Shuffling through the streets of New York City, along with millions of other people, was Siobhan Greenberg, sporting her long white infinity scarf. Her black boots clanked noisily on the concrete and could even be heard over the honking cars and yelling people. Her long red hair blew majestically behind her, and her hands clutched the sides of her hat. She was only thirteen, but her mother thought it was important that she learned how to get around by herself.
Siobhan rushed along, periodically pushing people out of her way. She was late for rehearsal, and she knew the director, Sam, would bite her ear off. This drove Siobhan on, making her black boots click just a little faster.
Finally, she came across a large, looming building with pillars that rose up high above Siobhan’s head. She ducked and ran inside, dodging people coming out the revolving door around her. She walked swiftly across the vast lobby, heading towards the rehearsal room, and she stopped at the doors, took a deep breath, and entered quietly.
All of the other actors were already standing around, listened to Sam speak.
“People, this show is in two months! I know that seems like a long time, but it is not! Not for a show! Everyone needs to be here for every rehearsal. If people miss anymore without telling I could take your part away! I have that authority!”
Siobhan slipped quietly into the crowd of her friends, moving her way until she found Yalfonsa. Yalfonsa was born one month too early, and her parents didn’t know what to call her. Her father was very into a science fiction show at the moment called “Yalfonsa’s Adventures,” so that’s what he named his daughter.
“Fonzie, what has Sam been saying?” Siobhan asked, trying to act normal and pretending she had been there all along.
“Nothing much, except the usual ‘I can take away your role!’” Fonzie said, leaning slightly towards Siobhan and wiggling her hands like Sam did. “It’s been a month. It’s way too far into rehearsals for her to take away anyone’s role.”
Siobhan nodded her head in agreement, shifting her gaze up to the stage. People in the art crew were sitting there, painting the scenery. The green paint was sitting in a row at the edge of the stage, and people were periodically standing up, dipping their paintbrush, and sitting back down to paint. Upstairs, behind them, the stage crew was looking through the script for lighting and sound cues.
Sam was still babbling, and she hadn’t noticed Siobhan was late.
Good! she thought. Maybe I won’t get in trouble!
When Sam was finished she surveyed the crowd of actors, and her eyes narrowed when she got to Siobhan. “Siobhan,” she said. “Come here, please.”
With a knot forming quickly in her stomach, Siobhan stepped forward and took a deep breath. Sam took her by the arm and dragged her away from the crowd.
“Siobhan, stop your panting. I didn’t call you over because you were late, which I know you were, by the way.” Sam said, brushing stray locks of brown hair behind her face. “It’s because Josh is missing.”
Sam pulled Siobhan even farther from the group. “Siobhan, I’m telling you because you play Belle. You are literally in every scene with him. That may seem unfair, telling you but not the others, but you are the one who would probably worry most, seeing that there are some scenes with only you and him. Everyone else is so worried about their part in other scenes that they probably won’t notice.” She looked Siobhan in the eye and whispered, “If anyone asks, please tell them that he is on vacation.”
Siobhan looked silently at Sam. What did she expect Siobhan to do? Lie to her friends? Josh played the Beast, but that wouldn’t mean that only Belle would see him missing. Nobody is that self-absorbed.
“Do his parents know where he is?” Siobhan asked, staring up at Sam. She shook her head sadly.
Siobhan nodded her head vacantly, her eyes glossing over. She turned around and walked back to Fonzie, her head screaming with things to say.
Who would play the beast if Josh never showed up? Does Sam have an understudy for Josh? Where could he be? Where was the last time he was seen? Where did he go? Why did Sam only tell me? Josh wouldn’t run away, that’s not his personality. So the scariest question of all is — who took him?
* * *
Rehearsal started as usual, with a short warm up. Sam spread everyone in a circle and reminded them, “A perfect circle is where everyone can see everyone’s face and people are evenly spaced!” Siobhan clung to Fonzie, words on the tip of her tongue. She wanted so badly to yell and scream about Josh. It was very unfair of Sam to inflict such a secret upon a child. She shouldn’t have told her at all! With her mouth sealed uncomfortably shut, Siobhan went through rehearsal, blocking scenes five and seven. Without Josh. The most infuriating thing was that Sam was right, nobody noticed he was gone but Siobhan.
Siobhan kept quiet. She had been waiting to do this play for too long to just ruin it. Sam had told her to keep quiet, and there was no reason that she shouldn’t.
Two days later, on the day that they were studying their monologues, Siobhan noticed that Josh wasn’t the only one not there. The Enchantress, Bella, wasn’t there. Siobhan had become accustomed to her not being there during most rehearsals because she only appeared at the beginning of the show, but today was a day she was supposed to be there. Siobhan got up, disregarding that Monsieur D’arque was in the middle of his monologue, and she walked up to Sam. She looked at Siobhan, and she looked back at Monsieur D’arque, and she took Siobhan by the arm.
“Excuse us for a moment, Jared,” Sam said, walking towards the front of the stage.
“Siobhan, Bella has gone missing too. I don’t know what else to tell you, but with that look in your eye I can tell that you want to hear more.”
“Why won’t you tell the rest of the cast! Why am I the only one noticing!” Siobhan whispered, gesturing to Monsieur D’arque. Sam shook her head.
“I don’t know what to tell you, Siobhan. Don’t tell anyone and read your monologue!” Sam said with authority, and she started walking back to to her chair.
* * *
As each day went by, other people started disappearing. It seemed to be orderly and systematic, two people from the crew one day, two actors another, two people from art crew the next. And slowly Siobhan’s shell started to crack. She started checking behind her every time she left a room, and when she heard noises in the nighttime she would run and lock herself in the closet and wait there, shaking, until morning. Bags started forming under her eyes from no sleep, and she was still always very alert with fear. She called the parents of friends who had gone missing, but there was always something off with the way they talked. They all didn’t seem particularly bothered with anything that was happening. She loved this play, though. She had been dreaming about being the lead in this play her entire life. There was no way she wouldn’t go to rehearsals.
A week later, when Siobhan was late to rehearsal again, she got on the stage for scene six. She was used to the fact that the Beast wouldn’t be there. The Cutlery was supposed to be there, though, and not a fork or spoon was there, and neither was Cogsworth & Lumiere. Mrs. Potts wasn’t there, and neither was Chip or any Feather Duster. LeFou wasn’t there, Maurice wasn’t there, Philippe wasn’t there and Monsieur D’arque hadn’t been there since the day when he read his monologue. Nobody seemed to be there but Gaston, who was hiding behind the big black curtain, sliding his feet on the wooden floor because it wasn’t his scene. Sam seemed to notice too, and her eyes gleamed with worry, but she looked back to her script. “Siobhan!” she yelled. “Start the scene!”
“Sam, there’s nobody here,” Siobhan whispered, shuffling her feet. Sam gaped, as if surprised that she noticed, but she kept yelling.
“Then let’s do the scene with Gaston, alright. Scene two, everyone!” There was no reason to announce it to anyone. Only Belle, Gaston, the Wardrobe, and one member of the crew was there. Again, the scariest thing was that even after Siobhan had announced that nobody was there, only Fonzie realized that Siobhan was right. She played the wardrobe, and it was like she was knocked out of a trance. Ignoring Sam’s screaming, Fonzie ran to Siobhan and grasped her hand. She looked into her eyes, clearly just as surprised as Siobhan had been when she realized nobody but Sam and Herself had notice people leaving.
“Siobhan,” Fonzie gasped. “I don’t know why I haven’t noticed before. Everyone’s gone!”
“Fonzie, I know.” Siobhan said, a hint of irritation in her voice. How in the world had she not noticed? Practically no one was there! If they were to put on Beauty and the Beast now, seven eighths of the cast wouldn’t be there! Probably more! Both girls went home that day feeling sick to their stomachs.
* * *
The worst thing happened the next day. Absolutely no one was there except Fonzie and Siobhan, not even Sam. The girls sat at the edge of the stage, trembling and holding each other’s hands. The room seemed to feel colder, and just a little bit darker. The eggshell colored paint looked as if it was peeling off the ceiling and the room smelled of nothing but spiders and cobwebs. They didn’t dare say a thing. They were sure something would come out and grab them, or jump scare them like Five Nights at Freddy’s. Maybe this was all a prank, and maybe the cast was just playing a trick on them, but why would the director, who spent so long everyday lecturing them on how they had no time, waste even a second pulling a stupid prank?
“Siobhan, we should go home. Why should we even be here? The entire cast is gone, even Sam. What use is it to be here?” Fonzie murmermed. Siobhan looked her in the eye and sighed.
“I have been waiting way too long for this. We have to go to rehearsal.”
They started to rehearse. There wasn’t much they could do, but Fonzie put on her costume and so did Siobhan. They tried a scene they were in together, but it was practically no use.
“I’ve gotten no sleep in the past week, Fonzie. My head’s killing me and I’m not sure why this place isn’t shut down yet, but I am sure of something. Whatever that’s taken the entire cast and crew is coming for us next, even if we don’t come to rehearsal. It took Bella when she was sick at home, and I know because I called her when she was sick. The next day, when she wasn’t at rehearsal, I called her. Her mother said she was missing. But do you want to know the even creepier part? Her mother didn’t seem to care. She told me her daughter was missing with a lilt in her voice, and I could sense even through the phone that she was SMILING! Smiling! Who else could make a mother smile about her missing daughter then some sort of monster!” Siobhan yelled, her arms flailing in the air and her voice shrill. Fonzie reeled back, crawling onto her hands and knees. Siobhan sighed and sat down next to her.
“I’m sorry I yelled, but we can’t stay here,” Siobhan said. “If we do, even if we don’t go to rehearsal, something will still get us. The only reason I’m still here is because I love this play. If we leave, we could do this play in some other place”
“Where would we go?” Fonzie whispered, sitting back on the edge of the stage.
“I don’t know,” Siobhan whispered back, scared something in the wall was listening. “Some other country, maybe just another state. If we stay here, that thing is sure to get us.”
“Siobhan, you know I can’t leave. I’ve got family here, and Joey is going to that special school he’s been waiting to go to next year…”
“Fonzie, are you even listening to me? If we stay here that thing will get us! I don’t know how to make it any clearer!”
Fonzie gulped, tracing her fingers on the floor, and Siobhan knew her decision.
“Alright,” Siobhan said. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” She pulled Fonzie into a hug.
“Yeah, tomorrow,” Fonzie replied, throwing her bag on her shoulder. Siobhan knew she couldn’t leave either. Fonzie was her best friend, and she couldn’t leave without convincing her to go.
* * *
The next day Siobhan sat alone on the edge of the stage by herself. The paint was still peeling, and a sort of hum seemed to be emitting off the stage. Fonzie wasn’t there, Sam wasn’t there, Josh wasn’t there, and neither was anyone else. She sat with her hands clutching her script, saying the lines quickly with her eyes closed, almost like she was saying a prayer, when the lights shut off and the room went silent.