All that Ephemerous Glamour
Hilary S. Parry
All that debonair showmanship and he fizzled out. Just like one of those harlots on the neon news. It annoyed me, because he started out so well, and I thought he would make this calling he had into what he could do for the long haul. Well, he wasn’t good enough and apparently so weren’t we.
“Peter’s leaving the show,” Craig hissed to me as we pulled up our stockings in a frenzy, getting ready for the second big number. I could barely hear over the technomusic blaring the newest crap.
Body mike securely tucked and in place? Check.
Damn Craig for being such a baby, and breaking the news to me before I had to perform. Bright smiling painted face of invincible bruises, perfect for the spotlights and the backlights, but not for the stagelights of reality.
After our Roaring Twenties number, I stumbled outside through the stage door. The stage door and the alley next to it are not friendly places until after the show. During it, it is a place to smoke. It is very depressing and grey. I fumbled for a cigarette and skewered it on the end of the cigarette holder I was using as a prop from the number. The prop mistress would kill me, but I was feeling damn ready for a cigarette, and I couldn’t smoke it in a regular way wearing this costume. The smoke circled around the holder, around my ear, and curled up toward the navy blue sky. I rolled my eyes upward toward it, and became aware that someone was watching me. I lowered my eyes to gaze at the shadow person down the alleyway. Feminine but male.
“Peter, you fuck. Leaving already?” I stayed where I was. Waited for his approach.
“No use staying. Might as well go before Craig starts crying.” The words rolled off his tongue like a marble. Hard and metallic.
First time I heard him use Craig’s name. I felt more sorry for the bitch than Peter did.
“Are you going to come say goodbye to me?”
“We already said our goodbyes.”
I nodded, and I agreed. I plucked the cigarette out of the holder, and tossed it to the ground. Ground it out with the point of my heel. I inclined my head towards the door. “I think I hear the applause. You better go now.” It was better that he stay in shadow.
He rounded the alleyway corner, and I stared at the blank space where he had been until the clapping faded.
Teocuitlatl stood perfectly still, her gold plated body easily mistaken for a statue. Her knees could give way at any second and her bowels tumbled every so often, but she was not allowed to move a muscle… not until it was time.
She was at the top of a golden stepped pyramid on the base of which there was a congregation of people so deep it was impossible to see the last of them. Hovering around on helicopters and positioned along the steps were cameras and their respective operators. This was it; her greatest moment was before her.
The priest motioned her forward and she took a step in his direction. The priest placed feathers on her hair, each one bearing the brand of one of the ancient sponsors of the show. Synthesized sounds boomed out of the massive speakers: drums, horns, trumpets. She danced to the percussive beat, her choreography already well rehearsed after weeks of practicing.
When the music stopped, the priest once again waved her forward and she laid her body on the stone altar. As the priests blade was raised, she looked out of the corner of her eye at the all the men, women and children downstairs.
“Thousands watching live, millions watching at home”, was the slogan, and they were all looking at her. The moment she had been born for; to be killed and have her heart ripped from her body so that the TV ratings God could be quenched for one more season.
“She calls herself Vienna,” Mark said. “They never use their real names. It’s always some pseudo-hippy name that sounds like cheap cologne. Nobody names their daughter Satin or Diva, goddamnit.”
Evan was sitting across from him, listening, but not paying attention. Mark had a tendency to ramble when he was drunk. This made Evan feel like he was married again.
Thank god for the distraction named Vienna. Her limbs tangled with the metal bar that ran from floor to ceiling in the middle of the stage.
“Hey. Bastard. I’m talking to you.”
“You like her?”
“Yeah, I guess. Does she seem out of place?” Evan thought he was blushing.
“With a name like Vienna? She thinks she’s too good for this joint. Thinks she belongs in a lawyer’s lap,” Mark sipped his beer, “Hey, you want a lap dance?”
“Me? No thanks.”
“It’s on me man.”
“No, really I’m fine.”
Mark, like Evan’s ex, could never accept the word no. Evan found himself in a booth with Vienna’s long, velvety legs wrapped around him. She kept her eyes on his as she swiveled her hips. Her lips fixed in a perfect pout. Evan sat timidly beneath her, afraid to show the slightest hint of enthusiasm. Finally when the music stopped, this girl who called herself Vienna leaned close to his ear and whispered, “I speak Latin. I play the cello. Vienna is my real name, and you will never forget me.”
She was right.
Remember these words and forget not you are one of the Fidayeen. These are the words of the utmost and sacred love. Paradise will come from them and release you into the bliss of delight. Travel to where you were told and embrace life as the new person that was chosen.
Learn the trade of seduction. Shave your body and afterwards wash it with the purest of milks. This will make you like the finest silk from Medina. Where your eyebrows once were, draw a curved line that mimics the shape of welcoming lips. Discover the secret of the dance of many veils, and make your hips the object of men’s lust.
Grow thus into splendid womanhood. Be as desirable as you are unattainable. Let the folk gossip about the pleasures you hold, yet let none question your chasteness.
Once the Sultan hears of your beauty, allow him to know you. Welcome his gifts and his requests for your company. Be a lover and a listener. Suggest his palace in the mountains for privacy. Travel with him and as little company as possible.
Blunt his senses with the fumes of the hemp seed. Cradle him when he falls. With a dagger, pierce his heart and end his unholy presence in this world.
Avoid capture by taking your own life. Return to my arms and the love of the one true God in Heaven.
Do not fail us, child. Go.
This treacherous precipice where I am wont to dwell. This is the place where I go to ache for you and gouge out old wounds. Beleaguered heads on jagged stones must rest. All in bad time, my dear, a poisonous postcard to love’s lost daughter.
A dog-eared page of the past:
I am fifteen. I am yours. Mold me in your image. I am the virgin-wife-whore you’ve always wanted. I’m your angel. Your demon. Your schoolgirl-next-door. Milk me of my purity, my sweet corruptor. I will never be this darling rosebud again. Pour yourself into me. Infect me with your love. Let it spread to my brain, my heart, my lungs.
Yours is the voice. I will hear it in death’s dream. Even after memory erodes and hindsight goes dim, I’ll return to thoughts of you as ashes and dust.
It is night, and our point of view is over a dilapidated part of town. A young woman braves the puddles and the slippery sidewalks. Her pace is brisk and her cream-colored trench coat flows behind her. Below it; she wears nothing but plain black lingerie. The make-up runs down her cheeks and she can feel its bitter taste in her mouth.
…her red lips and a man’s. They are in different locations with different backgrounds. Both are talking on the phone.
The woman bites her lip.
Man: “Leave her alone!”
FADE TO BLACK AND DIAL TONE
The young woman rests against a street corner. The drizzle is now visible as it crosses the light coming from the lampposts. She fumbles in her pocket for something and, assured of its existence, resumes her walk.
Twelve pills rest in a tongue. In slow motion the tongue draws back and the mouth closes. The barely noticeable larynx moves up and down, swallowing the pills.
She is standing at the entrance to an apartment block. The sleeves on her trench coat drip as she presses one of the buttons on the intercom.
Woman (whispered): Laura?
1 – Red nail polish cracks under the pressure of her bite;
2 – She holds her stomach with both hands;
3 – Her body falls limp on a carpet that reads “WELCOME”;
4 – She looks up at the door as a light comes on in the entrance hall;
5 – She takes an empty medicine bottle from her trench coat and places it between herself and the door;
6 – A pair of male feet in flip-flop sandals steps out of the building;
7 – Same male lips, same background, same phone.
FADE TO BLACK
Man: “There’s a dead woman in our building’s front door.” (Pause) “No, we don’t know her”
The Marionette (Bruised Doll)
All day a chilly mist had formed over the seaside town. Once the sun had set, the dock workers and their families had made their way to the fair. It was its first night here, and everybody was curious about what excitements and thrills it could offer.
Dwarfed by the pink carousel and the gigantic Ferris wheel, a lone tent stood in one of the corners. It was hexagonal-shaped and made of navy blue canvas, with two flaps serving as its entrance. Above it, a sign read “The Marionette”.
The visitors had been through a hard day’s work, and most found this tent’s appearance to be too sober: they were looking for something in brighter colors, and offering assured distraction. Even so, a few people wandered in and soon the audience was crowded. Facing them was a small stage. Candles of all shapes and sizes were scattered around it and amongst the audience, their glow flickering and vapid. From the ceiling hung four chains that coiled on the floor.
A man closed the tent flaps behind the audience, and now, deprived of moonlight, the stage turned even darker. The crowd hushed, and from the stage’s left side the mechanical and childish sound of a music box could be heard.
A girl danced clumsily onto the stage, her queer choreography that of someone who has just now learned how to move. She was naked but for opera gloves made of black felt. When she turned around, four hooks pierced on the flesh of each limb could be seen. Her skin was pale, soft and immaculate yet no man in the audience lusted for it. Her gaze traveled all over the room. When it lay on any of the spectator’s eyes, they turned away in uneasiness.
As part of the dance, she inserted the left calf’s hook in one of the chains. She continued to move in her rhythmic spasms and stops and soon the four hooks had found their home. She stopped in the center of the stage and took a deep breath. The man who had closed the tent took the loose ends of the chains in his hands and pulled them. Her flesh stretched centimeter by painful centimeter. Soon, her body was being lifted above the floor. Each limb spread its own way like a puppet; her head drooping in concentration.
She hung in there motionless, not the slightest hint of pain in her body. She raised her head and looked at each of the spectators in turn. She was defying them, making them part of the act. No one looked away this time.
“Who’s next?” she asked. At the same time, all the hands in the audience were raised.
— all photos copyright M. P. S. 2005; all stories copyright their respective authors 2005.