Picture yourself in a dimly lit theater, seldom used, and completely deserted. Suddenly it’s filled with loud music and moviegoers.
In less than a second, The Pharaoh was a full house. The calliope kept moving, ripping through the wall, ploughing into the lobby, and rolling onto the busy street.
Brandon stopped playing, stunned by the crowd. The citizens of carnival town were reunited with their families. Cassandra found her boyfriend and gave him a big kiss.
Everyone who remembered The Pharaoh as a derelict movie house were shocked to see a modernized theater, advertising a 3-D Motion Picture.
Sissy opened the rear entrance, letting Brandon inside. “Where’s Ignatius Specter?” he asked. Sissy signaled they should be quiet, pointing to the lobby door.
Ignatius wheeled The Immortal Game into the doorway. Satisfied, he walked through the entrance, returning with the singing lady.
“Stand on the stage and sing!” Ignatius demanded. He pulled the scarf out of her mouth and a horrible noise rattled the eardrums. Ignatius walked to the street. A few moments later, screaming tore through the happy reunion.
Sissy ran outside, spotting the calliope ablaze. Ignatius stood up, pocketing the golden cigarette lighter. It was the only thing capable of destroying the illusions in The Black and White Horror Show.
Jeremy wondered why the music wasn’t having an effect on them. Then he noticed Harvey was no longer in their company.
“HE’S FOLLOWING EVERYONE INSIDE!” Jeremy yelled. “Harvey, wake up! Don’t you realize what’s happening?” Harvey didn’t even notice him. He kept walking; his body swayed to the rhythm of the singing voice.
Ignatius skipped up the staircase two steps at a time. “I’ll create a historic spectacle that will never be forgotten!” He chuckled. The lights dimmed in the historic movie theater and a voice more terrible than the singing lady said something familiar.
LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, I GIVE YOU A FILM UNEARTHED IN ANCIENT EGYPT AND DEDICATED TO THE FOUNDER OF THIS THEATER…
ME…THE GREATEST MAGICIAN OF ALL TIME…IGNATIUS SPECTER.
Cigarette burns emerged in the corner of the silver screen and Ignatius had his finger on the button, preparing to change the reels.
Nothing happened. The magician gaped in bewilderment, not noticing the hand in his pocket.
Jeremy grabbed the golden cigarette lighter. Rather than escaping, he made a dangerous decision. Flicking the flint, he ignited a flame. Fire erupted in the projector room as the Nitrate film incinerated.
The magician danced away from the flames, swiping for the thief who stole the object capable of destroying his illusions. As Jeremy left the room, Ignatius went up in a cloud of smoke. The magician vanished.
They only had moments before The Pharaoh would burn to the ground. The flames were right on their heels as they ran down the steps, away from the projector room.
Jeremy rushed for the woman with the singing voice, dragging her off the stage. He pushed her up the center aisle, into the lobby and through the main doors. Everyone from carnival town followed her.
Bernie was the last to leave. He knew he was losing part of his soul when the flames devoured the silver screen. As he walked past The Immortal Game something grabbed him by the leg.
IT WAS THE SKELETAL HAND!
“Come, wrestle me for eternal glory!” It yelled. Bernie had no choice and this was a game he couldn’t afford to lose. He grabbed the skeletal arm, trying to get free. Suddenly, a phantom approached him, shrouded in smoke.
“You fight like a girl!” The skeleton yelled.
“I do not!” Bernie shouted. He fought back with the strength of ten men. His wrinkly arm flexed and his biceps exploded with power.
The skeletal arm broke. Bernie waved it at Ignatius, flinging it toward the magician’s neck. The skeletal hand strangled its master and Bernie ran for it. He exited the lobby not a moment too soon. A fireball shot out of the theater and the entire building went up in smoke.
Bernie’s eyes were flooded with tears, watching The Pharaoh collapse into ashes. The building was part of him and he could never get it back. “Well,” Bernie signed. “The last showing will never be forgotten and we defeated Ignatius Specter by using his own tricks against him. Not bad for an old man and a group of kids,” he chuckled.
Jeremy looked at the x-theater owner with fondness. “And don’t forget, now you get to collect on all that insurance money the day before you were about to lose everything. Morton won’t be happy, but he seldom is. Indeed, Morton was standing next to the fire hydrant, inspecting it. Maybe he was thinking that if only he could have turned it on, he could have saved the bank’s investment.
“Oh, I just remembered something,” Jeremy said. He reached into his pocket, pulling out the golden cigarette lighter. “I think this may belong to you.”
“I’m not sure magic has any owner. I certainly don’t want it. Why don’t you keep it? Use it to get rid of your illusions,” Bernie said.
“What do you mean?” Jeremy asked.
“That’s something you must figure-out for yourself.”
Jeremy looked at the disoriented crowd for the first time since The Pharaoh collapsed, wondering how the citizens of Carnival Town would come back to reality after being gone for such a long time. Everyone looked as if they’d seen their worst movie and wanted to leave a note inside the cover to warn the next unsuspecting lover of the silver screen. Mostly, families were happy to be reunited and the crowd began to disperse.
The summer sun was setting low in the sky on the outskirts of Old Hollywood. Jeremy was about to call it a day when he realized that Max was missing. “Has anyone seen Max after he vanished from the camera studio?” No one knew what happened to him. “Perhaps he’s at the police station. That’s where I’d go if I had a lunatic chasing me through an abandoned movie theater.”