Read Good & Dead #1 Online

Authors: Jamie Wahl

Good & Dead #1

 

book one

Jamie Wahl

 

 

Cover Design by
Kaitlyn Wearden

www.kaitkreates.com

Title Font by
Archistico

www.archistico.com

book one

 

©Jamie Wahl 2015

http:\\www.jamiewahl.com

All Rights Reserved

This work is protected under United States copyright law. So please don’t steal my stuff, it isn’t nice and it’s illegal.

This is a work of fiction, any resemblance to real situations or people alive, dead, or undead are strictly coincidental.

Dedication

This book would not exist without the following people.  They are totally dope.

John: the Muse

John: the Lobster

Carrie: the Left Brain

Holly: the Real Talent

Beth: the Epic Grammarian

Robin and Kaitlyn: the Creative Ones

Joe: the Instigator of All Things Awesome

and the Excellent Beta Readers of Highest Repute

 

Your combined patience, love, prayers, and dedication were, and continue to be, most fabulous.  You are true friends.  Thank you all!

Oh, and Tina’s Homemade Sourdough Bread, for never putting the calorie content on the label.  The world needs more heroes like you.

1

 

 

 

“How does it look in there?” asked a muffled voice.

“Dark,” Michael said through the heavy black fabric that covered his head.

“Hold on one second.”  Michael felt several tugs on the costume, and a dim scene came into view. It was a narrow room, full to bursting with a strange assortment of objects.  There was a coffin, a trunk full of handcuffs, several tires, yards of fabric, and at least a dozen tall sections of plywood painted in a cacophony of patterns and colors.  Michael was looking at it all through two layers of thick black mesh. 

“I can’t believe Sarah didn’t finish this piece,” Carter said through several pins he was holding in his mouth.  He knelt in front of Michael, putting large stitches in the hem.  “And who gets stuck with it?  The stage manager of course.  Yay for me!” 

Michael could just make out his sarcastic jazz hands in the darkness.  “Thank you for finishing it.”

“Oh, no problem.  Ten minutes from curtain…” Carter mumbled bitterly. “Ridiculous.  We have no costumes and the lead is still calling for lines.  Should be fantastic!

“So can you see now?”

“Yes, thank you.” Michael swallowed hard.
Only ten minutes
? Perspiration beaded on his forehead.

The room was illuminated for a moment by a red flash from the walkie-talkie clipped onto Carter’s belt.  He pressed a button on his headset and removed the pins from his mouth. “Yes?  How can I help you?”

“Curtain in ten.  Cue smoke,” said a voice.  Michael swayed on his feet.  He had no idea he could even get this nervous.  He was sure he would vomit.

The door right beside Michael opened suddenly, making him jump so badly he knocked over a foam Grecian statue that had been sitting atop the cluttered prop table. 

A chubby face appeared in the doorway.  “Carter!” he said, “I got the timing fixed!”

“There is a God!  Thank you, Randy!  Did you ever figure out what happened?”

“Yeah, they gave that elementary school tour yesterday and one of them decided to play ‘What does this button do?’ on the sound board.”

“They gave a tour the day before opening night?  Adorable.”

“Yeah.  Classy with a ‘K’.” Randy smiled when he spotted Michael.  “Hey, you haven’t fainted!” He punched Michael in the arm and disappeared.

The door swung wildly in and out behind him.  In the next room, Michael could see the director, Charlotte, standing on tiptoe to kiss a broad-shouldered blonde in a polo shirt.  He stared hard at the wall in the opposite direction and wished the room would stop spinning.

“And we’re done.” Carter released the hem and threw the handful of pins at the prop table behind him.  “Break a leg,” he said, standing and handing Michael a scythe.

Michael tried to thank him, but all that came out was air. 

Charlotte’s face appeared in the doorway, an excited smile on her face and a purple clipboard in her hands.  “You got it done?” she asked Carter.

“Yes, just finished.”

She gave him a thumbs-up.  “Michael,” she said, smiling at the shadowy darkness that shrouded his face, “You okay in there?”

Michael made a gurgling sound and coughed, then nodded.

“Thank you for doing this,” she said, “You’re a lifesaver!”

“Yeah,” Carter said, patting him on the shoulder, “Without you, I would’ve had to concoct a person-sitting-on-someone else’s shoulder’s contraption.  Thank you for being freakishly tall.”

“Stop it,” Charlotte said chidingly, stepping into the little room and letting the door swing out behind her.  “Seriously, thank you,” she squeezed Michael’s bicep.  His cheeks flushed behind the black fabric.  For a brief moment, Michael was happy to be there, even if she’d only needed him for his freakish height. 

“Alright,” she said as she backed out the door. “Places!” 

Michael felt like he’d just swallowed his own tongue. 

I should’ve just told her no.

Carter flipped a switch above the prop table and opened a drawer full of fake candles.  Michael watched as he double-checked the switches on the bottom of each one.  The door from the dressing room opened, and a fleet of people dressed in black from head to toe walked quietly into the room and exited with a bright yellow candle.  Michael watched him silently hand out candles, wishing he was anywhere else in the world but there.

“Michael!” Carter said when he noticed him still standing there. “Places!”

“Oh, right!” Michael said. “Sorry!”

“Hey, you’re going to be fine.  Remember, you were the first one to memorize your lines.”

“I don’t have any lines.”

“I know.  I was joking.” Carter checked a box on his clipboard.  “All you have to do is remember your blocking and you’ll be fine.  Can you remember to stand in place and then walk three feet downstage right?”

“Yes.”

“Then you’ll be fine,” Carter said, taking him by the elbow and walking him around a corner that led behind the curtain.  “Then you get a little break and the third act is even easier.”

“Welcome to the Destin College Dinner Theatre!” a booming voice sounded from the auditorium.

Carter turned Michael to face the pitch black space between the drywall backdrop and the back wall of the theatre.  He gave him a little shove.  “You’ll do great!” he whispered, already halfway around the corner.

Michael stared into the narrow hallway.  It was only about four feet wide, and every three feet or so a support leg stuck out into the space.  He hadn’t been able to do a test run in his costume yet.  It had been tricky enough in his street clothes since there was no light, but now he had the mesh obscuring his vision, the billowing black fabric around his feet, and the tall scythe in one hand. 

“Thank you for coming to the show!”

Michael gathered up as much of the fabric as he could in one hand.  The scythe bumped into the plywood set wall.  He heard someone on the stage side laugh.  Michael cringed.  He switched hands and felt in front of him blindly for the first leg.

Why did I think I could do this?

“We ask that you turn off your cell phones or put them on silent…”

I can’t feel my face.

“And please…Enjoy the show!”

Out on the stage was blackness.  A few patrons were still getting to their seats, and the house lights had yet to come down when a bell tolled loudly, resonating around the large space.  A couple of people were startled.  Several looked around curiously, wondering if somebody made a mistake.

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore…” came a slow, sad voice from somewhere on the stage.

The bell tolled again, before the echoes of the first had died.  The small sconces lining the walls, the only source of light, went out.

“While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,” came the voice from the pitch black stage, “as of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.”

The chimes of the bell became discordant as they bounced around the room.

“’Tis some visitor, I muttered, tapping at my chamber door…merely this, and nothing more.”

The last chime rang, louder than all the rest.  It was followed by a silence just long enough to make the audience stir uncomfortably. 

A whisper came from the left hall of the theatre.  “Let the bell toll!  A saintly soul floats on the Stygian river…”

Then a lone figure appeared, holding a shaking candle, his hooded face lit from below.  “How shall the ritual, then, be read?  The requiem how be sung- by you -by yours, the evil eye, -by yours, the slanderous tong?” The figure walked stiffly and slowly down the aisle.  “…that did to death the innocence that died, and died so young?"

Another figure followed, holding another slender candle.  “Come!  Let the burial rite be read!  The funeral song be sung!  An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young!”

On the right side of the theatre entered another slender black figure, this one shouting in a hysterical voice: “Lo! 'tis a gala night within the lonesome latter years!  An angel throng, bewinged, bedight in veils, and drowned in tears, sit in a theatre, to see a play of hopes and fears….”

A funeral procession entered, whispering and shouting their grievances until the theatre was surrounded by twinkling candlelight, the pall bearers’ eerily elongated shadows dancing on the walls.  Each verse grew louder, each stanza harsher, and soon the room was a din of words penned over a hundred years ago.

Then, all at once, the candles went out.

“Ah, distinctly I remember…” came the voice from the dark stage.  There was a small sound of match on paper, and a then a tall candle illuminated the scene.  A man sat next to a small round table covered in well-worn books.  “It was in the bleak December,” he said, staring darkly into the flame. 

Behind him was an enormous four poster bed.  His room was lined with ornate wood and faux-marble bookshelves which were filled to overflowing with large and small volumes of every kind and color. 

The set was awesome.  Michael was the last role cast, so by the time he had started almost everything was already set to go.  It was surreal to walk onto the stage and feel completely transported in time.  Michael listened as Tom, the lead actor, captivated the audience.

“That I scarce was sure I heard you—here I opened wide the door…”

Michael froze.  This line was the cue for Carter to turn on a light just above and behind Michael’s head.  The idea was that the light would grow steadily brighter, slowly revealing his silhouette through the curtained window on the set.  This window wasn’t really a window at all, but an opening through which Michael would pass at a pivotal moment in the play. 

If he moved, the illusion would be ruined. 
Stay calm.  All you have to do is hold still for the next three stanzas….
But the monologue from the stage had stopped.

Tom had only made it through this part once- he was still calling for lines the night before and was heard nervously mumbling lines under his breath right up to curtain.

Say anything Tom—it’s the last line of the stanza—anything will work here!
  The silence persisted.  The audience’s apprehension became tangible as the silence drew on. 

A small light twinkled off to Michael’s right.  He peered at it as best he could.  Standing in the half-light coming from the dressing room was Charlotte, motioning frantically to Michael with a book light in her hand.  She gestured to the curtain, and made a talking sign with her hands. 

She wanted Michael to say the line. 

I only said I’d do this if I didn’t have to talk!

As if she could read his mind, Charlotte put her hands together pleadingly and mouthed, “I’m sorry!” 

I don’t know what the Grim Reaper sounds like!
  He felt as far removed from a harrowing soul-claiming specter as it was possible to feel.  He scrunched his nose against a bead of sweat that he couldn't wipe off in his costume.

Michael saw Charlotte’s fingers were crossed as she begged him.  “Please?” she whispered.

He choked down his nerves and summoned up his creepiest, most dread-filled voice.  “Darkness there and nothing more.”  Then, in a moment of inspiration, he rustled the curtain.  Carter must have gotten the idea and turned up the light, because a young woman in the audience screamed.  Michael smiled with a thrill of adrenaline.  Charlotte gave him a thankful thumbs up from the sidelines. 

But it would only work if Tom picked up the next line.  Through a gap in the curtain Michael could make out Tom glancing behind him toward the place Michael stood.  He shook himself, as if convincing himself it was nothing, and turned back toward the audience.

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before…”

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