Troubled by Paul and Hebe’s words about Peter, Christopher walks into ever-darkening mist, sensing his own desires are guiding him as much as the Cauldron’s next guest’s.
The darkness doesn’t abate. He finds himself in an enclosed space yet space is all around him, filled with rows of seats and a stage standing before him.
Lights illuminate the theatre, the single wall of crimson damask which forms the set. Peter paces in front of it, wearing a high-necked yellow shirt, a loose cravat, a red waistcoat, and matching breeches. He pauses next to a marble bust of man wtih a stern, frowning face.
Christopher stops in the middle of the aisle, looking across the empty theatre. There’s no one here, but Peter and himself.
Christopher: That’s a new look for you.
Peter: (not looking at him) I was trying to figure out what to say to you. Trying to rehearse the words as if they were lines in a play. Behold! (He spreads his arms wide and does a little spin.) I found myself here, on stage! (He pats the bust upon the head.) Quite the amusing little turn of the surreal, isn’t it, you old rogue?
Christopher gives the bust a wary look. You never know who or what might speak in the Cauldron.
The bust remains silent, all dour frowns. That doesn’t mean it…or he…isn’t listening.
Christopher takes a seat in the front row.
Christopher: Who’s that? (waving at the bust)
Peter: A liar. Or a historian. (He shrugs.) For Suetonian, they were one and the same. It wasn’t about painting an accurate picture of the past for this particular record-keeper. It was about telling an entertaining tale which would be passed from listener to listener. Embellishments were welcome, especially if they suited his needs.
Christopher: Why is he here?
Peter: Old Suetonian? (He let out a strained giggle.) Strange to hear myself speak of him thus. How I admired him when I was younger! Paul thought I was mad to do so. Now he’s nothing more than a prop, a reminder of my own compulsion to tell a pleasing tale with only enough truth to make it nourishing.
Christopher: Is that what you want to tell me, Peter? A pleasing tale?
Peter: Someone has to do it. I’m sure Paul won’t.
Christopher: He’s worried about you. Worried about what he might do to you, what he might have done.
Peter: (letting out another strained chuckle) A little late for that.
Christopher: He’s also worried about what I might do to you.
Peter: What you might do to me? (He throws his head back and laughs.)
Christopher: (flushing) He’s right. At least he is about me. I have a bad feeling he’s right about himself, too.
Peter: The shadow and the hunter, oh no! (He raises a hand in a mocking gesture of stage fear and swooning.)
Christopher: It’s true.
Peter: Oh, yes, it’s so truthfully one side of the truth! (He paces across the stage and make a turn.) If there’s one thing you and Paul have in common, it’s a tendency to shy away from everyone else out of fear of how scary you are. I’ve never been scared of you. Either of you.
Christopher: Maybe you should be.
Peter: And maybe there’s a gentleness, a vulnerability in both of you you’re unaware of. A certain tenderness that puts you in as much danger from me.
Christopher: Is that what you think?
Peter: I’m the one that lures you into Once Upon a Time’s mouth.
Christopher: I have a bad feeling that was a spoiler.
Peter: He’s the beginning of all stories so it should be expected. Stories involve conflict, even outright hell. Hell has at times been a mouth. Why shouldn’t Once Upon a Time, everyone’s beginning be a mouth ready to swallow them?
Christopher: It’s a frightening image. I much prefer to think of Once Upon a Time as a Door opening to a path which takes us where we wish to go. Even if it’s the wrong path.
Peter: That, too. It’s all metaphor, only metaphor, yet metaphor means more than anyone realizes until it’s too late.
Christopher: (sighs) I’m afraid that’s true.
Peter: (pacing back until he returns to Suetonian) All my lies are true. Unlike this old fellow. (He pats the bust on the head.)
Christopher: (smiles, shaking his head) There you go again. Distracting me from your contradictory words with a joke.
Peter: My dear Christopher, I’ve never met a more contradictory child than you. (He makes a sweeping bow to his audience of one.) Everything you do is a contradiction.
Christopher: (frowning) How so?
Peter: You feed on the living, you feed on other shadows. You feed on life, vitality, passion, memory, and thought. All the while you scheme to give those things back.
Peter: Carrying the stone, the egg, giving life to those delectable twins. That was quite the mythological scheme worthy of an old god. Or godling.
Christopher: (squirming uncomfortably in his seat) Not my scheme alone.
Peter: No, it was quite collaborative. You helped a lot of half-empty people achieve their own dreams, get at least a piece of them back in the process. Stealing Myself From Shadows, indeed!
Christopher: (straightening his shoulders) Perhaps I define myself differently than you do.
Peter: Don’t be so sure of that. We were were both happy in the Navel, giving people what they didn’t even want back.
Christopher: Are you saying you’re like me?
Peter: Yes and no. I’m not sure if I’d give as generously as you, although I may have to be brave enough to try.
Peter: For my wish to be granted. Like I said, you were entirely too generous, but I want more.
Christopher: Generous? I don’t remember giving you what you wanted.
Peter: Yes, you did. You and Paul are alike in this as well. You’re willing to give away everything you have, everything you are, yet you’re hungry void ready to swallow everything
Christopher: Which is why we’re dangerous to you, no matter how gentle or generous you believe us to be.
Peter: No matter how gentle, generous, or hungry you might be, you’re no match for me.
Christopher: What do you mean?
Peter: I was happier than I’ve ever been in my life with Paul. The closest I’ve come to that happiness was with you. At the same time I wasn’t satisfied.
Christopher: Why not?
Peter: (taking a deep breath, pausing center stage) I want to make everyone happy. I want to make everyone love and worship me.
Christopher: (sighed) I’ve tried making everyone happy. Or perhaps I’m going to try making everyone happy. I’m not happy with my chances of success.
Peter: Neither am I, but it’s what I want. No matter how small my chances of success are.
(To be continued)