When you go to the theatre to see a play, something special happens.
Something special has to happen because when you’re there you know that it’s all just pretend, that those are just sets, those people are just actors with separate lives, and the situations are just made up, and it is all just a performance. But something allows you to forget all of it, for the span of that performance, so that the story and events therein can really come alive.
Sure, it helps if the actors are good. It helps if the scenery is convincing, or at least beautiful. It helps if the script is compelling, and honest.
There is this beautiful idea, though, that the power of transformation is really in the hands of the audience. All those other things help, but they mean nothing if, in the audience’s critical, powerful eyes, the stage if just filled with wood, cloth, people, and words. There is magic in the audience’s gaze capable of bringing whole new worlds to life before them, like magic.
It’s a very nice idea. But it isn’t true.
It isn’t far from the truth, but the assignment of agency isn’t right. The power does not belong to the audience, and it isn’t really magic. The truth isn’t so nice.
Beneath the stage, in the dark, there are people. Well, I don’t know if you can call them people, anymore.
They’re really more like what’s left of people, when the body is gone. I don’t mean like memories that the living retain, but rather, that part of a person that makes him or her, him or her. Call it a soul, call it imagination—it’s the part of a person that believes in things.
Except the bodies are still there, just withered. Their flesh is pale from existing only in the dark, and their eyes are dead. Just the bare essential nutrients are pumped in intravenously, to maintain the firing of neural pathways, the only function of these beings, anymore.
Wires and cables emerge from their scalps like Gorgons’ hair, trailing off into the dark recesses of the cavern beneath the stage, channeling the power of belief from their minds and into—
They believe. And because they believe, you can believe in something that you know to be a pantomime. Sacrifices must be made for the sake of art.