It didn’t really occur to Nick that Ellis hadn’t seen it, more or less heard of it. Though it was a bit surprising to say the least—it was a cult classic.
“Really, El?” He asked his younger counterpart with a raised eyebrow, giving him a pointed look as he held up the empty DVD case. They stood in the horror section at the local video store, much to the conman’s relief because he didn’t want to have his boyfriend create a scene like he did last time they were there and nearly arguing about which comedy to rent. It wasn’t that Nick didn’t like the genre, far from it; only slap-happy ones were El’s favorite while the other preferred dead-pan if not the crude type of humor.
Horror was another matter; teenage slashers, depending on how terrible they were, were El’s cup-of-tea while Nick went for the type that weren’t too predictable—or if there was nudity involved, then it would have his full attention.
Talk about being on opposite ends of the spectrum. Picking out something in which they could both enjoy always seemed to be a chore.
Except for where they were standing now, it could be worse, or so Nick kept telling himself. Hell, it would have been a nightmare all on its own if they were standing around looking through the romance section. Nick never would have figured—since it was Valentine’s Day—that the area the hick wandered off to was to look through the selections one would normally watch on Halloween. Or Friday the 13th, depending on which poison one preferred.
The mechanic shrugged indifferently as he examined both sides of the case. “Well, why not? I haven’t seen it before and accordin’ to a couple of the guys at the shop, its purdy good.”
The gambler snorted, crossing his arms over his chest. “‘Purdy good’ isn’t exactly the words I would use to describe it, champ.”
But the younger continued to hold onto the case as they proceeded down the aisle, looking at other titles that might tickle his fancy. If the kid decided to rent ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ or any of the ‘Halloween’ movies Nick was sure to throw a shit-fit—even more so if any of the Jason movies joined in. “Okay, then what?”
“Try ‘scary beyond all reason,’ for starters. It deals with possession.”
“And a test of faith in one’s religion, since it also concerns a priest.”
“Still sounds purdy good.”
“That’s what you said about ‘Poltergeist,’” Nick remarked as he stopped him from picking out one of the sequels to ‘Hellraiser.’ The first one in every horror series were always the best ones in his mind—that is, until the film industry decided they needed to make practically a billion sequels to keep the franchise going. Milk them for all they were worth until there was nothing left. “Scared you so bad that I had to keep the TV out of our bedroom for almost a month you thought that it might summon spirits into our building.”
“That was only ‘cuz you thought it was funny to stack up the chairs on our kitchen table the next mornin’,” El retorted. He made a face as Nick rolled his eyes and added, “Ya made me think our apartment was haunted after that, and watchin’ the other two didn’t help none either! Jerk.”
“Whatever.” Walking around him, the taller plucked the case from his hands and examined the row on the opposite side. He had almost forgotten that certain paranormal flicks tended to ruffle the kids feathers since ‘Poltergeist’ was a good example after Nick’s trickery. “I only did it because you kept on mumbling throughout the night if our building was built over a cemetery.”
“So, can we rent it? The cover looks ominous enough.”
“El, it’s a horror movie.”
“It’s not exactly something you would watch on ‘date night.’”
“If you wanted to watch a horror movie I would have offered up the wedding video with my first wife.”
“That’s not funny.”
“Wouldn’t you rather go out and see something?”
“Well…figurin’ that we’re already here…and I thought that ya wanted to stay home and watch somethin’ together…”
“I repeat: a horror movie?”
“You have a better idea, then?”
The older guffawed as he spun back around, suddenly feeling incredulous even though it was an innocent question. “I just gave you one!”
“Shh! Don’t shout Nick, geez!” Ellis chastised. He looked around the not-so-crowded video store, hoping that the man’s sudden rise in irritation didn’t attract too much attention. “We’re in a public place.”
“I’m not shouting. I was just merely—” Nick’s patience was already growing thin, even though they hadn’t been there for ten minutes. They were supposed to do three things and three things only: drop off a previously rented movie, rent another or two, and pick out some candy to satisfy El’s sweet tooth. Not bicker about something trivial because the kid hadn’t seen it and the older protesting in his usual way because that’s just what he does.
Pinching the bridge of his nose as he always did when he became irritated, Nick allowed himself a moment to calm down and took in a deep breath, letting it out a few seconds after.
“I was just merely suggesting we go out and see something as opposed to sitting at home and listening to our neighbors fight,” he implied in a more self-controlled, slightly strained voice. For nearly a month their unruly occupants who lived below them would create a ruckus for no reason; always finding ways to have an argument that would wake either men in the middle of the night. Since he and El lived on the third floor, it was hard to ignore them.
Ellis frowned as he looked over the cover of the fourth ‘Saw’ movie as if it was the most revolting thing he’d ever seen before putting it away and moving on. “Well, they ain’t gonna be home tonight, that’s for damned sure.”
“And how do you know this?”
“’Cuz I watched them leave this mornin’ with packed bags,” Ellis replied as he continued on his search. “Figured they was headin’ out on a trip and so I thought that—”
“We would take advantage of the peace and quiet and enjoy staying at home and getting a good nights rest,” Nick finished.
“Exactly,” El agreed. “Plus, I also thought it’d be the perfect time to test out them new speakers on our flat screen.”
“So, let me get this straight; instead of making enough noise to have our other neighbors call the cops on us because we’re not fighting, you want to go out and eat, then go home and watch some horror movie that you’ve never seen before in surround sound?” He kept pace with him as two more over-milked franchises almost made it onto the ‘this looks good’ list. “The one you picked out might give you a nightmare, or think twice about stairs. Am I understanding this correctly that you really wanna rent this one?”
Now it was Ellis’s turn to roll his eyes. “You know what? If yer gonna be such a big fussy-butt about it, then we’ll jus’ put it back and go see somethin’.” When he tried to reach for the case Nick kept it out of reach. “Seriously, Nick. What’s yer problem? The neighbors aren’t gonna be home and yer actin’ like that’s a bad thing! Why can’t we enjoy a night where you ain’t itchin’ to go down there and wring someone’s neck?”
“Probably because I’m still bothered by that time when the bullet missed you by inches,” Nick retorted a bit gruffly. “Even if it did happen three weeks ago.” Both of them were startled awake when the sound of glass breaking echoed during the quiet night, right before a rather bad argument which turned into a full-blown fight ensued by their oh-so-lovely neighbors. Ellis had rolled over to cover his ears with a pillow to drown out the exchanged obscenities when a gunshot sounded—just as something heavy falling to the floor with a thud was heard some semi-seconds later.
It took Nick a moment to realize that Ellis wasn’t in bed. Immediately he was up and out to check on him, thinking that the stray bullet had gotten lucky. Apparently the neighbors had the same impression, since no more shots were heard and they became quiet.
Ellis was unharmed. He misjudged how close he was to the edge when he rolled over—missing the nightstand by mere millimeters—and was just as surprised by the noise as his partner before he hit the ground. Nick checked him over either way and when El didn’t offer anything further, instead noticing the alarmed expression the hick had, he looked over his shoulder to see what had his attention—and saw the feathers that were falling around the bed. El’s pillow had been hit.
“Is that what’s botherin’ you?” The mechanic placed his hands on the gambler’s chest, looking into his eyes and not caring if anyone was watching them or not. When Nick dismissively shook his head in denial he added, “Even so, I wanna make tonight special without havin’ to listen to them and you worryin’ about my safety. It was only for one night and they haven’t done anythin’ stupid since then. Besides, it’d be a nice change of pace and there’s nothin’ out that’s worth seein’. I know how ya feel about horror movies, but if we watched it together without any interruptions…”
Nick kissed his forehead, suddenly feeling like a jackass, before resting his hands on the boy’s shoulders. True, it had been quite a while since the incident but unlike him, Ellis had already moved on. It normally didn’t take this long for the gambler to put two and two together, since he was thankful that his boyfriend had rolled over when he did, but when he finally understood what the mechanic had wanted to do… “You make me feel like such a shit sometimes, you know that? Okay, we’ll rent the movie—but no making popcorn, since last time you made such a mess I had to wash the butter stains out of the sheets.”
Ellis nodded, chuckling as the memory of how Nick found out replayed in his mind. “Then in that case, only candy will be on the menu for a horror movie. Have you seen it, by the way?”
“The film or the candy?” The older teased, which prompted the younger to roll his eyes again and making a noise of disgust. “Okay, stop that. You’re gonna make me think I have a third eye or something.”
“Then stop teasin’ me since I’m serious about rentin’ it,” Ellis said a bit sternly, eyeing him. “I haven’t seen it, but since you have, I wanna know if it’s worth it.”
“Maybe worth it some other night, but not tonight,” he said truthfully. When the rolling of the eyes started again and Ellis moved out of Nick’s grip did the gambler give in and make the same disgusted noise his boyfriend did moments ago. “Okay, fine. You wanna know the truth about it? It scared the crap out of me the first time I saw it and I’ve only seen it maybe two more times after. If you really wanna rent it and watch it tonight after dinner, fine by me. I only ask one thing though…”
Ellis placed his hands on his hips. “I know already. No popcorn and only candy, right? Christ Nick, y’know I’m not gonna mess up the sheets like last time!”
“…that you listen to every word spoken to get a better grasp of the characters involved, since the beginning will be slow before the story-line progresses,” he finished firmly and precisely. God how he hated when the kid would suddenly have a short-fuse like his counterpart, always making Nick think that some of his lovely attitude rubbed off in the littlest of ways. “I also understand that you’re gonna want to ask me millions of questions, but believe me, listening and watching what they do will surely answer some if not all of them. You’ll just have to be patient until the good parts come along.”
El took in a deep breath and then sighed loudly, as if weighing his options. Nick didn’t understand this gesture since he practically told him that they were going to rent it, albeit the consequences he was sure to follow in the young man’s dreams later that night. “Anythin’ else?”
“Yeah.” Nick approached and held out the case for him to take. “‘The Exorcist’ is by the far one of the best damned movies I’ve ever seen, since back then there wasn’t all this CGI shit to please one’s eyes, and they made the film work with what they had.”
“So I heard from Keith and them.” Ellis took it and together they proceeded to the candy aisle. “Dave wouldn’t even go near it since he said it was against his religion or somethin’. That it?”
“Nope.” Nick clicked his tongue then snatched the first sugary treat the kid picked out, quickly making his way to the clerk to check-out. “You’re also gonna share some of these Milk Duds with me.”
The speakers worked better than expected, since the constant vibration along the walls was a good indication that they were doing their job.
Only twice did Nick have to adjust the base until it was at equal level with the treble, and even then it made the movie ten times better. He still felt somewhat guilty for trying to coax his partner into seeing a movie rather than renting, since he didn’t know what the kid’s intentions were, but now that they were fully settled on their bed and watching something together did he realize just how much better of an idea it really was.
Not to mention that since he’d seen it a few times before, he could trust him to keep the moving going while Nick would temporarily leave the room to either take a piss or get them both something to drink to wash down the Milk Duds. Needless to say, the kid was keeping his word in not making a mess of the bed with the chocolate balls—or the box that was full of the dark heart-shaped ones he gave him after dinner, and even the box with the white heart ones that El gave him once they made it back home. Either way, it was a win-win situation.
Nick had forgotten just how much ‘The Exorcist’ made his bones ache, especially when Regan (played by a then fourteen-year-old Linda Blair) was playing with the Ouiji board. He never believed in those things, but then again he never touched one. None of it so far seemed lost to Ellis since he was so enthralled by it that he actually kept his mouth shut and enjoyed it for what it was. When they reached the scene where Regan was “supposedly” talking to Captain Howdy on that damn board did El seemingly want to jump into reminiscing about another Keith adventure; since he sat up and opened his mouth to say something with a finger held out like he was about to offer an opinion. A quick popping of another Milk Dud into his mouth from his partner soon ended that near-interruption.
Then came the part where Regan was constantly being tested to see what was wrong with her after her little “accident” during one scene where her mother was throwing a party at the house. A lot of it he could tell was starting to bother Ellis from the way he kept fidgeting every so often; Nick wasn’t sure if it was because of the way they were prepping her for it, or because it involved a child. The screaming definitely bothered the young man for the corners of his eyes would twitch and he would be holding his candy halfway to his mouth every time she was shown in distress.
He didn’t have much to say about the priest’s story and what was going on with him personally. Although the dream they showed about Father Karras not being able to run to his mother in time as she disappeared into the subway did strike a small nerve with him. Nick had a similar dream a couple of months into living in their apartment; where in it he was trying to run to Ellis who was standing a good distance away and turned to walk down a dark alley towards God knows where, and he figured he was walking into the domain of one of the infected. It reminded him too much about this horror flick and he figured that’s what helped trigger his short fuse earlier at the video store. When they watched the dream sequence did Nick link his fingers with his partner’s and kiss the kid’s forehead, squeezing and reminding himself that it was only a dream he had a long time ago—and that no matter what, Ellis was safe with him.
Eventually once the demon started to present itself a lot more did Nick pause it long enough for them to take a bathroom break, since there was only about forty minutes left in the film.
There was a soft knock on the bathroom door when Nick flushed the toilet a third time. “Is dinner botherin’ you, darlin’?” Ellis’ muffled voice asked from the other side.
He grunted when he turned on the water in the sink, determined to thoroughly wash his hands. “Isn’t it obvious?”
“I was jus’ askin’.”
“And I’m just sayin’.”
Once their business was finished, and Ellis was able to use the bathroom after his boyfriend, the younger moved to sit under the covers.
“Is it almost over?” The mechanic asked as the conman turned out the lights so only the flickering flat screen illuminated the room. “Why do we have’ta watch it in the dark?”
Nick slid in next to him and motioned for the boy to continue the movie. “Trust me kiddo, you don’t wanna miss this.”
Nine minutes. Nine Goddamn minutes.
That’s how long the exorcism scene lasted.
That’s how long, throughout moments of non-music and the performing of the ritual, the speakers defined the climax of the words spoken and the sounds heard the making of what made ‘The Exorcist’ one of the scariest films of all time.
And, consequently, what made Ellis practically lean forward ‘on the edge of his seat.’
From the reading of scripture as the two priests vowed to cast out the demon from a young Regan’s body, to the infamous full-turn spin of her head in an act of defiance and a show of power from said demon, to another moment as the infamous chant ‘The power of Christ compels you!’ was repeated over and over as Holy Water was splashed upon her possessed body as she hovered above the bed.
Nick wondered if the kid even remembered to blink, more or less breathe, since this whole scene had his full attention.
During the part when Father Karras was being mocked by the demon as it spoke to him in the voice of his mother, Nick swore he heard the soft hitch in El’s throat when the priest shouted in outrage ‘You’re not my mother!’; ultimately making him guess if Ellis was thinking of his own. His suspicions were confirmed when he noticed a single tear trail down the boy’s cheek, followed by a sniffle. Carefully, so as not to startle him, Nick reached out and gently placed a hand on his shoulder. When Ellis looked over at him and gave a small smile to show that he was okay did Nick move his hand away.
Eventually the boy reached back to grab a pillow, only to place it in Nick’s lap before resting himself on it to watch the remainder of the movie.
The last bit of the exorcism really took the cake; when Father Karras had had enough of the demon and decided to take matters into his own hands—which led to his demise—Nick literally felt Ellis stiffen up. The whole scene when he lay on the ground dying seemed to have shaken the boy a bit, because the pillow in which he rested upon was quickly becoming a stress-ball. Not to mention the choked sound of a held in breath being let out also told him that he was still paying close attention.
Then before both of them knew it, it was over.
“Y’know I can hear yer stomach gurglin’ the whole entire time?” Ellis inquired as Nick clicked for the main menu to show. He stretched out his legs and several popping sounds were heard as various areas of bone realigned themselves. “Sounded funny durin’ them last bits.”
“Other than dinner still not agreeing with me,” Nick replied wryly as he set the remote down on the nightstand, “how did you like the movie?”
Ellis looked up at him and smiled. Despite the fact that what they just watched bothered him at certain points, the kid was clearly entertained by it. “Does ‘scary beyond all reason’ seem good enough?”
Nick couldn’t help but to smile a little himself. “My thoughts exactly, ace.”
“Are ya sure yer feelin’ all right?” Ellis asked with a frown. “You don’t look so good.”
The conman shrugged indifferently. “Just an upset stomach, El. Nothing more.”
But Ellis wouldn’t let up. He hoisted himself off of his boyfriend’s lap and reached out to touch his forehead. “Are ya perhaps burnin’ up—”
But not before Nick decided that now was the best time to throw up on him.
Damn those enchiladas.