's 2016 Horror Write-off:

All Of This Is Happening Right Now Section 2: Performance

Submitted by Brendan Cleary

"Excuse me ma'am, can I ask you something?"

The woman turns around in her seat to face a tired looking man in his thirties, she is already regretting her decision to acknowledge him.

"What?" She says, staring at him from an angle so she can continue watching the stage.

"Well, it's about the play actually, I-"

On stage a woman wearing a Spanish army jacket begins to recite Latin while endlessly taking off and putting on a pair of black spectacles. Everyone, except for the tired man, claps.

"See!" She snarls, eyes fixed back on the stage. "You almost made me miss it."

Two men enter from the right, one has his hand pressed against the other man's face firmly. They are both wearing leather overalls. Again, everyone except the man claps.

"Sorry about that."

"Sorry isn't good enough, this show only comes along once in a lifetime, I can't afford to miss even a second."

"... Speaking of that, what is this show exactly"? He asks, as the three performers on stage begin to rapidly punch the air in front of them. No one claps.

"You don't know?" She turns back to face him, checking to make sure he isn't hiding a smirk. "How can you not know?"

"I was supposed to meet a friend here, she was the one who told me about this, didn't tell me much, just that it was supposed to be-"

One of the men, the one whose hand is on the others face, puts too much effort into his one hand air punching, and has to sit down to recuperate. The resulting applause drowns out the man's pained wheezing.

She shakes her head disapprovingly, and rolls her eyes. "Just watch the show. It's not hard to follow."

Suddenly the lights go out.

"Is this..."

"Part of the show." She cranes her neck above the stage. The man notices that the rest of the audience are doing the same, he decides to follow their example.

Minutes pass, the man's neck is getting sore. Nothing is happening, but yet, every few minutes or so, the audience would clap as one.

After one of these seemingly spontaneous clapping session, he taps the woman on the shoulder.

"Excuse me, I'm sorry I keep bothering you but... how exactly are you all doing that?"

This time, she doesn't even bother turning around.

"Doing what?" she doesn't have the faintest idea what he can be referring to.

"You know, the clapping!"

As if to prove his point, the entire audience erupts into applause once again.

"That's like asking someone how people walk or talk, its natural."

He notices people around him are looking at him. Their expressions are not friendly.

"You understand how clapping works right"? 

"I know how to clap!" He says defensively "This is just- you're not.... Nothing is happening right now! Why are you still clapping?"

The people around him try to contain their giggles.

He propels himself out of his chair. He is surprised to see, now that his eyes have adjusted to the darkness, how large and packed the theater is.

"Oh shut up!" He yells. Hundreds of thousands of eyes are focused on him. 

"I...I'm sure there's an explanation" He begins. "I'm sure you have a very good reason for clapping when you do... but for someone who's never been here, never really experienced anything like this, you can understand my confusion."

They were silent, watching him intently, perhaps to give themselves more ammo to mock him when he had finished, or

perhaps in a honest attempt to learn how they could address his concerns. 

"I don't mean to insult you or sound ignorant, but it really seems like you guys are clapping at a show that's finished. It's been... a good twenty minutes now, I think the show is over. I don't think you guys need to clap anymore. I think we can go home. The shows over."

Silence, no one says a single word.

He sits back down nervously, regretting his grandstanding.

But then just a few seconds later, another wave of clapping begins.

And it doesn't stop. 

They start whooping and hollering, a few stand up, and a few more follow, until the entire crowd is giving him a standing ovation.

The man thinks they are applauding him, the man thinks that his speech has finally got through to them. The man thinks he has beaten the show, the man feels like he's done something important.

Until the lights turn back on, and something starts to lower from above the stage. 

They are clapping for this, he realizes, they were never clapping for him. 

Very slowly, a polyester couch ridden by the three performers, now clad in parrot masks, descends from above. The clapping doesn't stop until the parrot woman, now wearing an outfit comprised of nothing but ties, takes out a dollar and puts it into a vending machine. After a few minutes of jimmying the machine, she takes out a mars bar, and begins to slowly open and eat it, parrot mask still on. 

The audience doesn't clap until the third bite.

And it may have taken him longer than the others, but currently, at this very moment, the man is clapping with them.