Words Out

Flash fiction by Reece Watson

October 2022

The curtain was drawn. With it, some of us sighed, others puffed. All of us had begun to relax. After a few moments, we gathered in a line in order of appearance and braced. The first few to go out practiced a smile and let it go, before breathing deeply and putting on a wide grin, as they outstretched an arm, pulled themselves beyond the curtain, and took in the applause.

The auditorium was full. Lecturers, students, friends and families alike were all present; cheering as each of us appeared to receive our ovation, and shuffled to the side for the next performer to pass through. After half of the cast had gone out, it was my turn. My stomach turned and my head swam, as what felt like a dream took a nose dive. How loud would they clap? How good did I do? Expectation, expectation – it flooded my mind, making me doubt; questions like ‘was I good enough?’ roaming at the forefront of every thought and uneasy breath I took. Despite this, I refused to cave. I knew there was only one way to find out for sure, and that the truth was waiting on the other side of the curtain. So, I went out.

I did not smile, opting to look out instead; trying to observe and naturally react to whatever I was met with. As I pulled beyond the curtain, revealing my frame from head-to-toe, there was a quiet pause. I didn’t know what was going on, until the actor who appeared just before me, gave me a slight pull of the arm and pointed down. I’d forgotten to bow. Looking puzzled, I dragged myself back into the moment and threw my head down to a point I was afraid I would knock myself unconscious against my knees. I clenched my fists, closed my eyes, and listened.

With my eyes still shut and my head low, I began to hear it; every word, chant, clap, wail, whistle and stomp, as the room began to rumble. To my disbelief, raising my head only doubled the volume. And with this increase, I raised my arms.

Tears streamed down my cheeks as I waved, with a smile from ear-to-ear.

You can find more of Reece’s work here.