“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. 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 slip into this maiden’s chamber so quietly?
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 was something he hadn’t felt for a very long time. He had sworn…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…that love was something 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 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 and utterly illogical mix of mythological sea monster and bulldog, but it was the best he could think of 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. 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 two so contradictory emotions: Clearly she was madly, desperately in love with this Frank, which…Edward found to his horror…cut him to the quick. Yet as it became all too obvious that this was not merely a fight, but a fight to the death, her face flickered 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.
Frank slipped on the ice, loosening his grip on Martin’s neck.
Martin’s terrified eyes snapped open.
Karen pushed between them, holding a bleeding hand up to shelter Martin.
Frank couldn’t stop the lethal-looking punch he’d aimed at Martin.
Karen took the punch, first in her bleeding hand, then her lovely face, which immediately knocked her unconscious.
Then Martin stabbed Frank in the neck with what Edward now realized wasn’t ice, but rather a shard of glass.
Karen’s hand had spouted blood as she fell limp into the back corner of her chamber. It had been a blow Edward was all too sure no maiden could survive. “But thy eternal summer shall not fade!”
Frank fell much closer to the door, the stab to his jugular all too obviously fatal. But he turned toward her with an agony that seemed greater than his own dying. “Karen, how could I?”
Karen lay still, blood pulsing out of her hand.
Frank was bleeding at a even more fearsome rate. His eyes glittered with agony as he beheld Karen, then dimmed with death till they, like the thing buried in his jugular, appeared to be made of glass.
Martin only had eyes for Frank, looking from him to his own blood-stained hands.
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 felt a new, smoke-like wisp at his side, who shared his reaction to Jennifer. But Frank, new to all this, looked surprised when recoiling from Jennifer resulted in his flowing out of the building through a vent.
Edward looked back at Karen and promptly forgot about all others. She wasn’t going anywhere. And neither was Edward.