WARNING: Contains language that one might use when faced with a tornado. When I watch a movie, it’s like there are two of me in the same seat. There’s that regular movie-going guy who likes blood and boobs and things that explode, the kind of movies we call POPCORN MOVIES. But there’s another fellow who accompanies him. This guy likes some of the same things as his friend, but he is a seeker and connoisseur of SERIOUS CINEMA. This guy doesn’t just want to see a movie, he wants it to change his life. POPCORN: Dude, check out those clouds. They look all, like, mean and stuff. CINEMA: Okay, you wanted to come see this movie. I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to be here, but you wouldn’t shut up about it. But then, as soon as we leave the house, all I hear is that the sky looks weird and the animals are acting strange and the birds – I don’t even know what the hell you were saying about the birds. POPCORN: They were all mobbed up under that tree. Didn’t you see that? Like, the ground was just covered in ’em. It was some bizarre Alfred Hitchcock shit goin’ on back there, dude. CINEMA: What’s bizarre is that I continue to listen to you when I know it never ends well. It’s like I’m subconsciously punishing myself for something terrible I think I’ve done. It’s hot and it’s humid and I’m not in a very good mood. Now we’re here, for a movie I don’t want to see, and I’ll bet you don’t even have a dollar to your name. POPCORN: Naw, man. I got a dollar, and . . . thirteen cents, and it’s all yours. CINEMA: Keep it, you destitute bastard. But this movie had better be good. POPCORN: Dude, this movie is gonna be fuckin’ bad-ass. CINEMA: Uh-huh. Two for FINDING DORY, please. Outside the theater, a mass of chattering birds takes to the sky. A blanket of heat has fallen over everything, thick and unmoving. There is a rising scent like wet leaves and rubber. Sounds recede into the distance as if they are being eaten by the air. The sky toward the south is dark and churning, moving steadily closer. POPCORN: Dang, not many people here. CINEMA: Huh, I wonder why that is. It couldn’t be that everyone else wants to see this movie even less than me. Hold up, let’s sit toward the back of the theater. POPCORN: Come on, dude. You know I like sittin’ up front. CINEMA: I also know that you’re going to be really chatty. I’m trying to avoid us being shushed every thirty seconds. Besides, there are some kids here, and your language is fucking atrocious. POPCORN: But . . . CINEMA: But I wonder who paid for all of this. POPCORN: Alright, dude. Sure you don’t want some of my candy? CINEMA: I’m good, thanks. They make their way toward the back row of the theater, loaded down with popcorn, drinks, and Junior Mints. Popcorn nudges Cinema, nodding toward what appears to be a mound of clothes piled in the furthest seat of the row. Then the mound twitches and they hear the clinking of a bottle hitting the floor. Cinema shakes his head, Popcorn chuckles softly. CINEMA: No, I get the seat on the aisle. POPCORN: I was here first. CINEMA: But I always get the seat on the aisle. I even say it: “Save me a seat on the aisle.” It’s my homage to Siskel and Ebert. POPCORN: Well, you didn’t say it this time. CINEMA: I just did. POPCORN: Yeah, after I was already in the seat, dude. That totally doesn’t count. CINEMA: It totally does count, if you’re the guy who always says “save me a seat on the aisle”. I’m the Siskel and Ebert guy, and saying that is kind of my thing. POPCORN: Come on, dude. It can’t be your thing if somebody else is famous for doin’ it. CINEMA: Well, I’m famous for the homage. POPCORN: Dude, you’re totally not famous at all. CINEMA: I will be, and I’ll be more famous than you. POPCORN: It can’t be Siskel and Ebert with, like, just one dude. You definitely need both dudes for it to be a show with two dudes. And you can’t be both dudes, know what I’m sayin’? CINEMA: No one ever knows what you’re saying. POPCORN: The show wasn’t, like, CINEMA CINEMA. That just sounds stupid. It was called Siskel AND Ebert. CINEMA: Yeah. Well, then I’m Ebert, because he was the better one. POPCORN: Dude, you’re only Ebert cuz you’re gettin’ fat. And you don’t even have that shit right. It was “save us the aisle seats“. CINEMA: Oh yeah? Huh. Okay, well . . . who bought the tickets? POPCORN: Alright, man. Whatever. Have your stupid seat on the aisle. CINEMA: That’s right. <points right at Popcorn’s face as he takes his seat> And I’ll see you . . . at the movies. Settling into their seats, they glance around the theater. The drunken mound is mumbling to itself in the nearest corner. Front and center is an old couple with knobby arthritic hands clenched together as if it’s their first date. Near the screen and toward the left is a youngish woman with two children, both of them gibbering excitedly. The theater door swings open and a tubby middle-aged woman enters. The children seem to know her, yelling a name and waving at her before their mother hushes them. The woman waves at them noncommittally and then takes a seat several aisles back and to their right. The theater goes dark. The mother hushes her children again. Light splashes across the big screen and the coming attractions start to roll. Outside, thunder rumbles distantly, like an approaching train. POPCORN: Dude, you think we’re gonna get a tornado? CINEMA: I doubt it. There was a low-pressure system lurking above the edge of Michigan this morning, but the TV news people didn’t have much to say about it. Besides, they tend to happen earlier in the year. POPCORN: Like that one that hit Kalamazoo in 1980. CINEMA: Yeah, that was on May 13. Most of the usual suspects appear ahead of them, everything brightly animated. A big friendly giant. The latest Disney princess. A remake of PETE’S DRAGON. Pets that start talking as soon as their owners leave the house. Both the children and adults in the audience are chuckling. Then comes the animated hot dogs, finally being selected in the grocery store. We’ve been chosen, we’ve been chosen. In the grocery cart, a boyish hot dog reaches out toward a girly bun and we can already feel the love tonight. Cut to the home. A human hand reaches out for a fat and cheery potato. The singing spud is overjoyed . . . and then the potato peeler flashes in the light. The potato’s skin is flayed away while it screams. POPCORN: Damn, kid’s movies are gettin’ harsh. Another rumble, getting closer. Popcorn is looking, somewhat nervously, toward the roof and then to his friend. POPCORN: Didn’t you wanna be one of them meteor dudes? CINEMA: A meteorologist, yeah. The purple rain and all that. But, like everything else, it just didn’t happen. POPCORN: I’d totally be a tornado chaser. CINEMA: Did you know that Aristotle was the first known person who tried to rationalize the weather? The word meteorology comes from his 340 BCE work METEOROLOGICA, a four-book discourse that tried – From somewhere ahead of them, someone loudly shushes. CINEMA: Sorry. <then, in a whisper> It was a four-book discourse that tried to explain everything from lightning to rainbows. Before him, it was the gods rewarding or punishing us with clear skies or bolts of lightning. He basically came along and said, ‘You people are all idiots. This is what’s really going on.’ POPCORN: I could get one of those bad-ass rides – CINEMA: Of course, most of his explanations were wrong. But still, it was the only unquestioned meteorological resource for almost two thousand years. It wasn’t until the 1600s that we developed instruments that could accurately measure and record different aspects of the earth’s weather – POPCORN: – like the car from INTO THE STORM that bolted right into the ground – CINEMA: – and Doppler radars have only been in use since the 1980s. POPCORN: – freakin’ armor plating, bullet-proof windows, built-in cameras. They said the windows leaked and it smelled like dead sheep in that thing – CINEMA: Modern meteorology is a rather complex science. It’s based mostly on the laws of physics, which operate in an orderly manner, so nothing related to weather happens just by accident. There’s some kind of metaphor for life in there – POPCORN: – but, dude, that car was totally bad-ass. CINEMA: Wait, did you say something about dead sheep? POPCORN: The Titus, man. Pay attention. CINEMA: Are you going on about INTO THE STORM again? I told you, that movie was even less accurate than TWISTER – Someone shushes again. More loudly, to be heard over the increasing rumble from outside the building. The door opens, and one of the theater workers steps inside. She glances in their direction, then stands, staring ahead at the screen. A short film about a sandpiper has begun to play. POPCORN: Heh, you’re busted. CINEMA: If anyone is, you are. No, I think it’s the SAUSAGE PARTY trailer. I’m quite sure that wasn’t supposed to be shown to this audience. Beneath the sounds of the theater, a low-frequency pulse. Almost imperceptible. Throbbing distantly, like an immense base speaker reaching up into the chest. POPCORN: Hey, did you see NIGHT OF THE TWISTERS on cable the other night? CINEMA: Honestly, I’d rather be sucked up into a tornado than sit through that movie. POPCORN: Dude, you’re totally missin’ out. It’s, like, way better than you think it’s gonna be. It’s got the main kid from the first FINAL DESTINATION movie, but he’s a lot younger. And Bo or Luke Duke is in it – you know, the blonde dude – CINEMA: John Schneider. POPCORN: So you did see it. CINEMA: No. POPCORN: Well, Bo or Luke Duke is the dad, and he’s kinda a douche. He’s a big ex-football star. Doesn’t wanna give his kid shit for credit, know what I mean? And the kid, he’s got a friend over at the house. They’re horsin’ around and, like, accidentally bust some stuff in the – The machine-gun bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp of hail suddenly assaults the building. Nearly overwhelming the sounds of the movie. Most of the audience looks to the walls and ceiling. POPCORN: – house. They’re all freaked out, cuz Dad is such a douche. But then the first tornado hits and smashes everything. So, like, Dad can’t really bitch about a stupid lamp or whatever if the whole house is a pile of busted shit on the lawn – SHUSH. Onscreen, a wide-eyed fish is having a dream. She is seeing her life from long ago. With her parents beside her, she goes over a routine to help her remember things when she goes out to play with the other fishes. I suffer from short-term me-membory loss, she says. POPCORN: Tellin’ you, dude. The special effects are pretty good for some shitty TV movie. CINEMA: Yeah, yeah. Sometimes I think TWISTER was the worst thing that ever happened to weather movies. In that year alone, there must have been at least ten cheap knock-offs. Not a one of them can hold up against the actual story of what happened in Grand Island – POPCORN: Guess you didn’t see ALIEN TORNADO then. CINEMA: Grand Island was the basis of the book NIGHT OF THE TWISTERS, by Ivy Ruckman. It was about a month after the Kalamazoo tornado. They’re a pretty common thing in Nebraska, but even then – The hail stops as quickly as it started, leaving an eerie stillness in its wake. CINEMA: Even then, uh . . . there was a supercell thunderstorm complex in the area, probably moving less than ten miles an hour. Just taking it’s time to do more damage. There were seven tornadoes that night. Can you imagine? POPCORN: Can you imagine aliens in those tornadoes? CINEMA: Five people killed, two hundred injured. Three of those tornadoes moved anti-cyclonically, or clockwise, which is extremely rare in the northern hemisphere – POPCORN: Not every day you spot little green dudes in ’em either. CINEMA: Have I mentioned how glad I am to hear you yammer on in a movie theater? SHUSH!!! The door opens and another theater worker hurries up to the first one. Popcorn holds out his hands like he’s waiting to be cuffed, but they aren’t paying attention to him. They are distraught, whispering loudly. A few of the words drift over. . . funnel . . . touchdown . . . mile from here . . . shelter. The second worker races back out. The girl who has been standing there steps forward, and, with a shaking voice, begins to shout, “Attention movie theater patrons – ” POPCORN: Dude, do you feel something sucking? CINEMA: It’s just this mo – Then the roof comes off the building. It all happens very fast. The chaos of sound and movement. So much noise that everything seems to go silent. The rumbling wail of concrete. Screeching steel. Breaking glass. Screaming. Buzzing hissing crashing whirl of things once grounded, now airborne. The inhuman jet-engine howl of the abyss that has appeared where the ceiling was. Movement so sharp and sudden that it feels like blindness. Chairs leaping. Walls convulsing. Wood cement glass fabric spinning through the air. Taking flight. Smashing up down whirling everywhere. Shirt shoe nail bird tire fence-post portable toilet open Bible dead squirrel garbage can candle rusty spear rebar horseshoe camera McDonald’s roses jagged-glass teddy-bear bikini STOP-sign. And, with a fierce crunch, it all comes to an end. Rain is pelting the theater that doesn’t look like a theater anymore. The blackness of the sky yawns above. Though the tornado has passed, the wind continues to howl angrily. Half of the movie screen has been torn away, but part of Dory continues to swim through the air. Walls are not where they should be. Chairs are untouched, gone, and replaced by things that should not be there. The old couple, front and center, huddle together in an undisturbed oasis of seats. The middle-aged woman to their left is kneeling in front of her seat, touching her head. The mother holds one of her children, who is crying, while the other one is pointing to the far side of the theater. Popcorn stands and looks at what the boy has seen. POPCORN: Holy shit, dude. There’s a fuckin’ cow in here. CINEMA: I think there’s another problem. Popcorn turns. It takes a moment for him to react, to understand what he is seeing. At first it looks like Cinema is holding a stick. Then it becomes clear that the stick is rusty metal, and that it’s stuck in Cinema’s shoulder. POPCORN: What . . . what the hell is that? CINEMA: Pretty sure it’s . . . rebar. POPCORN: Like they use in construction?? CINEMA: Like rebar. Reinforced bar. Steel bar. Whatever . . . the hell you want to call it. Used to hold concrete in place. And it’s – oh shit, oh shit – it’s holding me in place! Popcorn tries pulling on the spear, but Cinema cries out in anguish. POPCORN: Dude, it’s stuck right through the chair. CINEMA: Yeah, I got that. But I can’t . . . stay here forever. Oh God, it hurts. POPCORN: Dammit, I’m trying, but – The theater attendant is frantically pushing on the door, trying to get it to move. Concrete peeks through a gash in the wood. Blocked. The girl’s eyes are wide, her mouth open. She appears to be going into shock. POPCORN: Hey! Hey, is there anyone who – The old man cradles his wife while she sobs. Both of them are looking toward the open ceiling. POPCORN: Could someone give me a hand over here??? The middle-aged woman staggers around misshapen chairs and a flattened tire. From her pocket she’s produced a cell phone. POPCORN: Hey, it’s my friend! I think he’s really hurt. The mother drops to the ground, pulling her daughter to her side. Her outstretched arm reaches for the son, who continues to stare at the cow. Cinema is breathing heavily, crying softly, trying in vain to pull free. His hands are smeared with blood, which has darkened his shirt around the protruding bar. POPCORN: Everybody’s all messed up, dude. I – CINEMA: Here. Try my phone. POPCORN: Nothin’, man. CINEMA: What about the emergency exit? You . . . could go for help, get to the lobby, and – Popcorn sees what used to be the exit, now a towering pile of rubble. Against the still darkened sky, Nemo has almost been eaten by a ferocious squid. Marlin snaps at Dory for endangering their friend in her own personal quest. Saddened, and in need of help, she begins a slow, treacherous ascent toward the surface. POPCORN: Naw, dude. Exit’s blocked. CINEMA: Dammit, dammit. Wait, what is that? Do you hear that? POPCORN: Yeah, I dunno. Sounds like a train fulla demons. CINEMA: And the wind – POPCORN: Yeah, yeah, I know. CINEMA: Get me out of here! Please . . . Popcorn stands, frozen, looking from his friend to the sky above. It’s a moment not unlike Darth Vader turning from Luke to the Emperor, then back again, in RETURN OF THE JEDI. Then he’s moving. Casting an eye toward the open ceiling, then back to his feet. Hurrying down what used to be the center aisle, toward the pile of rubble that used to be the emergency exit, he begins to shout. POPCORN: Hey, motherfuckers, listen up!! The young mother is the first to shake herself from her stupor. Then the old man looks up from comforting his wife, who also cranes her neck toward this new commotion. The middle-aged woman has given up on her phone, unable to ignore the vulgar, screaming man who’s now climbing and stepping around chunks of jagged debris. POPCORN: I know y’all are, like, in shock and shit. But look, that movie’s still goin’. Know what that means? We still got electricity up in here. So watch where the fuck you step! But here’s what’s gotta happen. Cell-phone lady . . . keep on that 9-1-1 shit. You get somebody on there, you tell ’em we got the president! And you there, box office bitch – The theater worker looks angry now, but aware. POPCORN: You see the dude with the fuckin’ pole in his chest? That’s my friend over there. You need to go over there and, like, keep him company. If it looks like the end is near, offer him a blowjob or somethin’. God knows the dude could use one. From above, a sound like the clattering of a thousand venetian blinds. POPCORN: Old dude . . . those kids are prob’ly really fuckin’ scared! Why don’t you grab your old lady and, like, go hang with ’em. Little kids fuckin’ love old people. Oh, and kid . . . stay away from the damn cow. Didn’t your mother ever tell you those things are fulla germs? Clumsily, he begins to climb the mound of shattered concrete, wood, and glass. Cutting his hands. Falling, then climbing back up. Finally, he reaches the top, stretching to reach the broken edge where the wall once joined the ceiling. He starts to pull himself up, struggling. Then he stops. Scampers back down the broken hill. CINEMA: What is it? POPCORN: Dude, we are so fucked. There’s another tornado coming. TO BE CONTINUED . . . “A weary time! a weary time! How glazed each weary eye, when looking westward, I beheld a something in the sky.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.