Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Short Story Preview: The Mural

Hey hey!

I know! I'm taking too long to write another post! It's on its way, I promise. Work and social life have been swamping me the past week and a half. I guess being newly single does that to you. Anyhoo, I'd thought I would post an excerpt from a short story I've been currently working on. It was based on a nightmare I had years ago that impressed me so much visually I'd thought I'd expand on it.


The Mural

It all started when a mural appeared by none other means than overnight on the wall across from the Brown Street Theatre in Rothton, Massachusetts during the summer of 1872. No one knew who had done it, though there were many who were seeking to find out, as they were sure it was done as some cruel joke. The wall itself belonged to the side of a corner deli and pie shop, which was confusing both to its patrons and owners since the mural appeared to have nothing to do with sandwiches.
The mural was painted in cloistered sections, as if it were the wall or window of a cathedral. The top section contained a star-shaped fiery pit surrounded by every horror conceived within the minds of men, and also perhaps some more that the mind had not yet the imagination or courage to manifest. Below that there were six sections, each containing a man of equally horrible appearance. One man had scissor-blades for fingers, another black-feathered wings, another with shards of glass sticking from his knees, finger-joints, and elbows. The others had various other torturous accoutrements to define them, though four things remained constant. Their skin was pale, putrid with the gray and yellow gauntness of corpse-hood, and their hair was equally pale and yellow, clinging oily and sparse to their skulls. Most unsettling of all, however, was that their mouths and eyelids were sewn shut with large, jagged stitches of thick, black twine.
            I had been serving as house manager to the theatre over the past fifteen seasons, long enough to witness everything and anything our kindly producer and proprietor Mr. Jacobs had varying whim to put on. From the works of Marlow, to Our American Cousin, the Brown Street Theatre was known throughout the entire region to perform the best version despite having only a small town’s budget. Was it our actors? I highly doubt it! Miranda Jacobs, Mr. Jacobs’ wife was an insufferable hack whose histrionics both on and behind the stage was something of a curiosity—the sort of curiosity that inspires one while watching a train derail into a burning orphanage! Unfortunately it was also Mrs. Jacobs whom would be cast as the principle actress in nearly every production (with exception to a certain piece from the sixteenth century where there were no female characters, until an awkward additional part was written to accommodate her).
            No, if anything it was the excellent contraption that Mr. Jacobs had installed in a curtained glass box behind the audience, right above the boiler room. It was a rather ingenious thing, powered from the boiler below to control the lamps, the backdrops, and the modest pipe organ that lined the walls beside the stage. Most remarkable of all, however, was its mysterious ability to create visual effects on the stage so closely mimicking reality that even the most skeptical of persons could be persuaded to believe in ghosts and faeries. I had asked Mr. Jacobs before where he had purchased such a thing, though his answer was never sound. Sometimes he would say that it was all the rage overseas. Other times he would reference some engineer in New Jersey whom was kindly enough to donate his prototype. I did not mind so much. Mr. Jacobs was a bit of a scatterbrained sort and as long as the machine kept the theater in business, the devil himself could have invented it!
            I had stepped into the theater on that Thursday morning. We happened to be into our second week running a stage adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Minister’s Black Veil (which thankfully Mrs. Jacobs had not insisted on playing a female version of the lead because it would require her to cover her “unnaturally youthful beauty”). I had been just as puzzled as other patrons of Steinberg’s Deli when I bought my meager breakfast, upon seeing the macabre tribute to the arts that was splayed across the wall in meticulous detail. Though as I walked into Mr. Jacob’s office, I was even further puzzled to discover that my employer seemed relaxed and agreeable in disposition. Surely he had seen the mural when he arrived this morning? How could he not be disturbed by its very presence, much more about what sort of effect it would have on business!
            I coughed.
            Mr. Jacobs looked up. He always appeared to be somewhat a cross between a turtle and a hare, hunched and closed featured, yet also made of long lines and limbs.

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