Untitled

This short story was written for Introduction to Fiction and Poetry Writing with Joshua Malbin during the first semester of my first year at Johns Hopkins University. This was part of my final portfolio for the class. It was a revision of a previous assignment. When I began writing this story, I intended for it to be completely original. However, when I think about it, it seems like it was slightly influenced by the movie Perfect Blue by Sada Yuki Murai.

Carlos Macasaet
Introduction to Fiction and Poetry Writing
Final Portfolio — Short Story
December 10, 2001
 
Aya and Nicole were best friends since grade school. They met at the San Francisco Conservatory where their parents had taken them every week for music lessons since they were both four years old. At the time, Aya was learning to play the violin and Nicole was learning to play the cello. For her age, Aya was remarkably good at the violin. Nicole longed to play as well as Aya — so much so that for a long time, she begged her parents to allow her to quit the cello to take up the violin. However, around the time when the girls turned thirteen, they found that their true calling was singing. But this was not the extent of their talents. By the time they were in high school, they were both accomplished dancers and played leading roles in their school’s musicals.

The two girls were inseparable. In fact, throughout middle school, people associated the two with each other — referring to them as if they were one entity. In addition, the two girls slightly resembled each other. Although they were not strikingly similar, people often confused them.

However, this changed when the girls started high school. The private school they chose to attend had a renowned performing arts department. Because of this, the girls were able to pursue their interests in dance and drama as well as complement their vocal training from the conservatory. As a result, the girls’ talents were exposed in a way that was not possible at the parochial middle school they had attended, making them stand out, not as best friends, but as performers. Aya, in particular, stood out. As an incoming freshman, she dazzled the upperclassmen by her voice.

It was Friday afternoon at The Head Royce School in Oakland California and the last bell of the day had rung. As Aya extracted the book of Bach Arias that she would be singing for chorus, she heard Nicole call her. “So what did you think of the first week of senior year?” Nicole asked excitedly.

“Not bad,” Aya replied as the two walked down the hallway toward the chorus room. “I don’t really feel any different. But when I think about it, the way I look at things have really evolved. I feel more sure of myself somehow.”

“Yeah, remember how we really hated our Maestro in sixth grade? He was so harsh and mean, and he always expected the impossible of us. But now when I look back on it, his teaching really prepared us for high school. Not just in orchestra but in all of our classes it seemed.”

“Speaking of expecting the impossible, how about that Bach? We’re performing it in a week! Do you think we’re ready?”

“Hey, I have the boring part remember? As usual no solo for me.”

“What are you talking about? You have the second most important part in this piece. Besides, you always get an important part.”

“Yeah, you’re right. My part just seems rather insignificant this time.”

After rehearsal, Melissa, one of the other girls in the chorus, approached Aya and Nicole. “Hey guys, you sounded great today. Oh and Aya, congratulations, I heard Juilliard called back.”

“Oh thanks”, Aya replied, “they also called Nicole.”

“Oh congratulations Nicole!”

“Thanks,” she said, “I’m really excited. Hopefully, soon I’ll be hearing from Curtis as well.”

“Oh well good luck to both of you. I have to get going, I’ll see you guys tomorrow morning,” Melissa said as she slung her bag over shoulder and briskly walked away.

“Hey you must be pretty excited yourself,” Nicole said. “Remember in fourth grade when all we could think about was going to Juilliard? Those were the days.”

“Those were good times,” Aya said, “but you know, I’m not entirely sure about Juilliard anymore. It just doesn’t seem like it’s for me.”

“What? Juilliard not for you? Aya, how can you say that? You have the best voice of any high school girl in the Bay area. You’re arguably the best dancer at Head Royce. You were Rizzo in Grease last year. Aya, for the past two years you were the first violinist for the San Francisco Youth Symphony Orchestra. How can Juilliard not be for you?”

“It’s not Juilliard; I’m just not sure about pursuing the performing arts as a career. I mean there’s no doubt that I love singing and making music, but after that part-time job I got at the hospital, I think I found my true calling. For the past fifteen years, music has been my life, and I’ve been dancing and acting since middle school. I just feel like I’m ready for a change.” Then she asked, “I take it you’re still set on studying music?”

“Oh definitely. I’m only applying to performing arts schools.”

“Well, you certainly can’t go wrong with that.”

Nicole looked away for a moment and said, “Although, it just doesn’t seem right, that you, Aya, of all people, are choosing to give it all up.” When she looked back, her eyes had begun to water slightly. She said, “Well, you know I’ll support your decision no matter what.”

“Hey,” Aya said comfortingly, “it’s not like I’m giving it up completely. Wherever I end up, I will definitely continue singing and dancing. They’re a part of me that I just can’t let go. They just won’t be the focus of my studies.”

A month later, Aya went to see her counselor, Mr. Wilson, to discuss the schools that she was considering. She said that she probably wanted to go on to medical school after getting her undergraduate degree. She told him, that she narrowed her list down to twelve schools, which she divided into top choices, safety schools and in between schools.

“That’s a good idea. But take it that you will still send applications to Juilliard and Curtis?”

“Actually, no. I won’t apply to any performing arts schools.”

“Really? That’s odd, because, I received a call from Juilliard last week requesting a letter of recommendation. They said that they received the first part of your application, but that they could not consider you for early admission without my letter of recommendation. Naturally, I mailed it this morning.”

“I didn’t send them anything. They must have assumed that I would apply after I auditioned this summer.” Aya recalled that she and Nicole had gone to the audition together and had auditioned side by side. Perhaps they assumed that both she and Nicole would apply.

Later that day, after drama class, Aya and Nicole spoke briefly about their post-high school plans. “I can’t believe you’re applying to 12 schools. That’s absolutely crazy. At most, I’ll apply to half that many, and even that is unlikely. All those essays and applications to send, then waiting for twelve replies — why would you put yourself through all that stress?”

“Maybe I’m just paranoid. My SAT scores aren’t spectacular and in four years, I haven’t taken one AP course. But I don’t think it will be all that bad. I’ll be able to reuse essays for many of the applications. Plus, I’m retaking the SAT this weekend and I’m pretty sure, I’ll be able to increase my score significantly.”

“That’s good. I’m just glad I don’t have to worry about any of that stuff. Curtis doesn’t even require a high school diploma.”

“I never asked you how your Juilliard interview went.”

“Oh, it went pretty well. Not that it makes much of a difference, I mean; most of the decision-making will be based on the audition and the most important ones are already over. Oh, I have to go now. I’m supposed to meet this guy who offered me a role in his new production. This could be the next big step in my career.”

“Oh wow, that sounds really cool. Tell me more about it!”

“I can’t tell you. I want it to be a surprise.”

“Well, have fun. If you need me, I’ll be at home reviewing for the SAT.”

Two weeks later, as Aya was looking through the newspaper she noticed an advertisement that read, Furst Samson, avant garde, experimental artist from New Zealand has come to San Francisco to recruit local talent for his new theatrical production. In addition to well known performers from local performance groups, this production will feature high school talent, Aya Fileccia. The production was to take place at Bimbos, a local club on Union Street that often hosted such untried pieces. It went on to say that Samson was an experimental artist whose work was often controversial. Aya thought the advertisement was quite odd. She found it difficult to believe that there was anyone else in the Bay area with the same name as her, and as far as she knew, she was not performing in any such event. Perhaps she had been confused for someone else. Her attempt to figure out the answer made her dizzy, so she took two aspirins and went to sleep.

The next week, while driving to the conservatory for her voice lesson, Aya heard about Samson’s production on a local jazz station. Aya, a senior at The Head Royce School will be the youngest to perform in Samson’s new piece. In an interview she stated that she was excited to be working with Samson because it allows her to experiment with aspects of performing that are new to her as well as some things no one has ever seen. Samson’s piece will show off Aya’s theatrical and dancing skills as well as her locally renowned voice. However, Aya says that working with Samson has helped her to reach a new level in her performing and that he helped her to discover things within herself that she never knew existed. All of this came as a shock to Aya. The girl described on the radio couldn’t be her. That girl just wasn’t her. Yet, she was the only Aya that went to Head Royce. But then she thought what an experience it would be to be that girl. Working on an experimental piece with someone famous had always interested her. Her head was spinning and she couldn’t concentrate for the duration of the commute. She managed to make it to the conservatory safely, but it took her at least five backups to parallel park her car.

When Aya entered the building, She noticed fliers advertising the production in which she was supposedly performing. They even had a small photocopied picture of her. The image quality wasn’t very good, but there was no doubt that it was she. There weren’t too many of them so they weren’t very obvious. In addition, it was unlikely that many people heard about it on the radio. So she doubted that many people would know about it as of yet. But she had to find out the truth. She wanted to find Nicole. She tried calling her the whole weekend, but was unable to reach her. She decided she would just have to wait until she saw her on Monday.

Aya and Nicole had three classes together everyday, but Aya couldn’t find her all morning. She finally found her at lunch, Nicole explained that she had not felt well the night before and so had slept in. Aya asked her if she knew anything about the production.

“What do you mean?”

“This Samson piece that I’m supposedly doing. Have you seen the fliers? They have my picture on them.”

“I assumed you put them up? Of course, you’re the one who’s been so secretive about this whole thing. Speaking of which, I hope it has occurred to you that as your best friend, I just might be interested in seeing you perform.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Well, you do know that Bimbos does not admit minors, so if I go, someone will have to let me in.”

“I don’t know anything about this.”

“Okay Aya, that might have worked two weeks ago, but the performance is on Friday. You might as well give up on the subterfuge.” Nicole was acting strangely. Aya just dropped the subject.

Nicole wasn’t herself the rest of the week. She was usually one of the more active students in class, but now she just seemed to lack interest. Twice she came to school late and she always seemed exhausted. Aya continuously asked her for explanations, but Nicole always evaded the questions and acted annoyed by them.

On Friday, Nicole did not come to school. When Aya got home that day, there was a message from Nicole on her answering machine. It said, “Hey, I know I’ve been acting a bit strangely recently. I’d just like to apologize. But I promise I’ll make it up to you. Tonight’s performance will explain everything. I just wanted to remind you that we’ll be meeting Furst behind Bimbos at four. This will be your only chance to get in. Even if you could pass for 21, Bimbos had to take reservations for all of the performances this weekend. So, I’ll see you later.”

It was 3:30pm, with traffic; it would take at least half an hour to get there. Aya had to find out what was going on, so she grabbed her purse, jumped into her car and drove away. When she got there, she couldn’t find parking anywhere, so she parked illegally behind another car in a nearby alley.

It was 4:15pm as she ran up to the rear entrance of Bimbos. There were people all around, unloading and transporting equipment. She just stood there for a few seconds in awe at all the people preparing for the production. Then, she heard someone call out Nicole’s name. She looked around in vain to find her friend. She heard the name called again, and then she saw a strange looking man walking straight towards her. As he came up to her, he said, “Nicole, I’m so glad you could make it. Aya has told me so much about you. Please come.”

Aya was just overwhelmed with a sudden burst of confusion. Because of this and the haste of the strange man introducing himself as Furst, her only reaction was to follow as he led her into the club. “The main production will not start until after the intermission. That’s the part in which Aya will be performing. But until then, I sincerely hope that you will enjoy the prelude pieces.” Aya was about to protest. She wanted to tell him that She was Aya, not Nicole. She wanted an explanation. But she would get none from him. After seating her, he quickly ran off to attend to other business.

People would begin to arrive at 6:00pm, but the show wouldn’t start until 8:00pm. Aya decided to take a look around. She walked around the whole building. She suspected she would find Nicole in one of the dressing rooms, but bouncers had been placed by all of the access points and all of them refused to let her pass.

Just before 6:00pm, she grabbed a program and found a seat. The program included a page-long biography of Samson as well as biographies of all the performers. A description of the production as a whole read, “Samson would like these pieces to be viewed as living koans and as such, the audience member should concentrate not on the performance, rather, directly on the meaning.” It also included a disclaimer saying that some of the material may be offensive to some people.

At 8:00pm, people were still milling about when the lights suddenly died. At first, the crowd was abuzz with confusion, but then it became silent in anticipation of the start of the show. Suddenly, however, the room was filled with song. Aya realized that many of the people in the audience were actually performers. This was how the first piece began.

There were five pieces before the intermission. The pieces were indeed nonsensical, and quite surreal. Each piece was more unusual than the one before it. But the imagery was so strong, that it was overwhelming. She was not at all prepared for it. Watching the pieces was like experiencing that nauseating confusion that she had been feeling all week.

The second half of the show began similarly to the first one. Except this time there was only one voice, but it was the most beautiful voice Aya had ever heard. After a while, however, Aya realized that she recognized the voice to be that of Nicole. Slowly, a spotlight illuminated the singer until Aya was able to confirm this. Aya was astounded. Nicole had really outdone herself. Aya could not believe that Nicole was able to improve her singing ability by such a degree — much less in such a short period of time.

When Nicole stopped singing, the stage lights came on to reveal people frozen in strange positions all about. Suddenly with amazing synchronicity, they all broke out into song and dance. It was like a musical, but it lacked the focus. Aya was truly amazed by the performance, although still, none of it made any sense to her.

Towards the end, Nicole was alone on stage delivering a soliloquy. Suddenly, a man from the audience yelled out at her. She continued, unfazed. Then the man, whom Aya soon recognized to be Furst, rushed from the audience and jumped on the stage. Aya then noticed that a chorus had begun singing in the background, very softly at first with a crescendo as Furst advanced to Nicole’s position. Another group of people appeared on stage and began a scene of their own. But Aya could not watch them. She was fixated on Nicole. All this time, Furst just walked around on stage. Occasionally, he would look at the other group of people, but most of the time, he just watched Nicole. The chorus song stopped simultaneously with Nicole’s monologue. Then she began to dance. At first, she was unaccompanied by music, but then the chorus joined in. It was amazing. Through her dance, Aya could tell that she was telling a story. Aya could only discern parts of it, but she realized that Nicole must have been telling the story of her life; there, all encapsulated in her dance. Aya was filled with a surge of emotions. She never would have guessed that Nicole had so much in her.

As Nicole’s dance approached a climax, the choral accompaniment came to a crescendo. Then suddenly, as the audience was anticipating something big to happen, Nicole just stopped. The chorus kept singing, as if Nicole was meant to keep dancing. But instead, she picked up a blanket that had been lying on the stage, draped it about her then walked off stage. Furst, standing there the whole time, just watched her. However, before she stepped off stage, the other group of performers stopped their act and brought Nicole to the center of the stage. She did not object in any way. She just followed them. Then, she stepped forward and the others walked off stage. What followed was the most horrible thing that Aya had ever seen. Nicole began to remove her clothes. As she did this, Furst approached her.

Then, she just stood there — naked in front of a packed house. Yet the expression on her face was that of contentment — not sorrow, not regret. She almost looked happy. Then Furst grabbed her arms violently from behind. He turned her around, and then threw her to the ground. In one quick and smooth motion, he removed his pants. Aya could not bear to watch. Her eyes filled with tears and hear heart was filled with terror. She could hear Nicole screaming. She wasn’t sure if they were screams of horror or ecstasy. Whichever it was, Aya found it absolutely repulsive She was not alone; many people in the audience had turned away as well. Aya could only hear the music. It gradually came to a crescendo. It then hit a climax. After that, the music began to calm down. It then did a diminuendo and soon, everything was silent. Aya could not even hear the audience breathing.

Soon, however, the room erupted with applause. She looked up. The house lights had come on and everyone was standing clapping and cheering for the performers. She stood up, and saw Nicole standing on stage, no longer completely indecent. She had a smile on her face, but something was not right. Nicole did not have the content facial expression she had while she was performing. She had lost control. She seemed dazed. Then suddenly, holding Furst’s hand, as they were about to bow once again, she collapsed. The audience gasped. Aya ran up to the stage, fighting her way through the crowd, then fell to the ground next to Nicole and grabbed her in her arms.

Someone called the paramedics, and they soon rushed onto the stage and placed Aya on a stretcher and carried her out. Once again, Aya was in tears. When she finally recovered, she rushed to the nearest hospital. She learned that the paramedics had indeed brought in the girl that collapsed on stage, who people had identified as Aya Fileccia. When Aya went to see her friend, a doctor informed her that she probably collapsed as a result of a nervous breakdown. He also told her that Nicole would probably be mentally scared for the rest of her life.

The next day, Aya brought Nicole’s parents to the hospital, and they properly identified their daughter. Later, Nicole’s mother, half sobbing, said to Aya, “You know, all along, all she ever wanted to be was you. She was always striving to be just as good an actress, a dancer and a singer as you.”

“But, you should have seen her last night,” Aya said to them, as she knelt down and embraced Nicole’s mother, “she was amazing.”

As Aya entered the psychiatric institute, a nurse behind the front desk got up to greet her. “Dr. Fileccia, It’s nice to see you.”

“Hello Katherine. How are you?”

“Oh I’m fine, and you’ll be happy to know that Nicole is also doing well,” she said as they walked down a hallway.

“How is her treatment?”

“Unfortunately the doctors say that there’s nothing more that they can do. However, they also say that with time, her situation should improve and soon, Nicole will be able to leave this institute as long as she continues to live with someone who can take care of her.”

It was then that Aya heard, while walking down the hallway, the distinct sound of singing. Aya recognized the beautiful voice and her eyes began to water. When they got to the end of the hallway, Katherine opened a door and Aya saw Nicole sitting on her bed. Her back was against the wall; one leg was bent in front of her chest with her arms wrapped about it. She just sat there, singing, with her eyes closed. When she finished her song, she opened her eyes and saw Aya. She looked directly at her for a moment, then her face lit up and her eyes filled with tears.

2 comments to Untitled

  • Aya

    So I just wanted to tell you that this story creeps the hell out of me and my friend Nicole.

    My name is Aya. I play Viola. My best friend’s name is Nicole; she plays cello. We both discussed Julliard. We are high school friends, and she now goes to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

    Her roommates name is Felicia (Fileccia).

    Any thoughts?

  • Los

    That is really creepy, since I wrote this almost four years ago. How did you find this? Anyway, there is no way I could have known about all of you back then :-P . Best of luck in all of your endeavours — whether or not it’s what everyone expects of you.

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