The Phantomime
Chapter Twenty
Marissa had all the skills I didn’t when it came to saving a theater, which is a good thing because I didn’t have any. She was the eye of the storm while I was the bit of corrugated iron that accidentally knocked someone’s head off.
I wasn’t surprised when she arrived at school the next morning with professional-looking printouts of the possible posters for The Phantomime and several books of tickets.
“I designed them, so I can’t be neutral,” she said. “You have to choose.”
They were all spectacular, but we both agreed the best was a poster in a blue so dark it looked black, with white silhouettes of the ghosts. In the background were more silhouettes of crows and jack-o’-lanterns, with flames creeping up the borders of the poster.
“Sweet.” I ran my finger around Cresswell’s outline, complete with exaggerated mustache poking out on either side of his face. I imagined it curling up in delight at the poster.
Across the top it read: THE PHANTOMIME. Majestic Theater, starting 11 p.m. on Halloween. One Night Only! Then, in a big slash across the bottom: Prepare for a Scare!
Marissa said, “Mom’s giving me her Steampunk Bride costume from some convention her and dad went to a couple of years ago. We’ll get a narrator who can wear it onstage.”
“A narrator?” I asked, dragging my gaze away from the poster mock-up to look at her.
“Sure. Someone has to introduce the play, be the emcee, or something.” She took the rejected posters from me and swapped them in her locker for her books.
“But, there’s no words in the play.”
I had forgotten I ever wanted to stand on a stage until that moment. Now I was in danger of turning rabid. Me. On stage. Introducing the most magnificently creepy play that the world had ever seen. It. Was. Destiny.
Marissa slammed her locker and looked at me like I was clueless. “All the more reason we need someone to introduce it. It should be a professional.”
My eyes went wide. “Or me.”
“Ooor, someone professional, since that’s what would be best for the play.”
“Or me, because there wouldn’t be a play without me.”
“Or a professional because there won’t be much of a play with you. Remember the last time you were in the news?”
We stood nose to nose in the middle of the hallway, dodging the steady stream of kids. I tried to stand still but everyone who missed Marissa seemed to crash straight into me.
I had to force the words out past pursed lips. “I have confidence—and—and stage presence. It takes guts to do the stuff I’ve done.”
“It takes brains not to do the things you’ve done.” Aside from her chest going up and down in agitated puffs, you’d never know how angry Marissa was. She had a killer poker face.
“At least I’ve done things. I know what I’m good at. I follow my dreams.” My fists were tight, very ticked-off balls of anger at my sides.
Marissa blinked at me. That was one step too far. Her sketchbook bulged with designs she never showed anyone but me. From the look on her face, I doubted I’d ever see them again.
I had to fight to stay upright after a boy with the size and co-ordination of a polar bear walked into me. So much for dignity. By the time I’d reorganized my limbs, Marissa had gone.
I looked down at the utterly perfect poster in my hand.
I spent the whole school day suffering that special loneliness you get when you know you’ve been a complete and utter dirtbag. Every angry glance from Marissa made it worse. I spent lunch hour and free period trying to recreate her Phantomime poster in my notebook, but silhouette stick figures don’t have the same oomph, somehow.
After the final bell, she’d been to her locker before I got to mine.
If she wanted to ignore me, then I’d do the same. I found the ghosts on my own, I’d figure out the play stuff alone, too.
Because the weather had a sick sense of humor—or maybe an awesome sense of justice—it turned nasty on my walk to the theater. The wind blew straight through my coat and turned my nose into a freckled icicle in the middle of my face.
I pushed the door open as usual and dragged myself up the stairs to find Will sitting by the theater door. “I don’t think you should go in there,” he said.
My shoulders slumped. Organizing the play by myself would be a lot easier if I had help.
“The Ghost in the Gods has a broken brain.” Will glanced over his shoulder.
“What happened?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer.
He did a shifty-eyed look around the lobby. “There I was, running along the chairs singing to myself and then—Wham.” Will threw his twitching body on to the floor, tongue lolling out to the side, eyes bulging.
“You fell off?”
“No. That lunatic yelled something like, ‘And here comes the Ghost in the Gods with the big elbow.’ Then he jumped right off the balcony and whacked me on the head with his arm.” Will writhed about on the floor in an outstanding impression of a dying fish. “Then, poof. He disappeared.”
I covered my mouth with my hand to keep from giggling.
Will scrambled to his feet. “I could’ve been killed. Or more killed.”
That did it. I couldn’t hold in the laughter anymore. The giggles burst out of me like a series of sneezes that would explode my eyeballs if I tried to hold them in.
“I’m glad my near-next-death experience is so funny.”
Because of the sulk in Will’s voice, I tried to wipe the laughing tears away on the back of my coat sleeve. It wasn’t like I had friends to spare—even if you counted the dead ones. I took some deep breaths until my giggles were nothing but crazy jerks in my belly. “I’m sorry.”
Will tilted his head to the side. “I don’t ‘spose I can have the TV as compensation?”
“Nice try.”
He let out a starving puppy-dog whine. “Take it off him. You can’t reward bad behavior. If you give it to me, I’ll love you forever.”
A super-hot blush headed up my neck, making for my cheeks. I took off into the theater before Will could see it.
Upstairs, the TV chattered away to itself where I’d left it. I wound my way through the dusty seats and found the cloud of smoke napping in front of the afternoon soap operas. If he found out about reality TV, I’d blow the television up.
“Mr. The Third,” I whispered. “Are you awake?”
The smoke didn’t even bother trying to look human. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Poppy, but ghosts do not sleep. I am conserving my strength.”
“For what?” Aside from terrorizing Will, I hadn’t seen him do much.
“Wrestling. Tonight is Spectacular Monday. The Mosquito—who is this tiny fellow—is going to fight The Tormentor—who is a tremendous figure of a man. It will be a blood bath. From what I can gather, tonight is their final throw down.” His smoky hands clapped. “I cannot thank you enough for bringing me this television box.”
That explained a few things. “Is the ‘big elbow’ a wrestling move?” I asked.
“I thought Will might mention that.”
“He’s out in the lobby, too afraid to come back into the theater.”
“I am not afraid,” called Will from the downstairs doors. “I’m cautious.”
The smoke pulled itself in tight until it took on the solid shape of The Ghost in the Gods. “I shall go and speak to him.”
“Wait. There’s no hurry. Let him think for a while. Maybe—after I’ve gone home tonight?” I suggested, with a grin.
The ghost laughed as he stroked his goatee. “Rather exuberant, isn’t he?”
I nodded. “Perhaps when you talk to Will, you could do it without your big elbow.”
He shook his head and sighed like it exhausted him to explain so many obvious things. “But I need to practice so I can bring in a whole new reign of terror from the Ghost in the Gods, Dude.”
“Yes. It’s a new word. I believe it means something like ‘friend.’” The ghost relaxed back in his seat.
I had nothing against him enjoying his afterlife in any way he wanted to. However, I didn’t think the Majestic had enough terror being rained on it as it was. “I think it would be better if you didn’t use wrestling moves on anyone, except the bad guys, without asking first,” I said.
He frowned. “But if I were to ask, they would say no.”
Mr. The Third used to be the scariest ghost in the theater, so I cringed at the idea of straight-out forbidding him to use his elbow in unpleasant ways. Luckily, I came up with a compromise. “If you let Will come up here and watch with you, I bet he’d let you land the odd move on him.”
“She’s right, I totally would,” Will yelled from downstairs.
Sneaky little eavesdropper.

Add your comment

Sign into Storybird to post a comment.

Create an account

Create an account to get started. It’s free!

Sign up

or sign in with email below