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Sneak Peek - Supernatural Mystery Story


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I'll be starting to post a new story in a few weeks time. Here's a sample and a short synopsis. It wold be great to get some feedback at this stage.

Terry Young has just been appointed as chief projectionist in a run-down old cinema. But from day one he has problems. Resentment from the man who thinks he should have got the job. An undeniable attraction toward his general manager, Dan. And the awakening of long-buried psychic abilities that indicate something is hidden under the building.

 

Spoiler

 

There’s a standing joke among people in the business that it’s very unlikely any relationship will succeed unless the other person also works in the cinema. Partly, this is to do with the unsocial hours, but there is also a definite feeling that cinema people aren’t quite the same as regular folk. Cliff definitely fell into the latter category. He’d had a good education at a private school, followed by university and was working his way up in the finance department of a large multinational company. We met by chance at a party held by a mutual friend.

‘Terry knows all about films,’ Julie had said. ‘He works in a cinema. He gets to watch everything free.’

‘Really?’ Cliff hadn’t sounded impressed. I imagined he probably thought I sold popcorn. Most people didn’t even realise there were other jobs behind the scenes and that it was quite possible to have a career in the business rather than using it as a way to earn money before getting a ‘proper’ job.

‘I’m a projectionist,’ I told him.

He raised his eyebrows. ‘I’d have thought it was all on video these days.’

A lot of people did, so he wasn’t alone there. ‘No, it’s still film and will be for a while yet.’ Back then, in the late nineties, there had been rumblings about the possibility of the industry switching over to digital projection, but it was a long way off. I didn’t go into all of the long winded explanations. I’d felt a pull of attraction from the moment I spotted him and certainly didn’t intend to bore his pants off. There were far more fun ways to do that, most of which we’d explored within a few weeks of that initial meeting. The more we got to know each other, the better it was.

My parents had accepted that I was gay - my mother had read it in the tea leaves before I actually told her - so there were no issues as far as they were concerned. Cliff’s parents were a different matter. As their only child, they wanted the best for him. Although they’d come to terms with his sexuality and realised he wasn’t going to go down the usual middle-class route of finding a suitable girl, marrying her and providing grandchildren, they still assumed he would find a partner who came from a similar background. Then he’d brought me home. I’ll always remember the Sunday lunch when he first introduced me.

Cliff’s mother had shown me around their tastefully decorated detached house, set in a leafy suburb, before sitting us down in the dining room. Over the meal, the interrogation began, as Cliff had warned me it would.

‘So, Terry, what is it you do?’ his mother asked.

‘I’m a projectionist. In the cinema.’ I couldn’t help wondering if her make-up would crack as she strained to keep her best ‘social’ smile going. His father kept his eyes down on the roast beef. He was obviously well trained.

‘Well, that is unusual. Isn’t it, Jerry?’

Cliff’s father looked up. ‘Oh, er, yes.’

‘I suppose you had to study a long time to qualify for a responsible position like that?’

‘Not really. I started when I left school and learned on the job.’

‘I see.’

That was when Cliff had chipped in. He’d been looking forward to shocking them, I knew. ‘Tell mum about that chap you worked with. The one who thought aliens would take him away.’

‘Aliens?’ His mother raised an eyebrow. ‘You mean illegal immigrants?’

‘Not exactly,’ I said, feeling slightly uncomfortable. ‘People from other worlds.’

‘Little green men in flying saucers,’ Cliff added, with a smirk. ‘This chap thought they were going to kidnap someone from Earth and ask them all sorts of complicated questions. If they didn’t know the answers then the human race would be doomed to destruction.’

‘I’m sure that’s an exaggeration.’

Cliff continued. ‘Then there was this other projectionist who had a shrine to Marilyn Monroe in the staff room. Tell them about him, Terry.’

‘Well, er…’

‘And what about the one who thought he was a vampire?’

Bravely, his mother attempted to change the subject. ‘So, Terry. What do your parents do?’

Great. Time to show my working-class credentials. ‘My dad’s a carpenter by trade.’

‘Can he fit kitchens?’ Cliff’s father asked, showing some interest at last.

‘Er, yes.’

‘But he doesn’t do much in that line of business these days,’ Cliff put in. ‘He gets more work as a dowser. You know, finding buried treasure.’

‘It’s mostly water,’ I said. ‘Old wells, water pipes and so forth.’

‘How fascinating. Does your mother work, too?’

‘Yes.’ I might as well admit it. Cliff was giving me one of those looks that told me I’d be amply rewarded if I went along with his plans. ‘She reads tea leaves and Tarot cards.’

You didn’t need to be able to read the cards to predict that during the three years we were together, I was only invited back to the house once or twice. I suppose it was also predictable that Cliff’s desire to shock his parents out of their suburban complacency would eventually wear thin. Gradually, he started to try and change me into someone who wasn’t too far from what they’d approve of after all. I went along with it, afraid of losing him, until fate decided that was exactly what was going to happen, whether I wanted it or not.

I woke with a start. The whirring drone of the projector had lulled me to sleep, now that everything was running for the final performance of the day and I could relax. It was a good job no one had walked in. I checked the time. Ten o’clock. The plenum would need switching off and the boilers checking before the shows ended. The long walk from the staff room to the stage end of the building might wake me up a bit.

Picking up the weighty bundle of keys, I set off, walking along the rear aisle of the circle. There weren’t many people in tonight, but Mondays were always quiet unless you were showing a blockbuster film. I stood for a few minutes, listening to the sound quality and checking the steadiness of the picture, feeling very much at home in my new domain. There’s nothing like standing at the back of a nineteen-thirties super cinema auditorium, your eyes sweeping over the grand expanse of what had once been described as ‘an acre of seats in a garden of dreams’. I imagined all those seats filled, as they undoubtedly would be in a few weeks with the release of the fourth in the Harry Potter series. A full house created a buzz of excitement in a building and the job satisfaction increased when you were putting on a film everyone had eagerly awaited.

The soundtrack of the film carried for some way down the exit, which led to a deserted foyer. The front of house staff had long since cashed up and gone home, switching off the bright lights over the retail area. Two members of floor staff nodded to me as I unlocked the door that led to the front stalls area and carried on down towards the stage.

From so close, the screen towered above me and the sound reverberated around the space between the drop wall and the stage. As I walked down the central aisle toward the orchestra pit I felt an unmistakeable prickle of the hairs at the back of my neck. It was a feeling I knew well and meant there was some kind of presence here. Nothing evil; there was no heat in it. As I carried on walking past the spot, the sensation weakened, then vanished.

It was dark under the stage, but that didn’t bother me. I’ve always been able to see well in dim light and I knew there was nothing down there that wanted to harm me. There was nothing in this cinema that would harm anyone but what I’d felt indicated that it wanted to make contact.

Once again, I heard Cliff’s voice, putting doubts into my head. ‘Isn’t it all just nonsense, though? I understand why people want to believe in life after death, but I certainly can’t. When you die, that’s it. Out like a light. Ghost stories are nothing but the product of an over-active imagination when people are on their own in a place they’ve been told is “spooky”.’

I’d argued it with him a few times, until I learned not to bother. Cliff had all the answers.

‘Scientific experiments prove there’s nothing out there but the human mind at work. I know your family make a living out of it and I suppose there’s nothing too bad about giving comfort to grieving relatives by letting them think they’re talking to Uncle Bert, or whoever, but it’s not real.’

He’d never managed to convince me otherwise and there was no way he’d change his opinions. It just became one of those taboo subjects every couple have. We avoided it. I learned to ignore - or at least not to talk about - my ‘weird’ senses the same way that people train themselves not to notice things they’d rather not see.

None of which helped when something in this cinema now knew it had attracted the attention of a person who was aware of its presence. As I returned, the feeling was just a tiny bit stronger.

 

 

Edited by Mawgrim
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