The Ecstasian Phantom
Prelude- a musical section or movement introducing the main theme
Downtown in the city of Eden lies the pulsing and throbbing heart of the city.
The Orpheum Opera House, once the towering stained-glass glory of Eden, was the epitome of the city's patronage to the arts. Like a massive cathedral spiraling towards the heavens, its medieval beauty once captivated the hearts of the city's patrons. Yet the ever-changing taste of the arts began to shift, and the Orpheum's marbled walls slowly crumbled, strangled by ivy nooses as patrons turned their backs on the classic arts.
Years later, a group of wealthy university students unearthed the Orpheum from its ruins, transforming the forgotten glory into Ecstasia, Eden's innovative hotspot for rising musical talent. Ecstasia quickly made its mark in the music industry, showcasing famous as well as local bands.
I am perched high above the fumes of the throbbing crowd, sitting privately in the opera box directly above the stage. The crowd screams for "Her Highness," their chants pulsing as one. This is the blood of Ecstasia.
The Queen is absent tonight. Her guitarist takes the throne under the spotlight by the microphone, flaunting a swaggering charisma that could rival even the Queen's.
The electrifying flicker of the strobe lights captures movements like the jagged flow of an antique movie reel. The gleaming guitar howls and whines in his hands as if he were taming an electric wolf. His voice trickles down my spine, lingering like the scent of a rose – the beautiful prick of a thorn.
This guy on stage nailed me to the floor.
That emotion I felt when I first saw him, you could call it by any other name. It wasn't so simple as Love or Hate. If I had to pick any four-letter word, it would have been Envy.
She leaves the house with a jacket barely warm enough for April. The dim streetlights guide her way down the sidewalks as wispy shadows accompany her in the night. Tonight, she does not let the eerily lit gardens or the jovial banter between the neighborhood dogs distract her. The cherry blossoms rest atop twisted branches like sugar-spun airy clouds; the pale pink petals glow jarringly orange under the lights. The gentle cascades of petals are spring's equivalent to winter's silent snowfalls.
He is already waiting when she arrives, a tall lithe figure amidst the plastic and metallic jungle of monkey bars and slides. She can hear the acoustic guitar purring softly in his arms, him humming a tune she does not recognize. The playground tanbark crunches and shifts under her shoes as she walks towards him carefully, so that she does not disrupt his song.
She sits patiently beside him on the edge, feet dangling in the air. She wonders how many little children dreamt of flying on those monkey bars, only to fall flat with a mouth full of tanbark. She closes her eyes, letting the music resonate in the night.
Smoky gray eyes look down at her as the final chords evanesce. "What did you think, Rory?"
She opens one eye, grinning. "Cute, Rhys. Never would have pegged you to write such delicate stuff."
He shrugs, replying lazily, "I've never tried writing a rock ballad. Frankly, it' not my style, but you could probably sing it."
She does not respond, but merely gazes up at the night, the three-quarter-moon casting a spotlight on her face. She will never let him know how dangerously she doubts her ability to sing.
"How was the Live?" she asks finally. There was always that moment a split-second after she opened her mouth when she doubted her decision to speak – this is another one of those moments. She wants the answer and yet she dreads the possibility of having her fears confirmed.
He eyes her curiously, as if carefully gauging her present mood. "It went well," he says finally. "They all missed you, of course. They wouldn't stop screaming for Rory until we finally blasted right over their yelling."
"Aww... how sweet." She tries to keep her tone light, yet it still comes out sounding forced. "And how was your debut as the singer?"
He knows her too well. He knows she is desperate for the answer, yet she is afraid to know the truth. "Rory," he looks at her seriously. "You'll always be our vocalist. Her Highness' is nothing without you. The day you leave us is the day we disband."
"I know, Rhys," she says exasperatedly, though slightly reassured by his words. "Just be honest with me, okay?"
He hesitates a moment before speaking. "It was... liberating. There's a very different feel of the crowd when you're the one singing, as opposed to when you're the one playing." He smiles wryly. "At least they didn't boo me off the stage, so I must have been decent."
She exhales an unladylike snort. "Spare me the modesty. You have an amazing voice, so there was no way they would have booed you off the stage." It is the truth, and yet the words leave a bitter, metallic taste in her mouth. Is it possible to be so jealous of someone so close to you?
"I stopped by Ecstasia a few days ago," she says, carefully diverting focus away from the sensitive subject. "I couldn't bear the thought of my parents throwing out those clothes I made. They're all there – the aluminum foil skirt, the white mini-dress – they're all in a wooden chest I've hidden in one of the old dressing rooms."
"That's good," he says, nodding. "At least you can still wear those when you perform. Especially the aluminum skirt. You were like a mirror, reflecting all the strobe lights. People couldn't even look at you directly"
She smiles at the memory – that was when she had still been reckless and confident, prowling across the stage like a territorial lioness. They both have changed a great deal in a year, her and Rhys. His cutting arrogance has lost its jagged edge, whereas her confidence seems to have whittled away altogether.
It is almost ten in the evening. The police usually began their patrol around the neighborhood at this hour, when children are forbidden to be on the streets by themselves.
He carefully zips his guitar into its black coffin-like case before leaping off of the ledge. She is already waiting at the bottom, and she watches him leap from the edge. Others fall on their faces, but she knows he will land on his feet. A star never falls, only smoldering meteors, solar disappointments. Like her.
They walk side by side in mutual silence, the streetlights casting gangly phantoms that stalk their movements. They do not hold hands like they used to. Their need for each other had been a bad habit, a crutch. Now all she feels is a consuming emptiness that had been left behind.
There are so many things she wants to tell him, so many threads of confessions and declarations. But she cannot tie him down any longer. He is caught in her web, and she has trapped him from realizing his full potential. A wavering vocalist is unworthy of singing for the most talented guitarist the world has seen in years.
The darkness in her mind envelopes her again. She is exhausted by the constant battle in her mind, and she crumples to the ground. She imagines scars etched in her cheeks, river beds eroded by the tears of her ceaseless breakdowns. He kneels down worriedly beside her and she can hear him speak but his words are lost.
She can see all her faults laid out before her, like a psychic's tarot cards prophesizing her fate. Even now, after being rejected by her bitter selfishness, he tries to steady her. She is so frustratingly dependent on him that she cannot even swallow the thought of letting him go.
They stop at the corner of the street where they split off in their separate directions. Like a fork in the road, separating lives into two different paths. The concern in his face is still apparent as he stops to look down at her face. Tentatively, he puts his arms around her shoulders, pressing her face against his chest.
Guilt sears through her mind as she returns the gesture. She does not deserve this kindness. The realization that this embrace could be the last crosses her mind. She closes her eyes and inhales, her heart set on the smell of his scent, the sound of his metronome heart, and the reassuring warmth of his body. She commits every detail to memory.
"Take care of yourself, okay?" he says quietly. She wrests out of his grip to look at his face. She cannot believe she would ever bring herself to hurt him like this. She cannot bear to let him go.
"Don't leave me behind, Rhys."
Those were her last words to him before she died.
A/N: Hello! This is Sophelia. April 19 is such an ominous day, the anniversary of the Waco siege and the Oklahoma City bombing. I also heard it was Hitler's birthday, but it turns out that was April 20. Strangely enough, April 19 appears to also be a common birthdate, apparent from all the balloons I saw in the hallways at school today.
Either way, this story was purposely posted on April 19. April 19 is Charlotte (the first person POV)'s birthdate and, ironically, Rory's deathdate.
This story will be very music-oriented. Preludes are typically short pieces that introduce a major work. Hopefully, this prelude is provoking enough to get some reviews.