The Fortieth Second
Movieland - Chapter 15
Hide your eyes!
The Fortieth Second of the Forty-Seventh Minute
Eden, too, shielded her face with her hand.
Unobserved at the rear of the theater, in the dark under the overhanging balcony, she struggled to her feet. She couldn’t be a part of this. This was no fiction but something real happening on some terrible staircase. She was being given a glimpse, a cruel glimpse, of the true world she had been yanked out of. The concise way people spoke, the orderly sequence of events — it was all so familiar, so unmistakably authentic!
It was as if she had been forced to watch this to taunt her, to remind her that she was trapped in a dream. Waking up only to find that she was in yet another dream, this one in a place called “Venice” with a man named “Tom,” a man who seemed gentle and caring but who actually frightened her. He seemed to know more about who she was than she did!
Eden inched her way toward the aisle, gripping the backs of empty seats, forcing herself forward, gulping in the iron air. But when she came to the end of the row, she made the mistake of looking back. Such was the power of Thorncraft, of the giant images playing out before her in stark black-and-white, that she stood there transfixed, on the threshold, unable to look away.
It was all happening in flashes.
The flashlight swoops down.
Marti falls back.
Close-up: Her foot twists.
She grasps for the banister, breaking her fall.
Flashlight cracks down, slips from hand. It thuds on a carpeted step, rolling back and forth, throwing Marti in alternating light and darkness.
A long straight-edged razor flashes as it is pulled from beneath the dark figure’s nightgown. It swings high, the shot held for a moment. A barbershop razor, its sharp edge glitters in the moonlight.
Down it comes.
Marti pushes the blade away with an exposed palm.
The razor swings up.
Down it comes, past the bloodied blouse, about to slash perilously close to Marti’s face.
Marti’s terrorized eyes. (She must be screaming because the violins are shrieking.)
Extreme Close-up: Marti’s hand, losing its grip on the banister, going out of focus, her face a blur.
The straight blade swings up.
Marti tumbles backward out of danger, the fall slightly slowed to heighten the hallucinatory effect.
She lands in an oblong of lace-pattered light beneath a window.
Close-up of her face, lying on the carpet. Blood streams from her hairline where the flashlight must have connected. Her eyes open. Panic!
The black figure in the baby-doll puff sleeves swoops down upon her, eclipsing her in darkness.
Eden broke free of the hypnotic flashes, turning from the screen. She struggled to climb the gentle slope of the aisle, breathing hard, bracing herself on aisle seats as she staggered toward the auditorium doors. But something new in her — a timid, just hatched imagination, provoked into existence by this world where she was forced to think for herself — this new wild thing was wide-eyed and alert. And she found she didn’t need to see what was going on behind her. Reinhard Heft’s score was filling in the blanks. From every speaker came the shrill violins: slashing, stabbing, shrieking.
Reaching the doors, she couldn’t resist, her infant imagination had made it all too vivid. She looked back, catching the last, the most bizarre, of the images from the Murder on the Stairs.
The lifeless Marti was staring out blankly into the dark of the theater. On her smooth, white forehead, the razor had carved something. It was crude, bloody, but the quick-flashing sequence had ended, and the camera lingered on the handiwork, making sure it could be read:
Two capital letter R’s, back to back, one facing east, one facing west, fused at the spine like monstrous conjoined twins.
Preview: Excuse me, is your name Eden?