Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A PRIVATE SCREENING... A NIGHTMARE.. 3/10/15

Empty movie theaters are good places to see ghosts. Actually, you'll do more than 'see' them. You'll encounter them. The energy of the room brings them out. It helps when they're actually running a film... Not the ghosts... the projectionist. 

Go on a weeknight. Buy your ticket and take your seat. Most times, you might wind up sharing the place with a few other patrons...slackers... bohemian couples... Nobody goes to movies on a week night. They're all at Starbucks, tapping out 'The Next BIG Thing.' But every once in a while you'll get lucky... No one else will be there... no one in the flesh anyway. The girl in the ticket booth knows. So does the old man selling candy. He whispers to himself and chuckles. It's so quiet in there, except for the hum from the florescent tubes in the glass candy counter. The ticket girl bows her head and goes back to her book... a small, military issue, World War 2 issue Bible. She moves her lips, as she reads. Sometimes she just nods.

You enter the auditorium, or whatever they call it. Sanctuary Cinematique would be a better term. It's dark, but not too dark. you can still see the life sized, bas relief, mer-folk on the walls.... the heavy, velvet curtain and the gold leafed proscenium arch. No one else is there... just you and the exit signs. You take a seat... right in the middle of the last row. There are two aisles... maybe eight seats on the right and left sections and sixteen in the middle. The wall behind you is carpeted. 

You put your things down as silently as possible, lest something notice you and eat your popcorn in a slow and sounsless manner.
A door opens... the one to the left aisle. You press back in the seat. Someone enters. It's the old man, the candy butcher. He makes his way toward the front, crosses to the right aisle and goes back up. Did he stop and say something into an empty third row? Hard to say. He leaves. It gets darker. The heavy, velvet curtain glides open. Did someone sniff? Was it you?... Hard to tell.... 

A short subject comes on... an old somewhat faded film about polio, circa nineteen fifty two. There are little children in iron lungs. Somber parents visit, sitting by the exposed heads. A lacquered up actress reminds all to give to The March of Dimes. Can you imagine? All they wanted were dimes. They always show unusual things like that. The place is known for it. God knows what their library must be like. 'Someone' crinkles cellophane. Was it the start of the 'coming attractions?'... Who knows? 

Everything's from the vault... old fifties teasers... clips from Father's Little Dividend and Stalag Seventeen... Black and white film stock has such a dream-like aspect, especially when it's slightly worn... A shadowy figure peers from the screen... only for an instant... but definitely not part of the frame... Just a face and a body... Spencer Tracy walked right through it....You might want to leave, but for some strange, intangible reason you don't, though you fold shut the popcorn and put it away....

The feature starts.. Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding... Smiling dead people, singing and dancing like the living..... You doze off... for just a moment, but you do doze off, only to wake with a start.... Something was next to you. Fred Astaire danced on the ceiling... then the dark shape evaporates... an iciness on the back of your neck.... a weal on the inside of your wrist..... Odd, but it doesn't trouble you...

The image on the screen freezes... a splendid coach and a beautiful palace... Someone takes your arm... You rise and glide down the aisle... or pass through the seats... It's all so fuzzy... Tiny voices tickle your ears, urging you on... little whispers... distant giggles. Yet discordant words bleed through... Go back - they say... Wake up - they plead....

All the weak, little lights placed about the movie house go dark... There's just you and the screen.... A figure, a thin, waxy figure, exits the coach and moves toward you... He wears a dark shroud. Then he smiles, cracking his face into a multitude of tracings and wrinkles. The eyes are black and lustrous, like small, dark marbles. And there's no color... no color anywhere, save for the dark, red, scabby look of his gums.

Why does he smile? Why does he have to smile like that? You see a face... a small head... there at the back of his throat. But this one doesn't smile. Then he takes your hand in his chicken claw appendage and gently pulls you in... Just before you break the membrane 'tween this world and the next, you say thank you...

What comes next, I cannot say... at least not for where you are...

A bit later, the girl in the ticket booth closes her Bible and calls a mortuary. Soon they bundle your body into a hearse and roll away.

The old candy butcher waves goodbye...

Never see a movie all alone.....

<more next time>

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