Author Topic: "My Time as a Movie Theater Projectionist" (2014, Weird Fiction)  (Read 236 times)

Xepera maSet

This is one of the weird fiction stories I have written. This one was written in 2014.

Purple had never been my favorite color before I began running the projection booth at the local cinema, that previously rundown little multiplex just north of the town on the Indian reservation. In fact, my favorite color had been green – blue before that - and I had always frowned upon purple as “feminine” or some other, random irrational reasoning that escapes my memory. Nowhere was purple to be found where it could be avoided, existing around me only in a poster or two in my home or on the cover of a notebook randomly selected from the local store. I am not sure when I noticed that each tie I bought for my job now contained purple in some aspect - whether it be purple in its entirety or simply having purple in the design - or that the amount of purple in my wardrobe was dramatically and quickly increasing. In fact, I cannot even tell you – despite my well known ability to psychoanalyze myself among others - what it was about purple that drew me too it. No, the first and only life change I can think of in relation to purple is the purple walls of the booth where I worked my first job as a digital projectionist.

I am not sure why the walls were purple, I never did learn for certain – though I heard a few theories - and I certainly will not go back to that building ever again, even to test my modern hypothesis. My superior once asked my general manager about the strange hue of purple paint, and she explained that the CEO had simply wanted the walls to be purple. I had and still have no reason to believe she was lying or otherwise knew differently – though my time amongst that darkness, swirling electricity, and the continuously whirling and beeping machines certainly impacted my ability to think about the objective world around me – so far as we humans define “objectivity”, that is. For some reason this example irked me though. For instance, if the creator, owner, and president of the company felt that the walls truly should be purple for whatever reason, why was the job so poorly done? Why had paint gotten all over the wires and the floors, been painted on with the skill of a toddler, or left an entire white section on the back wall revealing all that remained of the beautiful, bright, white-painted and carpeted booth of the old theater?

I heard another explanation at the location however, from a strange young heroin addict who use to inhabit the same position as myself. It is no secret that my coworker had a serious drug addiction to heroin, cocaine, LSD, and even more substances in an almost comically fake-seaming love for highs and lows of all different kinds – but still he managed to carry some air of respect. Not to everyone, of course, but similar to the way a mystic carries an air of respect in the eyes of those not so bound to materialistic realism. I personally respected him, though I certainly understand why somebody would feel dissimilar. Irrelevant of all this,, he was not the only one backing this strange theory, as I had other coworkers tell me similar things, and the majority of the staff had their own stories to tell of experiences in that booth and the other areas of the old building.

To give the whole picture, I have talked to these individuals again, put events in chronological order, and believe I can present them clearly and unbiasedly, trying to bypass any sort of mystical inclinations that come my way, in hopes that, at the very least, someone will take a look into matters of that projection booth, and rebuild that accursed and unsettling stairwell if necessary.

First, I might as well talk about the nature of the booth, the building around it, and the ancient town in general. Strange things apparently used to happen quite often in the area for the first half of the 20th century, but now such stories seemed superstitious and silly at best. There had not been many strange occurrences out of the town since 1937, when something saddening – according to the tales – had happened surrounding the death of a young writer in the area. I never got a full understanding of events, though that is mostly due to my own disinterest in the topic, and not a lack of gossip and useless hypothesizing of older residents in the town. Some of the stories of old told quite magnificent tales filled with quantum mysticism and spiritual mathematics, and while they often bordered on the down-right ridiculous, I later came to see some truth in the more clear minded remembrances of old.

Just north of the town, even sharing a rode, existed an old Indian reservation upon which the theater and surrounding strip mall rested, as well as a blooming new casino, owned by the tribe whose name I can no longer remember. It was a valley like area between looming ancient mountains and forests, quite peaceful and beautiful for those able to see past the wild old stories of terror. Indeed, I can currently assure you that my story will never reach those insane heights of others who lived, and continue to live, in the area. Rather I think my experience, and the experiences of my coworkers, is due to the nature of the projection booth itself, and not the supposedly aeon-cursed mountains surrounding it.

The strip mall itself was nothing too impressive when the original theater had been put in, though by the time of the renovation the mall had evolved quite greatly in comparison to its original state. Popular sports bar franchises, sub shops, clothing stores, technology stores, huge retail marketplaces, burger shops, fast food, and all related natured stores came to populate the once small and dying strip mall. Soon the population shifted from strictly older generations to that of all generations, cultures, creed, or skin colors. Yes, gouging oneself on food, material items that are unneeded, and the mindless cinema of the modern day is the one thing to bring these citizens together. They would flock to the tax free tobacco shop and sports bars on the weekends, stopping into movies before and after so often that eventually the theater had to expand to the point where it had 13 houses.

The theater itself was quite beautiful and welcoming. A full bar (despite the fear of alcoholism this tribe carried), servers in every theater, some of the most competent managers, ushers, concessionists, and projectionists a movie theater could ever hope to house, and, of course, a very loyal group of beloved customers. The floors had some nauseatingly ugly carpet all throughout the promenade and in all the theaters, though the lobby, housing the concessions stand and box office, had neatly tiled and perpetually clean floors. Theater size varied from great, sloping theaters to tiny theaters meant only for adults out on romantic, binge drinking experiences. Servers and bartenders were tipped well, and we brought in even more guests when we eventually closed our adult theaters off to higher paying customers in a better treated side of the building.

The one place that differed from the busy, interpersonal floors of the bustling cinemas was the key code locked stairwell and dark projection booth above which the stairs led to. Most people did not even consider the idea of a human projectionist in such a modern, automated day, and an important job of hard work, constant alertness, and, of course, the mental effects of that dreaded crypt of 35mm film, when mostly unnoticed. Even the other employees, so separated from the world of the booth, turned blind eyes to the work of the projectionists, writing them off as lazy and their jobs off as overly simple.

The projection booth was rather large, the stairwell opening on one of the far sides to the left of the very first projector, extending all the way across the building to cover all 13 houses. The floors were pitch black with white specks in the ground – once having been brightly white and carpeted – and the walls were painted a strange hue of dark purple as I have mentioned already. Each side of the long hallway housed half of the projectors for the theater – old machines from the earliest days of modern digital cinema so run down that at least half had to be constantly watched and manually run. I have no idea how much each of them may have weighed, but they certainly were greater than any one individual could deal with. The constant, originally deafening and eventually unrecognized humming of the projectors’ power spread through every corner of the area, even into the theaters at times when the sound of a movie was low or nonexistent. Even with the lights all on the booth seemed to be a place of inherent darkness, obviously due to the dark coloring of the black floor and purple walls. Many projectionists tended to simply keep the lights off all together, and it was recognized as strange that there was a slight change in each projectionists’ personality a few months after their promotion, including a desire to keep all the booth lights off whenever possible.

Now I may as well discuss the story behind the purple walls which my coworkers had shared with me, as it was, anyways, the first story of an unusual nature that I heard after being hired and trained for the booth. As stated, the theater was on an Indian reservation north of the town, and the tribe had a say in all the goings on of the strip mall and 13 theaters which rested on its land. Before the opening of the theater, some sort of shaman or tribal leader – as I am told – had to come in to bless the building before the newly renovated cinema could be opened. However, as explained to me by third parties, the man refused to give the blessing to open the business unless the walls of the projection booth, and the exterior walls of the front of the building, were painted purple. He explained – to those I learned all this from – that purple was a symbol of luck in the tribe whose land we were working on, and it was used to wave off evil and dark spirits of different natures. Like the rest of the area, this tribe had some especially strange, larger than life superstitions about the land between those altar topped mountains. They told of spirits of darkness that could come from anywhere, and at any time, and cause all sorts of chaos, mischief, and fear. It was claimed that the previous theater had gone out of business based on waves of extremely bad luck alone – which, of course, ignores many other aspects of running such a business in such an area that should be placed before superstition – due to the nature of its pure white walls of the booth and exterior, and the white carpet of the former. Obviously, whether this story trumps my general manager’s or not, the booth had to be and ended up being painted the strange shade of purple.

This was, by far, not the only superstitious tale I heard from the booth in my time at the theater. Here I will share the few that truly stand out and seem to fit what I truly, personally experienced in the booth of dark colors, dim lighting, and crazily whirling machinery. After, with this background on the location, story of its opening, and stories from a few of the employees, I will share with you my own experience that scared me so deeply as to cause me run out of that beloved workplace in the middle of my shift, without so much as an explanation, and without returning for my final paycheck.

The first story I learned of was from the general manager herself. I learned rather quickly - after I, like so many before me started keeping the booth in perpetual darkness – that my general manager was scared of the darkness of the attic like area and refused to have the lights off while she was there. If the lights were already off she would turn them on upon ascending the stairs, and I began to think that maybe people liked the lights off so that they knew if she was coming. Yet one day, I decided to inquire about the habit, as I found it strange for a grown woman to be so scared of being in an inhabited and safe area without any light source. What she told me was not much, except that she had experienced something strange while closing once in the early days of the new theater. She had been walking past the desk near the back of the booth, the one that sat by the strangely blank, white space on the back wall, when she heard a strange sound coming from somewhere behind her. Being in the industry for over 20 years, she was rather used to the weird noises that trickled out of the projectors even in this digital age. However, as she told me a year or so after the incident, this was like nothing she had heard in her time working in theaters. It sounded, originally, like some sort of steam shooting out from somewhere with a hiss – a thought that she quickly eliminated due to the fact that there is no reason for any steam to be in the projection booth, and knowing for a fact there was indeed not. As she got closer to the sound she swears she saw something moving across the floor from a distance, near where the sound may have been coming from. She did not put much stock into it from the start, as the dark colors and massive electromagnetic field of the booth were well known for causing such semi-hallucinations. However, the shape – or what she qualified as a shape despite a gut feeling it was no such thing – continued to squirm, wriggle, and otherwise move across the floor in a way that was just plain strange. As she cautiously approached she realized that the hissing sound seemed to be coming from the strange thing before her, though whether it meant to make the sound or not she had no possible way of knowing. She described the hissing as some sort of strange mix between the archetypal sound of a snake as well as that of an angry or scared feline, and she continued approaching until she could almost touch it. Yet, right at the moment she almost made contact, the thing made a horrible, more aggressive noise and bolted away faster than anything she had ever seen in her life. She had fled from the booth with some kind of subconscious terror, shaking and scared almost to the point of tears, and from then on refused to be in the booth without full lights and, preferably, someone with her.

The second story came from an assistant manager who worked at the theater in my early days, the man who first started training me for projection and whom I still have a close friendship with after all these years. He had started out as a projectionist before being promoted, and knew the booth well. On top of this, despite being rather skeptical about most occurrences of a supposedly supernatural nature, he was extremely interested in spiritualism, occultism, and hauntings – common interests that led to our eventual friendship and to the telling of his tale. It seems that he had been closing the building alone one night when he heard what he claimed to be the loudest noise to ever reach his ear coming from one side of the building. Considering the thickness of the walls, the other movies in progress, and the sheer distance from his location the noise originate from, he assumed that something else must have happened, perhaps with one of the sound systems in one of the auditoriums. He quickly began investigating, and quickly realized that the sound was coming from the key code locked door leading up to the dark and near lightless projection booth. Again the sound came, and the entire door and wall in front of him began shaking. Customers from some of the closest auditoriums began coming to investigate and complain, yet froze in shock when they witnessed the force against the locked door that my manager was staring at in disbelief. Finally, after about another full minute, deliberation began on what may be causing the strange phenomena and what to do about it. It was decided that the only thing to do was to open the door and encounter what was on the other side. Slowly my manager approached the door and began typing in the lock combination, while customers stayed close behind him for support. Gently he was turning the knob for the door, when it unexpectedly flung open as if from a burst of wind. There was a horrible shrieking, and everyone present swore they felt the strange wind fly back into the stairwell and back up the creaking stairs. That night was the rare occasion where customers got to enter the purple painted hallways of movie running machines, and they were more than willing to stay together with my manager and investigate the cause of the disturbance. However, much to their surprise (and relief), nothing ever came of the investigation.

The final story came from my supervisor I mentioned earlier, the former head projectionist and future assistant manager of the building. His was not as straight forward as the other two, as he had experienced much in his time upstairs. On many occasions during a different shifts through the years he had experienced strange things in the building, especially up those dreaded stairs. Mainly the experiences consisted of simply viewing some perceived shape out of the corner of his eye, or hearing some perceived sound in his ear. Problems would arise with the equipment that made no logical sense – something I experienced many times myself – and overall he simply felt that there was something strange, wrong, or simply not normal about the area of the cinema in which he then worked. A strange individual, he eventually began to tell me that the booth seemed to exist is some reality or dimension ever so slightly off from that of our normal, objective world. A student of mathematics and occultism, he told me that perhaps the angle of the stairwell was ever so strangely and accidently perfectly angled as to lead to another dimension, or to some parallel area of space other than the one normally inhabited. The strange occurrences, as explained by my superior, were the effect of either creatures or shapes from some other universe or dimension that also happened to at least partially stumble upon the space the booth occupied. We never got a full picture, and the way they acted compared to the way coworkers acted in the booth suggested they were completely alien in nature.

What to think of this, I still have no idea. As a student of psychology, rather than mathematics, nothing he said honestly made much sense, and still doesn’t to this day. Perhaps what he and others experienced were, indeed, simple tricks of the mind, a much sounder theory compared to that of superstition and alternate realities. Yet, at the same time, I cannot deny those experiences I, myself had at that strange and mentally jarring first job. Now, I believe, is as good a time as any to touch upon some of my own experiences in the darkened and extended hallway, and to share the idea that entered my mind with such force that I ran from the building never to return.

I don’t have much more to add about the things actually perceived in the booth, the experiences and thoughts of those mentioned above do the whole thing far more justice. It is true that I often witnessed strange things out of the corner of my eye, heard strange and sometimes hissing like sounds, and even began to believe that my mindset, and the general nature of my surrounding world, was ever so different when I spent any significant amount of time in the booth of that theater. As I said, my nature almost began to change, and I was slowly drawn more and more to that mystical color of purple that was supposed to protect the theater from creatures of darkness and evil. My interest also changed, and I became more and more fascinated with occultic views on space, time, and dimensions, as well as mystical takes on psychology, mathematics, and physics. I was drawn to darker and darker works of some of the stranger occultists of our time and times before, even spending time reading ancient manuscripts housed in the college library. Others noticed these changes in me as well around this time, and objectively validate the things I later came to notice about my own nature.

Nothing ever had truly terrified me at my job however, and I had no experience even slightly rivaling that of my manager and general manager. No, what drove me from that horrible plane of existence was a thought that entered my head abruptly and shattered my mind so that I did not originally think I would ever think clearly again or sleep soundly at night. It was around the time I first started to notice changes in myself. As said, I had begun studying darker and more complicated occultism, as well as the folklore of the town, and seem to have been subconsciously connecting the dots of all the theories, myths, and experiences surrounding those purple walls and theoretical creatures of the darkness or other dimensions. It was sometime in this point, during a very late shift, that my mind was suddenly and unignorably drawn to the blank white spot on the wall that I had unconsciously looked at so many times before. Suddenly terror gripped me and my heart beat faster for reasons my conscious mind had not yet touched upon. I seemed drawn to that unpainted spot on the wall, and began moving objects that had sat there for the past two years out of the way for me to examine it closely. As I reached out my hand I half expected to fall through some sort of gap or vortex straight out of sci-fi horror, but of course no such thing happened. I was about to turn away when I noticed something strange in the natural texture of the wall, and as I moved my face and eyes closer my brain finally connected with my soul and rapidly beating heart, and finally I realized what I had unconsciously perceived in the whiteness of the wall. All the little textures, rather than being still and unmoving, squirmed and writhed almost rhythmically in the wall, as though I was looking through a window of space into some horrifyingly alien alternate reality of dancing, sentient, and repulsive shapes. Of course I cannot say whether what I experienced was real or mere delusion, and I certainly do not plan on entering the building, let alone ascending the soul-frightening stairs, ever again. Suffice to say, this is the moment when my courage and loyalty gave out and sent me running for my sanity from that theater between the ancient mountains and forgotten myths.

What will come of this tale I do not know. It is mixed in with some of the strangest and most cosmic tales of our time, palling in comparison to the myths of the area and being comparatively simple in nature. Even after these few years I question the experience I had that frightful night before charging down the stairs, across the lobby, and out the doors without saying a word to anyone. The chances of it being mere delusion seem high, especially considering my altered mindset and interests. Yet I cannot shake the feeling that, beyond all explanation, that projection booth does indeed reside in a slightly different space than our regular, waking world, and further within the space is a window to one space infinitely more horrible and frightening and alien than anything imaginable – a window which sometimes things may wriggle through and interact with, tease, and possibly harm sane men and women of the building.

« Last Edit: August 16, 2017, 07:24:07 pm by Xepera maSet »
AKA: Three Scarabs, 1137

"There dawned within me a quality which I had not known before - an impulse to become one, apart from and independent of God - and I drifted long in unrest, afflicted by confusion and doubt."

Xepera maSet

Re: "My Time as a Movie Theater Projectionist" (2014, Weird Fiction)
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2017, 05:20:06 pm »
The story is actually not too far off, it's a Lovecraftian telling of what we all truly experienced in that booth, which makes it scarier imo. Those who know me are well aware that the booth was a place of change for me and others.
AKA: Three Scarabs, 1137

"There dawned within me a quality which I had not known before - an impulse to become one, apart from and independent of God - and I drifted long in unrest, afflicted by confusion and doubt."

Xepera maSet

Re: "My Time as a Movie Theater Projectionist" (2014, Weird Fiction)
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2018, 01:02:35 am »
Bumped just because I'm sure many missed it
AKA: Three Scarabs, 1137

"There dawned within me a quality which I had not known before - an impulse to become one, apart from and independent of God - and I drifted long in unrest, afflicted by confusion and doubt."