Parked in a crowded department store lot, Clay Wind sits locked inside his car, staring at a small black case and the brown paper bag it was delivered in. Compared to the other cases he received, this one is unmarked and suspicious.
Regardless, Clay’s private acquaintance, known for their skill in retrieving the finest of Earth’s lost treasures, came through in record time.
“I’m going to invite everyone over tonight to watch this.” Clay says, beaming with confidence in the rearview mirror.
He starts the engine, racing home.
Hey, come over?
Clay asks his friends in an ongoing group chat, eager to get everyone together.
Tonight. I got the hookup I was talking about, remember? An old movie from Earth.
Victor: It’s not a movie with someone in a courtroom the entire time, is it?
Emilian: Or unnecessary explosions and/or singing?
No. It’s a dark psychological thriller by a renowned filmmaker and storyteller.
Emilian: I don’t live in the district.
Why you asking questions then, man?
Victor: I’ll come.
Tom: Make sure your girlfriend comes too, and her friends.
Emilian left the conversation.
Bring everyone! I’ll get food.
That evening, fifteen friends gather at Clay’s house.
They dine on melty pizza, juicy milk-lime mint burgers, chilly chocolate shakes and hot crinkle fries while Clay set the movie up.
After a hearty bite of sausage jalapeno pizza, he presses play. The living room falls quiet. An image of a rotating Earth and triumphant music plays, followed by the intense baby blues of a red-haired little girl in the opening scene.
“Heyoo?” Tom asks. He leans forward, squinting at the eighty-inch screen.
The little girl stands in perfect form, steadying a shiny rainbow-colored ball up to her face. She lunges, the ball slips from her fingers, soaring through the air. It strikes the wood floor with a mighty thump, rolling through the standing pins. Only two nonadjacent pins remain.
Determined music ensues as she grabs the rainbow ball again, going for the killer shot.
Victor scans the room, looking confused. “Is this the movie, bro?” he asks.
Clay nods. “It’s just coming on.”
Voices whisper, one after another, merging into the same shared concern.
“Babe, look… It’s not the same movie.”
Victor’s girlfriend Violet whispers to him, holding her phone screen to his face. His eyes shift left to right, studying it. He scowls at Clay.
“That shit about bowling!” Tom blurts. He links arms with the women between him, heading for the door.
“C’mon Clay, that’s not M. Night Shyamalan’s Split, that’s bootleg. I thought you had the hookup.” Victor says, disappointed. He and Violet follow Tom out.
Everyone else does the same.