Club Dead

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I Am Bathed in Light

We waited in the dark.

“How long has it been?”

“Twenty minutes.”

“More like thirty.”

“You think they’ll go back on?”


“I hope so. I feel better.”

“Me too. I’m ready to get onstage.”

Our collective nerves were under control.

“Look out. What do you see?”

Tuttle cracked the curtains apart. His head disappeared.

“The back doors are open. I can see most of the crowd from the outside light. But there’s not much of that left. They’ll be in the dark too, soon.”

“What are they doing?”

“Some are talking, there’s a lot of coming and going. People in the front rows don’t look happy. Some are leaving and it doesn’t look like they’re coming back.”

“Let me look.”

Sure enough, the front two rows, not long ago filled with parents, were empty.

“Someone should say something to the crowd.”

“Right, we can’t have them all leave. We’ve got a show to put on.”

“Go CJ. You’re on,” Brink nudged me through the curtains.

I stood on the stage in a crepuscular light. I squinted and the heads leaned toward me. I gloried in my zombie makeup.

“Well, this is awkward,” I started. “Please be patient. We’re ready to start the play. The lights are expected to - ”

And I was suddenly bathed in light. The crowd applauded. I cast a wide, real smile. Whom did I see? Mostly kids. Not many adults. Was that mom and dad? And Emma?

“Let the show begin!”

I slunk back through the curtains. Club Dead actors scurried. I established my zombie pose, ready for the curtain to rise. Others did the same. Carrie hovered.

“Don’t move Carrie. You’re a zombie,” someone whispered.

Carrie froze, the curtain rose, and stage lights increased their intensity from dark to light.

I shed CJ Stark. Tallie rigidly eyed me, hideously with her artfully applied zombie look. I must have been hideous, too. The first note of music played. Some Ozzie. All heads turned to the audience, they smiled, and in unison, we chanted.

Whether or not this was what actors did, I looked into the faces of the audience. They were locked onto us. Gaping, laughing, and shifting in their seats.

So that was what actors did.

Controlled the artifice.

For the next eight-seven minutes a new world existed.

I stomped along with Tuttle, Tallie, Emig, Brink, Carrie, Fretwell and Frank. I remembered my lines. Everyone remembered their lines. Carrie said lines for the heck of it. No one stumbled. The crowd chanted along with our chant. They got our jokes.

Can this school be that bad if I felt so good? Couldn’t let mom know that. I had new, important knowledge. Crows, wolves and roots flashed in my mind. I couldn’t believe the answer was right in front of me, so close. Taking risks. Go to the edge. Leave something behind. Embrace the new.

How could we, I, go back? I couldn’t. Wouldn’t.

The curtain went down and then went up.

The lights stayed lit.

Friends grabbed the actors. Flowers were thrown to the stage. Feverishly we did a group hug.

I inched towards Carrie, but she and Brink were one.

I turned and mom and dad hugged me. Emma stood close by, with a funny, knowing smirk. I was losing the ability to understand any of them. That explained their frustration with me. They didn’t know the me that they used to know. We were still the Stark family, but a new version had materialized. We had something to work from. We’d get to know each other. They’d get to know the new me.

I looked forward to knowing the new me. Would they like the new me? I hoped so. Perfect clarity eluded me. But I think I was done crying.
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