Thursday, February 19, 2015

2/19/15

Virtual Sacrifice
By Peter McMillan


"You got nothing to worry about," the man said. "He's gotta chew off my arm to get away."

The screen was grayish-white, and the intro music faded. It was dead quiet in the theater.

Nothing happened right away, so naturally I started imagining what was going on, what was coming next.

My first thought was that the guy with the speaking part had a muzzled dog on a biker harness—it was that kind of voice—and was taking it for a walk in the park. But that was boring.

Then, I pictured two men locked into a single set of handcuffs. It wasn't clear which had spoken or why. Maybe they were in a diner, ordering at the counter? Better, but hardly original.

Recalling a recent story I'd read that may or may not have been in theNewerYork, I conjured up a geeky little git with a Disney watch knock-off that featured holograms for sociopaths or sociopath-groupies. Now, that WAS different.

The last one came alive, and as I was inching back in my seat to avoid the watch hologram's grasping hand tentacles, a woman laughed heartily. That's twisted, I thought. Behind me two voices gasped—in horror, excitement, I really couldn't tell, though it seemed more appropriate. In front there was sobbing, muffled—a bit premature I felt—and on my left two young children were squealing precociously. I was shocked and repulsed by these reactions, but frankly I was a bit preoccupied with keeping this monster's fangs or claws or whatever they were from ripping me out of my seat.

Shrinking as far back in my seat as I could I banged heads with the person behind me who must have been trying to help but didn't. I collapsed, fell forward, and when I came to the monster had disappeared. My visor was on the floor. The screen was still empty and the audience was getting impatient. In the back of the theater it started—the stamping of feet and the chanting—and like a huge wave it rolled to the front.

I was just about to leave, having had my fill of this absurd theater, but I was promptly stopped by a beefy couple standing between me and the aisle.

“You can't leave now,” said the woman as her partner twisted my arms in their sockets.

“But—“

“It's you it wants, and it's coming back,” she said, picking up my visor and handing it to me.

“This is ridiculous. What are you talking about? There's no movie. There's nothing. Just a blank screen.”

“It's not the screen everybody's watching,” she added. “It's you. You're 'the sacrifice.' Kind of ironic, don't you think?”

“I'm not getting any irony, just a bad headache and sore shoulders from Vince, here.”

“Surely, you had some idea what you were getting into here? It can't be advertised and marketed because it's the underground. You must've heard though—and this is the thrill that keeps people coming back—that for every crowd that comes in one person doesn't come out … quite the same.”

“Besides,” the guy who looked like a Vince added, “yours is the best yet, and everybody's dying, so to speak, to see how it ends.”


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