Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Chapter 2 - Calm Before The Storm




     ...and the curtain closed.  What had he just seen?  He had sat in a trance for the entire film and now that it had ended he felt like an eternity had passed.  He glanced again at the reel canister still set on the table next to the projector.
     "Obeah." He read out loud to himself and was surprised by the shock in his voice. He had sat transfixed, unable to move, eyes glued to the screen and yet, other than the distant memory of an emotive and powerful piece of cinema, he could recall very little of what he saw.
     He listened for the familiar sound of the audience reaction, but there was none. Silence! Absolute silence! As the curtain closed the audience seemed to have left the theater without making a sound.  Not a whisper...not a shout...not even the shuffling of feet.  They were gone without a trace.  Then there was a footstep.
     His attention was pulled away by the sound of a foot step on the first stair leading up to the projector room. A long shadow was cast by whomever was at the foot of the stairs.
     "Mr. M?" A happy confident voice called up.  It was the familiar voice of Mr. Samael but the shadow that was casting up the spiral staircase was a twisted and deformed and appeared to be writhing in a death throe.
     "Mr. M," he said to himself. "That's what they used to call me."  His co-workers and friends had called him Mr. M back in another time...another life it seemed. He descended the staircase and the twisted coil of a shadow became the smiling form of Mr. Samael, as usual, straightening his tie and smiling.
     "You've done very well,"  he said.
     "A packed house, yes?"  the powerful and deep voice of the Obeah Woman said. She seemed to be floating down the long hallway that led to the staircase of the projector room.  As she came nearer Mr. M. could see that her eyes were wild with excitement.  "You did well son...dey are across now...in da place dey are meant to be...da place these ones chose...da place dey will be...forever."
     "Yes...thank you love,"  Mr. Samael said, seeming to want to end her diatribe.
     "Of course Mister...Till da next time yes?" she said.  As she walked away she blew Mr. M a kiss and was gone.
     She is very happy...very happy indeed,"  Samael said, emboldening Mr. M with a confidence he thought he felt.  "And now my friend, take a rest," he continued in a gentle voice.  Then he looked directly into the weary man's eyes and said in a tone that did not match his usual friendly charm.  "You still have much to do."
     "Yes...thank you, a rest sounds good,"  Mr. M replied.  They parted ways at the foot of the staircase, going opposite directions.  There was another premiere to show soon and he headed toward his office for some calm.

     His faithful but old and squeaky chair was waiting for him and he settled into it with familiarity and relative comfort. These moments of pause were few and far between lately and he relished in the tranquility of it all. Once again he drifted into memory...
 
...to the first day...many years earlier...

     He sat quietly in what is now his office, but on this day, was the office of the previous owner of the theater and his mentor.  The man who hired him all those years ago on that very first day and who was dressed in fine tailored suit that he had always always worn.  
     "First day is always the toughest," his boss had said as he silently rocked in his office chair.  He reached across the desk to remove some papers revealing a nameplate.  "O. Nigel" it read.  "How did you like it?"  
     "I loved it!"  the young Mr. M answered.  "It was such a loud and busy place a moment ago and now it is quiet and peaceful...I like the extremes of it all."    
     "Yes my lad, yes," Mr. Nigel laughed.  "It does have its extremes doesn't it?  Like the extreme tidal forces of the ocean, we are in a moment of moderation...the neap tide if you will...the calm before the storm."
     "You mean before we run the next picture?" he asked with excitement and anticipation. 
     "Yes...before YOU run the next picture."  Mr. Nigel said heavily emphasizing the word you.
     "Me?"  
     "You!" he repeated again, his bearded mouth smiling sardonically.

     Mr. M awoke from his memory... and there...on his desk...right next to his nameplate...was a canister with the next reel.  He was saddened by the memory of his first day and the loss of that innocent excitement that he felt.  He had to load this new reel the same way he did all those years ago and the excitement of his youth was now replaced with the feeling of being tired and lost.  Lost in age, lost in location and lost in spirit.  His life had changed immeasurably over the years even though his location had remained the same.

     He grabbed the reel and wandered out of the office...lost!

   

Monday, May 22, 2017

Chapter One Part 2: Tickets Please





     The Manager left the musicians to their preparations and headed toward his office to await the new reel.  The arrival of the first new feature that Cinema Finis was premiering was imminent and for some reason the expectation carried with it a sense of dread.  He left the theater proper, walked through the lobby past the concessions and headed for a door marked "Employees Only!"



      "Employees only?" He said aloud to himself, "Try employee only!"


     There used to be many employees.  Now all the familiar faces had gone.  Over the years crowds began to dwindle as the majesty of the cinema experience began to be replaced by the convenience of video stores, movie channels and streaming services. Thus, the theater had been experiencing a long and slow death right up until the day Mr. Legion and his..."investors" had arrived.  By that time he had been alone trying to hold it all together. There had been many names and faces in and out of the theater over the years..but it seemed like so few memories.   He must be getting old he thought as he tried to concentrate to have a proper memory...then one came.

     The most recent ushers Chris and Janet had gone and the concession girls Kassy and Eva soon thereafter. The box office manager Susie had left some time ago as well.  He had been struggling in futility on his own for a while when at the last moment on the last day at the last hour Mr. Legion appeared.


     His memory began to clear as he recalled that moment.  A shudder and a flash of light; he had thought one of the ceiling lights had blown but it had not come from above but from behind him.  That side door that no one had used for years had burst open and the shadowy figure approaching, Mr. Legion emerging from the light, briefcase in hand and documents prepared.



     As he shook the memory from his mind he returned to the present and opened his office door. He saw the decayed and faded label on his door which read "Manager's Office."   He opened the creaky door, went around the now chipped and worn oak desk that sat in the center of his office and dropped into the once pristine but now squeaky and worn leather chair.  The repetitive, long squeaks of the chair lulled him, and his memory again began to wander to the recent...or was it the distant past.


                                                              Squeak...squeak...


     He had so little time, but he allowed himself a moment’s contemplation, a moment’s thought, a moment to breathe.  He felt as if he hadn't had a real breath for ages.



                                                              Squeak...squeak...



     He closed his eyes.  "Just for a moment," he said to himself as he gently rocked back and forth in the chair.



                                                               Squeak...Squeak...


     ..and he remembered...


     ..the commencement ceremony of the opening of the theater.  It seemed like yesterday and a hundred years ago all at the same time.  He thought about his door he had just walked through. He remembered the day the label on his newly furnished door was attached to the clean frosted glass.  He remembered the way the gentleman with the suspenders and red bow-tie had smiled as he glued those bright red letters on.  He remembered the way that gentleman polished the glass, took a step back and and took in his work with a look of absolute reverence and satisfaction.  He even remembered the name of the man as it was sewn on to his company shirt...Sam.



     With a bang he was snapped out of his day dream.  The bang had been caused by the giant film reel that had been dropped on the desk.  It was a wonder that the desk didn't crack under the weight it.

  
     "There be the first reel."  A women's voice said, deep and powerful with an accent he couldn't quite place.  "You are expecting it, yes?"   
     "Yes...yes I am," he replied, still slightly stunned from being pried from his daydream, "for some time now. Thank you."
     "I know you have been," she said with a slight chuckle as if she knew some inside joke he had not been privy to.   "Go on den, sir. Take it...to the projector room."  She said with urgency as she began to turn and walk out the door.  "It premieres tonight yes?" 
     
     Her colorful flowing dress was red and she wore a white shawl over her head with what looked like a yellow lily on it.  She continued down the hall and called back to him.
     "Yours is an important role Mister.  Ha-ha!" She laughed.  “You da projector man...da movie man...get dem across, yes?"  She disappeared down the hallway and was gone.
    
     He wasn't quite sure what this meant but he stood and began to prepare to bring the reel up to the projector room for the midnight showing.  Get them across?  He let go of the question and looked at the clock on the wall which had stopped long ago but his habit was such that he continued to check it.  His next instinct was to check his wrist for the watch that he no longer wore. 
     He struggled down the hallway with the heavy film reel canister and headed down another corridor that led to an old metal staircase leading to the projector room.  Having made this walk countless times he began humming a familiar tune but the name of it eluded him.  How many times had he made this ascent to the projector room? A hundred?  A thousand?  Who knew?  Walking the primrose path was the old joke back in the day, describing this particular duty.  The familiar clang of shoes on metal stairs rang in his ears.  The projector room was small and had a strangely green glow to it that surprised him.  He had not yet been up here since the..."acquisition."  Or had he?
     He pushed the thought from his mind and began the familiar task of removing the reel from the canister and loading it onto the projector.  He mounted the reel onto the first spool, threaded the first foot of film did a bit of tinkering and it was ready. Then as if on cue a chime sounded and began to strike.  It startled him and he turned to see a large grandfather clock, both hands at the twelve.  He didn't remember that being there before.  It was beautiful and terrifying and the chiming seemingly began to intensify as it repeated and repeated. 
     On the twelfth chime he instinctively switched the projector on.  The old thing had started up like it was new and he watched the beautiful sight of the film being magically pulled from one reel, through the projector housing, across the lens and light, only to be reassembled on the spool on the other side.  It was a simple and beautiful thing and as he listened to the familiar click of the projector, he heard Mr. Samael's musicians in their loft began to play a haunting melody.

     "Ticket's Please!" a voice shouted from below and the doors were thrown open.  From his vantage point he could see the white light from the lobby spill into the darkened theater, its beam falling just short of the last row of seats.  A crowd of shadowy figures began to file in, their forms and details hidden by the shadows and the darkness.  The lobby light cast their shadows across the theater chairs into grotesque shapes, their forms being distorted by the combined light and darkness. 
     The beautiful chaos of a cinema door being opened to a large group of eager film goers had begun and the lilting piece of music seemed to usher them all to their seats in a visual poetry that mystified the Theater Manager watching it all from the perch of the projector room. 
    
     "The movie is about to begin," came another announcement.  The beautiful piece being played from the loft seemed to be winding to a close.  The second spool was starting to thicken with film as the preview finished and the countdown to the main feature begun.
Six...five...four
     He looked over at the table where the now empty canister that had housed the reel lay partially open.  
Three...two
     Fixed to the top of the metal cover was a title card that was upside down from his point of view. He reached over and spun the canister around to read the title of the feature he had just...unleashed on the crowd below.

One!
 It was a one word title.

It read...



...OBEAH. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Chapter One: Part I


 
     The arrival of the first new reel to be premiered at Cinema Finis was fast approaching.  It had been fast approaching for what seemed like years to The Manager.  He chuckled at the hyperbole of that thought.  Years!  Well, it really did feel like it though.  Many years in fact!  But it had only been a short while since Mr. Legion and his partners had bought out his dying theater.  He wondered how long it really had been? He wondered what the title of the first new reel was? He sat there...waited...and wondered.

     "It is a classic in every sense of the word."  Opined Mr. Legion who appeared out of nowhere and somehow had answered the question in The Manager's head that he didn't remember verbalizing.  "A picture that has stood the test of...time."  His bearded mouth smiled sardonically as he said that last word.  "Don't worry" he continued, "people will flock to our theater to see it.  That is why we must have everything prepared."

    
     Something about the way that Mr. Legion had said that sent a shiver through the The Manager.  It was a shiver he was experiencing  more and more these days...or years.  Many years?  As he looked around the lobby just inside the main doors he wondered if he would stand the test of time.  He seemed to be missing time lately.  He turned his head toward a banging sound beyond the main  theater doors and when he looked back, Mr. Legion had gone.
   
     The Manager followed the sound and walked into the theater marveling again at the new blood red curtain. He walked down the aisle past the newly upholstered blood red seats to investigate.  In the corner a black metallic spiral staircase ascended into the darkness of the dimly lit theater and he could just barely make out the shadows of a small group of people moving up the steps toward a platform that had been erected near the ceiling.

     "I wonder who they are?", he thought to himself, "and when did that platform get put in?" It must have taken months to erect, not to mention the time taken to carve the ornate symbols that adorned it's railing which wound it's way around the platform making it into a type of balcony.  Gold trim outlined it's edges and of course it had the blood red finish to the fabric of it's walls and underside.  It looked ancient yet this was the first time he had seen it he was sure of it.  It was one of the very few things he was sure of these days.


       "Those are the musicians, and that is the pit...a pit in the sky...a bit different than a usual pit but a pit nonetheless."  He turned to see Mr. Samael proudly gazing toward the balcony, arms raised in wonder as he beheld this newest structure.  As he turned to look at the balcony he noticed their shadows falling across the curtain. He peered into the darkness at the balcony as the "musicians" shifted around and began to...well...he wasn't really sure what they began to do.  He looked back to Mr. Samael who was straightening his blood red bow tie. He wondered how Mr. Samael had responded to thoughts he was sure were only in his head.  He wondered where the musicians had come from.  He wondered why they needed musicians.  He seemed to be wondering all the time lately.

     "Musicians?"  The Manager asked in a croaked voice.  The sound of his own voice startled him.  He felt as if he had not spoken for some time.  He cleared his throat and repeated himself more to hear his own voice than for Mr. Samael to hear.


     "Yes!" Mr. Samael answered with great alacrity. "...and the finest musicians around.  Each an expert at their instrument and when they play together......."  Mr. Samael paused and put a hand to his heart while raising the other above his head. He closed his eyes and it was as if he were actually in the raptures of a currently heard piece of music.  Only...there was none.  All that the Manager could hear was his breath, and the shuffling sounds coming from up in the pit.  "......It can move both heaven and hell."  Mr. Samael finally finished, letting out a satisfied breath.  He opened his eyes and walked away down the aisle leaving The Manager alone but for the musicians shuffling about above in the darkness.  He looked up...and wondered.



Prologue




"It's so bright!!!", the Theater Manager thought to himself as he looked at the new carpet, seat cushions, curtain and walls of the Theater.

     It was various shades of red interspersed with patterns of black, yellow and a myriad of others. The paint on the steps between the rows of seats was newly applied as well and had darkness to it that reminded him of blood.  As he looked around he realized that all the shades of red reminded him of blood.  Maybe he always thought that, or maybe he hadn't.  He shook the thought from his mind only to have a new one enter.

     The theater had been about to go bankrupt but for the man who now approached him from the balcony doorway where he stood surveying the newly upholstered and painted interior.  Times had changed, people had changed.  The thrill of the movies had been lost in recent years...along with so many other things and he had been resigned to the fact the his theater was about to go under and could not be saved.  But two weeks ago that had all changed.  The day before the theater was about to close for good a stranger named Mr. Legion had appeared in the office with an offer.  He had an interested group of investors and they were prepared to give an influx of much needed funds to save and restore the theater.
     "In exchange for what?"  he had asked dubiously.  It turned out that all that would  be asked of him was to allow all of the upgrades and renovations be left to them to decide.  All he had to do was keep running the theater like had always done.  It sounded too good to be true.  His theater would have an encore after all  had seemed so hopeless
 
     "My partners will be coming by in turn to offer their guidance and expertise.  We will provide all of the materials and labor.  You need only provide us this decrepit and dying enterprise for us to rebuild.  Call it a good deed...we like to spread good karma and we will help to bring the people back.  Lines will reappear outside of your building again my good sir...and most importantly...people of all kinds will have a place to go...together...to be entertained.  A place that will cater to the individual...and the group.  If it sounds to good to be true...IT IS!"  Mr. Legion cried with gusto and excitement.  The Manager felt overwhelmed with excitement...or maybe it was fear.  There was no choice really, or at least he felt like he had no choice...or maybe he had.  Regardless he had agreed to the terms.  The only other thing that was part of the bargain was that the name of the theater would be changed and they would inform him of the name in due time.

     That had been two weeks ago and since then he had met only one other of Mr. Legion's partners.  A  Mr. Samael who had coordinated the color upgrades in the main theater.  Every change he had made be it color or placement, size or shape seemed to be the best and most obvious choice available and his speech and delivery filled The Manager with confidence and appreciation for Mr. Samael's keen eye.  He had also been the one to leave The Manager with the news that the new theater name had been chosen.
     "We have the name and it is a good name." he had stated apropos of nothing.  "A very good name."  And The Manager knew that is was so.

As the memory faded Mr. Legion had now arrived from his short walk through the balcony doorway emerging out of a bright white light emanating from what appeared to be the outside light.    The Manager had not recalled a doorway there before...or maybe he did.  The door slowly closed of it's own accord revealing the striking angular features of Mr. Legion
     "I have the name for you sir and it will soon shine in lights above this theater, calling one and calling all."  he cried with an excitement that bellied his speech.  He put his arm around The Manager and they both looked out from the balcony across the seats below and stared at the newly installed and drawn blood red curtain.  Mr. Legion took a deep breath and calmly said.....


     "Cinema Finis"