I’ve been revamping my earlier story, “It Happened One Night at the Orpheum.” Since I’m working on a serious wordlimit, I can’t just go on and on forever. I also reworked the POV into first person. I think this lends some urgency to the pace. Below is an excerpt.
It Happened One Night at the Orpheum, part 2
About midway through the movie though, I couldn’t avoid the need to go the bathroom anymore. I leaned forward, trying to get Stephanie’s attention, but she was too busy giggling up at Blake to even notice. I sighed, resigned to make the trip alone. No hug for Stephanie after all! Not that I’m the kind of girl that needs to go potty in a large group like some high school girls, but this was the oldest building I had ever been in, and I could smell the age of the carpet.
I made my way to the back of the auditorium, the darkness complete, finally asking an attendant for the restroom when I couldn’t figure out where it was. I would have to go up a floor. The stairs had tiny lights, and I was thankful that I wouldn’t be expected to navigate them in the black.
But the little circles of light just seemed to make the lack of light more pronounced, and the shadows bent around in weird ways, climbing up the wall. I reached out to the rail and felt something slimy. Ugghh! I thought, jerking my hand back.
By the time I made it to the midlevel, I was rethinking this whole little restroom break. The recently remodeled Ladies Room, though, was like something out of a fancy hotel.
On my way out, feeling more like myself in the bright lights, I stopped to check my make-up in the mirror. To my chagrin, I realized that my eyeliner was smearing and needed some help. Trying to fix it, I ignored the sound of someone entering the bathroom. I saw the movement behind me, but I was pretty intent on looking good for Chris, so when I felt the hand on my shoulder I jumped, shrieking a little. I turned around, expecting to see Page’s smug face, so pleased to have freaked me out … but there was no one there!
“Come on, Page. This isn’t funny,” I muttered. I twisted to look under the stall doors, determined to find the culprit. This HAD to be someone’s idea of a bad joke… but the restroom was empty.
I was getting a totally weird vibe. I bent over to check again, wondering if maybe someone was standing on the stool so I couldn’t see their feet.
From behind me, I head the door opening, and I jerked upright. And I felt even more foolish when I realized that two women had entered while I was ‘peeping.’ They were now frowning at me. I could feel the heat in my cheeks, and I shrugged my shoulders, giving up.
This place was creeping me out.
And I know the next part is a little hard to believe. Why didn’t I just go straight back to Chris and the group? Why did those stairs leading further up seem so attractive despite the shrouding darkness? It’s impossible to explain, except to say that my curiosity has always gotten me into trouble. And as soon as I saw those stairs, I just wanted to follow them up, see where they led.
The stairs led to the balcony, clearly a place for lovers’ trysts as was demonstrated by several couples that didn’t even bother to look up at my passing. The sound from the movie was crisp and clear, and I made my way to the edge. I gingerly leaned over and immediately spotted the Scooby Gang down below, still laughing and throwing popcorn at the screen. I searched for Chris in his Shaggy outfit, but he wasn’t below. Damnit, neither was Page. If those two were off kissing in some corner, I just might scratch her eyes out!
From out here, on the edge of the balcony I could see across the oval ceiling, the plaster relief, the shadows. I was standing at least 25 feet above the floor seats below. I reached out, grasping the clammy coolness of the railing. My mind seemed to tune out the sound of the movie, the fleshy sounds of the kissing behind me. My gaze was drawn to dark recess along stage left, and I could only stare at the inky shadow that seemed to spread across the lovely frescoes, moving unnaturally through the lighter darkness. I wanted to point at it, scream at the people behind me, “Can’t you see that?!” But I was frozen, watching as it slid along the wall, oozing toward the audience. I know how crazy it sounds, but right in that second, I just knew that the darkness was evil, something terribly wrong and unnatural. The shadows had been sliming around all evening. I didn’t want to know what it was going to do when it reached them, but my friends were down there… even bitchy Page didn’t deserve whatever that had instore.
I started to call out, thinking to hell with how crazy it seemed, inhaling to scream a warning.
I never got the chance.
A hand shoved me roughly from behind.
I lost my balance, flipping over the balcony, looking behind me, only to see NOTHING; barely grasping the metal in time, my feet dangling, nearly swallowing my tongue, and I was panting, incapable of making even the tiniest squeak of sound and I thought, this is it. I’m going to die right now, I don’t really want to die…
And to see the inkspot racing along the wall toward me had my mind stilling. If it reached me, if it even touched me, I knew I would be forced to let go. And why didn’t anybody look up?