The First Act, by Pete Rawlik

Art by  Greg Chapman – – click to enlarge

Art by Greg Chapman – – click to enlarge

You can stop pretending, I know you’re awake.

You’ve been straining against the ropes for the last three minutes.  Don’t try to speak, you’ll just embarrass yourself.  I’m sorry about the gag, but like the ropes it’s there for my protection.  I apologize if you’re uncomfortable.  I promise it will be over soon. To be honest, while I have written this scene, or something like it, a hundred times, I’ve never actually acted on my script before.

I see that look in your eyes (that is not fear).

I had hoped I was wrong, hoped that you would wake up and be completely surprised,



But you’re not, not at all.

And that doesn’t surprise me.

One of us was going to do this, sooner or later.

We’ve both heard the Song of Cassilda, and that of Camilla,

We both came to see the Play, but the First Act is mine.

After all, I have had more practice, not in actually doing, but rather in plotting.  Like you, I’m an idea man, constantly thinking, exploring new thoughts, new perspectives, and new concepts.  And I will admit some of those ideas, many of those ideas, those thoughts, those things that wander into my head … they are horrible, monstrous, even unforgivable.  If people could see the things I think about, glimpse the images that come to me as I talk to them, or walk down the street, or eat lunch; if they saw the things I daydream of, I doubt that I would be a free man, let alone have any friends.

But I don’t need friends.

I have my family.

And my writing.

And of course, the play.

My wife worries about that quite a bit.  Writing is, after all, a lonely occupation, a solitary endeavor, and it doesn’t allow for casual acquaintances or idle conversations.

The subject matter doesn’t help, either.

Authors who write about psychopaths, serial killers and the things that fester beyond the veil don’t tend to cultivate friends.

I suppose that’s why my wife introduced us.

It is difficult to find someone who has a comparable level of intelligence and with whom I can carry on a conversation (about what?).

That you meet these criteria, that you remind her so much of me is, I suppose, something of a compliment, and I have to agree with her assessment.

You and I are so much alike,

too much I think;

I read the book, I heard the songs.

I came to see the play.

So did you.

Which is why you are here.

But I came first,

and the First Act is mine.

Don’t get me wrong,

I like you, I really do.

That night on the piazza, and at the symphony, the evening we spent out with the girls:  Those were probably some of the best times I have had in recent memory.  Good times.

I’m serious.

But, I’ve watched you too.  I’ve seen how you pause in mid-conversation, how you look at dogs, at women, at kids.  It’s the same look I get sometimes: the distant, unfocused eyes, the slack jaw, and the tiny bit of drool that betrays the fact that you really aren’t here anymore.

My wife wonders where I go when that happens.  I tell her something, something I’ve made up.

(A lie.)

I don’t want to tell her the truth.  There are things she shouldn’t know: like what I think about her, her friends, the kids.

If I told her a tenth of what comes into my head my marriage would be over, and my time with the girls would be entirely supervised.

Instead, I tell the world about my horrific dreams, dress them up in fancy language and twisted prose, and then write them down.


They pay to take a glimpse inside the dark corners of my mind, to hear just a single stanza of the song, a single line of the play.  A play you’ve come to see.

But I got here first.

I’ve seen it before.

It’s what I write about.  What I have seen, in my dreams.

(When I write about torturing women, killing kids, tying up dogs in barbwire, I’m not trying to tell people what I am afraid of; I’m telling them what I dream about.  It’s kind of amusing that no one has figured that out yet.)

If I didn’t write about them, they would find another way to manifest.  They would have to.  They are too powerful not to.

Writing about the things, the terrifying things I see, keeps me from actually doing them.

Art by Jerry Boucher - - click to enlarge

Art by Jerry Boucher – – click to enlarge

Which brings me back to you.

and the fact that we are so much alike.

I agree, and I hoped, I wished, that I was wrong.

But I’m not.

I suspected from the start, but tried to rationalize it away.

You’ve dropped enough hints.

The book.

The song of Cassilda,

and Camilla,

The haunting tune you whisper – The Overture of Ys!

I suppose to anyone else, to people who don’t think like us, all these things wouldn’t mean anything.

But they do.

I know they do,

and that look in your eye isn’t denial.

We think so much alike, dream the same horrific dreams, and plot the same infernal plots.  And we both carry them out.  The difference is, mine are laid out on paper, released for the entire world to see.

Yours I’m sure are buried somewhere.

(Where have you hidden the bodies?)

I don’t know how often you’ve acted, and I don’t care.

(But you do, don’t you?)

What I do know is that I can’t have someone like you around my family, in my house, talking to my wife and kids.  I can’t risk it.  I can’t let you think like I know you do around the people I care about.  They aren’t safe.  Sooner or later you will act on the things you dream of.

The Play must have its actors.

There’s really no other way, and you know it.

I’m sure you’ve thought of it as well, I just got here first.

I wish I could say I’m sorry but I’m not.

For once, just this once, I’m going to have to do those things I dream about.

I’m going to take the knife and use it

the way I have dreamed of, written about, so many times before.

I’ll do this once, just this once.

Not because I want to, but because I need to.

You’re a dangerous man.  Dangerous to me, to my wife, to my children, to the people I pretend to be friends with.  I can’t have you interfering with all the lies and masks that I have put in place to pretend to be normal.

The Pallid Mask.

The Mask of Truth (and lies).

I want to tell you that I’ll be merciful, that I’ll be quick, that I’ll make it is as painless as possible.

But I can’t.

To see one of my dreams fulfilled, to be made real before my eyes,

not just on paper!

Of course you understand, you know all about this.

(I just got here first.)

Tonight I wear no mask!

No mask?

The Overture of Ys echoes through the darkness!

The curtain draws back

(There is a Pause, a beat, a drum that throbs in the temples)

…and the Play begins

The First Act is Mine.

Peter RawlikPete Rawlik has been collecting Lovecraftian fiction for forty years.  In 2011 he decided to take his hobby of writing more seriously.  He has since published more than twenty-five Lovecraftian stories and the novel Reanimators, a labor of love about life, death and the undead in Arkham. A sequel, The Weird Company will be released in the Fall of 2014.  His short story Revenge of the Reanimator was nominated for a Best Short Story New Pulp Award.  He lives in Royal Palm Beach, Florida, with his wife and three children. He still remembers where all the bodies are buried.

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Story illustration by Jerry Boucher and Greg Chapman.

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10 responses to “The First Act, by Pete Rawlik

  1. Excellent story as per usual. My girl and I love nothing more than to curl up with a Peter Rawlik story.


  2. That was very atmospheric. It would make a good horror movie, and I found that it had a great creepy effect. I really enjoyed this one…I hope that Mr. Rawlik will be writing more for the Lovecraft eZine. I expect much of ye, but I’m sure that you will fulfill all of them.

    [a.k.a. the Haunter of the Dark]


    • While I am not a huge fan of the sadistic (atmosphere leading up to a shock is good for me!), I do like a little of it and I must agree with you in the sense that Mr. Rawlik has written a bloody (heh) good story.


      Liked by 1 person

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