theatre lights suspended above the stage

Cameras slung around their necks, Liz follows Jake up the back stairs of the Art Center. At the top Jake pushes open the door leading into a dimly lit corridor.

“So what’s up here anyway?” Liz asks.

Jake smiles, touching a finger to his lips, then crooking it to indicate she should follow. Exasperated, she follows him anyway. Midway down the hall he stops and pushes a door inward, then walks into the dark.

“What is this brilliant idea anyway, Jake?”

He pops his head out, holding a finger to his lips, this time actually “shushing” her before disappearing inside. Liz doesn’t know what to do, but follows him into the dark anyway.

Liz feels a little guarded. It’s dark and there’s a kind of weird ambiance. And what sounds kind of like … maybe water falling? She just feels more confused. But Jake is already making his way through the darkness. So Liz trails after. It’s a long, room, or maybe a hallway? Hulking shapes huddle along the walls. Some kind of containers. Barrels maybe? It’s weird. Jake was so excited, he wouldn’t steer her wrong. Would he?

Of course that’s what everybody always thinks in the slasher movies. Reaching down to her fanny pack she makes sure she has her cellphone. Just in case. And she has the tripod if she needs some kind of a weapon. And she’s a lot bigger than … Wait a minute, this is Jake here. What is she thinking?

Ahead the dim light from the camera’s screen back illuminates the shadow that is Jake. Light stabs through the darkness and the sound volume swells. Liz realizes Jake is very cautiously opening yet another door. Suddenly she can clearly hear the rumble of a crowd, and puts it all together in a rush of relief. Vaguely Liz recalls Amelia saying something about the drama department hosting a play.

It’s easier going now that there’s some illumination. Liz moves up to stand beside Jake. They look out at a lighting catwalk strung between large theatrical lights suspended from a latticework of metal struts mounted on the ceiling. Compared to the storeroom it’s bright, but it’s realy just the spill, with the lion’s share of illumination pouring down onto the stage.

Jake moves silently onto the catwalk to set up. There’s no one else up here, so Liz assumes the lights have all been preset. Probably being run from a control board somewhere, maybe backstage. She watches Jake. He’s clearly aiming straight down at the audience, sure to get some great shots of the tops of heads. Bald spots, dandruff, who knows what he’ll capture, but whatever it is it’ll sure be different. She smiles as she realizes he has come up with an interesting new perspective.

Liz fires up her own camera, adjusts her settings, feeling a little foolish for being worried.

About Jake.

She feels like an idiot.

Instead of stepping out onto the catwalk herself, Liz crouches and takes a series of photographs capturing Jake at work. Retrieving her cellphone from the fanny pack she turns it off. It wouldn’t do to disrupt the show being put on below. Liz feels a bit of a stomach flutter as she steps out on the catwalk, moving away from Jake, toward the stage.

Jake brought her along so she can’t very well poach his idea. She needs her own spin, make her own distinct images. The Stratford Touring Company, that was it. It is warm here. A little hard to breathe. Overheated by powerful lights and body heat from the audience below. No wonder.

One of the big Shakespeare plays probably. Was there dancing in Macbeth? Doesn’t matter, she feels supercharged as she applies herself to her task, photographing the mammoth lights that are so close she could almost touch them as they cast their magical glow on the stage below.

Liz feels a chill, but she’s too busy, so she pushes it aside. She wants to get some good shots. She focuses on the stage, filled with masked revelers in flashing colours twirling to some kind of medieval music. Following the colour and motion from this angle is interesting. A little dizzying. When she’s got enough pictures, Liz shuts down her camera and stows it in her pouch. Why is her heart racing like this? So hot. Turning back the way she came she doesn’t see Jake at all. He must have finished. Maybe he’s gone.

Now the work is done Liz realizes that she’s having a bit of a problem. She tries to take a step in the darkness but … she can’t make her foot rise. Now that she’s looking through her own eyes and not the camera, she realizes the edges of her vision are ragged.

The dizziness is making her feel nauseous, along with a kind of falling sensation, pulling her to the side, drawing her to the audience. Down there. Now that she’s not taking pictures, she realizes the physical discomfort she feels isn’t excitement, it’s fear. She does not want to be this high up. No. Her hand snakes out and grabs the catwalk railing.

This is silly. She walked out here, she should be able to go back again too. Looking down at her feet she can see the people below. Reflected light from the stage reveals them clearly through gaps in the metal mesh floor. Liz can feel the little holes in the floor through her shoes, she’s mesmerized by the sight.

Heart pounding furiously Liz realizes she can’t stay here.

She can’t move either. Where is Jake? She can’t lift her foot. Not the other one either. Lifting it off the floor is too scary. The nearly invisible floor. Not an option. Maybe she can slide it. Her death grip on the railing helps pull her forward a step. Progress. Slide the hand, slide the feet.

The heat is intense, Liz feels sweat running down her back. Got to get out of here. Dizzy.

The pounding in her chest is bad, now there’s a pounding in her head, the rushing of the ocean, the blue of the water … white froth … Liz slumps to her knees, held upright by her mechanical grip on the rail.

As consciousness wanes, her fingers relax and she sprawls on the catwalk.

In the store room Jake is scrolling through the thumbnails of the images he’s photographed. Looking good. He packs up his camera and wonders what’s taking Liz so long. He goes back inside and takes a peek through the doorway. She’s not there. Where did she go? He heads back out through the store room and into the hall. She must have left. That’s annoying.

Not like Liz to just take off without a word though. Maybe she just thought it was stupid and didn’t want to say anything.

He shakes his head in frustration, but he should be used to being ditched by girls by now. He starts down the stairs, feeling an increasing sense of annoyance. Just he didn’t think Liz was like that. She been a good friend until now. One of the very few here who don’t treat him like a little kid.

As he reaches the exit door, it hits him.

When he was here this afternoon helping the crew set up the lights, he was all over the lighting grid. There is no other way out of there. The only way Liz could have left would have been to go right past him. And she didn’t. So Liz must still be up there. But where was she? He turns and starts back up again.

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