[ Issue 7 / November 2013]

Overhead spotlight on. Centre stage. You see a Beretta 92FS. Lights out.

Overhead spotlight on. Upstage right. You see her step into the light. As with all overhead spots, you can’t see her face. You see the light shine on her mass of light brown curls. The tip of her perfect aquiline nose is turned downwards. Her bare shoulders, peeking from behind that brown cascade, send a shiver down your spine. She raises her face. Your mouth falls open. Lights out.

Downstage. Apron lights. Blue flood. You see a room, sparsely furnished. A bed, a table and a lamp. There is a man sitting on the bed holding a child, looking into the void. The mask of nothingness on his face becomes clearer when the light becomes frontal. But you can’t tell if the flattened features are due to the light, the man or your imagination. You hear the distant slamming of a door and the screeching of wheels and you are almost certain you smell burning tyres. Lights fade out.

Centre stage. Working lights. You see a bed. A boy in his late teens, slowly sits up and pushes aside the bed sheet. He is naked; you see he is spent. He runs his fingers through his black silken hair, tussled by the night. He bends to gather a pair of jeans. He puts his legs through and straightens up. Lights dim and change to lighting from below. You see his face but you cannot read his expression. The shadow he casts, towers over him and from it emerges a woman, a few years older, who wraps her upper body in the sheet he has just pushed aside. Her eyes have a cold calmness about them, her lips framed into a half-smile. He turns toward her. The resemblance is striking. Lights out.

Upstage left. White flood. You see a couple walk in. A follow spot shadows them. You recognize those bare shoulders and that aquiline nose. You watch the woman cross the stage to centre upstage and sit cross-legged from where she stares straight at you, and laughs. Clear, loud laughter that resonates through the exceptional acoustics around you. You lean forward to peer closer at the man beside her. He has a guitar slung across his back. You can tell it has been broken in with love. You feel like you know this man from somewhere…that odd familiar face, but you just can’t place it. He stands looking at the woman and you sit looking at him…each of you lost, each trying to piece things together. You squint to get a better look but still see a familiar stranger, which gives rise to an unsettling feeling. He takes his time walking up to her, sits next to her and then gently strokes the six strings. You see his fingers caress the nylon like those of a man who is tracing the outline of his lover’s curved hips. You see her close her eyes, arch her back and open her mouth. You see her button-down sundress part, revealing creamy thighs and a raspberry birthmark. You expect to hear her satiated moan, so you close your eyes in preparation. Instead, you hear her begin singing. Your eyebrows crease…you know this song … vaguely recognize the melody…sounds a bit like ‘I’ll have to say I love you in a song’…yet, you struggle to recall the words. You feel the urge to scream at your own memory. Her every note pierces, his strumming hammers. You find it hard to breathe. Your gasps resemble that of a drowning person. Silence. Lights cut.

You take this opportunity to breathe. But your recovery is short. The silence is shattered by a blood curdling scream. The proscenium arch, lit by a red wash, reveals the couple again, the guitar discarded in the corner. You see its paint has chipped, the neck is broken. You wonder why, and she is screaming. Her shoulders tremble. Her brown curls—a frizzy mess. She is on the floor, screaming at him. He stands over her and you see the maniacal gleam in his eyes and the fear in hers. A backlight accentuates the shadows of her struggle to back away from him, as she continues screaming. He takes a small step towards her. You hear her beg, you hear her cry, you do nothing. You cannot leave your seat to go to her. No, you stay, eyes transfixed on the scene unfolding in front of you. You watch as he hits her the first time, you watch as he hits her the second time, and the third and the fourth, until you lose count. You watch as he removes his belt. You watch as lines and bruises appear on her shoulders. You become immune to her crying and screaming. You watch as he bloodies her aquiline nose. The blood trickles down her once-pink, now-purple lips. You can’t explain how you know that purple is her favourite colour. You watch as she stops screaming. You see the fear in her eyes replaced by something inexplicable. You watch as he pins her to the floor and takes her again and again and again. The strobe hurts your eyes. Repetitive movements slowed by light and time and space. Movements that rip her apart, one thrust at a time…movements that seem staccato and prolonged. You feel sick. You feel bile rise to your mouth. But your eyes remain on the writhing in front of you. A glint catches your eye and you notice rings on their left hands. You hear him groan, watch him empty his venom into her gaping wounds, watch as he burns into her, sizzling and cackling. You can’t stop the bile from spewing forth. Lights out.

Downstage. Apron lights. Orange flood. You see a room, sparsely furnished. A bed, a table and a lamp. There is a man sitting on the bed holding a child, looking into the void. The mask of nothingness on his face becomes clearer when the light becomes frontal. But you can’t tell if the flattened features are due to the light, the man or your imagination. You hear the distant slamming of a door and the screeching of wheels and you are almost certain you smell burning tyres. You think you also smell burning flesh. You see flames dancing in the background. You hear people shouting. The man looks at the child and fear encircles your heart. Your instincts tell you to do something, yet you don’t. The man gets up with the child, places its head against his chest and starts to sway. You see his lips moving. You hear him sing to the child who stretches a small paw and grabs the man’s collar, holding on for dear life. You feel warmth trickle down your cheeks. Lights fade out.

Top light. Centre stage. You see a Beretta 92FS, again. This time you see a thin wisp of smoke disappear from the barrel.

Another top light comes on. Centre stage. More upstage to stage left than the smoking gun, is an empty spot.

You stand up, push back hair that falls over your eyes and walk down the aisle. You climb the stairs. You take that empty spot and turn toward the audience. You’ve always known you would be in the spotlight one day. You look straight ahead. The fourth wall stares at you, awaiting your next command. Another top light comes on in front of you. You know you must. You take that step forward. You look to the house. And see her. The fourth wall shatters into thousands of glittering diamonds with edges sharper than your words.

Soft, short, dark-brown hair falls in waves around her neck. Bare shoulders and that aquiline nose. Yes, the resemblance is striking. Yet her eyes bear a cold calmness. She is much too young. She raises her hands, fingers wrapped around another Beretta, holding on for dear life like she‘d always held on. The gun in her hands is pointed at you.

Yes, it’s that aquiline nose.

You know what must be done. You bend and pick up the gun that is in the spotlight. The top light fades. The gun feels warm in your cold hands. Cold. You think of all that has been cold in your life the last 52 years. You push back silken black hair from your eyes. You release the safety and raise the gun. A frontal beam replaces the top light, hitting your face and the cyclorama. Infinite space. Infinite time. You stare at her and smile. She smiles back. Lights cut.

A single shot in the dark. The rustling of curtains as they come down.

Noises off.

~

Athena Mondel has been writing poetry for as long as she can remember. She took to prose when the voices in her head wanted a larger platform, preferably without scansion. She enjoys gourmet food, crisp mountain air and the smell of books. She currently works as an editor for a publishing house based in New Delhi.

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Athena Mondel has been writing poetry for as long as she can remember. She took to prose when the voices in her head wanted a larger platform, preferably without scansion. She enjoys gourmet food, crisp mountain air and the smell of books. She currently works as an editor for a publishing house based in New Delhi.

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