Leviathan’s Moving Theatre turned out to be two 40ft containers, painted silver, and wielded together. Alec’s enthusiasm bordered on manic. He dragged Kathryn toward it as if she were little more than a rag doll.
There was no queue and the man at the ticket counter pulled down his blind. He seemed determined to ignore them.
Alec rapped on the window. “I’ve met this fellow before; he’s paid to be obstructive. They like to ensure you’re determined to enter.”
Kathryn raised her eyebrows. This was an awful lot of fuss for a stupid show.
“Indeed,” the man said. The blind whooshed up. This time, the man offered them a rehearsed smile. “Indeed, I am,” he said.
“Two, please.” Alec opened his wallet and pulled out a crisp twenty.
The man’s fingers pecked at the lining of Alec’s wallet. “Is that a membership card?”
Alex snapped the wallet shut. A blush ran up his turkey neck. “Of course not.”
“Then you enjoy the show, Sir. Now move along, and don’t hold up the queue.” He passed them their tickets.
Alec pulled her into the container. Cold metal slammed against her knee and ripped into her shin. Behind them, the door clanged shut. Yellow light colored the smoky atmosphere. Kathryn wheezed. She should have dumped him a week ago, but the lure of a pair of ruby earrings were a temptation she couldn’t abandon. Still, she’d heard whispers his money pot was running dry and she didn’t do dehydration.
An usher, wearing white gloves and a top hat, held out his hand for their tickets. He tore them in half and then pointed them toward the green velvet curtains draped halfway along the container. His heels clicked together reinforcing the order.
Kathryn ran her fingers along the rough metal wall. She couldn’t find the way back out. If she were of a suspicious nature, which it turned out she was, then she would suspect the darn thing had sealed them in. The usher gnashed his teeth and clicked his heels a second time.
“I don’t like this place,” Kathryn said. Her whisper echoed around the container.
“Don’t be absurd. Come on, the show’s about to start.”
The world behind the green curtain opened up to several times the width of the container. Wooden chairs, arranged in six rows, faced a ripped screen. A variety of oddities occupied them — she liked to think of them as the ugly, the desperate and the smelly. She pinched her nose. An albino in a white suit patted the seat next to him and urged Kathryn to join him.
Alec, instead, took up the offer.
Resigned to her fate, though still uncertain what it entailed, Kathryn sat next to Alec.
“No matter how dark it gets, don’t forget to read the small print,” Alec urged. “Oh, and if I sign my name Malcolm Papadelias, take no notice. They’re funny about second time signings.”
“Huh!” Kathryn said. He was an empty wallet away from a dumping. “Doesn’t he work in the accounts department?”
The albino knocked his chair against Alec’s and seemed determined to push him off it. He winked. “So, beautiful, what are you looking to come away with?”
“Double that huh!” she sighed.
“I’m thinking I’d quite like an extra hundred years and a yacht; I imagine Dorothy,” he pointed at the back of Alec’s head, “is looking for enhancements, if you get my insinuation.”
Alec snapped. “She does, and you’d be surprised by the truth of it. I have previous.”
“Really, and you’re admitting it out loud. Nice knowing you. So what happened, didn’t wish big enough?”
Alec blushed. He loosened his shirt collar.
Kathryn shuffled in her seat. She attempted to stand and failed. “I think there’s chewing gum on my chair,” she complained. “I can’t pull myself free.”
This time the albino leaned forward. “None of us can, dear. I bet your soul shines. If I was Leviathan, I would polish it and set it on the highest shelf.”
The lights blinked out. Someone coughed. Kathryn suspected she wasn’t going to like this show. A face burned into the darkness. It pushed through the screen and entered their reality. Yellow smoke blew through his nostrils. Kathryn’s asthma wheezed.
“Shush, you’ll offend him.” Alec poked her in the side.
“Fee Fi Fo Fum,” the face rasped. “I smell blood already won.”
“Oh, crap.” Alec straightened in his seat. “If anyone asks, tell them my name is Malcolm Papadelias.”
The spotlight pulsed and came to rest on Alec’s face. He was whiter than the albino seated beside him. The light pulsed. Alec disintegrated into a pile of yellow dust. A red card sat atop his ashes.
Kathryn panicked. Wanting away from this place, she unzipped her skirt and tried to slip out of it. A white hand reached over Alec’s ashes and patted her knee. She swatted it off. The albino’s laugh echoed around the metal room. On the screen, the man’s face swelled. He looked part snake now. Words ran across his nose: “The Faustian Pact and the 21st Century. An educational film for the uninitiated.”
The face slithered toward Kathryn. It rasped. “Plus a short film for your amusement, ‘The Burning of Alec Calhoun in the Traitors Pit’. Contracts can be found on your laps now. Those who sign may exit, those who don’t will remain seated and one of my representatives will deal with you. Happy reading.”
Kathryn was surprised to find a sheet of paper on her lap.
“So what do you want?” the albino asked.
She read the contract. At school she had always failed multiple choice questions. Maybe today her luck was changing. She ticked f) marriage to a billionaire and a fabulous yacht.
The seat tipped forward and freed her from its grip. A white hand helped her up. The albino tipped his captain’s hat. “Hi honey, time to go home.”
Catherine J Gardner‘s fiction has most recently appeared in New Bedlam and in the Malpractice anthology. She has stories forthcoming in Fantasy Magazine, Postscripts and Necrotic Tissue, and a chapbook ‘The Sour Aftertaste of Olive Lemon’ from Bucket ‘O’ Guts press.