The Leaves Are Turning Brown – Chapter 31

Everything moves slowly as I walk down the dark corridor.  Jules is right behind me and I feel her feet softly feeling for the floor.  I have my hand just above the dado rail at shoulder height, following it down the narrow walkway to the main stage.  It is almost pitch black, apart from a small amount of light coming from in front of us.  Someone is in the main area by the stage, and has turned the lights on.  As we approach the backstage area I stop, putting my hand backwards, and feeling Jules pause behind me.  I listen in the darkness for any sound that might give away whoever is here’s location.  I know who it is, but don’t know how she knew to come here.  Esther must have escaped the house, and I can only assume at least one of her staff escaped with her, and knew to come here.

I turn around and lean close to Jules, feeling her soft, but fast breathing on my cheek.

“Go back to the office, wait there for me.  It’s not safe here.  I know this place, and I can get back to you. This needs to end, now”. My voice is barely audible but sounds loud in the comparative silence.  Jules turns her head and kisses me on the side of the mouth, lingering pressed against me.  She pulls away and I hear her softly moving back down the corridor.  I wait a minute until I hear the quiet click of the office door.  It seems so far away, but she reached it so quickly.

I turn back to the stage and walk forward.  My night vision, such as humans can hope to achieve, is getting better; with the small amount of light and my knowledge of this place I quickly circumvent the stage and end up on the far side, away from any entrances or exits.  I sneak quietly up onto the small platform that looks down onto the stage, sideways to the seats in the stalls.  I look out very slowly, bringing each part of the theatre into view in a growing circle, until I spot someone, too tall to be Esther, standing by the left entrance to the stalls.  They are dark in the shadows, but I can tell they are facing this way, and standing still. Waiting.  I dare not look out any further in case I’m spotted.  I need to get around into the circle, the doors are locked going up the stairs, and I can get a good viewpoint from there, away fro the light that is illuminating the front seats and stage.  I know the way and quickly skirt around, sneaking to the front of the circle and looking down to the stage.

There on the stage, right in the middle, in front of the curtain, is Esther.  She is sitting on a chair that must have been put there by someone, staring out at the empty theatre.  She looks silent and still, and also beautiful in the soft light.  She is looking up and out, scanning the theatre, looking, listening.

I hear some noise coming from backstage and suddenly the curtains twitch violently.  They are shaking and open in the middle.  A man walks through, dragging Jules behind him by her arms.  I gasp and take a deep breath of air into my lungs.  I fight the urge to shout out, to scream to let her go.  The man pulls Jules out and dumps her next to Esther.  I can she isn’t bound, but the man stands close.  He reaches into his jacket, across his chest, and pulls out a handgun.  He points the muzzle at Jules and she looks straight into it.  All the fight disappears from her, and as she goes limp I feel myself drop into the footwell.  I can’t watch, I’m frozen in time.  This can’t be happening.

I pull myself back up and look over the bannister.  Jules is kneeling next to Esther and, even from here, I can see the tears running down her cheek.  Esther looks out at the theatre, seemingly ambivalent to the woman here at her feet.

“You see, there is no reason to hide, or for that matter, fight.  I have this girl, and if you don’t come out I will have this man blow her brains out all over this stage.” Esther’s voice rings out, amplified by the shape of the theatre, clearly enunciated by her posh and angry voice.

“I’m not going to count, I’m not going to give you a moment.  Come out now or I wave my hand and this poor young ladies last sight will be this empt theatre.” The anger is her voice sends a shiver down my spine.

I need to act fast.  I can tell from Esther’s manner that she means it, that she will order that man to blow Julie’s brains out.  I can’t let that happen. I close my eyes as I feel the tears roll down and reach my chin, welling up and dropping onto the floor below me.

“Stop” I whisper to myself, barely using any breath.

A light begins to emanate from my arms and my torso, then my legs and feet. The light builds all around me, shining into my eyes and blocking out any features of the room around me.  The light doesn’t illuminate anything in the room.  I am glimmering with the light of a thousand stars, but all the light is pushing inwards. I can feel it, all around, prickling my skin and pushing in at me.

In a second I see the first glimmer shoot off and over to the far upper circle.  It stands in the front row, and shouts. “Heeeeeeere!”.

As Esther looks around another glimmer shoots out of where I sit and goes to the stalls.  Again, it stands and screams. “Here!”.  Esther’s eyes dart down to the glimmer.

This happens over and over again, I see the light spreading around the room.  Each glimmer is giving off a bright shine that intensifies as the number of seats filled increases.  There are hundreds of me, all over the theatre. The seats are filling up as  watch the bright lights shine all over the place.  Esther and her man, on the stage, don’t know where to look, and follow the appearing glimmers, shouting on arrival. The man is nervous, I can see by his movement, ducking backwards and forwards, pointing his gun into the crowd.

I stand up, hidden by the hundreds of other me’s all over the theatre.  I need to save Jules.  I project a glimmer down to the stage and stand between Esther and the man.  I look around to Esther and smile.

A gunshot rings around the room, the deafening blast silences all other noise.  From the circle I look down and see all the other glimmers looking at the stage, where my last glimmer was just standing.  I am gone now, leaving Esther, Jules and the man on the stage.  The man takes a small step backwards, his arms fall to his sides and he slumps backwards against the curtain.  Blood pools under his arm, deep red and viscous it moves out around him like a halo, slowly engulfing the dark wooden stage.  Jules falls backwards away from Esther and looks up into the audience.  Her eyes dart around, searching.

Esther swivels slowly in her seat and look into the theatre. Her eyes are calm going from level to level, seat to seat.

“I suppose you think that’s pretty clever, don’t you?  He was a good man you know, obedient and kind, not to mention one of the smartest people you are likely to come across.” She turns and looks down at Jules, who is on her hands and heels, moving backward towards stage right.

“Stop!”. Esther’s voice rings out and Jules stops moving, sitting down and looking up at the angry woman’s face.

I take my chance and begin to move back down to the stage, the way I came.  As I reach the side of the stage, behind the curtains, I look out and see the man from before, still in place by the left door to the stalls.  He is frantically pointing his gun and the backs of the many glimmers in the stalls, unsure what to do. He has just shot his compatriot, and knows he is alone now.

Esther stands up and walks towards Jules.  I know this is the moment that I have to act.  The dead man’s gun is lying on the floor next to his lifeless body.  I run forwards, and see the gun behind the light of more glimmers, they project out of me and all over the stage, running in different directions, backstage, into the stalls, and straight on.  As I reach the gun I lean down and pick it up, still running.  Esther is a few metres in front of me.  As I see her turn and look straight at me the man opens fire.  I hear gunshots exploding towards me and I trip, falling forward towards Esther, Jules on the floor to my left.  We land in a heap, me on top of Esther, her face inches from mine.  I look down and see her eyes, fixed in her skull, following the arc from my face, up across the roof.

Blood erupts from Esther’s head, just above the temple, and her lifeless body falls backwards, as I roll off to the left, between her and Jules.  I look down into the theatre and see the glimmers are gone.  The man is there, looking at me and still pointing his gun.  I raise my arm and fire one bullet, feeling the kick of the gun pushing my arm up and my shoulder back.

The man down by the door buckles almost immediately on his legs and falls down.  I see his still shadow, static on the carpet.  He’s dead.  I know from the sight of him down the barrel of the gun that I hit him in the head.  The gun is still in my hand, my arm raised, pointing at the empty space where he was just a moment ago.  My hands wobble and the weight of the gun pulls it down.  I lie back against the wood and look up. My eyes are foggy and the light in the room goes dim. I close my eyes.

A moment later my eyes open again as Jules leans over me.  Her hair is covering the light from reaching her face, but I can see the tears, the shock on her face, the concern.  She leans down and kisses me hard on the lips.

“Get up, we’ve got to go. Come on”.  With that she tries to lift my arms, but I feel weak and can’t help her.  My whole body feels sapped of strength, my breathing is short and shallow.  I look up at Jules, leaning over me.  She looks lovely here right now.  I want to kiss her, but my head feels like wet concrete and I fall back with a deep exhale of air.

My eyes feel heavy, and it’s a struggle to keep them open.  I can feel the stage on my back, but can’t feel Jules holding my arms, clutching my head.  The light is going dim and I wonder for a moment if the power if failing in here.  I feel cold, all my limbs are numb and I feel nothing but a mild tingle. I look around the stage, look out at the seats, the circle and upper circle above it.  I can make out the main features, but nothing specific.  The whole world is a aglow with a haze of dim orange light.  I can’t keep my head upright and I feel it loll backwards against Julie’s arm.  Her face is just above mine, she is sobbing and tears are running from her onto me.  I open my mouth and force out some air.

“I love you, Jules.  I loved you from the first time I saw you.  Go to my flat, find a box under my bed.  I wrote you a letter after the first night, after we slept on your bed, face to face.  Please, find the letter.  I love you.”

Jules leans down and all light fades as her face meets mine. She kisses me, deep and hard.  The last thing I feel is her warm soft lips, her hair, her tears dripping down my face.  Then nothing.  I feel myself falling down.  The ground opens up and my body is floating, suspended in mid air, looking down on a stage, the back of a woman’s head.

The world goes dark and cold.  I see a spinning disc of particles, floating toward me.  I sense that I am on the edge.  My hands begin to disintegrate into dust, then my arms, my feet and legs, my body, my head.  I hang here, a floating consciousness, tipping over the edge of a great abyss, a spinning maelstrom of dust and light, and I am gone.