Principal Whateley steps onto the stage. The spotlight follows him as he walks up to the microphone and taps it once, twice.
"Everyone, please, if you'll quiet down for a moment . . . Thank you. I know you're all anxiously awaiting the crowning of this year's king and queen --" He checks his watch. Still a few minutes left. "But before we can do that, I have a few other happy duties to perform.
"First, I'd like to thank the prom committee for all their hard work. And special thanks is due Lydia Marsh for suggesting this year's theme -- A New Day Dawning. A lovely concept, and so appropriate, too. And the decorations live up to that sentiment. Kudos to Ms. Pickman and her senior art class. Let's have a round of applause to show them how much we appreciate all their hard work. Their efforts have done Arkham High proud."
Clapping, polite enough, but with an edge of impatience. They want him to get on with it. He glances at his watch. Soon.
"I'd also like to thank our band for the evening, the Outsiders. Take a bow, kids!"
On the stage behind him, the band does as the principal asks, the drummer getting off a rimshot. The applause is louder this time, enthusiastic and sincere.
Principal Whateley smiles as if the applause is for him. "Now, if Ms. Pickman, who also served as faculty advisor to the prom committee this year, would bring up the envelope?"
Ms. Pickman walks up onto the stage. She smiles and waves at the assembled students before handing the envelope to the principal.
"Thank you. If you could see to the other, ah, preparations?"
She nods, walks off.
The principal fusses with the stubborn envelope. A line of sweat appears on his brow -- there isn't much time left -- and several students laugh nervously. Finally, he gives up and just tears the end off. He blows into the envelope and the sides puff out. He extracts the card and silently reads the single name printed thereon -- one is all that's needed -- and smiles.
He turns to the drummer. "If you would?"
A drum roll. Cheesy, but nonetheless effective.
Principal Whateley clears his throat. "This year's queen is . . . Alice Keezar!"
Thunderous applause, punctuated with squeals of delight as a pretty brunette in a lavender gown rushes toward the stage as best she can on high heels. She takes the stage, stands next to the principal, wipes away happy tears.
Ms. Pickman reappears, glittery silver crown in hand. She places the cheap piece of plastic, which, at this moment, is more valuable than gold or jewels, on Alice's head.
"And as for the king, Mr. Zann's chorus has been down in the music room chanting for --" He glances at his watch one last time. "Precisely four hours." Just long enough.
The air before the stage begins to shimmer and the crowd draws back.
Ms. Pickman gestures, and from the wings of the stage come a pair of tuxedoed young men. Both are star footballs players who might've taken the field for Miskatonic in the fall. But then there isn't going to be a fall. Ever.
The boys each grab one of Alice's arms and hold her steady, just in case she suddenly becomes reluctant to fulfill her queenly obligations.
The air rips apart and a mottled tentacle covered with organs that don't quite resemble eyes thrusts forward and extends its coils toward Alice.
The King has arrived. And after-prom is going to be something special this year.
Created: August 14, 2001; Current Update: August 9, 2004