Short Story Saturday – The Projector – Part 4
Short Story Saturday – The Projector – Part 5
I hope you enjoy the last two readings of my spoken story! THANK YOU, Matt!!
Part 4 – The Brighton Plaza Cinema 5/2/21 – Jack
Jack arriving late, attempted to quietly slip into the row, mangling a few toes on the way to his seat. He apologized profusely to the affected people. They seemed to dismiss it as unavoidable, easing his concern of having hurt his fellow patrons. Seeing how the previews were still running, he was glad not to have missed anything yet, nor messed up anyone else’s viewing pleasure. Jack was kind like that. He reflected for a minute that, having been raised by his MawMaw, he knew she would be proud of his interactions with others.
Considering where he grew up, how he turned out was a miracle. His life wasn’t easy, not only because of living in Detroit, MI, a city with the highest crime rates, it was just he and his grandmother fighting the good fight, no other extended family. She was the only one he still had after his mom left and his dad died in a robbery gone wrong. Fortunately, his MawMaw raised him to be better than where and who he came from. Her goal was to see that he made something of himself, and he indeed showed that he was heading in that direction. He could be pleased about it as well as his grandmother.
Jack was looking forward to watching Emergent; sci-fi thrillers were his favorite genre. It was nice to get out of his head and imagine a different reality, daily life being so taxing for him at times, imagining an unreal future being a welcomed change of pace. No bullets to dodge in his neighborhood, only watching phasers on the screen and the bad guys getting shot, not him. Who wouldn’t relish that kind of visual entertainment and not have to face the fear of merely trying to get home safely? Jack got comfortable and waited for the show to begin.
The movie started with the Tangent II crew shooting through space on a mission to a newly discovered planet. There were five members on board, three of them with various science research specialties, and the other two handled engineering and staffing the flight deck. All assigned to this mission, except for the captain, were recent graduates from the space academy, and this was their virgin flight. The crew was under the impression it would be uneventful as they didn’t anticipate any new life forms, just vegetation. It did require studying, though, being a new planet.
After landing on Zenlev’s surface, Emergent quickly ramps up with action sequences. The vegetation turned out to be somewhat aggressive and lethal. It was a rather predictable plot, Jack nevertheless enjoying it. The crew rapidly launched into survival mode rather than pursuing the necessary research they were tasked with. The scenes which followed had all crew members getting slaughtered in dramatic ways except for one space cadet, who correctly identified how to stop the vegetation in its tracks. She managed to get back onto her ship and headed towards home, a lost but triumphant gaze on her face.
As the credits rolled, Jack took a deep breath, satisfied with the ending. Putting his jacket back on, he gathered up his candy and drink, slowly getting up to walk up the aisle. It was then Jack realized that the theater was empty. Wow, he thought to himself, he was totally engrossed in that movie!
Part 5 – The Brighton Plaza Cinema 5/2/21 – Edward
It had been a long day for Edward. A long month. Looking over the number of movies he’d projected, it seemed on the high end of regular showings; the average was about seventy-five per day. Today, ninety-eight films ended up being projected, and such a variety too—everything from slasher movies to comedies. Edward felt put through the wringer, so to speak, throughout the day. But that was his job. It came with the territory. He looked forward to turning it all off when he got home.
The theater was closed on Mondays, so he looked ahead with relief to a day off, and Tuesdays tended to be slower than the weekends. He was glad—a bit of a break.
With the cinema’s popularity increasing since it opened last month, Edward wondered if they would add another screen. Perhaps, but not likely. It seemed reasonable to him as the attendee numbers continued to climb, sometimes even turning people away, although not that often yet. But they were always at total capacity. If not another screen and projector, he just wished they would hire someone to be a backup to run the equipment. He lamented to himself being the only person doing the work was exhausting.
Wrapping up for the day, he went over the log of the movies shown, making sure he’d listed them all. Someone in management expected them as they were tracking the shows’ statistics—genres and viewers. Edward surmised they were following what the trends were. Eventually, probably within the year of opening, the corporation told him they would make it public how The Brighton Plaza Cinema was doing. It would help boost the sales of the franchises coming into play in the future. This recordkeeping would show this new fangled way of projecting movies was good business. Good for the public, excellent for the company, but damn, it was hard on the projector. Sometimes, it just got to be too much. Edward found ways to numb himself when he got home, drugs or alcohol, but mostly, he stayed holed up in his apartment, away from the world and any more stimuli.
No one knew that the eye scan each moviegoer used to check in was pasting clear, thin strips of plastic onto their eyeballs. The film was a neural link connected to Edward, “the projector” of their movie, who was symbiotically connected to their film choice. He “streamed” the movie they selected directly into their view after having it downloaded to his brain. It was genius as it didn’t require huge movie theater complexes to stream a variety of movies. One and done, everybody got what they wanted. The best part, the plastic strips dissolved after the movie.
Being the first of its kind theater, no one knew that this projector, Edward, would eventually feel his mental health decline severely, and fairly quickly. He would, in a sense, implode from the emotional burnout of having to handle simultaneous realities. The patrons had fun, had a good cry, swooned, were entertained and thrilled, but not so for the projector. His senses were bombarded throughout his 8-hour shift, putting his nervous system into overdrive and devastating his sense of reality. Edward was being used as their guinea pig.
Ain’t capitalism grand?