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I don’t know why the flyer happened to show up at my door, but there it was when I left for work, staring up at me from the crappy welcome mat I picked up at Walmart to scrape the accumulated crud off my shoes before I stepped into my cheaply rented home.
Come see the films you never knew you loved for a price no one can match. It will be the time of your life!
1050 Pembroke Lane
Those were the only words on the flyer, the rest was adorned with three images: a man laughing riotously, the outstretched arms of a creature resembling the one Dr. Frankenstein created, and a gun, pointed towards some unseen enemy.
I picked up the flyer and shoved it in my bag, not even thinking. I loved movies, they were one of the few distractions from the depressing slump that had become my life. So if I could see something new for as cheap and legal as possible, it sounded like a good idea. But first I had to get through another day at my shitty job. Another day working in a place that I hated, doing mindless tasks that could have easily been accomplished by $20 software, for people I didn’t respect, who got their jobs by talking their way in.
Essentially my life was that of either a dropout or someone who decided to major in something completely useless during college. I got through it though, just so I could blow what little was left of my paycheck after basic living expenses on the next movie, video game, book or cable subscription and slip into some fantasy world where my useless existence could be transformed into something great. Nothing compared to a movie though. There was just something about sliding into a dark theater and seeing a huge screen that tore me away from reality like nothing else could.
There was nothing of note, nothing appealing about the flyer other than the promise of a cheap and more than likely poor experience, but something about it refused to leave my mind. My entire day at work all I could think about was seeing a movie.
Sure, my days were usually spent thinking about how I would escape from reality once I escaped from the clutches of my mind numbing tasks that paid the bills, but nothing had ever hooked me like this. There was no promise of something specific, no titles listed, only the promise of a movie and I had to see it. After all, the ad promised me all the movies I never knew I loved, and I loved quite a few movies, so something new was a meaningful addition in the vault of my memories.
I needed to see this place. I knew about all of the local theaters and there was no word of something new. I’m not sure if it was my demeanor or if I just sighed in frustration too many times, but my boss started to get on me to stop daydreaming and actually do some work. Not that I hadn’t already completed my eight hour work day load in the first hour of my day.
As soon as he slinked around the cubicle wall I sighed once more and set about busying myself with tasks that made it appear like I was being productive without actually doing so. Posting in forums, doing research into moronic topics, falling into link loops, basically anything that had me typing or clicking intently would keep my overlords happy and as long as I did my assigned work by the end of the day I was off scott free.
After several hours of mindlessly clicking and clacking, my day was finally at an end. The whole thing, the morning meeting, first work session, lunch, the usual report to the boss, more work, and the eventual cry that the day was over, was all just a blur. Even though I hadn’t even looked at it since I unceremoniously shoved it in my bag, my thoughts had constantly been on the flyer. My day was over and there was nothing better to mark the end than by vegging out in front of a big, glowing screen.
I knew Pembroke Lane well enough. The drive was short and barely out of my way home. It was one of those old city streets, built when we didn’t have SUVs or traffic of note, so parking was either done by finding a place behind the store fronts or parking on another street and walking. Thankfully I managed to squeeze my slowly dying 1998 Dodge Neon in between two other cars also on their last breath behind the address.
No one was on the street tonight. No transients begging for change. No drunk teenagers living out their last few years before life told them they had to stop being dumbasses and pay for shit. No aged prostitutes trying to get me to pay for services I didn’t want. Just the moon, a few slightly visible stars and the glowing open sign of the door labeled with the address printed on the flyer.
The front door didn’t look like any movie theater I had been to, more like a sketchy convenience store that I could buy drugs at. Once I gathered up the courage to actually open the once clear, glass door that was so fogged over from the accumulated and never cleaned dirt and grime, it was like I had stepped back into the dawn of the movie theater. Provided that dawn had been aged 70 years.
Had it been kept in pristine condition, this theater could have easily been a historical landmark. Once lush red carpeting had turned a dull brown, similar to the color of dried blood. Once regally sculpted walls had long since faded, and every surface was covered with strange stains. Nothing looked dirty, just poorly taken care of. There was a small, circular booth in the center of the lobby, what I could only assume was a ticket stand. Slightly in front was a small sign that simply said:
“Comedy 9 p.m.”
The glass on the ticket booth was cloudy from what seemed to be a mix of scratches, nicotine stains and general wear. Someone was clearly within, but the poor lighting and the figure’s lack of effort towards it’s job concealed it within. A soft tap of the glass roused the figure, who upon closer inspection appeared to be wearing something akin to a bellhop uniform from some swanky ‘50s New York City hotel. “One please.”
I still couldn’t tell for sure, but the figure appeared to be male. My words appeared to have been the registration in his mind that I wasn’t some minor annoyance, but an actual part of whatever his job was.
I figured as much, it was rapidly approaching 10. Not that I cared, tonight wasn’t about taking in the full breadth of a film, but more of an exploratory journey. Cheap or not, a movie can only be as enjoyable as you are comfortable in the seat. A great film is ruined if the venue showing it doesn’t take care of or has just simply worn out their prints. Besides, one dollar wouldn’t even buy me a drink, so it wasn’t like I was breaking the bank here.
After I slid a dollar into the slot, the attend ever so slightly motioned with his head in the direction of the theater, then went back to paying me no mind. I walked past the concession stand. It was stocked with candies I had never even heard of or hadn’t seen in years. As expected, it was completely abandoned. It’s too bad, I probably would have bought a Mars Bar or some Licorice Whips.
There was only one screen in the place, so I didn’t have any opportunity to get lost or confused. I slightly opened one of the double doors and slid in. I quickly scanned the theater, it was completely barren of the modern conveniences like running lights to guide you to a seat. The only light was the glow of the screen. I stumbled until I found myself in a row and could actually sit down.
The movie itself seemed like random flashes of light. I sat for ten minutes trying to decipher the images that were flashing before my eyes, but it just seemed like someone was wobbling a flashlight around from a projection booth. There was sound filling the theater, but it was a mix of scratched records and the sound you picture the dogs hear when you blow a dog whistle. None of it made any sort of sense at all and dollar or not, I wasn’t staying anymore.
That’s when I noticed the other movie goers. I knew I wasn’t alone in the theater, but I didn’t really look at anyone else before I sat in my seat. Maybe I should have. Maybe it would have prevented me from watching the movie. At this point, my eyes had adjusted to the light. The room seem far larger than I would have given it credit for. What I thought would be perhaps a dozen people at most was actually nearing closer to fifty.
Three seats to my right was a man. He appeared to have been in his late 40s, his black hair greying at the temples. I think he was laughing, but it was hard to tell, as most of his digestive track was strewn like confetti out of his mouth. His body was rumbling in a way that would indicate deep, belly laughter, but all that could be heard was the steady drip of blood from the torn housings that once held his insides on the inside as it landed in the growing pool of vomit and intestines on the floor.
What the fuck was happening?
I fell out of my seat towards the isle. The floor was sticky and as I peeled myself off of it I could see a slow moving liquid coming from the rows further back, slowly sliding down the floor towards the screen. After I hauled myself up, I saw what the liquid was spewing from. Two rows back a balding, pudgy man was appeared to have clutched his stomach so hard he forced his fist into his abdomen. Whatever he had in his stomach had mixed with bile and blood and flowed freely across the already sticky floor.
I could feel my own bile rising in my throat. I tried to look away, but all that did was cast my gaze onto a person in the row across the aisle. All I could see was that face. His mouth was locked in a twisted smile. I’m not sure how long he had been there, but parts of his skin were torn off. His eyes had appeared to have been liquefied, giving him the appearance that his eye sockets were crying bloody goo.
The whole theater was spotted with death. Some bodies were fresh and some seemed to be decomposing. The stench started rolling over me. My eyes burned. Everything seemed to be spinning. I rushed out of the theater and into the street. I don’t remember what I had eaten that day, but it was rushing out of my stomach and all over the pavement.
Once I stopped reaching and managed to gather a small bit of my wits about me, I fumbled for my phone and called the police. I just wanted to go home, but some other human had to see the nightmare that I had just ran out from.
The police arrived, but the nightmare only got worse. They entered the theater only to find that everything was covered with a thick layer of dust. There was nothing there. The building had been closed up for years. It was months away from being condemned. Everything was just gone.
There was talk of filing a false police report, Baker Acts and drug abuse. It was almost impossible for me to pull it together. They decided to chalk the whole thing up to stress and depression, with a promise of me getting help come the morning. I was offered a ride home, but I didn’t want to be around anyone. The eight minute drive home was a blur.
Home was no more of a refuge for me. I tried to find the flyer, but it was gone. I retched a few more times in the bathroom before I curled up into a ball in the living room and just sobbed for a while. I knew that someone had to hear this, that someone else had to have seen something like what I had seen.
I’m not a writer, this isn’t something that I ever do, but I just want someone to know about that damned theater. Those images, those poor tortured souls will never leave my thoughts. In spite of the horrors I witnessed, something positive did come out of tonight, the film. The more my mind ponders those what I watched it uncovers the hidden comedic brilliance.. Even as I write this now all I can think about is how hilarious that movie is. My smile is so wide that the corners of my lips are beginning to split.
The blood is making the keyboard slick, but you should know that regardless of how horrifying that theater was, you need to go down there and see the movies they show. $1 is nothing and these movies are brilliant. I can’t really remember any specifics of the jokes, not that they would be as good out of context though.
My head hurts. I was laughing so hard that I started to slam my head against the wall. I can feel the split where the skin covering my forehead gave way under the impact, the crimson liquid is pouring out and pooling on my keyboard, but even the pain can’t distract me from the laughter. I can’t stop, I don’t think I’ve ever seen something as good.
It was just so damn funny.