The Show Must Go On
Renae and her two friends walk through an abandoned subway system. Crunching over gravel, their feet send echos that ripple down the tunnel.
“Should we hurry?” says Renae. “I don’t want my favorite celebrities to be late for their show.”
Skylr, walking atop the tracks, sticks her arms out for balance. “It only takes seven and a half minutes to get to Grand Avenue Theater.” She checks her phone. “Which leaves... about sixty seconds to hang out with you!” The two girls share a smile, but Renae adjusts her elbow length gloves and speeds up.
“Nothing wrong with a head start.”
Renae glances back at the two. Tylr strolls behind Skylr, hands in his pockets. “Trying to get rid of us so soon, Renae?” teases the boy.
“Oh, as always.”
The sun’s aging light reaches the twins’ ankles from the opening. The rays compliment their golden yellow skin, whereas Renae’s matches the darkness that follows.
“You sure you don’t want to come with us?” Skylr starts. A rustle comes from the outside, and it catches her attention.
Renae ignores the noise. “No, no. I wouldn’t want to slow you down. Last time you were late... Well, to put it in your words, your manager ‘ripped you a new one’.”
The group snickers, and the boy stretches in the light. “Aw, see you soon, then.”
“Until next time.” Renae remains in the shadows.
The twins begin towards the exit as the rustling returns. They stop and stare at each other, their eyes communicating.
A long shadow dips into the tunnel, ripping a sinister gloom across the peaceful glow. Step by step, a college aged boy, down on all fours, exposes himself to the light. Dressed only in his underpants and streaks of mud, he looks absolutely ridiculous. A confused ‘Ummm...’ slips out of the twins throats.
The human sight shifts to the teens. No longer interested in the scents on the ground, a gargle stumbles from its throat.
Skylr bursts out laughing, “This is a joke, right?”
Before she could finish her sentence, a similar man reveals itself. Then another, and then suddenly a pack of people on all fours block the exit. Their hair matted and greasy, carrying the stench of sweat.
Skylr shuts her mouth and steps away, bumping into a baffled Tlyr.
Renae’s heard of this pack before. A mob of young adults lurk in Wakefield’s subway system. Appearing like harmless people, they behave like wild dogs, sharpening their teeth to points and attacking people who dare walk alone at night.
A boy in the back of the group lets out a bark, and they all charge forward.
Renae shoves the twins back and removes her gloves. “Keep back. I’ll take care of this.” With her gloves off, Renae’s indigo and violet arms sparkle in the light.
The first wolf darts towards her with teeth bared. Renae conjures a black ball with ease and flings it at the wolf. It explodes on impact, creating a dust cloud and leaving the wolf hacking at the sooty air.
“You two.” She nods at the twins. “Leave, before it gets too dangerous!”
“We’re not leaving you, Renae!” Skylr pulls out her switchblade from her back pocket.
“You have a show to get to.” The first wolf is recovering, and Renae’s arms grew brighter, looking more like windows to space.
Tylr shoves Skylr forward. “Come on!”
“We’re helping her.” Skylr shoves back.
Tylr opens his mouth, but a wolf lunges at the two and he lets out a yelp.
Renae chants a spell under her breath, and a ball of light cracks to life in her hand. She throws it at the wolf and points at the opening. “Go!”
Skylr hesitates. First glancing at Renae, then to the wolves quickly closing around her. “Fine,” she says, swallowing her guilt.
Renae’s chanting is heard before a firework bursts where she stands. Howls ring out, and the wolves that once surrounded the twins, flock around Renae. She flees down the passage with the lunatics on her tail.
“We’ll come back!” Skylr calls out.
The sound of another blast replies back.
Tylr catches his breath as he looks at the time. “Shit! Five minutes left.”
Skylr pushes the stray hairs out of her face and takes a last look into the tunnel. “This is gonna be fun...”
Grand Avenue Theater’s domed roof barely peaks above the low rise apartments. They managed to get this far without getting spotted by fans, but as they neared the center of town, that would be less feasible.
“You think we should hail a taxi?” Tylr suggests. They both shuffle deeper into the darkness as someone walks by.
“In this traffic? We’ll be better off walking,” Skylr scoffs.
“Whatever you say, sis.” Tylr peers around the corner for people.
Skylr walks to the sidewalk first. “Just don’t stay too close this time.”
The twins, only one street away from Grand Avenue, have little problem with the crowd. The worst they got were a few stares. Everyone seems focused on getting to the bar or home.
Skylr steals a glance behind her to make sure her brother stays within eyesight, but never closer than a few yards. However, Tylr had vanished into the crowd. Skylr stops, forcing others to stagger around her. She sputters a halfhearted apology, but keeps her eyes on the crowd.
Moments earlier, Tylr had been stopped by a fan.
“Skylr, she’s ahead of you right?” the fan asks. “I saw her eyes and thought I was going crazy, but then I saw you! And you have the same metallic eyes. So I-”
“You got the wrong guy,” Tylr says coldly, and tears his arm from her grip. He keeps on marching through the crowd, but the fan follows right on his heel.
The twins’ eyes connect, and Tylr cringes. Once the two are both in eyesight, the girl lets out a squeal.
“Tylr and Skylr! Oh my god, I knew it!”
The twins didn’t need to talk to know what to do next.
A gasp escapes from the girls mouth, “Come on, mom!”
Another voice joins into the fray, “Jazmine, wait!”
The kids screaming catches the attention of pedestrians ahead, and an autograph-hungry crowd forms around them.
“Can you take a picture with me?” one fan calls, grabbing Tylr’s shoulder, camera in hand.
Skylr comes from the back and yanks him out his grip. “Don’t touch my brother!” she yells, and winces as the fan launches a volley of curses at them. She opens her mouth to apologize, but he vanishes into the ever changing crowd.
The twins start sprinting down Grand Avenue with Jazmine hot on their trail. The Theater is only a couple hundred feet away when Tatum, the town gossip and greeter for Grand Avenue Theater, pops into view.
“Tatum! Tatum!” they shout in unison.
The greeter turns from his conversation, and looks for the people calling his name. “Is that... the twins?”
They reach a break in the crowd and wave to Tatum. He gasps and shoves the person next him aside. “Clear the way!” He yells into the lobby.
In seconds the twins dash into the Theater, hair messy and struggling to breathe.
“Go through the house!” Tatum grabs Jazmine by the collar without looking. “It’s faster.”
“I love you, Tylr!” Jazmine squeals in Tatum’s grip, and moments later, her mother appears.
The twins dash into the vestibule separating the lobby and the theater. Tylr stops and waves. “You too!”
Skylr drags Tylr into the house. “Is the fan service really needed?”
They both jog through the aisles, camera flashes flickering behind them. Jumping onto stage, Tylr makes his way upstage and fumbles around the curtain.
Skylr stops at the side of the stage. “What are you doing?”
“I can’t find the gap!”
“That’s because there is none!” Skylr yanks Tylr away from the curtain and backstage.
The audience laughs and claps for the unexpected pre-show.
“Are they here?” the head theater manager speaks into the bluetooth earpiece.
“Miss us, Heather?” Tylr makes his way to the dressing rack and takes off his shoes. Skylr follows his lead.
“Where the hell have you two been?”
The twins open their mouth to talk, but Heather continues.
“Wait. Don’t answer. I’ll just check The Vortex tomorrow morning.”
“You know that tabloid bullshit is never right!” Skylr throws her sock at her.
“Even if the writers knew the truth, you know they’d just blow it up!” Tylr adds.
“Maybe you’ll think of that next time you run off.” Heather pushes the sock away with her foot.
“Whatever,” Skylr grumbles, taking off her pants.
Heather starts rambling into her ear piece again and walks off.
“... We’re coming back for her, right?” Skylr says in a low voice.
“Heather?” Tylr slips on his pants.
“No!” Skylr slaps his arm then brings her voice back down. “Renae.”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t we?”
She shrugs and pulls her dress on. “Can you zip me up?”
Tylr obliges, and starts to fix his hair. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll leave right after this.”
She sighs and adjusts straps. “What if she’s hurt?”
“Tylr!” Skylr turns and pushes him.
“Not. Funny. There’s crazy people out there trying to kill our friend!” Skylr takes down her hair and looks her brother the in eye.
“Just tryin’ to lighten the mood…”
She shakes her head and fixes his tie.
“Two minutes!” Heather calls, somewhere off stage.
“We should’ve stayed,” Skylr mutters.
“She wanted us to go.”
“But now she’s all alone.”
“It’s to protect us.”
“Yeah, but who’s protecting her?”
Skylr keeps going, her voice rising. “And now she’s out there, probably being mauled to death--”
“Skylr.” Tylr grabs her by the shoulders and looks her in the eye. “Renae is fine. We have a show in a minute. Breathe.”
Skylr takes a shaky breath and lets it out slowly. “You’re right. I need to get in character.” “Wait! Your face.” Tylr fishes in the pile of clothes on the ground.
“What about it?”
He pulls out Skylr’s phone. “The uh… face and voice changer.”
“Right.” She takes her phone and pulls up the X-Tract cosmetics app. Tylr does the same and within moments the twins’ faces have transformed into the narrow ones of their characters.
“How do I look, Anna?” Tylr’s voice now represents one of a older man.
“Quite stunning, Eugene!” Hers also matches the voice of a woman.
Arm in arm, ‘Anna’ and ‘Eugene’ stroll onto stage moments before the spotlights turn on.
The audience roars with applause. The whole crowd is standing as the curtains drop. The cast on stage breaks formation, some form into small groups, others find their way to the dressing rooms. Some friends of the twins congratulate them before heading off backstage.
“See you soon, Vanessa,” the twins say before walking to the dressing rooms.
“Oh, hey. Are you guys going to the cast party after this?” Vanessa stops them, but still has her eyes locked onto her phone. “It’s at Club Chrome. Like, everyone’s coming.” She texts furiously, not even saying something when someone bumps into her.
“Actually, we’re busy-”
“Eating five pounds of cheese tonight,” Tylr finishes.
“Awesome. See you at nine then.” She disappears into a different group, all of which were on their phones.
The twins erupt with laughter.
“I can’t believe she didn’t notice again!” Tylr says, between gasps.
“Oh, that’ll never get old.”
A few passerbies give them weird looks and the two quickly compose themselves.
“Let’s get back to our rooms.” Skylr says, and Tylr nods in agreement.
She opens the door to their dressing room and grabs a few wipes for her face. Tylr takes one too, and within a few minutes, the twins walk to the lobby to meet with the fans.
“And what’s your name, cutie?” Skylr asks a ten year old in pigtails.
“That’s a very pretty name, Madison!” Tylr says, adding his signature to the paper.
“Thank you, Skylr and Tylr!” The girl runs off holding her prize above her head. “Mommy, I did it!”
Two fans step to the twins, an older woman and a girl in her pre-teens.
“Hold up, is that-” Skylr whispers.
“Tylr Mavlyn!” screams the girl. She forces herself between Skylr and Tylr, getting a little too close to him.
“J-Jacklyn! How nice-”
She lets out another scream. “Oh my god, oh my god! Tylr knows my name!”
“It’s Jazmine!” Skylr hisses after making sure her ears weren’t bleeding.
“Oh, uh. Jazmine! I didn’t know you had a ticket.”
“I didn’t, but then I begged mom for one! I absolutely had to see you after you confessed your love for me.”
Tylr froze. “What?” Skylr let out a snicker and the crowd quiets down.
Jazmin continues, “Don’t worry Ty, I have this all figured out. First we’ll run off to Eastfort and then we’ll get married and then we’ll have babies and-” Her hand was suddenly on his arm, the grip getting tighter as she talks.
Skylr’s bodyguard steps in front of the crowd. “Alright, that’s enough for today,” the woman orders. The usual, “Aw, come on!” and “Just one more please?” jeers come from the crowd, but eventually they file back outside.
Tylr’s guard grabs Jazmine, and after some wrestling, manages to dislodge Tylr from her iron grasp. He stumbles down a hall, circulation returning to his arm.
“I still love you, Tylr!”
Tylr walks faster.
Skylr bounds to him, grabbing his arm and says in a mocking voice, “Then I’ll have your babies!”
Tylr leans onto the wall and groans into his hands. She giggles and stands next to him.
“Okay, you two.” The guards corral the teens down the hall. “Let’s go home.”
“Hang on, Tylr and I were planning on going out before we go home.”
“Yeah. Is there a problem with that?”
“Yes. You’re not going.”
She opens her mouth to protest.
“When you turn eighteen you can go alone, but, for now you’ll have to get used to us chaperoning.”
Skylr huffs and frowns.
“Well, I hope you like late night clubbing,” Tylr blurts.
“Excuse me?” The two guards stare at him.
“There’s a cast party tonight. We can all go.”
“You have dance practice in the morning,” she replies.
“It’s fine! We’ll only be there a couple of hours!” pleads Skylr.
“I say we let them go,” the male guard speaks this time. “They worked hard to put this show together. Why not give them a break?”
The woman sighs. “Where’s it at?”
The twins gasp as the cool night air hits them in their face. It’s not easy losing a pair of protective bodyguards, but the overcrowded dance floor had that done in a moment.
They almost step fully outside when they notice four pairs of eyes on them.
“Dude, is that...”
Skylr freezes and Tylr bumps into her.
“Skylr and Tylr?” he finishes.
“Is our costume that good?” Skylr strikes a pose.
Another one laughs. “Yeah man! You’re totally rockin’ it.”
Skylr smiles and walks past the batch of teens.
The first one lets out a loud whistle. “‘Tylr Mavlyn’, lookin’ mighty fine tonight!”
His face turns a shade of pink. “Thanks,” he says weakly.
Skylr checks her phone. It reads 10:30. “We should have twenty minutes before our guards figure out we left.”
“Is that enough time to get Renae and come back?”
A couple cars pass by. None of them taxis.
“The city looks different at night,” Tylr wonders aloud.
Skylr skims over the skyline and nods offhandedly. The buildings seem to mold with the sky at their tops. Windows turn into stars, balconies into murky clouds.
Skylr waves a taxi down and it pulls up next to them.
“Can you get us to North Henry Station?” Skylr says as they hop in.
“You got money?”
The twins look at each other. “Plenty,” they say.
The car makes a jerky stop outside the station entrance.
“Money?” the driver has a low, gravely voice. Voice modification gone wrong.
“We’ll bring it when we come back-”
“While you kids wander off to who knows where? Yeah right!”
“We promise!” Tylr says.
“A Mavlyn never breaks a promise.” Skylr adds.
The driver holds the twins gaze. “Prove it. ”
“Prove what?” asks Skylr.
“Prove you’re the real Mavlyn Twins.”
“Oh, that’s easy.” Tylr props his foot up on the front passenger seat and takes of his shoe.
“Ty, we don’t have time for this!”
“Relax, sis. It’ll take one sec...” He removes his sock and points to the side of his big toe. A small tattoo labeled ‘VENUS Groups ©’ sits on the side of the joint.
The driver raises her eyebrows. “Fine. Be back in fifteen minutes.”
“You got it!” Tylr grins, and they hop out of the car.
The twins pause at the mouth of the tunnel. Just a couple hours beforehand, the place they stood in was flooded with energy. Now, the only thing living in the air is dead silence.
Farther down, the endless graffiti that covered the wall is now coated with burn marks and dried blood.
Skylr takes one look at the blood, and curses under her breath. “I hope she’s okay...”
Tylr peeks around the corner of the platform, and turns his phone’s flashlight on. Laying around the woman’s bathroom are all the wolf-acting humans. They’re curled around each other, peacefully sleeping.
“She must be in the bathroom,” Skylr whispers.
Tylr nods and mouths, ‘Right behind you’.
He lowers the brightness on his phone. Step by painful step, the twins tip-toe around the mass.
Upon closer inspection, the wolves seem less like ‘its’ and more like ‘hes’. Most of them wear no shirt and basketball shorts, but some of them wear polos and pants. One of them even wears a graphic-tee with a school logo.
Skylr reaches the edge of the pack, and looks to the door that the group is centered around. The only way to Renae now is through the sea of sleeping wolves.
Tylr takes one step before stumbling over someone and dropping his phone.
“Crap, my phone!” He whispers. Being suddenly thrown in darkness leaves him dizzy.
“You dropped it?” Tylr couldn’t see Skylr, but he could feel her judging eyes burning holes in him.
“It was an accident.”
“Can’t you use yours?” Tylr slowly bends over and pats the ground.
“I left it in the taxi.”
“... We’re so screwed,” he sighs.
“Okay, here’s the plan. I’ll get to the door, you keep-”
“You’ll wake up the crazies!”
“Any better ideas?”
“... Be careful.”
“Keep on looking for your phone, Ty.”
Skylr shuffles along the wall, before abruptly stopping. “I touched something. I think… It’s one of them.”
“Don’t step on it!” Tylr hisses.
“Yeah, I know... Hold on, I think I can step over it.” Skylr takes a breath and a moment silence follows.
The wolf next to Tylr shifts, and a soft glow appears on the floor.
“I’m over,” Skylr whispers, almost causing Tylr to jump. “Did you find your phone yet?”
His hand lands on the familiar touch of his phone, and he hums in reply.
The door within arms reach, Skylr turns and pulls the handle. It doesn’t budge.
“Shit. Locked,” she breathes.
The boy next to Tylr lets out a huff in his sleep. Tylr withstands the urge to run when the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. “Knock or something!” Tylr speaks in a hushed tone.
Skylr peers at the boys through the dark, and knocks gently.
Then after some time, the door opens just a crack.
“Renae?” Tylr squeaks.
A small gasp comes from the other side and the door flings open. It lets out a rusty scream, stopping when it slams in the face of a wolf.
The twins freeze as the wolves wake around them, hungry for dinner.
“Run!” Renae yells, shoving the twins into motion. The three hightail it across the platform and onto the tracks with a thud.
Tylr steals a glance back where Renae hid. Surprisingly, the bathroom light works, revealing hot pink gasses flowing out of it. He’s seen this fog before, it’s the residue of a spell.
“I thought we were safe!” cries Renae.
Snarls and yells pour out the opening of the tunnel.
“What the hell is going on in there?” mumbles the driver through a mouthful of sandwich.
Seconds later, the teens climb the hill to the car, arms waving in the air.
“Start the car! Start the car!” the twins chant wildly.
The driver stares for a moment longer, making sure she wasn’t hallucinating. A flock of college kids hurdled towards them on all fours.
The teens threw themselves into the taxi.
“What about the money-” she begins.
“Drive!” the twins yell.
She jams the key in the ignition and with a loud whine, the engine starts. In the same moment, the biggest of the wolves leaps onto the trunk.
The car lurches forward and screams fill the air. It makes a tight doughnut, but the wolf manages to stay on most of the turn before flying off and landing in a ditch. The taxi careens down the road, throwing everyone inside to the left.
Skylr looks behind them. “I think... We lost them,” she says between her breaths.
The entire car relaxes, and rap music plays on the radio.
“Hey, is this ‘Bite Dat Baby’? This is my favorite song, turn it up!” exclaims Tylr.
The driver turns off the radio. “Can someone explain where my money is, and what the fuck is going on?”
The four sit in a dark alley, one street away from Club Chrome. Skyscrapers tower around them, and the lights of the amusement park light up the horizon.
“You’re kidding me, right?” The driver asks for the third time.
“I wish we were, ” Tylr mutters, staring at a ‘Have you smiled today?’ poster.
There’s a pause in conversation.
“I have something to share.” Renae straightens her back, and pulls a cloth out of her back pocket.
“Like where you got magical space powers from? ’Cause I need some of that stuff.” The driver finishes the last bite of sandwich.
“That’s a story for a different day. Anywho, while I was hiding, one of the wolves managed to get in, but I put a sleeping spell on it before it managed to do any damage. It was wearing this.” She unfolds the shirt, it reads; ‘Wakefield Football Team. Go Wolves!’. There’s a picture of a stylized wolf in the center.
“You think they go to Wakefield University?” the driver leans in, so she can see it better.
“It seems so.”
Skylr’s phone buzzes and she gasps. “Ty, it’s 11:05!”
“Our bodyguards!” She rolls her eyes. “Come on.”
“You’re leaving already? What about my money?” stutters the driver.
Tylr’s already out the door and Skylr scratches her head. “Uh... You have a business card?”
“Great. Give it here.”
“What happened to having ‘plenty’ of money?”
“We do have money! It’s… in the bank though…”
She grumbles and pulls out her wallet. “It says my name’s Roberta, but just call me Rob.”
The card reads;
“Styles Cut For Aristos!
Roberta Miller. Phone: (314)745-6088
Tylr peers over Skylr’s shoulder. “You work at Aristo Cuts?”
“Being a taxi driver doesn’t exactly pay well. You would know.”
Skylr smirks, and within seconds, the twins are making their way to the back door of Club Chrome.
That only left Rob and Renae in the car.
“You wouldn’t mind taking me somewhere, Rob?”
“Only if you have money on you,” she growls.
“Unlike the Mavlyns, I pay upfront.”
Rob starts up the car and sighs. “Where to then?”
Renae smiles. “Ever heard of The Weird Underground?”