The theatre was called The Triumphant Stage and all the actors from the area surrounding Kazpest wanted to play there. You see, it was situated underneath the train station, two sets of train tracks crossed over it. It was a stage, all traditionally, with one added bonus, at one end of the stage, another stage extended out at a 90 degree angle, out of necessity to support the train track that came from that way.
On The Triumphant Stage, tickets were cheap and shows were short. Mostly around 15 minutes to twenty minutes, the time it took one train or another to arrive and depart until the next train did the same. And even if the show ran long, you wouldn’t miss your train, you’d see it barreling down the track above the stage and excuse yourself, and you would arrive at the departing area with plenty of moments to spare, while the actors froze and waited for the din to quiet.
On this particular day, I arrived very early at the train station. My niece was coming into town. As her father, my brother in law, had arranged with me to take her up as my secretary. But that was not the reason I arrived early, my niece was 19 now, and had travelled many times to Kazpest, she could find her way to my home without my guidance, and she could probably walk the few short blocks to it instead of causing me the great discomfort of walking those blocks myself. But as I said, I wasn’t only coming early for her, I was coming early also, for The Triumphant Stage’s first long production, The Many Sisters of Helena Odraz.
I’d seen the troupe before in many short productions that were less of theatre shows and more of magician’s shows. There was a grimy-black haired man who slouched over and could change from the most notorious villain to benevolent hero in the space, the beat, of a step. There was a short woman with short-reddish hair which hugged the side of her face, who constantly looked down her short nose at the audience. There were two sisters with long black hair, who always had melancholy expressions, and who didn’t mind showing the audience their clothless bodies. On a number of occasions these sisters ended up being the tragic, butt of the joke. And there was one other bald, old man, who had a particular talent for make up and making things up and for cross dressing.
But there had been more additions to the troupe. I knew the writer, he had told me. I had whiskey with him on Thursday evenings, and he more than any other reason was the reason I arrived so early, early enough to even catch a glimpse of the show previous to Many Sisters.
The actors were frozen in their roles as the East to West train rumbled past them above them, screeching its breaks and howling its whistle. When it silenced, the actors resumed. One was a man in a chicken suit, he began to deliver a long monologue that served as the moral of the story that I had just missed, instead I looked for my writer friend, whose last name was Welkind.
I found Welkind seated on the large concrete steps that made up the viewing area of The Triumphant Stage while those around him were standing, laughing at the chicken man, and jeering at his hack-kneed moral. Welkind held a paper bag which held a glass bottle which held a dark and noxious liquid in his hand which he was swigging from when I made myself known.
“Ah,” he said, smiling at my approach, “Herr Mordan, a fine day to you.”
“And to you Welkind,” I said over a roar of laughter as the chicken bent over and farted onto the audience, responding to their critiques. “How are the nerves this morning?”
“Numbed,” Welkind laughed, “I couldn’t tell you if my show has past, will future or is currently presenting.”
“As I am not so numbed my friend,” I said feigning that there was gravity behind my words, “I am afraid that I most in form you that it has yet to begin.”
There was an eruption of applause around us that inclined me to look at the stage. The chicken man was bowing along with the other players who, clad in less ridiculous regalia, I do not find worth mentioning.
Welkind, instead of clapping, was patting the concrete beside him and offering me a drink, both of which I accepted graciously.
The show began with a dissonant chord played on some unseen piano, then silence, then the whistle of an approaching train which seemed too perfect to be unstaged. I looked at Welkind next to me.
“Alas,” he said, “I am not so numbed as to not notice my own work.” And with this declaration he threw back his head, his bottle, and the dark liquid inside.
The dark haired man, slouching, walked to where the two stages intersected, and addressed us, the quiet audience from there. “A fine day to you, my countrymen. Please be seated, ours is not a short production.”
Then black curtains fell around him, and several people jumped back. Despite the daylight-ness of the hour, the black fabric affected me, chilled me. I looked at Welkind and he was smiling a little.
The black haired man and the short, short-haired woman wheeled out a gurney covered in a large blanket. A train passed, departing and the actors paused. Then the train was gone and the show began again. He was dressed in a hunched-back black robe, lined with grey fur, with grey little beads tied into his beard, his hair braided in places and wild in others, he never opened his mouth, which was nothing more than a scowl behind facial hair. She had on a long, red, dress that trailed behind her like red ink in water. Her hair she wore in one braided tail, which fell over her shoulder and pointed the viewer to her cleavage
There was some black wooden door concealed in the fabric and one of the sisters, who I assumed was playing the titular role of Helena Odraz (a fact which I confirmed by inquiring into the drunken ear of Welkind), emerged from the wooden rigidity in the folds.
“Uncle Fresco,” Helena said, looking at the black haired man, “mother,” she said looking at the short woman, “Why is it so dark in here? Why are you here in this dark place?”
Helena had on something that seemed completely out of character. Her hair was up, bunned, braided, never falling below her ears, defying gravity, a black vortex, trying in vain to touch the sky. And she wore only a tightly laced corset which covered, barely her breasts, and a chastity belt to cover her loins.
“Helena,” the mother said, “please come here, give your uncle a proper greeting.”
But Helena stayed where she was, visibly afraid of her uncle, her fingers slowly and sensually making her way to her mouth as if to bite her finger-nails. Instead, she left lipstick on her finger-tips.
Uncle Fresco scowled and took long strides towards the heroine, stopping just inches from her face and leaning down to kiss it. “Dear niece,” he said, “do not quiver so around your family. It awakes in them a carnality reserved for blood that is not so close to their own.”
As I was about to learn, Uncle Fresco had no such reservations.
“Your uncle and I were just conducting a little business, Helena. We are in his debt and he has decided that it is time to cash in on that debt.” This was the voice of the mother. The voice of reason. “You go back to bed sweet little girl.”
Helena nodded and quickly turned away from her uncle, who, as she left leaned down to get the clearest possible view of the woman’s ass, which was so hyper-sexualized that even the metal of a chastity belt couldn’t contain the lust which it inspired. She turned into the doorway and Uncle Fresco turned to face his sister. Helena, however, feeling her uncle’s gaze off of her turned back, and listened, hiding in the door jamb.
The other two actors, gave us the audience, a chance to realize that Helena was hiding, before they acted at each other. These two character’s were brother and sister, but I realized that the relationship between them was closer to predator and well armed prey. Through dialogue which ensued while they circled around the gurney, as one always chasing the other away, revealed key things, was expertly written, but I cannot for the life of me remember the lines. The mother Odraz was a powerful sorceress and the uncle an extremely wealthy mercenary. The house that Helena lived in was both cursed with the uncle’s money and protected by the mother’s charms. The uncle incested eternally, always craving the latest addition to the family, and the mother had promised in return for her own demesne, the purity of her first born daughter, Helena.
The sorceress had never wanted to have a child, and to her, the father was unknown. She had always imagined cheating her brother out of his money, revenging upon him for scars she suffered as a child. But the uncle anticipated this innocence and used the sorcery he possessed, which was the magic of money and wisdom of the world of mercenaries, to impregnate her otherwise. When the child was born, before she notified her brother, she stood above Helena, with the intention of infanticide, but Helena was the spitting image of her mother, in all features but the hair, which was so dark-black, that she imaged her father must have been the devil himself.
When the brother arrived, Helena was already locked inside a chastity belt. A sentiment which her uncle had laughed at, saying he fully expected the child to “ripen” before the contract was at last signed.
“And now, instead of your dearest daughter,” the uncle said.
“I present to you another daughter, one which I locked away, one who was born just before Helena.”
Uncle Fresco raised an eyebrow. “Twins?”
The sorceress said nothing, but instead moved to the gurney and removed the blanket.
Beneath it, in a veil of black lace and nothing else, lay the other sister actress. Her mother took her hand and the character awakened, stood, fully nude, facing the audience, but no one whooped or jeered, we were not even there, but the actress looked at us, and took us all apart, one by one until we only focused on her breasts to avoid contact with her eyes.
Uncle Fresco took the other hand and the girl turned to look at him. He looked her up and down, his mouth still scowling, but also slightly agape. “This is not one of your spells, is it? She will not disappear after the pact is filled.”
“What does it matter to you if she does? Have you ever wanted one woman more than once?”
Uncle Fresco began to touch the girl then, and she responded to his touches with shivers, and eyes halving and halving again. I looked to the doorway, unable to contain my discomfort, to see that Helena was no longer there. Other’s in the audience were noticing as well. I looked to Welkind, who wasn’t smiling, but was looking pleased with himself none the less.
“Fine,” said the uncle, “I accept your offering. Your debt is paid.”
The mother curtsied and turned to exit through the same door that Helena had exited through. The other Helena, who I found out much later was named Helenae, moved to follow her mother, but the paw of Uncle Fresco was already around her hand.
“You are coming with me, little one.”
Helenae nodded and fell in line behind him. There was another door on the other stage, closed and when Uncle Fresco opened it, there stood another Helena, nude, in front of him, with not even black lace to hide her immodesty.
Then the whistle of a trained sounded and the actors froze. I checked my watch and realized that an hour had passed. I touched Welkind on the shoulder and excused myself, inquiring at him when the show would be playing next.
“It shall be here next Sunday, at the same time,” he responded, “providing it does well.”
I looked around me at the audience who were as frozen as the actors as if by the very same spell, one which only I and Welkind (both with fore-knowledge) could break for ourselves. “I doubt that will be a problem, my friend,” I said.
*More from TCAM RANGER can be found here.