Read Dark Labyrinth 1 Online

Authors: Kevin J. Anderson

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Occult

Dark Labyrinth 1

Table of Contents

Kevin J. Anderson’s
Dark Labyrinth

Volume 1

Collection of four horror tales from the mind of Kevin J. Anderson, each with a short introduction by the author. Includes: “Final Performance,” “Special Makeup,” “Much at Stake,” and “The Sum of His Parts.”

Copyright 2011 WordFire, Inc.

“Final Performance” copyright 1985 by WordFire, Inc. Originally published in
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
, 1985.

“Special Makeup” copyright 1991 by WordFire, Inc. Originally published in
The Ultimate Werewolf
, edited by Byron Preiss, Dell Books, 1991.

“Much at Stake” copyright 1991 by WordFire, Inc. Originally published in
The Ultimate Werewolf
, edited by Byron Preiss, David Kellor, and Megan Miller, Dell Books, 1991.

“The Sum of His Parts” originally published in
Apex Science Fiction & Horror
Digest
, vol 1, Issue 9, 2007.

Digital Edition 2011

WordFire Press

www.wordfire.com

eISBN: 978-1-61475-001-7

Electronic Version by Baen Ebooks

http://www.baen.com

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Final Performance

Kevin J. Anderson

“Final Performance” copyright 1985 by WordFire, Inc. Originally published in
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
, 1985.

When I learned that Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theater had burned down during the initial performance of his play, “Henry VIII,” I began to sense the possibility for a story. When I discovered that the theater itself had been torn down and rebuilt using the same wood, and that some players may or may not have been murdered there…well, I decided it just had to be a ghost story.

After having my fiction appear for years in numerous small press magazines, “Final Performance” became my first professional sale to
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
.

* * *

SCENE I.

“London, this last day of June, 1613. No longer since than yesterday, while Burbages’ Company were acting at the Globe the play of Henry VIII, and there shooting off certain (cannons) in way of triumph, the fire catched and fastened upon the thatch of the house, and there burned so furiously as it consumed the whole house, all in less than two hours, the people having enough to do to save themselves.”

—Thomas Lorkins, eyewitness to the burning of the Globe Theatre.

Setting—
London.
Night. The charred ruins of the Globe Theatre. Little remains of Shakespeare’s playhouse: skeletal, blackened beams, the stone foundations. It is late November, 1613—a light dusting of snow covers the ground.

Enter
Cuthbert Burbage
, half-owner of the Globe, brother of Richard Burbage, who is the famous actor of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Shakespeare’s company.

Strange how silent London was so late at night. The houses surrounding him were dark, all candles extinguished for the night as sleeping townspeople huddled under deep piles of blankets. It was a cold November.

His breath congealed into thick plumes of steam as he walked, looking upward at the stars—intensely bright in the cold, crisp air. His left hand was kept warm from the rising heat of the lantern he carried, spilling out a small pool of dirty orange light on the snow ahead of him. The numb fingers of his right hand groped among the folds of his coat pocket, searching for warmth.

Burbage’s cheeks were flushed, and his ears hummed in the silence; his belly felt warm and full from the several tankards of beer he had drunk at the inn. The loud voices and forced laughter still rang in his ears. But everything else was silent now, the night air with barely a breeze, the thin covering of snow which seemed to muffle his footsteps. He had so little to do now—and it would remain the same all winter—with only his trips to the inn, until spring. In spring he and Richard were going to rebuild.

His footsteps impressed black marks on the new snow in Maiden Lane, and he stood before the ruins of the Globe. Only a few charred beams stood upright, painted white with a thin coating of snow—like the skeletal remains of some mythical beast. It was dark, and he could see little by the light of his feeble lantern: a pile of burned timbers and blackened foundation stone blocked his view of the stage.

A sadness filled him—perhaps the beer made him more susceptible—but it was an eerie, powerful, almost tangible emotion. This, the greatest theatre in London, which once had seated fifteen hundred people, now stood a pile of cinders and lonely ash.

No one had died in the fire, even though they had had a full house that last day. Well, one
had
died . . . but not from the flames. Burbage had carefully covered that up: the brothers planned to rebuild the Globe, and superstition would drive people away from a playhouse where it was known a murder had been committed.

The external feeling of sadness strengthened, and waves of despair and pain buffeted him, seeming to emanate from the ruins, like the cries of a mortally wounded animal in its death throes. Burbage frowned: he hadn’t realized how much beer he had drunk. Now, perhaps, he understood the way Richard felt every time he came near this place.

But then Richard had always been the sensitive one, the one so filled with passion. At times, Burbage envied his brother, who was so sure of himself always, totally devoted to his profession as an actor. Richard’s one desire was to perform on stage, and he did such a tremendous job. He lived for the Globe—Shakespeare himself had written many parts specifically for him to portray. Cuthbert Burbage had also acted on stage, only occasionally; but to him it was nothing more than repeating the lines he had memorized, picturing himself as a tool to move the play along. For Richard the characters were
real
.

It was not a hating envy he had for his brother, but a gentle one. Richard had no doubt as to his calling in life. The other Burbage was still waiting for his own calling. He had acted at times, when it was necessary; and he also managed the Globe Theatre, because his father had bequeathed it to Richard and him—and because he did a good job at it. His brother was a superb actor, and he himself was a shrewd businessman. The combination worked well, the previous success of the Globe had proved that.

But he wasn’t sure that the loss of the Globe was the only reason for Richard’s recent moody behavior, his anxiety. Being as popular as he was, Richard had little trouble acting in some of the other theatres in London. But Richard had seen something that night, when the Globe had burned, something that had shaken him badly. Burbage had waited for his brother to tell him, waited; but it had been five months, time enough for Richard’s wound to heal . . . or fester.

Perhaps things would be better come spring, when they could rebuild the theatre. Smiling vaguely, he remembered when they had first built the Globe, fifteen years before. Their father had built his own playhouse, The Theatre, in 1576—the first playhouse in all of London—in all of Europe, Burbage had heard (but who could possibly know all of Europe?). And on their father’s death over twenty years later, The Theatre had passed on to Richard and Cuthbert Burbage—just as its lease ran out.

The landlord, one Giles Allen, was a singularly uncooperative man, despite Richard’s impassioned speeches about an actor’s need to have a playhouse in which to dissipate his creative energy, despite Cuthbert’s tedious, patient negotiations. Allen had it in his mind to tear down the original playhouse because of “the greate and greevous abuses that grewe by The Theatre.”

But the Burbages had turned the tables on him, tearing down The Theatre themselves and using the old wood, taking it to the south side of the Thames where they had erected the new Globe Theatre. Burbage chuckled aloud as he remembered Giles Allen, his face splotchy, almost exploding with anger, cheated out of destroying the playhouse himself.

His low chuckle seemed alarmingly loud in the deep silence. Around him, the snow seemed to muffle all other sound; even the wind had stopped. He tensed as his ears, numb from the cold, picked up a low sound, a strange sound. The thin blanket of snow had been left undisturbed since the last snowfall early the previous morning—only his own footprints left a trail to the ruins. He was the only one around—he had to be. The effects of the beer buzzed in his ears—perhaps they were playing tricks on him. He took another step into the ruins, stopping beside a blackened beam fallen at an odd angle. He rested his hand on the charred wood; melted snow ran along his fingers, carrying black particles of soot. He listened again, and he was sure. He looked at the snow around him—no one had entered the ruins in the past day.

Yet inside, unmistakably, he heard voices.

SCENE II.

On December 28, 1598, Richard and Cuthbert Burbage “
and divers other persons, to the number
of twelve . . . armed themselves . . . and throwing down
the sayd Theatre in verye outrageous, violent and
riotous sort . . . did then also in most forcible and
ryotous manner take and carry away from thence
all the wood and timber thereof unto the Banckside
. . . and there erected a newe plahhowse with the
sayd timber and woode.

—Giles Allen, in a lawsuit against the Burbages in Middlesex Court.

Setting
—London.
The Globe Theatre, intact, before the burning. Morning. In the basement under the stage is
Thomas Radclyffe
, a young actor, rehearsing his lines, making sure he is satisfied with their delivery. He has been cast as Henry VIII in Shakespeare’s new play, “All is True,” which will be performed for the first time at the Globe this afternoon.

The basement is dim and shadowy, lit only by the light shining through the open trapdoor of the stage. It is cluttered with old props, a discarded mask of a ghost from an old play, costumes hang from sharp garment hooks on the wall beams.

Radclyffe closed his eyes tightly. He
was
Henry VIII. He filled his chest, thrusting it forward in a kinglike manner; he propped one hand on his hip. He imagined himself to be dressed in the garments King Henry wore in the portraits he had seen. His personality was putty, changing, fitting into a new mold, as an actor was required to do. He was almost ready.

His master, Havermont, had shown him this technique to
know
his characters, to
be
the people he was to portray. Radclyffe had been attached to Master Havermont almost seven years, lodging and boarding with the experienced actor since he had been ten years old. Thomas Radclyffe had been an extremely apt pupil—a bit impulsive, a bit impatient, his master had said, but Radclyffe wasn’t sure now if the impressions he had given hadn’t also been mostly an act.

After sending him through the typical womens’ roles—the bane of all apprentices before they started to sprout whiskers—Havermont had prepared him for the veteran actor’s own particular types of parts so that Radclyffe could take his place at the time of his master’s death.

And now Radclyffe had had the role of Henry VIII pressed upon him. Havermont had died suddenly; Radclyffe was not yet quite prepared, and perhaps he had let it go to his head a bit—his first salaried role, and it was
almost
the leading man. Radclyffe took it seriously—he always took his acting seriously—spending much of his free time down here, in the musty peacefulness of the basement of the Globe, where he could be totally alone, and let his dialogue fall into the quiet psyche of the theatre.

The lines came into his head—he was ready for them. He took up where he had left off the day before, trying to set his mind in the same mood. King Henry has just been informed that the people are outraged over a new tax, levied by the evil Cardinal Wolsey—no, not “evil,” not yet, the King still considers him a trusted friend—Wolsey, played by Richard Burbage, the
real
star of the play, the part written by Shakespeare especially for Burbage. But the audience would go from the play remembering
him
, Thomas Radclyffe, Henry VIII.

He lowered his voice, taking on a forgiving, almost condescending tone, placing himself into the reality of the play. He is a King, he told himself, about to remove a tax he considers unjust, a tax which he has known nothing about, which Wolsey has placed upon the people but has just denied doing so. The King holds Wolsey as friend, and believes him.

“‘Things done well and with a care exempt themselves from fear; things done without example, in their issue are to be fear’d.’”


Louder.
” Radclyffe reacted instinctively, raising his voice.

“‘Have you a precedent of this commission? I believe, not any.’“


More regal—more pride! With rising anger!

“‘We must not—’“He paused, looking around the shadows of the basement, frowning. “Who is there? Who has spoken?”


With rising anger! What is the next line? ‘We must not rend our subjects from their laws, and stick them in our will.’ This must be spoken angrily—not in a condescending tone.”

Radclyffe became distressed, looking around the cluttered, cobwebbed shadows of the Globe’s basement, but saw no one. He listened to the voice, trying to pinpoint it—but it was a whisper, an echoing mélange of voices.

“Where are you?” Then his eyes centered on something, propped up against the wall, a mask of a ghost, used once for the part of the ghost of Hamlet’s father. He felt an eerie chill crawling in the skin of his back. “
What
are you?”

Radclyffe moved toward the mask slowly, afraid, but intrigued. “
A part of your profession. A muse? No, not quite so . . . quaint. We ARE the Globe Theatre.”

Radclyffe picked up the mask, his fingers trembling. He looked to see if anything hid behind it—nothing. The frozen, empty mouth of the mask continued to pour forth its words.


Thirty seven years ago James Burbage built The Theatre—the first playhouse in all of Europe. And then his sons Richard and Cuthbert Burbage tore it down and used the same wood to build this, the Globe Theatre. Can you think that all those performances, year after year, all those actors pouring their souls into these walls, could have no effect on the wood of this place? A part of it remains here. We are the soul of this playhouse—and you shall perform as we direct you when you perform on our stage, in our walls.”


No!” Radclyffe cast the mask back to the ground. The eye holes continued to stare back at him. Anger and pride sprang from his years of training. “I would be
no
actor if I did only as you tell me. My Master Havermont has taught me to be a great performer. He has shown me that I am to interpret the characters as
I
choose; I am to say the lines as
I
decide. The acting must come wholly from
me
, or else I am just repeating words. Master Havermont is right, and I cannot listen to you.”

He had never doubted the existence of ghosts—nobody in London did. But he knew that ghosts were probably evil—and probably dangerous.

The voice paused, taking on a more sinister tone. “
You hold your dead master in high esteem, then?

“‘The gentleman is learned, and a most rare speaker; to nature none more bound; his training such that he may furnish and instruct great teachers, and never seek for aid out of himself.’ Indeed, I hold him in esteem.”

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