Dean Van Scoyoc
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
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
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
“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?”
“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
“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
“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