, she had not been part of the large audience who, sitting in the red armchairs of the stalls had enjoyed ( tasted) that tragicomic comedy in which hens, ducks and turkeys had also gone up on the stage. She seemed to remember that even a little pig had gone up on the stage. But it had not been  only the animals  with got dirty on the stage, huh. The actors had thrown pies in each other’s faces, they had broken glasses, spilled wine and soup on the floor.

Martha, with the broom still in her hand, decided to take a break to rest.  So, standing in the center of the stage, she started looking down into the rather large auditorium, which numbered about hundred seats, none of which was now occupied. Martha let the broom fall to the ground, she took off the cap that she always wore in her head when she was cleaning, and, who knows how, who knows why she was tempted to perform on that stage, where she had gone up just (only) to clean it. But sure, she had improvised a performance for…for an audience  that wasn’t there. Martha brushed her hair with her hands, she swayed and laid her hand on her hip. She was about to start singing that aria from Carmen, of Bizet, but she remained silent, with her mouth opened. Oh, but the audience wasn’t empty then. Someone was sitting over there in an armchair of the back roar. Of that someone, with his hunched shoulders wrapped in a gray raincoat, the first thing she noticed was the white hat, with its wide brim, which had slipped …over his nose, which covered the most of his face, only his mouth and chin were ( remained) uncovered. Even the posture of his shoulders made one ( her) think of someone asleep. Strange that she hadn’t noticed that presence before, Martha thought. Was it possible that he ( that guy) had arrived  when she was cleaning the stage and had gone to sleep in an armchair at the back of the audience?

She, Martha, one hand on her hip, swaying, her face stretched out, was ready to attack the refrain from the aria from Carmen___L’amour  est un oiseau rebelle__, oh, but she even felt Carmen. “ Si tu ne m’aimes pas, je r’aime/Si je t’aime, prend gard à toi!” She began to sing. That guy, there at the back of the audience, remained perfectly still, also his hat remained motionless on his face. Who knows who he was, perhaps  a theatrical impresario, perhaps an actor, or perhaps, why not? A robber, or a killer, or a prison escapee , who had taken refuge there, in the theatre, since they were chasing him? While she, Martha, kept moving on the stage as if she were Carmen, and she started to sing again. She would have expected, at least, a word, even if of disapproval, if not a whistle or applause from her only spectator, who remained silent and still in the same position, his hat on his face. But…how strange, when she went back to look at him, after looking away from him, for a moment, Martha seemed to see a shadow behind that guy. A big dark shadow that gathered behind him., to, soon after  slip away, going towards the door and disappearing. Since her only spectator kept being in the exact same position, with his face covered by the hat, Martha thought of waking him. “ Hey you, man, I say to you! Don’t you like how I sing Carmen? Do you prefer me to sing something else? Or maybe do you prefer to hear a monologue, eh? Or do you prefer jokes instead? Come on, speak! Let me hear you voice! Make at least a gesture!” Martha said very loudly, almost screaming, stamping her feet  on the stage, and clapping her hands against each other. Thatm one there, the unknown spectator with his face covered by the white hat, did not said a word, and he did not make the slightest gesture. He remained absolutely still. Martha felt very uncomfortable, she did not know what to do. The decision she had enthusiastically taken just before, to perform on the stage, which was there, all at her disposal, now faltered, she did not feel like putting it into action( implementing it). Now that in the audience there was that one sitting  over there, that guy who, given his absolute stillness, he could also have been…a manikin. His presence made her apprehensive, it had extinguished her desire to perform. Besides she didn’t feel comfortable even to continue cleaning the stage….with that one sitting there, at the end of the audience….who did not speak, did not move….of whom she could not even see the face. Ah, but perhaps, even if she had not noticed him before, it could have been a spectator who had fallen asleep during the show, Martha thought, more than anything else to tell herself something that would reassure her. Since that show, everyone said, was so electrifying, and so fun and exciting that it was impossible, for anyone attending it to fall asleep. Oh, God, but then it could have been someone who  had died while was attending the show, Martha thought, and she felt herself plunging into an abyss of fear, of terror. She was alone on that stage, in front of that vast deserted audience, except that one spectator, who, other than asleep, he had  to be dead, instead! And perhaps not even of natural death! He could have been killed! Perhaps the crime had been committed during the show- To what they said it had been very lively, very noisy, full of twists and turns, and of shouts, of cackling ( din, uproars ), not only of ( from ) the two legged actors, but also of ( from) the four legged ones. It had been heard barking and meowing, and then braying and bleating,, even grunting….She, Martha, gripped by fear, tightened in the grip of fear, felt the stage trembling under her feet , and around her too.   She should have gone down to the stalls  to see if that motionless guy ( man) , sitting in one of the last places, was asleep or was dead. Although she was now sure he was dead, she kept ( on) hoping that he was alive instead. “ Hey, you over there  (there at the bottom), give me a sign of life, please! Oh, I pray you ! Take the hat off your face! Or , at least, move a hand! Oh, are you hearing me ? Oh, please, say one word!” Martha screamed, with all the breath she had. He, the man sitting over there did not move. A croaking, raspy, evil voice cried out, echoing , which seemed to bounce, making the boards of the stage creak, beating against the ceiling of the stalls: “ Hen! You’re just a very stupid hen! Then, make the egg! Give us the egg, stupid hen! Ah! Ah! Ah! Griff-griffiffiffff! Aughuggug!” Martha, trembling like a leaf, her arms clasped to her chest, she started to turn around on the stage. It seemed to her that the stage was trembling too. It could not have been he, that one spectator, who had spoken… he had remained motionless, in the exact same position since she had noticed his presence. And the voice, that mocking , evil voice, seemed to come from above.

To give herself courage ( to take courage), but rather to overcome her fear, Martha , almost unconsciously, began to sing ___Una furtiva lacrima___from “The elixir of love.” But her voice came out fragmented, interspersed with sobs. A very loud, terrible laughter echoed in the room. Martha felt ( perceived) the boards of the stage creak under her feet, as she saw the armchairs down in the stalls wobbling. The large white hat slipped from the face of the man sitting in an armchair of the last row. But he, that man, remained completely still. Even if she saw him from a considerable distance, it seemed to her ( Martha) that he, the man, had his eyes open….but sure, his eyes were wide open, fixed, they seemed to stare at the ceiling. Now Martha could no longer have doubts: that man was dead! Perhaps he had been killed…..Whoever had killed him, had left that man, or brought him there in the deserted stalls.

She, Martha, who was alone there, on the stage, but yes, she would certainly have been accused of being the one who had killed him, Upset she stood on the outer edge of the stage and sharpened her gaze to the point of spam. Now she seemed to see, on the chest of that completely motionless man, a wound, a large wound. But sure, it was a gash that was bleeding. The blood had stained the white shirt which the killed man wore under the unbuttoned raincoat.

That the one spectator  was dead and that he had been killed , it was now clear. And she; Martha, would be accused of killing him. Oh, she had to leave the stage, she had to go away  as soon as possible.  She was abotu to jump off the stage when that man, who she was sure he was dead,  suddenly was on his feet, and , as fast as lightening, he ran towards the stage, holding a pistol in his hand, which fired a single shot at Martha’s heart, which was enough to kill her. Martha’s body fell with a thud in the audience.  The man , who had been hired to kill her, buttoned up his raincoat, put the pistol in his pocket, put the big white hat on his head again and, in complete tranquility, came out of the theater.

December 10, 2021 21:36

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3 comments

Rob Ryter
09:11 Dec 16, 2021

Nice twist at the end, after a powerfully chilling, atmospheric build-up.

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Francis Daisy
11:16 Dec 15, 2021

Oh my sweet word, I did not see this end coming! What an intense suspense story you wrote! I do have a one suggestion: maybe break the paragraphs up a bit so they aren't one huge chunk of text for the reader? I also thought that this sentence sounded a bit wonky: "But it had not been only the animals with got dirty on the stage, huh." - I think maybe you omitted a word? And this is one long, long sentence that would be better off being three (or four): Martha let the broom fall to the ground, she took off the cap that she always wore ...

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Mara Masolini
07:33 Dec 18, 2021

Thank you for all your comments , and sorry for my delay in answeing you and thanking you. Also thanks your observations I have to realize that I had not reread and corrected my short story , at least as regard grammar and typing errors. I should have done it. As for my too long sentences, I'm always pointed out by those who comment on my short stories. I know I should write short sentences, but then I'm not able. However I have to succeed in it, since, even if I have a poor knowledge of English, I decided to write in English , mai...

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