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Inner Theatre

by phatax

Chapter 1

I'd been persuaded by my wife Nancy to go see the Inner Theatre's latest show. I'd read an article about the Inner Theatre company and its unique productions, which were a mix of traditional drama, circus, festival, concert and house-party, where the barrier between performers and audience didn't exist. This kind of thing was not for me: "Audience Participation" were two words that induced in me a chill dread. Not due to any diffidence on my part: I'm by and large an outgoing and sociable sort. It's just that I don't enjoy party games, particularly of the sort where people have to change their clothes or don ill-fitting hats or wigs. If I want to join in the fun, that's up to me, and coercion or peer-pressure just brings out my stubborn and contrary side. I am, as my star-sign attests, a well-grounded, practical man, not given to needless flights of fancy. Which makes the story I'm about to relate all the more surprising.

Nancy had been given two tickets for the show by my stepdaughter Jeanne, a make-up artist, whose income was mainly gained in the summer months where she worked the Festival Circuit doing face and body-painting. But Jeanne had been offered a well-paid gig abroad and couldn't go. Apparently, these tickets were like Bitcoin to some people, as they were to me --namely, overly hyped and a symbol of these vacuous, meaningless times.

The venue was a decrepit warehouse in East London. It appeared to me to be condemned, altogether a hazardous place to hold a large gathering. It was a four-storey shoebox-shaped Victorian building with broken, filthy windows. A few hardy Buddleia clung to its blackened crumbling brickwork.

The entrance to the show was, it seemed, on the roof, for we were made to stand in line at the base of a rickety, rusty fire-escape which coiled like a giant RNA molecule beside it. The fire-escape had been festooned with white fairy lights, presumably as a feeble nod to Health and Safety.

My pessimism abated once we reached the roof. In fact I gasped in wonder along with everyone else as we beheld a beautiful Islamic-style ornate secret garden with its scented jasmine and its tinkling sparkling fountains lit from below. A long marble-columned pergola led back from the corner of the roof where the fire-escape emerged, to a fire exit doorway in the middle of the roof, which presumably led down into the part of the building where the show was to take place.

Halfway along the pergola was a sentry-box, like the guards at Buckingham Palace use. From it periodically a pale, bare arm would emerge. It appeared that somebody was handing the people ahead of us fancy-dress clothes to change into. Nancy, a vain woman who spent a lot of her time and energy choreographing her appearance, was at first aghast. Then she narrowed her eyes and became resolute, anticipating the impending confrontation when she refused to don the flea-bitten jumble on offer.

When we reached the sentry-box we were met by a very tall girl with big doll-eyes with long fake lashes, set in a gorgeous round face which, was framed by her shoulder-length blonde curls. Her cheeks and pale bare arms sparkled with silver glitter. She wore a sequined pearly bathing-suit, patent high-heeled shoes and a tiara with flashing blue LEDs, and nothing else.

"Hi! I'm the cloakroom attendant!", she said as she gave me a wide-eyed, wide-lipped smile, which I involuntarily returned. She reached into a large bin inside the sentry-box and pulled out a pile of clothes for us to choose from. Still grinning, I turned to Nancy, but she had streaked on ahead and quickly disappeared down the fire-exit into the building, leaving me to explain her behaviour to the gorgeous girl. I opened my mouth --

-- "In here, quick!" The girl hissed urgently, pointing down behind her to the floor of the sentry box.

Without thinking, I stepped inside the sentry box and curled myself into a ball in the darkness, close by her feet. She began throwing articles of clothing over me, until I was hidden beneath a pile of them, breathing quickly. I peeped out from under the clothes and looked up at the backs of her knees, firm thighs, up to her pale butt-cheeks...

"I'm a friend of Jeanne," she explained, which, although it was no explanation at all, felt like a perfectly good one to me at the time. I felt warm and safe there, and my dick uncurled and grew. I kissed the smooth, white backs of her calves. She raised her foot so I could run my wet lips over the shiny heel of her patent shoe. I began to drift off to sleep, dimly aware that I'd been drugged.

I don't remember much after that until I found myself alone in a small room, lit by a weak bulb suspended from the ceiling. The room was completely featureless, devoid of any furniture. I paced in sullen boredom, as though I was merely being kept waiting overlong for a doctor's appointment, rather than having been mysteriously imprisoned.

There were no windows in that room. There was not even a door. That ought to have terrified me, but for some reason, I hadn't expected there to be one. This was all merely part of the show, I felt, and sooner or later some jolly actors would burst in from a hidden trapdoor, and I'd be released and ushered into the next scene.

The paint on the wall of the room was a pale coffee colour. It was cracked like the glaze on an ancient ceramic, producing an intricate craquelure. In my boredom, I traced the lines of the craquelure, imaging it to be a road map. I set my finger tasks and puzzles, to find the shortest route from here to there, going via there...

As the hours passed and I stared and stared, and traced and traced the lines of the cracks, I began to notice some patterns in it. A particular arrangement of cracks appeared in more than one place on the wall. I began to wonder, were these cracks placed there by human artifice, rather than by the aging of the paintwork? Was there a meaning in its not-quite random pattern? Was the entire wall, in fact, perhaps a message, a clue to my escape?

As this thought entered my mind, I noticed that an ant had found its way onto the wall. No, it was too small for an ant, it was tiny; no bigger than a money-spider. Once I became aware of this, I began to notice more of these tiny creatures. They were hard to see, because they were black, like the cracks, and seemed to prefer walking along the lines of the cracks rather than across the expanses of paint between them.

I blinked and opened my eyes wide a few times and pressed my face very close to the wall. I'm a little long-sighted, but this blinking trick sometimes helps me to focus better on nearby objects. This time it worked spectacularly: I saw that what I had at first taken for insects were actually tiny people. All at once I realised that up till now, I'd had the scale wrong in my mind. These were not tiny people: It was I that was very far away. "I'm looking down on them!" I cried out. At the word "down" the room spun so that the wall which I'd been staring at now became the floor, or rather the ground. And I was falling. As I neared the ground, the cracks revealed themselves as deep furrows in a creamy-brown landscape, and I saw that it was not the ground I was falling into, but a human brain...

...But no, it wasn't a brain, it was a City, an ancient city with a maze of dark shady lanes forming a crazy craquelure between the pale-brown flat-roofed buildings. As I braced myself for landing, I recognized the roof of the warehouse, with its beautiful garden. It was bright daytime now, but still I recognized it: I saw the sentry box. But the girl was not there. I'm going to die, and I've missed the whole show, I thought to myself. But I was wrong on both counts.

I emerged, dazed but unhurt, from a hay wain, into which I must have fallen. What luck! By even more luck my vial of youth-tincture was intact and unbroken. I'd had the vial since I was a child, and kept it secreted in my leather satchel which I always wore about me, which had earned me the nick-name "Satchmo". The only other person who had ever known of it was my grandfather, who had given it to me, his favourite grandson, on his deathbed. I'd begged him to drink the tincture instead, so that he would not die, but he told me that it only keeps one from aging, it doesn't make one younger. He'd only found out about its powers when he himself was an old man, from a visiting witch.

Witches were outlawed in the city, as the King feared their powers. So they travelled at night, earning their keep as mendicants and fortune-tellers. It was said that my mother was a witch, although I never knew her, as she died, they say, in childbirth. But I think that can't be true because I'm pretty sure I remember her, a blonde and grey-eyed beauty. I remember hiding under her long white dress and looking up between her smooth legs, up into the dark crack from which I emerged, tiny, disorientated and terrified.

Dusting myself off, I took my bearings. I'd landed in a part of the city I didn't know very well. So mazy were the streets of this city, and so vast was its area, that few people, not even the rickshaw drivers, knew their way about all of it. If only I'd had more time to study the cracks in the wall earlier!

There were soldiers about, marching in groups of three or four. Although I'd done nothing wrong, my instinct was to hide from them, so I ducked behind the hay wain, startling the donkey that was harnessed to it. I peered cautiously out from behind the wain into the bustling street, the smell of donkey shit in my nose. One of the soldiers was wearing Nike trainers, giving himself away as one of the cast of the show, or possibly an audience member dressed up. I decided to confront him.

"Hi," I said. Instantly the four of them stopped and looked at me.

"Yes?" said one of them suspiciously. He was a big, bearded burly fellow, with a kind-looking face. But he was armed, along with the others, with a club and a sabre.

"I -- I'm lost."

"Lost are you, eh? Where do you live when you're not lost, then?"

I pointed in a random direction.

The soldier with the Nike trainers whispered something in the captain's ear (I presumed he was the captain), which made him look at me strangely.

"I think you better come with us, Sunny Jim. Let's split the scene. Follow us. We'll steer you right. We'll see you through to the end, won't we, lads?"

The others laughed in agreement. I couldn't tell if their joviality masked any menace. My heart told me they were not to be trusted, but in my ears, I heard my grandfather's voice from the grave:

"You won't know whether you can fly

until you flap your arms and try."

Observing my hesitancy, the captain removed his helmet, reached inside it and pulled out Polaroid photo. It was slightly out of focus. It was of a dark-haired girl leaning over a clay-red parapet, silhouetted against a sapphire sky. A princess, clearly. I knew it was my destiny to be with her. But what about Nancy? What would she say if I went gallivanting around marrying beautiful princesses? She'd take me to the cleaners if we divorced. She never understood me, but there again, had I given her any opportunity to? Always quick to judge, and slow to understand, that was Nancy. Then I laughed. None of this mattered, this was merely part of the show.

"Okay, lead on, captain", I said merrily.

It turned out I was to be trained to become a courtier in a compound in the grounds of the Grand Palace. I recognized the palace immediately, from my dreams, and from summer vacations: It was the Alcazar Palace in Seville, in its heyday. But no, it couldn't be, that would make me six hundred years old! Could the youth-tincture be that powerful?

I joined a group of around twenty other young lads, and our training began. We had lessons in swordsmanship, horse-riding and calligraphy. At algebra and arithmetic I excelled. I used this to my advantage, selling my services to my less numerate colleagues. I would do their homework for them (making a few errors so that the teacher wouldn't catch on), and they would pay me in olives, which were the de facto currency in the compound. In turn, I would pay the toughest boys for protection from molestation -- which was rife there, but I, as a married man, would have no truck with that sort of thing.

Judging by the appearance of my colleagues, I estimated my own age to be about eighteen. My libido was rampant, and I masturbated whenever I could. I joined in a few orgasm competitions with my colleagues, mainly to be sociable, but I preferred solitude when I masturbated, so that I could really focus on my imagined sex scenes. I expected the beautiful raven-haired princess to feature prominently, but it was in fact the young cloakroom attendant who starred most often. The age gap between us was now far closer than it had been when we'd first met. Also she was now taller than me, which added to the thrill. She whispered to me, one night in a post-coital murmur:

"You need never leave me, you know. Just say the word, and you'll have me for ever."

I considered her offer carefully, but finally thought better of it; Sooner or later I'd have to go back to reality, back to work, back to Nancy -- and those household bills don't pay themselves.

One night, there was a hubbub in the dormitory, and several of the boys were crowded at the balcony. I squeezed my way between them to see what all the fuss was about. I looked down into the moonlit quadrant where the fountain played and saw them: The girl students, our female counterparts, in training to become ladies of the court and concubines of the King. They stepped silently and delicately like prowling cats across the cold mosaic tiles, barefooted and bare-headed. One of the girls stopped and looked up defiantly at us. At me. It was the raven-haired beauty from the Polaroid photo. So, she was not a princess after all, but a humble citizen like me, plucked from the sprawling city into this cloistered life, or perhaps offered into it by her impoverished parents.

My colleagues, usually boisterous and loud, became quiet, every one of them, such was the glory of the sight of these girls. Silently, as silently as cats, we crawled to our beds and slept a dreamless sleep.

Aside from those girls, we saw no other females for many months, until graduation day.

Graduation took place outside on the sports ground, on a muddy football pitch. It was grey and drizzling that day. We lined up, like two teams before kick-off, girls on one side, boys on the other. A large, masculine games-mistress was to present us with our diplomas. She wore a pair of muddy work boots, and a long drab white tee-shirt which half-covered her large, muscular ass.

"You! Here!" She barked at the boy beside me, indicating the centre spot.

"Lie down! On your back!" She shouted, and the boy obeyed.

The games-mistress hoisted her tee-shirt, revealing studded leather knickers. She maneuvered herself until she straddled his head and pressed herself down hard onto it. The boys' arms and legs flailed. Blood oozed onto the grass. She folded her arms, waiting for him to suffocate. Everyone watched in shocked silence.

Finally she rose from the lifeless body and shouted to no-one in particular: "FAIL!"

This hideous act was repeated, over and over. I realised that none of us would survive this. My eye caught the gaze of the raven-haired girl. We read each other's thoughts... and then both of us ran, as fast as we could, across the pitch towards the hedgerows. We leapt over a stream and crawled through the hedge, the hawthorn spikes tearing at our skin.

"Where to now?" I asked her, breathlessly.

"My grandmother. She lives nearby."

I awoke, disoriented, in a warm bed in what seemed to be a bedroom of a little cottage. A sallow-skinned wrinkled old woman entered without a word, and stood, hands on hips, at the foot of the bed, watching me with a sneering grin. She was dressed in traditional Romany attire, with a long billowing patterned skirt and white Indian cotton shirt.

"Where is she?" I asked, sitting up.

"Who, my granddaughter? Out fetching milk. Do you love her, then?"

"We're to be married. If that's OK with you." I assumed that this crone was her guardian.

"Well, we'll have to see about that." The woman chuckled. She reached down the front of her shirt and hoisted out a massive, round breast. The invitation was clear.

I crawled towards her and knelt at the end of bed and started to suckle. Her milk was sweet and drove me insane with desire. She cooed at me in encouragement. The more I sucked on her huge erect dark teat, the deeper became my lust. She spat on my hair and massaged it into my scalp with her rough hands. I heard the tinkling of her gold bracelets in my ears.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the girl come into the room. With an effort, I pulled my face away from the woman's breast. I tried to call out to her that this was not what it looked like but realised that I didn't even know her name. I rested my cheek against the witch's breast (she was undoubtedly a witch) and sighed.

"He wants to marry her, and he doesn't even know her name," she chuckled. I felt the vibration of her voice against my face. It felt good.

"I'm the one for you," she said. "You know it in your heart. Give in to me. Now, sleep." She held me in her arms and rocked me gently.

I slept.

When I awoke, I was still in her bedroom. My satchel lay on the floor. The youth-tincture was gone. Had it ever even existed?

I dressed quickly and ran down the stairs. At the kitchen table were four surly-looking Romany men playing cards, a half-full bottle of Vodka on the table. I asked them where the old woman was. They ignored me. I ran out of the cottage -- straight into the path of a speeding car.

I beheld myself from above lying on an operating table in a surgical amphitheatre, the upper part of my skull removed, my brain clearly visible, surrounded by masked surgeons. I called down to myself "Are you conscious?"

"Yes," I replied from the operating table. "They didn't give me enough general anaesthetic."

I shouted to the anaesthetist to increase the dose, but it seemed nobody could hear me.

"Will he survive this?" The voice was Nancy's. But I couldn't see her.

I rose from the operating table, still with my upper skull removed.

"Where are you going? You can't leave yet!" Shouted a surgeon.

"Oh yes I can. I don't like this scene. I'm going to split the scene, man."

The surgeon removed his mask, revealing himself to be the burly captain from the City. He removed his helmet and handed it to me. "Well, make sure you wear this, son. It's raining out there. Don't want your brain getting rained on."

I stood outside the warehouse in the rain. It was night-time. The beautiful cloakroom attendant approached me, wearing a pale grey raincoat done up with a belt, revealing her shapely figure.

"Are you enjoying the show?" She asked.

"No. I want to go home, but my wife's in there."

We stood in silence for a few moments. "How do you know Jeanne?" I asked her.

"She and I met at the Bubble Festival."

I hadn't heard of the Bubble Festival. I felt old and out of touch next to this young beauty.

"What's your name?" I asked her, but she put her finger to my lips.

"Please, no names."

"Isn't that a line from a film?"

She responded by unbuckling her belt. She was naked underneath it, except for her patent shoes and tiara. The LEDs on the tiara had stopped flashing. Maybe the battery had run out...

I plunged my dick deep inside her and held her tight, one hand grasping her firm ass, the other at the back of her neck. We kissed. Part of me hoped that Nancy would come out and see this. It would precipitate an ugly scene, and perhaps a divorce that would leave me destitute, but at least the lies would be over.


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