The Whistling Man By Michael Mann

“So, why do they leave that one light on overnight?” Alice asked.

Paul turned to look at the empty stage, one last time before his retirement.

“That’s the ghost light.” He smiled. The single light bulb stood in the centre of the theatre’s main stage, giving off a slight warm glow. “You leave it on overnight to ward off evil spirits that may lurk in the theatre.”

Alice’s face turned pale with the idea of ghosts. Paul turned to look at her and quickly chuckled.

“It’s so in the morning, when the stage team arrives, they can see where they’re going before they switch on the main lights.” Paul laughed as they left the stage and headed for the stage door.

As they walked through the winding concrete corridors of backstage, Alice was making notes on all that Paul had to offer in advice.

Make sure all the ushers have signed the logbook before and after their shift
Double check the toilets
Triple check your exits before you leave

“Any more questions?” Paul asked as he held the door open. The midnight air felt cool against their cheeks that summer evening.

“Think I’m all set.” Alice said as she rummaged in her backpack, shoving her notepad in the bottom while trying to wrestle with her bike helmet. “Thanks for the training. I really appreciate it.”

“It’s my pleasure!” Paul said as he locked the stage door behind him.

A faint tune could be heard in the crisp wind.

“You know, you shouldn’t whistle in a theatre. It’s bad luck.” Paul said as he turned to leave. Alice had managed to get her bike helmet secured on her head and was already straddling her bike.

“Whistling?” Alice questioned. “What? Like saying Macbeth?” Paul quickly spun in a circle and pretended to spit on the floor. “You do make me laugh Paul.”

“Stagehands would use whistling to cue each other.” Paul explained. “I’ve heard serious accidents have happened, and someone once died from falling down in the pit on stage as he was mis-cued.”

Alice began to pedal and rode off through the carpark and onto the main street.

“You should take these things seriously!” Paul shouted after her. He smiled, knowing he would be leaving the theatre in good hands with Alice.

Heading to his car, Paul did his usual last check.

Keys
Wallet
Phone?

Paul quickly fumbled through his satchel and looked for his mobile. It wasn’t there. He sighed. He must have left it on his desk. Quickly getting his keys, he let himself back into the theatre and headed straight for the Front of House office.

Walking through the corridors Paul began to remember all the years he had been working at the theatre. He smiled as he saw the stain on the carpet where a member of the admin team dropped coffee on their first day, and the stain wouldn’t come out.

In the wings of the stage he remembered catching two young actors kissing in the dark. He was the usher at their wedding several years later.

As he reached the side of the stage Paul noticed the slight flicker of a light.

The ghost light.

Bulb must be on its way-out Paul thought. He’ll text the tech team when he gets his phone to remind them.

Paul carried on down the corridor when he heard whistling. He had told Alice not to do it. She must have let herself back in after him. But hadn’t Paul locked the door behind him? The whistling continued, sounding as if it was coming from the main stage. How did Alice get in without Paul seeing her?
“Alice? Is that you? Alice!?”

Paul followed the sound of the whistling, making his way through the wings and on to the stage. “Alice? You shouldn’t be in there on your own. It’s late.”

In the dim glow of the ghost light, Paul could see a faint shadow by one of the seats.

“Alice, did you forget something?”

The whistling stopped, and the light flickered. Paul felt a small chill pass down his spine and the whistling suddenly came from behind him. He felt the cold breath of the whistler pass by his ear. Quickly turning around to face the sound, the stage was empty, all except for Paul and the ghost light.

The light began to flicker again. Paul shook his head. It was late. He had been up all day and was tired. He needed his phone and just to get home. As he marched back to the wings, the door slammed shut with a strong ice-cold breeze. The bulb of the light burst, and the glass shattered across the stage. The whistling started to come from the centre of the stage, and as Paul tuned to look, in the darkness he could make out a tall shadow. A man.

“You’re trespassing!” Paul shouted.

The man whistled.

“Leave now and I won’t call the police.”

The whistling continued.

“Please. Just leave.”

In the darkness Paul could see the man suddenly smile. His gleaming white teeth, almost too perfect to be real.

The stage lights above began to flicker on and off. Sparks of colour illuminating the stage.

“Please just leave!”

The whistling became louder as if it was coming from every direction but only the shadowy figure stood before him. Paul covered his ears and closed his eyes. He felt an ice-cold hand suddenly force against him and Paul fell to the stage.

Paul felt the shattered glass from the ghost light on his hand as tiny shards cut deep. Paul screamed out in pain, but he couldn’t hear himself over the whistling.

Then it stopped.

Paul slowly opened his eyes and saw he was laid on the wooden stage floor. The ghost light was back on and wasn’t broken. His hand was fine. It was just a dream.

Paul chuckled to himself. Just the theatre playing tricks on my last night he thought. Paul got himself up and brushed off the dust from his trousers. He had been silly and heading for the doors, it began again.

The faint whistling came from the centre stage. The light went out and Paul felt a cold hand on his shoulder. He turned to face the whistling and looked into the cold white eyes of death. Paul tried to scream, but all that could be heard was whistling.

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