Flash Fiction Challenge: Playhouse Poltergeist

Photo by K.S. Brooks

It is her first performance in this theater. She has heard the stories about him, the one who sits in the sealed box—the box no one is supposed to be able to enter.

Some say his appearance is a good omen; others that it spells certain doom for the production.

She wonders if he will appear tonight and what his presence will portend.

In 250 words or less, tell me a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until 5:00 PM Pacific Time on Tuesday, September 18th 2012.

On Wednesday morning, we will open voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

On Friday morning, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted.

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11 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Playhouse Poltergeist”

  1. As the final note of “Sul fil d’un soffio etesio” reverberated through the theater, Evelyn was met with an unsettling silence. Her first thought, this being her first performance, was that she had performed poorly. Blinded by glaring stage lights, she could not make out the audience to ascertain her dread. But, she couldn’t worry about that now; she had a show to put on. Like her or not, the audience would not see her sweat. She had worked too hard for this moment.

    Turning for her next cue, she stopped short as her eyes met stillness. All of the other cast on stage were frozen, their bodies trapped in mid-motion, their eyes unseeing. Evelyn’s fear kept her from even screaming out. She simply gasped, putting a hand to her face as her heart thumped violently in her chest.

    With a “click”, the stage lights winked out and the house lights faded up, revealing an audience with frozen smiles and hands trapped in various stages of applause. Evelyn’s eyes were drawn upwards to the sealed box. Behind the railing stood an ethereal form, mist-like tendrils emanating from its body. It appeared to be a man with a thick white beard wearing a top-hat and a long black coat. He looked down at Evelyn with glowing eyes, head shaking in disappointment.

    When time once again resumed, no one noticed that anything had happened to them. All they noticed was the lifeless form of Evelyn heaped on the stage.

  2. It was always the same for her—first the anticipation, then the guilt, and lastly the shame of messing up her lines or missing a dance step—all because he was there…again! Like he had been night after night sitting in the sealed box observing her. Or was he watching everyone; it was hard to tell who he had under surveillance, but she felt his devil-like eyes were focused only on her. Her nervousness would not go away until the show was over, the curtains were closed, and she had left the stage. No longer could she see him and determine if he was real or not.

    Until a new keenness, an awareness she had not expected exposed itself in her already frayed and raw nerves. He was there, in her dressing room, waiting for her; she thought she might faint. She did not know this man—if he was a man, and she did not know what he wanted of her.

    “May I ask,” she started, taking a few steps inside, “what do you want of me?”

    “Come, close the door and we shall talk,” he said in a hushed whisper.

    Was this the way it was to be? A command from a man who looked…not real, out of this world…a man who her mother said looked like her father. But it couldn’t be because he was dead and she had never met him…until now and he said her name, “Jacqueline, my daughter, its time, I’ve come for you!”

  3. Britannia sat in the booth overlooking the audience. She would have preferred the eighth row where her season tickets were, but there had been a scramble at the box office and she had been “honored” with a seat in the box.

    The lights dimmed and the conductor began the overture as if he had been waiting for her. The opera was one of her favorites and she closed her eyes. As she listened, her mind drifted to the mysterious box on the opposite side of the theater. Would the ghost appear? Would it grace this show?

    As the curtain rose, Britannia felt someone sit beside her. She turned to see her grandfather in the costume he had been wearing when he died while performing on this stage.

    “My dear Britannia,” he said gently placing his hand on hers. “I have missed you. I have watched you among the groundlings hoping that this day would not be long.”

    He kissed her hand. “Your grandmother awaits. She misses you and she does not have patience where her favorite granddaughter is concerned. She wants you to sing Aida like you did in college. Take my hand and we will go to her.”

    Britannia took her grandfather’s hand and steadied herself by holding the lighting pipe. She stood on the balcony rail and together they stepped off, flew through the proscenium, over the stage and out the roof to a command performance of Aida awaiting its lead singer.

  4. She’d seen him many times. In fact, on each and every occasion her parents had taken her to the ancient teatro. Yes, the mysterious figure, the real star attraction; filling the house every night regardless of what tragedy unfurled the stage; the audiences’ eye wandering continuously towards the haunted box. Most thought it a gimmick, a ghost story designed to enthral, but she knew it wasn’t. Ye-s, now more than ever, she knew.

    What seemingly good fortune that’d kept her parents coming back to this ancient city to perform the Roman amphitheatre every summer; prestigious roles in operas such as Madama Butterfly, Aida, and Don Giovanni, and for where she’d put on weight for her own ‘fat lady’ role one day. Yes, forces beyond nature, bringing her back, year after year. Undying love. It had to be. Ye-s, no more would humanly impediment keep eternal lovers apart.

    Her own debut performance in Teatro Filarmonico, a fortnight hence of her fourteenth birthday on 1st August, would also be her last. An operetta; Roméo et Juliette, that’d end in real tragedy – at least from the audience’s perspective.
    But he didn’t come; Juliet, together with the audience, glancing expectantly up at the box all night, disappointed it’d remained empty.

    ‘He’ll carry me off, act five, the dying scene.’ She thought. ‘Will thrill the audience; take me into his arms, spirit me away. As it should be.’

    But still, Romeo failed to appear, and she just knew it was because she was fat now.

  5. Katie tugged at the top of her corset nervously as she waited for the curtain to go up. She told the costumer it didn’t fit ages ago but nothing was done to fix it. The costume wasn’t the only thing putting Katie on edge. There had been several questionable accidents at this theatre and people had gone missing. Then there were the rumors of a mystery man hidden in the sealed box off stage right. The whole situation felt like a sick version of Phantom of the Opera. Katie took a deep breath trying not to wonder whether he was here tonight and if that would doom the show to failure or make it the greatest hit. This was the break she had dreamed of since she was little and nothing would keep her from going on stage.

    As the curtain parted and Katie danced on stage belting out the opening number, Donavan smiled. He had transported directly into his box as always. No one would know he was there unless he desired it. Katie’s voice echoed around him and her image danced across the screen in front of him. Micro cameras hidden throughout the theatre delivered an array of angles. With a flick of his hand, Donavan zoomed in on Katie. Young, enthusiastic, beautiful, talented, exactly what the Intergalactic Thespian Society was looking for. When the curtain closed he transported a single rose onto Katie’s dressing table. Soon he would make himself known. Until then…he’d remain a phantom.

  6. Title: “Ushered Break”

    “That’s it! I don’t want to hear about George again. There is no ghost. It is just people’s overactive imagination. Yes, a 17 year old Capitol theatre usher did perish back in ’47. It’s just a coincidence the stage lights went out the last four nights. People…we have a play to put on tonight. Since Cathy sprained her ankle last night in the darkness, Miss Wilson…you have your chance for the lead.”

    “But Mr. Ames, I saw—“

    “Please, I don’t want to hear anything more. Everyone get ready; ‘Act One’ in two hours.”

    I should be excited finally getting to play the lead. The lights flickered on my dressing room light. A dark figure moved behind me and I felt something cold touch my neck. I turned, but there was nothing.

    I had the same feeling after the lights went out last night. I recalled watching the performance from back stage and out of the corner of my eye I saw a ghost like figure of an usher. He looked at me and smiled, then pulled the plug on the stage lights.


    My knees were knocking as I responded to the encore. I was proud of my performance and judging from the applause the audience was too. When I curtsied I caught a glimpse of George up in the off-limits and always locked box seat. I could swear he was smiling and applauding.

    Yes Mr. Ames, I won’t ever mention…who ushered my big break.

  7. Would she see him? Clara wondered aloud to Abigail and inspected the Linolnshire Playhouse stage.

    “Only if your performance is exceptional or dreadful.” Abigail patted Clara’s shoulder. “Edgar Wallingford saw him eight times before he committed suicide. I saw him twice.”

    “Will I know him? My first performance. I’m petrified.”

    “If he appears you’ll see him act one. The box is locked. No one in it for over one hundred and fifty years. He is tall, gangly and wears a long black coat and top hat. Quite homely and he has a tangled short beard. Sometime in the third act you hear applause or a pistol. Eleanor Wolcott saw him during her first performance and walked off the stage in the first act. Break a leg tonight.”


    Act One:
    Clara trembled although the script did not call for it. As she walked stage right she glanced at the box and thought she saw a black flash of movement. Her eyes met Abigail’s center stage, and she wanted to ask if Abigail had seen it.

    During intermission she learned Abigail had not and that no more than one actor saw him during a performance.


    Act Three:
    Clara could not force herself to look at the box again. A cough in the orchestra sounded like a canon. Clara closed her eyes and moved center stage to deliver her final line without breathing. She strained and supposed she heard the faint sound of strong hands slapping together.

    Clara exhaled.

  8. The story had it that his name was Raphael, that he had come to every performance of his lover when she sang Carmen. They said that on the last night, when she came to take her bows, as she reached down to pick up the single red rose he always threw for her, she collapsed and died, right there on the stage. They say he jumped over the rail that night and killed himself.

    Was it true? All I know is that his box has been sealed, and that whenever Carmen is performed, he can be seen watching. Or so they say.

    To sing the role of Carmen had been my life’s dream. Tonight it came true. Terrified that ‘he’ would be there, I glanced up at the box when I walked on stage – nothing. Just a story then. This was my moment. My relief must have given me an extra edge. It was my best performance ever. I sensed it. My fellow performers confirmed it.

    The crowd went wild with applause as I stepped out to take my bows. A standing ovation, the first I had ever received. I felt about to burst with joy.

    As I bent down, taking my second bow, a single red rose fell at my feet, its scent heady and intoxicating. My gaze followed the path it had fallen from to the sealed box. He inclined his head in acknowledgement, a sad, sweet smile on his face. And he faded away.

  9. The light crashed to the stage floor just feet from me.
    I looked up at the sealed box. A shadow moved.
    “Okay,” the director said. “Let’s take thirty, while we get this cleaned up.”
    I went downstairs. A black rose lay on the dressing table.
    “You can’t scare me with death, you know,” I said to the empty room. Years of training kept my voice from shaking.
    The face of a man with a broad forehead, narrow chin, and dark hair formed in the mirror.
    “Sylvio DeBarge,” I said.”Your Hamlet is legendary.”
    The apparition nodded.
    “And now you play pranks.”
    He nodded sadly.
    “What do you want?”
    “Death,” he whispered.
    Did he want to kill me? My pulse raced. Then, I knew.
    “You are trapped on this mortal coil,” I said.
    He nodded again.
    “Me too.”
    Goosebumps pricked my arms as he stared into my eyes.
    “I have liver cancer. I would trade the next six months of hair loss, vomiting, weakness, and pain for one brilliant performance.”
    I knew he understood.
    I could feel him with me as I went on stage and it was magical.
    The audience was mesmerized. When the curtain fell, they were on their feet.
    “Now,” I whispered, as I took my bow. He took form inside me. I bowed again, but he was within me. Joy flooded through me.
    My knees gave way, and everything went black.

  10. Word count: 246

    Sara takes a tentative step onto the stage an hour before curtain call. Aside from an occasional thump or bark of an order from the crew backstage, the theater is quiet.
    She has waited for this moment ever since her first play in third grade. Now she’s the lead in a sold out show at the trendiest theater in the city. When asked by a reporter if she was nervous, Sara lied and said no. Even though the rows of red velvet seats are empty, her palms are sweaty and her stomach quivers.
    A movement in the box that is sealed shut, the one cast and crew whisper warnings about, catches her eye. She gasps in surprise to find it occupied by a man. He’s very handsome with dark hair, strong features and pale almost luminescent skin. His dusty black suit jacket reminds Sara of Victorian era pictures and his tie is the same deep red as the seats.
    “Hello?” Sara calls, holding a hand over her eyes to block the glaring light. The man, smiling, beckons her to move closer. Mesmerized, she takes a few steps forward.
    “Come here.” His lips don’t move, but she hears his voice in her head, a seductive rasp. Sara takes another step, plummeting off the stage.
    Her scream is silenced upon impact.
    When a stage hands discovers Sara, her head is twisted at an unnatural angle and her eyes stare, unseeing, at the empty balcony of the sealed box.

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