Happy is he who...writes from the love of imparting certain thoughts and not from the necessity of sale-who writes always to the unknown friend.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)





Sunday, October 28, 2012

Finalist #4


At the Movies
by Pamela K Kinney

The mummy dragged its foot as it came closer and closer.

“Oh God, Chessie, you spilt your drink in my lap!”

Shushes filled the theater. Chessie cringed as her sister leaped to her feet, her seat banging loudly as it hit the back. More shushes.

“I’m sorry, Jan. I’ll grab some paper towels from the restroom.”

Chessie jumped out of her seat and bolted out of the theater into the lobby. She raced into the women’s restroom and tore a handful of paper towels from a dispenser on the wall, soaking one with water. Back in the theater, she shoved them at her soda-soaked sister. Jan’s boyfriend, Bill, snorted with amusement.

Chessie sank into her seat. “I’m sorry, Jan. That scene in ‘The Mummy’s Hand’ scared me.”

Bill shook his head as Jan pat-dried her pants.

“You’re such an idiot, Chessie. I don’t know why Jan had to bring you.”

Jan said, “Because my mother said I had to. If the freak here would get some friends then I wouldn’t have to take her with us.” She glared at her sister. “She’s such a loser that no one likes her.”

Chessie stared at the big screen and willed herself not to cry. She watched the mummy stalk a pretty girl in a long dress that apparently was some reincarnation of a dead Egyptian princess. She hadn’t wanted to spend part of her Halloween watching some dumb classic horror movie at the Majestic Theater anyway. Even if the costume she wore was a mummy. Strips of white cloth made the cheapest costume, or so her mother told her. She’d wanted to be a vampire or something way cooler, but no, she got to be a stupid mummy instead.

Because Jan had taken her to her middle school’s Halloween party, she let her sister bullied her to see the film afterwards. Bill and Jan rather have gone to see some gory horror flick at the Regal Cinema near them, but Mom told her no, because of Chessie. Mom had seen the Majestic, a second-run movie theater, was holding a Halloween Classic Horror Film Festival. Her mother had picked ‘The Mummy’s Hand’ being early enough to get Chessie home before eleven o’clock.

Worse, she couldn’t eat any of the treats from the bag of candy she’d gotten at the party. Because she was scared one of the workers might see her munching on it, she hid it beneath her costume. It made her look like she had a pot belly.

“Aw crap, this ain’t workin’,” whined Bill. “Who cares about some old, cheesy black and white film about a mummy covered in dirty rags? There’s no gore. Let’s go over to my house and we can either play video games on my PlayStation or listen to some music CDs. Or better yet, watch some Halloween stuff on TV. I think they got ‘Hellraiser’ on one of the channels.” He stood. Jan joined him, throwing the bunch of paper towels wadded up into a big ball at Chessie. Bill leaned over and dug under Chessie’s costume, snatching a chocolate bar from the hidden bag. “And Chessie, you not invited, either.”

Chessie huddled deeper into the seat as Jan and Bill headed to the back of the theater. She’d be damned if she let even one tear fall.

“I’m going to finish watching the movie, Jan. I’ll head home after it ends. Don’t worry about me.”

“Like you even would,” she mumbled under her breath.

The girl watched the film, pretending interest and after a while, found the movie not half bad. No one dare push the mummy around. Actually, no one ever push any of the monsters around. If some human tried, the monster either ate or killed the dummy! Chessie thought how she’d like to be like the mummy, big, scary, and taking nothing from no one.

I wish I could be an undead mummy. Then let my sister and everyone else try anything. I would . . . rip their heads off!

That’s when she noticed something odd about the film. The creature suddenly changed direction and picking up speed, looked like it headed for the audience. Which was absurd.

Chessie sat up. In another second the scene would change and the mummy would be back on track, attacking the movie victim it had been stalking.

But in slow motion, as if time had slowed down, the monster tore through the screen and landed on her. A musty odor shoved up her nostrils as she stared up at the bandaged face, noticing twin red lights. Not lights—had to be the mummy’s eyes. The mustiness changed to a cloying perfume that drifted into her nose and mouth. The mummy placed a bandage hand around her throat and began to squeeze. Her heart pounding inside her chest, she began to thrash as she tried to throw up the creature. She couldn’t understand why no one came to her aid.

Chessie screamed, wetting herself.

As suddenly as she’d been attacked, she found herself standing on her feet, her scream fading in the theater and others telling her to be quiet. She touched her throat and rubbed it, but it didn’t feel bruised. The perfume smell had disappeared. A glance at the movie screen and she saw the mummy back in the movie.

Embarrassed, Chessie raced out of the theater, keeping her eyes glued to the floor so she wouldn’t see the pity and anger in everyone’s eyes. Once again, she had been nothing more than a moron and a wuss. And she pied in her pants like a baby! She’d let her imagination get the better of her.

She took her bag of candy out and carrying it, walked away from the theater. After a while, the lights of downtown became darkened streets of homes. The only light—other than street lamps—came from the full moon riding the night sky like a bright diamond against black velvet. Its creamy whiteness grew even more brilliant, almost blinding her. She took her eyes away and focused, determined to get home where she could hide in her room and pig out on candy.

Out of nowhere, pain slammed into her. The bag of candy fell from stiffened fingers to the sidewalk. Raging heat washed over her. She screamed, clawing at the bandages covering her face. The agony grew so unbearable that she dropped to her knees and crawled over to the edge of the sidewalk next to the street and rolled over onto her back. The moon shone at her eyes, diamond-sharp in its brilliance. The light burned and she wanted to cover her eyes, but couldn’t move her hands or any other part of her body. Suddenly, her vision went black. The pain gone, instead her eyes felt soothing cold. She rolled over onto her stomach and stood. Still blind though. Her arms stuck out in front, taking one step, then another, suddenly she stumbled into a wall.

A wall? There been no wall that she remembered. One side had held fences and lawns of homes, the other was the street. She pressed her hand against the ‘wall’ and felt the surface give. Not made of brick or anything a wall might be made of. Where was she?
She called out. “Hello?” Her hello came out like a growl.

What the—?

She whipped around and yelled.

“Arrrgghhh.”

“Shoot it! Shoot that thing!”

Her vision returned. Two men, one with a gun, stood before her. A woman with long black hair and in a long dress hovered behind them. Fear masked the men’s faces, but not the woman’s. Chessie took noticed that the people’s clothing were with black, white or gray. That’s when she saw everything around her, the woods—woods?—had no color, looking like a black and white movie.

The woman held out her arms. “Klaris!” She took a couple of steps, but the man without a gun grabbed her. She struggled in his arms.

“Shoot the mummy!” he yelled at the other man. “She thinks she’s some long dead Egyptian princess.”

What’s going on here? And why couldn’t she speak, only uttering growls?

Something zipped past her. Oh God. The man with the gun. . . he was shooting at her for real!

She wanted to turn tail and run. Only she lurched forward, dragging her one foot behind her.

Like the mummy in the old movie. She couldn’t make herself stop either. Just keep making for the men and the woman. Worse, the man with the gun kept shooting at her.

This has to be a nightmare.

Her foot struck a rock in her path. It hurt.

No, not a nightmare, but real. She remembered the wish she had made, that she could be like the mummy. But wishes are the stuff of fairytales and can’t come true.

This one appears to, otherwise explain being a mummy in a forties film.

Please, please, please. I wish to be a normal girl again.

The light appeared, blinding her, and then her eyesight returned. She stared down at her hands and saw normal hands of a girl. Checking herself over, she found that her fake mummy bandages vanished and she wore a long dress instead.

On hearing gunshots, she looked up and saw the mummy lurching toward her and the men. Sweat beaded her forehead and her heart began to beat against her chest.

She’d gotten her wish. Human again, but this time the wish made her Anaka. She moaned. She was going to die unless she wished again. This time, word it right.

Just as Chessie opened her mouth to wish, the air grew hot. She glanced up at the sky and saw fire the colors of a burning pumpkin blazing across it. The tang of smoldering celluloid filled the air. She coughed. The cough switched to a scream as fire danced across her arms and crackled in her hair. Pain clawed along her nerves.

She screamed.

****

The next morning, the theater manager at the Majestic found the back door ajar. Worried that someone had broken in to steal, he rushed inside, only to find nothing disturbed. Not until he entered the projection room. He bent over to pick up the strip of a film, ‘The Mummy’s Hand,’ lying on the floor, blackened and withered.

Halloween pranksters?

But why just that film and nothing else burned or stolen?

With a sigh, he tossed the entire ruined film into the trash and walked away. He paused for a moment, listening, and then shook his head. His own imagination had been playing tricks with him lately, making him think that he heard ghostly voices in the old theater.

There was no one else in the building but him. And the only ghosts came from the old films he showed here.

4 comments:

  1. Loved the whole story and the ending was perfect!

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  2. I liked this story so much! I loved how it kept breaking the expected laws of space and time. And also how I really wanted something horrible to happen to that awful sister and her boyfriend, but instead Chessie was still hunted and destroyed even as a monster.

    Denise Hemphill

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  3. Oh - when I said how it kept breaking natural laws, I don't meant that I liked THAT it did, I meant that it did it over and over, so once we figured what the new laws were suppose to be, it moved on to other ones, the whole time! :) And I liked the ending with the manager coming in and hearing the voices :)

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