“You are, after all, fictional”

Breaking character once again to post a video of a short play I co-wrote a year ago. The event was Blitz Smackdown, where plays are written overnight and performed that evening. A full account is here.

The play is a comic choose your own adventure mystery, and the reason I’m posting it now is that an expanded version (one that also replaces the detecting duo in the original with characters that are less familiar and less trademarked) will be produced by Mercury Players Theater, opening September 9 in Madison, Wisconsin. Auditions are June 27 and June 29.

The video was recorded by my dad using his photo camera while seated in the audience, which is why it has such a “spontaneous” feel.

Tes and I chat about meeting Morgane

Consider this reminiscence a follow-up to Arthur’s last post, in which he introduced my old roommate Tes and our friend Morgane.

9:10 PM me: I was looking through the journal I kept at that time.
short4tesla:I remember your journal!
9:11 PM me: My first impression of you is rather amusing now.
short4tesla: *grin* You probably thought I came on pretty strong
9:12 PM me: That’s a nice way of putting it.
short4tesla: I didn’t know if you were scared of me or if you were just quiet.
9:13 PM me: It may have been a little of both at first.
short4tesla: Ha!
me: I suppose things really got interesting with the trip to Innsmouth.
9:14 PM short4tesla: FIRST trip
me: Of course. You were looking for a good place to climb.
9:15 PM short4tesla: And found the cave with the weird writing on the wall. When you said “I’ve seen this before” it was like something out of a movie.
9:16 PM me: Yes. Sort of like your idea to wait around past dark to see if anyone would come back.
9:17 PM short4tesla: Hey, it’s not every day you make it to Innsmouth when there’s going to be a full moon. That’s what you thought one of the drawings meant.
9:18 PM me: I couldn’t argue with your logic then and I can’t now. Somehow we were able to occupy our time in Innsmouth until nightfall.
9:19 PM short4tesla: We were lucky in a lot of ways that night.
me: True. And so was Morgane.
9:20 PM short4tesla: Right. We saw those guys in robes with the weird hopping walk dragging her into the cave.
9:21 PM me: And you leapt from our hiding place and demanded that they let her go, since it was obvious they would take demands from 5-foot tall female college student they’d never seen before.
9:22 PM short4tesla: 5 foot 1 and I totally knew what I was doing.
me: Apparently Morgane knew what she was doing too, since she was able to take out one of the people holding her.
9:23 PM short4tesla: And once they saw that we weren’t afraid to swing heavy sticks at their heads, they took off. Wait – you got one of them with a crotch shot, didn’t you?
9:24 PM me: It took a few swings to get my aim right. Anyway, they didn’t put up much of a fight.
9:25 PM short4tesla: So, we ask Morgane if she’s all right and she’s all panicked and says she needs to get to the beach for her skin.
9:26 PM me: Later, of course, we learned what she meant, but it was quite baffling at the time.
9:27 PM short4tesla: So we follow her to the beach and she finds her seal hide or whatever, and then we see something coming from the water.
9:28 PM me: Two or three somethings. For months afterward I wished the moon hadn’t been so bright. I still don’t like thinking about them.
short4tesla: Let’s just use Morgane’s phrase: froggy folk.
9:29 PM me: Associating them with something mundane helps. But even though I was repulsed and scared I was also fascinated, maybe even jubilant.
They were proof that this obscure branch of folklore I was studying was astonishingly real.
9:31 PM short4tesla: That must be why you seemed so dazed when we were trying to tell you we needed to get the hell out of there.
9:32 PM me: Probably. But got the hell out of there we did.
short4tesla: And yet all three of us were crazy enough to go back.
9:33 PM me: Which is, of course, a story for another time.

Ella’s college buddies

Two Saturdays ago Ted Spindle had a party at his home to commemorate the spring equinox. Among the guests were me, Ingrid, and Ella, and Ella brought her college roommate Tesla. Tes had about the same petite stature as Ella, with light brown hair, and appeared to constantly have an expression that made her look like she was contemplating something mischievous. Ella seemed downright jovial around her.

“Hello,” Tes said cheerily when Ella introduced us. “You’re the blogger Ella saved from an evil spirit, huh?” That was a common greeting during the party. “Oh, you’re the guy the bookstore owner saved after a frog cut off your head.” “Oh, you’re the guy Ingrid and the movie director saved from zombie cows.” I guess it was cool that people there read the blog, though.

Ella and Tes had a friend there they introduced me to, a lithe and elegant woman named Morgane. “Oh, sure, and you’re the fellow who likes to annoy vampires,” she said. She had an Irish accent. I asked how she knew Ella and Tes.

“It was when these girls were at Miskatonic,” she said. “I had a bit of a problem with those froggy folk you ran into at the cabin and they helped me.”

“OK,” I said, “Sort of a paranormal Charlie’s Angels, huh?” I said, striking a kung-fu pose. The three looked at each other in a way that suggested were silently trying to decide which one would try to get rid of me. “So you were a student there?” I asked Morgane

“Oh,” she said, “Well, student of humanity, let’s say.” Ella and Tes seemed amused by that.

“What, like, sociology?” I asked. All three laughed at that.

“You can probably tell him,” Tes said to Morgane

“Well, all right, then” said Morgane, “I’m a selkie.”

There was a pause, during which I failed to remember what a selkie is, assuming I ever knew.

“Is that, like, a part of Ireland?” I asked.

“No, it means I normally take the form of a seal.”

“A seal, really?”

“Oh come on,” said Ella, “Morgane’s hardly the most unusual character you’ve encountered.”

“Well, no, I just wouldn’t have thought a seal. Dolphin, maybe. But…” I turned my palms outward and struck the backs of my hands together. “Ohr ohr – that kind of seal?”

“And what’s wrong with a seal, then?” asked Morgane, a little annoyed.

“Nothing, nothing, I just…you don’t really have a seal…look.”

We got along better after that, once I unequivocally accepted Morgane’s catalog of qualities that made the seal a superior and majestic creature. I also avoided the temptation to make comparisons to Aquaman or to ask about Morgane’s ability to balance a ball on her nose. I wonder if the incident she mentioned is the same one Ella called an “adventure” the night of her unexpected visit. I hope Ella will share the story sometime.

Maestro does not appreciate my roguish charm

From last post:

We both jumped. It was a voice from my balcony. A commanding, resonant voice that I thought I recognized. I went to the balcony door and slid open the blind. Looking back at me was a cold, aristocratic figure. He was alone, so while our second meeting wouldn’t have the same danger as our first, his stern expression told me that it was going to be at least as nerve-wracking. Maestro Nosferatu.

I slid the door open a crack. “You’re looking for Ella?” I said. She had followed me to the door but was standing in a corner, where she couldn’t be seen from outside.

“My time on earth has been long so it is simple to overlook such an inane quip. Yet my patience is not infinite.”

“So why wait for me to…” I looked at the threshold, which Maestro had made no move to cross. “That’s an actual thing? You can’t come in here unless I invite you?”

“It is a taboo. Even those among us with little interest in tradition would not violate it.”

I opened the blind fully but slid the door only slightly further, so the opening was as wide as Maestro’s shoulders. “Be right back,” I said, and retrieved the two chairs from the dining table. I pushed one outside and put the other in front of Ella. For myself I pulled over a kitchen stool. Ella and I sat down, and then Maestro.

“Can I get you anything?” I asked Maestro. “Some wine?”

“I am familiar with the reference. I do not do requests, sir.” Maestro then spoke to me with a faster cadence then he had before, without losing any of his precision. “When we last spoke I advised you to stay on good terms with those who walk in the dark. Since then you placed one of us in a situation where she was manipulated by one human and injured by another. Perhaps you think showing defiance in spite of your limited powers gives you a sort of roguish charm.”

“I didn’t place Leticia in that situation. I’d like to know how she’s doing.”

“She is well. Nevertheless there are those, more prideful than I am, who see her injury as an affront to be avenged. Those following Miss Sherrinford tonight are among them.”

“So they’re with you?’ said Ella. She actually seemed relieved that she was being stalked by vampires and not by a Welsh goat-worshipping cult.

Maestro nodded. “I accept the veracity of Mr. Ormand’s account and do not believe you acted out of malice. I would regret your loss and have told your pursuers of this. They will not impede your return home.”

I decided to overlook the “your loss” crack but wanted to press Maestro on something else. “What about Pickman’s camera being stolen? Do you know about that?”

“It is possible that the thief performed a favor for you. There are some things that are best left unknown even to a highly disciplined human mind.” He looked at Ella again. “You know of what I speak.”

Maestro stood and so did Ella and I. “Until we meet again,” he said. He turned and I asked him to stop. He stopped but didn’t turn back around.

“This is the second time we’ve talked,” I said, “and I still don’t know your name.”

“The name you applied to me in your account of your first meeting.”

“What, ‘Maestro Nosferatu’?”

“That will suffice. Farewell.” And he was gone.

Problems

Something disquieting happened to Pike shortly after he posted his comment about Pickman’s footage: someone broke into Pike’s home and stole the camera. And nothing else. And the folder on Pike’s computer containing the files he transferred from the camera was gone too. There was some transferred footage that was either undiscovered or left alone, however, which he showed to Ella and me.

There were a few woodland shots of a beast similar to the one we had encountered. Others showed buildings in the background that looked like those at the corporate campus we investigated a year and a half ago. There was movement in the foreground but there wasn’t enough light for me to tell what it was. Another shot appeared to be looking out a window from the inside and the screen just showed blackness within the frame of the window, as if the camera wasn’t registering whatever was out there.

The last shot showed part of a town street at night. The camera was perpendicular to the street and close to the back corner of a building, as if Pickman were trying to avoid being spotted. Moving down the street was what I initially thought was a line of people in frog or fish costumes doing some sort of weird dance. Then I saw that they weren’t dancing, but hopping. A couple of the figures had what looked like tall white tiaras on their heads. Even though we didn’t see much of the street it seemed familiar, as did the weird figures. Pike thinks it may have been the main street at that strange town we visited in our trip up north.

A few nights after that, Ella stopped by my apartment unexpectedly. I’ve seen her in a lot of different situations and she’s always had a measured sort of attitude, even when she’s been fearful, so when she paced around my living room looking pale and anxious I was pretty alarmed. I asked if she was all right.

“I’ve been a little…pressed lately,” she said. “This thing with Pike getting robbed…” she stood against the wall next to one of the windows and moved the blind slightly to look outside. “You probably hadn’t heard of those entities I’m studying before I told you about them.”

“What,” I said, “the goat thing and those other guys?” Ella grimaced. “No, I hadn’t,” I said, before she had a chance to chastise me.

“Well, people besides folklorists do know about them,” she said. “Tes and I found that out in college. We were working on a project that we thought was historical research but ended up being…” She uttered a sardonic chuckle. “An adventure, I guess. Us versus a whole organization.”

“An organization? Like a secret society?”

“Sure. I thought we took care of them.”

“You and Tes took out an entire society?”

“Not alone. I only mentioned that because I didn’t think I needed to take any special precautions anymore. But then the Pickman footage was stolen. And tonight I’ve been followed.”

“What? Are they out there?”

“I don’t see them.”

“Well, do you want to call the police? Or Ingrid?”

“I guess I…”

“ELLA SHERRINFORD.”

We both jumped. It was a voice from my balcony. A commanding, resonant voice that I thought I recognized. I went to the balcony door and slid open the blind. Looking back at me was a cold, aristocratic figure. He was alone, so while our second meeting wouldn’t have the same danger as our first, his stern expression told me that it was going to be at least as nerve-wracking. Maestro Nosferatu.

Awkward

From last post:

Leticia stopped fighting and had the same blank stare she did when Pickman first showed up. Then, with a look of fury, she ran toward me.

Leticia grabbed Pickman and flung him. She raced to where he landed and threw him again. Ella, Ingrid, and Pike stagger-jogged over to me and we followed Leticia.

After a couple minutes we came across her at the edge of a gully, with her back to us. She was tossing aside the crossbow bolt previously lodged in her back. Her head turned slightly as she approached.

“I really wish you guys would stay back,” she said. “I got a little, ah, carried away.”

Ingrid borrowed Ella’s flashlight and shined it into the gully. “Whoa-ho!” she said.

“So he’s dead,” said Ella. She sounded almost irritated.

“Hey, um, Leticia, what happened with you back there?” I said.

“I don’t know,” she said. She still wasn’t looking at us.

“Was he controlling you?” asked Pike.

“Not exactly,” Leticia responded. “Out of nowhere I had this urge. No, it was way stronger than that. It was like I had to…”

I waited for her to finish but she didn’t. “Do you suppose Pickman did something when he took our memories?” I asked.

“Maybe,” she said. “I’ve got people I can ask.”

“Miriam might know,” said Ella.

Leticia turned around. She looked at Ella for a few moments. I thought would be a good occasion for Ella to apologize for shooting Leticia but she just looked back.

“I think,” said Leticia, “I should probably…keep my distance for a while. Until I know for sure what happened.”

“You’re fine now,” I said. “Getting rid of Pickman is probably all you needed to do.”

Leticia sighed. “Maybe. But still…I guess I need to work out whether it’s safe for me to be around, you know, regular folks.”

“That’s a good idea,” said Ella, without much trace of anything resembling sympathy. I looked at her with a little annoyance and she did the same with me.

“All right,” I said, “Well, um, don’t take too long.”

Leticia smiled. “I should probably clean up,” she said. She went in to the gully and hoisted Pickman over her shoulder. She leapt to the edge opposite us.

“Hey Ella,” she said. Ella raised an eyebrow. “Nice shot,” Leticia said. It was too dark to see Leticia’s expression from where I was standing and I couldn’t really read her tone. She sped away.

We went back to the scene of the fight, where we retrieved what gear we could find. Pike was willing to wait until daylight to see if he could find his knife, and was pretty excited about finding Pickman’s camera. I asked Ella why she was less than pleased about Pickman’s death.

“He must have had some astonishing information that we’ll never know,” she said. “But I didn’t think someone I shot with a crossbow would be in a mood to accept criticism.”

We did consult with Miriam the next day, who said that Pickman probably implanted the magical equivalent of a post-hypnotic suggestion in Leticia, one that required his concentration to work.

Come back soon, Vampire Fangirl.