The Lazarus Effect

Carol Arvo 


© Copyright 2018 by Carol Arvo

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An evening out included unexpected apprehension, nostalgia, and a coming to life. 

It was dark, cold, and empty, a lifeless emptiness that seeped into every cell in our bodies, an emptiness that forbade talking. It demanded fearful whispers that vibrated against the walls and crept back at us with eerie boding. Hesitation slowed our steps as looming shadows surrounded us, as if soldiers were incorporating us into their ranks. They were gradually surrounding us.

We discerned a slight, barely detectable odor of non-existence around us. We felt defenseless, but continued to bravely make our way into the pit, down, further, until we were in the center of the lifeless cavity.

We stopped our downward journey. We had arrived. It was time to claim our space. We sat on stiff leather seats made hard by the cold. We huddled close together and pulled our collars up, hoping for protection from the damp blackness. Due to a fluke of traffic, or rather the lack of it, we arrived before life itself had entered the great hall, and now we must wait in its belly.

As minutes passed, we wondered if we were in the right place at the right time, although we knew we were early. “Where is everyone else?” “Maybe it’s always like this if you’re early.” We had never been early before. Several more minutes passed as we sat, still wondering where everyone else was.

Then, “Whoosh!” Our senses jolted. “What was that?” We instinctively huddled a little closer. We looked at each other, then into the blackness surrounding us. We saw nothing, but felt warm air begin to flow over us. We welcomed it like a comforting blanket. Soon, the blackness gently gave way to dim amber lighting that seemed to softly flow from strategically placed wall sconces acting as generals in command of rows of shadowy seats. The same seats that had earlier marched us down the aisle. Slowly, the pulse of the lifeless cavity was beginning to beat.

One by one, unsuspecting couples and groups of friends began to join us; two down front, four on the perimeters, three behind us. Unaware that life had just begun, they munched on popcorn and showed no reverence or fear. They felt no alarm. Our whispers gave way to quiet talk as we voiced our observations. “I wonder what the stage behind the screen looks like. Do you think they ever use those side balconies? The carved wood on them is still beautiful after all these years.”

I fell into a daydream for a couple of minutes where I imagined I was sitting in what was once an impressive, magnificent home for theatrical stage plays, musicals, and vaudeville. How marvelous to sit in this very seat and watch vaudeville performers like Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Durante, or Red Skelton entertain and amuse the audience. Maybe, a stage play was put on by other actors that I have never even heard of. Maybe a famous opera star was in Shakespear’s “Macbeth” on this very stage. So many wonderful things were possible when this theater was in its prime.

I closed my eyes and imagined the majestic velvet drapes pulling apart. I heard the music of the ‘40s, and the ever popular showbiz emcee introduce the stars. I saw how the spotlight made them shine like diamonds on the stage. I saw the excitement of life in their faces while they were doing what they loved to do. How the rafters must have shook from laughter and applause. Oh, how the audience must have enjoyed their performance. What wonderful stories this splendid theater could tell.

And now, maybe 70 years later, this great house is subdued by quiet talk. Its once glorious stage, unused for so many years, is hidden by an ordinary white square of Mylar. Its spotlight is extinguished. There are no costumes or makeup or props. Its vaudeville stars have been replaced by Hollywood stars, not on the stage, but on the white square of Mylar. Time continues to march on. It leaves a trail of memories, like breadcrumbs, but most in the audience are too young to remember.

I opened my eyes and reluctantly left the ‘40s, the vaudeville actors, and my fantasies of “The show must go on,” as soft music oozed from hidden speakers providing a background of old, familiar tunes: “A Summer Place,” and “Blue Velvet.” Quiet voices made us aware of conversations taking place all around us - from right next to us all the way to the far corners of the theater. More groups of friends straggled in and found their perfect seat. A slight feeling of excitement to see Hollywood’s latest offering was seeping into the air around us.

We waited while a commercial slide show touted the benefits of shopping in the neighborhood. Then, Hollywood movie trivia became something to pass the time while we waited for the main event. Bright colors flashed on the screen and lightened the darkness for the old, the young, the lovers, and friends.

The theater was coming to life quickly. It breathed deeper, and its heart beat stronger as more people arrived. Every mighty exhale permeated the air with the scent of popcorn and life smelled delicious. We could sense the anticipation of the main event. It pulsed through the gold velvet drapes, up through the brown, wooden rafters, around its walled ribs. Its food, its fuel for life had arrived. Its belly was full.

The amber generals dimmed to barely noticeable privates standing guard. The background music, commercials, and trivia stopped suddenly when ”COMING SOON” exploded on the screen with Dolby stereo streaming from every pore of the once lifeless cavity. The quiet conversations stopped abruptly. Everyone sat at attention. Bright colors, fast action, special effects, and high-tech sound generated intense energy and excitement that instantly passed from cell to cell, molecule to molecule, and became a living breath, a life force. There was no doubt that this grand old theater, its life snuffed out after the last performance of the day before, had come back to life today, as it does every day, and had grown to its prime once again, right before our eyes.

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