Theo stared down at the swirling water, the boy suspended and swaying. Next to Theo was Kino and next to Kino, Felicia. Theo couldn’t take his eyes off the writhing water. The colors of it, even by the light of the moon, stretched and pulled, like tentacles. Like the vines of the forest.
Theo bent down to touch it, but his hand only met cloth. He pulled at the light scarf and it came with him as he stood. He held the scarf between thumb and index finger and looked at it, uncomprehending. A low murmur was rising all around him.
The play was over.
The crowed had noticed him on the stage. Theo was unsure how he had gotten there. Kino, Felicia–they stared at him. They looked as confused as he felt.
“You weren’t here,” said Kino.
“No,” said Theo.
“Then why are you?” asked the older man.
“I don’t know,” said Theo. “This isn’t my story.”
“We’ll get to that,” said Felicia.
“We won’t,” said Theo. “Nobody has ever heard it.”
The crowd was buzzing more now. All eyes on stage, though the fourth wall had been broken once Theo had climbed the steps. Had he climbed them? He would have had to come all the way from the balcony.
“You’re story still happened,” said Kino. “It will continue to happen and be told like all stories are told since the beginning of time.”
“Not mine,” said Theo.
“They’ll want it,” said Kino, indicating the crowd.
The glanced that way. A police office was in the front row. He was still in uniform. His badge stood out on his chest. He was salt a pepper and he looked at Theo with a comprehension Theo didn’t like. The police officer wetted his lips. The man’s eyes were probing and vicious and made Theo’s skin crawl.
He suddenly needed to be away. He felt his legs go shaky. He felt his mouth dry up. Theo couldn’t bring himself to go back to the crowd. There would be too many eyes there. He turned and bee lined a course for back stage. The rigging hung down revealingly. The light was dim. Theo tuned out any sound that might come from the stage. props and sets lined the walls. Some fake trees and vines for the oasis. He couldn’t tell if it had all been real, a dream, or a play. He had seen the whole thing. But it was more than just a spectacle. It was a hard truth in his stomach and heart. One Theo didn’t want to accept.
A door lead to the backstage hallway. Above the door an exit sign in illuminated red letters hung. Theo opened the door and was met with fluorescent white lights. His eyes ached for a moment as he stepped through and shut the door behind him. He looked to the left, then the right. There wasn’t another exit sign anywhere. It was time he left. It was time he got back to London and called the London School of Photography and inquire to why nobody had picked him–him–up. He could teach their students far more about art than anyone else. He knew. He knew this place was wrong and nothing compared to his creations. He had thought it was a chance for him to learn more, but now he understood it was nothing but a chance for others to steal his craft. Uncover the truth of his art–strip away the mystery. Make it base and low and completely commonplace. He’d not let them take it from him.