Comedy Of Terror

Entry by: Alobear

4th February 2016
Comedy of Terror

“Places everyone! The curtain goes up in five minutes!”

The call reverberated backstage, making Elsa jump. She glanced in the mirror, straightened her wig, and took a deep breath. They just had to get through this one performance, and then… Then, what? Elsa didn’t know, and didn’t want to think about the possibilities. She had to focus on the immediate job at hand, and that was getting to the stage. With one last glance in the mirror - noting the pallor beneath her make-up - she gathered her courage and stepped out into the bustle of preparations.

Susie, the stage manager, was in the wings, making sure the starting actors were all on their way to the correct places. She caught Elsa’s eye, her gaze wide and terrified. As Elsa stepped up next to her, Susie grabbed her arm and squeezed it painfully.

“What do we do?” she breathed. “Elsa, what do we do?”

Elsa patted Susie’s hand, then carefully prized her fingers away from their iron grip.

“What can we do?” she said, trying to be reassuring but hearing her own heart thudding in her chest. “The show must go on…”

“Quiet in the wings there!” the booming voice came again, and suddenly there was a large shape crowding next to them. “What did I say about unnecessary chat?”

Elsa heard Susie gasp and felt her trembling at her side. The man who had just spoken was enormous; well over six feet tall and so broad that he had difficulty negotiating the narrow spaces backstage. He was dressed in a crumpled tan linen suit over a blue shirt, and his soft leather brogues made his footfalls quieter than Elsa would have believed possible, given his size. His puffy, red face loomed above her, and his greying hair hung in greasy tendrils on either side.

Elsa’s gaze was drawn inexorably to the small device clutched in the man’s huge right hand. It looked so innocuous for something that would determine the fate of so many. It was about three inches long, a cylinder of black plastic, with a single red button on the top. The man’s thumb rested on the button, threatening terrible doom at any moment.

“Shouldn’t you be out there?” he demanded of Elsa, and she scurried onto the stage to join the other actors.

“Excellent!” the man continued. “Now, let my own personal performance of the Comedy of Errors begin!”

The thick velvet curtains parted and raised away from the stage, to reveal the theatre’s auditorium. As the first lines of the opening scene were spoken, Elsa peered past the lights, trying to catch a glimpse of the audience. Her eyes adjusted slowly, but eventually she managed to make out the small figures ranged along the front row. And there was her daughter, Alexa, staring up at her in frozen horror. Elsa could see where her hands were tied to the arms of the chair, just like the children to either side of her. It was all Elsa could do not to leap off the front of the stage and run to free her, but the row of malevolent blinking lights beneath the seats stopped her.

Somehow, the man with the button had devised a plan to kidnap all the children of the members of the acting troupe and had brought them here to be a literally captive audience to this performance. He had rigged the front two rows of the auditorium with explosives, and threatened to set them off, if the company refused to put on the play. Elsa had no idea what he was getting out of this, or what had prompted him to carry out such a monstrous act, but the company was going along with it, in the hopes that the man would let them all go, once the play was over. This was the most important performance they would ever give; lives depended on it.

She became aware of a tense silence on the stage, and looked around to see Brian, one of the other actors, gesticulating at her urgently, his expression set.

Elsa realised he must have just given her cue, so she stepped forwards and delivered her first line. She could only hope the performance would be enough to appease their captor, so they could all go home in one piece at the end.