The four teenagers gathered in the playground behind the Old Day School to watch the sunset. They had been meeting there more frequently of late, playing hookey, or whatever it is that young people do when there are no old people around to tut at them disapprovingly. Recently they had all starred in BaCStage’s smash hit production ‘Dick Whittington’, but that was three long months ago and they were getting impatient for new adventures.
“I’m getting impatient for new adventures”, said Arthur. “Me too”, said Angela.
Arthur and Angela were of course not Angela and Arthur’s real names. They have been given false identities to protect their anonymity, and also to make sure that no-one reading this knows who they really are. For the purposes of this tale our four protagonists are named Arthur, Betty, Boris and Angela.
“Where did all the actors go?” asked Betty. “Not long ago Bluntisham was full of actors, but since ‘Dick Whittington’ ended they’ve all just… disappeared”.
There was a pause, but not a dramatic one.
“Hey, I’ve got an idea” said Boris, “we could form a pop group!” The other three each gave him their best withering look, but Boris ignored them. “We could make up a band name from our initials”.
“Hmm,” said Angela, “let’s see… we have Arthur, Betty, Boris and me, Angela. That’s A, B, another B and then another A”. She considered this for a moment. “No,” she finally said, “I can’t see how anyone could make a pop group name out of those letters.”
Boris was not impressed. “Well, Angela, you could change your name to… Edith, and then we could spell… ‘Ebab'”.
Angela was even more not impressed than Boris. “Yes,” she retorted, “or I could change my name to Shirley, and you change yours to Peregrin, and then we could spell – ”
“Spab?” asked Betty, looking confused.
“Enough of this”. Arthur cut across their squabble. “We are not forming a pop group, and no-one is changing their name to anything else”. The irony of this last statement, arising from the fact that Arthur was not Arthur’s real name, was lost on Arthur. “There were actors here once. There will be again. We just have to be patient”.
At that moment, beneath their feet, something was stirring. In the vast, labyrinthine crypt below the Old Day School, a rhythmic clanking sound echoed eerily along the dark and dusty passages.
Arthur froze. Despite it being the middle of May the evening was surprisingly chilly and he was only wearing a flimsy t-shirt. He really should have worn something more substantial like a nice sensible pullover or cardigan, not to mention a pair of trousers.
“What is it?” asked Angela, being careful to look only at his face.
“I thought I heard – didn’t you hear… something stirring?” Arthur sighed. “It was probably nothing. Hey Boris, pass me the bottle would you, there’s a good chap”.
Boris reached into his rucksack and brought out a bottle. It was wrapped in brown paper. The bottle, not the rucksack. He passed it – the bottle, not the rucksack – to Arthur.
“Hey Arthur, what’s in the bottle?” asked Angela, to which Arthur replied “Beer”.
“Oh Arthur! You’re such a reb!” said Betty admiringly. “What sort of beer? Lager? Bitter?”
“Oh”. Betty looked away, embarrassed.
Arthur took a long swig from the bottle, and stared enigmatically into the sun. Then some bubbles went up his nose and he sneezed. Betty sighed. Angela took out her phone and changed her FaceBook status to ‘wistful’.
Meanwhile, down in the crypt the clanking sound gave way to the shuffling of footsteps. A large, heavy wooden door swung open, creaking and groaning theatrically. Among the crypt’s habitual residents – the rats, spiders and lighting engineers – two brave souls were making themselves busy.
Their real identities have also been concealed. We will simply refer to them as Jack and Nickie.
“Here’s your tea, Jack,” said Nickie. “Two sugars.”
“Lovely, thanks Nickie. Did you stir it?”
“Of course I stirred it!” Nickie looked at Jack incredulously. “Didn’t you hear me stirring? I made a point of rhythmically clanking the spoon against the mug just so you’d hear it. In fact, I stirred it so loudly that, had anyone been up on the playground above our heads, they would probably have heard me stirring it, not that there would be anyone up there to hear it of course, not on a pleasant but surprisingly chilly spring evening such as this. I only stopped stirring because the sound echoed so eerily along the dark and dusty passages. It gave me the creeps.” Nickie paused, feeling a tad light-headed after such a long monologue. “What are you doing in here anyway? You’re supposed to be fixing the fuses. It’s pitch dark down here, it’s like a crypt.”
“I’m sorting through these odd-shaped bits of old spare wood,” replied Jack, “seeing if any of them might be useful for anything.”
“Jack! That’s no way to speak about the BaCStage actors. Besides, don’t you think we should let them out now? They’ve been down here three months.”
“Certainly not. I’m not letting them out until they’ve chosen a script for their next production.”
“Oh well, they’ll be stuck here till Christmas at least then” said Nickie.
“They’d better not be – the hall’s booked for October, and I’ve nearly finished that drawbridge I’ve been working on”.
Jack tutted disapprovingly.
Will Jack let the actors out of the crypt? Come to that, is there really a crypt under the Old Day School, and if not, where are all the actors being kept? Will Arthur, Betty, Boris and Angela get to act again, or will they have to form a Bee Gees tribute band? Will Nickie make us all a nice cup of tea? Will BaCStage ever decide what their next production is going to be?
I have no idea. Apart, of course, from there being a crypt under the Old Day School. Where else do you think we keep all those actors between productions? We couldn’t have them roaming the village streets, projecting and enunciating to all sundry, now could we?