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Man That You Fear

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The Giza Brewpub & Theatre's online crowdfunding campaign had been a massive success, and the subsequent renovations had managed to upgrade the picture quality and kitchen facilities without sacrificing the old-school charm of the interior facades.  There was only one screen, but it was massive, and between the floor seating and the balcony level, there were over a thousand seats, all sold out days ago.  Tonight's grand re-opening was a student-organized fundraiser for Joseph Clark High.  Locals from Lincoln and Southside rubbed elbows with the hipsters commuting across the South River, all eager for the double feature: A newly-restored print of the genre-redefining horror classic Dead Moon Rising, followed the premiere of the recent remake.  Ten percent of every ticket sold for tonight was going to the school.  Of all the teachers at Joseph clark, Mister LaMarr had been the obvious choice to be "volunteered" to attend and keep an eye on things.  If nothing else, his presence would help to placate the busybodies on the PTA worried about the possibility of underage drinking.

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Dead Moon Rising had been one of Brian Mark Brubaker's favorite films during his childhood, ever since the first time he snuck a viewing of it on cable TV while his father was away on a business trip and his mother was "sleeping with Prince Valium."  Since the explosion that had stolen his eyes, a theatre screen was just a blank wall to him, even with his echolocation.  But the Giza served good pizza and better cider, two things he'd almost forgotten existed during his time among the Shambala monks.  He took a seat up on the balcony level, folded up his cane, and settled in to listen and lean into some nostalgia.  He had no idea when the house lights went down, so it didn't occur to him to remove his dark sunglasses.

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Keith LaMarr didn't have much use for horror movies. He wasn't all that much of a cinema enthusiast to begin with but once you'd splattered a certain number of shambling corpses and broken a certain number of blood sucker's fangs off on bite-proof knuckles the genre lost some of it's novelty. Still, he was always happy to see a piece of the neighbourhood's history preserved and the profits from the Giza's re-opening were going to go a long way toward funding programs he'd been hounding the school administration over for years. If that meant he ended up standing at the back of the theater rather than subjecting the newly restored seats to his considerable weight, spending more time watching the audience than watching the screen it was a small price to pay.

At least it wasn't some kung fu picture. Ninjas were worse than zombies.

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What was most surprising to people who hadn't seen Dead Moon Rising in a long time, or at all, was how much the first half-hour was a slow build.  There was some violence here and there, and even a couple of individual zombies, but it wasn't until the 30-minute mark when the cultists finished their ritual and every dead person in the city started getting up and walking around, whether they had just died or had to claw their way up out of their own graves.  It wasn't until that iconic scene that Brian started suffering a massive headache, followed by nausea, and a ringing in his ears that just got worse and worse with every passing minute.

The projected image on the screen flickered.  Scattered bursts of static erupted from a couple of the speakers hidden throughout the theatre.  A few of the roudier patrons openly jeered, thinking there was something wrong with the supposedly restored film reel.  Brian heard someone arguing out in the lobby.  He heard glasses start to break against walls and under shoes and into people's flesh.  He couldn't see the movie, so he couldn't see the zombies crawling out of the screen and into the audience.  He couldn't see people in the audience transforming into zombies, the flesh on their bones rapidly decaying and falling off.  None of that was actually happening in real life, of course, but it was happening in the minds of the viewing audience.

What was real?  The shy, nerdy girl down in the fifth row who burst into flames, melting her seat and the carpet beneath.  The grunge throwback kid up in the balcony level whose waist-length hair started stretching fifty feat out of his scalp and randomly grabbing people and throwing them up out of their seats.  (Most people who looked at him saw a giant octopus grabbing people with tentacles the size of telephone poles and shoveling them into its drooling maw.)  The hundreds of teens and twentysomethings screaming and panicking and trampling each other to get to the exits while their peers tried to literally eat them.  No one was transforming into a rotting corpse, but plenty of people were suddenly so consumed with the desire to eat the flesh off the bones of their peers that it drowned out all conscious thought.  Roughly half the audience started grabbing and clawing and biting at anyone within reach.

 

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The waves of nausea and sharp pain at the base of his skull caught LaMarr off guard for a moment but the experienced hero gritted his teeth and powered through. Whatever the hallucinations were trying to convince him he was seeing had to contend with what he knew was in front of him having spent the better part of an hour keeping an eye on the audience in front of him. Lashing out instinctively was only going to get somebody hurt or undo all of the restoration that had only just been completed; he needed to think it through. The girl bursting into flames toward the front of the seating didn't mesh with rest of the biting, clawing mob so she might not have been part of the illusion. With little more than a grimace as fingernails failed to bite into his superhumanly tough skin he waded through the mob, pushing the affected movie goers out of the way with broad hands as he headed straight for the biggest threat to the crowd's safety.

"Child, I need you to calm yourself," he intoned in a commanding baritone before wrapping his arms in a bear hug around the teen engulfed in flames. LaMarr could have placed his hand in a camp fire and only gotten uncomfortably warm but these flames began burning his exposed skin almost immediately, confirming that this was no mundane conflagration. Tilting his chin to keep his beard from alighting and resigning himself to the destruction of yet another perfectly good dress shirt, he bellowed to the room, "Whichever fool is doing this, you've got ONE chance to stop it and I'll only break your nose! You don't walk away from hurting my kids!"

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Brian could feel the heat from the mousy teenager, now wreathed in flame.  He could hear every growl and snarl and scream and stomp and slice as people were dragged to the ground and bitten and scraped and slammed against a floor covered in broken glass.  He could smell blood and spilled beer pooling and seeping into the fresh new carpet.  He felt the vibrations through the floor with every harried step taken by those fleeing for the exits.  His echolocation showed him a stormy sea of human flesh rolling in waves that broke against the walls and each other.

A terrified man ran from a handful of youths with dead eyes and hungry mouths.  He slipped and fell over the balcony railing, tumbling head over feet.  He managed to catch the secondary bar lining the outside of the balcony.  As he hung on for dear life, Brian sprang from his seat.  But the teens got to him first, surrounding him, pulling him to the ground.  He twisted and rolled out from under them, pulling his limbs against the weak spots in their grips.  Grabbing the inner railing with one hand, he heaved himself half over it, grabbed the man's hand, strained with every muscle he had and a few he didn't know existed, and pulled the man up and over.  "*pant* ...Run...*pant* RUN!"  The man glanced around frantically and gave Brian a quizzical look as if to silently as "Run WHERE?!"  But Brian's sonar wasn't detailed enough to pick up subtle facial expressions.  The man got no reaction, no validation, and just took off running in the least crowded direction.

Brian, meanwhile, dropped a smoke pellet (just in case) and pulled on the hidden snaps and zippers of the custom clothes he wore over his Kingsnake costume, removing them in a matter of seconds.

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The kid with the hair had the same frenzied look in his eye as the theatre patrons who were trying to eat their seatmates, but he was consumed only with fight-or-flight, not with hunger.  His tresses formed spider-legs beneath him, lifting him up out of arms reach.  A hundred feet of hair lashed out from his scalp into the crowd before him.  Entire rows of people were knocked up out of their seats or the aisles between.  Some went flying off the balcony onto the crowd below, while others smashed into the walls.  Others will were merely clotheslined off their feet to be trampled or gnawed upon by others.

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Kingsnake somersaulted up over the frenzied audience members, almost dancing along the crowd.  He pushed off of a shoulder here, a back there, slid between a pair of legs, flipping and weaving until he was face-to-face with the troubled teen with the terrible tresses.  He gripped one of the batons his custom double-weapon, "The Fangs of The Serpent,", gripping the middle of the chain with his other hand.  He gave the chain a couple of spins and then released it, heaving the baton at the other end of the chain toward the theatre wall behind the kid.  The baton struck the wall, then ricocheted down to the safety railing on the balcony wall, before flying again back toward Kingsnake.  He yanked on the chain at just the right moment, sending it spinning around the kid until he was wrapped from shoulder to ankle.

Kingsnake was just about to drag the kid down to the ground when the hair caught under the chain flexed outward and upward, slipping the chain up and off the kid in an instant.  Damn.  Kingsnake had overcommitted to that strike, and now he stood wide open to the kid's inevitable counterattack.

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With the sickly smokey smell of singed flesh starting to fill his nostrils LaMarr kept his grip on the fire generating teenager with little reaction beyond a grunt. The rest of the theater was still in absolute chaos and if the shouts from above were any indication he needed to sort things out on the ground floor and get up to the balcony as soon as possible. "Girl, I know it's not your fault," he growled, gritting his teeth as he turned his chin so that he wasn't aiming his formidable voice too directly at her head, "but you have GOT TO STOP!" The force of his shout rippled outward, knocking biting, grappling movie goers toppling over the backs of folding seats and stumbling to the newly renovated floor. Those nearby who kept their feet under them dropped whatever they were doing to sprint away from the source of the bellow. LaMarr had no idea what they were seeing when they looked at him under the mind bending effects of the tampered film but for now it was good enough that they'd stopped fighting each other.

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