The blindfold is torn from the writer’s face and he is shoved blinking into the spotlight. He squints in pain at the sudden influx of harsh light. He can’t see beyond the edge of the stage but he can hear them out there. He can smell them. The air is alive with an electric tingle, the tingle of anticipation.
The stage is slick beneath his feet. He forces himself not to look down and tries not to think of the previous speaker. Or of all the previous speakers. He is just the latest in a long line of victims and he is sure there are many more to come.
A skinny finger pokes him in the back. He edges nearer the microphone.
It is time to begin.
He tells them stories, his favourite, best-loved stories. He knows them by heart but he keeps the retelling fresh each time – only this time he has to get the inflections just right, the timing and the pauses spot on. He really is storytelling for his life.
No sooner has he reached the end of one, he launches into another. He is not giving them time to move. He fills the air with images, with similes and metaphors, with plot twists and vivid characters. His audience grows ever appreciative. They draw in his words as though savouring the aroma of a favourite meal. They fill their chests, gorging on his creativity. Their minds are alive with fiction, with the possibility of other worlds.
He begins to think he might survive. He might keep them transfixed until sunrise. He might just live to tell other stories on other days.
But he can feel his voice beginning to give up the ghost. He moves closer to the mic but that doesn’t help the pain in his throat. He cannot speak above a whisper, a harsh rasp with squeaks like a punctured squeezebox. The audience grows restless. Those at the back cannot hear. His spell is breaking.
Please! He begs but they don’t hear him.
Beyond the spotlight, the shadows move. They rise up and surge towards him. There is a crack of energy and he is engulfed. The last thing he feels is a tingle, a frisson of static electricity, as his mind catches an image of what they will do to him, their failed Scheherazade, and how their teeth and claws crave flesh and blood as tasty as his mind.