's 2013 Horror Write-off:

" Mobius Films "

Submitted by Alex Bradley

Have you ever noticed how you can see in the dark much better than a camera? How movies with multi-million dollar budgets have to artificially light scenes shot in dark places, just to vaguely simulate what it actually feels like to look around in a dark environment? As a child obsessed with movies, I noticed.

When I was in the third grade, my English teacher assigned us to fill out a survey sent to the school by an up and coming film company. She told us that if we met the criteria they're looking for that we might be selected to be a part of a test screening for “an exciting new technique in film”. I remember the survey was fairly rigorous, and contained questions that, even at the time, were inappropriate for a bunch of first graders (“Are both of your parents alive?” and “Do you believe in Hell?” are the one's that stand out most in my memory). But I answered honestly, because with so few friends and nothing to do but watch movies, there was nothing that could have excited me more.

It was months later, in the middle of summer, that my parents got the letter that I had been chosen to participate in the screening. The letter promised free food and drink, a private movie theater for our group, and a limousine ride to and from the theater. My mother was very reluctant – she didn't approve of the time the event was taking place (“11:00 on a Wednesday night? That's just too late, Sweety”). Eventually though, I was able to convince her. I remember how excited I was when the black limo pulled up outside my house.

The driver stepped out, dressed in a black suit and bowler hat, nearly invisible against the surface of the limousine except for his pallid skin. He flashed an unnatural grin and opened the door for me. He said nothing as I stepped in, just closed the door behind me. The interior smelled of cigarette smoke, and the carpeting and seats were covered in a variety of stains and burns. No expenses spared, clearly. I sat down after locating the least unpleasant seat and took the ticket out of my pocket, having cut it from the letter. It read:




We got on the highway and rode for about 40 minutes before turning off an exit and driving into an unfamiliar backwoods town. Before long we were headed down a dirt road, surrounded on all sides by trees and overgrowth. The vehicle was groaning and shuddering in protest of being driven down the terrain. A short while later, we stopped in front of a white, single story building, looking absurdly modern juxtaposed against the woods it was standing in. In front of its entrance was a man dressed in a red and gold theater usher's coat. The driver opened the door for me and I stepped out, nodded to him, and walked up and presented my ticket to the man. He took it silently, tore it, and handed it back.

It's funny how when you're a child, you don't pick up on the subtle cues that would tell an adult that there's something wrong with a situation. I walked into what was clearly intended to be an office building, hastily modified to resemble a theater. There were lights strung in clear rubber tubes lining the baseboards down the halls, which were carpeted with old black theater carpetting, the kind with the confetti designs, standing out starkly against the clinical white walls. The “concession stand” was the reception desk, with “CONCESSION STAND” printed out in comic sans on a piece of computer paper and taped to the counter. Atop the counter were 12 bags of popcorn and twelve drinks. Seeing no one around but myself and remembering that the letter had promised free concessions, I grabbed my popcorn and drink, took a seat in the lobby and waited for the others to show up.

The popcorn was stale and the soda tasted like store brand cola with a metallic aftertaste. I looked for a garbage can but found none. I continued eating out of boredom. I explored the building a bit (not that there was much to it). Every door in the place was locked, save for the bathrooms.

Gradually people began to file in and introduce themselves. There was a 50/50 split between girls and boys, and a wide variety of nationalities. The final person to walk in was a girl I recognized from school. She introduced herself as Ashley. No one was talking much so I went over to her and we talked briefly about how strange it all was.

“It just seems odd” she said. “Did you notice that all the windows are black? At first I thought it was because it's dark outside, but even the mirrors in the bathrooms are blackened like that. Did you see wh-” and she was suddenly cut off by a booming voice over the intercom.


And so we did. The room down the hall marked “SCREENING ROOM” was now unlocked. We stepped into what looked like a modified meeting room and found our chairs in front of the screen, which was about 1/4th the size of a regular theater screen. I sat next to Ashley, who commented that the walls in the room were entirely covered in the same black panels she was talking about

Everyone had been seated for no more than ten seconds when we heard the doorman clear his throat. He was standing in the doorway, his eyes sweeping the room from one corner to the next, before closing the door behind him. He began his speech as he walked to the front of the room – lurched more than walked, really – every step deliberate and seemingly painful. His voice was robotic and forced, with no intonation or natural cadence.

“What you are about to see has never before been witnessed by the public. It is a highly experimental technique which is sure to have some kinks that need working out, and as such, please do not be alarmed if at first your brain has trouble processing some of what you'll see. We've included a short video at the beginning of the presentation to help calibrate your senses and properly attune you to the film. Silence throughout the film is mandatory, and at the first sound you WILL be removed from the building. Are there any questions?”

We were all silent. After too long of a pause, he made his way back out into the hall and slammed the door behind him, leaving us in darkness. It was incredible how dark it was in the room, and as it was just on the verge of being uneasy, the screen flickered on. There were bold black letters on a white background that read “BEGIN CALIBRATION”. We were then assaulted with strobing colors and high pitched shrieks, followed by tones so low I felt them more than heard them. This went on for about 2 minutes, and then the screen faded into blackness.

What happened next is difficult to describe, because it shouldn't have been able to happen – the screen was no longer using light to display images, but darkness. It was as if it was somehow manipulating my eyes into doing what they were never meant to do, and the shock of it made a few children in the audience retch. Let me be clear – it was pitch black in that room, and I couldn't even see the people around me, but the screen was displaying images. My memory of what exactly the footage showed is hazy, as I spent a lot of my childhood trying to block it out, so I'll have to just recount it as best I can. I should mention that everything that was filmed was filmed in pitch darkness with no light sources, yet somehow I could see what was happening.

It began with a young man walking through a trailer park, looking around as if to find something. There were pigs everywhere, rooting through discarded garbage and wallowing in filth, and it was then that I realized the second impossible facet of the film – They were clearly pigs, I could see them plain as day, but every bit as clearly I saw them as people – nude and obese, walking around on all fours like beasts, covered from head to toe in sweat and excrement. Again, it's impossible to convey the images exactly as they were, as our minds weren't meant to be able to process such things. Eventually the man found his way inside a dilapidated trailer, where he met a very attractive woman. They chatted very briefly before she pushed him to the floor and climbed atop him. Now to my young mind, seeing graphic sex was every bit as mind destroying as what preceded it, so I can't be entirely sure of what exactly happened. All I remember was that at the very same time I could see them passionately making love, I could also see two enormous cockroaches, one mounted atop the other, antennas feeling blindly and silently in the darkness, in stark contrast to the moaning ecstacy of the lovers. And yes, I could percieve both the sound and the lack thereof simultaneously, and as before there's really no way I can convey how it felt.

Mercifully, the scene changed to something else, but I can't recall what it was – I feel as if it involved footage of people crawling through mazes constructed from air ducts, but I can't be sure.

The next thing I remember lucidly was three bald, suited men sitting in folding chairs, facing the camera. As the camera proceeded closer, I saw strange symbols covering their bodies, recently burned into their flesh. They stared directly ahead for a while, before the central figure produced a knife from inside his jacket, and began to carve himself down the center. He did not bleed. He cut a vertical line from underneath his chin down to just below his navel, and after inserting his fingers on either side of his now cracked sternum, pulled himself open in one swift motion. Instead of this being the gory mess it should have been, what was revealed was far worse. There was nothing inside of him, and I don't mean that in the sense that he was hollow; however much I wish it had been so. In one immeasurably long instant I realized what I was seeing, as obscure and forgotten memories interlocked to reveal the true image of a grisly jigsaw puzzle. It was the abyss, primal emptiness itself, the void from out of which we are born and to where we fear to return that was housed inside his chest cavity, roiling and shrieking as the two men seated beside him were consumed, along with the rest of the room. Before I could even process it, the camera was zooming in on the vacuity before it, closer and closer until the screen was consumed in it – but it didn't stop. The hideous absence was billowing outside the threshold of the screen, filling the room like a fog, bringing with it all the sounds of damnation, waves of noise that were too loud for the human ear to handle. I think I heard the screams of those next to me, though it's hard to say whether it was them or the groaning of the vacuum.

I awoke slumped over in my seat, my head in my lap. I got up from my seat, unable to hear through the ringing pulsing through my head, and saw through blurred vision that the screen was now destroyed, a chair having been thrown into the glass. I stumbled over to the lightswitch and turned it on, and looked around at everyone. I counted ten people – five were unconscious, two girls were sobbing in eachother's arms, two teenage boys were seated in their chairs, seemingly arguing over something or other, and Ashley was lying on the floor, staring at a fixed point on the ceiling and blinking ocassionally.

I'd like to say I stayed and tried to work something out, tried to help the other kids, but I didn't. I ran outside as fast as I could, back down the path I had been driven down. Before reaching the treeline, I looked back toward the building, where the usher had been. There was now a crude, mannequin like figure, arms outstretched to the side, legs together and toes pointed down, levitating about a foot off the ground. It was dressed in the same red and gold clothing as the usher. My mind stopped momentarily as I added all the details together, but before I could fully take it in, the being began to float towards me, its body perfectly rigid and unmoving. It looked like a marrionette in a crucifix pose, seemingly manipulating the earth below it to pull me closer to the figure's fixed point in space moreso than the thing truly being in motion toward me. The effect was sickening. At that point I ran blindly down the road without looking back. I used the feeling of the gravel beneath my feet to find my way down the lightless path, with ditches full of thorns on either side to correct my steps when needed.

I emerged half an hour or so later, found a gas station, and called home. My mother was understandably panicked but didn't question me before hanging up. After that point, I don't remember much. I remember lying and saying that the event hadn't gone very well, and that the vehicle scheduled to pick us up had mechanical issues and that if we wanted to get home at a decent time we would have to get someone else to get us.

I remember thinking I was in the clear for a while – maybe even naïve enough to write off the event as a bad dream – but then I started watching movies again.

It was subtle at first; nothing that I couldn't write off as an out of focus figure here or there. Gradually though, it became obvious – the mannequin things were in the background of every damn movie I watched. Posed always with their arms out to the side and bodies perfectly still, feet never touching the ground, silently gliding across the backdrops, unnoticed by everyone except myself. They were dressed like people, sure, but how could anyone be so stupid as to mistake them for actual human beings? Yet regular people would interact with them, chatting them up at parties, walking side by side with them, and in one particularly absurd instance, playing billiards in a bar with one of them.

There's two of them in Reservoir Dogs, floating down the street after they rob the bank. Three in The Godfather during the wedding scene, twelve in various spots in Back to the Future. One in the trees in The Wizard of Oz, and too many to count in the Poltergeist films. The list goes on. I've tried showing people but no one else notices them, not in the same way I do anyway. They'll detect something off about the person. Maybe they're a bit blurry, have jerky movements, or be oddly proportioned, but they can't see their true forms like I can.

I don't know what they are, or if they have any plan, or any reason for their existence. However, I know that modern movies have a whole lot more of them. There were barely any actual people in last years releases, and I'm not just talking about the extras. They've started taking on starring roles. Filmed with the finest technology available, just inches away, making a dull buzzing noise where everyone else hears the actor speaking his lines.