Venice

Venice was always a giving woman, in many ways she was similar to her mother, foolish and altruistic to her own detriment. Her mother Chesil was never married, far from it. She dreamed of it but she knew a woman of her mixed Latin and Eastern descent didn’t stand much of a chance in the harsh marriage market. Whiteness and purity went hand in hand and she just wasn’t a part of that stigma. The bustling metropolis of Burgenshire didn’t do much help her either. Regardless of how one puts it, she was an outsider in her community. That didn’t stop her from fantasizing about a happy marriage though. She had a brief relationship with a certain tall dark and handsome man with hopes of starting her interpretation of a “happy nuclear family”, but as we all know, not all dreams are achievable and for Chesil, it was a devastating outcome. Her anonymous lover left her in the middle of the night after their brief escapade, with the parting gift of Chesil’s eventual daughter to be destined to grow within her. Needless to say that Chesil was heartbroken. She had to commit to being a parent; she made a vow to commit to parenthood regardless of the grim situation. Chesil knew that no man would take her if they found out she had a child on the way, that’s just how things seemed to work, irrationally and unjustly. She was left to fend for this eventual child on her own.

Venice grew up in what one would consider the world’s least efficient efficiency apartment, an environment she would grow to detest. Her mother did her best to care for her while working her job as a part time seamstress. Life was claustrophobic and cramped for so long and it only grew worse as she transitioned from child to adulthood. By the time she was a teenager, Venice spent almost the entirety of her time taking care of her mother. Late one night, toward the beginning of Venice’s freshman year of high-school, Chesil was walking home from work when she was interrupted by a group of young men. It was hard to argue that they looked like delinquents; they fit the stereotypical mold of them too. Chesil labeled them as tattoo laden, piercing ridden, and good for nothings. She didn’t say this until they were demanding tribute from her. Chesil’s pride however dictated not to give them a damn cent. It was then that she tossed them the former insult and proclaimed “You’ll have to take my money from my cold dead hands before I even think about giving you little bastards a damn cent!” Chesil knew Venice was depending on the little bit that she made to keep both of them alive and living until the day came when she wasn’t willing and able. That day happened to come on that fateful night. Chesil did her best to defend herself from the hoodlums but she was just one middle-aged woman against several young men. They had no initial interest of taking advantage of her but those kids were desperate for money. Desperate enough to break Chesil’s legs to make sure she would never be able to run away from them if they ever came back.

It was then that Venice knew that her obligation to her mother came before anything else. Venice may not have had the most luxurious life but she had the comfort of her mother every step along the way. With Chesil’s blessing, Venice dropped out of school to focus on taking care of her mother full time. Venice spent the next several years of her life diligently taking care of her mother until the year came that Venice would have graduated from high school. That was the year that the disability checks stopped coming and when the shoddy job that Venice had been doing to keep both of them alive had just not been cutting it. Being a cashier in a gas station just didn’t pay enough to support a grown woman and an 18 year old. She tried explaining to Chesil that there simply weren’t many opportunities in this world for a woman without education. Chesil was convinced, but Venice wasn’t. Venice believed she was worth more but she was lost as to how she would convince someone else of that reasoning.

Venice’s work was mainly uneventful. It’s hard to say that an 18 year old woman would enjoy working at some gas station near the outskirts of the city, but she made it work. She would get the occasional old fogey come in and ask her to help with the gas because they had arthritis or some other excuse. She was convinced they were just trying to objectify her or give her with dirty looks. Venice may not have been the ideal marriage market material given her tan complexion, but that’s what made her unique. She was deemed as exotic to others, which only added to her natural beauty. She still felt like an outcast, but she didn’t have the same issues of self-confidence that her Anglo-Saxon coworkers did. She barely wore makeup to work but that’s the thing, she didn’t need it. She was incredibly charismatic and charming to a fault. Venice never hesitated to go out of her way for others, and even though everything she did was rationalized by doing it for her family, she still felt proud about it. There was something noble about sacrifice to her. There was something satisfying about ignoring the self to give others a sense of genuine happiness. For Venice it wasn’t a job, it was an exercise in empathy.

The most notable event to happen to Venice was her meeting of a certain businessman by the name of Marshall Evans. When she saw him approach her little roadside gas station, she was confused as to why someone of his caliber would bother coming in to a place like this. Marshall approached with a serious demeanor, for someone in a suit, she expected him to have a less than ragged look on his face. Venice imagined all businessmen as a sort of elite who had nothing better to do than burn money while drinking champagne, at least that’s what she’d read in books. He had left a container on the counter expecting her to fill it but he had made a full 180 when he took a look at Venice. Marshall had just assumed that the cashier would have been some low-class old hag managing the joint until he had noticed Venice’s striking features. “What brings you to work at a place like this Miss?” “Venice, Sir.” His once serious demeanor melted into what could only be described as a teenager noticing a beautiful woman for the first time. Maybe it was the way he had heard it or possibly a combination of how attractive he perceived Venice, but simply hearing her utter those two simple words, two words that were only her name and her addressing him, had made him feel so much emotion and what could only be described as a strange form of ecstasy. Marshall had been a businessman at heart, he attempted to be Casanova in his spare time but none of his personal relationships ever evolved much further than a client and employer relationship. He was objective to a fault but also a hopeless romantic if that were even possible, and to him it was. Marshall was an employer for a modeling agency so it had always been his job to seek out the best of the best, but to him he’d always been into the idea of perfection and allowing his clients to reach their true potential. However, his idealism had always gotten the better of him and the bulk of his clients had quit on him because his expectations were astronomical. Marshall was convinced that they just didn’t care enough about reaching their “potential” and they were just in it for the glitz and glamour. Marshall had been looking for a true client, one that would not only be perfect in the business world, but also the perfect woman for him as a person. Suffice it to say, he was smitten. Venice on the other hand wanted to break out into a smile by how ridiculous his doe-eyed expression had looked. She hadn’t had many encounters with the upper class and was hoping that this mystery man would get her out of her life of despair and give her the chance she thought she deserved. “Venice, I may not know you, I may not know where you’ve been or the struggles you’ve been through, but I can say that within the deepest ounces of my core that you are capable of something much better than the job that you’re doing right now. I was once in the position you were in, and all I needed was one human being to come along, one person who thought I was good, someone I felt I could depend on for the rest of my life to give me that chance. Here I am now, offering you that chance.” Marshall unhesitatingly offered her a personal business card for “Marshall’s Modeling Agency”. In the back part of Venice’s mind she thought this was a lie, and truth be told she should have believed this in the end. She was confused as to how to go about accepting this offer but she graciously took the card anyway and said, “I’ll call you when my shift ends and I give my boss my two-weeks’ notice”.

Venice talked over her decision with Chesil. Chesil was scared, scared because she knew all the terrible things men were capable of. Scared of how men can rob you of your life. How men can create and not take responsibility for the products they create, those same products that need love and attention to flourish and be successful. Venice was afraid too. She was afraid of putting herself in her mother’s shoe’s, alone, no husband to take care of her, relying upon your only immediate family member for so much, but nothing scared her more than the isolation. Venice didn’t have many friends, being alone with her mother most the time. She worked so much she didn’t have time for a social life either. She wanted to cry because she wished she had someone else in the world to help take care of her and her mother, someone to cradle her and tell her everything was going to be alright even when they knew it wouldn’t. She wanted the security of having a comfortable life without feeling like her home was a prison cell, that was clearly meant for solitary confinement. She wanted to wear clothing that she wouldn’t feel ashamed of telling people that she got it from a 99 cent store that smelled like a murder scene. Venice wanted to have a child that would be born into the world with a happy upbringing, a world where her child wouldn’t be restricted to living for someone else out of obligation. Venice didn’t want to wind up like her mother with nobody to defend her when she really needed it. It was strange. Venice knew that on the surface, Marshall was simply offering a job, but she couldn’t ignore how obsessed with her he looked at the time. He was showing it with his body language, and his romantic word choice was there too. She knew it was more than a job, it was going to be a commitment, both the job and the relationship she would need to develop with Marshall in order to sustain this transaction. She would only have one condition, Marshall would have to support her mother as well as her. Chesil wanted to support Venice but all she could say was “I love you Venice, and I hope that in the end you do what’s best for yourself”.

Life felt like it was passing Venice by in what felt like an instant. She got the modeling job without any hesitation from Marshall and she couldn’t help but laugh at how surreal this whole situation felt. Going from cashier to full time model wasn’t something that most women could say they’ve done, much less a woman who hadn’t even finished high-school. It was strange at first. She was confused when she heard the rumors that Marshall would overwork his clients with his ridiculous demands but Venice never felt like anything was out of the ordinary. Perhaps she had come to expect life to be difficult but for what it was worth, that attitude certainly helped her maintain the job. Venice was quite complacent being told what to do in a work setting. Perhaps she gained some comfort knowing that this was all being done to protect someone that she cared about, or perhaps it was because this was the opportunity that she needed to actually be somebody; to have a sort of identity in this world, where it mattered so much.

Despite the fact that Marshall was in charge of the company, one thing that made him unique was the fact that he didn’t delegate others to training his clients. In fact, he spent the most time out of any of his employees doing actual training, at least early on in his clients’ career. He would usually give his clients an image to work with and tell them to try and emulate it but with their own twist. Needless to say, his panache was a bit much for the average model to handle, but he had faith in Venice. A kind of faith that can only be felt when someone has identified someone else as being genuinely invested in their future. Marshall’s ultimate downfall was that he tried to seek out romantic relationships with his clients, and that didn’t stop him from taking a liking to Venice. She wasn’t necessarily charmed by his demeanor, in fact she was almost intimidated because she knew if she messed up it would cost her the world. She was also grateful that he gave her a chance when so few people would even bother with a woman in her circumstances. Venice played along with Marshall’s advances but she was still slightly uncomfortable by the situation. Marshall even jokingly mentioned how much easier both of their lives would be if they were married at times. Venice would usually stay quiet whenever he said this.

Marshall had called Venice to his office after training on one afternoon. He usually had positive reinforcement for her but this session felt off. Marshall was a bit more uptight than usual and his youthful, romantic self seemed to have been absent that day. When Venice made it to his office, her heart had been beating incredibly quickly out of nervousness. Thoughts swirled in her mind with her questioning whether or not she was performing up to par anymore, or whether that new younger model had taken his fancy. Venice had only been working with Marshall for a year but it was obvious that he slowly felt like something had been getting to him after the earlier training sessions. When she approached his desk, he asked her how she had enjoyed working with him. “If I’m quite honest, it’s been a joy to work with someone who’s had so much confidence in me as a Model”. “And I’m glad you’ve been so receptive toward my assistance”. The room fell silent and Marshall had given Venice a dour expression. “Venice you’ve been working here a year now and there’s been a lot of press asking about your story. This modeling agency has had a rather sketchy history and we’ve been concerned of losing funding from our investors if any more ugly rumors get out. Now I trust you and know what you’ve been through, but imagine the public’s reaction when they find out one of our top models has been living in a shoddy apartment and hasn’t even been to a proper school or finished it for that matter. Now I’m not trying to judge you but the world is a harsh place Venice you’ve seen that, hell you’ve lived it. The press will do anything to sink my company after all the mistakes I’ve made in the past, but I want to fix that. I simply can’t have any rumors running around otherwise my life and everyone around me will fall apart. Negative rumors have also been going around with me too. Imagine a twenty seven year old man, head of a company of models nonetheless, who isn’t married. I’m destined to be the laughing stock of the business world! I simply can’t have that! I’ve worked too hard to get to where I am and I won’t throw that away!” Marshall had a glimmer of a tear for around his now puffy red eyes. Venice wanted to tell him that it would be alright, even though she knew it wasn’t, but she just stayed silent. “Venice, there’s something we can do that can fix all of this. It’s the elephant in the room, the M word. I know what you’re thinking, how in God’s name is this going to solve our problems? Well for one, think of it as having a clean slate for your history, with a marriage ceremony the press will focus on that instead of where you came from and that way we’ll both be out of hot water. You can keep your job, I can still run the company and neither of us will be humiliated. But if you refuse, then I’m going to have to cut our losses early and drop you from the company, and we both know that’s not what either of us want now is it, cupcake?” Saying Venice felt betrayed at this point would be an insult. Had Marshall been planning this all along? To ask out some young woman in need and then put the gun to her head to make his ego satisfied? Had he known how terrified Venice would be without this job? Who would hire her anywhere else after hearing she was fired from one of the biggest companies into town? He really was coercing her into this, but even she knew that she needed this job if she were to have a future. What hurt the most was that she didn’t feel this was a decision at all, her future was being chosen for her. Despite working with him for a year, she hadn’t really known all that much about him aside from what she had heard from others and his initial romantic nature. At the same time, she was also weirdly happy, happy that she’ll have someone to depend on financially, someone to come home to and hug when she felt lost, happy that she will be safe. Venice was tongue tied when this was proposed to her, but she eventually did agree to these terms out of fear that saying no would have been the less appealing option.

For all of her fears and doubts Venice was pleasantly surprised with how the wedding ceremony turned out. Tons of people showed up from the Company as well as Chesil. Venice had mentioned before to her mother about her uncertainties, but Chesil knew she was doing the best she could. Venice’s wedding served as a stark contrast for her eventual home-life. Sure, their home was extravagant aesthetically, but felt a bit hollow. Venice hated her efficiency, but it had touches of human life to it; the candles dripping wax on the windowsill because the lighting was busted, the constantly dripping sink with “the pipes that cost too damn much to repair” as Chesil would say. That wasn’t even including the squeaky doorknob that would alert Chesil when her daughter would return. It was a flawed home but it was reflective of their humanness. This new home was immaculate to the point where if one thing were misplaced, the house would fall apart. If anything, it reminded Venice a bit too much of her job, always focused on the surface but it never went skin deep. Marshall tried to reassure her that it was better for her and even offered the small guest house for her mother. This new house was a far cry from the cramped space of what felt like the prison cell of her efficiency, but Venice was glad it had a bit more room to walk around in, despite how excessively pristine it was.

Venice and Marshall had an awkward time adjusting to this new way of life. For Marshall, it was routine as he had been living here for as long as he had the company; this sprawling estate with its’ long halls and white floors. For Venice it was a new world entirely. Neither had been married previously as far as they knew, and they didn’t know much about each other really. Both of them would come home from work late into the night. Since Venice didn’t need training anymore, she would rarely see Marshall at work. Venice would get out early which would leave her with a lot of time to walk around the house and occasionally remember that her mother was living in the guest house. Venice didn’t notice too much about the house ,aside from a strange looking cellar that she found when patrolling the outskirts of the yard. It wouldn’t have really crossed her mind to go here normally, but she just wanted to explore where she would be living for God knew how long. The only notable thing she found in there was a fridge that happened to be unplugged. Venice had disregarded it and went back to checking out the rest of the house. Work had become so stressful for her that that was the only thing she could keep her mind on. She would find herself pacing back and forth hoping that Marshall would come home soon to comfort her restlessness. Her comfort would almost never be answered because she would always fall asleep before he would get back from work.

Marshall would usually spend a couple extra hours after work drinking with his friends but he would never tell that to Venice because that was his “personal life” and he didn’t want her to know about his habit. Marshall was usually quiet around Venice because he didn’t want to scare her off. He knew that this was a lot to adjust to for her, but at the same time he felt guilty because he didn’t want to let her go earlier. He wouldn’t be surprised if he thought she hated him, in fact he hated himself. He didn’t want to let go his prime example of a perfect woman, and he didn’t want to let his company that he spent so many years investing into, to go to waste. It was his child, at least to him. It was something that he put love into and felt like that love had been given back tenfold to the people who worked for him. Hell if it weren’t for his company, he wouldn’t have found his trophy wife Venice, and to him she was a trophy. She was his ideal of a perfect woman, beautiful, graceful, and worked as a good mantelpiece to his already established career. Marshall felt somewhat guilty of idealizing her, but she really was perfect to him. He did have some qualms. He didn’t get to spend as much time with her as he wanted, and he really was convinced that she hated him after the whole marriage or you’re out bit that he proposed before. Marshall was used to handling stress but nothing got to him more than finding out that his clients hated him all along. He wanted to be viewed as their savior, a man who gave them everything and expected everything in return. He wanted his kindness to be reciprocated and more often than not, it rarely was. Marshall enjoyed the occasional drink with his friends but it was always after he had lost a client, or whenever he felt that seething hate was when he would come home utterly wasted. He had come home to Venice on one such night demanding her company, when she had refused. He had left the room angry and dejected and eventually slept on the couch that night. Venice had eventually picked up on those habits of his but she would never call him out on it. Marshall had apologized almost immediately the next day and vowed to make up for it with a special occasion.

Marshall had gone through the “bit”, that stereotypical romantic act of getting chocolates for Venice as well as some of the finest roses he could find. Venice wasn’t exactly impressed but she was certainly happy that he went out of his way to do this. For her this wasn’t something that happened at all in her life but she was content with how it all worked out. Marshall had gone through all the tropes of apologizing while also trying to set the romantic mood, but what really won over Venice was the velvety smooth jazz that he had put on his antique record player. She had been so used to not having music in her life so she was moved when Marshall had played such wonderful music. Marshall didn’t think it would work out the way it did, but it had worked and next thing he knew they weren’t simply “listening” to music anymore.

Venice had felt like her heart had become a lump in her throat when she realized she was pregnant. She didn’t want to tell Marshall out of fear that she wouldn’t be their prized model anymore. She was also scared that he wouldn’t love her anymore after discovering this. What use would the head of a modeling agency have with a future blimp of a woman? She thought. Venice eventually came to the conclusion that she wouldn’t tell him until it was further noticeable.

He wanted to cry, both out of joy and sadness. He knew Venice would never be the same, but he would have a living breathing heir to his legacy. He knew that day that Venice would never model again and he would have her be a stay at home wife to nurture his future son. At least he assumed it would be a boy. Venice had gotten a sonogram but the doctor told her it was clearly a girl. She had no choice but to withhold that from him.

When Marshall received the sonogram report that it was a girl on the way, he had fallen into a slump. He had begun drinking again and it had begun to add up. What was once the clean-shaven spitting image look of a successful businessman had begun to look like a mountain man of a fat father instead. Marshall had taken his own personal two weeks off where he had finally delegated his Vice President to take care of the company while he took a stay-cation.

It wasn’t long before Marshall and Venice became quite sick of seeing each other lounging about the house. Venice was doing her best to not let stress get to her while dealing with Marshall’s complete indifference regarding her pregnancy. They would barely talk to one another and all Marshall would do is demand another drink for Venice to fetch. When Marshall mentioned that they were out of beer in the main fridge, he demanded she go fetch some from the cellar. She protested that he do it himself, but in a drunken stupor he threatened her. Venice slowly proceeded down the stairway to the cellar with minimal light emanating from it. She took her time and eventually flicked on the light switch and stared at the fridge. She couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by thoughts of regret as she kept wanting to refuse to sustain his bad forceful habits any longer. She knew this wasn’t productive for either of them, but she was scared of what he might do if he didn’t have his way. She stood there for a while still thinking about whether or not she wanted to continue with the deed until Marshall came trudging down the stairs with a furious look on his face. “You’re still here woman? Goddammit, what’s the hold up!?” “I’m sick of it Marshall.” she said “Excuse me?” he replied incredulously. She stood her ground, “You heard me. I’m sick of you wasting away your life with this. You obviously don’t care about yourself anymore but I need someone to help take care of the child.” He countered, “That’s your job woman!” “No its not, it’s our duty.” she answered. He replied, “You keep thinking that.” “What do you mean Marshall?! Don’t you care about your daughter?” she said frustrated . He replied,“It’s exactly that! This kid won’t be able to inherit the company! And why is that? It’s her gender Venice. It’s just not in her place to run a multimillion dollar business.” She incredulously asked, “Says who?! That stupid press you keep prattling on about?! Or that invisible society you keep thinking you have to appeal to? Why do you care about what some faceless people think about you?” He answered, “They’re not face- less Dear and they’re investors. Those faceless people are the same people who are helping keep my company alive, and you don’t seem to get that! It’s bad for both of us having a non-male heir to take over the business after I’m gone. If I lose the family name then how will the world remember my legacy?” Exasperated she said, “To hell with your legacy! I’m so sick of your idealized nonsense! There’s a child on the way and all you care about is looking good to these stupid investors you’re always talking about! If you were so concerned about your image, you wouldn’t have poisoned your body so much with this crap! I can barely recognize you from the charming man you presented yourself as when you first met me at that gas station.” He quickly answered back, “And I can’t recognize you either Venice! You used to be so complacent with everything I’ve said up until now and look at you, talking back to the man who gave you everything! I gave you a job. I gave you a home. I gave you a child, and you twisted and distorted EVERY LAST ONE! I should’ve known you weren’t any different from those other women! You couldn’t just be happy with what you were given! You could’ve just said thanks but you didn’t. I hate you so much you wretch!” “Go fuck yourself Marshall, I’m leaving.” She said. He yelled, “NO!” As Venice turned to walk up the stairs Marshall grabbed her by the arm and started twisting it so she couldn’t get away. He exerted so much force that he broke her arm and she screamed and fainted from the shock. Upon hearing the scream, Chesil emerged from the guest house and rolled toward the origin of the scream only to find the scene of her daughter lying on the floor with her arm twisted out of control.

Not long after that event, Venice had been hospitalized and she had issued a divorce from Marshall. With the money from the settlement she had found a new home for her and her mother and had birthed a healthy baby girl who she could raise away from the influence of Marshall and forge a new happy life.

Advertisements

Cardenio – The Lost Play

By JustLeeBelmont

Cast

Cardenio – The Storytelling Beggar

Luis – Writer

Maria – Barmaid and Luis’ Wife

Gonzalo – Barkeep

Stephania – Singer at the Bar

Rodrigo – Horridly Unfunny Jester

The Crowd – Local Drunk Townsfolk

A One Act Play

Scene: We find a withered and much older Cardenio, many years later after his adventures with Quixote and Sancho. He has taken up to begging after his adventures have left him with little gain. With his charisma and guile he has been able to keep himself alive from the pity of the townsfolk. In the central market district is where we find our hero looking for his next meal, and story to tell. Cardenio notices a young man and asks for his company.

Cardenio

Young lad! You, yes you over there! Please accompany an old man for a bit. Times are tough and a little company is all I ask before senility kicks in. What is your name good sir?

Luis

It’s Luis sir. I’m afraid I don’t have much time. I’m assuming you want some sort of pay? I have that to offer if that means I may leave.

Cardenio

Nonsense! Although I would appreciate that I’d rather enlighten you to my tale so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

Luis

I really must be going, the wife demandth me.

Cardenio

It will make you rich lad.

Luis

Tell me more Mr…?

Cardenio

Call me Cardenio the Great!

Luis

I’ll stick to Cardenio. Now, about getting rich…

Cardenio

Listen to my tale and you will understand. I was like you Luis. Young, impatient and with a lovely lady, the difference is she left me too soon. I’ve had many ladies in my life but Rosa was taken from me. A friend of mine was the culprit. He was known as Pedro, the Brash. I had a good thing going in my little villa but Pedro broke in one day.

Luis

This Pedro fellow sounds like a sociopath.

Cardenio

Indeed he was! Craving everything he couldn’t have. He wanted the most beautiful woman in the village but with his looks, it’d be a miracle for a sow to look at him! By the way Luis, I don’t suppose you could buy me a pint would you? I’m getting a bit thirsty.

Luis

If it means I get to hear more then I’m all ears. My wife usually brings me a pint around here while I write. She’ll be here soon.

Cardenio

You write? God bless your soul.

Luis

It’s not an easy job. In fact I envy that you don’t have to work.

Cardenio

Lad I’ve worked enough in my life to say I’ve earned this profession. Some would hate it and some days I do actually, but at the end of the day it always works out. You’ll see in due time. Is that fine lady over there yours?

Luis

Yes it is. Maria dear, I’m here!

Maria

Hi Luis how are you and who is your friend?

Cardenio

Call me Cardenio madam. I am but a humble storyteller and self-proclaimed bum on my spare time. I plan to share the secrets of wealth with Luis.

Maria

Please sir! We’d love nothing more! Being a barmaid is a difficult life and Luis’ writing hasn’t been making quite the profit we happen to need!

Luis

Really, dear?

Maria

Oh don’t act so surprised! It’s why you took up the alcohol!

Luis

Maria just listen to this guy, I feel he’s onto something. Go on Cardenio.

Cardenio

It would be my honor. Let me have a swig of that first; much better. See this Pedro fellow swooped in to my humble abode and snatched my lovely Rosa. He demanded an impossible ransom leaving me with one choice. To save milady and ruin this man’s life. For you see, he had it coming. I took a ride on my noble stead to head to the place where Pedro kept her from me. My travels led me toward his castle full of guards and such.

Maria

Such treachery! How romantic as well! Putting yourself in such danger for your love! Luis you’d do the same for me right!?

Luis

Sure…

Maria

Your tone sickens me. My fellow coworkers are heading this way. What should I say?

Cardenio

Tell them to come. I love company!

Maria

If you say so. Gonzalo, Stephania, Rodrigo, over here! There’s a wonderful storyteller over here!

Gonzalo

Is that so? Hi there, I run the bar.

Stephania

I happen to sing for the bar patrons.

Rodrigo

And I happen to dress up daily as a horridly Unfunny Jester who gets paid minimum wage by this kind soul right next to me.

Gonzalo

If you were funnier I’d pay you more. So what’s this story about?

Cardenio

Getting rich and adventure! That said, I don’t suppose you all could donate a coin or two? That would help me sleep better at night.

All except Cardenio

Yes sir.

Cardenio

Splendid! Now I was at the castle carefully considering my options: whether or not to take down the front door. I figured I would attempt diplomacy with the guards. They told me to leave but that certainly did not stop me, no sir! After that they said if I really wanted to see Pedro I’d have to take a chance by going through the infinite hedge maze for unwanted guests.

Rodrigo

Infinity is a funny concept is it not? How can something tangible in this world not end if it occupies physical space?

Cardenio

I find it ironic you say that as I had similar thoughts while traversing the hedge maze. When I was younger I rarely had time for self-reflection but while traversing the maze for what felt like hours, I sat down and cried my heart out. I feared I’d never make it to Maria and that Pedro would have his way. It was then I heard the sound of milady, calling out to me from a high tower pointing which way for me to go.

Maria

Luis I wish you’d open yourself up more like Cardenio did.

Luis

I do, when I write if that means anything.

Stephania

Poor Cardenio, Rosa truly cared about you.

Cardenio

She did, and if it weren’t for her I wouldn’t even had made it to the tower door. Is that a crowd I see coming over?

Gonzalo

We’re actually sponsoring an event here, in the exact spot you’re standing. People will be disappointed there’s no beer. But the others and I will tend to that. Here they come.

Crowd

Where’e all the cold pints?!

Gonzalo

Settle down, drinking in Central is happening right now. We have the entertainment we promised you too. We’ll be bringing the drinks as the storyteller continues. We’ll be back. Maria, Stephanie and Rodrigo, come with me. I’ll need all the help I can get.

Cardenio

Dear people my story sees its climax with me ascending a large tower to save my love Maria from a vicious, savage Pedro! I ran like a madman up the stairs to find my love waiting for me in her chambers. When I met her, she gave word that the fiend Pedro was well on his way to check up on her.

Gonzalo and the others

We come to you with cold ones!

Crowd

HOORAY!

Cardenio

And just like that folks, on cue Pedro steps through the door and demandth me to pay the ransom. And pay him I did, with his own blood! In an instant I drew my sword and stabbed him in his horrendous swine-like face while my love looked away. I had never killed before and never will again, but anyone who dares harm a woman as beautiful as my wife deserves nothing but death! It was after that, my love and I escaped the castle unscathed on horseback and never looked back at the castle that housed that monster.

Crowd

What a hero! How is this man a beggar? He deserves more for ridding the world of that man! Our women are saved! Here, take these for your good deeds!

Luis

They’re throwing money at you Cardenio! How on earth did you pull that off?

Cardenio

Luis when you live as long as I have, you learn to tell a good story or two. Told you I’d show you how to get rich!

The Night of The Zure Regen

JustLeeBelmont                                                                                ©2015

The lifeless body of Devland was forever suspended over the white screen; unsupported- looming high above us in the parking lot and it did not decay in the wet acidic rain that poured eternally through the main road. My best friend died today, and as I stand here beside my remaining friends we all weep for Devland. I should’ve convinced Judas that going to a drive-in movie was a bad idea. Had we stayed at home, Devland would still be alive. We were in tears, but Judas was the only one who didn’t cry. Maybe he was just trying to keep his macho pride, but seeing Devland in this state numbed his senses. His posture was rigid, more so than normal, and the blood vessels in his eyes had popped, leaving a minute pool of blood in his eyes. I didn’t want to mention it, after all, none of us really felt up to the task of talking, especially Mallory. It’s safe to say she wasn’t handling it well. I can’t blame her for it either. “Why did this happen!? Devland wouldn’t hurt a fly! And yet someone had the moxie to kill poor Devland…,” she said. It hurt us all seeing our friend like that. At the very least we still have each other…. “Hey Tristram,” Said Judas. “What is it?” I said in a low breath. “I know this isn’t the time, but there’s some weird light near the ticket booth. Wanna check it out?” Said Judas. “Honestly I’d rather get the hell out of here,” I said. “That’s fine but it’s on the way out so it won’t hurt to look.” He said. As my shoulders tensed up and my jaw tightened I let out a disappointed sigh. Judas wasn’t going to let it go and I was beyond the point of arguing. Scared and frustrated to be dragged along by Judas’ plans once more, I convince Mallory to join us. With the acid rain slowly burning through our jackets, we make our way toward the ticket booth.

As we approach the ticket booth, we notice a television behind the glass. To our surprise, the volume is rather loud. What looks to be the weather channel is on. “Sudden outbursts of acid rain expected to occur midnight Jul 29th.” That’s today, but the time on the television says this was at six… “There is to be a city-wide curfew. Anyone caught outside past midnight is liable to legal subjugation. All the more reason to get home, as if there wasn’t enough to worry about…. “Tristram,” said Judas. “Whatever it is can it wait?” I said. “I guarantee you it can’t. Look.” My eyes were drawn to the gate and noticed that it was firmly shut. As if that wasn’t enough there was razor wire entwined over the chain link fence. ”What in God’s name is going on!?” I said. “I noticed it while you were watching the TV,” said Judas. When Mallory saw the gate she nearly fainted, but that was short-lived. Her normally sweet face puffed into what looked like a balloon that’s being squeezed to the point of popping. She screamed and screamed until we were convinced that our eardrums had burst, but we were wrong. We could still hear the booming thunder which would haunt us for the rest of our lives.

I knew from the second we arrived that something wasn’t right. For a drive-in theater, the lot was lacking cars of any sort. There were few lights and the ones that were there were dim and had a thick layer of rust on them. The strangest thing was that nobody was manning the ticket booth. To top it all off, we were stuck in here. I couldn’t lay my eyes off the gate, but more specifically the padlock on the gate. If an inanimate object could smile it would be doing that at this very moment. It had a smirk to it, the kind of sadistic smirk you get when you kill a colony of ants. The smirk that the padlock had was crushing, it knew we were the ants and that it had us begging hand and foot to make it stop. I’ve never wanted to destroy something so badly in my life. I’m going to break that fucking padlock. Maybe it was the padlock, or the acid rain or the fact our friend died but I felt as if some strange force possessed me, and with all the power in my body, I rammed the door to the ticket booth in hopes of finding something, ANYTHING that could get us out of this disaster. My friends’ jaws were left agape after my outburst. I yelled saying, “Find a key or a sledgehammer dammit!” but to no avail did we find anything. The drawers were empty, almost as if the place had been raided. Aside from the TV (which wasn’t large enough anyway), there was nothing practical enough to break the padlock, and I wasn’t willing to wait to see if the rain would corrode it. “Well… any ideas?” I said. Judas’ gaze was affixed to the floor. Mallory looked nervous but produced a bobby pin in her hand. “I’ve opened locked drawers at home with this, you think it’ll work for a padlock?” I really wish the TV was bigger but it was too puny to do any sizable damage. With a disheartened sigh I said, “What’ve we got to lose?”

I looked outside of the ticket booth between the rain, the locked door, and Devland, I was now acutely aware of my own mortality. I suggested that we rest for a couple minutes before making the journey out into the rain. Until now I hadn’t thought of the potential property damage that I’d be charged for, although I suppose now that was the least of our concerns. Mallory and Judas looked uneasy. Mallory was trembling while Judas was still looking at the floor. They looked like different people entirely. Their skin had become pallid. Mallory’s lips were quivering and she was hunched over into an almost fetal-like position. Judas looked as if he was becoming catatonic. I hope my outburst didn’t scare the others too much… “Guy’s are…“ Judas started tearing up. The room went silent. The blood pool in Judas’ eyes slowly expanded. “Judas are you alright?!” said Mallory. “It doesn’t matter anyway, cause we’re going to die here and it’s all my fault.” I did my best to refrain myself but I couldn’t. I told Judas how pissed I was for dragging us along. I insulted him just like he would insult me if I didn’t go along with one of his schemes. Seeing him wallow in his mistakes was a strange comfort until I realized his shame would soon become violence, he raised his fist and before I knew it all I could see was darkness.

“Tristram wake up! Please for God’s sake, wake up!” As the black fades away, Mallory’s voice becomes increasingly louder. I feel a migraine setting in…”I’m up Mallory, I’m fine.” “Thank God you’re awake! And you’re not fine! Your cheek is swollen!” I felt around my cheek, she was right, it was swollen, pretty badly too. “Where’s Judas?” I said. Mallory’s face tightened and her relieved smile turned into a grim expression. “He stormed off after you yelled at him,” she said. Man, I wish I hadn’t done that. “He said he’ll find a way out with or without us.” She said. “We need to find a way out too, who knows if he’ll even come back at this point,” I said. “But Judas…“ I interrupted her. “You really think he’ll come back after that?” I said with frustration. “I don’t want what happened to Devland to happen to Judas!” she said. Mallory didn’t look like she was willing to budge on the matter, and truth be told I didn’t want Judas to get hurt either. “Alright, but where do we start looking? We don’t even know how big this place is.” I said. “This place isn’t that big. While you were asleep I found this brochure about the theater and there was a map on the back. The only place we haven’t been to was the restroom. Maybe there’s a supply closet near there?” she said. “And maybe there’s something inside to break the padlock,” I said. “Hopefully…” she said in a soft voice. We were running out of options as of how to escape. I took Mallory’s advice and agreed to head to the restrooms to see if there was a supply closet and hopefully find Judas.

Devland and I had been friends since high school. Our school wasn’t the best and because of Judas I would tend to get caught up in the wrong crowd. That same crowd bullied me constantly and I felt helpless. Devland would usually hang out at the bleachers with Mallory during physical education; he’d always find some excuse not to do exercise. During class one day, the teacher had to check on a kid that vomited, leaving the rest of the class to head back to the classroom. Judas and his crowd stopped at the gate blocking the way out after the other kids had gone out. I was confused and had to beg the others to let me go through. Judas was on my side too. The others said that Judas and I would be in for a beating if Judas didn’t hit me. We were both shocked. Judas gave me a sad expression and there was a part of me that knew he didn’t completely want to follow through. Before he hit me he whispered, “Please don’t tell mom.” He knocked me out cold. Everything faded to black and when I awoke, Devland and Mallory were by my side. They told me everything would be okay. They took me to the nurse and stayed by my side the entire time.

The outside of the restroom was the last time we saw Devland alive. We were going to leave the theater after finding out it was deserted but Devland had to use the restroom. We patiently waited for him but he was in there for quite a while. Judas went inside and called out to him but he didn’t answer. The acid rain started to pour and that was when Mallory and I saw Devland hanging from the white screen. It all feels like a lifetime ago.

Rarely do I have qualms with public restrooms but I could feel my stomach churning the closer we approached this one. There was no visible supply closet on the outside of the restroom and I was somewhat skeptical that there wouldn’t be one inside but we’d come this far and I was getting real sick of the acid rain. The inside of the bathroom was poorly illuminated; the few lights that were there were faintly lit. Mallory was clutching at my jacket tightly, and I was sweating bullets. We stayed mostly quiet with the only audible sound being our breathing growing steadily heavier. The stalls were all open. Judas wasn’t inside any of them. The only thing that stood out was an odd symbol on the mirror in one of the stalls. It was a circle with what looked like three eyes and zodiac signs around the rim of the circle. I wanted to write it off as graffiti, but it seemed way too complex for that. As we were about to give up, we looked in an open spot where the last stall should be and to our surprise, the sign on the wall said maintenance room. We reluctantly entered.

If this was a maintenance room, then color me surprised. The only thing we could see was a ladder leading downwards through a hole. “Maybe this is our ticket out of here,” said Mallory. “Yeah maybe,” I said sullenly. We went down the ladder, the climb down was interminable, it felt like we were descending into hell. When we made it to the bottom, there was a tunnel. And at the end of it there was another ladder. There were lights in the tunnel too, they were blinding and felt as if the light had pierced my retinas. The ladder was apparent due to the black glossy shine. If it weren’t for that we’d assume the tunnel was a dead end. The walk toward the other ladder was arduous. We were both tired and felt the tension in our bodies acutely. It felt as if we’d never make it to the end of this ordeal but we did. We made it to the ladder and climbed, and climbed and climbed until out fingers had blisters and when we made it to the top we saw the night sky and the still dripping rainwater.

We were on the ledge of the white screen. We saw Devland’s corpse and two other figures. Judas was one of them, as for the other… “Judas! Thank God you’re alright! What the hell are you doing up here?” I said. He didn’t answer. His back was turned to me. His body looked as if it were gradually floating up. I could slightly see something above his neck. Oh no. Without hesitation, I Rushed toward Judas. The other figure steps out from behind Judas. I stop dead in my tracks, paralyzed by fear. The figure is revealed to be a man in a trench coat with that weird symbol I saw in the bathroom on the lapel of his coat. “Beautiful isn’t it?” he says. I stay silent. “The rain boy, the rain. It’s rare that this happens but when it does I try to preserve it as long as possible.” He says. “Not much of a talker huh? Ah, that’s right, I didn’t introduce myself. Call me Seth.” He extends his hand. “C’mon it’s proper to shake hands.” I stare at him and say “Why is my friend about to hang himself?” “Of course, I feel you are entitled to know. He’s about to be a proud member of the Zure Regen. Your other friend over there is already a member.” he said. “So you killed him?” I said. “A bit presumptuous don’t you think? He was the one who demanded it, and I merely wish to prolong this wonderful rain. Don’t you know that it won’t last unless someone ‘chooses’ death on the night of the rain? That Devland fellow must’ve hated himself. I had to use the restroom and heard his plight of how stupid he was, and how someone named Mallory would hate him. He even proclaimed how much he wanted to sleep, and I brought him a blanket. A blanket that would last for an eternal slumber. I mean you no harm Mr.…, what was it?” “Tristram,” I said. Judas was slowly tying the rope to his neck. “Tristram do you wish to stop my celebration of the rain?” said Seth. I stayed silent. “So be it. This may not prolong the rain but I won’t allow you to stop it,” said Seth. He drew a knife. “Judas,” he said and clicked his tongue in an unusual fashion. Judas put down the rope and faced us. His eyes were rolled upward and he shuffled toward us in an almost zombie-like fashion. He stopped next to Seth. “Tristram I’m sorry but this is how it must be,” said Seth. He handed the knife to Judas and clicked his tongue once more.

Judas was shuffling toward me. I tried calling out to him but my words fell on deaf ears. I backed up but I was slowly losing space to stand on. Mallory was paralyzed by fear. She couldn’t bring herself to move and stared at the zombie-like Judas, like a deer in the headlights. Seth laughed as Judas swung the knife wildly. I stumbled and Judas had me pinned to the floor. His expression was blank; all signs of his humanity had been lost. He held the knife with both hands trying to stab me in the heart. I grabbed his hands pushing away with all my might until Mallory screamed and rushed toward Judas. She kicked his head and he fell limp with knife in hand. His eyelids shut. I grabbed the knife from his open hand. With Seth still laughing I tackled him and he lost his balance. I grasped onto my final chance and with all my strength I kicked the bastard off the ledge. He plummeted and screamed to his death. I breathed a sigh of relief as that monster was finally gone from this world. Mallory called out to Judas and the color was slowly restored to his face. His once white eyeballs have regained their normal hue. “Let me sleep, Mallory.” Judas passed out. The violent rain stopped and I could faintly see the sun rising. Don’t worry Judas, I won’t tell mom about this.