4D Cinema + Democracy
A cool spring breeze blew from the west, that smelled fresh, but carried undertones of the shared dumpster behind the Trader Joes. As the setting sun sank below the rolling, periwinkle hills, and the cotton candy clouds on sticks of contrails dissipated into puddles of fluff, the line around the Danford Cineplex stretched longer than the shadow of the gigantic golden arches on the corner of route 30.
Maria wore a Red ApocalEclipse T-shirt with two star-crossed lovers staring longingly into each other's eyes. The characters are both 17, but played by actors well in their twenties. On the back of the shirt it said "Red Army". When the breeze picked up she unconsciously zippered up her windbreaker, concealing the T-shirt but never taking her eyes off her phone. "The Pollster for the Danford Cineplex says our ending is 56% likely!"
Another watcher, who Maria only knew by his internet handle Eclipse1999 said, "Pollster is contaminated, the Death Campers always vote in our favor to make our lobbyists lazy."
"Maybe, but someone from the group of War Camp watchers at the front of the line keeps tweeting with the hash "tonight's the night"."
The Red Army, the Danford faction of War Camp, was perhaps thirty strong, but there were only eighteen present in Maria's group of watchers. The line itself was around 300 long and every-so-often a pox-marked man in his thirties, in a red Cineplex vest would labor past, clicking a head count and letting everyone past 250 know that there were no tickets for sale, and no guarantee of getting in.
"Well look who it is," said R3dHors3, "Vinnie decided to show up."
Maria looked up to see a fellow Red Army watcher walking toward them, she had never met him before, but felt the instant camaraderie she'd felt with all the Red Army. Vinnie said, "Hey. I'm Vinnie," and though many didn't bother looking up from their phones, the group opened up to welcome him into its mass. "I'm seeing a lot of Death Camp shirts, there must be at least three lobbying the north wall. Don't kill the messenger, but I get the feeling that we should try again on another night, maybe not on a Friday when there are so many Firsties."
"Firsties are our best bet!" said ApocalForever as he came back from lobbying. "Half of them are content to be manipulated by the freaking soundtrack, but the other half are happy to hear what kind of movie they can choose if they vote for the right timeline."
RedArmy1 spoke up. "It's true. Apocal, how many did you get?"
RedArmy1 nodded, "Nice."
Vinnie seemed unimpressed. "You know how Firsties are, they say yes, but half of them get wrapped up in the movie and forget when it comes down to the timeline choice! Then they try to tell you they voted the other way at the end when you're doling out rewards."
RedArmy1 squared off with him, "Who are you?"
R3dHors3 spoke up and tried to put himself between Red and Vinnie, "This is my friend Vinnie."
RedArmy1 ignored him, "What's your eu-en, Vinnie?"
"I don't have a username, I'm not on your forum, I'm from Newberg. Ryan --sorry-- Red horse said you guys had a chance to see the Red Army ending. I'm here to support, but it looks like you're outnumbered."
RedArmy1 backed down, "Well, thanks for driving all the way out here." He shook his head, "Gaaah, I want to see that ending so bad! I've seen this movie thirty freaking times, and I swear if I see another sappy ending where Pestilence and Famine team up with Gabriel and Death, I will drive-by the director's house!"
"Oh shit!" Maria said, "Twitter just exploded! A group of watchers down in Austin got the Red Army. They didn't spoil it, or give timeline directions, but they keep hashing 'darkest timeline'."
Redleah4, one of other women in the Red Army asked, "What if we vote FOR Death early, maybe there's a timeline vote that could paint the son of Death as a power hungry ass-bag? People will be more likely to route for the underdog later."
Maria shook her head, but RedArmy1 answered, "We tried that last month."
Redleah4's shoulders slumped, and Maria offered, "Yeah. Remember the timeline where Leah gets in trouble with the gang of Morphine dealers? Within the first week of the ApocalEclipse opening, spoilers got around and everyone found out that when Leah chooses the Son of War, it puts the War compound in a position to side with Leah, but War would have to kill the Morphos--"
"And without the Morphos, Pestilence would have a foothold into War's compound," Redl4ah realized aloud.
Maria continued, "Right. It forces the Son of War to leave his family, but without the compound he's straight-up pathetic. Like Dudley Dursley pathetic. Leah starts doubting his ability to protect their child, but that's before he knows she's preggers. Ever since the second week only firstie watchers ever vote for that Son of War timeline, unless we tell them how it ends."
"How we think it ends," Vinnie corrected.
Redleah4 sucked on her hair. "Hm. I knew I was supposed to vote for her to ask for the Son of Death's help, but I mean, we're Red Army so I never wanted to ask why it seemed like we were helping Death Campers."
RedArmy1 turned to Maria, "Madonna2000, go recruit some more Firsties."
In all fairness it was her turn, but she got the feeling that RedArmy1 was punishing her for mentioning their failed conquest. She nodded and started wandering down the line.
"Hey, hi," she said, approaching a couple obviously from the city.
"We have pre-buy," said the man/husband, assuming she was going to ask them for tickets, "Sorry non-transferable." he shrugged.
"I'm not here to buy, I was just wondering if you have put any thought into your timeline choices?"
They exchanged a look that only old people were capable of, and the woman shook her head. "Sorry. We don't vote."
"WHAT?" Maria couldn't help herself and probably lost two watchers in the process, "Why on Earth would you come to a 4D movie and not vote? The alternate timelines are the whole point? Do you also watch 3D movies with an eye patch?"
The man/husband stepped toward her, sheltering his wife like a delicate flower from a frost named Maria. "We just couldn't make it in time for the director's cut okay?"
Maria walked away. Not okay. Maybe I'll have better luck converting voting watchers, she thought and soon noticed a tall young man reading the ApocalEclipse fan forum, she stepped into his cloud of Old Spice and asked, "What's your timeline route?"
The young man looked up. He had piercing green eyes like the Son of War himself, and ice-green piercings in his lip and eyebrow. He swiped his finger across the screen of his phone and read, "Yes to the rave; No to morphine; Yes to the ride home.--"
"Pssh," she interrupted playfully, "I've seen that movie already, it's so Disney Princess the only thing it's missing is talking mice!"
He narrowed his eyes challenging her, "Well, at least tell me your favorite timeline so I can crap on your parade."
She grinned, "The one I haven't seen."
"You'd have to go hundreds of times to see all the endings."
"Two-fourty-three to see every variation, but there are only three endings--"
"Hashtag spoiler alert!"
"You're on the AE forum!"
"But think of the other people within earshot," he said lowering his voice.
"True," she copied his volume level and leaned deeper into his cloud, "I want to see what happens when she falls in love with the Son of War."
He seemed to realized that he was being lobbied, "You like the bad boy type huh? I could be persuaded, what're you offering?"
Oh my God, this cute guy is flirting with me. I mean he's kind of cute, which is to say that he is cute, but a little out of my league. Yeah, cause I totally have a league, it's whatever sports metaphor means the very bottom. Bottom feeders, that's my league. Catfish, Lobsters, those sort of things. Suddenly she knew without a doubt that if she flirted with him, he would vote on her route and they would see the Red Army ending. It was just like the movie, she could even see the prompt jump up before her eyes.
Timeline choice in 3... 2... 1...
1) Flirt with him
2) Shoot him down
Audience chose: Flirt with him!
He seemed to realized that he was being lobbied, "You like the bad boy type, huh? "
Maria smiled out of the corner of her mouth and said, "Depends, does your dad command the Red army?"
"Maybe? Is that what those guys with the armor made from truck tires are called?"
"Oh my God, I love that guy with the shield made from a car door!"
"That's the Red army? Really? No wonder you haven't gotten your ending, those guys are hella communists!"
"No they're not! They're stylized after the Vikings! The loot from the raids was given to the lord and redistributed according to valor!"
"Wow, calm down on the Discovery Channel."
"Read Beowulf bitch! and next time you try negging, pick someone who's within your IQ bracket, and Old Spice does not replace a shower."
As Maria watched the Angel Gabriel leading the charge with Death, Pestilence, and Famine at his back she thought back to that moment and wondered if it would have been worth it to let that asshole walk all over her, after all, they did lose their timeline vote by one, and Maria knew exactly which one it was.
Audience chose: Shoot him down!
He seemed to realized that he was being lobbied, "You like the bad boy type huh? I could be persuaded, what're you offering?"
"Excuse me? What kind of girl do you think I am?"
He raised his hands, "I... I didn't mean it like that; Death Camp came by here earlier and they were offering 10 unique Twitter followers for their ending."
Maria shook her head, "Damn, that's good. We've got a man on the inside who can get us first in line to buy tickets for the final showing of ApocalEclipse next month."
He seemed surprised, "That's better! I supposed you'll require proof for that."
"So you'll vote for our route?" Maria could barely contain her excitement.
He looked back to his phone, "No, this is the last time I'm going to watch it. I'm writing an ApocalEclipse fan fiction where Leah gets sold as a human commodity. I've already got everything I need from the movie, now I just need the followers."
"That doesn't make any sense, no AE fan would ever read that," But then Maria realized he didn't even know what the Red Army was, he'd never even seen that timeline. "Son of a bitch you're a Troll!"
He laughed in her face, "Nice to meet you. I'm Austin, as in Austin Texas." It felt like a cold knife through the heart, and then he twisted it, "Didn't you ever wonder why the Red Army ending is so illusive?"
She hadn't even considered it before and yet it had been her life for the last three months. "There IS no Red Army ending."
The tall young man who smelled of Old Spice was staring at her with a concerned look on his face. "Hellooo? You okay? You just like... zoned out or something. How long have you been in line?"
Maria shook her head and the dust of alternate timelines flew off and away from her like a flock of pigeons from an oncoming car. "Yeah, I'm okay. A few hours."
"Here," he reached into a black messenger bag with the ApocalEclipse moon and anarchy 'A' symbol stitched onto the front, and pulled out an unopened bottled water.
"Thanks," she said, taking it from him.
While she drank he asked, "What are you offering if I vote for your timeline?"
"How many times have you seen this movie?" She asked.
"5. I didn't want to get on board at first, but then I started reading the forums and got sucked into the Easter Egg hunts. This time I'm going for 'No morphine' because it unlocks a bonus scene between Pestilence and Gabriel, where Pest has a momentary change of heart and decides to hide the Nephilim child. It's Fiennes' best performance since Deathly Hallows, supposedly that scene is the why he decided to do the role."
Maria looked at the people standing around him. He seemed alone. "Are these your watchers?" she asked not even believing it herself.
"No, I'm solo."
She shook her head, "You're never going to get that scene if you don't build up voters. Basically you're just taking votes from the Red Army ending."
"Maybe, but this is the only reason I'm at the Cineplex. I'd rather do something else than watch a movie I don't want to see, much less sit through a movie just so I can vote to watch a movie I don't want to see." He sighed, "How do they get us to do this? You know we can just watch all the endings when it comes out on DVD."
Maria started to cry, "But I don't want to miss it. I've spent three months of my life watching, and voting for this one movie that I'm going to kick myself if I'm not there to see it and celebrate with my people."
He shrugged, "My people are hunters, we search alone."
"Not anymore," she said. "Can I cut?"
He smiled, moved over, and she stepped into line beside him. "I'm Mado--I mean-- Maria."
He looked embarrassed about something. "I'm Gabriel, and before you ask: yes, it's my real name; yes, I know I'm named after the bad guy in the movie; and yes, I do vote for my namesake to die."
Maria took another sip of water and thought, maybe there's a reason the Disney princess ending is so popular...