Terror on the High C’s

181016_5By Camille Atebe, Illustrated by Jess Olsen

Chapter 1

Cyrus slumped low in his seat and tried to get past the gorgon to get to level eight. It was hard to focus on gorgon-battling while wearing a tuxedo and attending the opera, but Cyrus was up for the challenge. It wasn’t that he hated opera, or that he didn’t want to be at the brand new Geltwin Theater on opening night, but he’d seen Der Rosenkavalier more than fifteen times already, and needed a little diversion. He looked up to see his mom, resplendent as the Marschallin, belt out the beginning of her first aria. He smiled.

Not every ten-year old kid had the life he did, traveling the world with his famous mother, attending operas all over. But Cyrus loved it. He hoped to be a famous composer when he grew up, and he would write operas for his mother to star in. But tonight—well, tonight he was going to get to level ten.

During the intermission, Cyrus went backstage to say hi to his mom and the other singers.

“You were great out there, mom.”

“Thanks sweetie. What do you think of the theater? Do you think it’s haunted like they say?”

“I never heard anything about it being haunted. It’s really nice.”

“Isn’t it? Are you enjoying the show?”

“For the fifteenth time, yes!”

“Alright, cheeky. You’d better head back out, intermission’s almost over.” Cyrus kissed his mom and headed back to the auditorium.

“Break a leg, mom.” As Cyrus left the backstage, Gyro, the stage manager stopped him.

“Hey Cy. You’re such a trooper.” Gyro tucked a chocolate bar into Cyrus’ top pocket. “How do you like the new theater?”

“The acoustics are great. Mom comes out sounding pretty powerful. What’s the chocolate bar for?”

“Halloween, Cy! Enjoy the second act.” Gyro bounded off, shouting instructions into his headset. Cyrus ate the chocolate bar as he went back to his seat. He had completely forgotten that it was Halloween. What with following his mom all over the world, Cyrus had never really had a proper Halloween. He spent most Halloweens in the company of lavishly costumed people, but they were opera singers, not trick or theaters.

181016_2Chapter 2

Ten minutes into the second act as Cyrus continued battling Cerberus to get to level ten, something weird happened. His mom was singing, sounding stronger and more beautiful than ever, and Cyrus was humming along under his breath, when something made him look up.

Perhaps it was the unnatural tension of the crowd around him, or perhaps it was the difference in his mother’s voice. Whatever it was, he put the game on pause and looked down at the stage. What he saw there was not his mom. She looked like his mom, and she sang like his mom, but Cyrus knew it wasn’t her. She was somehow bigger, somehow stronger, somehow floatier and glowier…

That was it! She was floating a few centimeters off the stage, and was shining with a light that had nothing to do with Hubert the lighting technician’s magic touch.

Cyrus looked around him. The audience was riveted, watching the performance, but he could see on their faces a slight confusion, a searching look. They, too, knew something was not quite right, but hadn’t put their fingers on what it was yet. Cyrus didn’t know what to do. Then, as Cyrus’ mom hit the highest note of the song, she shot into the air, and hovered about three meters off the ground. The crowd gasped, and then cheered. They thought it was part of the show.

181016_1Cyrus could tell by the looks on the other singers’ faces that only he, and they, knew that something was terribly wrong. Cerberus forgotten, he stuffed his video game into his pocket and elbowed his way out of the row as fast as he could.

“ ‘Scuze me, pardon me, ‘scuze me, sorry…” Cyrus reached the aisle and ran to the door, taking the steps two at a time. Something was seriously wrong, and he was going to find out what.

Cyrus burst into the backstage and nearly ran directly into Gyro. “Whoa, kid! Look, now’s not a good time, can you come back later?”

“I know it’s not a good time, Gyro! Something’s seriously wrong with my mom!”

“Yeah, we’re trying to figure it out…”

“Gyro, she’s levitating! Why haven’t you stopped the show?” Gyro looked at Cyrus like he was crazy.

“The show must go on, Cy. Even if the star is floating around the stage.” Gyro sped off, and Cyrus realized that if something was to be done, he would have to do it himself.

He tiptoed into the wings and looked out onto the stage. His mom had finished singing, but she was still floating. She’d come down, though, and was once again hovering a few centimeters off the stage. The baritone beside her was nervously starting his aria.

After a couple of lines, Cyrus’ mom landed on the floor, and the glow seemed to go out of her and into the baritone. Cyrus watched his mom slump a little, then shake her head gently and look over at the baritone. He was now all aglow, singing strongly and drifting upwards. What was going on?

Suddenly Cyrus had an idea. On level six of his game he had lost two of his three lives, but discovered that he could morph into a ghost and use the body of one of the monsters to get through the Snake Pit Pass. Maybe whatever was making his mom, and now the baritone glow and float, was a ghost! After all, there was that rumor that the place was haunted. Cyrus tugged on Gyro’s sleeve.

“Hey Gyro, why’s everyone saying that this place is haunted?”

“I dunno, something about the way this place was built…do you think…?” Gyro trailed off as Cyrus ran off.

Suddenly Cyrus had an idea. On level six of his game he had lost two of his three lives, but discovered that he could morph into a ghost and take over the body of one of the monsters to get through the Snake Pit Pass. Maybe whatever was making his mom, and now the baritone glow and float, was a ghost! After all, there was that rumor that the place was haunted…Cyrus turned and raced to his mom’s dressing room. He opened up her lap top, hooked up to the internet, and looked up the Geltwin Theater’s history.

181016_3Chapter 3

“Gyro! I know what’s going on!”

“I’m glad someone does! Look at this.” Gyro was almost pulling out his hair, watching the stage. Cyrus peeked out. His mom was singing again, and once more floating a few centimeters off the ground. The rest of the cast was staying well away. The baritone looked like he was about to throw up.

“This place is haunted, just like they say. It’s a ghost, Gyro. The ghost of Imelda Geltwin.”

“The old lady who built the theater?”

“Yeah. She always wanted to be an opera singer, but she was tone-deaf. So when she died, she left all her money to build this theater. And her ashes are in a box in the fly gallery.”

“Ewww!” Gyro pulled a face.

“I know. Anyway, I bet it’s her ghost. This is her chance to be an opera singer! She’s using my mom and the other singers to fulfill her dream.”

“How do we get her out?”

“I don’t know. But I don’t think she’s hurting them.” Cyrus and Gyro fell silent, watching the show. It was pretty spectacular. Cy’s mom swooped and flew through the air, her voice ringing out through the auditorium.

When the second act ended, the audience erupted in applause. They loved it. Cyrus’ mom and the rest of the cast straggled off stage. They looked awful. Terrified, drained, and utterly confused. Gyro called them all into Cy’s mom’s dressing room and told them what Cyrus had discovered.

“What!” Cyrus’s mom shrieked. “A ghost? That’s it. I’m not going back out there. No way.”“But the show must go on…”

181016_4“Then you can do it yourself, Gyro. I’m not playing puppet to a ghost anymore.” The baritone ripped off his false mustache and threw it on the floor. Cyrus piped up.

“Wait. Maybe we can talk to the ghost, and work something out. She doesn’t seem to want to harm anyone. She just wants to sing.”

“The little boy is right.” The room fell silent. Everyone looked around wildly. Where had those words come from?

“I always wanted to be a singer. But I never had the talent. I just wanted to know what it felt like.” The voice seemed to be coming from a wig mannequin in the corner. Cyrus stepped forward.

“Mrs. Geltwin? Imelda? Is that you?”

“Yes, little boy, it’s me.”

“You’re really scaring everyone, you know.”

“Yes, I realize that. I didn’t mean to… I just wanted to…” was the ghost crying? Everyone looked awkwardly at each other.

“You know, flying was kind of neat…” the baritone said reassuringly.

“It just would have been nice to have some sort of advance notice…” Cyrus’ mom added. The ghostly crying faded a little.

“It’s just that I can’t see the performance, so the only way I can enjoy it is by using someone else’s body… and I thought that I might…”

“Why can’t you see?” Cyrus interrupted.

“Because I’m just ashes. I need eyes to see.”

“Can you give us a minute to talk about it?” Cyrus asked.

“Sure. As long as you need…” The voice faded away into nothing. Cyrus turned to the cast.

“She sounds so sad. Maybe you could let her… just for this show?”

“The audience loved it. They’ll be really disappointed if you aren’t flying in the third act.” Gyro said.

“And it is Halloween.” Cyrus’s mom conceded. “It seems mean to say no. Well, as long as she gives us a little warning who she’s going to be singing inside of next, I suppose it will be all right.”

“Thank you! Oh thank you!” The mannequin head chirped. Apparently Imelda was back.

“Nothing dangerous, you promise?” Cyrus’ mom said sternly.

“I promise.”

Gyro’s headset started nattering, and he gave the five-minute call. “Third act beginning in five, people.” The cast started to file out.

Cyrus hugged his mom. “Break a leg.”

The next night as Cy sat watching the show he felt a little odd. “Mrs. Geltwin?” he thought.

A ghostly voice inside his head answered. “I just wanted to watch the show,” he heard. “I hope you don’t mind if I use your eyes tonight.”

“No problem”, thought Cy, “just as long as you don’t make me glow!”   THE END


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