A Good Actor Never Dies
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A little arson doesn't hurt anyone, right? All she was doing was getting rid of a horrible, run-down house for pricks. 'They need this. They deserve this', she thought as she flung a crackling torch into the town's local church. Ah, a new age. It was a time of revival and rebirth. So technically, this is rebirth. In a holy way?
Either way, it could mean that-

Oh, shit. Is there a mass going on in there?

She ran as fast as her little legs could carry her, smacking her ashy hands together and grinning. 'Blanche Narivad', Mama would always say to her, 'Keep your antics up and you'll be screaming in the depths of Hell!' Sure Mama, but suddenly it doesn't apply to you when you tempt another man? Proceed with your adulteries then, Mama, because I'll see you in Hell when I-
Blanche had crashed directly into a stranger. The woman towered over her. She was tall, gaunty, a phantom. Black hat, black dress, and with a lacy veil that circled delicately around her head.
"Watch where you're going, ill-face!" Blanche huffed and looked the woman in the eyes. The mysterious woman exchanged the look, so slowly and eerily it appeared non-human. She seemed to be a timid, doe-eyed woman. Except she was not.
"I believe you were the one to crash into me." She replied, Blanche struggled at first to understand the woman through a thick, posh accent but her intentions finally got through as cold and to the point.
Blanche winced and narrowed her eyes. "Foreigner, eh? Well, stop standing around! I don't want to be late for these auditions.." She didn't mention the part where she set fire to a church.
"Auditions?" The woman perked up.
"Yea. You looking for a problem?"
"Ohoho, no, no!" She chuckled, "Why, it just so happens that I am going to auditions too!"
Blanche snickered. Must be auditioning for the circus.
"Well…hehe… good luck." She mumbled, hoisted up her dress, and hurried towards the theatre.
Thank God, she won't have to see that stupid wench again.

Blanche huffed as she sat down beside the woman she had seen in the town before.
You just had to jinx yourself, huh? Now if we both get in we'll have to act alongside eachother! Acting- on stage! That is the dream. But alongside other people…blegh. Not the dream. Those in the room with her were a varied bunch, the lady sitting beside her had a dead straight posture, almost doll-like. Another woman stood across from them, her hair bulbous at the sides and pulled into two braids, with a lax face and cleaned-up clothes. And a little blond boy, who looked barely 15, strategically covering his features.

A male voice yelled from the theatre where they were supposed to audition. It had a sense of power and confidence to it. That must be the Masque himself, such a vivid character!
"Francine Delaviere! Please, hurry up!" Francine, who was the woman sitting beside Blanche, stood up and glided out of the room, hurrying on a detailed mask fit specially for her face.
Blanche was now alone with two strangers. Conversation wasn't needed, but the boy at the wall tried anyway, tracing his fingers along the wood.
"I… sure hope I am accepted. To be in acquaintance with the Masque.."
The woman across the room simply nodded her head gently, and gazed at the ceiling. A soft wailing could be heard from the theatre. Not soft, really, just far away. In reality it was incredibly loud and emotional. There was an echoed clapping, a small 'bravo' from the Masque and what seemed to be another male voice, ghastly and crisp.

The Delaviere lady floated silently back into the room, her giant coat and dress catching the air lightly and making it sway. You could swear she was a ghost. She stretched and said,
"Exceptional, as always."
Blegh, a narcissist.
The other two in the room glanced at her, and the boy narrowed his eye. Wait.. eye? Where's his other eye? How did he lo-?
"UM… BLANCHE NARIVAD?" The Masque called. Oh shit.

She hurried her way through the arched doorway and walked directly on to a stage. It was completely dark except for the faint lights coming from oil lamps, but Blanche could make out the outlines of rows and rows of seats, curtains, and a balcony, even through the mask she had just put on. It was a big, looming theatre, that was eerily quiet as there wasn't any audience. But there was. Sitting in the front row was the Masque, his silky white shirt not even doing its job as he had it buttoned only halfway up, exposing his toned chest. His collarbones blended into a horrible black ooze that started from his neck up, and from behind his delicately made mask his head was covered in thick, slimy, dripping black lumps.

The figure next to him was quiet and tense in contrast to the sprawled Masque sitting next to him. He appeared tall and scrawny, even from a distance, showing clawed fingertips and vulture-like features. Or was that a mask?
"Ms. Narivad, would you like to begin now? I don't have forever in this body, you know."
"I believe you have around three days, my love. That victim is fresh."
The Masque quickly turned towards his companion, and his mask suddenly changed into a frown.
"Don't tussle with me, doctor. I know how long bodies last."
The Doctor clasped his talons together. "If you insist. Now, where were we?"
Blanche coughed. The Doctor flinched and opened his mouth.
"Shut. She doesn't have it." Masque put his hand up.
"But just in case-"
"No. Sit down."

Blanche looked at her hand-written script, then began to speak.
"Expressions of betrayal!
The beams of light illuminate my mouth! To limelight my screams as my purest sign of anger, then mock me,
Is nothing more than-

"Hold on," The Masque interrupted, "Did you write this?"
"…Yes. You said we could recite our own writings or stick to the script."
Blanche smiled, then began again. She threw her body around dramatically.

"-Is nothing more than an insult to my true emotions!
My sins will not be forgiven by them,
And the gate to Heaven will refuse to open unless I kick it wide!

She said the last line as she stamped her foot and tensed up. As she ended, her voice became demanding, booming and seeping with malice. She held her power stance for a little longer, then stopped.
There was a delayed applause.

The Masque was smiling. "Bravo! That was wonderful. I enjoy the breath of fresh air that is authors who spout nonsense and hope others believe it means something. You may leave, Narivad."
Blanche took off her mask and grinned a quick flash of her yellowed teeth. She turned to leave, until the Masque spoke again. He leaned forward slowly.

"Say, Narivad. How badly do you want to be in the Troupe?"
She flinched and felt like she couldn't breath at the question.
"More than anything."
"I see. And you were the only one in your area who saw the pamphlet?"
"Most likely. I took it down and burned it before anyone else got to look."
The Doctor followed the conversation back and forth with his eyes. His blue eyes. Wait, no, his yellow eyes. Grey? You couldn't tell in the light. The Masque spoke again, smoothly and deliberately,

"Would anyone care if you left?"

Blanche's mind wandered. What was this, really? Was she going to die accepting a job? She thought about her current situation and how she has no one left but her cursed mother and the fire on the torches she burned. If she could get a job here, she could finally pursue her dreams of acting in front of everyone, and under the teachings of her biggest idol, who she had heard of through word of mouth since she was young. If his grand stories were true, and here she was finally seeing him in the flesh-and-ooze, well…

"No. Not at all."

"Very well. You may leave."
She scurried back to the door and opened it. Then she heard faint whispers between the men. The Masque wasn't a quiet man.
"Do we really need to have auditions for this? I'm getting impatient…"
"It was your idea, love. Would it be easier to just…ask them then?"
"…Maybe. Ahem, can you tell Giorno to come in, Ms. Narivad?"
Blanche stared back into his not-eyes. His change in tone made the hairs on her arms stand on end.
"You know, eavesdropping is very rude…"
She nodded and left the room faster than she was already, and could feel his cold glare upon her back.

Giorno…who was Giorno? It was one of the three other people in the room, and the tall one was named Francine so it was one of the other two. Her math classes really paid off with that one.
"Uhhh, Giorno? The Masque called you."
The boy from before jerked up. There was anxiety written all over his face as he scrambled to get up and rushed past without a word. Soon there was silence again.
Blanche could hear a muffled tenor voice with a strong vibrato from the other side. Was he singing? At this point Blanche wondered if the Masque even cared about auditions at all, and if he just wanted a following. A loyal one.

After awhile Giorno came back in. He was very, very nervous and reeked of teenage sweat. Poor boy. Blanche almost had pity for him.
"The Masque wants everyone in… he said..he said forget about t-the auditions, come in…"
Confused glances were shared as the three slowly got up and followed Giorno back onto the stage. Blanche could hear an annoyed mumble from the bulbous-haired woman, something about how she had something extravagant prepared for the audition and what-not.

"Forget the auditions, darlings!" The Masque said, as the Doctor pinched his brow in annoyance. "I've gotten bored already and i've only been through three! Barnaby-"
The bulbous-haired woman looked up. Her face did not change from its relaxed, droopy expression. The Masque continued,
"I'm guessing you already heard the questions I asked the others?"
"Yes. And I'd do everything to be in the troupe."
"Good to know. I think you all have reasons for joining and I very much appreciate the flattering stories," the Masque laughed, "About how you've heard of me! Very, very flattering…"

He got out of his seat and climbed the creaking steps up to the stage, getting uncomfortably close to the four. His voice grew more enthusiastic.
"Either way, you can see it in yourself and in the others around you. You are nobodies with nobody to go to! You all have problems and you're all losing in the game of life! We've all heard the stories. An ancient actor, forced to clamber from body to body just to spout a little passion into the world! Look at me, I'm rotting just standing here!"

Blanche was quiet. Everyone was quiet. Except the Doctor who was picking at his nails, perhaps from hearing his companion ramble about his origins many times before.

"And I'm running out of time, all the time. That's one of my problems. Mister Pestilence over here is getting me bodies quick enough, but-"

The Doctor looked up. The atmosphere went grim at the mention of both the 'Pestilence' and how the Masque possessed bodies to live, then die again.
This seemed to make things a lot more personal, as the group huddled closer, like they all shared a tendency for the gruesome and grizzly.
The Masque sighed. "What I'm saying is, I want to live. I want to act. But I can't do that without…well…do you get me?"

Giorno stepped back instinctively. "Wait! You're not going to use us, are you?!"
"Silly boy, not at all!"
He raised his arm to smack Giorno on the back of the head, saw him recoil, and stopped.
"…I wasn't going to touch you anyway. You'll get hurt. Stand up, boy!"

Glancing at his hand, Blanche could see it was pulsing and seeping with the black slime, and then noticed the small, darkened erosions on the armrest he had his palm on during the auditions. She watched Giorno timidly fit back into the small circle they had made. Masque glanced at him gently, then continued.

"I don't trust humans, but I would like some help, and what better a group then die-hard followers who also have a flair for the dramatics! You can help my companion and I find those poor, poor victims carrying what plagues them, and in return we can travel the world and show them what peculiar people like you are really worth! No more being in the shadows!"

Blanche spluttered, "What is it that we're getting into?"
The Masque looked humoured.
"Depends. For now, we could call it a little…partnership. You could say it in a sense that no one will know where you are and if you try to leave I'll kill you, but if you want to choose that route…"
"I'm in, don't worry." Blanche nervously grinned. She was not a fan of dying.
"Wonderful! As for the rest of you?"

There was a collective nod from the other three. They felt stronger as a group already but panicked in a sense that they were practically forced into a devout following with their idol and his strange companion. But, they'd follow the Masque wherever he went, because he understood them. That was an unspoken rule in the all-new and extravagant Theatre Troupe. The troupe sticks together, and stays together. They weren't alone anymore, they were family. A family full of lowlifes who worship an enthusiatic mask, but one none-the-less.

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