Lord What Fools
March 23rd, 2016
Because when a reader wanders into a conversation right in the middle it takes some time to catch up. Meanwhile, a Creature hunted.
“’Most radiant Pyramus, most lily-white of hue...’”
The freshman theater major raised his voice. “’Of colour like the red rose on triumphant brier…’”
“Not louder, idiot, higher. Much higher.”
“’Most brisky juvenal and eke most lovely Jew…’ Isn’t that offensive, saying Jew like that?”
“God. Damn it!” Rory Sullivan yanked at his burgeoning goatee, losing precious hairs between his fingertips. He’d never met a more lackluster company of performers in his life. That’s what he’d tell their director (he could have directed if he wanted to, but playing Puck was more or less the same thing in Rory’s mind). Rory Sullivan was an asshole. Unfortunately, this made him a fantastic actor. “Respect the text, young man!”
The Rude Mechanicals rehearsed Midsummer Night’s Dream in a wooded dell nestled in that beloved shit hole known as Baltimore City. The scene took place at night in the woods; Rory insisted they experience the play as such. Shakespeare himself would’ve laughed in Rory’s stupid face, but hubris is designed for idiots like Rory. He often referenced a meeting with Luis Guzman. This gave him the authority to make decisions for his fellow actors, despite the meeting taking place over a urinal partition and Guzman remembering Rory only as the “glory hole kid.”
Along with the semblance of method acting with mosquitoes, Rory insisted the freshmen bring their own marijuana and they share with him. He was playing Puck, after all, and he was certain that fairies lived in a constant pot fugue. This logic nearly got him expelled during the first table read. Rory took a toke off the squat glass pipe. It was meant to resemble a toad but the glassblower had taken a sharp left turn and created a lovely turquoise turd.
They lit the dell with borrowed Christmas decorations from the props department. Rory had insisted on candles, but you know. Wind. Rory blamed the freshmen. He implied that if they were better actors, they wouldn’t need the lights. After a lecture from the electric technicians he accepted string lights as an alternative after a lot of shouting and a few tears. He still maintained that Guzman wouldn’t have needed lights.
The extension cords stretched sixty-eight feet back to the dining hall. It took most of the afternoon to set up. None of the freshmen had the confidence to mention that they could’ve rehearsed perfectly well during said afternoon. They did mention, to console Rory in the Emergency Room later, that it was beautiful. Strings of twinkling bulbs between the barren coniferous trees gave a sense of civilization losing against the elements. Even if it was forty degrees out. Who rehearsed outside in March? Rory Sullivan’s teeth chattered just as much. He had the gall to hide his discomfort.
“This is the bard, gentlemen.” Rory stood from his tree stump like the Lorax. The freshmen looked up from their scripts. “Shakespeare invented the meta art form.” This is patently false. The Greek chorus directly addressed the audience. Rory knew this and ignored it. “How dare you… question him? The man broke the illusion forced on him, the charade of men playing women. His men played women playing men playing women men playing women!” It never went quite that far. “He defied convention. You ant. You can’t even imagine a woman’s voice in your ear…” Rory could imagine, but only from theory. He was a resilient virgin. “And you dare to present the duality of a man’s lady’s tender words?” Rory had a habit of pausing when he spoke. It came off as dramatic. Actually, he was composing the next bit in his head. “You dare, mongrel?” he pleaded.
“I only mean, you know, couldn’t we talk to the director about cutting the Jew bit. It’s a Catholic College, could give people the wrong impression.”
“Fuck yourself, sir!” Rory roared. “Peter Quince, next line!”
While our players suffer through the intolerable pretension, know two things. First: there is a magic in this world, our world, and the one that rungs alongside and beneath. Second: that magic doesn’t play by our rules. Rory himself was unknowingly an accomplished warlock. He had the proper heritage and psychological disorder to call upon the elements of fury and power. Not in any way that helped him with girls. Still quite impressive.
As the scene came towards his entrance, Rory entered Puck’s skin. He found the affable wickedness of Robin Goodfellow. He happened to be standing in a puddle. Less than a sixteenth of an inch of standing water amongst the grass. That water sprung from a spring. The spring felt Puck fall into Rory. The heartbeat of the earth pounded in that vein, a light pulse that none of the actors’ eyes could hear, ears had seen, hands able to taste, tongues conceiver, nor hearts report that pulse.
The things that go bump in the night, one of them anyway, smelt that pulse plenty well. The wind blew an ill-wind. A fart, Peter Quince thought. Wrongly.
Rory bounded onto their improvised stage, flourished his half cape. He made it himself. It was brown curtain tied round his neck with red vines painted down the sides. It looked like nothing so much as a foreskin pulled tight against the shaft. Rory’s bowl cut only helped this impression. He flourished the cape again.
The freshmen glanced at each other. This was the bit where he chased them around in circles until they all ran off into the woods terrified. They’d set the blocking that morning. They dreaded it. Then they saw amber eyes behind Rory Sullivan’s back. Glowing amber eyes and a long stream of drool.
Rory mistook terror for the best acting he’d seen from the freshmen yet. His pride swelled, but not in the nice way. Were they upstaging him?
“’I’ll follow you, I’ll lead you about a round!’” He charged the gawking freshmen. They didn’t move. They were cerebrally petrified. A challenge, Rory thought, that’s how you want to play it? I’ll make you run. “’Through bog, through bush, through brake, through brier: Sometime a horse I’ll be, sometime a hound.” Rory pranced, twirling his foreskin, er, cape. He hated to admit it but the challenge quite worked. Gave him an opportunity to cast a spell on the players. Most likely his idea in any case, or a token of his inspiration to their young ears. He’d always imagined Puck as more of a wizard anyway.
That spring underfoot pulsed stronger, louder, glowing. “A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire;” and he leapt straight intothe air, howling the words. His identity collapsed into Puck and filled the sprite. The freshmen stared at the amber eyes, the figure in the darkness. “And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and burn, like horse, hound, hog bear, fire, at every turn!”
Rory turned his back to the freshmen. He released them from his hex that they might run screaming to the woods.
He faced the creature.
Blond, pale, and drooling. Dressed in a one piece, navy blue plumber’s uniform. The nametag read Frank. A handsome and unmistakably familiar face. You’d know it from the silver screen if you saw him. Fresh stitches across his brow and holes in his temples where two bolts recently fell out. A greenish tinge to his skin that only heightened the Creature’s look of hunger.
Rory yelped once. He yelped again and breathed hard, short breaths. “Huh-huh-huh-huh.” The Creature watched him. A fly landed on his eyeball. The Creature punched Rory in the mouth. Not a smart place to land a punch, usually breaks the assailant’s hand. The Creature didn’t wince. Rory’s jaw cracked open on both sides. Before he could fall, the Creature swung at Rory’s temple. Like a cartoon, Rory’s eyeball popped out of his head, dangling by red human meat threads. He stumbled backwards. The Creature turned sideways and kicked Rory in the chest, sent him spiraling across the dell. The eyeball bounced on its meat threads.
You know those paddles with a rubber ball on a string? That’s what Rory’s eyeball did.
The Creature dropped to the ground. More accurately, from the Creature’s perspective, he dove on the pulsing well. He lapped up the glowing mud. He gobbled down handfuls. The green hue faded from his cheeks. His tongue lolled in his mouth. He grinned at the freshmen. They waved their hands hello.
“Frank?” Peter Quinn said, pointing at the nametag on the Creature’s chest.
The Creature looked down at the tag. He shrugged. When he glanced back at the earth, the glow was gone. He growled at the freshmen. They stepped back. The Creature snapped and heaved a handful of earth at Rory Sullivan. Rory couldn’t yelp again. His jaw hung slack and he saw both sky and ground. Because his eye hung out of his head, you see. He had never felt such pain in all his twenty years. The Creature howled to the moon. He dashed into the wood and out towards the city. He still hungered for the Vitae.
Peter Quince raised his hand. When no professor called on him, he asked the only rational question.
“Did Heath Ledger’s corpse just knock Rory’s lights out, eat mud, and run away?”
Rory Sullivan remembered how to scream.