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"Did you enjoy my performance?" The message was scratched onto the wall.
Shaking with fear, the girl stared at the smallish figure before her. She whimpered as the fluttering black robe rose into the air. The chandelier lit up for a split second before it flickered out.
It had been just enough time for the girl to see the mask.
The newspaper headlines went wild. "MISSING GIRLS FOUND DEAD." No culprit had ever been caught. No one had ever suspected the old theater.
The well decomposed bodies had been found when possible buyers of the building had gone and inspected the hundred year old theater.
For months, a group of four girls had mysteriously gone missing. Some classmates had said that they had gone out for a night on the town. They hadn't dared to mention their dare.
The classmates, the two boys and one another girls, knew the truth. They knew what had happened to the four missing girls. They were just as guilty of their deaths. They made them take the dare.
That damned dare. How they lay in bed at night drowning in guilt! If only they had never come to that cursed web article! If only they hadn't given the dare.
Day after day they relived that fateful night. Never it grew dimmer, only more vivid. It drove them insane.
That night. That night little Megan had a sleepover. Four girls came over. Two boys had sneaked in.
That night they surrounded little Megan's laptop, searching for chilling ghost stories. Thomas found a website. Old fashioned, no links. Just a selection of ghost stories.
They read through the selection. They rolled their eyes. They laughed. They skipped over one titled Theatre Phantom. After they had finished, little Jesse suggested they read the one they ignored. Sam clicked on it. In his most dramatic voice, he read as the text followed:
"18th Century Britain. A place where the break between rich and poor was a matter of walking down a couple of streets. Sometimes the people came together in the theater houses.
Shakespeare's plays entertained hundreds. Old Greek plays were acted over and over again. The audience stood in awe as the latest technology was used to enhance the performance. It was magical.
Mary thought so too. It was her dream to become a great pretty actress, or perhaps even a dancer. Fortune had it that she was an orphan on the street who wouldn't live past her twenties. That grim reality didn't stop her from dreaming.
Each day Mary glanced around the market stalls and theater walls to catch sight of a poster announcing the latest performance. Whenever she'd find one, Mary would memorize the date and time. An hour before it began, Mary would sneak in through a low back window.
She'd sneak behind the cleaning and costume making ladies. She maneuver her way towards a shadowy, elevated, corner where she believed she had the best seat in the house.
From the moment, the play began to the moment it would end, Mary would not stir. Oh what she would give to set foot on a real stage!
She sat in daze as the people cleared away. She blinked in sudden realization that a man had just lit a candle that was in a holder above her head. The man gave a shout and dropped the match. He stamped the match out soundly. In that brief moment, Mary jumped off and ran in the opposite direction.
There was no way that she could leave through the guarded entrance. The ladies in the back rooms would stop her. She didn't know what to do. Running was the only plan of escape she had. She thought that by running she could get away. After all she was merely ten years old.
Young Mary crawled upon the stage and dodged behind the red curtains. She launched herself under the legs of the workers removing the painted scenery. The shouts of men carried to her ears. She found her way to the actors and actresses. The gasps of men and the shrieks of women erupted all around. Mary blushed. Her escapade would leave a bad impression.
More men chased after her. One mustachioed man cried, 'Child, return! Where is your father and mother?'
Mary plowed on and climbed up some rickety old stairs. She opened a wooden rotten door that led to an attic. Mary looked around. Old costumes and props were littered everywhere. Hurriedly she ducked and weaved until she ran across an over-turned wardrobe. She opened it and found an assortment of old costumes and masks. Quickly she burrowed beneath the materials and lay still.
She held her breath as footsteps sounded up the stairs. No movement came forward. They stood outside the door. A man said, 'No use checking in there. That's the old dressing room. It's been locked from the inside, never could open it again.'
Another man agreed. 'The girl probably left through one of those windows the ladies have opened.'
Settling on that idea, the men departed.
Mary sat up. She'd stay there for a while. Then she'd leave when no one was around.
She whispered, 'I won't be able to come back here. I must treasure my last moments in this place.'
She climbed out of the wardrobe and squinted in the darkness and the small amount of light let in through a window in the ceiling. The shapes of the furniture and props frightened Mary. 'Perhaps I should just leave now...'
Mary decided that a costume would help her. Maybe an actor would think she was one of them and let her go! She reached for one of the long robes and tied it with a sash. 'I must hide my face too.' Mary selected an interesting mask. The right half was colored black and had a narrowed eye and a smile. The left half was white and held an open mouthed grimace. It was strange. Mary liked it. She slid it upon her face.
Ready, Mary made her way to the door, only to find that she could not open it. In her haste to open it, the knob had fallen off. Mary was locked in the room. The window was to high up for Mary to reach and there was no other door. No one would come up to the abandoned attic. Mary let out a strangled cry. She was going to die alone in her beloved theater.'
Sam and the others laughed. Bianca faked a heart attack.
Michael whisper shouted, "This is the dumbest story ever!"
Amanda scrolled down some more. "It's not finished yet."
"I'll finish it up," replied Zoey. She followed where Sam had left off:
"Mary perished in the corner of the dressing room. Her flesh rotted away and her skeleton crumbled away to dust. The mask fell away to the ground, as did the robe and sash.
On the sixth year after Mary's death, on All Hallow's Eve, her spirit rose from its dormant rest. It billowed up into the robe and sash, lifting up the mask with it. Every so slowly it creaked open the rotten door that had fallen away over the years.
Mary's ghost hovered into the dressing rooms of the actors' dressing rooms. They were empty and dusty. It hadn't been disturbed in a while. At a closer look, Mary found a old note that read, 'New theatre location across town'.
This theater had been abandoned. Mary's ghost delightfully realized that it could finally be on the stage and act, without anyone stopping it.
And that is what it did. Day after day, Mary's ghost swished it's black robe and flaunted its bipolar mask.
One hot summer day, decades later, two young lovers wandered in. The young man had said, 'The place is old, but we have it all to ourselves.'
'Oh, it does feel a bit chilly in here doesn't it?' The girl remarked. She froze. 'What is that?'
The boy followed his lover's gaze to the long black robe tied with a gray sash. A creepy half smiling half screaming black and white mask was where the head should have been. It was floating in midair. 'Oh God...let's go. Go!'
The two teenagers ran to the door, but not before the phantom got there first. A message was scrawled in above the entrance. 'Stay for the show. Stay and watch me.'
'Hell no!' The boy took the girl's hand and ran away from Mary's ghost.
Mary's ghost scrawled another message beneath their feet. 'Don't run! Stay!'
The boy was lifted up from the ground and thrown against the far side of the auditorium. The girl screeched. The boy was then stabbed multiple times by an old quill. It dug into his eyes, slowly mushing them away. He screamed in agonizing pain.
Then he was dragged and hit by the many chairs. His bones were broken brutally and he bled profusely. Mary's ghost was relentless. The boy's screaming increased in pain and horror. He was then pulled against the curtain pulleys and ropes, where finally he was hung by the neck and dropped to the ground. His neck snapped clean in two.
The girl had silently left and ran through the streets, yelling about 'a theater phantom'. She was submitted to a mental hospital, where she told everyone about the Theater Phantom that had murdered her lover.
Since then, the old theater was locked down for the public safety. Soon it was forgotten on the outskirts of town.
Be wary of the Theater Phantom. Avoid its theater. It will make you stay, or it will kill you in a way more grotesque than that of the young man. The curtains will close on your life."
Zoey broke off with a laugh. "That was the stupidest thing ever!"
Megan appeared shaken. "I don't know...isn't there a theater outside of our town?"
"Oooo, I'm the Theater Phantom! Watch or die!" Jesse prodded Megan's ribs.
Sam looked up the theater Megan talked about. "Hey look we do have one. It was around in the 18th century, and it's been abandoned forever. It doesn't mention a murder or anything."
Michael got a devious look on his face. "I dare someone to go check it out."
Megan and Sam both immediately backed out. Megan said, "No thank you. I value my life."
Sam's excuse was, "We could get in trouble for breaking in, guys."
Michael smirked. "Cowards."
Bianca said. "Why don't you go, Mike?"
He shook his head. "I'm the dare-er, not the dare-ee. I bet you all are just chicken, girls."
Amanda stood up straight. "Excuse me? Do you think that just because we're girls, we're scared of some made up story?"
"Fine! I'm going!"
Bianca stood up too. "Right! Girls can do anything guys can do!"
The two girls headed for the door. Zoey looked to them and then back to Megan. She left and called back, "I'm no coward. I'll send you some pics."
Jesse sat undecided. Finally she said, "Ghosts aren't real. I'll prove you scaredy-cats wrong."
The four girls were gone. Megan, Sam, and Michael passed the time reading some other stories. After a few hours, the three were worried. They hadn't heard from the girls. Megan called Bianca. No answer. Jesse. None. Amanda. Voice mail. Zoey. She answered, "Megan?" She whispered, "It's real...Amanda, Jess, Bianca....it killed them. I can't get out..." Zoey paused, then screamed. A scratch against wood was heard, then the break of bones and spurting of blood was heard. Something dripped onto the phone.
"Zoey, Zoey...?!" Megan yelled into the phone.
There was no answer only a murmured, "Hope you enjoyed the show...."
The three teens were gray faced. Sam vomited. Michael was sitting open mouthed. Megan was crying. The three promised to never speak of it again. They deleted their history.
A few weeks later, they received images of the four girls' mangled bodies, each captioned with, "They acted excellently. I enjoyed the show."
Beware the Theatre Phantom. If it asks you to watch the show, please gladly accept. Or else, you'll receive a show to die for.