The student, the athlete, and the stoner settled in on the love-seat. They were nestled one over the other in front of the computer monitor that served as the students’ TV and general escape. In celebration of a life, commemorating the expansive work of the late David Bowie, they had come together as they used to in their high school days to make a wager.
“You take too much for granted,” lectured the student. “Fancy special effects are no replacement for good storytelling. Think about when this was made too. It beats Stardust. Beats the Princess Bride.”
The stoner shrugged, jostling the athlete to the side a bit. He glanced down at her bare legs and said, “All I’m saying is that he’s creepy, you know? Like, Ziggy Stardust was more relatable.”
The athlete shushed them both and the trio watched. “See? What kind of person practices Shakespeare at an owl?” A well placed elbow silenced the stoner’s complaint.
“What if Sarah can’t see him?” hissed the student. Another elbow from the athlete answered his question.
“What if it’s just bad?” said the stoner. The athlete elbowed both of her neighbors.
On the screen, the storm hit and the athlete wondered if the set specialists or whoever handled such details soaked the sidewalks and sprayed down the streets. She knew that in old films they would use a trough full of holes for watered down milk to stream out in front of the camera to give the illusion of rain but she couldn’t be sure that was the case there. She watched the asphalt closely, hoping to see drops of genuine precipitation. Sarah’s clothes seemed sodden enough and she could almost smell Merlin’s shaggy coat as the pair ran home. Such a simple thing, she thought, but immersive.
Then the stoner mocked Sarah’s whining. The athlete thought the words were a tad bit heavy handed, a bit over the top, sure, but not any more than her younger brother had spouted when he was 17.
“You can’t tell me you never threw a stupid tantrum when you were a teenager,” said the student.
The athlete slumped off of the love-seat to get out from between her bickering friends. This silenced them more effectively than her elbows had. The trio watched in silence as the goblin king made his entrance. “What’s said is said,” said the student and the stoner.
The athlete slumped lower onto the carpet. She thought about the Wizard of Oz. She thought about Peter Pan. The expectation that there should be some big transition, some big event before Sarah was off chasing her stolen kid brother would not leave her alone.
The skittering goblins, set her more on edge than she expected, only to be replaced by gorgeous scenery and a frighteningly realistic dwarf. Watching from the advantage of three plus decades, and five plus Lord of the Rings flicks, she marveled at his expressiveness. He seemed wooden in the same way an old uncle of hers had, jaw set and stern, but soft beneath it all. “You know your problem?” said Hoggle, “You take too many things for granted.” The athlete shuddered. Behind her, the stoner sniggered.
“It’s a little cheesy, I’ll grant you that,” said the student.
The next few scenes recalled the athlete of wonderland: the doddering worm, the betraying maze, and playing card guards. It’s a collection of dreams, she thought. Like the sandman. She wondered if Neil Gaiman ever met David Bowie. She hoped so.
“This is getting out of hand,” said the stoner, “eh? eeehhhh?” The athlete heard a muffled ‘oomph’ from behind her.
Their wrestling had just quieted when the stoner said, “I forgot about this part.”
The puns are growing worse, thought the athlete. The following scuffle lasted only slightly longer than the first and they quieted at Hoggle’s trick with the door. “Could you both stop?” asked the athlete. Then with a grin she turned and said, “This is your final warning?”
The stoner and the student booed her false alarm pun, but they quieted down afterward. Then came the hidden king, the cleaners, the impossible ladder and the space beneath the vase from which it emerged, the geezer’s hat, and Ludo.
The absurdity and uncanny blended before the trio’s eyes and for a while they forgot themselves. When the movie ended, the student acknowledged that the wires holding up the shattered stones in the final confrontation were visible. The stoner pointed out the detailed goblin king next to the mirror and resolved to find a bong shaped as such. The athlete climbed back onto the love-seat, and chose the next movie.
Gabriel Necochea is a graduate of a prestigious military institution who is still serving time as an active duty officer. When not doing important things, he spends most of his free time developing amateurish video games, writing odd stories, and procrastinating via games and nerd culture. If you’ve read this far, you’re my kind of person. We should do lunch sometime.