Edwin Calstock was more nervous than he had ever been in his life. It was opening night for his play ‘The Dame of Versailles’ (A Drama in III Acts by Edwin Calstock) and he still wasn’t sure if their lead actress could handle the part. She was a recent hire. In fact, she had just been hired that morning, seeing as their previous lead actress couldn’t commit to the role. Well, she was dead. That was the reason she couldn’t commit.
Edwin had found himself in quite a bind after Minerva’s demise. There was no time to hold lengthy auditions for a new actress and the theater owner, Mr. Wellis, was not the most understanding or patient of men. If Edwin didn’t find a lead actress in another day, his life would be over. And worse still, his career as a playwright.
The play’s director, Robert Bland, had been running around the streets of Camden, trying to find a new face. It didn’t seem to Edwin the most efficient way of solving their problem, but he didn’t have any better ideas. Much to his surprise, Robert showed up that morning with a strange woman in tow. Not just strange in the sense that she was a stranger; there was something very unusual about her appearance and overall demeanor.
She had an unnaturally graceful gait; it was almost as if she were gliding over the floor. Robert was a tall man, but she was perhaps a good head taller, with skin so pale it almost shone in the daylight. Her hair was pulled back and tucked under a peculiar looking hat, but a few copper-colored strands hung loose. Her eyes were pale green, but as she came closer, Edwin realized that wasn’t quite right. They were luminescent, as if she had a gas lamp installed in her head. He was entranced by her, transfixed by those sparkling eyes.
Her voice was rich and deep, like a well-brewed cup of tea, though her odd, lilting accent gave him pause. But perhaps she could pass for French that way. It was more fitting. She said her name was Ellara, though she offered no family name. Her dress had unusual patterns embroidered onto it and she talked of places and events that Edwin had never heard of. Robert claimed she was from America, but that didn’t seem right. But then, Edwin had never been to America, so who was he to say?
Thus, Ellara was cast in the role and spent the afternoon rehearsing. She was a quick study and memorized all of her lines. Yet, Edwin could not help but feel unsettled. In part, because the mutton he had for lunch was a tad undercooked. but mostly because he had no idea how Ellara would actually perform once on stage.
The theater was completely full; every last ticket had been sold. Mr. Wellis was sitting up in his private booth. The curtains parted and the crowd fell silent. It was time for the show. All Edwin could do was hope. And perhaps book the next ship out of England, just in case.
Ellara walked onto the stage and Edwin’s heart sank. She wasn’t in costume, nor had she applied any makeup. He was doomed. She stood at the center of the stage and surveyed the audience with her lamplike green eyes. And then, much to everyone’s surprise, especially Edwin’s, she began to sing. There were no words to the song. Rather, there were no words that he could recognize, but as soon as he heard them, they turned into pictures.
There were vivid images of ancient kingdoms built among the stars. Gleaming spires that pierced the heavens and shining domes that covered entire cities. The people that lived in these kingdoms looked human, but there was something peculiar about them, especially their eyes, which shone like the sun. Perhaps they were gods, or simply a long forgotten race. The images changed. Now the strange beings were waging war, using weapons forged of light and darkness. People died, kingdoms crumbled until only the stars remained. And a child, with hair the color of copper and dull green eyes brimming with sadness. She was alone now, the last of her kind.
The song ended then, and Edwin was snapped out of his trance. He was sobbing with an intensity he hadn’t experienced since his school days. Coming back to himself, Edwin wiped the tears from his eyes and looked around the theater in confusion. He was alarmed to see the stage empty. Ellara was gone, and who knows what sort of performance she had delivered while he was daydreaming. What was he dreaming about anyway? He remembered shining stars, and little else.
The crowd was still quiet. Had they hated it? Were they waiting to unleash their boos? Had they left? Edwin thought it best not to dwell on it and was about to sneak out the back when he heard a faint clapping noise. The noise built in volume, turning into thunderous applause. As Edwin peeked past the curtain, he saw the crowd on its feet. All of them had tears glistening on their cheeks, even Mr. Wellis.
Edwin had no idea what happened, but the play, it seemed, was a success. He was elated. Ecstatic. Absolutely thrilled. And, once again, without a lead actress.