A Trip to the Movies
A Trip to the Movies was first published in
Whispers From the Shattered Forum.
I've always had a fascination with the world coming to an end. What would
it be like, really? And if you knew you only had one day left to live, what
would you do? I explore these questions in A Trip To The Movies when a young
man does all he can to get to the theater.
A TRIP TO THE MOVIES by Bonnie Mercure
When the end of the world came to pass, Jay Jay went off to the movies. Walking
through his small town of Sheldington, surrounded by death, Jay-Jay whistled
a tune only he knew. A warped, disharmonious melody that sounded idiotic
even to his own ears. But the lyric held love, and that was all that mattered.
Nobody paid him any attention. Car horns blared in the street as people
unsuccessfully tried to get through pile-ups and traffic jams. Looters ran
off with their neighbors' house hold goods. Women and men cried over corpses
that littered the sidewalks and front lawns. Some people's sole purpose for
the rest of their short-lived lives seemed to be kneeling down and praying;
others wandered aimlessly, their faces a mirror of shock.
But not Jay Jay. He had a purpose, a destination. He was going to the movies.
A man with a bloody face and wild green eyes grabbed his arm. "Water?"
Jay Jay shook his arm free. "I'm sorry. I don't have any water."
That was a lie, but only a little one. Jay Jay had a half-gallon of water
hidden in his cellar, where he now slept since the bomb was dropped. But
couldn't be expected to race back there and bring it to the dying man, could
he? No, of course not.
The man dropped to his knees and hugged Jay Jay's sneakers. "I need
"Of course. We all do." Jay Jay tried to free his feet, but the dying
man had a tenacious grip. "Let me pass, sir. I do not wish to hurt you."
"Please," the man gasped.
Jay Jay rubbed his chin with his soot-covered fingers. The hospital had
become over run, but the people from the Red Cross had set up a tent in front
of it and were doing the best they could with the limited supplies they had.
He bent over and helped the man to his feet, then turned him in the direction
of the Red Cross. "Go three blocks down, then turn right. There's a big yellow
tent. They will help you."
"I'm dying," the man said, stumbling off.
"We all are," Jay Jay answered, even though the man couldn't hear him anymore.
"Some just sooner than others."
Jay Jay continued walking, darting around corpses and rubbish. A chemical-like
stench burned his lungs, and he kicked a black face mask out of his way.
Those army issued masks weren't going to do anyone a bit of good. Everyone
had been exposed to the after effects of the bomb. Jay Jay felt the radiation
deep in his pores.
He supposed in the bigger cities people had been alerted before the big one
hit. Perhaps those bigger cities even had bomb shelters where people had
been taken to. Jay Jay decided he didn't envy those people in the least.
They surely wouldn't show a movie in those dusty shelters.
Four blocks away now to the movie theater. He prayed he'd make it. He thought
back to a time (had it really been only less than a week?) when from his
house to across town where the theater was took only fifteen minutes. He'd
been walking now for what seemed like hours.
"Oh, no," Jay Jay said minutes later when he raised his head again. He'd
been keeping his eyes glued to the sidewalk, so he'd be sure he had a clear
path. Up ahead, about a block away, fire engulfed the street. Amid screams
for help, he heard the crackle of the fire as it spread toward him. A few
people who had escaped the flames raced his way. A woman whose skirt was
on fire landed flat on her face by his feet. She rolled over. Blood streamed
from her eyes, her nose, and her mouth.
Jay Jay looked at the woman then back at the fire. "This will not do," he
The woman gagged and clutched her throat.
"I know how you feel." Jay Jay turned and began to trek through once manicured
lawns and gardens that were now dead and brown. This way would take longer,
but he had to detour around the fire. He took long strides across dead, brown
grass; the stink of human waste and rotting flesh attacked his nose like
angry hornets. He stepped over a dead Black Lab, still chained to a doghouse.
The dog's master, an elderly man with white hair, lay beneath a pile of lawn
chairs; a puddle of blood surrounded him.
Jay Jay stopped and listened. A low whine had emerged from inside the doghouse.
He turned, and a tiny black puppy stumbled out. It sat next to its dead mother,
raised its head and sniffed the poisoned air, then let out a painful-sounding
Jay Jay looked off into the distance, then back at the puppy. The tune he
whistled sounded louder now, more dissonant.
Jay Jay scooped the puppy up in his arms. He peered at its tiny face, its
forlorn, dark eyes. "You've ever been to the movies?"
Ever so slightly, the puppy wagged its tail.
Jay Jay held the puppy close to his chest. "Not much time now. We must hurry."
* * *
The fire was contained, thank God. After cutting through about two blocks
worth of back yards, he could continue his journey on the sidewalk. "Two
more blocks," he said to the puppy.
Down the street, Jay Jay saw a huge, burly man on a motorcycle. The man rode
his Harley on the sidewalk and front lawns, the motorcycle sputtering
and back firing.
The man headed straight for Jay Jay, who made a beeline into the
street next to two overturned cars. The man stopped and hopped off his bike.
Blood spewed down the man's nose, staining his brown mustache. He took a
gun out of his leather jacket and pointed it at Jay Jay. "Come here," he
Not all that long ago the sight of a man carrying a weapon in Jay Jay's small
town would have been an incredible thing. Now it seemed completely normal.
Jay Jay stepped onto the sidewalk and looked up and down the block.
A teenage boy stood on a front lawn. He met Jay Jay's stare, wiped his nose
with the back of his hand, then slumped to the ground.
"Come closer," the man said.
Jay Jay stepped over broken glass and stood in front of the man. Recognition
sparked in his mind. He knew this guy. This was Joe the mechanic, who had
fixed the brakes on his truck last month.
"Joe? Remember me? I'm Jay Jay. You worked on my truck? You bought
me a cup of coffee while I waited."
The mechanic closed his finger around the trigger.
He squinted, peering at Jay Jay as if trying to remember something. His hand
holding the gun shook. "I would like to know something."
Jay Jay wrinkled his nose, a trickle of blood slid into his mouth. "What?'
Joe pulled the trigger.
Jay Jay felt the bullet wheeze past inches from his head. In back of him,
a car window shattered. The puppy whined.
Joe pointed the gun straight at its little black head. "I would like to know
something," he repeated. This time his question was directed at
Jay Jay covered the puppy's head with his hand. "What do you want to know,
Joe looked around, eyes wild and unblinking. His gaze settled on the teenage
boy lying on a front lawn up ahead. "Why did this happen?"
"It just did."
Joe looked away from the boy to the cars piled up on the street. A pale
arm hung from a car door that was jarred open.
"I'm just trying to get to the movies," Jay Jay said.
Joe focused on Jay Jay, as if just realizing he was there. "I remember
my parents taking me to the drive-in as a kid." His voice sounded far away.
"They don't have those anymore, do they?"
Jay Jay shook his head. Joe stared off blankly in the distance, a small
on his face. He lowered the gun.
Jay Jay shuffled his feet. "I really have to get to the theater. There's
not that much time left."
When Joe made no indication that he'd heard him, Jay Jay crept off, holding
the little Black Lab close to his chest. He waited for a shot in the back,
but it didn't come. He passed the teenager lying on the grass, eyes closed
and thumb stuck in his mouth.
A shot rang out.
Jay Jay turned, slowly, not really wanting to see where the bullet had
but not able to help himself.
His old mechanic lay sprawled on his back with a hole in his head.
Jay Jay quickened his pace.
* * *
Jay Jay held the little Black Lab in one arm while he opened the metal fence
that led to the back of the town's only movie theater. The theater looked
miraculously the same as it did last week: a red brick building, old but
in good shape. Grinning so hard his face hurt, he ran through the parking
lot and to the back door. He tuned the knob and pushed, but something obstructed
it from opening. He pushed all his body weight against the door and it gave
way a little. The next time he tried, someone pushed back from the other
"Hello? Linda? Mr. Mandray? This is Jay Jay."
"I mean no harm. I just want to see what the Friday night attraction is."
Still no answer. Jay Jay was about to hurl himself against the door again
when Linda opened it a crack and peeked through. "Have you lost your mind?"
"Not quite." It was good to see her. Even though her hair was matted and
blood dribbled from every orifice of her face, she looked beautiful.
"I have no extra water or food. Please go away."
"I'm not here to steal from you. I'd just like to come in."
Linda opened the door a bit more; her blue eyes gazed at him steadily.
"Please," Jay Jay said. "You don't know what I've been through to get here."
She didn't open the door any wider, but she didn't shut it, either. She squinted
at him, as if trying to figure him out.
"I brought you something." He showed her the little Black Lab.
Her eyes softened. She opened the door wider and pushed the chairs out of
the way that had been blocking the door. "At least you're still the same,"
"Why wouldn't I be?"
"You don't know how many crazy people tried breaking in here after it first
happened. Though for the last two days no one has been near here. When I
heard you trying to enter, I almost had a heart attack."
They stood in the lounge of the theater. Lush red carpeting surrounded them
like pools of blood. Up in front was the ticket booth, the concession stand,
then off to the left were three theaters. Not every movie made it to this
small town, but Jay Jay had seen many blockbusters here.
"But you know me," Jay Jay said. "Every Friday night I've been coming here
for as long as I can remember."
"I knew most of the other people, too. Mrs. Higgins, my old Sunday school
teacher, had a butcher knife and said if I didn't give her whatever water
and supplies we had she'd slit my throat. My father hit her in the head with
a baseball bat."
Jay Jay thought about his old mechanic and shuddered. "How's your father
She reached out and stroked the puppy's head. "He died two days ago."
She nodded, not looking at him but keeping her eyes on the puppy. "Since
he died I've been staying down here instead of going upstairs to our apartment.
I was afraid someone would break in here, but I also didn't want to be too
close to Dad's body." She wiped her eyes, looked at the smeared blood on
the back of her hand and let out a small sob.
He wanted to take her in his arms, comfort her.
"So why did you come here? Not just to bring me this puppy, I'm sure."
"I told you, to see what new movie is playing."
The way she looked at him, Jay Jay knew she wasn't buying it.
He took a deep breath, coughed blood into his hand. He smiled and wiped it
on the side of his jeans. He didn't know where to start; he'd been waiting
for this moment for so long. Finally, feeling enough courage, he said, "Remember
that old question: If you knew you had only one day to live, what would you
Linda nodded, grimacing.
"Well, I asked myself that same question. And you know what my answer was?"
She shook her head.
"To be with you."
Linda looked at him in confusion, as if waiting for the punch line. Jay Jay
went on, "Every Friday I've been coming here. It had more to do than my love
for movies. I mostly came to see you."
Now Linda blushed.
Jay Jay reached out and squeezed her hand. "I wanted to ask you out, but
I was afraid. I never thought it was the right time. . . .First you were
with that guy from another town, then, after you two split up, I was afraid
to ask you out on the rebound. I didn't
want to take the chance that you'd say no because you weren't ready yet."
Linda searched his face for a long time. "You should have asked me, Jay Jay."
* * *
"Lets watch that new Bruce Willis movie," Jay Jay said as Linda searched
through the film.
Linda retrieved the film, smiling. "It got very bad reviews from the critics."
"What do they know?"
They sat up in the balcony and watched the screen as Linda ran the projector.
They shared a box of Thin Mints. The little Black Lab was curled up in Linda's
Jay Jay slipped his arm around her shoulder. Linda leaned against him. A
perfect first date, he thought.
It was also a perfect ending, too.
Read a science fiction
story of mine
Longoids Don't Hang Around Old Folks'
Homes Too Often