Back to The Beginning: Every Beauty is a Tragedy Waiting to Happen
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Part Three of the Tragic Beauty Anthology

After we got back to Don's room, we wondered if Kettles Johnson still wanted to meet us behind the Corwell Amphitheater. That had been his original plan before he showed up at our room talking about waking up with his pants off and being in love with Jayne. Now the man was a complete emotional shambles and we doubted if he would remember the planned meeting. However, after smoking several joints and finishing a twelve-pack of beer together, the paranoia was eating away at us. If the meeting was still on, Kettles would be angry if we didn't show. If it wasn't, the worse thing that could happen would be a couple hours of standing around watching drama students go in and out of the building for dress rehearsal. They were performing A Midsummer Night's Dream next weekend. Don's parents were coming down from Boston to see it and he wondered if he could buy advance tickets tonight. That would provide an easy excuse for hanging around the building.

On the way to the Corwell Amphitheater, we decided to check on Miles. Although he rarely went to classes, which was a key reason for him being in his fifth year and technically still a junior, being strapped to an upright pallet jack probably wasn't in his best interests. We owed him something for showing us the ropes, buying us beer on numerous occassions, and helping us when the football team got drunk and tried to make Don their "bitch" for the night. Don's drinking had increased exponentially after that night, but at least his honor remained intact.

There was no sign of Miles or the pallet jack in his room, but the door was still open. His roommate, known to everyone as Steely Dan (even though his name was Ron), was playing jacks with a girl in pigtails. We asked him where Miles was and he shrugged. Trying to get rid of us as quickly as possible, he muttered "Haven't seen him" and closed the door. We heard kissing sounds soon after, so chose not to knock and request further information. Instead, we marched quickly to the theater in order to make our uncertain rendezvous.

Outside the theater, we were accosted most violently by the actor who was playing Puck in the upcoming production. As we tried to sit on a wall and wait for the arrival of Kettles Johnson, the actor jumped up and down in front of us, smacking things out of our hands and kicking dirt into our faces with the green elf boots he was wearing.

"Dude, can you like fuck off or something?"

Seconds later, Puck doubled over and fell at our feet. There was a dagger in his back, thrown by an unknown assailant from somewhere in the shadows of the darkening night. We stood up and cringed. Puck went into convulsions and then became very still. On our tiptoes we skulked away from the scene and looked to the forest behind us for cover. Still being stoned and drunk, rational thought was eluding us in mystical ways. Going into the theater and alerting someone as to what had happened might have been the best course of action. However, that thought did not cross our minds until many hours later.

"I hope they had an understudy for the role of Puck.
That play kinda sucks without him."

I had never been able to raise just one eyebrow before, but I managed that feat in light of Don's comment. While we scampered into the woods, I began to seriously contemplate what I was doing and why I had strayed so far from the intended purpose of four years of college and a degree. Then I remembered the words of Miles when he told me I could learn more outside of class than I ever could in one. Was this an education in real life? It might have been if it had in any way resembled real life. People strapped to upright pallet jacks? Secretive women in dark rooms with coloring books on the floor? Actors being stabbed outside the theater by unknown assailants? This was more like an episode of Hart to Hart than real life.

We weren't sure whether to be happy or angry when Miles appeared out of the trees and headed us off before we could enter the woods. The mere fact that he was in a tree to begin with was suspicious, but it made us question how long he had been there. Had he killed Puck and then scurried into the forest before we did? Or had he been there waiting for us for some time before that without knowing about Puck's untimely death? We sought to question him, but he wasn't taking any questions. He was in some kind of trance, rattling off the same phrase over and over and demanding that we follow him into the woods.

"I have a heart murmur."

Not knowing what else to say, we told him that was 'too bad.' He did not respond to our confused concern, so we just continued to follow him silently into the woods. After about twenty minutes of walking over twisted branches, disturbingly large ant hills and exposed tree roots we came upon a log cabin. There was a plume of smoke coming out of the chimney and an elderly woman on the porch with a broom smiling as she swept dirt and leaves back into the forest.

"Welcome, young people."

She smiled and beckoned for us to follow her into the cabin. It was very dark inside, aside from the light cast from the fireplace and three wall mounted kerosene lamps. There was a filth encrusted sofa and a rocking chair gathered in front of the fireplace. The old woman told us to sit on the sofa and reminded us that she always had "first dibs" on the rocking chair. Then she offered us hot chocolate and pickled herring, waiting for our response before she decided whether she would sit down or head off into the kitchen. Our "no thanks" was enough to get her to sit down.

"I don't know if Miles has filled you in yet...
As I see your confused expressions I will guess he has not.
So I will tell you the tale of my sad existence.
I am building a barrier that will preserve beauty in all its glory.
Beauty is so wasted on the young,
but soon the wise shall have it as well."

Don and I looked over at Miles, who was smiling and giving us the "thumbs up" sign. We waited as the woman spoke, and listened to her mad monologue with varying degrees of attention. She told us she had a secret laboratory in the basement of the cabin and that she was a genetic engineer who lost her mind after a lab explosion. She had been dismissed from her job because of her habit of "flipping out and stabbing people for no apparent reason." Part of her brain had been destroyed by the explosion and she believed it was the part that controlled both emotion and reason. Now she was working day and night, with no sleep, inventing something she called the "Fifty Year Barrier." It would cause people to develop normally until they hit their fiftieth birthday, at which point they would start to age in reverse. Then, after a hundred years of existence, they would slip back into the womb.

"Right now I'm experimenting with feral dogs! Great, huh?"

We could not figure out what this had to do with Jayne, which was the whole reason we were involved in this mess. The woman seemed to become more mad by the moment, rocking back and forth in her rocking chair, giggling and seething. The saffron colored housedress she wore was unraveling. A big pile of old wrist watches spilled out of her pocket and landed on the floor with a terrible clatter.

Miles took us aside and told us this woman was brilliant. He told us he was completely sold on her schemes and was taking time away from school to help her. We needed to pay attention, he told us, because she was going to change the face of the world by making everyone beautiful. He insisted that we needed to join him in helping the woman achieve her goals.

We decided to ask what this had to do with Jayne. The woman did not care for that question. At all.

"These two ain't no good, Miles, take 'em out back and shoot 'em."

Maybe leaving Miles tied up and gagged in his room while we ran off with Kettles Johnson had been a poor decision after all.

Thus ends Part Three of the Tragic Beauty Anthology
To Part Four: Eventually you will need to open up the shades to let the light in

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