Howling At the Moon: Chapter 2.

Shashank Reddy

Footsteps echo off the walls, a rhythm slowly beating life back into a long dead place. Dust, unsettled, woken from a long slumber, curious about its disturber, moving in circles around her, exploring the whiteness of her shirt, the crevices of her shoes, the inside of her nose. Touching, feeling, shadowing. Dust, always the leader of such denizens of forgotten places as cobwebs and peeling wall paint, instills a certain amount of courage into its followers. Cobwebs stroke her hair, the ceiling paint flirts with the whiteness of her shirt. She, used to such unwanted attention, brushes them aside and chooses to notice instead a fading poster depicting a man and a woman walking. A thing of wonderment. Scarred, yellow paper, letters in bold red and yellow, a man in a black jacket and black hair and a woman in a yellow jacket and yellow hair, walking. There is something else too. Next to the poster, written in tiny black letters. I am free, and that is why I am lost. Graffiti, she assumes and moves on, followed by the dust, the cobwebs and the ceiling paint.

The echo continues. Footsteps, exploring. Two long winding staircases opposite each other, wood carved into twirls and twists and mystic, cosmic shapes, leading to the balcony seats. Below them, two doors leading to the stall seats, the concession stand sandwiched between the doors, selling long disappeared food. She walks unsteadily through the door to the stall seats, hands outstretched against the semi-darkness, half expecting the seats to be filled and the screen to be lit. The seats remain empty, where they remain. The screen remains dark but whole, a vast canvas, grand in its empty whiteness, waiting for someone’s imagination to play out one last time. The seats stretch out in two tiers, a vast wave of black and red, rows upon rows, far into the high distance. She imagines the crowds, watching, waving, whistling, howling, crying; imagines the images playing out on the screen behind, imagines the man standing on the balcony looking at her. A blink, then another one. The man still stands on the balcony.

*************

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” The man’s whisper rang out across the hall.

“Kind of a clichéd question isn’t it?”

Silence.

“Just looking around.”

“You are not welcome here. Get out.”

“Why should I?”

“This is my home.”

“This is a Cinema hall.”

“Does not mean it is not my home. Now, out.” The side door closes with a loud bang.

*********

She stands, mystified. The conversation plays out in her head. A reel stuck in a loop. An apparition? The last time she checked, she was sane. Definitely not an apparition then. She races up the stairs to the balcony above. The man had disappeared through a side door. She gently pushes it in, and finds herself back in the balcony. Where could he have gone? She wonders. A sound. The projection room. A little black door half-open, allowing a crack of light to slip through. She cautiously tip-toes to the door and takes a peek inside. The man, sitting facing her but with his eyes on the laptop open in front of him. Her eyes run slowly over his furrowed brow, his long shaggy hair, the unkempt beard, the dirty old jeans and the sky blue shirt resting lightly over his light frame. She takes a step closer.

“Was it you who put Kafka’s quote as a graffiti downstairs?”

The situation catches him off guard. It takes him a moment to register the tall woman with beautiful curls and a shapely body hidden under a deliberately two-sizes-too-big sweatshirt and jeans. It takes his mind a moment to register the unprovoked question. In that moment, he stares at her, mouth half-open, tongue lolling, eyes staring at the djinn born out of some god-knows-what dream.

“Huh?”

“The quote downstairs..?”

“Didn’t I tell you to leave?”

“Yeah. Sorry. But the quote..?”

“Kafka’s.”

“I know. Did you put it there?”

“You know Kafka?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“It just seems like not a lot of people do lately.”

“Have you been out lately?”

“How does it matter?”

“How do you stay here?”

“Didn’t I tell you to get out?”

Ignoring the rhetorical question, she picks up a loose sheet of paper lying right next to the door. Scribblings in a barely legible handwriting.

“Did you write this?”

“Yeah, I did. Can I have it back please?”

“This is really good. Though the influence of Ginsberg is quite telling.”

He stares at her in shock and horror. How could she possibly know of Ginsberg? No one had uttered that name, outside of seedy hostel rooms and two member poetry jams, in years. He reached a decision.

“Will you read this?”

“What is it?”

“My final work.”

“Ok.” And she sits down.

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