The Projector – Part 5

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

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?

THE END

Thanks so much for your support of this series! See you next month!

The Projector – Part 4

The Brighton Plaza Cinema 5/2/21 – Jack

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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!

TO BE CONTINUED ON FRIDAY…

The Projector – Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

The Brighton Plaza Cinema 5/2/21 – Elizabeth & family

“Ginger, move down a few more, please,” Elizabeth says, nodding to her daughter to keep moving, the frustration evident on her face. “Hurry up. The movie is about to start.” Ginger looked back to her mother to make sure that she’d gone far enough. Elizabeth gave her the thumbs up as there were now enough seats for the entire family. One by one, each child sat down, Elizabeth taking her seat at the end. She sat down with a loud sigh, looking forward to taking a long sip of her vodka-laced soda. The kids weren’t aware, of course, that she’d slipped a handful of mini-bar-sized bottles of vodka from home into her purse. Thankful for the noise of toilets flushing and handwashing in the bathroom, she was able to tip those bottles in without detection.

The day certainly started well, but getting the five in her brood together, in the direction of a planned family outing, had been a bit stressful. She was looking forward to just sitting in the dark and letting her mind be distracted by the light-hearted film they’d decided on. Elizabeth definitely needed some comedic relief. The movie – Bodega Blues – starred two hilarious women comedians. Both were blind trying to run a small grocery store. It was rated PG, so fine for the whole crew. She anticipated there would be a lot of slapstick humor, something the girls would enjoy.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth was also dealing with a bit of PMS, making everything worse. Her candy bar was looking better and better. Thankfully it was a large one; she kept thinking. Chocolate, vodka, popcorn, the kids being under control in the theater, and everyone laughing. Oh yes, it was going to be a good afternoon! 

“Everybody, quiet down! The movie is starting!” she half-whispered in their direction loud enough for them to hear but quiet enough not to upset the rest of the patrons in the theater. They piped down and faced forward. Ginger, Jennifer, Shelley, Beatrice, and Sophia looked excited about the movie about to start. Elizabeth was beginning to feel the effects of the vodka. All was well in the world.

For an hour and a half, laughter spewed out of all of them. Bodega Blues did not disappoint. She wasn’t quite sure if it was because of the vodka or the antics. Regardless, Elizabeth was happy to be feeling much better than when she arrived with the kids. She hadn’t had tears running down her face from laughing so hard during a movie in a long time. Who would have thought a story about two blind women in a bodega could be that funny? 

“Anyone need the bathroom before we go home?” Elizabeth asked as they walked towards the exit. A chorus of “me, me, me” prompted her to lead the way to the restrooms. Once inside, she pulled out the last mini-bottle and chugged it straight down. Again, the kids were none the wiser.

At the sink, “Wasn’t that a great movie, kids? A woman standing next to her looked at her very strangely. 

TO BE CONTINUED ON THURSDAY…

The Projector – Part 2

Part 1

The Brighton Plaza Cinema 5/2/21 – Seth

Seth was looking forward to watching Head Hunting, the reviews were top-notch, and he was definitely into seeing some bloody action this afternoon. Rotten Tomatoes highly recommended the movie, plus some of his friends said he should take in a show but not take his girlfriend as she would probably faint with all the slasher content. Seeing how she was spending the day with her girlfriends, it was the perfect time to see it.

He paid for his ticket and got situated in his seat. Seth had a habit of sitting at the end of the row, next to the walkway. That way, he could quickly get up to visit the restroom, if necessary. He despised bothering people. Looking around the theater for the first time, he noted the nostalgic feel of it; possibly the peeling paint at the ceiling is what made it seem old and quaint. It was a little small for a movie theatre, but it had charming vibes, quite an interesting little place, intimacy with a large screen. The people seemed to like it, as it was completely packed. Or maybe it was just they were all excited to watch this movie too? Whichever, he was just glad he was there. 

The lights began to dim, and the crowd got quiet. The story immediately set into motion the premise that it was a good-versus-evil film. The good guys being law enforcement, and the bad guy a serial killer. The opening scene was of the FBI cordoning off the area where the bodies lay, naked and void of color. Most of the people were wearing head-to-toe PPE to protect the integrity of the dumpsite. The initial assessment of this being a dumpsite was the lack of blood in the corpses and none in the area where they were lying.

The leading characters, a man and woman team from a special FBI department dealing with serial killers, believed they were after a single killer or possibly a team working together. The decapitated victims had their heads swapped out and reattached onto the other person’s body. It was pretty bizarre, actually strange enough to shake up the seasoned law enforcement at the scene. 

Typically, serial killers attacked one person at a time. The killer’s methodology was incredibly gruesome and challenging to pull off, considering it was trouble times two. It left the team wondering how he could subdue two victims quickly enough to commit the atrocities he enacted on them. And the killer was rather meticulous, not just the cuts and the reattachment, but there was no physical evidence at the scene. Their best guess was the killing occurred elsewhere, and then the bodies were dumped alongside the highway.

So that’s how it started, then five crime scenes and ten bodies later, the good FBI team got their bad man. As promised, the gore was exquisite, and Seth enjoyed the gut-wrenching throughout.

Leaving the theater, Seth’s head bobbed up and down in satisfaction; the action and blood pleased him. And the end was perfect; justice served harshly but appropriately. Though he couldn’t understand why some in the audience were crying, others laughing. Hadn’t they watched the same thrilling movie?

TO BE CONTINUED ON WEDNESDAY…

The Projector – Part 1

The Brighton Plaza Cinema 5/2/21 – Katherine

In the hushed theater, the lights were dimming, and the opening credits began to roll out. The movie’s familiar theme song filled the darkened room, setting the mood for what was to come. Katherine wiggled herself into a more comfortable position, looking forward to seeing a rerun of her favorite classic, “Love Story.” She was in a mood for tears, knowing this movie would get her there. Katherine felt a bit lost this last week. After being dumped by her recent love interest, the accompanying sadness and anger had built up. It was time to just let it all go. Isolating from her friends probably hadn’t been the best idea, but she felt stupid that she’d fallen for his spiel hook, line, and sinker. He was a con man, swindling her out of a lot of money. She was handling her emotions as best she could, considering how it all ended. This movie would be a cleanse for her. Katherine was sure of it.

With her big bucket of butter slathered popcorn, a Kit Kat bar for a break from the greasy saltiness, and a large drink to wash down all the indulgences, she was ready to indulge in the over-the-top romance of this film. The boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, girl gets a terminal illness, then boy loses girl saga wasn’t just any old romance tale, it was like the Gone with the Wind of love tales. Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal were so in sync in this movie. It was no wonder it became a box office hit of the time and had, to this day, remained one for the younger generations too. The chemistry between the lovebirds was perfect and so natural, like a match made in heaven. It really was a shame she died in the end, but that’s why Katherine was here; she needed a good cry. And cry she did, buckets full.

Katherine had to sit there for a moment once the lights came back up. Dabbing at her face with the unused napkins, she cleaned her tear-stained cheeks. Katherine was super careful not to smear her mascara, pushing very lightly around her eyes. She wondered if she looked puffy.

It seems she’d purchased the right amount of concessions; nothing was coming home with her. Movie theater popcorn usually got stale if she took it home, so she was glad she could toss the empty bucket along with her candy wrapper and soda cup into the trash bin on the way out. The straw crossed her mind as she walked towards the exit. Hopefully, it wouldn’t end up in the ocean or a turtle’s nose.

As she passed the rows of people, Katherine was curious why a few of them laughed, and others looked very serious. They must be some stone-cold individuals; he lost the love of his life, people! She just shook her head and kept walking.

Katherine did feel better. This movie was just what she needed today.

TO BE CONTINUED ON TUESDAY…

The Dark Park – Part 5

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Cherrywood Hospital

“Is he going to be okay?” nodding in Stephens’ direction, Police Chief Adams conveying his concern to the nurse on duty. He asked quietly, not wanting to disturb Stephens resting.”

“Yes, he’ll be fine, but we want to keep him overnight for observation and to make sure he rests. The concussion we suspect he has, if not taken seriously, could have him presenting him with other symptoms. This way, he would get our immediate attention. We’d rather be safe than sorry.” Nurse Parker checked his head wound, adjusted his IV, and made a notation on his chart. “Is there anyone else we should contact for him?”

“No, I’ve got one of my other men letting the family know. They should probably be here shortly. Thanks for taking good care of my man, Nurse Parker.”

The nurse just beamed and was about to say something when Stephens’ family arrived. “You’re welcome, Chief,” as she quickly left the room.

“Thanks for letting us know, Steve. How is he doing?” his wife Linda asked.

“Well, someone hit him over the head so hard he has a severe concussion. They had to stitch him up too. But they think he’s going to be all right. He needs rest for now.” He gave her a short hug to reassure her. “Now, will you excuse me? I’ve got to figure out who did this to him.”

“Sure, sure,” Linda said with gratitude in her eyes. 

Cherrywood Recreation and Entertainment Park

The police chief combed the area for any clues, finding none. Adams scratched his head in confusion but did notice an unfamiliar feeling creeping upon him; he felt as if on high-alert. He suspected this rush of adrenaline was a natural response to the attack. 

He noticed another man approaching, rushing towards him actually, and he had what looked like fire red eyes. Adams immediately placed his hand on his service pistol. He swore he heard something reminiscent of a war cry.

The man charged and left Adams with no other recourse but to shoot. He killed him.

**

It wasn’t the last time that happened. For the next few months, any person who set foot on the property became filled with rage and hatred. And they took it out on the men, women, and children who visited the park. Approximately 500 residents had either been killed or injured severely. It didn’t take long for the recreation commission to decide to close it to the public.

What the people of Cherrywood didn’t know, the Chenwalk were no longer in the flesh, and they were exacting their revenge on the white man. It took many hundreds of moons, but their reanimated consciousness took shape after the waste had reached their bodies deep in the ground. The tribe remained ever vigilant and protected Washenka. Had it not been for that white man who cursed them, their spirit form would not have a reason to hurt those occupying the land now. In their new ethereal state, they could project their anger into the white men and let them do all the dirty work. 

The Chenwalk people had the last laugh.

THE END

Thanks so much for your support of this series! See you next month!

The Dark Park – Part 4

white metal gate
Grant Durr – Unsplash

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The white man who encountered the Chenwalk tribe quite by accident had unknowingly spread smallpox. A team of scouts from the tribe had heard a shot ring out in the woods, and they went to investigate. They found the man getting ready to gut the deer. Upon seeing the Indians, he calmly sliced a large piece and offered it to them. Realizing he was not going to harm them, only being generous, they cautiously accepted his gift. They were even showing the man how to make better cuts to salvage the hide. In the hours they were squatting together around the dead deer, none knew what was to follow. Well, maybe the white man once he finally started showing symptoms himself. But he was already long gone from Washenka at that time. 

The Chenwalk people were dead within a month of the white man stepping onto their land. As was their tradition, they arranged the dead on funeral pyres and burnt them, offering their souls to the sky gods. Those still well enough took on the responsibility of ushering them on to the next step into their supernatural journey. With whole families dying simultaneously, it became clear they could not recover from this curse that had befallen them. Knowing this was their end, the elders decided to burn all the dead in their tents, wiping out evidence of their existence. With each fire, the village returned more and more back to the wilderness. When the last Indian died, he became food for the earth, and Washenka was no more.

Present Day – Cherrywood Police Station

Police Chief Adams read through all the statements taken from the five oldest teenagers who were in custody. None of them had any previous criminal records, but here they were, having beaten their friends to a pulp with fists and weapons. And what they recalled was nothing, no reasons nor motives to drive them to do what they did that night. All of them sat in their jail cells confused, hysterical or crying. He shook his head and sighed deeply. What the hell was going on?

“Stephens, what do you think happened tonight?”

“I don’t know, sir. It’s like they all just went crazy. And they act like they don’t know what happened to them tonight. Maybe we should consider getting them drug tested? Perhaps they were tripping?”

“Yeah, I think that’s a good idea. Go ahead and call the hospital and see if a lab tech can come over and draw their blood.”

“Yes, sir. Right away, sir.”

Stephens picked up the phone and made the arrangements. The hospital said it would send someone over as soon as possible, probably within the next 15 minutes. “Thank you,” Stephens said and relayed that information to Police Chief Adams.

“Stephens, I’d like you also to go back to the park and see if you can comb through what was left there for any evidence of drugs.”

“Yes, sir.”

When Stephens arrived at the park, the hair on the back of his neck stood up. When he stepped out of the police vehicle, he felt amped up, like electricity was circulating in his body. Then nothing.

The next thing he remembered was waking up in the hospital with a big gash across his forehead.

TO BE CONTINUED ON FRIDAY…

The Dark Park – Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

Present Day – Two months after grand opening

“All right, everyone, settle down!” The police chief lowered the bullhorn, shaking his head, his disgust quite evident after witnessing the aftermath of the fighting and the brutal assaults that had just transpired. A bloodied mob of pre-teens and teenagers surrounded by a substantial litter of beer cans and trash stood before him. The police had handcuffed a few, but most were not. The kids got quieter as their fear of what would happen next increased. They mostly hung their heads in shame; some of them were even crying.

“For those of you not handcuffed, your parents have been contacted, and they are on their way to retrieve you. You should be ashamed of yourselves. We may need to follow up with you later about what happened here tonight. Troopers, please take the handcuffed kids to the station for booking – public intoxication, disorderly conduct, minors in possession of alcohol. And for those found with firearms or knives, log them and tack on a weapons charge too. Then contact their parents.”

Police Chief Adams had a formidable reputation. He didn’t put up with shenanigans very lightly, and he was tough on kids who acted out of line. There was only a small police presence in Cherrywood, but they were vigilant in keeping their town a safe and orderly place. Tonight’s events were not something that Cherrywood was accustomed to experiencing. But no matter, Police Chief Adams got it under control. Much like this land’s predecessors, the community was tight-knit and adhered to many social standards, kids behaving themselves being one of them.

“Stephens, if any of them look to be injured severely, tell the parents they should take them to the ER first. And check on those in our custody. I don’t want some kid to die in our holding cells. Got it?” Adams looked Stephens sharply in the eye to make sure he understood.

“Yes, sir.” He walked towards the other police officers to share what Adams had just instructed him regarding any injuries.

One by one, the teenager’s parents picked up their children—the mothers and fathers in shock as well as angry as they ushered them into their vehicles. Many parents could be heard saying, “What were you thinking?”

Yes, Police Chief Adams was asking the same thing. He also wondered what would make the town’s children behave in a way they’d never acted like before. Sure they had a few minor incidents over the years, but that was normal kid’s stuff. Tonight was behavior like something you’d see in big, metropolitan cities where street gangs were the norm. Cherrywood was a quiet community with loving people; this was not normal. He was at a loss to understand how this had all started. But he would get to the bottom of it.

TO BE CONTINUED ON THURSDAY…

The Dark Park – Part 2

Part 1

The Chenwalk were peaceful people. Life in Washenka, the name of the village they lived in, held roughly 500 people. It was a small community and one which kept to itself. There were other Indian tribes in the vicinity, but they kept their distance. The Chenwalk weren’t aggressors but yet fiercely protective of their people, earning them respect from the other tribes. In turn, the other natives gave the Chenwalk the space they wanted for their community. They were left alone. And they thrived.

Chenwalk traditions ensured that they co-existed harmoniously with nature and the land, and it enriched their understanding of the give and take of living out in the wild. It was a harsh existence, but they treated the land with respect, and it rewarded them for being good stewards. They always had enough food, so nothing was wasted being diligent not to extract too much from their resources. Their success came from years of knowing how to replenish what they had taken, giving back as necessary. They planned for harsh winters by smoking their killed bison, other game, and fish, supplementing their protein storage when hunting would be impossible. To give them variety, drying fruits, berries, corn, roots, onions, and wild potatoes rounded out their meals. The Chenwalk had mastered surviving.

Throughout the year, the elders were chiefly responsible for guiding the tribe, instilling knowledge of the tribe’s history to the children. The parents raised the children, but the whole community participated in their education and protection of the young ones. They had created an atmosphere of living in an extended family, one that genuinely watched out for one another.

All tribes in the region lived out their days with different customs and traditions. Like people today, many of the tribes practiced elaborate rituals regarding the spiritual beings they believed in through song and dance, and each had certain rites of passage for their families. The Chenwalk were no different. Today we might find some of their practices brutal or even unnecessary, but being isolated as they were and not being challenged in that regard, didn’t necessitate changes to their rituals. Their way of life helped them survive, even if it wasn’t actually doing anything by today’s standards.

One such ritual called for all the young males 13 moons old to engage in a blood rite. Each boy would have an elder cut their left palm open with a knife and clasp it together with a young girl of the same age. Her left palm was also cut. The elders had long held that this practice ensured the tribe would be fruitful. The tribespeople thought this ritual also bound the future generations together forever, protective of each other always. It was instilling loyalty to each other but also the tribe. It meant the spirits would surround and strengthen them.

The Chenwalk didn’t know that when a white man came into their lives, their Indian magic had no power. Or so they thought.

TO BE CONTINUED ON WEDNESDAY…

The Dark Park – Part 1

Grand Opening of the Cherrywood Recreation and Entertainment Park 

The two wealthy residents of Cherrywood, crucial to the project, along with the recreation commission committee members, were grateful that after many months of planning, fundraising, and sweat equity, the project was finally done. They positively bubbled over with pride in their speeches, unveiling the efforts of all involved in the park’s construction. A news crew was in attendance, waiting for the ribbon-cutting ceremony to begin. The townspeople were eager as well, with smiles all around. The atmosphere felt charged with excitement.

Without the land donation, this would have never even gotten off the ground, but thankfully, the Winchesters, one of the founding family’s of Cherrywood, understood the park’s future benefits. For their generosity, the committee memorialized them with bronze plaques embedded in the entrance gates, recognizing their efforts for the community. The descendants would look back with pride on their family’s investment in the park for generations to come.

It was to be the go-to place, one the young at heart of every age could enjoy healthy play and joyful fitness. This park hoped to engage families but also those needing to incorporate more healthy activities in their lives. It would feature the safest, most modern equipment available to date. And the recreation commission secured enough funding through grants for the upkeep and maintenance of the park through 2050. It helped the city avoid raising taxes on the residents; they were mighty happy about that. 

You see, the town of Cherrywood had the unfortunate news-making title of having the highest obesity rate in the United States. They were #1. By providing a way to engage in fun fitness, the town hoped to turn around its reputation and its residents’ well-being. Had the community not pulled together to address their situation, the citizens’ future would have had a bleak outlook. They were dying at much too young an age from this health-crisis. The goal was to help turn the tides, to become the healthiest and fittest town instead. Admirable, if they could achieve it.

So with hope and optimism, each person on the committee and the Winchesters stood ready with their hands holding up the long red ribbon, waiting for the mayor of Cherrywood to take the ceremonial scissors and, with a quick downward stroke, to cut it apart. As soon as they did the deed, the townspeople cheered with jubilation. And the crowd moved forward forcefully, walking right past the committee and into the complex.

Shame the townspeople didn’t know that the land had been used as a dumping site of nuclear waste and other pollutants. An out-of-state company had illegally and secretly shipped in tons of barrels to be buried there for decades. The Winchesters never knew.

Nor did the townspeople ever know the history of the people from the 1400s. The settlement of Cherrywood in the late 1600s by the Pilgrims wasn’t aware the Chenwalk Indians had lived on that land, nor did they know there was originally a burial site there. It added a whole other level to this situation. 

TO BE CONTINUED ON TUESDAY…