Hey, I don’t know if this is how this works, but I adore the Elsewhere University world, and as a former theatre person it really spoke to me. I wrote something for you. I hope it’s half decent.
Elsewhere U turned out fantastic stage managers. They were punctual, sharp, attentive, and—most importantly—incredibly flexible in scheduling and communication, honed from years of having to contact entire casts and crews at the drop of a pin. Rehearsal has been moved to the gym; 3:30 call. Fitting schedules to come. Leave your schedules free. The theatre department always had a few too many of them, but that worked out. Freshmen got assigned their own stage manager buddy to help them out. Perhaps the software engineers didn’t need the extra help with the rules, but They loved theatre, and without the help the underclassmen would disappear in droves. The more jaded stage managers would meet up after welcome week and cast lots on which ones would disappear first.
This year, the top candidate was universal: ‘Andromeda’, some costume technician from God-Knew-Where. She was the kind of shiny-eyed kid who already liked the Weird Stuff (the kind of high schooler who read about demons and bought crystals and did tarot cards with no real regard for the Rules) and really liked it. The upperclassmen techs were content to show up in their blacks, clutching their teas and coffee and blinking blearily into space. She showed up dripping in jewelry and piercings and vibrant colors. She’d talk to anyone (nervous chatter, mostly, but chatter inevitably lead to slips) and wrote fantasy stories and, worst of all, couldn’t seem to follow the unspoken rule of Don’t Look.
“But why not?” She demanded one time. Her beleaguered partner, “Pinstripe”, moaned and rubbed their tired eyes.
“Look, if you want to see what happens, be my fucking guest,” they snapped, “But don’t ask anyone to come and Trade you back.”
Andromeda survived somehow. Freshman year dulled her sparkle. Sophmore year spun around and she learned not to look, to be a little less conspicuous, not to chatter so much or so loudly. She started dating a sweet guy in the Music Department (a bassist, safe enough from Them) and drew less attention.
Even so, sometimes, when she was the last one to leave the basement Costume Shop, she’d pause in the empty theatre and stare across the seats, listening. Sometimes she swore she heard it; an undercurrent of whispers, the slight shift in the echo of air conditioner. Andromeda paused at the door like she did every night and unzipped her backpack, pulling out a six pack of vanilla pudding.
“Good night,” she whispered to the dark. Peeling open the containers, she left them in the last aisle and locked the doors behind her. It wouldn’t be there tomorrow.
Tech weeks went easier with her there, when the whole crew was tired and cranky and on the twelfth hour of blocking and light staging. When the whispers from the empty chairs got loud and angry and time started warping again, she’d pull out her writing notebook and read very softly until it hushed again, only the electricians on the catwalk shouting cues overhead. When wardrobe finished their laundry she stayed behind until the small hours of the morning, escorting them out into the stillness of the night and back safe to their dorms. She never came to harm alone out there; she had learned not to look, and now all of her jewelry was iron.
Well, she thought she’d learned not to look.