I'm a cinema usher. We have some strange rules. [3/4]
Rules #7, #8, and #9
My name is Shaun. I've been a cinema usher for three years now. My cinema has rules that you should never, ever break, even if you think they're insane.
If you're confused, you should probably start at the beginning.
One of the rarest rules we have is Rule #7. I've only ever experienced it once, about six months ago, and I sincerely hope I will never have to deal with it ever again.
Rule #7: If you notice shadows being out of sync with your surroundings, return to the last room you were in as quickly as possible, alone. Close the door, then return to the lobby. Until you do so, do not touch your shadow under any circumstance.
The biggest danger you can face in this job is becoming too used to the weirdness. That's the mistake I made with Rule #7. I dropped my guard, I stopped paying attention.
I had walked to the other side of the lobby from Room 6 before I realized that I had no shadow.
Cold sweat covered my brow. I looked back the way I'd came. My shadow, completely disconnected from me, lay on the floor by the door to Room 6. And another usher, a man by the name of Liam, stood between me and it.
He was looking straight in my eyes, a narrow grin on his face.
I had to think quick. Whatever was going on, I had to get back to Room 6, but with Liam in my way, I had no route to get there. Not without confronting him.
"Shaun? Is everything alright?" David called from the door to his office. He sounded concerned, worried, even.
Could I answer him? Would that just make things worse?
I ignored the question, and started heading back to Room 6. The more I looked around me, the more clear it became how strange my surroundings were. Every shadow was thrown in a different direction, as if each item was illuminated by a different light source.
I was nearing Liam now. I slowed down, walking in a manner I hoped would appear nonchalant. If I could just get past him and to the door...
"David asked you a question, Shaun." Liam said. The thin smile was still plastered over his face. He stepped in front of me, barring my way.
"I heard him, Liam. I just forgot something in Room 6, is all."
"And what was that, Shaun? What did you forget?"
He knew. I could see it in his eyes. Liam - the thing masquerading as Liam - knew what I was trying to do. It knew I wasn't fooled by it's act.
I heard the office door open behind me. Footsteps approached.
"Shaun?" asked David. "What did you forget?"
He walked around me, to stand next to Liam.
I had to convince them I didn't realize anything was wrong. I couldn't get to Room 6 otherwise. Even if I did make it there, the rule said I had to be alone. They couldn't follow me.
"I forgot to clean up a spilled drink. I'll just get some paper towels from the garbage room and go finish it." I smiled weakly, cursing my quivering voice.
It was a bad lie, I could see it in David's eyes. He wasn't convinced.
"Liam, help him out with that, would you?" he said, walking away to the office. Liam smiled at me again. It was a horrible sight.
"Well, let's go, Shaun." he sneered.
We walked to the garbage room. My mind raced as I tried desperately to think of a way out of this situation. Liam was watching me from the corner of his eye, waiting for me to make a run for Room 6.
A desperate plan formed in my head. It was a gamble, and for all I knew the other rules of the cinema didn't even apply in this place, whatever it was. But it was the only way to escape that I could think of.
We entered the garbage room. Liam wasn't even acting inconspicuous anymore - he was looking straight at me, still smiling that horrible grin.
With Liam following, I walked to the back of the garbage room.
And punched him in the face with all my strength.
The thing wearing his body stumbled backwards, surprised, and in the second of time it bought me, I scrabbled at the air duct in the back of the room, opening it at the last second. The thing's fingers grabbed me from behind, and turned me around to face it.
The look of humanity Liam had worn before was shedding off like a snakeskin. His face grew disproportionate, his eyes pools of shadow. He laughed in my face.
"I knew you weren't fooled. I knew it. Well, playtime's over. Time for you to meet your shadow." It sniggered insanely. "I hope you like it here, because you're going to be staying with me!"
I kicked out desperately, fighting against the thing's strength as it gripped my arms. I managed to turn us around, ramming it's back into the open air duct. It screeched in pain.
"Ever since your master has made his foolish rules, I have been alone. Well, no more. First you, then him!"
Finally, I heard what I'd been desperately hoping for. A sound coming from the air duct behind Liam.
The scuttling of many thin feet.
The thing had only a second to realize what I had done. It's eyes widened.
Then it was ripped backwards, as a terrible force tore it into the vent. Bones cracked as it's back and legs bent in angles they were never meant to. Then it was gone, screaming and cursing.
I stumbled away from the wall. I had little time.
As I ran across the lobby towards Room 6, the thing wearing David's body tore out of the office. It screamed in frustration as it sprinted towards me.
I reached Room 6. My shadow coiled on the ground, trying to reach me but coming just short. David was near, metres away from me, a cry of anger and desperation filling the air.
I flung open the door, jumped inside, and slammed it behind me.
Silence dropped like a stone.
Cautiously, I opened the door again. The lobby was empty. I looked down, and heaved a sigh of relief.
My shadow was once again at my feet.
Rule #8: If a garbage bag begins moving violently or making noises, dispose of it in the special chute in the garbage room. Do NOT open the bag.
One of the jobs we have to do here is clear out the garbage room after every shift. This means loading all the trash up on a trolley and taking it to the basement parking lot, where a truck will come pick it up every week.
Rule #8 is probably the worst after #4. It's not as mentally scarring, but it can still fuck your head up if you think too much about it. It certainly made me pretty miserable when I had to deal with it the first time, about a year back.
I was almost done with the trash that day. One more trip with the trolley should've done it. I was looking forward to the end of my shift, and the warm embrace of my bed at home.
That's when a garbage bag spasmed, dropped to the ground with a wet, organic thud, and started screaming.
"Help me! Oh god, please help me!"
I screamed and jumped back. The bag writhed on the floor as whoever was inside it strained against the thick plastic. It cried out again in panic.
"God, please! Let me out! I can't breathe!"
My heart was pounding. With shaking fingers I reached for the bag, to tear it open and free the person trapped inside. I grabbed at the plastic...
The thing in the bag screamed in pain and fear.
"Is anyone there? Please, you have to help me!" It started sobbing, the plastic shaking and curling in on itself.
A chill ran down my back. This thing sounded human. It sounded as if it was in pain. It sounded real. But this place had taught me not to believe anything I heard or saw. Cautiously, I took hold of the bag.
A hand shot out of the writhing mass and grabbed my arm. I yelled and stumbled back, breaking the thing's grip.
"HELP ME YOU HAVE TO HELP ME I CAN'T MOVE I CAN'T BREATHE I CAN'T-"
The arm had been real enough. I could still feel it's grip where it had caught me. The arm had been human - sized.
But no human could've fit into that bag.
I grabbed the twisting, amorphous mass. The hands grabbed at me through the plastic as it screamed for help into my face. Staggering with its weight, I lurched over to the garbage chute, and dropped it over the edge.
It caught onto the edge with its hands. "Please... Please..." it whimpered, almost whispering where before it had been shouting. "I can't... I can't go back. Please, don't -"
I brought the lid of the chute down on it's fingers. It screamed, slid down the chute, clawed at the sides as it disappeared into the dark...
And went silent.
Rule #9: If anyone exits Room 3 during a show, do whatever they ask. Inform the manager immediately.
For all the wrong reasons, this story isn't like the others I've told. This story will be different, and I'm not sure I like that. I'm not sure where it will lead me, and this cinema.
Because this story happened yesterday.
Even though David's warmed to me in the time I've been working here - I think he might even trust me - he hasn't said anything about Room 3.
To be fair, I've been too afraid to ask.
So Rule #9 has always been a source of mystery, and no small amount of apprehension. No one I asked could even remember a time when they would have to obey it. Strange though it may seem, no one had ever exited Room 3 during a projection, at least not in the years I've worked here.
No one could remember David ever explaining the command, or even talking about it. Rule #9 was as big a mystery as the room it concerned.
So nothing could've prepared me for yesterday, when the door opened, and a smartly - dressed man walked out of Room 3. I froze in my tracks. No amount of experience in this job could've prepared me for that.
He walked over to me as I stood, staring in amazement and fear.
"Good evening, sir." he said. His voice was flat, emotionless, a blank slate. But unlike the thing from Rule #4, it was unmistakably human.
"Uh... Good... Good evening." I stammered finally. The man smiled in slight amusement.
"I wish to speak to the manager."
"Right... Uh, right this way sir." I replied, trying to fake a calm I didn't feel. I wish I could've told the thing to stay, that I could've warned David. But it was as if my brain was in ice, sluggish and unresponsive. We walked over to the office, and entered.
I didn't even have time to talk. David looked up, saw the man, and went a sickly pale.
"Rule #9, Shaun?"
"Leave us, please. Wait for me outside."
I obeyed. Nothing could've made me remain in that room. Absolutely nothing. I exited into the lobby, and waited.
Time went by. I could hear the murmur of conversation from inside the office. Occasionally David's voice would rise in volume, and I swear that at one point I heard him weeping.
It was half an hour until David opened the door and walked out. He was even paler than before, like all the blood had left his body. His hands shook, very slightly, but I noticed.
In the second before he closed the door, I could see the room behind him. It was empty. The man had gone.
"David?" I asked cautiously, not knowing what to say. "Is... Is everything... What happened?"
David fixed his eyes on me. They were red - rimmed and bloodshot.
"Go home, Shaun. Rest, sleep, prepare."
"Why? Prepare for what?"
"We're going to break Rules #10 and #11 tomorrow."
Episode 4 comes out 1/25/2021