Liz tapped Jason on the shoulder, then pointed. “I’ll bet you never thought you’d actually see that in real life.”
Jason barked laughter and stumbled back against the popcorn machine. Holding a hand over his mouth, he reeled back to Liz’s side. The object of their mirth was standing awkwardly in front of one of the automated ticket kiosks.
“Holy crap,” Jason said, getting his breath back. “No, I really thought a couple of kids wearing dad’s coat was a cartoons-only thing.”
“I almost want to let them through,” Liz said. “They’re doing really good.”
The apparition finished getting a ticket. It backed from the kiosk, turned slowly in place with the sort of exaggerated care no man doing the maneuver would apply unless drunk, then began an approach to the checkpoint that separated the snack foyer from the theatre entrances.
“Be kind to them,” Jason said as Liz headed for her post. She only glanced sideways at the trundling figure, not wanting to stare. In the comics, there were always three kids in the coat, but this affair was not much taller than she was. Two kids, then, and so obviously not one person. The hand holding the ticket had vanished as the end of the coat-sleeve dropped far past it. The shoulders were too narrow. The chest and back were… just wrong, the sort of thing that would have made Liz queasy if she hadn’t realized what she was looking at.
She was, though, honestly impressed. The long coat was, on the current occupants, about ankle length, and yet apart from the short, mincing strides there was no sense of that the fabric was a tripping hazard. The kid on the bottom had to be strong, too, because there was no wobbling from the burden of carrying his partner in the act. Or her partner, Liz thought. Could be either.
There was also no heavy breathing to be heard as they finished their approach. The ticket-concealing sleeve came up, shaking a little to free the gloved hand within. The broad-brimmed hat, pulled so low that Liz could only see a walrus moustache and smooth pink chin, bobbed with a nod of greeting. Liz took the ticket.
One adult admission for screen Eight. The Bludgeoners. If it had been the frat-boy comedy in screen Five, Liz would have let them through, but something that even the kind critics were calling “a repulsive gore-fest, appealing only to fans of practical effects of the most disgusting sort” wasn’t something she was going to wave kids into.
“You’re over eighteen?” she said, looking them right in the hat brim.
The brim bobbed again.
“I’m going to have to see your ID, sir.”
There was a moment of silence. Liz looked behind her current customers, saw a family that had already reached Jason, who was pumping yellow onto popcorn, and sighed. She couldn’t play with them much longer.
“I… not English do.” Liz wanted to applaud. The upper kid wasn’t trying to lower his register, but had chosen to be raspy. They had made such a good effort; if only they had chosen the film more wisely.
“Sorry, kids. The game’s over.” Liz reached for the hat. The hand which had offered the ticket tried to intercept hers, but became entangled with the outsized sleeve. She pulled the hat away, ending the imperfect illusion.
It was not two of them, and it was not kids. There were lots of them, little dark shapes that poured out of the coat, leaving it to wither to the floor. They swarmed for the exit, each moving too fast to give the witnesses an impression of anything more than far too many legs. Over the screams of Liz, Jason and every member of the family at the popcorn counter came the sound of hard little bodies ticking against the glass doors until they had heaped up enough to reach the handle, draw it open just a crack, and pour out into the night.
“Inktober 2019 – Coat” ©2019 Dirck de Lint.