Ghost Light by Kate Leimer

I am the Ghost Light, the one who stands and watches the stage when the theatre is closed.

I am here for safety; you wouldn’t want to tumble down into the orchestra pit while fumbling for the light switch, would you? I watch the ghosts who come to entertain the empty seats at night; the usherette in her apron and cap, who drifts through the wall that wasn’t there when she worked here, long ago.

I look a bit like an old standard lamp (I was once, a prop for ‘Mr and Mrs’, in 1972.) My single brass foot is so heavy, I must be wheeled out on a trolley and my soft yellow lamp glows from a cage.  I look eerie, alone on the stage; its sole caretaker while the theatre is closed. I may grow dim and die before they come back and the ghosts will be alone in the darkness. Maybe they won’t come back.  The ghosts will reclaim the building before it is demolished or refurbished and repurposed.

They’re here now. They’ve got used to being undisturbed all day and night while only I watch. I am not afraid of them. They do not notice me. I am only a light, I illuminate and I witness, that is all I am.

The Dame takes a bow, his white gloves brighter than his shadowy form.  He was so proud of his white gloves, only to be worn for certain scenes, I forget now, it was all so long ago.

A lone musician stands in the wings with his banjo, watching, waiting to go on, counting time until the finish of the song. His stiff white shirt glows in the darkness, his tailcoat is a little worn and there is a hole in his shoe, peeping from beneath the spats which cover his ankles. He raises his banjo, strides forward and disappears. A little dust falls from the rigging onto the stage.

I never see the bright colours of the costumes, the vivid paint of the stage set while the performance is on. I am put away before the dresser runs down to to the dressing room with the missing feather boa for Scene Three.  Before the panicked glances: Romeo is drunk again, can he still go on or shall we fetch the understudy?  Where are Juliet’s shoes?

“Five minutes, Miss Smith!”

I never hear the murmur of the waiting audience, the squeaky tune-up of the orchestra, the settling sigh as the performance begins. 

I am the ghost light, the guardian. I wait here for you all to come back, to breathe life into this old building again.  Look at the Victorian fittings, enjoy a drink in the bar during the interval and drift out of the open doors after the performance, talking about how brilliant it was, or how the clarinet was out of tune with the bassoon on the third number but you think you saved it, as you slip out of the stage door, instrument case in your hand, into a side street to find your car.

A new writer, Kate Leimer enjoys stories of all kinds. She has stories in Hysteria 7 Anthology, edited by Linda Parkinson-Hardman, The Wondrous Real Magazine, Fudoki Magazine, TL;DR Press’ Hope and Bluesdoodles. She has a BA in History and English Literature. When not writing, she works in a library.

Twitter: @hollypook