Monday, June 1, 2015

The Mark of the Vampire, Part One

Running the candy counter at the old Majestic theater was always a drag, especially during the winter time. The owner hated paying for heat and thus allowed his theater to be as chilly as possible, something more than one old woman had complained to Derek about. Not that there was anything Derek could do about it: he was just a general worker dressed in black slacks and a sparkly purple vest.

The front doors opened, letting in a blast of frigid air as a bundled up girl came in, slowly unfastening her jacket to reveal a thick mane of red hair. Her eyes dark and mysterious, her movements subtle, Derek had fallen in love with her in an instant.
Six months ago.
“Hey Derek,” she greeted him, walking up to the candy counter. Underneath her jacket was the long-sleeved white shirt that they both wore their vests. “Pass me my vest, would ya?”
“Sure thing Monica,” Derek said, reaching under the candy counter, skipping over the shotgun that the manager had placed here after they’d been robbed at gunpoint once, to grab the folded vest. He took her thick coat and folded it in half, sliding it into the shelf by the gun in place of the vest.
“Thanks,” Monica said as she unfolded her vest. Slowly pulling it on, Derek felt the heat rise to his face as he stared at Monica’s chest as it heaved up and down. Thankfully, his dark skin rarely showed a blush and he was able to avert his eyes before she saw him.
He grabbed a rag and some cleaning spray, passing them over to Monica. “Dave says we need to clean the doors, then the cases.”
“Nice of you to save that job for me,” Monica drawled, shaking her head.
“Hey! I’ve been behind this counter for five hours and had three guests to see that weird French movie.”
“The one about the shoes?” Monica asked, scrunching up her nose.
“No, the one about the lady that dies giving birth to her sister, we took the shoe one down because it wasn’t bringing in enough customers,” Derek rolled his eyes. “I don’t know where Dave finds these movies, but he really needs to find one that’ll breathe some life into this place. He needs to see if we can show a newer movie, something that isn’t foreign!”
Both doors to the front flew open, gusts of wind carrying in a virtual blizzard of snowflakes as a man tromped in, a circular case under his arm. A thick scarf around his neck trailed behind him, a deep color red, which matched his jacket. He was tall, with a long beard, at least to the middle of his chest, which he’d woven into a single thick braid. He had deep-set eyes, eyes that darted around the old theater, eyes that glittered like gold as his face broke into a wide grin. Monica moved past him to close the doors, fighting to keep the snow from flowing into the lobby as this man stood by and stared at everything.
He moved past Monica and up to the candy counter, settling his canister down on the counter gently as he stared in wonderment at the drawings of the dancing popcorn and sodas. Running his hand down his braided beard, he finally looked Derek in the eye, a wide smile stretching across his face.
“Hello, their young man! Would you happen to know where the manager of this fine establishment is?” The man asked, one hand moving to the circular canister as if he didn’t want to lose track of it.
“Yeah… I can radio him and have him down here if you’d like…” Derek said, looking at the man with slight trepidation.
“Of, do so at once my good man, I have an offer of a lifetime for him!” The man patted the case gently with his wrinkled hands.
Derek pulled the radio up, calling Dave from his office in the back. He didn’t sound terribly happy to be interrupted but said he would be up in a moment. The man walked around the lobby, looking over the various movie posters in their cases, making excited noises every time he came upon a new one. When Dave rounded the corner in his beige sweater, the man spun on his heel to greet him.
“You must be the manager of this fine establishment?” The man asked, looking Dave up and down.
Dave was an older man, mid-forties, with a balding spot and a paunch that made him sort of lumber about when he walked. He held out a hand in greeting, which the man took hold of, clasping it in earnest while pumping it up and down.
“How can I help you, sir?” Dave asked his voice passive and calm.
“No, I think the question is how I can help you! You see, back when I was a younger man I was a filmmaker. I made films about the horrors of our world and traveled the globe to find the right locales to film in. I heard this theater plays older films and those that the banal would deem as worthless. So I brought you a film to play,” the man said, nodding towards the film canister.
Dave sighed and crossed his arms. “Well, we appreciate that very much and are always looking to support the indie crowd, but we don’t have any room in our budget for another film right now.”
“Oh that’s the beauty of it,” the man enthused. “I don’t want your money. I want a place to show my movies! A chance to see them dance upon the silver screen once again would be a dream come true. All I would ask is that you play my movie here twice a day, and that should it help, ahem, drum up business, to entertain the idea of allowing more of my films to grace the theater.”
Dave stared at the strange man for a moment, before turning to look at Derek. Monica walked up behind the man and asked if he would like anything to drink.
“No thank you, my dear,” he responded, his eyes never leaving Dave.
Monica moved to the counter, turning to lean against it to watch the business transaction take place. She didn’t have to wait long.
“What kind of movie is it?” Dave asked swiftly.
“Oh, a true classic, a horror tale of the gruesome vampire as it stalks its prey, and the hunters who seek to slay it. The hook is that in this movie, the monster wins!”
“What rating would you give it? This canister looks old, so were there even ratings when you made this?” Dave asked, looking back at the canister.
“There is no nudity or overt swearing; though some of the scenes where the vampire catches a victim can be a little… messy.” The man said with a sinister smile.
“So PG-Thirteen? Not bad… alright, what’s your name again fella?” Dave said, rubbing his chin.
“I never gave it. My name is Dr. Gould,” the man said, sweeping low into a bow.
Dave smirked. “Dave Swakinski, how ya doing? Now Dr. Gould, you want us to show this film without payment?”
“Yes, I would like to see this theater restored to its former glory, and I think the crowds will enjoy my movie more than some French art film, to say the least.” Dr. Gould chuckled, waving towards the canister. “The Mark of the Vampire. That’s the title of the movie. If you have success, I would like to have one night a week to showcase any of my other movies.”
“Hell, that seems fair,” Dave said, crossing his arms. “If this film does what you say it can do, I’ll let you have a full day of movies!”
Dr. Gould smiled and held out a withered hand. “So we have a deal?”
Dave clasped the doctor’s hand and shook it a few times. “Sure, we’ll just watch the movie first to make sure the rating will fit and then we’ll be good to go.”
“Perfect. I’ll come back to see how everything is going soon, so just enjoy the movie,” Dr. Gould said, an odd smile gracing his features. “Until then, ta-ta.”
And with a flourish of his long coat, the man turned and made his way out of the theater, leaving the three workers in a daze as the old man marched out into the icy snowstorm. Dave looked over at Derek and Monica before clearing his throat.
“Well, that was interesting. Derek, why don’t you go and load the movie up in theater two so Monica and I can watch it.” Dave said, moving to look over the counter with veiled interest. “And give me some skittles; I got a sweet tooth today.”
Derek rolled his eyes and handed him the small bag of candy before grabbing the canister and moving to the “Employee’s Only” doorway.

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