We used to frequent one in the town we live in, packed up the truck with sleeping bags, pillows, and blankets—our dog—and drove off to the Aircadia Drive-In. Back the truck in and drop the tail gate. It was a wonderful experience…one I think back to often.
Now a Wal-Mart stands in its location.
When I was a kid we used to go to a drive-in that no longer exists. The Sara-Placid Drive-In. It’s totally overgrown. It was on Route 86, between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, NY. Near where that Post Office now is. I also found out a little more about it’s origins and fate. One of it’s owners, Ernie Stautner, was a Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Hall-of-Famer in the 1950s. The previous link says he died in Colorado. Small world (I live in Colorado).Well, the Sara-Placid Drive-in is no more, ever since 1974…but every time I return home and drive past its inexact location…I look for it. Sadly, I can no longer pinpoint it. But somewhere…in some dimension…I know it still exists…and that’s why I continue to look for it….
What inspired me to write this?
That’s all you need to know.
This story has never been published.
© F. P. Dorchak, 1994
If you look close, real close, you can almost see them.
Thirteen-year-old Randy Thornton pedaled his bike up over the ridge, slivers of morning sunlight stabbing into his eyes from the other side of the rise. He brought the bike around and skidded to a quick stop. Surveyed the lot in front of him. White posts. Everywhere. Rows and rows of nothing but white posts.
And a screen.
Randy got off his bike and walked among the posts. Looked up to the huge white screen that loomed above him like a hungry vulture.
Silver screen they call it. Silver—like for monsters n stuff.
There were lots of stains and rips in it, but Randy thought sure a movie would still work. He continued on, walking his bike beside him, and soon noticed what looked like a lump of rags in the center of the sea of posts. He moved in closer; saw how the bunched-up rags were actually a hunched-over man sitting in the dirt. A man who mumbled. Randy ditched the bike.
“Mister? Mister, are you all right?” Randy stopped several feet from the man, who smelled like rotting food and days’ old urine. “Mister, are you all right?”
Randy reached out. Touched him. The lump of rags shuddered, but felt light as a bird…like one push would send him off flying.
But fly he didn’t.
Randy reached down and tilted the head back, then stumbled backward.
He turned to run, but instead ran smack into a white post and got most of the air knocked out of him. He collapsed painfully to the ground. Looked back toward the man’s still-upturned face.
All he saw was the gaping, black hole where a face used to be….
Grandpa Jonathan sat back in his rocker, the old wooden legs creaking almost as bad as did his bones. Jonathan inhaled deeply from his pipe and eyed Randy intently. Randy sat before him, at his feet on the front porch steps, awaiting his reply.
“Well,” Jonathan said slowly, drawing out another puff, “that certainly is a mighty tall tale you’re a tellin me—”
“It’s true, Granpa, it is—and I never went back there again! Never!”
“So what do you suppose you saw?”
Randy scrunched his face into a tight little knot. “I—I don’t know. It was like, like something from a horror movie.”
Grandpa Jonathan’s rocker creaked louder, and he chuckled to himself.
“Well, Son, I don’t pretend to know what it was you saw, but I’ll tell you somethin that’ll knock your socks clean off.” Jonathan leaned forward and put his face right into Randy’s. “If you dare.”
“I-if I dare? What do you mean? Is it a story?”
Grandpa Jonathan smiled, took another drag from his pipe, and leaned back. He looked out beyond his porch front with a mischievous gleam in his eye, towards the town of Twin Falls, Indiana. It was late afternoon and twilight was fast approaching.
Götterdämmerung. Twilight of the Gods.
Or whatever forces that be.
“You know, when I was younger, I used to run a small theater up over t’Marion, and as I look back on things, I think it was my most favorite job of all time.”
“Why was that, Granpa?”
“Because, Son, I was promotin imagination. The ability to drift off for a period a time and pretend you was somewhere else. Someone else. To let the worries of the day disappear for a spell. The fifties were a great time, Randy. It was probably the most naive time in all of history. It was before Watergate, Vietnam—the Kennedy assassinations—”
“They was times when the people of this country believed what they was told, lock, stock, and barrel— without question. They believed anything their governments told em, or their neighbors. Or their movie screens. No one doubted anything.”
“So what’s wrong with that?”
Grandpa Jonathan looked down into the still innocent eyes of his thirteen-year-old grandson. He almost didn’t want to say anything to the boy, didn’t want to break his spirit or taint his thinking with the realities of adulthood, but sooner or later someone’d have to tell him, and he’d sooner have it be him as anyone else.
“Grandson, even though you should pay attention to your elders—your daddy, your mother—even your old fart of a grandfather—even though you should heed us all now, there will come a time when you’ll begin to make your own way in the world. Start thinkin your own thoughts. You’ll wonder: why should I do something this way or that. Why can’t I do it my own way. Isn’t there a better way to do things? You’ll get married, have kids—”
“Eeeww! Never! I’m never going to get married! And I’m never going to leave you, Granpa!”
Grandpa Jonathan’s face opened into a wide grin, and he laughed mightily.
“That’s a good boy, Randy, a good boy!” He patted Randy on the back. “But all this is nothin to fret over just yet. You have so many things yet to explore. There’s still so much wonder to this world, and you’re only just discovering it. Now, Randy, I tell ya this, and hear my words, Son—don’t ever let that sense of wonder leave ya. Never. Cause when it’s gone, it’s a mighty hard thing to get back, if ya ever can. There’s a lot of wonderful and strange things out there, and as bad as some things might seem to get, there’s always something better…just waitin to be discovered. Waitin for you, Randy, my boy! Life is what you make it…not what you have to put up with.
“Well, anyway, I digress—”
“What’s that mean?”
“I strayed. When you get old, that tends to happen occasionally. It ain’t nothing to worry about cause it’s just God’s way a tellin ya to take stock of your life. Make peace. Anyhow, there I go again. I was talkin about theaters—”
“Movie theaters were great, but what I really wanted to get into were Drive-ins.”
“Drive-ins? Wow. Hey, you mean like—like the one I was at?”
“Just like, though they was still workin and not nearly so nasty. At least not at first. I heard about these drive-ins and decided to get into em. They were new to me, in the business sense, even though they’d been around for some twenty years by then. There was money to be made. Besides, I just plain liked em. It’s kinda hard to tell you just why, but it was almost like they was an entire sub-culture—that’s like another way of life within the life you’re already livin.” He stopped and looked to Randy to see if what he’d said had sunk in.
“I don’t quite understand, Granpa, but that’s okay.”
Jonathan smiled, patted the boy on the head, and noticed that the sky had grown substantially darker. Twilight was indeed edging its way in, and he wanted to finish his story before it had gone completely dark.
“Drive-ins were hangouts, like Fremont park in town, especially on the weekends. Guys would take their gals with em and make out, hardly ever really watchin what was up on the
“screens. Younger folks would come in droves and make a party of it—some getting up to some major mischief, like letting the air out of tires or tyin cars up to each other. Sure, they caused folks some trouble, but it was a fun trouble, fun times. All us grownups would outwardly sneer and chastise em, but inwardly we wished we had done that stuff; that we was as carefree as they was. It was such an innocent time….”
Jonathan’s eyes glassed over as he looked out over the town behind Randy. Abruptly he came to, and continued.
“Well, one day, back round fifty-two, I believe, we had this tremendous wind storm. No rain, mind you, maybe even a little thunder, I can’t quite remember, but I do recollect the wind. It damn near blew things halfway around to the other side of the world, we said. Blew the roofs right off half a dozen houses, it did—”
“—and even toppled over some folks’s cars. The Sheriff—Clyde Toupe, I believe his name was—was out that night, even against his own better judgment, he later said, and his squad car was blown clean over and right on down the street!”
“No way! Was he in it?”
“No, he said he had gotten out to check on something, and when he got back it wasn’t there. Fightin against the gale and holdin on for dear life, he looks down the street and finds it, sittin there on its hood, all smashed up and useless. It was spinnin like a toy top!
“Well, folks round them parts said it was the work of devil—or God, dependin on how guilty they was feelin at the moment. The non-guilty, they was sayin it was God’s way a tellin us that we was getting too complacent—too used to the way things was. That we needed to take more stock in what was goin on round us and not to be so concerned with just ourselves. Others said it was the devil comin to punish us for our transgressions—our evil-doin’s.
“Well, in either case, the town set about the nasty chore of cleanin up. Sheriff Toupe—I’m pretty sure that’s what his name was—got a brand-spankin new car. Huh—I remember how the kids was havin a field day with no law bein able to run em down for a week or two before Clyde got his new vehicle. And the neighbors, they helped each other out with repairs and losses and things. It was like small-town Marion had gone through a war, or somethin.”
“What happened to your theater, Granpa?”
“Eh, I was gettin to that, little one. Well, my theater house, the one in town, wasn’t damaged much at all, cept for the marquee—the lights—but my drive-in, that was quite another story. It had rips down the screen and debris from the storm strung out all over the place. Many of the speaker posts were damaged. Speaker boxes had been ripped right from their posts. It took quite a while for repairs to be made, but repaired they were, and at great expense. But the strangest thing I found that day was this guy sitting in the middle of my lot.”
“Just like yours, but he still had his face when I found him. He was missin somethin else. Somethin much more important. He was missin his mind.”
Grandpa Jonathan paused again. Randy looked down to the porch where Grandpa’s rocker met the floor.
“You don’t get it, do ya, Son.”
He shook his head.
“Well, neither did I. I mean, how does a man loose his mind…in a drive-in theater? Sure, we played them grade-B horror flicks back then, but nothin that bad.
“Anyways, I helped him up and took him into my office. All the time, he’s a mumblin and a droolin, and, boy, did he stink!”
“I tried to talk with him, but he just wouldn’t—or couldn’t—come round. Since I didn’t know much about those kinds of things, I gave up and called the Sheriff. I figured he’d know what to do with him. So I called him and told him that I had the mayor in my office, and that he wasn’t quite right….
“In the end, nothin I could do to fix the theatre could keep it goin. It took me several months to fix the tears in the screen, the damaged posts, and the projector. Everything. And then really weird stuff started happenin.”
“What kind of stuff, Granpa?”
“Well, stuff like the projector always goin out on me. Electrical fires from speaker boxes. People runnin over the posts. Fights. There was even one day when I remember the popcorn machine explodin all over the place—but by that time it was far from funny. It was like that storm had been an evil wind, blowin up from old Scratch himself. People started actin funny, too, Randy. They wasn’t themselves. Some began to blame it on my drive-in. Why me, I don’t know, but they said they didn’t come away from my movies feelin right. Feelin right?
“So I had to close down. No one was comin to my movies and I was no longer makin any money. I eventually had to sell it to a development firm and they had the old theater bulldozed within a month. I still had my other theater in town, but it wasn’t where my heart was. When that place was plowed under, a little part of me went with it.
“But that wasn’t all. There was even weirder stuff just beginning.”
Randy shifted position on the porch steps.
Jonathan took a small sip from a glass Randy hadn’t noticed was nearby. Randy noticed how Grandpa Jonathan suddenly became more serious. His gaze had again drifted off beyond him, and it took a few shakes on his sleeves before Randy got his grandfather to return to the story. Twilight had arrived.
“Well, Son, your story, you believe it, don’t you?”
Randy shook his head. “Of course, Granpa—it really happened.”
“Well, that’s what I’m afraid of. You see, so did mine. And I think there’s some sort of connection between our two experiences, though for the life of me I can’t imagine what. I guess there are some things in this world that just happens to folks, see, some things that have no rhyme or reason. No explanation. Now what I’m about to tell you from here on in, I ain’t never told anybody—”
“Not even gramma?”
Jonathan’s eyes glazed over and he shook his head heavily.
“No, Son, not even grandma knew, and as much as it hurt me to keep secrets from her, I’m glad she never knew. I been carryin this thing around inside a me for quite some time, now, not even sure I believed it. Sometimes when you keep things in they have a way of gettin warped. Growing. But I don’t think this did. I know it happened.
“It had been a few months after the old theater’d been torn down, about midsummer, I think, and I was drivin by it one
“evenin. I hadn’t even been payin attention when I drove past the lot, hadn’t been payin attention when I saw the old silver screen standing there before the mass a little white posts lookin like a graveyard, and I can see by the look on your scrunched up little face that you don’t understand, neither. And, again, neither did I, cause, as I said only moments ago, that there Drive-in’d been torn down, screen and all, some four to six months prior to this little drive by of mine.
“It didn’t end there. No siree. Sure, I stopped then, even backed up to the field and took another look. But don’t you know it, it was gone. Never’d been there. It was just the same old empty field waitin for some new development. There was no screen, no posts—no nothing. But it happened again, and again after that. It got so that I wouldn’t drive by on that road anymore cause on almost every twilit evening, I’d see it.
“Then one day, towards the end of summer, it had been a real scorcher, and I wasn’t thinkin straight. Nobody was. It was hotter than even old Eddie from down to the railroad could recall. Three folks from up to the old folks’ home had died by the end of that summer from heat stroke. And, old habits dyin hard, I found myself drivin by that hellish place after it had grown dark. Even my soul was sweatin.
“And there it was. Boy, was it. That bedeviled drive-in was astandin tall and proud. And it was cold. I remember that, cold as ice it were, and it chilled me right to my bones. “And this time, it was worse. Worse than worse. The damned theater was in full-on operation, Randy. Full-on—lights, movie, and people!
“I stopped my car at the entrance—the old entrance exactly where it was before the place was tore down—and parked. I was shakin like a leaf in winter, but I got out and stood there. Riveted. There was a movie playin, Randy. Cars was parked. People was watchin it, buyin popcorn. And it weren’t no horror show, or nuthin like that. Nope. It wasn’t anything close to a movie you’d expect to be playin at a place like that. No sir. The movie what was playin was Bambi, for Jesus, Joe, and Mike! Bambi.
“Well, I was scared stiff. Couldn’t move even if I wanted to. But, boy, I had to. Had to. I had to see what was goin on, even if the devil himself were in the projection room. I had to see.
“So I entered the drive-in. I walked right up to the ticket booth and there was some young girl in there I ain’t never seen before, same girl whose face I still see in my nightmares. She just waves me on through, like she’s been waiting for me. And she smiles a smile that ain’t quite right. It’s still the same smile I see in my nightmares. Somethin about her face. Her smile. It was like her face was heavily blemished, you know, with zits n stuff, but worse. There was creepy crawly things moving around inside them zits, and when she smiled, heck, I don’t know, but I swore her mouth was black, like there was nothin inside.
“So in I walk, and on played Bambi. Everywhere around me was cars, and folks doin stuff. But it weren’t right, neither. There was a feelin to everythin that was cold and empty. I looked back to my car and saw it parked there by the roadside, but it didn’t comfort me none. I felt like a prisoner, trapped behind bars, my life just outside and starin back in on me, taunting.
“But I had to know.
“I don’t know how long I stayed there, but I gradually noticed something that scared me even more. As I looked up to the screen and saw them little animated cartoon characters, I saw that even Bambi was queer. But why shouldn’t it be—nothing in that place was right so why should the movie be any different? Then it hit me and my legs ran out from under me like cooked spaghetti, and I collapsed. I looked up to the screen, I looked up and I saw that them animated characters weren’t the animated animals I was used to, no—they was people I knew from town. All of em. Their faces caricatured up there on the screen, and by the Lord in heaven, it was them, right down to the crazy mayor!”
Randy jerked back, a sudden cold blast overcoming him.
“I lost it. I couldn’t take it no longer. I screamed—I cried—I came unglued.
I fell to the ground and beat it with my fists, and when I opened my eyes, it was gone. All of it. Every stinkin piece. I was sittin in the middle of this empty field balling to myself and my car was parked not fifty feet away, engine running.
“So I tried to get away, tried to get away as far as I could from Marion and this state, but something held me prisoner. Held others, too. Made me forget my wants and desires. We was changin, it seemed, distortin. Or maybe it was just me, lookin at everyone else who was changin. A Post Office or something was later built up on that property, but it didn’t matter. You see, when twilight came and you looked close, real close, you could almost see them. The people. The screen. Everything.
“So when you come in here and told me your story, hell, I had to tell mine, Randy, cause I wonder if maybe, just maybe, this thing is the same thing that happened to you. Maybe it’s comin for me after all these years, after the ones it didn’t get the first time, if that was the first time. Maybe it’s just something that happens to old theaters after they go away. I don’t know. See, Randy, drive-ins have magic, and when someone takes away the buildings and the screens, and the speaker boxes, they can’t take away the magic. It’s something that lingers on…hangs in the air. Maybe it comes with the land…and hopefully it’s a good magic. But I think every place is different. Did you know that at one time Twin Falls had six drive-ins in town?”
“Sure. They done been torn down and built over, like the one I told you about, but they was there. In fact one of em’s an apartment complex that you’ll be passin as you go back into town—which, I might add, you better do if you don’t want to get a whoopin! Will ya look at the time! Randy-boy, you just let your old grandfather ramble on, didn’t you!”
“It’s okay, Granpa, I don’t mind!”
“Sure, but the light is fading and you need some to make your way back. So get—tell your folks hello for me, and don’t mind the ramblins of an old coot! I’ll call your folks to let em know you’re on your way. I’m goin to get my own woopin from em for sure!”
“Now I mean it, so get—and, Randy—” Grandpa Jonathan’s face grew stern and took on a more concerned look, “be careful.”
“Okay. See ya, Granpa!”
Randy hopped up on his purple BMX, turned it around, and headed back towards town. He waved to his grandfather as he left, but the words still ran around in his head.
If you look close, real close
You can almost see them.
Then Randy remembered the face he had seen at his drive-in. The black, nothing face that stared up at him and mumbled. Empty words from an empty face. Randy suddenly wondered why he had not asked Grandpa if he could stay the night. It was Friday, there was no school tomorrow.
But he was already on his way home and Grandpa was calling his folks.
You could almost see them.
Randy pedaled straight home. His parents were waiting for him and immediately set to the task of scolding him for riding his bike so late—and that didn’t he know he could get killed? And what was your grandfather filling your head with this time? And don’t you respect us? Do you want to die, is that it? Now go to your room, mister, and there’ll be no supper for you tonight. But all this fell on deaf ears because Randy was too busy reliving everything his grandfather had told him. So he gladly went to his room, gladly plopped down on his bed, and gladly tucked his arms high behind his head.
Randy stared into the ceiling and wondered about what was real and what wasn’t, and as he fell off into a troubled sleep he swore he heard the wind pick up. Swore he could hear it flipping over cars and knocking over buildings….
The devil’s wind.
Saturday mornings were great after the chores got done, but instead of going over to Todd Bearing’s house afterwards (which was where he told his parents he was going to spend the night), Randy decided on other plans. He didn’t feel right. His experience from the other day, as well as all that stuff his grandpa had told him, sat in his gut like a belly full of bad junk food.
And there had been high winds last night.
It hadn’t damaged things as much as in Grandpa Jonathan’s story, but it had made a bit of a mess. Randy wanted to go back to that drive-in, to the one he knew…but was scared. What if that guy was still there—or another to replace him, even more worse than the first?
What if he went…and never came back?
He knew what he had to do.
He had to go back. Had to see.
Even if the devil himself was in the projection room.
It was about an hour away from sunset, according to the Weather Channel, as he pedaled up the small (boy-it-didn’t-feel-like-it) hill to where the abandoned drive-in lies. He passed the sign that said it was to be replaced by an office complex of some kind. An office complex. What a bummer. Granpa said there used to be six of these things in town, and now there was only one. One drive-in. That sucked. He hoped there’d be plenty when he grew up so he could enjoy them. That-subculture-thing.
Armed with comic books and Jolt cola (it gave him lots of energy, he found), he braked his bike to a stop. There it was, just as he had left it. With one exception.
Nobody was sitting in the middle of it.
Randy walked his bike through the rows of upright posts, up towards the rear of the lot, and thought it did remind him more of a graveyard than a drive-in. He looked back over it. White posts, everywhere. Like gravestones. And that silver screen. Empty. Like one huge gravestone.
Grandpa and his stories.
He tried to imagine what this place was like during its heyday—cars packed in, music piped over the speakers, folks camped out in the back of their cars and trucks with pillows and blankets. Older kids necking. He had seen some of this from the one remaining drive-in in town, but not here. There was none of that here now.
He thought back to the bum. The faceless one.
If you look close, Randy, really close….
Shuddering, Randy turned away from the posts and took off his pack. He pulled out his comic books, can of Jolt, and settled down to the ground.
For what, he didn’t really know. He just knew something was going to happen and he needed to see it. Maybe it was a movie. Maybe it was—
Randy’s heart froze. At the opposite end of the theater grounds where he had entered the lot, he saw movement. He dropped his comic book and nearly spilled over his Jolt.
But it wasn’t that man. That evil, non-faced thing that had mumbled out of a non-existent mouth…no, this was somebody different. Somebody with a face.
Quietly, Randy watched as the faced intruder came into the center of the lot and sat down—almost at the exact spot where Randy had last seen the other.
This new guy either hadn’t seen him—or didn’t care—because he never looked away from the screen. The torn and ripped
Then another came.
All with faces, all to stare at the huge gravestone before them.
Randy got up and backed away from the sudden rush of people, but only ended up running into two others that came in from behind. It was like the Night of The Living Dead, for crying out loud. Unperturbed, they all continued on down towards the center of the lot. Randy continued backing up and finally hit against the rickety theater wall behind him. He stood with his mouth open and stared. There must’ve been a hundred of them.
“No way. This is can’t be. I’m seeing things.”
Randy looked to the can of Jolt he held, then tossed it away.
The sun had now set and began to cast its blood red rays over the land. Rays that painted the screen, the rips and tears standing out even more, like poorly healed scar tissue. Red that flowed over the people and the white posts. All attention was focused on the
The pilgrimage had stopped, but not the red.
It was no longer merely a redness of twilight that simply colored things, but an integral part of the objects it touched.
The very air.
Everything was aglow with vermilion. And it took on a life of its own. Randy could see the pulsation. It was in everything.
And still the masses waited….
Randy knew by now that twilight must surely have ended, but in the deserted lot of the Peak View Drive-In, it had not. It had become its own little world. Twilight remained. Blood remained.
Had to see.
Randy pushed away from the backboard and went forward.
If you look close, real close, Randy-boy, you can see—
Randy went into the crowd. Each individual’s attention was anchored to the movie screen before them, their faces blank. Many mumbled, and a humming sound seemed to resonate just above them. As he looked around, Randy noticed something else. These people weren’t bums or vagrants, at least not all of them. Many were dressed in fine clothes with shaven or made-up faces. Some looked like they had just come from previous engagements. Randy reached out.
“Ma’am, are you
“all right?” He touched the woman. She gave a little under his touch, but remained faced forward. Blank. Red pulsated through her, and her skin seemed swollen.
A sound came over the speakers and Randy jumped.
It was everywhere, echoing in deep cisternal notes that sounded more like the noise blood might make if its movement was amplified. Randy tested several others and got the same responses.
Just the sound of the pumping of blood.
Randy looked back to his
bike and found it gave him no comfort.
“I feel…I feel like I’m…repeating…something here….”
Then his eyes landed on something so familiar that his insides went loose.
Randy sprinted across the crowd to Jonathan when the silver-red screen erupted into a blinding fury, knocking him off his feet. He careened into several posts. They were cold. Burning cold. From deep within the ground came rumbling. Randy lifted his head and looked to the screen. It was a liquid red, and pulsed in time with everything else. Vibrant colors danced across its canvas, like the 60’s backdrops he’d seen on MTV.
Randy looked back to his grandfather and saw he was still there. It was no illusion, no case of mistaken identity. Randy picked himself up and again lurched forward, knocking past others who merely righted themselves and returned their attention back to the screen. The rumbling in the ground made Randy sick, vibrated parts of him he didn’t realize he’d had.
“Granpa! Granpa!” he screamed, and reached out. He shook his grandfather’s shoulders, but found the same reaction he’d gotten from everybody else.
“Granpa—speak to me! Come out of it, damn it!” Randy came around to the front of him and blocked Jonathan’s view of the screen. Randy found he had to step wide to keep his balance from the upheaving ground and saw how slowly Grandpa focused on him. Jonathan turned away from the screen only enough to look up into Randy’s face.
“Granpa—speak to me!” Again Randy grabbed his grandfather’s shoulders and shook.
“They’ve found me, Son,” Jonathan said slowly, dreamily.
“Who found you?”
Jonathan spoke slowly, returning his forward focus. “Don’t know what…they’re called. No one does. They fill…a void.”
“Granpa—I don’t understand—what do you mean?”
The vibration grew and Randy found it nearly impossible to remain upright. He fell to his knees. Jonathan was now able to focus back onto the screen.
“They come…at intervals…but not of time….”
Randy saw reflections from the screen behind him change and turned to look at it.
The screen had changed.
It had somehow become more, and it hurt him to look at it. He felt his eyes trying to pop free from their sockets, felt his brain expand, almost explode. The screen took on a three-dimensional depth. More dimensional. There was something within it.
Something that was coming out.
“…it is a cycle…of emotion. Not time. Comes not…for everybody. But for those…ready…to accept it.”
Randy looked around and saw that the people remained seated, but they took on a different look. Back at the screen, there were swirling colors…a kaleidoscope of images…some of which Randy found hard to focus on or make out. He turned back to Jonathan.
“Granpa, I don’t want to lose you,” he shouted, “I love you!”
Grandpa turned back to him.
“Is…too late, Son.” And turned back to the screen. “It…transfers…to others. Continues its journey…through others. Fills…the void…that exists within….”
Grandpa Jonathan had faded out. His face appeared different, like those around him. At first Randy thought it was just the light, but it was more.
Then something clicked inside Randy’s head: transferred? He was the one being transferred to?
The screen went dead. The pulsating had now become more of a subtle undercurrent.
Randy spun around, almost pulling a neck muscle. It was a voice—he’d heard it—a deep, resonating voice that came from behind him.
From the screen.
“Who’s there—why are you doing this?”
The screen remained dead.
Then it went white, like before a movie is brought up onto its surface. Randy watched. Watched as the people around him reacted to the blank screen. Watched as some cried and some laughed, while others had still other reactions.
Randy looked to the person sitting next to his grandfather and saw a wide-eyed look that scared him. The person’s eyes were screaming from their sockets, but no scream came from her mouth. As Randy looked closer, he saw a thin red line trickle out from her eyes and mix with her tears. Randy turned away.
Another laughed hysterically, like a crazily stuck record.
Another had a more passionate, heady expression.
Then he turned back to his grandfather.
Whose face was fading.
Randy came closer, and again grabbed Jonathan’s shoulders. His face quickly began to fade from view. Taking another glance behind him, Randy saw that the screen was no longer white, but black.
Full of stars.
Cold, empty, traveling stars.
Randy shivered. Turned back to his grandfather. Grandpa Jonathan’s face now had that same blackness.
And the stars.
The entire lot was in darkness.
“Granpa! Don’t go!”
Jonathan’s face swirled…folded in and out of itself.
Flipped, spiraled, and split.
Randy felt his eyes again pull out from their sockets, his brain again having difficulty focusing or even understanding. He felt groggy. Found he had to brace himself away from his grandfather for fear of falling into him.
“Granpa, no—don’t go—I don’t want you to die!”
We all have to die sometime, Randy, it’s a fact of life. This is how I choose to go
Randy backed away. “Why are you doing this? Why did you drag me into it?”
Because you are a part of me, a part of us all
We need to continue
To be remembered
It is this emotion which is needed to
“You’re not my grandfather, are you!”
Randy watched as his grandfather’s face further dissolved and finally melted away. Inward. Outward. Around itself. Watched as his face became like the man’s face he had seen that morning a thousand-million years ago. Watched as the face he had kissed and so loved over his thirteen years slowly and quietly disappeared.
Black and starry.
If you look real close….
Randy felt his grandfather disappear. Watched as he hunched forward like the faceless one he had encountered. Watched as he felt the presence that was once Jonathan Thornton quietly expel like a gentle, worn, sigh….
Randy didn’t bother to lift his head. He knew what he’d find.
Randy felt unexpectedly emotionless as he backed away from the shell of his grandfather and returned to his bike. He looked to the others, but saw there weren’t as many of them as there had been before. He watched as some disappeared before his eyes, one by one, like stars snuffed out by a rising sun, while others, like candles in the wind were simply just not there anymore. He looked back to his grandfather just as he, too, was snuffed away.
Randy picked up his bike and brought it around. The lot was almost empty now. The sun was rising, and he was exhausted. He went towards the outer edge of the lot, but didn’t want to go anywhere near the center of that sea of posts. Instead he faced east, where morning blood colored the horizon.
This he welcomed.
And as he turned around, Randy felt a something trying to edge its way into his head, and he groped for it. Like a warm wave, it engulfed him.
IT IS THE PRICE TO BE PAID FOR YOUR SENSE OF WONDER
Sense of wonder.
He wasn’t sure he understood it all, but Randy felt sure he understood one thing. One day, far into his own adult future, he, too, would have to pay that price.
And as he looked back to the lot on his way out, he suddenly felt exhilarated. There was one individual still sitting in the middle of the lot. One still seated in that familiar, hunched over and silent position.
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