Monthly Archives: September 2020

Can You See What I See

Their trips to the drive-in movie theater were always the same.
He would fall asleep and she would quietly leave the vehicle to
get popcorn, Milk Duds, and soda. As she walked back with her
goodies, the car-side speakers stopped and the screen went black,
throwing the entire lot into darkness. She stopped, temporarily
blinded. Then, the screen lit back up again, showing…

This was the topic for the Summer 24-hour Short Story contest, and this is what I wrote (and didn’t win with)…


Tonight’s offering was a horror film. Steve, Lucy knew, would slumber through the screaming and gore, while she watched, alone, from behind her fingers.

It happened every week, no matter how intense the movie, how awful the noise. Steve had slept through the Apollo launch of First Man, the exploding plane of Die Hard 2, the dying roars of King Kong.

He had even slept though Pierce Brosnan’s singing in Mamma Mia.

On screen the Rank man beat the giant gong. This was Lucy’s cue to leave the car, knowing that the snacks line would now be gone.

The opening credits were just finishing as she returned. She hoped that there would be no immediate on-screen shock before she reached the car, causing her to start and hurl soda onto someone’s windscreen, as she had done once before.

The screen went dark. Very dark. Luckily they had the only red car in the lot. She ran the final few steps and flopped into her seat, bouncing Steve awake. He smiled guiltily at her. She handed him the Milk Duds and dipped her hand into her popcorn, eyes fixed on the dark rectangle ahead.

“Spooky opening,” she said. Steve nodded.

Suddenly an elderly man’s face filled the screen. The effect was rather like staring up Shrek’s nose.

“Got it,” he said. His head rose out of shot, pulling into its place a stomach across which a T-shirt was stretched like a tarpaulin over a haystack. He turned, improving the view not at all, and walked three steps to a sofa, sitting down beside a woman of similar age. The two held hands, endearingly, then stared straight outwards, as if about to speak to camera.

But didn’t.

“It’s a bit slow,” murmured Steve.

“It’s a bit slow,” murmured the woman on the screen.

“That’s to build suspense, Joan,” said her companion. “It seems to be set in a drive-in. Just as well I rigged this up, then,” he went on. “I’d hate to watch a horror film set in a drive-in, in an actual drive-in.”

“Steve,” breathed Lucy, “I think they’re looking at us.”

“How could –“ began Steve.

“How did you do it, Len?” asked Joan, on the screen.

“I connected their website to our Zoom,” said the man. “You know how the grandkids can show us their online school projects and stuff? I reckoned it would work like that.”

“Don’t they have to share their screen to do that?” asked Joan doubtfully.

“Of course,” nodded Len in satisfaction, “which is exactly what a drive-in does.”

“Well, get a load of you,” said Joan. “My Mister Clever IT Man.”

“Simple,” shrugged Len mock-modestly. “And I’m not paying twenty dollars to watch a film in my own car and five dollars more for Milk Duds.”

“Ugh, Milk Duds,” said Joan, with a shudder. “They taste like cat-sick.”

Steve expressionlessly removed a Milk Dud from his mouth and flicked it out the window.

Len leaned forward, peering. “Something’s happening at last,” he said. “People are starting to get out of their cars.”

Lucy looked around. Sure enough, some people had emerged from their vehicles and were making their way towards the tiny wooden shack that served as control centre, gesticulating angrily.

“They’ll be first to die,” said Len confidently.

The complainers paused.

“There’s something coming through the woods!” yelled Joan suddenly.

Despite herself Lucy felt a brief flash of terror. The sound of running and the slamming of car doors told her she wasn’t the only one.

“Nah,” said Len. “It’s just the trees blowing in the wind.”

The couple continued to stare at their screen. At the drive-in, the watchers watched the watchers. Len took a long swig from a beer-can, then burped so loudly that several cars rocked, though not for the time-honoured drive-in reason.

“See the red car near the front?” said Joan. ”I bet the creature’s in there right now. He’ll suddenly sit up in the back seat.”

Don’t look, thought Lucy, rocking back and forward slightly. She looked out of the side window instead. The couple in the next car were staring at her with a mixture of horror and pity. The man looked straight into her eyes, then rolled up his window.

“Nah,” said Len. “They’ll be the heroes, the ones that kill the creature. He’ll be Brad Pitt –“

“Yeah right,” said Lucy.

“- she’ll be Jennifer Lawrence –“

“Yeah right too,” said Steve.

“- and when everyone else is dead they’ll beat the creature to pulp with a tyre-iron.”

Steve clutched Lucy’s hand, making her jump. “We don’t have a tyre-iron,” he whispered.

“We’ll take one from one of the dead people,” hissed Lucy.

The screen went blank.

Seconds later it lit up again. A young woman was sobbing as she fled through face-slapping branches.

The drive-in rang with boos.

Lucy and Steve looked at each other.

“We’ve had surprise, horror and romance,” said Steve. “This rubbish won’t beat that.”

“You’re right,” said Lucy, grinning. “Let’s go home, Brad.”


Joan and Len stared gloomily at themselves on their TV screen. Len looked bewildered, but quickly recovered.

“It’s obviously one of those trilogy films that just end mid-story,” he said. “Like the first Lord Of The Rings.