“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate…”
Edward, most thoroughly enraptured, beheld the lovely maiden slumbering all but naked. She was in one of those wretched metal boxes with which they had utterly destroyed any lingering vestige of his grand old theatre from so very long ago. Edward pondered, not for the first time in the last one hundred and fifty odd years, the marked advantages of being dead. How else could he have hoped to gain entrance to this maiden’s chamber so quickly?
Could this be love? A feeling he hadn’t felt since…
The darkness closed on Edward again, as familiar as a moth-eaten old cloak. Love wasn’t something he had felt for a very long time. When he’d first found himself floating about in the high rafters…nothing more than smoke…looking down at the twisted, broken mess that used to be his magnificent body…love was something he had solemnly sworn he would never feel again.
Stage Right! A step upon the stair! Who would disturb this fair maiden’s slumber at such an hour? Lo… A wisp of a man, with a body almost as insubstantial as Edward’s. Foppish really. The sort who, in Edward’s day, would have donned all manner of absurd apparel in an attempt to disguise his own lack of substance. Slinking in the shadows, like that horrid creature Irwin, the insufferable servant. Edward loathed Irwin, and Edward also loathed this man, on sight. His name was… Edward had to struggle to remember from seeing him here with that equally horrid woman…Jennifer. His name was Martin.
Martin darted to a metal door and clanged it, risking disturbing yon fair maiden’s repose for no good reason. The huge padlock should have made it all too obvious to even the dullest wit that he wasn’t going to get in. Next, Martin spotted the fair maiden’s partially open box of a chamber. Certainly not, thought Edward, pulling what little there was left of himself together. He flowed into the part of the maiden’s door that was open, twisting himself into the most terrifyingly visible shape he could muster. It turned out to be a rather absurdly inelegant/illogical mix of mythological sea monster and bulldog, but it was the best he could think up on short notice. Edward could tell by Martin’s quick halt and widening eyes that he could at least see the dead; not everyone could.
“Martin!” Stage Right again. The voice of a big man, confirmed by the clatter as he ran up the stairs.
“Martin?” That horrid Jennifer, somewhere off in the distance.
And finally, just as a thoroughly terrified Martin jumped right through Edward-The-Sea-Monster-Bulldog into the fair maiden’s chamber, the fair maiden stirred and asked softy, “Frank?”
The big man…Frank?…dove through Edward, too, wrapping huge hands around Martin’s neck. Martin struggled and even made a pathetic attempt to throw a punch, but the outcome would have been obvious to anyone. Dramatically speaking, it was a fight scene no dramatist would have choreographed…far too boring. But Edward found he wasn’t bored at all. Why?
The fair maiden. Her name? Karen. That Edward had no trouble remembering. He’d committed her name to memory the first day she walked into the old theatre, and that rodent Irwin had so odiously attempted to win her affections. Karen… The sweetest flower of all the field. Edward watched her lovely face, thinking she should have been on the stage for her ability to show so clearly two so contradictory emotions: Clearly she was madly, desperately in love with this Frank, which Edward found to his horror really bothered him. Yet as it became clearer and clearer that this was not merely a fight, but a fight to the death, her face flashed between love and horror as she looked at Frank.
Martin was losing consciousness. He wouldn’t last long. But…what was that on the floor behind Frank’s foot? It looked like a sliver of ice but with something dark on it that looked like dry blood.
Then it happened, all so fast it was hard to keep up. Frank slipped on the ice, bringing both himself and Martin down. Martin scrambled free and moved with the desperation only possible when one knows one is about to die. All three of them got as upright as possible in that confined space. Frank went to hit Martin with a blow so powerful Edward suspected it could be fatal. Karen jumped in his way and held up an already bloody hand. Frank’s punch hit Karen’s hand, which then hit Karen’s face so hard Edward was sure no maiden could survive it. Martin stabbed Frank in the neck with what Edward now realized wasn’t ice, but rather a shard of glass.
Karen’s hand spouted blood as she fell to the floor. Edward was consumed by a horror he hadn’t thought he’d ever feel again. “But thy eternal summer shall not fade!”
Frank fell beside her, obviously dying from a direct stab to his jugular, but turning toward her with an agony that seemed greater than his own dying. “Karen, how could I?”
But Karen was totally still. Lifeless. Blood pulsing out of her hand. Again pain shivered through Edward at the sight of her. “Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade!”
Frank was bleeding more, faster. His eyes glittered with agony as he looked at Karen, then dimmed with death till they, like the thing buried in his jugular, appeared to be made of glass.
Martin’s eyes, looking from his own blood-stained hand to Frank, widened even more than they had when Edward had tried to frighten him away.
Jennifer, previously unnoticed just outside the chamber, was actually…smiling. She put her hand firmly, possessively, on Martin’s shoulder. “So…no one except me will ever know…if you’re ready to get all my precious stuff out of its stupid storage unit tonight and take it…and me…all back to your apartment where we belong.”
Edward was aware of another, separate smoke-like wisp at his side, who joined him in shuddering and recoiling from the horror that was the still triumphantly smiling Jennifer. Frank. Then Frank flowed out through a vent and was gone, leaving Edward, who was still staring in horror at Jennifer, to once again ponder the advantages of being dead.
Edward looked back at Karen and promptly forgot about all others. Edward wasn’t going anywhere.