Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry
At ten-years-old, inside a movie theatre in 1945, Alan accidentally discovered how to escape from reality.
He was hunched down in his balcony seat watching Captain Kidd starring Charles Laughton, Randolph Scott and Barbara Britton, and imagining himself as the hero, Adam Mercy (Randolph Scott) throughout the film. It was getting to the end of the movie and the evil Captain Kidd was hanged, and Adam’s honor was restored. Alan grew dizzy for a moment and felt a strange sensation and then he was asking for the hand of Lady Anne in marriage!
There was no way of telling how long he spent in the year 1700. It felt like a lifetime. The usher woke him up while cleaning the balcony. The experience haunted him for weeks. He didn’t dare tell anyone because they’d think he was a kook. The more he thought about his initial guess that it was an unwanted daydream, the less it bothered him. Still, he stayed away from theatres for a year before breaking down and seeing “The Virginian” starring Joel McCrea, Brian Donlevy, Sonny Tufts, and Barbara Britton, who he had a thing for.
It was only twenty minutes into the movie before Alan felt a familiar strangeness before finding himself in the movie playing Steve Andrews, a friend of The Virginian. Both men were courting Molly Wood (Barbara Britton of course).
Minutes became days as the plot advanced. The Virginian discovered who the local rustlers were. It turns out his friend Alan/Steve is one of the rustlers and is caught along with two other men. As they are being strung up on a makeshift gallows, Alan/Steve pleads with them, “No! You don’t understand! I’m real!” Blackness.
John, Alan’s friend who came to the theatre with him slugged him in the arm, “What’s up with the sleeping? You missed a good movie dork!”
“Guess, I was more tired than I thought. I didn’t get much sleep last night,” he lied. Alan didn’t see another movie until 1968, when his girlfriend talked him into going to a drive-in show. He tried not to think about his last movie in 1946. He was a man now, not some kid with a wild imagination. It was time he proved that to himself.
When Susie told him she loved horror films and wanted to see “The Night of the Living Dead,” Alan broke out into a sweat. They found a parking place in the rear which afforded a little more privacy than being up front. His powder blue, 1964 Chevy Malibu SS convertible, had a comfortable front seat which was ideal for snuggling.
Alan had his arm around Susie when the movie began. The camera followed seven people’s adventures in western Pennsylvania where they all are trapped in a rural farmhouse by an ever-increasing army of the living dead. Susie was pressed up hard against Alan as the black-and-white movie became increasingly intense. The monsters were breaking through and killing people when Alan’s eyes rolled back and he went limp. One of the creatures was chewing on a human arm when Susie realized Alan had passed out. She did what any normal teenage girl would do under the circumstances…she screamed!
Meanwhile, Alan found himself in the farmhouse fighting against an undead creature that was halfway through a boarded up window. The sheer ferocity of the thing was terrifying as it screeched. He looked down on the wooden floor and saw a bloody baseball bat and picked it up. With a powerful swing that would have made Lou Gehrig proud he smashed the thing’s head! Another was right behind. Alan turned and ran to one of the bedrooms. It was locked! When he turned around the monsters had him cornered. He screamed then.
Alan’s mother jumped up from the chair by his hospital bed and tried to soothe him as he shivered in fright. “It’s alright darling,” she cooed, “Your Dad and I are here.” Alan opened his eyes and realized he was not in the rural farmhouse. His relief was obvious. “It’s okay Mom, I was feeling dizzy and kinda passed out. I’m okay now.”
“Why were you dizzy son? his Dad, a cop, asked.
“Not eating,” he lied. “Stomach’s been bothering me for a day now, and I haven’t eaten,” he explained. His Dad still had a skeptical look on his face when he said, “I sure hope it wasn’t drugs. Like LSD, or something.”
“Harold!” his Mom cried. “There’s no need for that. You know our boy doesn’t do drugs,” she defended him. He huffed and excused himself, “Gotta get back to work.”
His mother stayed for another hour until she knew he’d be checking out that day. “I hope you feel better honey. Why don’t you come by and have dinner with Dad and I tonight?” she asked.
“Thanks! I’ll do that,” he reassured her, and laid his head back down on the pillow.
Ten years passed before Alan was confronted with having to go see a movie again. His latest girlfriend, Margie, was a sweetheart, and he thought he might be in love with her. He thought that before with other women, but was wrong every time. Still, it didn’t discourage him. He was a romantic at heart, and hoped for a happy ending.
When she asked him to see a romantic drama called “Days Of Heaven” starring Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, and Linda Manz, he agreed. The movie was about two lovers, Bill and Abby, and their adventures in the Texas Panhandle. The couple worked for a wealthy farmer.
At Margie’s insistence, they went to a drive-in movie to see it. Alan comforted himself that this was a love story, or at least that’s what the movie trailers said, and there probably wasn’t any violence involved. Things went well as the two lovers snuggled in the back seat of his new 1978 Dodge Charger.
Then things started to grow dark. Bill encouraged Abby to claim the fortune of the dying farmer by tricking him into a false marriage. Alan’s head was swimming and his eyes rolled back. The next thing he knew he was Abby’s boyfriend Bill. But something even more unexpected happened next, Margie was Abby, and she was smiling at him.
“Wow! This is trippy,” she gushed. “We’re actually in the movie. Let’s see if we can change the plot, she suggested.
“Why not?” Alan agreed.
As It Stands, there are moments when movies and reality collide, and the earth shifts slightly.
2 thoughts on “The Escapist”
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