I'm a cinema usher. We have some strange rules. [1/4]
Rules #1, #2, and #3
I've been working as a cinema usher for three years, and by now it's become obvious to me that my cinema's rules are a bit out of the norm.
OK, that was a lie. They're batshit insane. But you can be the judge of that yourself.
Just a little background before I start - my name is Shaun, I'm 21 years old, and I've been working this job for three years now. There's two reasons why I ended up here, and why I didn't leave even after I realized just how fucked up this place is.
The first is that not many employers will hire a high school dropout with a criminal record for petty theft and drug possession. I made some bad decisions early on in my life, and even though I'm on the straight and narrow now, my life has been marked forever by those unfortunate choices.
The second reason is the pay. A cinema usher's job is checking tickets, cleaning rooms between shows, and checking that every movie runs smoothly. Usually ushers earn minimum wage, if they're lucky. I, on the other hand, get the same pay as the manager of any normal joint.
Although when you take into account the stuff I have to deal with every day, it becomes a whole lot less alluring.
But none of you really care about that, do you? You're here for the story, and I won't disappoint.
So, here they are: the rules of my cinema.
Rule #1: Never, ever open the door to Room 3 once the movie has started
Sounds simple right? This rule, and the time I almost broke it, were the first signs I got that this cinema wasn't 100% normal.
Even knowing about Room 3, you'll be tempted to go in. The room is clever, and it'll try to trick you anyway it can. You might hear something from inside, you might be addressed by someone wanting you to open it. But you should never, ever do so.
The first time I almost entered Room 3 was a mere week after I got hired. I had read the rules, sure, and I had been confused by them... But I didn't question them. I needed this job, badly. If I had to endure some extravagant, mysterious rules to get my paycheck, then so be it.
I was cleaning up the main lobby, where the entrance to the individual projection rooms is, when I heard it. The thumping of something on a hard surface. And it was coming from Room 3.
I rushed over to the door. It was clear something was wrong inside - a thin curl of smoke was coming from under it. The thumping was louder now, as if someone was hitting the door from inside with their fists.
The handle was turning, rattling in it's joint, as the person on the other side tried desperately to get outside.
"Hello?" I yelled, pressing my ear to the flat surface of the door.
"Let us out! Help us!" came a voice from the other side. It was a woman's voice, terror audible in every word. Underneath it, I could hear a faint whooshing sound, like a strong wind in a tunnel. It took me a second to realise what it was. Flames.
"There's a fire! The door's jammed! You have to let us out!" the woman screamed desperately.
The smoke coming from under the door was dark and acrid, and I coughed as it caught in my throat. The beating of fists on the other side resumed.
"Let us out! Please! LET US OUT!"
I reached for the door handle. Any thought of rules in my head was gone. There were people in there who needed my help.
A hand reached out from behind me and grabbed my arm. I jumped in shock, twisting around.
It was David, my manager. I had only ever talked to him at my interview for the position, where he struck me as a calm, but distant man.
Now, he was furious, anger engraved in every line of his face.
"Rule 1. Never forget it."
"There's a fire inside, David! The door's jammed! We need to get them ou-"
"A fire. Oh, it's clever today." David laughed to himself. "Trying it on the new guy, too." Then he turned serious again.
"There's a reason we have rules. Leave Room 3 alone. Everything's alright in there."
I could hardly believe what I was hearing. The woman from inside cried out again. She was choking on her words now, as the smoke invaded her lungs.
"Please help me, Shaun! I can't breathe! Let us out!"
David laughed again.
"You can hear her, David! They're going to die!" I yelled, incredulous as to how he could be so heartless. Well, I wasn't going to let people die because of him and his batshit crazy rules. I reached for the door handle.
David looked me dead in the eyes.
"How does she know your name?"
I stopped short.
Had I told her my name?
I looked at the door again.
No smoke. No hammering of fists. I cautiously knocked on it a few times. No one answered.
David put one hand on my shoulder. "You see, Shaun," he said patiently, "Room 3 stays closed, no matter what. In 20 minutes, the movie will end and everyone will come out unharmed, I promise."
"But... But I heard her. I saw the smoke!" I stammered, confusion taking over.
"You saw what it wanted you to see. Take it from me, Shaun. Room 3 will try everything to get you to open that door. But it hasn't succeeded in thirteen years, and it damn well won't succeed while I'm the manager here. I won't have that happen again."
He led me away from the door gently.
When the movie in Room 3 ended twenty minutes later, a crowd of people walked out. Everyone was unharmed. I checked the room afterwards. There were no signs of fire anywhere.
Rule #2: If you see a man dressed as a movie character leading children away from the lobby, notify the manager immediately
You know how a lot of cinemas hire people in costumes or suits to promote new movies? Like when a new Star Wars movie comes out and you have guys in Stormtrooper armour walking around the building to hype people up?
I hated that sort of stuff even before I started working here. One of the odd jobs I took up after dropping out of school was at a seedy, run - down amusement park outside town. I had to wear a rancid, unwashed fursuit of the park's mascot for eight hours straight, six days a week. Even seeing one of those things nowadays makes me gag.
Now, Rule 2 is a bit of a mystery. I've only ever had to follow it once, and I'm not even sure what really happened. But it's an interesting, albeit gruesome, story, so you might enjoy it.
The day it happened was our premiere of Avengers:Infinity War. The manager had hired several cosplayers dressed as the main characters to walk around the lobby and take pictures with fans.
Now, I was generally OK with that, despite my past experiences. The thing that made me nervous was how before the shift began, David rounded up all the ushers and made us memorize the list of "superheroes" he had hired. He was absolutely adamant about it, insisting that we knew them off by heart.
If it wasn't for the incident with Room 3, I would've thought he was mad. But by now I knew not everything was as it seemed in this place.
It wasn't a long list, so I can still remember it: Captain America, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Thor. Retrospectively, the poor guy dressed as the God of Thunder must've been devastated how fat his favourite character got in Endgame.
I knew something was up when I exited one of the projection rooms and saw a person, dressed as the one and only Iron Man, walking slowly down the lobby towards the garbage room.
Getting closer, I could see there was something seriously wrong with him.
His suit had been high quality once, but seemed to be in disrepair now. It was grimy and scraped, some parts in danger of falling off altogether. He smelled horrible, like roadkill on a hot summer day.
But the worst part was, there was some sort of liquid seeping from between the joints of his costume. It was a sickening dark brown colour, viscous, almost like drying treacle.
My heart stopped as I saw that behind him was a group of children. None of them could have been more than thirteen years old. They stared vacantly forward, following the fetid figure as he led them away from the crowds in a demented column.
My ordeal with Room 3 had taught me all I needed to know about the rules. I rushed over to the manager's office, tore inside and yelled into David's room:
"Rule 2! Iron Man costume, heading towards the garbage rooms! Three kids in tow!"
There was a bang from the office as David leapt from his chair so fast it crashed to the ground.
"Shit, shit, shit, I should've known, I shouldn't have hired anyone, I shouldn't have fucking hired anyone. God DAMN it, I should've known!"
He was rummaging around in a drawer of his desk he had quickly unlocked. I caught a glimpse of what he was taking out before he hid it in a pocket of his trousers. A vial of some sort of clear liquid, and a long, jagged knife, made of what looked like bronze.
As he tore out of the office, he stopped and grabbed me, pushing a crumpled piece of paper into my hand.
"Make sure no one goes into the garbage room. Don't let anyone inside, you got that? If I don't come out in half an hour, hit the fire alarm and evacuate the building. Then call the number on this paper."
There was no time for questions. David tore out of the room, and I ran after him.
As we rounded the corner, I saw that "Iron Man" had almost got the children into the garbage room. He was maybe three metres away from the door, the kids still following blindly.
David tore past them and rammed open the door. Then, in one clean movement, he grabbed the costumed thing, threw it inside, and slammed the door shut.
The children twitched, like puppets with their strings jerked up and down. Then they looked around, confused. They probably didn't even know how they got there. So they did what any kid would do in that situation - they started to cry.
It was twenty three minutes before David left the garbage room. There were dark red marks on his once - clean shirt, and a horrible stench wafted off him. He looked tired.
"Clean up in there, Shaun. If you find anything strange outside a garbage bag, don't touch it. Just come tell me." He stumbled off to his office.
The garbage room was a wreck. The stinking, dark liquid stained the floor, the walls, and even the ceiling in some places. In the corner, there were several black plastic bags. A wet patch of that noisome dark liquid was slowly spreading from underneath them.
Rule #3: If a man with a tattoo on his left cheek wants something from the lost and founds, don't give it to him
Now, this one isn't exactly tied to a story I personally experienced, but I still have something to say about it.
After the Rule 2 incident, David started treating me kinder. I guess he trusted me a bit more, since he knew I had learned my lesson and understood that the rules weren't there for benign reasons; they were there to protect us all.
I was curious about Rule 3. After some time, I summoned the courage to ask about it, so before one day's shift, I walked into the office and cautiously asked about it.
"David? Um... I'm sorry to bother you, but, uh, I was wondering if... You could tell me more about Rule 3, by any chance?"
David smiled wryly.
"Curious, are you? Don't worry, I would be too."
He began rummaging about in his drawers and file folders. Eventually he handed me several yellowed papers, stapled together in the corner.
"Here, read this when you're on your break. Hopefully it'll slake your curiosity."
When my break came, I sat down in our locker rooms, and did exactly that. The papers were actually several newspaper articles, stapled together. The first was fifteen years old.
GRUESOME TRIPLE HOMICIDE: FAMILY MURDERED IN THEIR OWN HOUSE. SOLE SURVIVOR TELLS HORRIFYING STORY
The neighbourhood of [censored by me] was left in shock yesterday after police found a gruesome murder scene in the house of local residents, the Presscots. Of the family of four, there was only one survivor, thirteen-year old [censored by me] Prescott, who was found bound and gagged, but otherwise unharmed, in his family's living room, next to the mutilated remains of his parents and older sister.
Found on the crime scene was an umbrella which the survivor claims his mother had forgotten after the family's visit to the local cinema earlier that week. Cinema manager David [censored by me] told our reporters that the umbrella had been picked up by a tattooed man the day before the murder, who claimed it was his. Police are looking into the possibility this man was connected to the crime, but so far their search has proved unsuccessful.
The next two articles were twelve and five years old, respectively, and published by different newspapers, but they told much the same story. A mass homicide. One mentioned an item from our lost and founds being found at the scene from the crime. The other didn't, but David had written underneath it in pencil:
The same man. What does the tattoo mean? Need to make a rule about him.
The last article was what really creeped me out, though. It wasn't modern - in fact, it was just a printed photo of an ancient - looking page. The year printed at the top announced it to come from London, 1899. The writing was hardly legible, but the headline told me all I needed to know:
FEAR THE STAGE: LONDON THEATRE SHUTS DOWN AMID MURDER SPREE AS MYSTERIOUS KILLER CLAIMS FORGOTTEN ITEMS
Episode 2 comes out 1/20/2021