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“Survival is just a matter of logic. Looking at the possibilities and preparing,” Chuck said, walking quickly with his unusually flowery tote down the theatre aisle.
I had no idea what in hell I was doing here. Chuck told me it was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” and that I “would commit hari-kari” if I missed it.
Honestly, I had never heard Chuck speak so strongly about anything, except perhaps Pixar. He is an insane movie nerd, and all the time I’ve spent with him he has been speaking about this film or that, this scene or that. I like movies, but I have a life. I’m not so sure that Chuck does.
We climbed over the black lip before the screen of the cinema and I queried, “You never told me what this is about. What are we getting into?”
“I did tell you. It’s a Purple Rose of Cairo situation.”
“And I told you, I’d never seen that film.”
“Simple. A movie character sees a lonely woman in a theatre and he climbs out of the film to spend time with her.”
“So movie characters will be spending time with us?”
“The second half of the film, she visits the world of the film that she had been watching.”
“So we are…”
Suddenly, the world around me turns dark, almost amber, but a hazy light shone through the trees. Trees? How are there trees? And I would swear… I turned around and looked at a car behind me. It is a 1967 Pontiac LeMans. It is supposed to be a bright yellow (how did I know that?), but instead it is a muted grey.
“Entering the world of cinema, to experience it firsthand.” He gazed at me, eyes smiling, his hands stretched out. “I told you, once in a lifetime chance.”
A group of people came staggering toward us, as if they had just suffered through a horrific battle. “Really?” Chuck scoffed, “This is too simple.” As they came closer, I could see that they wore everyday clothes, if an older style, but their lower eyelids were darkened and their brows extended over their eyes.
I stare at them as I realize that a huge group of zombies were cambering toward us, I moan, “No… not a horror movie.”
Chuck meanwhile is digging in his tote. “Nothing to worry about. We just need to be prepared. And I am.”
I shake my head in terror, “I hate horror movies. You know that. I can’t stand to watch them. And you put me in the middle of one? This is a chance I would be happy to forego.”
Chuck doesn’t even glance back as he reaches the bottom of his tote. “Look, I didn’t know that it was going to be a horror movie. But there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
“Doesn’t everyone die at the end of this film?”
“Yeah, but it’s all in good fun. There,” he grunts as he pulls out a pair of handlebars from his tote. Attached to the handlebars is a scooter, which he drags out of the tote.
“Yeah, I know, amazing, isn’t it? I have a friend at Walt Disney Studios. He let me borrow Mary Poppins’ carpetbag. You didn’t think it was really my style did you? But you have to be practical.”
“How did you know it would work?”
“This is the world of cinema. Anything can happen here.”
He sets the scooter on the dirt road, as the zombies pause by the LeMans, looking for brains to chew on. “Zombies here are so slow. Just about any vehicle can speed past them.”
“Why a scooter?”
“You think a Ferarri could fit through the lip of the bag? It’s big, but not that big.” He climbs on the driver’s seat, and indicates I’m to sit behind him. “Besides, this isn’t a scooter.”
The zombies are but a yard away as he turns the key of the scooter and I rush over to secure myself on the back seat. “It’s a Vespa. From Roman Holiday. You know, with Audrey Hepburn?”
He speeds off, leaving zombies in the dust. Other groups of zombies lunk along ahead, but Chuck easily evades them with his Vespa.
“When you are in the cinema world, there is one other thing that helps one survive, beside logic and preparation. And that’s imagination.”
“How did we even get in here?”
“I’m not exactly sure. I received an invitation by email from an unknown address, but I don’t care who it came from or what their purposes are. I could never pass up an opportunity like this. I figured that no matter who it was that offered this to me, no matter what insidious purpose he had, I couldn’t say no.”
“Ah, just as I thought. He wouldn’t just place us in a Romero film. We’re in a series of clips. I wish we had the soundtracks, though. We’re really missing out.”
Chuck sped quickly toward a motel on the side of the road. Behind the motel was a hauntingly familiar house. “Psycho, really? Chuck, I didn’t come here to be stabbed.”
Chuck pulls over in front of the motel, next to the vehicle with NFB 418 on the plate. He climbs off of the Vespa, puts down the carpetbag and reaches in, pulling out a lavish, shiny, samurai sword. “Nothing’s going to happen to us. Especially here. Norman Bates is frightening because no one expects danger from him. We are prepared. Come on!”
We rush through the unlocked door (1960 was so innocent), through the bedroom to the bathroom. And there he was, Norman, dressed in his wig and dress, attacking Marion in the perfect combination of sex and terror. Chuck picks up a telephone book, and tosses it behind Norman. He spins around, terrified to see someone behind him. Chuck positions himself, samurai-perfect, and Norman attacks, knife over his head. Chuck dispatches him handily, with two strokes. Then he wipes his blade off on the back of his fallen foe.
“Now I know for certain who gave us this marvelous opportunity. My arch-nemesis, Corey. The only reason he would place us here is not to frighten us, but because of his weakness. He has a shower fetish.”
Chuck spins around and begins to drag me out of the motel. Suddenly, I find that we are both in the bed, sound asleep, and yet we see the motel room clearly. A set of blades scrape on the wall, and the wallpaper rips and tears, blood cascading through the torn openings. “Huh,” my friend grunts, clearly not expecting this.
“Nightmare on Elm Street. I despise this film, “ I murmur.
Although asleep, Chuck’s carpetbag is still on the floor. He quickly digs down and grabs two cans. “Here. Drink this.” He throws me one. It’s a twenty ounce can of Red Bull.
Suddenly, a man with a wide brimmed hat, striped shirt and specially made finger blades hovers above me. “You and I still have some business to attend to,” he mocks me.
I watched Nightmare as an older teen, and I stayed up for nights, frightened that my very dreams might attack and maul me. I shook as Freddy placed his index finger blade under my chin and whispers, “You are very, very late for our appointment…”
“Drink!” Chuck yells, and his shout startles me out of my tharn-gaze. We both guzzle the caffeine-drenched beverage together, as I feel the blade descend into my gullet…
Then Freddy, the blood, the tears in the wall all disappear. We were instantly awake. “Fast acting,” Chuck quips. He grabs my hand , the sword, and the carpetbag and we run out of the motel room.
Instead of the Vespa and vehicle, outside the motel room is a beautiful, clear lake, surrounded by trees. “Ah, now this I might have expected.” Chuck tosses me the sword, and I miss it, letting it drop on the ground. I was glad to see that we were finally in a color world, full of greens and mist. “I’m going to be busy,” Chuck says. “You need to keep your eyes open, and look around. Don’t let anything take you by surprise. And use that sword. Quickly, when the time comes.”
Suddenly, right behind Chuck, the familiar figure with a hockey mask attacks him with an axe. Chuck, displaying a physical confidence and swiftness I’d never known he’d had, kicks Jason in the gut, then shifts and knees him in the face. “Where did you learn…”
“Behind you!” Chuck shouts.
I spin and there is Jason again, with a machete, pulling back to strike me. I quickly lash out with the Uma Thurman sword and before I knew it, Jason’s head was rolling on the ground. I glanced over at the man Chuck had dispatched, but Jason was still there.
My friend saw the shock on my face. “You didn’t kill Jason. That is his mother. She was the villain in the first film.”
I collapsed on the ground, dropping the sword, still bloodied. “I’d never killed anyone. I can’t believe I’ve taken a human life.”
Meanwhile, Jason gets up and attacks Chuck from behind, using his weight to push him to the ground, beating him with hard, swift blows. Chuck winces from the pain, then pulls a switchblade from his pocket and opens it upon Jason’s unprotected chest, entering his heart.
“You didn’t kill anyone,” Chuck breathlessly states.
I looked again at the decapitated head, hockey mask still attached. “Then what is this?”
“She’ll be back. They all will. This isn’t our world, where people die, never to be experienced again. In the cinema world, the past always exists, and we can always visit it. It never disappears. Jason’s mother is alive, and she can die, but she will always come back, good as new.” He catches his breath, “Let’s go.”
We run through the woods, and find just on the other side of the trees a huge bar, on the side of a lonely road. My friend smiles, “Let’s get a drink. If we’re lucky, we might get a glimpse of Santanico.”
As we get a bit closer, I notice the gauche neon, in the shape of a half-nude woman with the words “Titty Twister” beside her. I tried to remember what film I saw this in, but it wouldn’t come to me. As we entered, I glanced around at the large, open room and knew it seemed familiar. As the door behind me automatically locked and barred, I knew. “Dusk till Dawn, really?”
“I know. And we already missed the dance number. Damn.”
Hordes of vampires surround us, slowly approaching us. I hold up the samurai sword, ready for the fight of my life. Chuck calmly speaks to me, “Put that thing down. It won’t do you any good here.” He is already reaching in the carpetbag.
A vampire jumps over the bar and lands next to me, ready to strike. I punch him in the face. “Chuck…”
“Just a sec.”
Two more vampires approach me from either side. I spin and kick them both in the chest in one swift movement. Although I am getting the hang of cinema world, this particular setting truly frightens me. I’ve learned a lot, but even George Clooney barely survived this bar. “Chuck?” I shouted.
Just as twenty vampires were ready to attack us, he pulls out a small stick, waves it and shouts “Lumos maxima!”
Suddenly, bright light shone over all the bar, leaving no corner darkened. Vampires screamed and collapsed, some melted, but all died, handily.
Chuck begins shouting at the ceiling. “Is that all you got, Corey? You lack just as much imagination as you ever did in your idiotic reviews. You wouldn’t know a good film if it bit you in the head and swallowed your forehead! Come on, which horror film can kill me? I’m ready for whatever you can throw at me!”
The dismal strip club disappeared and replaced with a bright, clear, blue sky. I quickly realized that I wasn’t looking at the sky directly, but reflected off the mirror windows of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, with Dubai a thousand feet below me. Only a few yards below me was Chuck, stretched across a window, sweating, his breath labored as he struggled with a panic attack. I climbed up to an open window, just a yard above me. Once secure, I reached down to my friend, terror in his eyes and shouted through the wind, “Just one step at a time, Chuck. You can do it.”
“I…I… can’t move.”
“You don’t need to have your carpetbag for this, Chuck. Remember, it’s cinema world. You can do it.”
“You can! Just try!”
Chuck, for a moment, went within himself, closing his eyes, finding his strength. With a steel resolve, he pulls a foot up, finds a grip. Then he puts his hand up, stretching out his arm, gripping the window frame.
And slips. The sweat on his hands was too thick, and he couldn’t maintain his hold. He falls. A thousand feet. Well, perhaps twenty feet until I couldn’t look anymore.
I wipe the tears from my eyes and the frustration from my soul. “Okay, Corey,” I speak in an even voice. “Yes, you knew his kryptonite. He hates heights. I’m okay with them. I can’t stand horror films, but I love a good action film. And Mission Impossible 4 is one of the best.”
I looked out the window, trying with all my effort to see the smiling face in the projector’s booth far beyond the screen. “You won. You proved your point. Now please rewind the film and let us go home.”