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.
Albert Kraft had been sheriff of Kidder County for ten years. He often joked he’d likely remain sheriff until his son, Arnold, replaced him. A burly man with a gentle heart, he managed to enforce the law in the small county without having to resort to heavy-handedness. Mostly, he had little to do and was only in his office this night to cover for his lone deputy, who was in Bismarck’s lone hospital awaiting the arrival of his first child.
When Kraft’s phone rang, he fully expected it to be his wife calling and not the manager of the theater sounding like he’d lost his mind.
“Sheriff Kraft,” he answered.
“Al,” Baxter was an old friend. “You are not going to believe this, but some nut has locked himself and six customers inside my theater and I can’t get inside.”
“I’ve told you to carry an extra set of keys with you, Bax,” Kraft chuckled.
“That’s not what I mean. I’m in the lobby. I can’t get into the theater. He’s got the outside doors locked and we can’t get the keys to work and the lobby doors are blocked. I can’t budge them at all.”
“Alright, Bax, I’ll come over and see what I can do.”
He drove over the two blocks, in case he was going to have to transport a prisoner to jail, taking notice of a brand new car he’d never seen in town before along the way, parked his patrol car out front and strode into the lobby less than two minutes after hanging up.
“How long has he been in there?”
“About twenty minutes now, Al. He said he had a thirty-minute film to show, some kind of sneak preview of a Hollywood film. Paid for the use of the theater in cash. He seemed legitimate, so I let him have at it. When I tried to go back inside to see how things were going, I couldn’t get past the doors.”
Kraft pushed on both. He leaned into the effort on the second try but fared no better.
“And when you tried to get in from the outside doors?” Kraft asked.
“Keys won’t even turn the lock, Al. This goes well beyond strange, don’t you think?” he mopped his forehead with a handkerchief.
“I do. Well, we can either wait until his film runs out and the folks inside try to leave or…”
With that, Kraft withdrew his nightstick and started pounding on the doors. He hoped someone inside would hear and investigate. He was still pounding away four minutes later, with no response from the other side, when the strange became the bizarre.
“In the name of God,” a voice thundered from behind them, “stand away from that door!”
They turned in unison to find a man in the traditional garb of a Jesuit priest bearing down upon them. His black hair and robes moved as if blown by an unnatural wind, and his face seemed chiseled from granite. His green eyes blazed with a holy light. From a fold of his robe, he withdrew a hand ax that appeared to be made from pure gold. It was shaped like a cross and what appeared to be razor-sharp blades glinted on either side.
Kraft, Baxter and young Jimmy scattered. Without pausing, the stranger gripped the ax in both hands, drew it back, and drove it into the doors as he stepped into them. The blade struck the doors, exploding them off their hinges with a thundering boom. Both doors ripped through the dark curtain that prevented the light from the lobby reaching the theater. The doors flew down the slope and crashed against the back wall.
The priest did not hesitate, heading up the stairs to the projection room with the sheriff close behind, demanding an explanation. Baxter, Jimmy and the woman from the now-closed ticket booth ran into the theater below.
* * *
Martin kept his eyes glued on his watch. He’d seen the movie play out once too often and had no desire to see it again. When the pounding on the door began, he remained unconcerned. The locking spell would hold until he departed. Once the second reel ended, he would collect the reels and utter the transport spell that would return him to his car without having to pass through the lobby. There was no way to explain the sudden disappearance of the six people who’d met their demise this night. Exhausted, he doubted he could muster another spell once he’d transported. At least not until he’d eaten and rested.
The second reel rolled out. It was finished. He packed the reels into the container, not bothering to look outside at the empty theater, lit up with the white light from the projector. He began the transport spell just as the doors below exploded open. He quickly whispered the one spell he knew from memory as he grabbed up the container and the old book.
* * * * *
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