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Science Fiction Drama Romance

“That little shit,”

He ran down the stairs, letting the heavy door of the study slam behind him. He’d heard a crash, some sort of loud noise. A nagging suspicion told him where it came from. Just as he feared, Din, his mischievous nephew had opened the door.

“What did I tell you?”

 Devrim tried to use a stern and commanding voice, but it failed. Din was far too enraptured by the room.

           The room was modest but packed to the rim with filing cabinets. A small desk with large stacks of paper placed against one wall sat across a projector screen. Plastered all over the wall were paintings and sketches, each depicting a scene. Some had a more ethereal quality than the rest. One in particular, a watercolor, fascinated Din.

“What’s this Uncle Dev?”

Devrim struggled to keep himself together. Every time he looked at that painting, two people holding hands in the illuminating light of a theater screen, it took him back. He wanted to say, it’s a bridge to the past, a monument to faded dreams, unrequited love and what could have been. But the boy wouldn’t understand.

           “It’s me, way back when, watching a film with someone,”

           “Who’s the second person?” Din asked.

           Devrim did not respond. He paced around in the room he had spent so many nights in. This was where he came to document bittersweet memories and wallow in past regrets. And so, at times it is a self-constructed prison, but it often served as a waystation to memory lane.

He smoothed the wrinkles on his forehead and passed his fingers through his gray hair.

“I guess if I don’t tell you, you’ll never stop asking.”

***

Like most of my teen years, on that particular day I was in the movie theater, bucket of popcorn in hand ready to sit in my favorite seat 5E. Best view in the theater. You didn’t need to strain your neck upwards or deal with the screen being too far away. As I strode along the aisles to my seat, someone was already there.

“Excuse me miss, that’s my seat,” I said.

“Says who?”

When she turned to me, a strange sensation arose in my stomach. Even in the darkened theater she was stunning. She had luxuriant black hair, full lips, and a piercing on her left eyebrow. But her eyes were what stood out. They were like a starry night sky, mysterious and alluring. I could look into those eyes forever and still not get the tiniest glimpse of her.

I stood there dumbfounded, ears buzzing. Without another word, she offered me the seat.

“This movies quite boring isn't it,” she said while snatching a handful of popcorn from my bucket.

“Hey!”

“You didn’t think I'd give up the best seat just like that, did you?” she said, tossing the handful of popcorn into her mouth.

I rested the bucket on the armrest so that we could both share.

“This is boring,” she said after several more handfuls of popcorn, “Lets sneak into another film.”

Before I could consider it, she had already gotten out of her seat. So, I followed close behind.

We walked down the hall past a few doors. Looking back on it, something strange happened. It got colder, and the lights dimmed to such a degree that they might as well have vanished. The more doors we passed the more we seemed to be leaving behind the familiar scents of buttery popcorn and stale recycled air. The pressure dropped, and the corridors were an endless cavern of doors and more doors. But with the swiftness of a snap, everything returned to normal. She stopped at a handle and pushed it open.

“Come on it’s about to start,”

As far as I could tell, no one but the two of us were there sitting together in the middle row.

The film started with soothing synths, drums, and other unfamiliar sounds, accompanied by an opening crawl:

‘Tell the story of Io dancing, curling, shining its silvery light on the home world. Turning and turning but never finding what she truly desires; the stars, the lovers of outer space, beckoning tulips on a cosmic wind...”

From that moment I became entranced. I lost myself in it, my emotions taken on a wild trip. The lows were akin to the bitter empty void of space, biting at my skin and making my heart stop. The highs were the warm embrace of hope. For what felt like hours, I had forgotten that she sat right next to me. What happened next made my heart start racing. She took my hand and held it.

 I didn’t want it to end, any of it. It was perfect. Two strangers in a dim theater bonding. It’s magical, something you would see in a cheap romcom. I didn’t care I just enjoyed the moment. When the film ended, I did the unthinkable. I leaned in, and she did the same.

Right as our lips touched, she stopped.

“Is something wrong?”

“Tell me what the film is about?” she whispered.

“I...I...”

I could not remember a single scene, character, or any semblance of a coherent plot.

“Why does that matter,” I said, my throat becoming drier by the minute.

“It matters a great deal. To Sleep in A Sea of Stars is not just any film, it’s a test and you failed.”

“I don’t...I don’t understand.”

“That’s right. Even if I tried to explain it, you wouldn't get it.”

I sat there feeling like the biggest idiot in the world.

“But I will try to make it simple for you. The film can only be understood by two people, it’s special that way. I’m one of them, you are just...”

“Devrim” I said.

“Yes. It’s better this way. I know how that sounds, how this all sounds. I’m sorry, truly. I thought you were the one I’ve been searching for. It seems I’m doomed to chase this one shadow, forever looking backward.”

Her last words could not contain what was underneath, a crushing emptiness. She got up and left.

“Wait, can I at least know your name?”

***

“I never saw her again. That started my lifelong search, the reason why I have this entire room. But every single lead has so far ended with disappointment. She seems to have vanished while the film we watched together lacks notoriety. The few reviews I managed to scrounge up are often as vague as my memories of it. Any chance of locating a copy has so far been futile. It’s all very strange. Yet, I have never been surer of anything then this: the film is the key.”

“Do you know who made the movie?” Din asked.

“That’s enough for today, why don’t you go back upstairs and leave your poor uncle alone for a while.”

When Din had gone,  he pulled out the seat to the desk and started scribbling on a sheet of paper. He found that this helped him travel back to the place he longed for, gazing at the movie screen, scenes flashing before his eyes, and his hand in hers. He would give anything to go back and so he kept on scribbling, determined to keep searching for even the slightest glimpse of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars.

July 16, 2022 01:05

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