OMNIS FALSUS EST

SUMMARY: Okay, so what exactly IS going on? Find out along with Lucy… but I don't guarantee it's anything normal…

RATING: PG.

(DIS)CLAIMER: All the characters and situations are mine. No archiving or using without consulting me..

AUTHOR'S NOTES: May as well update this, for Eve if no-one else… There isn't much more of this actually written… maybe when I run out of chapters I'll put up the plot outline or something so you at least know how it ends…

Omnis Falsus Est

This work © T'eyla Minh 2001/2

Chapter Four

He spoke in a non-descript, neutral accent, and his voice was quiet, as though he feared people would sense his presence; despite this, Lucy was still able to hear him over the noise below. Thinking about it, she realised that from here, she could detect the audience and the frantic 'rehearsals' backstage, and yet it seemed that down there a person could only hear what was on their side of the curtain. Since things were odd enough already, she ignored this fact, or, at the very least, accepted it, and listened intently to the amazing story that was unfolding before her…

"…I can't really tell you who I am, not yet. I'm the Big Secret around here and you're not supposed to know about me. In fact, you're not even supposed to know there's a secret, but everyone works it out eventually. I think this place has an aura, something strange about it, that's why they think there's something going on. The Stage Manager - that's the man who smokes the cigars - he tells them that they're wrong or imagining things. Have you heard him speak yet?" Lucy shook her head, but doubted whether he could see her so confirmed it with a 'No'. "Well, that's good, because when you do, you should never listen to him. All he ever tells is lies.

"This place is stranger than you ever imagined. From the outside, as I'm sure you noticed, it's small and fairly insignificant, but inside it's huge. It goes on forever in every direction, North, South, East, West, above and below. There are hundreds of floors, but they're so small that nobody can walk on them. The base of the theatre is reinforced because there's nothing but a chasm underneath, but the sides of it are dotted with beams, the same as over your head." Lucy looked up instinctively, and despite being higher up, still could not see the ceiling. "Everybody stays safely on the two main floors. I doubt that they've told you anything, they never do. All of the newcomers are subjected to this ritual of unrehearsed first performances and no map or directions of the theatre. The poor people are left to work it out for themselves, and like I said, this place is huge. It's up to me to tell you about the theatre. Firstly, the ground floor contains the stage, foyer and public bar, as you've seen. That's all you can get to. Only the chef is allowed into the kitchens, which is just as well since he's the only one who knows how to get to them, apart from me. The next floor has all of the dressing rooms, and there's more than you think. I'll take you to yours later, and if you ever get lost, just give a short whistle and I'll be right there."

There was a pause while he let this information sink in. Lucy was amazed already. "That's quite a story," she said after a pause, "but I get the impression that that's not all there is to it. There's something you're not telling me. I promise, if it's such a big secret, that I won't tell a soul." As an after thought she added with a gesture: "Cross my heart." He didn't appear to understand; she was learning how to read the silence, and after her comment she sensed some confusion. The silence conceded defeat, and she made herself more comfortable on the hard boards while she listened.

"All right, you asked to hear about me and hear about me you will, but not here." Lucy's voice filled with dread as she contemplated this.

"I'm not going to scramble all over those beams again."

"You won't have to." The voice was suddenly behind her, and before she knew what was happening, she had been scooped up and was flying upwards incredibly fast. She considered screaming in panic, but something made her stop. She felt as though she trusted this odd character, and instead of noisily expelling her lungs, she assumed he was attached to a wire, and took the opportunity to look at him closely. He was, as she suspected, about sixteen, with scruffy brown hair and olive green eyes. He was very strong for his size and she would never have expected him to be able to lift her, because, she had to admit, she wasn't exactly the lightest person in the world. His face was determined, as though he was concentrating intently on a difficult task, and as she kept looking, she noticed that whatever was holding him up was of a very good design - she couldn't even see it. Just as she was about to comment on this, they landed on a platform built into the corner of what seemed to be a tower. The noises of the performance were now a distant murmur, but other than that it was completely silent. She still couldn't see the ceiling and was beginning to understand that the idea of 'hundreds of floors' had not been an exaggeration. She positioned herself on the edge of the triangular platform, with her legs hanging over the side, feet pointing towards the dark abyss below her. If she fell, she would certainly die on impact, but she somehow knew that she was going to do no such thing.

Since there was nowhere for her companion to hide, he sat next to her and didn't say a word. She was getting used to having to initiate the conversation, so after once more tenaciously peering over the edge, she cleared her throat and managed: "Wow."

"Impressed?"

"No, more like mildly amazed. How did you do that? I couldn't even see the wire." He stifled a laugh.

"I'll tell you later. First of all I'll finish the story." He paused as though he was contemplating a big decision, then started, in the same whispered tone as before. "I have lived here all of my life. I know this place better than anyone. I don't know how I got here, or why, or how long I'm supposed to be here, all I remember is being very young, and being here. Possibly I was born here, but I've never really found out. Don't get me wrong, I've seen daylight; I've seen the sun, felt the rain, heard the wind as it bellows outside, because right at the top there's windows that open. It seems as though they're only for my benefit since nobody else can reach them. I'm confined in this theatre and yet I never want to leave. It's my home.

"Most of the group down there are the original actors, the man who walked into you, for example, he's been here for years. There's new people, like Patch and Tommy, and the barmaid and ticket seller are only here voluntarily." Lucy nodded - that would explain it. "All of the new actors have to go through the same process as you did and for years I've been watching it, watching them suffer as their confidence is lowered and as they often collapse in frustration. It's a terrible sight. It's inhumane, and yet the group doesn't seem to notice. Finally I decided that the only way I was going to stop this would be to rescue them, and you are the first one. I've been planning this for months, creating little explosions in the performances, dropping trapdoors at inopportune times, that sort of thing, so they'd get used to me being… tricksy. I'm glad it worked. I'm going to keep doing it."

Lucy was beginning to feel like a guinea pig for a scientific experiment. It was no wonder Tommy was so nervous if he'd had to go through the same torture as she nearly did. Patch was obviously too full of life to have even noticed, let alone let it affect him, but Lucy… what would it have done to her? She couldn't even contemplate it. However, she could sense something not right. "There's still something you're missing out."

"You're very perceptive. There is. It's so amazing you'd never believe me."

"Try me."

"You know just now, when we came up here? There was no wire." Lucy blinked at him.

"Excuse me?"

"There was no wire. Nothing helped me. You can check if you like." She examined his back. There was certainly no harness showing, and she would have been able to see it through his shirt. No harness would fit him - he was too thin. She prodded his backbone and he laughed, but she couldn't tell if he was simply laughing because it tickled, or if he was laughing at her. It annoyed her slightly, but she didn't let on.

"All right, I'll accept that. I've seen enough other weird things around here to believe you, but how exactly did you get up here?" He rose to his feet, put his hands on his hips and stared proudly at the opposite wall, supposing he looked like Robin Hood. Then, speaking heroically, he said:

"I'm a Leaper." There was a deathly silence.

"A what?" Instead of answering her, he bent his knees and started to jump. He was evidently trying to prove something. Whatever Lucy was expecting, though, it wasn't what happened next. The boy effortlessly jumped approximately four feet in the air and landed again silently. He then resumed his original pose. Lucy was mildly amazed for a few seconds, but then had an idea.

"Show me the soles of your shoes."

"Why?" Impatiently, she grabbed his ankle and pulled him over. He fell with a dull thud next to her and complained. She ignored him and examined the base of his feet.

"You must be wearing springs or something. Nobody can jump that high. It's impossible!" Before he answered her, he had got to his feet and grabbed her again. They were travelling through the air at a greater speed than before, straight upwards into the apparent oblivion of rafters. This time she screamed, but still managed to hear him say:

"Nothing's impossible in this place. I thought you'd realised that by now."

To be continued…