A Stellar Flare of Young Adult Writing and Visual Art
BY SAMANTHA HERNANDEZ
A singular raindrop falls down on my head. I look up at the gray sky and one raindrop turns to a downpour in the blink of an eye. I sigh and pull my hood over my head, stuffing my cold hands in my pockets. Water begins to seep into my shoes as I trudge through the puddles starting to form on the sidewalk. I’m drenched and starting to look like a sad, wet dog. Just my luck, all the stores on this road are closed so I’m stuck without shelter. My clothes are clinging to my shivering body when I spot a singular, hole in the wall building with their lights on just up the street. A sign with blinding lights illuminates the words Rialto Movie Theatre. I quicken my pace and scurry into the theatre, desperate for cover and warmth.
The door slams shut behind me as I see the lights at the concession are on and corn being popped in an old fashioned popcorn machine, but no worker greets me with a smile at the cashier. Now that I really take a look around, this place is empty. The air hangs low, missing the happy atmosphere of people excited to see the newest movies. I peer over the counter and utter a small, “Is anyone there?”, only to receive the response of eerie silence accompanied by popcorn popping. Are they closed? If they were, they wouldn’t be unlocked with all their lights on. The devil on my shoulder tells me that it would be a fun idea to explore this movie theatre regardless of its business hours, and I don’t think his idea is half bad. I stroll down the hallway simultaneously wringing out my soggy clothes and jiggling door handles to each theatre, only to find they’re all locked. I try my terrible luck at the very last theatre, Theatre 14. The door swings open as I pull on it. I jump back a bit, the door startling me as I was not expecting things to go my way. Slightly embarrassed of myself and glad no one was there to see my pathetic scare, I venture inside the dark room. I turn the corner to find a screen stretching from wall to wall with ads rolling. Sitting in front of the screen are a hundred ratty, deserted chairs. My feet, still soaked from the puddles outside, ache for me to sit down. I find a good spot, one that’s high but not too high, and right in the centre of the row. The chair doesn’t sink in when I take a seat, but I guess it’s alright. I wasn’t expecting red velvet seats from a movie theatre that seemed like it hadn’t been renovated in over a decade. The lights slowly start to dim and I settle in, taking advantage of the lack of audience and kicking my feet up on the chair in front of me.
The date December 21st, 2004 flashes across the screen. The loud cries of a newborn make my ears start to ring. What are the odds that my birthday is the same date as the one at the beginning of this film? I want to brush off this funny coincidence, but the next scene makes my jaw hit the grimy theatre floor. The next scene is of a woman with short, black hair cradling a chubby baby girl in her arms. This woman holds a striking similarity to my mom, and the baby looks way too much like I did when I was an infant. My mother’s doppelgänger passes the child to a man who looks exactly like my father, making this whole ordeal feel even more creeping my familiar. His hair is slicked back in my dad’s usual style and when he smiles down at baby me, he has the exact same crinkles at the corners of his eyes. My eyes are glued to the screen as more and more resemblances of my life play out. My first Christmas, my first steps, my first day at preschool, and even more major milestones all seem to be compiled into this film. I watch 4 year old me hold my baby brother for the first time, and it’s just as I remember it. I glance at the seats around me and realize I’m still sitting alone. No one has come into this theatre, not even a single security guard making their nightly rounds. I want to get up and run as far away from this odd movie as my sopping shoes can take me, but I can’t find it in myself to stand up. It’s like I sat on some old piece of chewed up bubblegum from the concession and now I’m stuck to this seat, watching my life unfold before my eyes.
The longer I sit in this uncomfortable chair, the more bizarre the movie gets. It only continues to showcase my whole entire life, like someone just took a USB to my brain and collected all my memories and blew it up on a big screen for everyone to see. Maybe not everyone, because the only person who has showed up to this special premiere is myself. The movie goes from happy childhood memories to dark ones, the things I’ve forced into the depths of my mind, pretending that sweeping it under the rug will make it all disappear. The day my parents got divorced plays on the screen and it’s just as intense as I remember it. The screaming and crying booming from the surround sound speakers sends a chill down my spine, making me feel like I’m 11 again, hiding in my room. My hands covering my little brother’s ears, trying to shield them from hearing the war raging downstairs. The scenes that follow only make the fist around my heart tighten. I have to keep the tears welling up in my eyes from flowing freely as I watch myself put a blade to my wrist and glide across it, a straight line of cherry red blood trickling to the surface. I never thought what I did to myself was bad until I was face to face with it on this big screen, and it horrifies me. It makes the old scars on my arms sting, burning and searing the delicate skin of my wrist. Watching myself continue to skim the blade against myself makes me want to scream. I want to cry out to the version of myself made up of millions of pixels. Stop! Don’t do that! But when I open my mouth nothing comes out except air. The next scene makes my stomach churn with anxiety. Today’s date flashes on the screen, January 14, 2019. It shows my open hand holding a deathly amount of pills. I have to hold back my vomit as I watch myself shove every last one down my throat, swallowing them all and ending it with a big gulp. Seeing myself do this makes me sick. Reliving the moment where I didn’t want to live anymore fills me to the brim with regret, and it overflows in the form of hot, salty tears. Reliving all these moments, from the very beginning to the very end, makes me long for another chance. A chance that all those pills I swallowed today took away. The screen fades to black and leaves me in the dark, vacant theatre, filled only by my sobs and the staggered breaths racking through my chest. I want to go back and make this right. I need to go back and be stronger. I’ll be stronger this time, I have to be. At least for the people I love because I can’t leave them. But in life there are no second chances, it’s not like a video game where you can just click play again. This isn’t a Lazarus situation. People who die don’t just come back to life.
All I can do is sit in this movie theatre alone and see what drowns me first, my tears or the intense feelings of guilt and regret. I’m barely hanging on by a thread. It’s slipping through my fingers even though I’m trying to grasp it with all my might. I need to hold on, if not for myself then for the people that need me. The screen abruptly flashes white, stunting the pity party I’m throwing myself. As quickly as the flash of white came, everything goes black.
Thousands of little shockwaves make my cold body jump off the hospital bed, like many tiny lightning bolts striking the earth. I’m overwhelmed with this sudden rush of life. The constant yelling and rapid beeping of machines combine to make one unbearably loud noise. I gasp, oxygen racing to my lungs and making my chest expand. My eyes squint, unable to handle the bright white lights glaring at me from the ceiling. Familiar voices crying out bounce off the bare walls of the hospital room. I want to reach out to them and say that I’m right here and I’m back. I’m stronger and more determined because of the eye opening film in the magical movie theatre that changed my life, and brought me back to life.
Samantha Hernandez is a 15 year old writer from Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.