A TV screen suspended from the ceiling of a narrow, amber-hued room flashed with the still and moving images of a beautiful young woman. Some of the pictures in high contrast black and white (the style of 1940's film noir) highlighted the woman's platinum blond hair and dramatic make-up, but most were of bright, neon color. In one video clip that appeared to date from the early 1990's, she took center stage as a phalanx of dancers joined her—shirtless muscular men with smooth skin and sinewy limbs cavorting about her spiritedly, displaying athletic skills and agility her basic moves lacked.
She began to sing. Her voice was weak; sharp in some spots and flat in others, but the dance beat was powerful, relentless, and her tantalizing beauty and taunting sexuality undeniably seductive. The camera moved in on her face and froze on the perfect symmetry of her features: a ripe, red mouth and straight line of a delicate nose leading to shining eyes the color of sapphires fringed with thick black lashes.
A title superimposed over the frozen image read Karla's Comeback? Liza Keane, an entertainment host with a high-voltage smile, addressed the camera and spoke to the millions of unseen fans.
"Sexy, brash, controversial, but always entertaining—Karla Mancusi--has captivated audiences for nearly three decades with her provocative lyrics and barely-there costumes."
A shot of Karla in bondage gear straddling a male dancer flashed on the screen. Liza continued, her toothy grin never wavering. "But we haven't heard much from Karla since her last tour, causing some of her fans to wonder if the Queen of Pop might be abdicating her throne to a younger rival. Here's our foreign correspondent, Dante Inferno, reporting live from the Cannes Film Festival with the latest news about Karla and more. Dante?"
The television screen split to reveal Dante, an over-the-top celebrity chaser with bright orange hair holding onto a microphone for dear life while behind him chic, formally attired celebrities mingled, posed, and air-kissed on the red carpet.
He faced the camera. "Bonsoir Liza. It's just been confirmed that Karla will appear tonight to present an award. She's arriving any second." Another reporter bumped into Dante as a crowd began to gather behind him.
Liza giggled. "Dante, we know you're a big Karla fan..."
"So where's she been for the past two years?"
"According to her publicist, she's been traveling in Europe, spending time with her daughter, Bianca." A flashing image showed Karla in scarf and sunglasses leading a beautiful, dark-haired teenager through an airport. "Karla was concerned about Bianca growing up in the Hollywood rat race. Plus, she had just gotten over her ugly divorce from Bianca's father, Casper Volpe." A candid photo of Karla and the Italian filmmaker appeared on the screen: she and the handsome, bearded man at a formal dinner engaged in a heated conversation.
Liza arched her eyebrow at the camera. "What went wrong with that power couple, Dante?"
"Well, as you know, Liza, their personal and professional relationship took a huge hit when their high-budget vehicle Body Parts failed to land at the box office."
A dramatic European style film still of Karla flashed on the screen.
"Ooh." Liza wrinkled her nose. "That was a stinker?"
"Karla earned a Razzie for that performance, and she hasn't done much acting since."
"Dante, Let's talk about this photo of Karla leaving a clinic in Switzerland, sparking a lot of rumors."
A blurry photo appeared on the screen showing a frail woman, her face wrapped in bandages, being helped into a limousine accompanied by a title on the screen that read: Plastic Surgery Drama!
Dante made a skeptical face into the camera. "That photo has never been confirmed to be Karla, but since she is nearing her fiftieth birthday, it's possible."
"Dante, many of Karla's fans have expressed concern about her involvement in the controversial Ostara organization." A photo of Karla on a Manhattan Street standing next to a large bald man (both clad in white robes) flashed on the screen. "Is this new spirituality a change for her?"
"Listen Liza, she may start a new trend or change her coiffure, but deep down she's always Karla, and that's why we love her."
A commotion erupted behind him as a black limousine pulled up. "She's here! It's Karla!"
The camera tilted and pushed past Dante. A dark and handsome young man wearing a tuxedo and designer sunglasses emerged from the limousine. He extended his hand; the crowd gasped as Karla, a vision in white lamé, alighted into the crowd, her face partially obscured by the platinum blond waves cascading to her shoulders.
Dante rushed towards her as security guards held back the crowd. Camera flashes and shouts of Karla, over here! This way, Karla! created a circle of white light and noise around her.
In the midst of this chaos, she found the one camera broadcasting her image to the world and stared it down. The lens zoomed in on her eyes, shining like hard-cut, blue gems in a sea of white, coldly confident in their beauty and power. The image froze then cut to a commercial.
The thin, veiny hand of an older woman, trembling slightly, picked up a remote control and zapped off the TV. The room was silent except for the woman's slow, muffled breathing and, barely audible in the background, the low hum of a jet engine.
YOU ARE READING
"PREPARE TO BE SCARED! A Taut, Sexy Page-Turning Gothic Thriller!" World-renowned pop star, Karla, summons her estranged siblings to engage in intensive therapy at the location of their parents' tragic death: a now abandoned summer camp. When fifty...