Wednesday, May 14, 2008

After Hours Theater

The mall is old and complex. Rather than a single unified design, it appears to have suffered a number of structural additions and modifications through its history, creating an architectural collage where classical styles meet modern and some corners are unplanned combinations of both. In the lower levels, there are long aisles, adorned with tall green plants and small lawns surrounded by metal bars. Over these alleys are narrow bridges that connect the upper areas, combinations of large department stores and restaurants and smaller businesses that are just a little more than holes in the wall. In the higher levels, the predominant wall color is red, but it is punctuated by some white and yellow. In the lower levels, the green of the plants contrasts with the red brick of the paths, the black metal bars and the white walls. The entire place is surrounded by a large parking lot, also organized by large flat level steps that connect through ramps.
Most of the lot is empty and most of the stores are closed. A single old fashioned diner has its lights on, but the chairs are turned upside down on the tables. A bookstore in the lower level is open but there is nobody inside, not even a shopkeeper. Aside from a very few stragglers that scurry about from one dark corner to another, the whole place is silent and desolate, bathed in twilight and the echoes of distant footsteps.
In one of the upper levels, there is an old movie theater, the kind that has several screening rooms. There corner where it sits appears to be specially forgotten and slightly dirty, a place that has been passed by. A long ticket booth, covered in thick glass with small openings for the exchange of money, is still buzzing with the light and sound of its high fluorescent lamps, but there are no ticket sellers. The lobby, covered in a thick red striped carpet, is clean and lit as well, but there are no ushers to be seen. There are small benches on the sides of the lobby, and tall ashtrays and waste baskets standing next to them. Some of the ashes on the trays are still burning.
Shiny posters outside announce the movies that are currently playing inside: two different horror movies, three romantic comedies, a western, a detective story and a drama. Inside, there are several sets of heavy doors that lead to the various theaters. All of them are closed, but an electronic ticker above each one still announces the movies and the hours at which they play. Beside one of the doors, there is a different poster, for a very old black and white movie, showing an elegant woman smoking a very long cigarette and an angry man in a suit and tie, a large drop of sweat dripping across his forehead.
Inside one of the theaters, a horror movie plays. Scenes of violence, fear and pursuit alternate with shorter moments of silence and calm. The light reflects on the screen and vaguely illuminates the few spectators that remain in the room.
There is a young woman in a white shirt and a black skirt. She leans back on her seat, her eyes fluttering between the screen and the theater. Sometimes they close, and she appears to be asleep, but then they open suddenly and she examines her surroundings once again. She is very small, of light skin and black hair. She appears to be concerned about something but doesn’t move away from her seat.
A man sits two rows behind her. He is wearing a thick winter jacket and blue jeans. He is about thirty years old and his eyes also alternate between being shut and watching the screen. Sometimes he looks at the girl that sometimes looks back at him. For a moment they share a moment of questioning, then they both turn back and close their eyes. He is a bit overweight and has the beginnings of a scraggly beard around his chin and cheeks. For an instant, his forehead shows signs of worry, but he leans back once again and concentrates on the film.
The third spectator is an older woman that sits towards the back, on the left hand corner of the theater. She is dressed in a light beige business suit, skin colored stockings and high heels. She has a black leather bag on her lap which she clutches tightly between her thin, slightly wrinkled hands. She recurrently looks to the exit, as if contemplating leaving, but then she looks back at the screen and becomes absorbed in the action once again. Her lips open and close constantly, saying something very softly over and over again.
The scenes of panic and bloodshed continue to play on the big screen before them. The same few people are being killed over and over. The movie is not progressing to an ending and there is no memory of where it started, if it ever did. When the light is particularly bright, the woman looks at her two companions and her muttering becomes just slightly louder.

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