The Paper King

Once upon a time there was a king. But he was only a paper king. On one side of him there was his face, and on the other a blank card face. This made the king sad. Everyone around him only showed one side of themselves, always hiding the other side. There must be a better way, thought the king.

Going around the lake, the king came upon the land of the transparent people. He could barely see them and could see right through them. Only their smiles were barely visible. The king was saddened. He could see both sides of them but there was nothing there.

The king went to the lord of the transparent people, who told him of a great mountain range that might lead him to a different land. The king traveled for some time before he reached the mountains. They were too steep for his horse so he abandoned the horse to graze on paper grass, and climbed.

Climbing on and on, the king finally reached the edge of the paper. He stood on the top of the paper mountain and gazed all around at everything. He realized how small his world truly was. Then he fell. But because he was only paper, he floated gently to the ground near his horse.

Riding back to his lands, the king passed through many places. Everywhere they thought him both wise and mad, for you could see both sides of his face. Somehow on the top of the mountain he had bent in an impossible way and become whole.

The king returned to his kingdom, and resumed his throne. He gave great counsel to those that came from far and wide. Many wanted the king’s wisdom. But few ventured out to look for the mountains, and fewer still returned. Those that did the king welcomed, as he did anyone who came into his presence. For the rest of his long life the king remembered the top of the mountain, and taught as many as would hear him speak of it.

The Projectionist

The movie on the screen was in black-and-white. Every movie was, in this tiny specialized movie theater. Here the old projectionist played all the movies that didn’t make it into the digitalized files. There is a misunderstanding that every movie is available online, but that’s not true. Movies that don’t make the cut are lost forever except in little old movie houses like this one.

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Sometimes the projectionist played old favorites. Movies like “A Day In The Park” featuring happy families and children flying kites would draw as many as seven patrons, four more than the usually sleeping three patrons that occupied the seats most afternoons.

But all of the movies got shown in rotation. There was a movie called “Breakfast” which featured 47 minutes of eggs being fried. Not the most exciting film. Another movie was called “Battle” which featured a score created by the director for the movie. In the movie two rival ant factions fought for control of the Amazon floor. Unfortunately, the director was a far better composer than camera man. So the entire film was shot slightly out of focus. By midway through the film, patrons would think they were going blind.

It happened one day. The projectionist felt a twinge in his heart. He knew without asking that this was his time. He switched the reels, so that 47 minutes of eggs frying was abruptly interrupted by the second reel of “A Day In The Park.” Grimacing in pain, the old projectionist faltered down the steep stairs, really a ladder, out of the booth. He staggered through the theater doors, down the frayed thread worn red carpet, and collapsed on the stairs to the platform.  He could barely breath, and blackness threatened to close in around the edges of his vision.

Half-crawling, the projectionist climbed the last few steps and stood before the screen. He stepped forward, and the movie took him in.

Critics of rare films noted that, in the second reel of “A Day In The Park,” the producer of the film suddenly appears walking from behind the camera and proceeding across the park. He looks young and happy. By all accounts the producer used all the money he received from the film to open a small rare movie theater to display his work and the work of others like him.

The Hole In the Wall

Again… these are rough drafts written without editing.

Once upon a time there was hole in the wall.

Since Mr. James Wallach had little money, he was willing to look at the apartment. It wasn’t in a bad neighborhood, and the rent was so much less expensive that he called and asked what was wrong with the room. The superintendent told him there was a hole in the wall, but it had been covered.

Mr. Wallach didn’t ask more because he wanted the apartment. His job was starting next week and he needed to be out of his car and in a bed before he started working the long hours these assignment jobs always required.

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The room was nothing to speak of, except for the stainless steel plate along one wall. For the life of him, Mr. Wallach couldn’t think why anyone would care. There was hole, but it was covered. A little unsightly but definitely worth paying a fourth of the normal rent. Mr. Wallach took the room.

Everything was fine for the first few nights, but one night Mr. Wallach heard noise on the other side of the wall. It was a splashing, like someone taking a bath. Mr. Wallach wondered if the hole opened into a bathroom next door. But when he examined the external wall, his was the last apartment before the stairwell. There was nothing next his apartment that might make the splashing sound.

The noise made Mr. Wallach curious, so he borrowed tools from his work and unscrewed the steel plate. Behind it there was a hole, about head-sized, and beyond the hole was a blue-green substance that pulsed slightly as Mr. Wallach watched. It looked like water. Mr. Wallach reached out his hand to touch the membrane, and his hand passed right through, into water. He could feel the wetness, like dipping your hand in a warm tub of water. But when he withdrew his hand, it was dry.

When Mr. Wallach went down to talk to the superintendent, the old woman was waiting for him. She had him sit down and explained the story to him. It seemed a few years back a research physicist had rented the room. He had “borrowed” some expensive research tools from his work, and set them up in his room. Some combination of all of them had acted on the wall. The research physicist had been taken away one day by a number of very angry-looking men in uniforms, leaving the wall and nothing else in the room. They even took the light fixture.

The next renter had complained of noises behind the wall, and had eventually knocked the hole in the wall to see through if there were rats or something. He’d stayed looking out the hole, not even going to work, and so the superintendent had evicted him. When he left, he’d cried like a baby.

So the next renter had been warned about the hole, but he was a handy man and said he’d patch it up himself. Instead, he stopped going to work, stopped leaving his apartment, and eventually had to be evicted as well. After that, the superintendent had put up the steel plate and advertised the room at a lower rent. She figured that the plate would help and the lower rent would mean that, even if he lost his job, Mr. Wallach would be able to stay for a few more months on his savings.

Mr. Wallach found the whole thing a bit incredible. He had no intention of losing his job to stare at a hole, water or no water. He replaced the plate at the superintendent’s insistence, and went about his work for a week. That was when the singing started.

It was a strange, lilting singing, and Mr. Wallach knew even before he stood up and listened to the steel plate that it was coming through the wall. He turned on the radio in response, but there was something permeating about the singing that cut right through any other song. It was like the singing was the harmony for any other music he played.

Mr. Wallach went off to work, but found himself humming the singing off and on all day. When he got home, there was no singing, and he found he missed it. Sometime in the night the singing started. Mr. Wallach tried to ignore the singing, but found himself borrowing tools again to take down the steel plate. Once it was down, he gazed out into the blue-green, flickering water but didn’t see anything.

Every night the singing came, but by the time Mr. Wallach got up and looked out the hole there was no one there. Even at midnight, the water shone with light. Maybe it was an artificial light or maybe it was a sunlight from another part of the world.

It happened one morning while Mr. Wallach was eating breakfast. He heard the singing and went to the hole. On the other side of the hole was a person of some kind, singing. Mr. Wallach stood transfixed for a moment, then returned to his breakfast. He did not look at the hole, and ignored the singing. But when he left work that day, he brought home all the tools he needed to break up a wall.

The next day Mr. Wallach did not go to work. Since she was watching, the superintendent went to his room and knocked. Not hearing anything, she let herself into the room. There in the wall was  man-sized hole, filled on the other side by pulsating water that never made anything wet on this side of the wall. When the superintendent looked through the wall, she saw Mr. Wallach dancing with a mermaid.