Members of the audience complained when a girl began shouting, “HE’S GONE! MY BOYFRIEND WAS SITTING NEXT TO ME AND HE’S VANISHED.”

“Stop trying to get attention. We want to watch the movie,” cried a spectator.

Bernie left the projector room to see about the commotion. Entering the room under the black and white lights, he noticed a girl so upset she was disoriented.

Sissy stood next to her, comforting the bewildered teenager. “Why don’t you walk outside and tell me what happened,” she recommended soothingly.

“But I’ve already told you, after the flash, my boyfriend disappeared. I don’t understand where he’s gone,” she whimpered.

“I’m sure he just needed to use the restroom. He’ll be back,” comforted Sissy.

“I’ll check the men’s room,” Bernie volunteered.

“That would be nice,” Sissy smiled through clenched lips. She was unusually calm during crisis, but this incident made her feel uncomfortable. Even she knew something was wrong. Her intuition told her that much. Sissy walked the frightened girl to the main lobby and sat her down on one of the emerald benches.

The girl continued crying. “It was our third date. I think I was falling in love with him. I wish I knew where he went.”

Bernie offered to call the girl’s parents. “What’s your name and phone number?” he asked.

My name’s Cassandra, but my parents aren’t home. They’re on vacation in Las Vegas.”

“What should we do?” Bernie inquired. It felt weird to confide in a teenager for advice, but Sissy was unique; she had a maturity that doesn’t come to most adults.

“I’ll drive her home and make sure she gets a good night’s sleep. In the morning, I’ll phone the school counselor and have her make a house call.”

Bernie appreciated her resourcefulness. 

Suddenly, more screams erupted from the theater room. “What now?” Bernie murmured. He was glad The Black and White Horror Show was scary, but he’d had enough thrills for one evening.

“I’ll go see what’s happening,” he said, leaving Sissy to take Cassandra home. Entering the projector room, Bernie noticed there was thirty minutes of film left to play. “Ignatius created an exceptionally long film for its time,” he muttered to himself.

The audience screamed in horror at the silver screen when Ignatius burned each photograph with a golden pocket lighter. As each black and white photo went up in smoke, extraordinary things began to happen. Out of the screen burst human silhouettes, running and screaming into the audience. The phantoms vanished as quickly as they emerged.

Many theater goers ejected from their seats. Others were petrified by fear, unable to move. Some enjoyed the show, thinking it was a three dimensional illusion. 

Ignatius grabbed his camera, removing it from its tripod. The veil covered his body as he exited the tent snapping pictures like a mad tourist. Young couples in the amusement park vanished everywhere as he flashed his camera. He was bent on capturing everyone for eternity in black and white film.

Ignatius chased a fleeing midget into the House of Mirrors; noticing movement out of the corner of his left eye, he turned his camera on the reflection, snapping a photograph. The shadow vanished. He checked his roll of film, realizing he missed. Ignatius moved through a reflective corridor with mirrors on both sides.

He sensed something over his right shoulder, and spun around, snapping a reflection of himself and his own camera man. They vanished as both cameras clattered to the floor.

Ignatius was captured in black and white film forever.

The movie camera lay on its side, filming a reflected corridor. Slowly, a figure emerged, moving cautiously, but quickly, darting this way and that, trying to maintain its cover in the reflected hallway. A midget picked up the flash camera and walked away, fading from sight as the film reel cut to black.

Those left in the theater stood and clapped. Loud voices and cheers were enough for Bernie to know he had a hit on his hands. He skipped downstairs to help Jeremy with donations.

Everyone who saw The Black and White Horror Show was willing to give money with their compliments. It made Bernie feel young again, like there was still hope for The Pharaoh. There was something magical about the theater, a spirit that wouldn’t die, veiled behind velvet curtains, waiting to reveal their former glory.

At closing, the donation buckets overflowed. Jeremy helped Bernie count the money before leaving. “We had a full house tonight. I’d wager we have over five thousand dollars from admissions. Not bad for a silent film, eh Bernie.”

The theater owner was speechless. He had enough money to stay in business. “Jeremy, we had a grand event this evening. I could pay my creditors and close, but something in my gut won’t let me do it.”

Jeremy let Bernie speak his peace. The teenager counted the money. “It looks like we have nearly three thousand dollars in post show donations.”

Bernie smiled. He knew the kid wanted to help him keep his dream alive. “You probably should go home and get some sleep,” he suggested. “Your parents will wonder where you are.”

“My foster parents usually let me do what I want. Would you like any help with your theater tomorrow?” Jeremy asked.

 “Sure, I’ll see you at eight o’clock tomorrow morning. I’d like to fix the roof with some of the money we earned this evening.”

Jeremy smiled. He knew tomorrow wouldn’t be dull. He left to catch the 109 bus.


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