On the movie poster, Julia Roberts or Cameron Diaz or someone overwhelms me with huge, glassy eyes and juicy red lips. I wonder what those lips would be doing if they were having some huge, grotesque metal thing jammed between them, bruising gums and butchering perfect teeth- I stop myself. Sometimes I feel my thoughts becoming visible, even in the dark, and I have to hide it.
Fortunately the movie is not a popular one, and there's hardly anyone in the line. I can see why; the plot is goofy, the actors half-hearted, and the dialogue pat. But there's one thing you can always count on romantic comedies for, and that's the ending.
Whoever invented the happy ending must be a millionaire by now. It's genius, if you think about it: End the movie before the bad shit happens. Guy gets girl, girl gets guy, evil stepsister gets booted down the stairs and the credits roll. It's like the police officer at the crime scene: Nothing more to see here, folks. Let's move it along. Don't look at the severed limbs or the pools of blood, just keep walking…
Happy endings, the DO NOT CROSS yellow tape of the movie world.
If you think about it, everyone dies someday. But even knowing that, it's hard to imagine Julia Whatsherface sticking her head in an oven or accidentally drowning or even just withering away of old age. That's the beauty of it. Everyone wants to see immortality, even if it's an illusion designed to cover up the something-nasty in the corner. Everyone except me, but since I have nowhere else to go, movie theatres are a great way to kill time. Barring a library, of course.
I hand my money over the counter. The ticket lady is a young woman, about eighteen, with dark hair and serious eyebrows. Her nametag reads "Alice". Normally I wouldn't have paid her any attention, but then she yawns, and the brief flash of teeth I get sparks something in me.
"Sorry," she mumbles, trying to stifle it. "It's late and dim light always does this to me."
Those teeth. Lips, parting. Opening…
She's frowning at me with those severe brows. "Is something wrong?"
I cover by bringing out my wallet. As I pull it from my jacket, something else flutters out and through the hole in the Plexiglas barrier. Ticket Lady picks it up for me, glancing at it as she hands it over. Her hand stops inches from my outstretched fingers. Frozen, we look like a dimly realized version of Michelangelo's Adam and God from the Sistine Chapel.
She looks at me and smiles. "Sorry, got a brain-fart there for a second," and hands the paper back. It's Zebraman's photo. I get that spark behind my eyelids again. It's not a Job, I don't know what it is, but it's there.
She's looking at me as I walk into the deserted theatre. The movie is almost halfway through. I suppose I could have apologized, but what for? Offending her delicate sensibilities? If she called the police, I'd know. At some point, you just have to stop making excuses. I must have said sorry a thousand times as a kid, and things just got worse. There was something else faintly irritating about her, but nothing I could catch and hold in my fist.I sit in the silvered darkness and, as the credits roll, imagine the heroine OD'ing on sleeping pills after catching the romantic interest in bed with another woman. Or another man, I think before drifting off into silence.
The silver elk runs ahead, not so far that I can't see it, but enough to put some trees between itself and me. I dash after it with my crossbow… Crossbow? What happened to my gun? The ground drops suddenly and I go down on my knees, nearly impaling myself with the single wooden bolt I'm holding in my left hand. I hear a splintering sound; as I fell, the bolt must have struck a boulder on the way down. It lies in useless pieces on the forest floor.
The elk has stopped a few feet away. It stares at me with eyes as luminous and empty as a marble angel. Nothing appears to be moving, but when I try to get up, everything shifts until I drop to my knees again.
A cool wind picks up and moves across my forehead, but the harder it blows, the more things stay still. Like an ancient woodcutting in pure black. The wind picks up, moves across my chest. I can feel my jacket opening slightly, and the cold air moving into it, separating into smaller tendrils. They run along the inside pockets, tiny currents I can feel with my chest hairs, tickling, probing…
My hand springs free from its paralysis and slams against my side, pinning the thing trying to get into my jacket. "Ow! Let me go!" a voice squeals. I look down, blearily. It feels like someone coated my eyeballs with some greasy film. It seems I've caught the Ticket Lady bare-handed, trying to pickpocket me. Or something.
"If you don't let me go, I'll scream," she says, calm all of a sudden, as if realizing it's the last showing and nobody else is in the theatre. I release her arm, which she tenderly reclaims and rubs absently. If the thought of her was nagging me before, her physical presence is definitely putting up little red flags. In a way, it'd be simpler if she was a Job; I could simply mace her and get it over with. But this is a new experience for me, and from the looks of it, for her too.
"I was going to talk to you, but you were asleep, and I thought this way would be safer." She shrugs. "Guess I was wrong."
"You guessed right. Mind telling me what you were after?" I had a pretty good idea, judging from her previous reaction, but the thought of why a woman like this would want a photo that Zebraman had probably jacked off too was too bizarre to contemplate. But like most things, the truth always lay beyond the yellow police tape. Sometimes even I get surprises. And it's just before she answers that I realize, although I had obviously hurt her upon awakening, I hadn't felt a thing. No memories. Not even pins and needles.
"No, I'll tell you. Give it to me. The girl in that photo is my sister."