THE MONSTER IN THE SECOND REEL
By Richard Paolinelli
© 2020 RICHARD PAOLINELLI . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO COPYING OR ANY OTHER REPRODUCTION OF THIS STORY IS PERMITTED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.
They haggled over the price. Though, they settled on about the same amount he’d been paying at all of the other theaters he’d visited since this nightmare began one year ago.
“Say, there’s nothing funny about this film is there?” the manager asked suddenly. “I wouldn’t want to have to deal with any complaints to the sheriff.”
“Oh, no, nothing like that,” Martin assured, lying yet again. He’d been getting better and better at that skill with each passing day. “It’s going to be another one of those monster movies that are making the rounds. I wouldn’t want any children to see it, mind you, but nothing that will have your local preachers picketing your theater over.”
As the time for Sudden Fear to end drew near, he followed the manager inside. Martin waited patiently to the side as the lights came up and the manager made the announcement. Only six people agreed to stay and watch while the other ten declined. Martin was relieved those ten would be spared even as he steeled himself for the terror he knew lay in store for the six that remained.
He headed up into the projection room and dismissed the projectionist. He’d become something of an expert at this task too. He waited for the swinging doors below to close behind the manager and the projectionist before he turned down the house lights and started the film. He withdrew the old book, opened it, and quietly began reading from it as the film opened on a pastoral scene with soft music playing in the background. A young boy, blonde and blue-eyed, flying a kite high against a clear blue sky, dominated the screen.
Once assured that the spell he’d cast had sealed every exit, he flipped to another page and began reading again. He did not need to look to know that as he cast this spell, everyone in the theater had frozen. As the first reel neared its end and before it was time to switch to the second reel, he cast his third and final spell.
He closed his eyes against the coming horror that he had arranged. Twelve more minutes. Then he could leave this place, find something to eat and have a few days to rest. He was weary, in flesh, mind and spirit and there seemed to be no end to his torment in sight.
On screen, as the second reel began, the boy, a picture of innocence itself in the first reel, quickly transformed into a hideous monster. The creature’s hairless hide was a sickly grey and covered in tumors. The eyes an angry red and the mouth filled with yellowed, flesh-tearing fangs. It snarled and smashed everything in sight then turned to directly face the audience, claws slashing as if it were trying to rip through the giant screen itself. Martin scanned the theater just as the six patrons began to fade out. One by one they reappeared on the big screen. The elderly couple never even had a chance to try and flee, little good it would have done them. They stood frozen in terror and the beast fell upon them.
Martin turned off the sound then. He could not bear to hear the screams anymore. The other two couples were much younger and the two men put up a good fight. But they could not match the beast’s ferocity and they fell to its claws. Their female companions had made a run for it, never realizing they were trapped in a film and that no help would be found. The monster ran them down and made short work of them both. Then it began to feed on its six latest victims in an orgy of flesh and blood.
* * *
The manager collected the meager take from the box office, about average for a Wednesday night in Steele. They’d leave the concession area open in case anyone wanted something to take home.
Unable to do a final count until that last register was closed, he decided to check in on the sneak preview. It had been about five minutes since he’d left, and no one had walked out yet. He took that as a positive sign. If it looked good, maybe he could swing a deal to be among the first theaters to show it in the state. He strode to the doors and stuck out a hand to swing one open without stopping. He came to a painfully abrupt halt when it refused to budge.
“What the blazes?” The manager raised a hand to his throbbing nose, which had borne the brunt of the collision. He pushed on the door again, shoved harder a third time, and repeated the process with the other door.
Neither budged in the slightest.
There was no locking mechanism on either door and even if something had been moved in front of them, he was a strong enough man to at least make them move slightly. It was almost as they had been welded into place in front of a barrier of solid steel.
“Jimmy,” he called out to the younger man behind the concession counter. “Some joker has the doors blocked. Run outside and come in from the back and get these doors open.”
“Right away, Mr. Baxter,” Jimmy replied, dashing out the front. He circled around to the side exit, this one led directly to the theater inside and could be used to leave without going through the lobby. He slipped the key into the lock, but it would not turn no matter how hard he tried.
He abandoned this door and went to the rear of the building. A much larger door, used for deliveries, waited there. He slipped the key into the lock, but again he could not get it to turn. The door would not open. Confused, he ran back around and reported the failures to his boss.
“Impossible,” Baxter exclaimed. “You’re sure you were using the right keys?”
Baxter shook his head. Even if the doors had been locked from the inside, Jimmy’s keys should have unlocked them. He’d been trying to get the doors here inside to open, but not even a crowbar could gain enough purchase to budge them any more than pushing on them had accomplished. Baxter walked over to the lobby phone and asked the operator to connect him with Sheriff Kraft’s office.
* * * * *
Like what you’ve read so far? Be sure and sign up for Richard’s newsletter, “Postcards From Infinity“, and if you’d like to become a patron you can do so right here. Any amount you choose will be appreciated and will help keep this blog, these weekly serials and Richard’s podcast, “A Scribe’s Journey” up and running. Thank you for reading and for your support.