Walking out the double doors, Jeremy
pushed a trolley cart, breathing in the warm evening air. Turning a street
corner, he noticed his friends. “I was wondering when you guys would show up.
I’m headed for Sally’s Drug Store if you want to help me load supplies.”
They walked in
silence for some time until they neared the store. “We need to buy a lighter so
we can burn the black and white photograph,” Jeremy whispered.
Sally eyed them
suspiciously after they bought her entire stock of candy bars and soda; not to
mention a package of lighters. “You boys don’t smoke, do you?” she asked.
“No; most of the
lighting in The Pharaoh is at least a century old. We have another showing this
evening and many more candles to light.”
satisfied, but hesitated when handing lighters to three teenage boys.
After leaving the
store, they pushed their mound of groceries up the sidewalk. It took every
ounce of their strength to do it. Turning a corner, they saw a crowd. Excited
movie goers ignoring crosswalks, flooding across Specter Street.
Bernie cued The Black and White Horror Show in the
projector room and soon the teenagers were selling tickets and concessions in
the lobby. Sissy wrapped caution tape around Seat 13 and left a Spill Sign in
Bernie tripped the
reels and The Black and White Horror Show
rolled. Immediately, the old man realized something was wrong. The screen
went blank. I wonder if the film was
erased, he pondered. Then he heard a feint sound; circus tunes invaded his
mind. A procession walked down the center aisle of the theater, emerging on the
silver screen. The audience gasped as a lion, giant, and a Ferris wheel
cascaded through them, joining the other characters in the film. Foreboding tunes
grew louder when the giant stopped the Ferris wheel from falling-apart once
Jeremy held the
black and white photograph in his sweaty palm, waiting for Ignatius to take
center stage. His other hand grasped the lighter, his fingers pressed down on
Suddenly the theater flashed with light, like
a night club during disco hour. The strobe clicked faster and faster as
sections of the audience disappeared.
Ignatius was in the audience, but he couldn’t see him. All he saw were empty
seats where people had been.
Turning around, he
looked at the projector room, noticing Bernie holding the flash camera close to
HE WAS THE ONE TAKING PICTURES, Jeremy realized.
He pulled out his
pocket lighter, grinding the flint, igniting a flame, but the photograph
diminished as most of the crowd was captured in black and white film.
pressed themselves against the wall, hiding between the curtains.
Leaping for the
door, Detective Straitface moved up the hall, entering a circular corridor. He
was as silent as a cat, preparing to pounce.
protection from the camera. Walking to the projector door, he noticed his
reflection in a mirror; He carefully removed it, brandishing it like a shield. Turning the knob, Straitface entered the
Bernie was camera
crazy with an itchy trigger finger.
The detective held
the mirror in front of his body, charging forward.
shooting shards in every direction. Black and white photos flew across the
floor with captured audience members staring into oblivion.
Bernie was knocked
out, spread eagle on the floor.
grabbed the camera, holding it like a bomb. He fumbled with the dial, zooming
the lenses. Looking through the peephole, Straitface pinpointed his target.
“What kind of evil is this,” he whispered. Hearing footsteps on the stairs, he
swiveled around, focusing the instrument on four teenagers. “State your
business!” he demanded.
“We know Bernie…”
said Jeremy in a shaky voice.
“I’m afraid he’s
unconscious and won’t be returning to reality for some time—knocked him out,
you see…not intentionally, but he was trying to capture me in black and white
“We need Bernie’s
cigarette lighter. Will you search his pockets?” whispered Sissy.
“That would be
illegal. Why do you need it anyway?” asked Straitface.
“It may be the
only tool capable of stopping the madness. Forget detaining him; if we have his
lighter, we can destroy the black and white photographs, releasing the spirits
inside.” Sissy said practically.
“How do you know
you won’t destroy their souls, along with the photographs?” the detective
asked—considering the implication of hellfire and burnt plastic.
“We know it’s
risky, but it must be done; empty his pockets before he regains consciousness,”
“Being an officer
of the law, I will decide when and how a suspect will be searched. Bernie will
be questioned at the police station and read his rights when he wakes up. I’ll
confiscate his camera and lock it in the evidence room. It’ll be properly
marked and handled as a dangerous object. Today’s events will make The Pharaoh
infamous, but it’s doubtful anyone other than the audience will believe what
happened here.” Straitface handcuffed Bernie. “I can hear a panic outside,
which means the media has already arrived. Is there a rear exit?”
stage,” suggested Jeremy.
may be the first and only chance you get to drive a police car. He handed his
keys to the wide-eyed teenager. “My Charger is parked out front. You can bring
it around back.”
Exiting the lobby
was like entering a new dimension. TV cameras pointed at the mob, fueling
unrest. Parents called for their children as reporters interviewed one terror
stricken child after another, pushing recorders at them, hoping to drain a good
The feeding frenzy
was more disturbing than The Black and
White Horror Show. Jeremy spotted a police car at the opposite end of the
His friends tried
to blend into the edges of the crowd—shuffling to the side, doing their best to
avoid the cameras.
made it to the car without attracting reporters or television news anchors.
Jeremy clicked the
electronic key and the Charger roared to life. “Everyone, get inside!” Suddenly
the mob noticed them. Before they were surrounded, Jeremy gunned the
accelerator, parting the crowd like the Red Sea. They got away just in time as
the hysteria only got worse.
“YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND,” someone shouted. “HE
TOOK MY FRIEND’S PICTURE AND SHE VANISHED.”
The streets were
congested, like an artery waiting to burst.
“I wonder what the
crowd would do if they realized we have their suspect in custody,” commented
trample us,” replied Brandon half-seriously. “The vanishing audience can only
be explained by magic and people are afraid of what they don’t understand.”
out and walked inside The Pharaoh. It was like reentering a tomb.
The atmosphere was
dark. Ideas flashed across Jeremy’s mind. He wasn’t even sure he should burn
the black and white photos or destroy the film. What if he unwittingly harmed
the people inside? He didn’t have much time to think. Straitface and Bernie
were missing. “Where could they have gone?” He threw up his hands. “We were
supposed to bring the car around.” He realized something was wrong. A horrible
feeling in his stomach ruptured as he ran up to the projector room.
THE FILM WAS GONE.
Straitface had the
gold lighter, The Black and White Horror
Show, and the silver camera.
Jeremy knew he had
to find them fast. Lost in thought, he bumbled his way into the lobby. “I’m
afraid The Black and White Horror Show is
“That’s not the
only thing that’s been stolen,” replied Sissy. “The Sarcophagus is missing.”
believe he hadn’t noticed the faded yellow wallpaper where the Sarcophagus
usually stood. The outline glowed in stark contrast with the emerald paper on
the walls. “How can we possibly find them; we haven’t any idea which direction
“Actually, we do.”
“How do you know?”
asked Max. His black hair stretched even taller; his follicles were like
extensions of his brain trying to reach the answer.
“Every street is
blocked except the rear entrance. We might still be able to catch them.”
“How would you
like to test the governor on the police car?” Jeremy asked.
Brandon was behind
the wheel before he could finish his sentence. Inserting the ignition key, the
V8 engine roared to life. Soon they ripped across the backstreets of Old
Hollywood, moving down the interstate.
“GPS says there
isn’t an exit for 25 miles,” yelled Max over the engine. The police car picked
up speed, breaking 100 miles per hour. Reaching the first freeway turnoff,
everyone checked to see if there was any dust.
“We need to keep
going, encouraged Sissy. “There’s a traffic jam ahead; any ideas?”
over the dashboard, flipping a red switch, and a siren howled like a banshee. A
wave of metal flashed into view. A semi-truck was horizontal across the roadway.
There wasn’t enough time to slow down. Brandon controlled the car like an Indi
driver, aiming for the high spot in the truck’s suspension.
The police cruiser
became a convertible.
alright?” Jeremy asked.
slammed on the breaks, skidding to a halt.
It wasn’t an exit
or even a dirt road, but an old cattle trail. Brandon steered into the
The detective had
Bernie gagged and bound in the passenger seat of a rusty pickup truck he’d
hotwired. The sun set over a sunken volcanic crater. It was sultry inside the
cab. Bernie wanted to pass out. He was not in his right mind when he turned the
camera on his audience, but now he was returning back to normal. It felt
strange being under the influence of the film. He wondered why it affected him
Bernie tried to
contort his body to get another look at Straitface. He wasn’t sure if it was
the bumpy road or his imagination, but something odd was happening to the
detective. His face was melting.
with a finger to scratch an itch on his crooked chin, clawing at his flesh. His
face looked like a distorted mask, dripping wax onto his uniform.
If Bernie wasn’t
gagged, he would’ve screamed. He realized the heat in the cab wasn’t coming
from outside, but from his kidnapper.
The sun set behind
the desert dunes of Old Hollywood. Bernie could see their silhouette on the
Straitface slammed on the brakes, grinding the pickup to a complete stop. He
wrenched open the door.
The driver’s seat
was soaked in wax. Terror did not come close to describing how Bernie felt.
When Straitface walked in front of the headlights, Bernie felt his heart jump.
The detective was missing his skin and his new flesh looked familiar. It was
Ignatius Specter. Bernie’s fear intensified, along with his bewilderment. Ignatius vanished in the Black and White
Horror Show. How could he possibly be alive?
His door opened and a pair of hands grabbed him by the collar,
pulling him out of the truck.
landed in the sand and didn’t have time to rest as Straitface dragged him to
the back of the pickup truck. He could only hear what was going on. His hands
and feet were tied. It was getting difficult to breathe and he started to lose
worried that Ignatius planned to do experiments on him. Seemingly, Ignatius
read his mind, pulling a sarcophagus from underneath a tarp and setting it on a
medical gurney. The torso was missing and something shiny occupied its insides.
It was the flash camera.
was soaked in wax, steaming like a hot oven. Bernie knew he was in the presence
of evil, but he cast his worries aside and thought of a way to escape.
Ignatius looked at Bernie with piercing eyes. “It’s at least thirty miles to the nearest interstate. I’m the only one who can keep you alive.” He said this while burning the ropes holding Bernie’s feet together. “Stand up and walk!” Bernie didn’t dare disobey.