I’m sitting with the audience. Chairs stretch infinitely to my right and left, like two mirrors held next to each other, with me in the middle. The plush red curtain rolls up to reveal an empty stage.
I’m sitting with the audience. We watch me walk onto the stage. I lean forward in my seat. I watch myself in silent anticipation. The audience becomes silhouetted in my peripheral vision. The spotlight on me is blinding.
I’m speaking now. It looks like I’m yelling, but I can’t hear myself. I must have said something funny, the audience is laughing now. I smile for a moment. I frown in my chair. I’m moving around the stage now, my mouth still moving. The audience laughs again- I must be putting on a good show.
One of my strings gets caught in the rafters. I look up above the stage and see myself on a catwalk, navigating my movements. The puppeteer works fast, freeing me from entanglement. The audience doesn’t notice any of it.
It’s a great crowd tonight. I hope my strings hold.
My mouth keeps moving, which must mean I’m still talking. It really is a great crowd tonight, they love me. The audience loves me. The audience loves him.
Music plays. Do I know this song? It’s so hard to hear while the audience laughs around me. I’m done telling jokes, so I begin to dance. I never knew I could be this graceful. I pull my strings with practiced precision.
The audience doesn’t know I’m dancing. They just keep laughing. I look away from myself and scan my fellow audience members. Doesn’t anyone know this isn’t a joke? I never noticed how small the crowd was until now.
I’m looking at myself looking down from the rafters. Concentration is replaced with worry as my fingers cramp. I can’t hold myself up much longer. I catch a look at my face and I’m laughing… or am I crying? I wish I could hear what I was saying while I danced.
The strings finally snap under the pressure. I stand up from my seat as I watch myself fall. Broken strings fall and coil around me. The puppeteer falls too, jumping off the catwalk onto the stage. The audience isn’t laughing anymore.
I try to restring myself before the audience sees, but it’s too late. The few who showed up are leaving now. The puppeteer’s hands are shaking as he fixes me. I’m doing my best to fix myself, but I think I’m the only one still watching. The puppeteer stops toiling with the strings, and draws me into an embrace. The stage lights fade to black.
I’m my only audience now. I applaud harder than I ever have. The rest of the crowd is long gone now. My claps echo through the small room. There will be no bows tonight.
A shabby curtain falls and the show is over.
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