After three different people on three different occasions told me to go see “Get Out” I finally decided to make the effort to get to a theatre. Embarrassingly, this was my first time going to any of the theatres in the area since we moved across the city in August. Too easy just to stay in, I guess.
We went to an enormous AMC multiplex nearby. From the street, it was very impressive indeed: three stories tall and dominating the block. Almost immediately upon walking in the door, however, it was possible to catch the faintest whiff of dereliction: everything just slightly under lit and under cleaned, washed with a gray haze of apathy. But, no matter: we were there to catch a movie that was starting in less than ten minutes. No time to worry about the maintenance of the lobby.
The theatre itself was unremarkable except that the seating was so steep that the screen might as well have been the sandy arena of the Colosseum of Rome. But the movie was good and the audience was responsive and polite and a good time was had by all.
Walking out, I found myself looking past the concession stand until the echoing halls of what appeared to be some kind of concourse.
“Is that a mall?” I asked the Curmudgeonly Lion.
We decided to check it out. At the threshold of the theater’s territory stood a row of small tables. Beside one of these stood a man carrying on a detailed conversation with some entity not visible to anyone but himself. No one else seemed to notice him. We crossed the threshold out into unknown territory.
It did appear to be a mall, except that there were no stores. At least, there weren’t any stores that were open: an endless procession of blank storefronts led the way to a central atrium. The tinge of apathy in the air before began to curdle into eerie unease. Two or three other people drifted past, but otherwise the halls appeared to be abandoned. Aside from being closed, everything seemed to be in good repair- as if every single store had decided to go into some kind of stasis.
We followed the hall around to where an anchor store once stood: the maw of which was now just a blank wall shrouded in a deeper twilight of shadows where the light from the skylights overhead failed to penetrate. A pair of hipster teenagers lurked nearby, tucked away at a table in a small alcove. They watched us walk by.
“Do you want to go downstairs?” the Lion asked. Here at the end of the concourse, a pair of staircases led down to a first floor.
“Sure.” I said, expecting the lower level to be just as abandoned as the level above, but as we made our way down the steps, lo and behold we found ourselves staring into the windows of a Crown Books book store, of all things. Of all the stores to still be alive in a dead mall- the book store.
Considering the eldritch nature of the whole adventure, of course we had to go in. The stacks were loosely organized and most of the shelf labels had been written by had and affixed with tape. Half of the floor was given over to a Spirit Halloween style costume store, and a strange selection of masks had migrated into the bookstore to stare down like gargoyles from the tops of the shelves. Everything was on sale. The carpet was worn down in grey footpaths around previous displays that were now only evident by the cuts made in the industrial carpet that were now repaired with duct tape. Water dripped from the ceiling into a five gallon plastic paint bucket in the middle of the floor.
I ended up buying a book and some greeting cards. We left as the sun was going down and I joked ( mostly) about the fact that we had to get out before the vampires woke up to feed. Aside from a lingering sense of unease, we were no worse off for our adventure. I like to malign malls as being places that are too crowded and too much sensory input for me to truly enjoy going into one on a normal day, but I now realize how sad and strange they become when the life goes out of them.