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The Dressing Room

Sedeer el-Showk is an ongoing story set mainly in Finland and Morocco. He makes a living writing popular science articles and enjoys learning about the world in every way possible, from science to conversation to poetry. This is the first piece of fiction he has had published. You can find links to some of his nonfiction publications at sedeer.elshowk.com and reach him via Twitter @inspiringsci.

The ancient mouse slouched in front of the dressing room mirror, haunted by his reflection. His great black ears drooped; his body was a burden.
It hadn't always been like this. In the early days, the work had been fun. He had reveled in the creative thrill of making something new, helping two humans bring a different kind of entertainment to life. Together, they had surprised audiences and moved them to laughter, relieved them of their burdens for a moment.
But that had been ninety years ago. Ninety years of coming back to this dressing room and preparing for show after show. Ninety years of smiling performances, locked into a job he had long ago wearied of. His human partners had died decades ago and the company had passed to new owners, but it seemed his contract was eternal. It had started as a deal among friends but turned into food for lawyers who somehow managed extension after extension. He could never quit. He could hardly even live his own life. Once he had become an icon, the company had found loopholes forcing him to stay in character no matter where he was. He was always on stage, and it always had to be perfect.
Years ago--no, decades ago--he had wanted to break free and use his success to fuel new creations. He had dreamed of possibilities, of working on unforgettable projects with unknown artists. Now all he wanted was a chance to stop, to fade into dignified obscurity.
He might never get that chance, but he wasn't entirely helpless. One sip from the bright green vial on his dressing counter and he would fall into a deep sleep and then a deeper coma and then finally stop breathing... stop smiling. That threat was his only weapon against the juggernaut that ruled his life, the only way he could carve out even this small pocket of freedom. He didn't want to do it, but one day, he just might. One day, but not today.
Instead, he sighed, pulled on his white gloves, and looked up at his wrinkled face in the mirror. "Oh boy," he groaned. No, that wouldn't do. He popped two pills into his mouth and tossed them back with a shot of amber-colored liquid. In a moment, the wrinkles disappeared from the face in the mirror, and his ears inflated into proud black circles. "Oh boy, oh boy!" he cried, his resonant falsetto ringing through the dressing room.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Author Comments

Copyright law has bothered me for some time. Envisioned as a way to reward creativity, it's turned into an asset management tool that stifles opportunities and holds our culture ransom. This story is one effort to explore and explain that. Of course, it has to rely on circumlocution to describe the very thing it aims to challenge... but that's what stories are supposed to do.

- Sedeer el-Showk
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