The Man Who Keeps a Journal Always Has a Story to Tell
Chapter 22: The Man Who Keeps a Journal Will Always have a Story to Tell
Time doesn’t work very well in this place. I do not know how it works. I don’t think time has stopped. But I can’t figure out the shape of it. The shape of time. Does time have a shape? When I used to think about time, it seemed to be constructed in a certain way that gave it proportion and dimension. Then, suddenly, time stopped moving in any particular direction. It ceased moving forwards or backwards. Time seemed to float. Time moved around me rather than through me.
Something has happened inside this house and I don’t know how to undo it. I brought this upon myself. This goes back a long way. This goes back before the parties. I believe the parties have a lot to do with what happened. I think it was the fault of the parties that I can’t leave my house any more. The parties are to blame for why I can’t find the front door. I am trapped inside a maze. This castle that I built has become a maze that has trapped me.
The castle itself changes. I don’t know when these changes take place. They might happen at night when I am sleeping. They might happen when I am awake. They might be happening right before my eyes only I can’t see their imperceptible transformation.. The walls shift. The corridors bend one way and then the other, leading me away from where I am going.
Nobody who finds this notebook will understand what I am writing. If I were to read the words I have written on these pages I would have no choice but to believe I must be a crazy person. Every word I put down sounds like the ravings of a lunatic. Who doesn’t believe in time? Only someone in an institution would believe that time moves around them without touching them or progressing them into the future. A lunatic could only believe that the house where they live can change its layout in order to keep the person trapped inside. These are not the ideas of a sane person. I have accepted that premise.
That doesn’t change the fact that I am the architect of my own prison. I had this castle built. I brought these stones one-by-one from the cliffs of Trieste, Italy. I used the magic that I had learned as a child working as an apprentice in the Palace theater to trick the son of a very wealthy man to give me these stones. I had enough money to buy these stones. You can’t imagine the kind of money we were able to enmass when filmmaking was new and the entire world was transfixed by the lies the light could tell them. When the first train charged across a white movie screen the audience screamed and leaped from their seats and ran for the door. Those first movie-goers were convinced the train would run them down in the seats of the theater. They had no experience with which to reconcile the lies the light told their eyes as the images flickered across the screen. They believed what they saw. They believed that a train was coming through the white wall that bounced the light back into their eyes. They believed that the locomotion had burst through the white wall and would run them down in their chairs. Because they still believed that what they saw with their eyes was somehow true. That moment, when the train crossed the screen, might have been the first moment any of the people in that theater witnessed something that didn’t actually exist. The train no longer existed when it moved across the screen. The train had become light moving through an obstruction. In this particular case, that obstruction was the black and white photograph of a train. Actually, hundreds of photographs of a train moving at a rate of twenty-four photographs per second across a burning, white light. Because of that hot, white light a train that existed in another place at another time was transported into that room with an audience in their seats watching it approach a station that was miles away. Even though the train and the station were outside of the time-and-space of the audience inside the room, both were connected by light. A single beam of white light connected these people and the steaming locomotive barreling into the station. And the audience leapt to their feet and ran from the room. The light shot through the room and brought these two forces together. The train became real because the audience accepted the story that the light told them. The audience agreed upon a lie and that lie drove them from their seats. The lie brought the audience to their feet and caused them to flee.
From a very young age, I had worked in the theater building sets for some of the greatest magicians. I had witnessed the secrets to their tricks. I had watched audiences gasp when women were sliced into pieces, when bodies vanished from the stage. I even watched the ghost of a dead family member from the audience come to life and answer questions from the beyond. But none of the reactions that I saw in the Palace theater night after night was comparable to the story I heard about an audience leaping from their seats and racing out of the theater.
When I heard the story about the audience that fled the theater when the steam engine charged across the screen I knew that I wanted to find a job working in that business. When I heard the story, I didn’t know what a film director was. I didn’t know what one had to do to get involved in that business. But it didn’t matter. I wanted to put that much terror in the hearts of people sitting in a darkened room. I wanted to tell them a lie so dark and so deep that they could no longer manage their fear. I wanted fear to drive them to their feet and make them run. If I had had my way I would have created an image so terrible once the audience started running they wouldn’t be able to stop. I wanted to find an image that would pursue them into their dreams.
When I heard the story about the film about the train approaching the station I knew that this new medium, this thing called motion pictures, had a power like nothing else that had come before it. I remember the old magician who worked for the Palace Theater talking about where they came up with the ideas for their tricks. I remember listening to them discuss what motivated them to come up with their next terrifying spectacle. These men talked about the dark place they had traveled to find the illusion that would unnerve an audience so deeply they would no longer have faith in their own eyes. When I heard the story about the train projected on the screen I realized that someone had devised a machine that could undermine an audience the way these old magicians had always wanted.
I have followed the evolution of horror movies since the very first terrifying image lit-up a screen. I had a hand in creating hundreds of unnerving scenes. I have watched the techniques change over the decades since those first reels spun in the projector. I don’t think much has been improved on since those first attempts.
At the beginning we weren’t interested in telling stories. I should use the word “we.” It was a very specific few. But even here, I won’t name names, even in a notebook that nobody will probably find. How would they find it in the first place? If I can’t find my way out of this place, how would someone ever find their way inside? Even if they did find their way inside, how would they chart a course for this room? Given that the whole place is shifting all the time, how could they navigate the corridors until they found their way into this room. Then they would have to find the desk. They would have to find the secret door underneath the desk. That would be a lot to ask someone. But still I won’t write their names. There was a very small group of us. We believed film could do more than tell stories. Sure, the stories were nice enough. The stories put food on the table and a roof over our heads. In fact, film stories put a very nice roof over our heads. All of us were living very well in the palaces of California.
Stories were never the thing that interested us. We wanted to get at something that came before stories. Perhaps we wanted to achieve something like the primal fear of a cave painting. We wanted to get to the heart of fear before language gave us words to describe it.
There were only a few of us doing this.
The man had stopped writing after that sentence.
The remainder of the journal page was empty. The next page Kit turned to was empty also. He turned a third page to find that there was no writing on that page either.
Kit wanted to know what they were doing? He wanted to know which men were doing it? Kit did not have an encyclopedic mind for directors of this period. He didn’t have an exhaustive knowledge of silent films. At least, if he could find the names he could look them up later in a book, once he had left the castle.
But there was no more information. The pages were blank. Kit turned every page until he reached the end of the journal. There were no more words. The man had simply stopped writing with hundreds of blank pages still waiting to be filled.