SPECIAL EFFECTS

I've told you before about Jodi Malenger and how he was a kid with the sharpest eye for an opportunity that ever I've seen, especially when it was a chance to give a girl an unforgettable experience. I'll tell you another story about him and his gang - including me - which I've sometimes tried to tell before and which nobody will believe is true. Not that I blame the skeptics one iota - if I hadn't have been there I wouldn't have believed it could have happened.
 
 As I've also said before, these things happened a long time ago, in England. Which matters only so far as Jodi had access to wheels when the UK was very much a one car per family country - assuming you were lucky enough to have a car at all. But Jodi's old man was a builder in a good line of business, and one of his company vehicles was a battered old Ford van that Jodi had taught himself to drive. Better yet his Dad didn't mind Jodi borrowing it at the weekends. Not that Jodi was old enough to have a license but it was well worth the risk of getting pulled over by the coppers for a chance to mark out some new territory.
 
 So it was a weekend, and we were in a town twenty miles or so from our usual haunts. I guess that doesn't sound very far, but in a place as small and crowded as England it meant that being seen by anybody who knew us was about as likely as winning the football pools. We'd travelled in that direction for absolutely no reason at all, and our luck seemed to be pretty good because in a field just outside the town a travelling fun fair had pitched its tents. It was dusk, all the bright lights were coming on and a steady stream of vehicles were being parked in the next field as the locals came to ride the dodg'em cars and sample the candy floss.
 
 "Hey, let's have a look at this," Will said. "Maybe we can have some fun."
 
 "Fine by me," Jodi replied and turned in to follow white tapes in the grass which led to the parking area.
 
 All the usual suspects were in the van with him. Will, Micky, Jacko, and yours truly, Andy. The hard boys, the guys who had been there and done that and would have jumped into a ring of fire if Jodi had led the way. We'd long since found out that if anything really exciting was going to happen Jodi would be the one who made it happen - aye, and kept us out of trouble as well.
 
 Not that this seemed to have much in the makings of special night out. There were plenty of girls around but mostly young ones acting silly, and as for the fair itself I'd long since gone past being interested in throwing balls at a coconut shy or riding on a big wheel. It wasn't even worth trying to hit anything at the shooting gallery because everybody knew the stall holder would have fiddled with the rifles' sights so you couldn't aim straight.
 
 Then we came across something we'd never seen before. A circular tent, a perfect half dome about thirty yards across, dark around the bottom and the top two thirds of the dome lit up, flickering images showing in the lighted area and loud music coming from inside it. A small generator was driving an air compressor which was feeding into a pressurized canvas tube attached to the side of the dome. The air was keeping it blown up, like a big balloon. Another generator was connected to a tangle of cables going into the dome.
 
 "What's all this then?" Will asked, not there was any need to, because there was a big enough poster outside explaining it all.
 
 
 'THE NEW SENSATION IN CINEMA EXPERIENCE!'
 
 'THE SCREEN SURROUNDS YOU - THE SOUND SURROUNDS YOU - YOU BECOME PART OF THE FILM!'
 
 'RIDE ON THE HIGHEST ROLLER COASTER IN THE WORLD'
 
 'DRIVE IN A GRAND PRIX RACING CAR'
 
 'LOOK DOWN ON NEW YORK'S SKYSCRAPERS FROM A HELICOPTER'
 
 'FLY OVER THE GRAND CANYON'
 
 'CONTINUOUS SHOWINGS - STAY AS LONG AS YOU LIKE'
 
 
 "Hey, Jodi, how about taking a look inside?"
 
 "Yeah, why not. I've never seen anything like it before."
 
 None of us had. The only sort of cinemas we'd ever heard of were the ones were you sat in rows watching a screen in front of you. This seemed different and interesting. So we paid our money and went in.
 
 First off, I'll tell you what I saw - and then I'll tell you what Jodi saw. If nothing else it shows up perfectly the difference between an average Joe Blow and a real operator.
 
 What I saw was a whole lot of people standing on the grass inside the dome staring up at a scene of huge office buildings rising out of busy city streets that seemed miles below. The picture was so wide and so close you couldn't help feeling you were actually there, drifting over the edges of the skyscrapers and about to fall down into those streets so far underneath you. Even though I knew I was perfectly safe my stomach still curdled every time the camera viewpoint drifted across one of the gaps between the buildings. It sounds crazy, I suppose, to be looking up and feeling you were going to fall, but that was the sensation I got and I think everybody else did as well.
 
 I wondered how the film was being projected and worked my way through the crowd far enough to see a wheeled trailer in the middle of the tent, leveled off with a built in jack at each corner and the top removed to reveal six projector heads. Each of the lenses was aiming a beam of light at the roof and somehow all the different films were being run in sequence to make up the big picture overhead. I thought it was real clever. Then I went back to gaping up at the film again.
 
 What did Jodi see? I guess the first thing he noticed was that although the reflected light from the projectors made it clear enough to move around, that only applied to the area directly underneath the area of the dome the projectors were shining on. Around the outer edge of the tent was an rim of almost total darkness, tall enough to stand up in and five or six paces deep. The only illumination in all that area were the luminous strips that surrounded the doorway.
 
 Another thing Jodi noticed was that there were around fifty people in the crowd, some leaving after they'd seen all the film clips, others coming in. Especially he noted that everybody standing inside was completely concentrated on watching the scenes above them, almost oblivious to whatever else was going on. Jodi also noticed that a lot of the crowd were girls - Jodi would have noticed those if he'd been in the waiting room to Hell.
 

...CONTINUES IN THE MEMBERS SECTION