The Theater of Life

Written by kdunn

This work was last updated March 16, 2018

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The theatre is crowded and dimly lit when you walk in, filled with a nervous anticipatory energy. You sit down next to a girl identical to yourself, but with better hair and cool shoes. “Am I in time for the ending?”

“Just in time. Now hush – I want to see if the song changes this time.”

You glance around, seeing every person in the theatre watching the screen with an unsettling intensity.

“Why is everyone like this? Isn’t this supposed to be fun?” You ask.

She fixes you with a tired glare. “You’ll see soon enough. It’s the same goddamn thing every fucking time. The time changes, the place – but the essence of the story never really changes. You know how the theme song is supposed to change in every life? It’s been the same one for us since the first life. Every time. And don’t get me wrong – it’s an excellent song, but it just gets so boring.”

“Maybe this time, it’ll be something new?” You suggest hopefully.

She snorts and gestures around the theatre, to the hundreds of identical figures sitting around. “The first of us – do you see her?”

You nod. She’s weather worn and strong looking, with short cropped hair. “I see her.”

“She started all of this. Tried to play a couple guys off each other back during the building of Stonehenge to scam them out of their property. It didn’t work. She spent her exile pretending to be a man in the Roman army. Got to a fairly high rank before they found her out and offed her. She’s one of the worst of the lot. Total adrenaline junkie. We all have our vices.”

Pointing down the row closest to them, she started to list it off. “Drink. Sex. Religion. Drugs. Money. Oh, she was an interesting one – a cult leader, you see.”

“What about you?”

Her grin was sharp, all teeth. “Nothing really beats the thrill of a well-executed crime, does it?”

You shift away minutely. The girl in the row behind you, a woman with closely shaven hair and tortoiseshell glasses, taps you on the shoulder.

“You don’t need to worry about her. She’s just bitter that she didn’t make her way through the entire alphabet. She’s American. Got death row.”

You think about asking for details, but decide that it’s probably best not to. “Right. Thanks. Well, I didn’t have any particular vices.”

“No, you just tried a little bit of everything, didn’t you? You were one of the boring ones. Functional.” She says, with a strange mixture of scorn and awe in her voice.

Finally, the final notes of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now fade from your ears. You turn your attention to the screen, where the opening credits for the next life are beginning to appear.

“Oh, dear.” says the girl next to you. “He’s here. It’s going to be one of those lives.”

“Who? What kind of life?” You ask.

“He’s everything – a lover; an enemy; the father of her children. They’re bad for each other. These lives are never easy to watch.”

“Turn away, then.”

She looks at you with the experience of having watched far too many lives come and go in exactly the same way. “We never can.”

The opening notes of Don’t Stop Me Now start to play. The theatre quiets, and a baby is born. And she lives a good life - she travels and fights and fucks her way across continents and enjoys it in a way that they all understand intimately. She has a beautiful daughter and a good family, and when it all inevitably goes wrong – they understand. How could they not? It was always going to end like this.

(They all knew, deep down, that if life as it was is intolerable, then a life lived in any other way would be absolutely unthinkable.)

Tags: of, the, theater, life


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