The applause finally quietened as the star of the show took another sip of beer and changed to an acoustic guitar. The lights dimmed and the rest of the band were dismissed into darkness, leaving him alone in the harsh spotlight. He heard the low murmurings from the audience as they waited in anticipation of the first few chords. As he began playing, a new wave of appreciation erupted and quietened again. He looked down at the front row, faces just visible in the gloom and through the dust, glinting and dancing in the glare of the spotlight. She was still there, standing out as she always did amongst the crowd, her red hair blowing wildly around her head and wearing the unmistakable bright yellow dress. He smiled at her and she smiled back, nodding in acknowledgement of the song to come. He had written it for her. She had changed his life beyond recognition these past few months. Given him a new lease of life, new inspiration.
Rust shackled cages hold no fear for me,
Time hangs its head for what I had done,
I’ve served my wretched...
He hesitated. His hands suddenly felt heavy and clumsy. He felt dizzy and staggered backwards. He could sense the unease in the audience and then a ripple of applause in support of their hero. He stood for a defiant moment, trying to fight the sudden weakness and fatigue that was overwhelming him but it was futile. He was no longer in full control of his body and he slumped to the floor. He mustered the last of his strength and pushed himself up on his elbows, desperately scanning the audience for her. She was standing now. Her smile had gone, she looked concerned, frightened. She looked from left to right as if searching for a way out. The theatre was in darkness now except for her and two men blocking her path at each end of her row of seats, each glowing in a sickly, sulphurous, green light. They were strange looking individuals, seemingly identical with perfectly manicured beards and the same, dark blue suits. She now seemed resigned and returned her gaze to him but his arms gave way and he was on his back, a strange calmness descending on him. It was a total calm, it was happiness. The darkness of the arena was slowly and gently replaced by bright blue sky and sunshine. He was not lying on a hard, grimy stage floor but on soft, cool sand. He tried to dig his fingers into that cool, welcoming surface but they would not move. He could hear waves lapping on the shore. At the edge of his vision to the left he could make out the green fronds of palm trees. He tried to turn his head to look around but couldn’t. He heard an altercation to his right. Raised voices in a foreign language. Eastern European, perhaps Russian, he wasn’t sure. Suddenly a face was thrust into his. A furious face, contorted with anger. He felt something cold and metallic forced against his throat. He still felt total calm, despite the manic hysteria of the man above him. He gazed up at him, detached, wondering at the shining flecks of gold arranged in a circle around his iris. The man wildly shouted something else and moved the metallic object from his neck. He could now see that it was a screwdriver and the tip was a millimetre from his own eye. He looked once again at that gold-flecked eye, admiring its beauty as the man held his fist in the air and brought it crashing down towards the handle of the screwdriver.