The light from the projector went out all at once. Tim was terrified that he had went blind in that moment because of the absolute darkness all around him. Then he heard chattering from other moviegoers. He heard someone in front of him mention something about the lights. There were voices. Voices everywhere. But he could see nothing. Tim felt the fuzzy armrests next to him and the soda in the slot at the end of the armrest. When he grabbed the bulky cup, he could feel the condensation running down the side and between his fingers. He lifted the cup to his face until the straw poked him in the cheek. Then he slid it until the straw touched his lips. Ah, sweet fruit punch. He took several gulps before placing the cup back into the holder. They say when one of your senses is gone, it can enhance the sensitivity of the others. Somehow the fruit punch never tasted richer and sweeter in that moment even though he had not been able to see a thing for only less than a minute.
Tim felt the soft touch of fingertips against his arm. Then those same fingers worked their way up to his face and started shifting through his scraggly beard. Tim automatically leaned into the affectionate touch and kissed the wrist of his beloved Lisa.
“I want to see our buddy, Jack Knifeton, kill some very dumb people,” said Tim.
“I don’t like violence,” said Lisa. “All I want to see happen is that one lucky person who makes it through to the end. Hopefully more than one.”
“I’m afraid you might be disappointed. He doesn’t leave anyone alive.”
“Going to this movie was your decision, not mine. Remember that.”
“How do you think it’s going to end?”
Tim considered that question for a moment. His first thought was to give a gory prediction of unfortunate victim’s guts strung all over the floor. But then he said, “Perhaps you’ll get your wish. I’m going to predict two love birds making a glorious escape just in the nick of time.”
“Hand me some popcorn, will you?” Lisa said.
Tim reached next to him and touched the greasy, paper bag on the chair to his right. He placed his hand inside the bag and was so shocked by what he felt that he withdrew his hand as if he had just touched a hot stove. Was that a slimy, round texture? Tim had to make sure that his imagination had not got the upper hand on him in that moment. But if only he could see. He did not want to touch whatever it was in that bag again. If only he had not left his damn phone in the car so he could shed some light.
“Hey Lis?” Tim said.
“Do you think you could pull out your phone and shine a light for me?”
“I left mine in the glove box. Same as you.”
Tim had a disquieting realization in that moment. He had not heard a single peep out of any of the other moviegoers in the theater since right after the lights had went out. How could everyone else be this quiet? When Tim sat down near the center, he saw at least a dozen other people scattered around in seats both behind and in front of him and Lisa.
Tim slowly ventured his arm back over to the bag of what was supposed to be popcorn. He ran his hand over the side of the bag and felt a cluster of perfectly rounded bumps, each the same size as the next. He could feel the soft texture of each one and pictured individual balls of gelatin that refused to bunch up together. How was this possible? If that wasn’t popcorn, then what the hell was it? Was someone pulling a very elaborate prank right now? There was no way he would hand Lisa that bag or mention the situation if she questioned him. The last thing he wanted was for her to be deathly afraid in a dark place. But he supposed he felt that same way himself at that very moment. Better him than her. Tim took a deep breath and lightly touched the top of the contents in the bag. Just as he suspected. Cold, jelly-like balls of slime. Gross. He wiped his hand on the top of the seat.
“Lisa, you don’t want this popcorn,” Tim said. “It tastes stale.”
Tim waited for her response.
“Lisa?” he said in a shaky voice that Tim tried to keep under control. Tim reached over to his left, but all he felt was an empty chair. He patted it down and rubbed it vigorously. She was gone. Springing to his feet, Tim half whispered, half shouted in a panic, “Lisa? Lisa? Where are you?” He paced down the aisle and felt every seat. Empty. Empty. Empty. “Is anyone there?” Tim’s voice was approaching hysteria. “I’m trying to find my wife!”
“Sit down,” came a low, hissing voice from somewhere in the back. “The show is about to start.”
“Who’s that?” Tim shouted back. “Where is Lisa? Where is everyone?”
“I said sit down, young man.”
“I can’t see a thing!”
Just then a burst of white light lit up the room for a half second before it turned completely dark again. It was enough time for Tim to see the floor of the aisle he had left behind but nothing else. Tim felt a strong desire to take his chances for the exit and make a run for it, but his nagging instincts convinced him to obey the mysterious voice. Knees shaking, Tim felt each chair once again as he slowly made his way to the center of the aisle. The burst of light flashed again, illuminating the entire theater for less than a second. It was like a bolt of lightning, brief and coming from a source he could not see. This time Tim saw the vacant seats that he knew had once been occupied. He also caught a glimpse of Lisa’s seat but couldn’t tell if it was still empty. There looked to be someone sitting there, but he wasn’t sure if it was Lisa. He felt his way to his own seat and took a seat a deep and shuddering breath.
At the same moment Tim looked down at the seat to his right, the light flash revealed the popcorn bag. It was filled to the top with eye balls. Tim gasped at the sight.
“You came here to be scared, right?” The voice said.
“All I wanted was to watch a movie!” Tim wailed. “What is going on?”
The light flashed yet again. The intervals of flashes were becoming more closely spaced. Tim saw a bony, skinless skeleton hand touch his own. He darted his hand back to his chest. Before he could let out a gasp, the next flash of light revealed the face of the skeleton. The split second was all Tim needed to take in every detail - the two sinkhole eye sockets swirling with worms, the chipped nose, and a wide open mouth with half its teeth missing.
Just then the movie screen lit up like a grand finale firework. Tim shielded his eyes from the brilliant white glow. A moment later when his eyes were finally able to adjust to the brightness, Tim looked and saw a lone figure. It was a silhouette of a man walking. As the figure took each step, it grew bigger and bigger. Tim dared not blink at this unbelievable sight. Then a ripple appeared on the screen like a portal and the figure stepped through it. The dazzling light intensified as the figure made it to the other side into the real world. Tim’s eyes immediately widened like at no other point during that crazy night.
Jack Knifeton, in his silver steel mask and tattered trench coat, was standing at the very front of the theater in front of the movie screen. He was holding a knife dripping with blood. The portal behind him dissipated into expanding ripples that faded away.
“Tim, please help!” Came a terrified voice. Tim instantly recognized it as his wife’s voice. He looked to the front left corner and spotted her. Lisa stood shaking behind a front row chair while gripping it fiercely and staring wide eyed at Jack Knifeton.
Jack turned only his head toward Lisa and glared at her through his mask for a moment. Lisa squealed and backed away down the side aisle toward the exit. Jack inched his way toward Lisa, each step calculated and menacing.
“Lisa!” Tim said as he finally snapped out of his daze. He bolted to the edge of the aisle and down the stairs. After a quick affectionate touch on the shoulder, Tim placed himself between her and the man with the knife. “Let’s get out of here.”
Tim and Lisa scurried to the exit without either one glancing over their shoulder. As they entered the lobby area, they were greeted by a young man in a red movie theater uniform and khaki pants. “Are you enjoying the production this evening?” He said.
Out of breath, Tim fumbled through his words, trying his best to articulate what had just happened through labored breaths despite his total shock. “Th-there… man with a knife… and… movie screen…”
“Indeed, that is certainly one of our scariest productions that we have showing here,” said the movie theater worker with a grin plastered on his face.
“You don’t understand,” Lisa said while stepping toward the man, her eyes big and pleading. “There was a man who came out of the movie screen… with a knife!”
“And everyone just disappeared!” Tim added. “I found a bag of eyes where my popcorn should have been and a skeleton for God’s sake! Call the police, damn it!”
“We make sure all of our guests have the utmost thrill when they come to our theater,” said the man in the red with that same robotic grin. “And we never disappoint.”