Torn faded curtains hang in the wings, ghosts from a time past. Rows of tattered dusty seats wait in the dark, facing a vacant stage arched by an ornate golden proscenium. The fly gallery high above is stripped of the scenery that once transformed the performance area below.
The orchestra pit is silent. Dressing rooms with broken mirrors stand empty. Old wires protrude from the walls and dangle like snakes from the old overhead lighting electrics. A faded montage of scrawls and scribbles left by decades of actors, stage workers, musicians and others, embed the old façades of the stage.
Birds roosting in the wall sconces that once dimly lit the house stir as the morning light seeps through holes in the roof and the broken windowpanes once covered by elegant draperies.
This theatre that entertained the masses for over a hundred years has reached its end. No longer will people laugh at, cry for, and cheer the talented performers and artists for their work. All that remains is the sound of memories.
The click of doors being unlocked echoes through the theatre. Daylight floods the barren lobby where audience members mingled during the intermissions.
Two women lead a crew of photographers carrying lights, tripods and cameras into the auditorium.
The woman with ginger hair places a large folder containing sketches, photos, and notes on the stage’s apron. She has been here before.
“Okay, everyone, listen up.” Her soft low voice echoes off the walls, reminding everyone that they stand on hallowed ground. “Unfortunately, tomorrow they demolish this grand old lady, so today is the last chance to photograph and document as much as possible. My assistant will hand out the updated shot lists. Don’t miss anything and please feel free to add whatever else you see of interest. Document and tag the adds. Let’s get to it.”
The two women sit together, soaking in the faded beauty of a time past. “This is not what I expected,” said the assistant. “Not even close. This theatre is awesome, almost magical.”
The ginger-haired woman leans her head on her friend’s shoulder. “Only memories remain, and after tomorrow, even they will be gone.”
“I think the memories remain with the people who attended the shows. The memories don’t stay here.”
“Oh, they are here, waiting for the people to return. When you enter an unfamiliar theatre, there are no memories for you. But when returning, you remember that first time, and the time after that. Yes, they remain here. So sad that they have to perish.”
“Yeah, well… perhaps we should get to work before the ghosts get us.”
She is right. The memories are still here. Embedded in my walls, floor, ceiling, paint, and gilded arches; the makeup that stains the dressers and floors backstage; the worn scuffs of the wooden stairways leading to loft and lighting booth. The balconies and boxes; the catwalks above the ceiling of the house. Yes, they are here, waiting to be revived like an old play. All a part of me. I am the Strand Theatre, once the grandest in the city. But now, my time is ending. All efforts to save me and the memories I hold have failed.
The photographers have finished documenting me. For what, I don’t know. They gather their equipment and quickly depart, locking the doors behind them, leaving my lobby dark once again.
The birds return to their nests, not knowing they will lose their home tomorrow.
Something isn’t right. I sense something. The presence of someone. Yes, in the front row of my second tier. A young woman is making her way down to my stage. I don’t know how she entered. Maybe with the photo crew. No, I would have felt her. There is no memory of her here.
She stands down centre on my stage and removes her cloak, revealing a floor length black dress. She neatly folds the cloak and places it on the apron next to a violin case which she opens, removing the instrument.
A shaft of late afternoon sunlight breaks through a missing windowpane, bathing the woman in a soft amber glow. In the silence, she faces the dark house holding her bow and violin at her side.
She takes and holds position. Closes her eyes and begins to play.
Her bow glides across the strings, creating a flowing spiritual melody reaching every corner of my bones, beckoning to all who reside here. The woman’s music draws me and all the memories toward her.
The violin glows as it embraces the forgotten spirits of the past that have remained here until the very first memory from one hundred and twelve years ago joins us. We are all together now.
The music ends with a last sweet stroke of the bow, and the tawny sunlight turns to grey. The woman takes a deep curtsy before tenderly placing the violin back into its case. She slips on her cloak and exits the theatre carrying the violin of memories.
Anna Willow is a twenty-year-old Franco-American graduate student, living in Venice Beach, California. She is a violinist, standup comedienne, dog walker and roller-skater. Anna is bilingual, French and English, but struggles with English creative writing. Hence, she is writing Flash Fiction to improve her skills.