Frozen flames caress the theater. They are crystals, in bright crimson hues, that infest the walls, floor, ceiling and stage. The audience is absent, and a negligible portion of the seats are overturned or broken in half. A single spotlight illuminates center stage. A small man is seated there, tickling the ivories of a baby grand piano. He plays a slow melody of arpeggio chords and staccato refrains. Some might consider it an "ugly sound", but the man's face is stony and his gaze is towards another plane. He has reached nirvana.

He is petite, standing just over a meter. His feet dangle from the bench. He is bald, and his scalp glistens under the spotlight like a New Hampshire lake under a setting summer sun. His skin is pale and translucent, with the slightest blues and reds of his blood vessels being semi-visible. He has a salt-and-pepper beard that extends to his navel. He wears a robe that was once white, but is now marked by grays, browns, yellows, reds. The robe has a hood that rests on the man's shoulders.

Around him, the stage is aglow with the fiery crystals. The curtains, maroon and enormous, rest on these crystals, and are torn at the edge. Several stone statues populate backstage. They are mostly cherubs, but an armless woman and a depiction of Christ break up the monotony. There are eight cherubs, six standing in a circle around two cherubs caught eternally in cunnilingus. The statue of Christ has scarlet paint running down the palms.

The man stops playing. He hops off the bench and walks backstage. Behind Christ is a column of crystal with a smooth, reflective surface. The man stands before his makeshift mirror. A silent moment struts by.

"Calling all interested parties! Tomorrow night, a musical spectacle will be held in the old Artaud Theater! Come one, come all!" The man shouts his spiel, but his voice has a dim, uninteresting quality to it, and the words are quickly replaced with silence. Nevertheless, he smiles and begins to walk away.

The spotlight goes out. He strides through the aisles with a confident spring in his step. Soon, he thinks, I will have a friend. This can't go wrong, he thinks.

With a smile firmly grasping his face, he steps into the crowded city street. Warm bodies, all towering over the man, swarm the street, and the loud buzzing of their chatter fills the man's head. He overhears sales pitches, phone conversations, declarations of love, profanity. It's all filtered swiftly through his mind; in one ear, out the other. Smells drift off the closest flesh and into his nose. Most are unpleasant, but the occasional olfactory strawberry passes him. Most of the passing people are dressed in dark colors. Black, gray, muddy brown, a few splashes of blue in the form of jeans.

He walks slowly. He has to, with so many people around. He feels like he's in a broom closet. He inches his way to stage left and observes the other attractions the city offers. This is largely restaurants with large glass facades, with the people inside fat and content. In one, though, a man with a red face is arguing with the cashier. Over what, our man does not know. He passes other stores. A computer shop, a sex shop, a pet shop, a print shop. Shopping has always tried the man's patience, but he is not here t-

A gasp, and flailing arms. He almost loses his balance; something hard hit his shin, and he twists on one foot. He looks up to find he has collided with a young woman. She wears a ten-gallon hat and a simple scarlet dress that cuts off just above her knees. One hand clutches her breast. The nails are painted a deep blue. She has tan skin and her hair is a sleek set of ebony. Her eyes are intense upon our man.

"Sorry, I'm in such a rush I didn't see you there." Her voice is barely audible, a whisper compared to the buzzing of the multitude. Her other hand is clutching a purse, which she now lifts and holds with both hands.

"It's alright, I should have been paying attention," says the man. They stare at each other as the crowd grinds around them like tectonic plates.

"Well, I should be going," she says, and begins to turn.

"Wait, uh, would you want to, maybe, uh, go to a show, tomorrow?" he stammers. She stops turning and half-smiles at him.

"Are you asking me out?"

"No, no, nothing like that. I'm a musician and I'm performing tomorrow night at the Artaud Theater. I'm out today trying to draw a crowd." He lies with confidence.

"Sure. When is it? And what's your name?"

"Midnight, Adam."

"Lily. Pleased to meet you."

They share another awkward silence.

"Well, you should get going, and I'll, I'll be here." He smiles. She smiles. They part ways. When she is out of sight, he pumps his fist in the air as he walks back to the theater.

He hums as he prepares. He sweeps the stage, clears the dust from the top of the piano, and replaces the broken seats in the audience. He polishes some of the jagged crystals that point to the ceiling. He gets mannequins from a storage closet backstage and arranges them in the audience. Then, he disconnects a few of the lowest cords in the piano. He tugs, and it stretches. He pulls each cord to a mannequin and ties it around the mannequin's ankle. Finally, he posts a sign on the front door that reads SHOW AT MIDNIGHT JUNE EIGHTEENTH.

He is ready, and retreats into the embrace of sleep.

He dreams of frolicking in a grassy meadow with another person. The Other has a grainy, distorted face, as if seen through an old TV. It also has an androgynous physique. It is naked and its pale white skin glimmers in the sun. While Adam and the Other dance and play, rabbits, deer and robins invade the meadow. At first it's a slow trickle, just one at a time, but soon there are dozens of animals covering the field. They brush against Adam and the Other. This is like the street, Adam thinks. The animals push him to the east and the Other to the west. They shriek and bite at him if he tries to resist. Soon, he comes to the edge of a forest. He sees that it is very dark under that verdant canopy. The animals refuse to enter it. They give Adam a final push, and he lands face-down on soft dirt. Long, purple worms erupt from the earth and hold Adam down. He cannot see in the artificial night, but he is aware of some hulking monstrosity above him. He struggles against the worms.

He wakes backstage to find his thin wool blanket wrapped tightly around his person. After a minute of exertion, he is free. He stands, and deposits the blanket in the same storage closet the mannequins were taken from. He withdraws a robe that has the color and texture of fresh snow. He walks over to the smooth crystal backstage. Before the "mirror", he undresses. The filthy robe falls to the floor with a slight whoosh. His torso and shoulders bear the scars of old burns. He hastily pulls on the clean robe. He smiles at his reflection.

He strides to the piano, sits, and waits.

She enters the theater silently. She walks, slowly, towards the front row. Each step is an exaggerated affair. Her legs are long under a little black dress. She has a look of awe on her face as she takes in the ubiquitous crystals; she does not seem to notice that she is alone in the audience, mannequins notwithstanding. She takes a seat, and the spectacle begins.

He plays a slow and low melody. As with his previous performance, it is not very good, but a spell settles on Lily. To her, this is the greatest song in the history of man. As he plays the lowest notes, the attached mannequins will clap enthusiastically. This goes on for ten minutes, with her amazed and the mannequins producing a crescendo of cheers. As he plays the final notes, the mannequins and the woman give a standing ovation. Adam stands and bows to the audience.

"Thank you, thank you, I hope you've all had a wonderful evening," he exclaims, then turns and walks backstage. She surreptitiously follows, but he knows she is there, and she knows that he knows.

"That was marvelous," she spouts to his bleached-white back. He stops walking.

"I'm glad you think so," he says. She takes a step closer to him. Then another. Another. She is soon hovering over him, a giant by comparison. A moment passes. Then another. Another.

He turns around and looks her in the eye. Yet another moment passes. Then, he speaks with a wavering, nervous tone.

"Did you really like it?" She loudly reaffirms her enjoyment. She places a hand on his shoulder; she has to crouch slightly to do this. His lips twitch into an awkward smile. She plants her lips on this smile. They taste like watermelon.

The kiss holds for twenty seconds. This is unexpected, he thinks. But nice. Her lips slide to his cheek, then to his neck. He lets out a soft squeak of joy. Her teeth sink into his carotid. He screams.

"What are you doing?" He tries to pull away, but the arm on his shoulder is solid as steel. Her other arm wraps around his back and pulls them closer together. She forces him to stand on the tips of his feet. As the blood is drained from his body, the magic is drained from the theater. The crystals begin to melt and resume their previous infernal incarnation. Smoke quickly fills backstage. As it goes up his nose, he begins to feel tranquil. He is at peace. He has once more found nirvana. The spotlight falls from the rafters and crashes onto the piano with a brief flash of light. Her eyes take in the scene, and she smiles.