Portia’s hand tightens excitedly on Reed’s hand. The screen flashes brilliantly, only for a moment, and then goes dark. It’s the kind of sudden change in light that disorients. Where your mind can’t keep up with your eyes and the darkness seems to swirl with color. 

The theater seems pitch black. Any second, Reed thinks, the credits will roll and the theater will again fill with light. Any second, he’s sure, there will be the shuffle of feet, the excited murmurs of couples or friends or lone strangers seeking conversation. Popcorn will crunch and ice will rattle. They’ll make their way outside into the sunny evening. Such a strange feeling leaving a movie theater when it’s still light outside. 

Time passes. It’s impossible to tell how much. Still the darkness.  

Reed squeezes his hand where Portia’s had been only a moment before. It was only a moment, right? Reed thought. How long is that space between a movie and its credits? He finds himself unable to remember for sure. 

Is he sitting or standing? Where is Portia? He tries to whisper her name but only air comes out. A sort of huff. He tries again but it seems no words can escape him. Should he try to scream? Should he start jumping up and down or stomping his feet or clapping his hands? 

Clapping, he thinks, yes clapping, just clapping. Some people clap at the end of movies. If he claps surely the film will be over and people might scoff or sneer but at least the darkness will finally end. 

He moves to clap his hands together to find that there is only air wherever his hands should meet. I just can’t see them, he thinks, and tries again. As he continues to try he becomes acutely aware that he isn’t moving anything after all. There is nothing of him to move. No hand to hold Portia’s or clap his other, no feet to stomp, no mouth to speak or scream out of. 

Portia, he tries again. Wind doesn’t even escape him now. Should he cry? Could he even cry? 

Is he asleep? Dead? 

He doesn’t feel dead, but then what does death even feel like? What would he have died from? How does one die between the end of a film and its credits? Perhaps an explosion? Perhaps a sudden aneurism when the screen went dark? That’s what people pray for when someone dies right? An instant death, no pain, just a flash and then darkness. Was that what the flash was at the end of the film? 

What had the film been of anyway? He seemed to remember only bits. There was a car chase scene in New York. Or maybe a boat chase in the narrowed canals of Venice. He remembers the audience gasping. And there was Portia’s hand, always, always he’d been holding it tightly. He didn’t need to see her during the movie, only to feel her hand squeezing his, only that to know that she was right there with him. 

No not dead. He couldn’t be dead. 

Asleep, then, he must have fallen asleep. The details he remembers from the film had certainly come from what his ears were hearing and what his hand was feeling but that his eyes weren’t seeing. Surely that was the explanation. 

Reed remembers watching DVD’s as a child and falling asleep on the couch only to wake up with the title menu on repeat. A familiar feeling. It felt almost the same as this. A sort of blackness where the memory of the movie should have been. 

Only if he was asleep when would he wake up? Surely Portia would have woken him if the movie was over. When would the credits roll? 

Can one see true darkness without eyes? Reed didn’t know. He couldn’t feel if his eyes were open or shut and so he gathered they simply weren’t there at all, like the rest of him. But if he wasn’t there then where was he? He had to be somewhere. At least his body did. 

He imagined his own body slumped over as the credits rolled. He imagined his hand going limp and cold inside Portia’s. Maybe he even wet himself. He thought of urine running down his legs into the new shoes Portia had bought him for his birthday only three days ago. 

But still if his body was there then where was here? He’s never believed in an afterlife but surely he’s never thought that if there was one it would just be this: an empty consciousness roaming the space between a movie and its credits. He was positive it couldn’t just be this. 

Purpose. He needed purpose, that would be his out. Think, Reed thought, think. Only he felt the strangest sensation he’d ever felt, even stranger than not having arms or legs or a mouth or eyes. He thought he was thinking, but he had no brain to think with. No head to catch his thoughts. 

His mind, or lack thereof, swirled. He felt woozy only he didn’t. Did he feel lightheaded? Can you even feel lightheaded in the dark? 

Were these his thoughts or simply words rushing past him? 

A purpose.

The credits. If only he could see the credits roll he would be okay. He tried to picture the name of the director, the name of any director, any writer or choreographer or actor from literally any movie. One name, only one name. 

The only one that came to him, wherever he was, was Portia. He found himself feeling that she would save him if he could still be saved. She would squeeze his hand or slap his face to wake him up or else give him chest compressions to bring him back to life. Portia, please, he believes he thinks, please. 

He waits. He has little else to do. He can wait forever if he needs to, but really it’s still only that space between the movie and the credits. He’s sure they’ll roll eventually. 

May 26, 2022 20:01

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Rama Shaar
03:42 Jun 02, 2022

I felt a pang of anxiety reading this. Not being able to scream is a feeling we all experience in our sleep from time to time and you captured it so well! I haven't experienced the permanent sleep yet, but I can imagine it being like you described! Well done!


Chris Riffle
20:04 Jun 02, 2022

Thank you! Really glad you liked the story!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.