Yudi hesitates at first. Then slowly draws himself up to his feet and follows them in. They step over the threshold into the theatre. The black curtain falls back from the silver screen in an angelfish swish and the opening credits of Tarantino’s From Dusk until Dawn roll up on screen as they walk in and seat themselves uncomfortably onto the seats in the centre of the 50-seater theatre. There is now no sign of Fu.
Yudi says “So Folks. Sit back. Relax. Enjoy the show. “
“Well for the moment at-least, why not?”
Each of them unconsciously decides on the path of least resistance. They have had a few adventures, with many more to come. All they can do for now is enjoy the respite afforded to them and just take it easy. If they had looked closer, they would realize that the other seats were also occupied, by the ghosts of Half Lives before them, people, entities from various parts of the world, who had tried to make the same journey, and were now cheering them on silently.
They settle into the old bucket seats to enjoy the movie. A normal trip to the Cineplex it could have been. Tiina and Rai occupy two seats in the centre of the cinema. Yudi walks into the row behind them and sits right behind Rai. His eyes dart around the place trying to pierce the cloying darkness. He has picked up enough on Tiina’s nervousness and as the worry builds, he does his best to quell the anxieties that grip him. He fidgets with his hands, moves his hips around in his seat, shuffles his feet and sighs again.
Tiina whispers to him mock dramatically “Oh! For some popcorn.”
Yudi whispers back “A final treat. A last wish. Oh, yes! Please”
“Shush” Rai admonishes them.
They settle into their seat, trying to overcome that feeling of awful apprehension creeping in on them. Steel claws embedding into their backs, tightening its hold on their misery. Finally they quiet down, falling into some semblance of calmness and manage to even get engrossed in the movie.
Their first inclination of a world going insane is Fu Zebox appearing on screen and winking to them.
“Did you see that?” whispers Tiina excitedly.
They look at each other and then back to the screen where the movie relentlessly sweeps on, a yellow rubber ducky bobbing on the tidal wave of confusion emanating from the lost trio.
George Clooney (at-least they think it is him) and Fu Zebox, the very same person who they met earlier in flesh and blood, walks into the bar as the movie unfolds. Then the young Chinese boy who is Fu’s son on screen looks at them and steps out. One moment they are watching the movie, the next the boy is walking towards them, onto the small stage in front of the screen. The movie continues to roll.
They sit motionless, dominos waiting to be knocked down. All three of them have the same emotion of surprise reflected on their faces. Sentiments warring inside.
Yudi leans towards Rai “Just when you thought it was safe to go out …..”
“I have to agree. After all the adventures so far, I wouldn’t have thought I could have been surprised. But this is unexpected.”
“Hello there” says Tiina to the young boy.
“My pleasure and greatest honor that the three assembled divinities called on me” Mic puts out his hand, his voice ringing with a clear American twang.
Yudi wonders if he should now laugh or give vent to his hysteria later. Tiina senses rather than see’s the ripples extend out from Yudi’s shoulders to the tips of his palms, and before he can incriminate himself further, she plunges in.
“One directional, one eyed, one mission” she proclaims looking at the boy, who replies instantly “Eye of the needle.”
“Innocent, yet numb to the really important stuff,” She says.
He thinks it through, mulling that one over. Then replies confidently “Single minded.”
“My turn now.” Turning to Tiina, Rai and Yudi, he proclaims “Together a unit. An egg and yolk. The first trips. He falls down and does not get up, the second moves on to find a new mate. The first then gets up, and is shocked…..” He pauses. “Well would any one of you care to complete that?”
“The first gets up and shocked decides to form a boy band, singing eulogies to the one they lost …” bursts out Rai as the other two try to fathom the reasoning behind what they have just heard. Mic laughs. “The two of you have passed the test. We are of the same wavelength. The same photogenic composition.”
He then looks at Yudi, the flashing lights from the screen reflecting off his face, his white shirt glowing, and the buttons seemingly fluorescent. “I know that all of you have questions. What is it Yudi?”
“How do you know my name?” asks Yudi in surprise. Then in answer to his own question, shakes his head, “No” he says and puts up his right hand. “Don’t even answer that. I am the only one dancing in the dark. After all, I am just the stooge. While they” he gestures to his companions “They play the lead, right?”
Tiina moves over to him and holds his upright hand, “That’s not true Yudi. We want you on this journey. If you don’t come what will happen to our story.”
“Your fantasy, your guardian figure, who silently watches over you, guides your invisible chord, tying you back. Both of you have one? Well guess what. I do not. So, what’s the deal eh?”
The boy smiles not saying anything.
“And what are you smiling at you … what’s your name anyway?”
“I can be anyone you want me to be.”
“The ghost of boyfriends past?” Rai asked bewildered. “How?” his voice tapers off and Rai sinks back into his seat, shaking his head.
Tiina looks at Mic trying to determine the truth. Truth or dare? Hailey’s comet, which burnt out?
“Are you by any chance also a mermaid?” asks Rai drolly.
Mic looks down at his hands and held it up to him for inspection in answer “Look no scales.”
“Why mermaid?” Tiina asks Rai puzzled.
“Well just this crazy dream I had been having eh… and I had been wondering who was responsible for it.”.
“Of course, it was me. Don’t you love my holographic skills? Those manifestations were some of my best work.”
“Mic?” asks Yudi, interrupting. “Mic?” he blew air out in a rush “What kind of a name is that anyway?”
“Acronym for Man in the Computer.” Mic answers, still smiling.
“Of course “Of course. Ask a stupid question.”