August/September 2005

The Voice
Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc

“Are you ready my sweet?”

Norelle Federiconi started to speak, but a raised hand caused her to recoil. She knew all too well what that gesture meant.

“Don’t even think about it, bitch. Just nod.”

She dropped her head, her eyes welling, like they always did when he was so mean to her. She couldn’t help it. All she wished for was a kind word, a truly kind word from Franco.

Tears spilled down her cheeks. She hadn’t asked to be this way…or maybe she had. Still, Franco didn’t have to be so cruel.

Didn’t he deserve to be punished for how he treated her? Her face burned.

She felt her body contort awkwardly as he roughly pulled her in front of the tall, oval mirror that seemed to be the only thing elegant in the dingy and ancient dressing room…elegant second only to herself.
She gazed at her reflection carefully in the mirror. No matter how many tears she cried, no matter how many beatings she suffered, no matter how many worries caused her sleepless nights, she was still beautiful. Tall and thin with straight shoulders, a flawless complexion and golden shining hair that surrounded her like a white halo, she was a vision.

She blinked and more tears spilled down her cheeks as she felt the brush pull through her hair. Franco always brushed her hair for her before she went on, if he wasn’t pulling it in anger. He was actually being gentle…this time.

Her eyes drifted down from her perfect face to her full breasts, the red velvet gown accentuating every curve, all the way down to the red-heeled feet that she couldn’t see.

She was tired.

Her mind drifted back to the early days in her career when she was new to what the roar of the crowd could do for her. She was shy and naïve back then and it took her a while to get used to the crows of “encore, encore,” that nearly deafened her. She loved her fame and she loved her fans but it was more than she could keep up with. She never got enough rest it seemed so Franco began to give her pills, pills to wake her up, pills to put her to sleep, pills to bring her up when she was sad, pills to calm her when she had been up for three days straight…until she finally had a psychotic episode. The police found her wandering the streets in her nightgown babbling about the devil. Franco had her committed overnight, “for her own good” he assured her, and she was prescribed something that she couldn’t pronounce. Franco always made sure that she took her medicine and punished her when she didn’t.

With each performance, she knew that the next one had to be better or she would be sorry. Franco counted the throngs of people that showed up to hear “the angel of light” as she had been dubbed, sing, and if there was even one less person in attendance than the time before, she was beaten. She knew that one day, her star would dim and a new and even more talented singer than herself would replace her. What would Franco do to her then?


One night she found herself alone when Franco went out to “tend to business” as he often did. Their house was quiet. The bottle of absinthe, sent to her by an adoring fan, called to her from the ornate, marble topped dresser that a carver in Italy had shipped to her in appreciation for her touring his small city.

She looked over at the newly filled prescription and got up, gliding silently over to the dresser. Her hand slid around the top of the “liquid sunshine,” her nickname for absinthe and she caressed it softly. Her life had not been her own since the night Franco found her, singing her heart out in a smoke filled club for barely enough tips to pay for a taxi home.

That night, the night she met Franco, changed her forever. He took her from her pathetic life, of abject poverty to a life of luxury; one that she thought only existed in fairytales. Her life had become a whirlwind of tours, newspaper and magazine articles, television appearances and more money “than God,” as Franco liked to say.
She owed him everything…but she hated him too. She had been touring nonstop for five years and the next five years were booked too. She couldn’t tell him no, she couldn’t refuse anything he asked of her because she feared the beatings he could and would give her. There was only one way out.

She opened the bottle of medicine and took two pills, chased down by the green fairy in the bottle of liquid sunshine, then two more, followed by more sunshine until the medicine and the green fairy were both gone. She lay back and closed her eyes…she was free.
But she wasn’t free...

She awoke in a dark room, a bright light shining in her face, blinding her. She slowly sat up, shielding her face from the burning light that came from…she couldn’t discern where. As her eyes adjusted to the artificial light and the surrounding gloom, she saw that she was sitting in the middle of the light, as if she were on a stage and the spotlight had singled her out. Many times in her career she sang in the spotlight, but she didn’t like how this “spotlight” felt. It frightened her.

She shook her head. She felt lightheaded.

“Did you really think it would be that easy, Norelle?”

She looked around. Who had spoken to her? She couldn’t see anything, but the voice mocked her.

“Did you really think that the green fairy could rescue you? I found you, you are mine, and you will remain mine forever.”

Norelle bowed her head and wept. The voice belonged to someone that she knew all too well…Franco. He stepped to the edge of the light and she could finally see him for what he was. He was the devil, as she has always suspected…he was the devil and her life was hell.
Curved, red horns grew from the top of his head but he still looked the same, except for his black eyes, fingernails and lips. His lips curled back from pointed teeth in a horrid and frightening grin. She had given her life to the devil. She could do nothing but go back to him.
“Now silly girl, take my hand and come back to me, where you belong. You know there will never be any escape from me. I have made you rich beyond compare, I have given you more to live for than most people could dream of. I changed you, molded you and made you what you wanted you to be. You owe me, you will owe me for eternity and if you try a stunt like this again, it will be your soul that I take.”

Norelle’s eyes snapped up to look into Franco’s black ones.

“Yes, Norelle, from this day forward, you will continue to fulfill the rest of your debt to me, but you will see, as I do, exactly what you are doing for me. I have spared you the truth of what your music does to people…until now. You are a silly and petulant child who did not deserve the fame I lavished upon you. From this day forward you will see the souls that you deliver to me.”

Norelle’s eyes grew wide with horror. No…it couldn’t…she couldn’t have!

“Oh yes, Norelle, you have been collecting souls for me all this time and you will continue to collect souls. With each performance you give, while the crowd stands to ovation and you bask in the glow of fame untold, I will take their souls and they will never even know it…not until they die and come home to me. Who would have thought, as music is my undoing, and yours if I were to ever hear you sing, that your performances are the easiest way for me to gather souls? So many people…in one place. That is why I chose you. I could see the promise in you that others couldn’t. The night I saw you on stage in that dive of a bar, I could not hear one word you sang…still…I knew. Now, take my hand, or I can have you sing for the souls of the damned…the souls that you delivered to me…for all eternity.”
She broke down in sobbing despair. So that was why he wore earplugs at every performance she did! That was why they never listened to the radio and why he would not allow her to own a stereo! So much made sense now and it should have from long ago, but she was far too happy with her fame to question him or his motives. How could she have known that such immense fame would come with a price? Why was she being punished for simply wishing to live her dream? To pay her bills…to have clothes to wear and food to eat? ‘It wasn’t fair,’ her mind screamed! She hesitantly reached her hand up to his and he grasped her wrist so hard that she heard the fragile bones in her wrist crack, but did she have any other choice?


Now she stood, as she always did, dreading another performance, dreading what she had to do, but the curtain had been raised and Franco pushed her out of the dressing room and into the wings.
“Now ladies and gentlemen…introducing, what we have all been waiting for, the enchanting, the heavenly, the angel of light, Ms. Norelle Federiconi!”

The crowd erupted in wild cheers and an ovation greeted the lithe and beautiful woman as she stepped into the spotlight. The crowd sat down and the orchestra began playing, starting with her trademark “I am Your Spaniel” from act one of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Norelle’s rich soprano voice rang out as Helena, in love with Demetrius. The crowd sat, silent, entranced as she made the music come alive with her otherworldly strains.

As she always did, Norelle watched the crowd for the familiar wisps that taunted her at every performance. They weren’t so noticeable at first, but then she could see them more clearly as they rose up from each person. They circled slowly as if knowing that they were doomed and then drifted over to Franco, who stood inconspicuously at the side exit door, as he always did, encased in a thick mist, his arms outstretched his mouth open and his eyes closed as he drank in each soul. No one paid any attention to him, everyone was far too engulfed in the worlds that Norelle took them to, to notice a man that would not garner a second look. To the common observer, he seemed to be totally enraptured by Norelle…a sight that truly was not uncommon.
She went right into her next aria, the role of Adriana Lecouvreur from act one of the Italian opera “Io son l’umile ancella.”

The crowd was silent…as silent as death as she sang. How sad that they did not even realize that they were dying…that by the time the performance was over, they would be dead, trapped, enslaved to a dark lord that showed no regret and no mercy.

As she finished, the crowd could contain its enthusiasm no longer and cheers abounded from deep within the audience.

She smiled through her tears and continued to her last performance of the evening as Agrippina from act one of the Italian opera “L’alma mia fra le tempeste.”

She sang her heart out as she watched the last of the souls from those unwitting victims fill Franco with the sustenance he wished for. She would be free this night, she could not continue to damn people because they made the mistake of loving her voice and wishing to see her.

She bowed her head as the last words trailed from her lips. The room was silent for just a moment before the crowd roared with appreciation. The entire auditorium rose to their feet with shouts of “Brava” and roses fell at her feet on the dimly lit stage. She knelt and picked up a dark red rose, then a white one, then a yellow one. Holding them aloft, she slowly and gracefully curtsied. This would be a fitting way for her to go out, with the sounds of her adoring fans in her ears.


“You did well tonight my dear Norelle. I am pleased.”

Norelle nodded slowly. Franco sat down and closed his eyes for just a moment and that was all Norelle needed. She picked up the heavy angel statue that she brought to each performance and hit Franco in the head as hard as she could. Franco never knew what hit him.

“Oh Franco…Franco…wakey, wakey you son of a bitch!”

Franco’s eyes snapped open and he tried to get up, but Norelle had secured him steadfastly to the chair with a roll of duct tape. Franco’s ear plus sat conspicuously in his lap.

Franco tried to speak but Norelle had saved the last piece of tape to silence the devil’s protests.

“Awww, what’s the matter “master,” shocked that you were so easily caught?”

Norelle huffed.

“I should have done this ages ago. What good are fame and fortune when your boss is the devil? Oh yes Franco, I will sing for you now…as you told me so long ago, music is your bane. I wish to see what my music will do to you, even if it does mean my own death. At least I will be rid of you once and for all.”

Franco’s’ eyes grew wide with fear and he tried to wriggle free from his bonds, but he was helpless. As Norelle opened her mouth, she relished the fear and the look of pleading desperation that swallowed Franco’s face.

“Amazing grace…how sweet the sound…that saved a wretch like me…”

Franco’s muffled squeals were awful, but Norelle sang, like she had never sung before, she sang. Franco began to smoke and then his skin began melting from the bone. A puddle of blood and organs pooled at his feet as his body literally liquefied from its foundation. Norelle began to feel weak but she continued to sing, her voice clear and strong.

“How precious did that Grace appear, the hour I first believed…”

With one final jerk of his body, Franco’s bloody skull snapped forward to the floor and rolled to Norelle’s feet. She knelt down and picked it up, clutching it as an actor would a prop, but she would never rise to her feet again.

“Twas Grace that brought us safe thus far and Grace will lead us home…”