I. Under The Stage
The stage is set so that there is a beautiful purple tent, with the flap to the audience open, set up on the left side of the stage, which is lifted slightly more than the rest of the stage. At the edge of the raised section of stage is a railing to be shown as the side of the ship they are on for the play. Inside of the tent are a prince and his recently married wife, sleeping soundly on a comfortable bed. A young actor stands next to the railing on the ship. The actor’s long red hair is left to swim about their body as it pleases so as to show the pain that the character feels having the love of their life marry another and of their own approaching death. Five actresses slide onto the lower section of the stage that is bathed in a blue-green light with calm wave cutouts at the front of the stage to bring the thoughts of the sea to mind. Their own hair is now cut short as they raise up tall enough on their knees to be seen from their shoulders up above the waves to the front row and from their chest up to the back row.
“We have given our hair to the witch,” they said, “to obtain help for you, that you may not die tonight. She has given us a knife,” One of the actresses holds up the knife to show the actor on the ship. “Before the sun rises you must plunge it into the heart of the prince; when the warm blood falls upon your feet they will grow together again and form into a fish’s tail, and you will once more be a mermaid, and return to us to live out your three hundred years before you die and turn into the salt sea foam. Haste then, he or you must die before sunrise. Our old grandmother moans so for you, that her white hair is falling off from sorrow, as ours fell under the witch’s scissors. Kill the prince and come back! Hasten, do you not see the first red streaks in the sky? In a few minutes, the sun will rise and you must die!” The actresses plead with the actor on the ship as the actor holds the knife. Finding no movement from the actor they dive back down below the sight of the viewers and exit the stage.
The actor stares at the knife quietly, their sapphire eyes glistening, before looking up to the red lighting that is slowly beginning to shine. The actor then turns to the tent where the prince and his wife lay asleep and enters so that they lay between the actor and the audience. The actor stands staring down at the prince before leaning down kissing the brow of the prince. The red and yellow lighting is growing steadily brighter making the actor look away. The prince says his wife’s name in his sleep and the actor returns their gaze to the prince. The actor’s grip on the knife tightens briefly before they suddenly throw it away into the lower section of the stage. The actor casts one last lingering glance at the prince before throwing themself off the ship onto the lower section of the stage. After a minute the actor raises again to their feet wearing white and partly transparent cloth that flows about their form. Several other actresses raise to their feet around the actor wearing similar garbs.
“Where am I?” The actor asks and the other actresses smile.
“Among the daughters of the air,” one of them answers, “A mermaid has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one unless she wins the love of a human being. On the power of another hangs her eternal destiny. But the daughters of the air, although they do not possess an immortal soul, can, by their good deeds, procure one for themselves. We fly to warm countries and cool the sultry air that destroys mankind with the pestilence. We carry the perfume of the flowers to spread health and restoration. After we have striven for three hundred years to all the good in our power, we receive an immortal soul and take part in the happiness of mankind. You, poor little mermaid, have tried with your whole heart to do as we are doing, you have suffered and endured and raised yourself to the spirit-world by your good deeds, and now, by striving for three hundred years, in the same way, you may obtain an immortal soul.”
On the ship, the prince and his wife stand and start to move about looking for the little mermaid along with the others on the ship. At last, the prince and his wife stand at the edge of the ship and look down at the spot the little mermaid had thrown itself into the lower section of the stage. They stand not seeing the daughters of the air. The little mermaid walks over to them and kisses the brow of the prince’s wife and gently fans air around the prince. The stage lights fade to black and the actors rearrange the set so that it is simply the raised section of the stage and the daughters of the air sit with the little mermaid bathed in a reddish pink light of a rising sun.
“After three hundred years, thus shall we float into the kingdom of heaven.” One says.
“And we may even get there sooner.” whispers one of the others loud enough for the audience to hear.
“Unseen we can enter the houses of men, where there are children, and for every day on which we find a good child, who is the joy of their parents and deserves their love, our time of probation is shortened. The child does not know when we flow through the room, that we smile with joy at his good conduct, for we can count one year less of our three hundred years. But when we see a naughty or wicked child, we shed tears of sorrow, and for every tear, a day is added to our time of trial!”
The lights fade and then come up again with all of the actors and actresses standing in a line across the front of the stage. They all take their bows as the audience stands to applaud them. An elderly woman with her white hair curled and a bright smile on her face turns to her husband not far from her in age.
“I must say that this is the best play you’ve taken me to in years darling and that young actress on the stage that played the little mermaid was such a dazzling one that I hope to see her in more plays!” The man chuckles and pats his wife’s hands.
“That was no actress my dearest, don’t you remember my telling you of that up in coming actor Jay Latous? That was the very same actor that played our mermaid in this play.” His wife blushes lightly and holds her cheek in embarrassment.
“Oh my, but he just looked so natural as a young woman up on the stage I’d completely forgotten.” The old man laughs again and pats her hand once more.
“I’m sure he would take that as a compliment, my dear. Now, shall we go?” The elderly couple begin to make their way out of the theater just as Jay is making his own way into the back and towards the male dressing room. A tall man with unruly short brown hair makes his way as well to the dressing room and they enter one after the other. The taller man enters just as Jay is removing the red-haired wig and fluffing his own shoulder length blue-black hair out.
“Ah, there you are Gerry! Can you help me get out of this?” Jay asks pleadingly and he looks at all the different layers of stuff it took him to dress up as a daughter of the air and that the costume before that was still on under it. Gerry chuckles and nods as he moves forward.
“Just hold your arms out to the sides and I’ll get them off for you.” Jay nods eagerly and stands perfectly still with his arms out. Gerry comes forward and begins meticulously taking off the outer costume. Beads of sweat are forming on Jay’s skin and Gerry shakes his head.
“I don’t see how you can always go up there on stage with a scratch wig, plastered makeup, and a stuffy costume. I’d faint of heatstroke ten minutes into the bloody play!” Jay laughs softly.
“Oh don’t be that way, after all, you are the backstage person that is assigned to help make my costumes. Besides, it isn’t that stuffy, I know you always keep in mind what material’s you make my outfits out of so that I don’t overheat too badly.” Gerry comes in front of Jay and fiddles with a few clasps to release the last layer of the outer costume. He stands about a head or so taller than Jay and his hazel eyes stay consistently on his work.
“Of course I do, if it’s too heavy you can’t move and you’d overheat. After that, because of your sickly nature, your systems would start to shut down and we’d have a serious problem on our hands because then that’s at least three days or more in the hospital for you pending on the severity of it.” Gerry walks around behind Jay again and begins releasing the different things that are keeping his under outfit together.
“I’m not as sickly as I was when we were little, though. You have to at least admit that.” Jay pouts and Gerry sighs.
“Yeah because if you were then you’d already be in the hospital just because of this much temperature change. Honestly Jay, out of all the things you could have picked to do for the rest of your life it just had to be something that would give your systems a shock, you’ve always been this reckless.” Gerry finally removes the outer layer of the costume and leaves Jay in the undergarment dress. Jay giggles and walks over to a cardboard box with his street clothes in and picks it up.
“As long as I have my knight in shining armor to keep me safe I can be as reckless as I please.” He walks towards a stall and Gerry rolls his eyes.
“You are such a princess.” He grumbles and Jay giggles more before entering the stall and glancing back at Gerry with his sapphire eyes twinkling.
“No peeking on your princess then Mr. Knight.” Jay winks and closes the stall door.
“As if I would.” Gerry chided lightly. “It’s not like there’d be any surprise of seeing anything even if I did.” Jay comes out, holding the undergarment dress, wearing ripped blue jeans and a black short sleeve shirt. He’s pouting slightly as he hands Gerry the last piece of the costume.
“You’re no fun anymore.” Jay helps Gerry hang up the costumes onto their respective hangers and put all of the extra props that are his into the now empty cardboard box. Suddenly they hear a scream and a lot of commotion from the stage and they drop what they were doing. The stage is filled with almost everybody of the theater group, some actors and actresses still left in costume or left half changed. Everyone is crowding around the trap door of the stage. “Everyone move out of the way for senior members!” Jay shouts as he makes his way to the scene. The trap door is rigged open and flies are buzzing about in the air as a wretched smell emanates from the hidden space. Jay hesitantly walks forward with Gerry behind him until they are both able to see inside the hole. There lay the corpse of a young girl, her throat slit from ear to ear, wearing the T-shirt of the year belonging to all theater group members who participated in the play. Gerry steps back and covers his mouth in horror while Jay stands still. Gerry then turns to the students.
“Someone call the police, now!” He turns back and freezes at the look he sees on Jay’s face. His eyes show a certain deadness to them as though he were looking through the girl’s body and to something far away while his lips show the slightest hint of a disappointed frown. In that very moment, Gerry felt the furthest from Jay that he had ever been in their lives... it was like staring at a stranger he’d never met before.