Even-numbered Designated Tickets
The person was an old woman getting on her years, aged and dirty as if she had not showered in years. She had greasy hair, the clothes on her back was also torn.
“It’s not playing today either?” She looked at the poster by the door, muttered before turning around and walking away.
“Wait!” Ning Ning hurriedly chased after her. “Excuse me, how much would you sell the ticket you are holding for?”
The Doorman by her side pulled her from the rain back under the roof.
“She won’t sell it.” He said indifferently as he looked at the back view slowly hobbling away, “She has already been waiting for one movie for fifteen years, she will wait as long as she still draws breath..”
Just as he finished talking, you could hear a loud screeching from the brake of a car.
Ning Ning turned over and looked. She saw a car leaving the scene in a panic, the old woman was laying on her side motionless, even at this state she clutched the movie ticket tightly to her chest.
An hour later at the hospital.
The doctor came out of the operation room, said a few words to Ning Ning then shook his head.
“She is running out of time.” He added, “If you have anything to say, say it now.”
Ning Ning opened the door, slowly walked towards the dying old woman.
“I cannot die, I cannot die……” her faint voice could only be heard after Ning Ning walked closer, she was encouraging herself , “I have not watched the film, I cannot die……”
What film was worth waiting fifteen years of a person’s life? What film filled a person’s thoughts as she was on the verge of death?
“Old lady,” Ning Ning asked her, “how can I contact your family?”
The old woman didn’t tell her any means to contact her family. She looked at Ning Ning absent-mindedly, finally she was able to focus and said weakly, “I know you. You are an actress. I saw your movie on another person’s phone when I was on a bus. I was chased off the bus before I could finish the movie, they said I stink…, cough cough. I, I like your film.”
Ning Ning was shocked, to think that she was her fan.
“I heard you calling out to me before.” The old woman raised her trembling hand, “You wanted this?”
A wrinkled old movie ticket layed on her palm. A ticket that she did not let go even when she was undergoing surgery.
It would be too hypocritical to say no now, so Ning Ning nodded calmly.
“I can give you the ticket. But, you, you have to help me.” The old woman suddenly reached out and grabbed Ning Ning’s wrist, she begged her pitifully, “Help me watch the movie, help me… help me save him.”
Ning Ning felt strange. “Save whom?”
“It’s, it’s in my pocket.” The old woman’s voice was getting weak.
Ning Ning took out a photo from the old woman’s pocket. The photo was a corner cut out of another photo. On it was a boy that was around the age of eight or nine. He looked a little shy, looking down to avoid the camera, similar to a gullible little deer.
“You, you have to watch the movie he is in.” The old woman looked at Ning Ning fervently, “You have to think of a way to save him…”
Ning Ning felt that it was absurd. The old woman used fifteen years of her time to wait for a movie, just so she could transmigrate into it and change the fate of a character in the movie? But after some consideration, she felt that this absurdity was excusable. Because if she had a similar chance, she was also willing to return to <<Republic Circus>>, to change Papa’s and everyone’s fates.
So everyone else could treat this old woman as a joke, but she alone could not.
“Go save him. Go save him. Save him at all costs, even if I have to sacrifice myself… you have to… you have to…” At the end of her frailty, she had a terrifying final spark The old woman suddenly sat up from the hospital bed, her dried up hands forcefully dragged Ning Ning to her front and shouted, “1988!! 1988!! 1988!!!”
After shouting 1988 thrice, it was like she had expended all of her energy. Her throat suddenly gurgled twice, then she fell over silently.
Ning Ning raised her head to take a look, a straight line was on the display of the ECG.
The matter of the funeral was easy to deal with. As Ning Ning left the room, representatives from two funeral parlours had approached her They almost came to blows in the midst of fighting over the right of the proceedings. Ning Ning chose one of the companies and paid for the old woman’s funeral fees and treated it as payment for the movie ticket. She also had them identify her in the meantime.
It was easy to handle things when you have money, the identity of the old woman was revealed very quickly, her name was Wen Xiao Ning.
“You are such a good person.” The funeral parlour representative said as he was wiping his sweat, “We called her family and informed them of her death, they immediately hung up. The call had only connected after a dozen attempts, they scolded me a dozen times before telling me they don’t know this person.”
This should be the reason why the old woman did not tell her any person of contact. She was not married. No husband, no children, no friends, no family. The only person that was contactable was a brother, whom upon hearing about her death, had refused to come over to have one last look at her and was unwilling to fork out a single cent for her funeral.
A lonely old woman that was seemingly abandoned by the world.
Her only inheritance was this old movie ticket.
Besides this, she had nothing else.
After solving this messy affair, another day passed by. At night, Ning Ning held the movie ticket en route to Life Cinema and thought to herself, ‘I never promised you anything. You waited fifteen years for the film, there is no way I…’
Her footsteps stopped in front of the cinema.
“Ah,” Ning Ning mumbled, “you should have waited for one more day.”
In front of her, the poster at the entrance of the cinema had changed again.
<<Scarlet Stage>> that was originally there was gone, another poster had taken its place.
On the poster was a pitch black swamp. The little boy from the old woman’s photo was standing in the middle of the swamp. There were a lot of people in the vicinity of the swamp, but they all watched as he sank. He also did not seem to be asking for help, silently allowing himself to sink.
Title: <<Abandoned Child>>
Starring: Wen Yu
Ning Ning stood in front of the poster for quite a while, before she turned and asked the doorman, “Where is the movie from yesterday?”
“The screening ended.” The doorman leaned on the wall, as concise as ever.
“When will it be screened again?” Ning Ning asked.
“Who knows.” The doorman answered replied casually.
Ning Ning turned her attention back to the poster in front of her. It was fated, she had no other choice. The day after tomorrow would be the time to get back to Director Chen with an answer, but she still had not found one.
There were two choices in front of her right now. One, to continue waiting and see if the film for tomorrow night will be similar to <<Phantom of the Theater>>. But the chances of that were small, the odds of that happening were almost the same as her trying to guess the answer of Director Chen’s question by luck. Two, to transmigrate into the film in front of her, make use of the time difference and carefully think of how to answer the question, how to act as the phantom, how to go about things.
Ning Ning chose what she felt was the most dependable method.
She handed the ticket over to the doorman and said, “I want to go in.”
The doorman’s gaze moved from her face to the ticket in her hand. He didn’t immediately take it this time, but asked in a deep voice, “Have you decided?”
Ning Ning felt that he was a bit strange, he was not so talkative previously.
She answered, “Yes.”
The doorman stared at her for some time, as if he didn’t want to say it but had to, he asked, “What is the time you want to designate?”
Ning Ning was puzzled. “What time?”
“You are holding an even-numbered designated ticket.” The doorman added, “Even-numbered designated tickets allow you to designate the time you enter the movie.”
Upon hearing this, Ning Ning hastily looked down at the ticket in her hand.
At first she didn’t see any difference, but with his reminder she realised the ticket in her hand was different from the one she had received from her mother. Although it was the same yellow paper with Life Cinema written on it, but this was a ticket for a seat in the front. It was located four rows in front of her previous ticket, fourth row from the front number twelve.
Not only did the word Admission appear on the round stamp on the left , there was a small red word – Designated.
Just as the doorman said, this was a designated ticket.
An even-numbered designated ticket which allowed a designation of time of entrance.
“The life of the lead character Wen Yu spans over 1980 to 1988. You can designate and enter any one of the years within this range.” The doorman asked, “Which date do you want to designate?”
Ning Ning thought of the old woman shouting 1988 three times on the hospital bed.
So that was what this number meant.
1988 – The old woman had hoped to transmigrate to the year the lead character Wen Yu died, then helped him change his fate of death.
But specifically which day in 1988? Also, how did the old woman know that the lead character would die? Was it possible that she had already watched this movie in the past and could not accept the ending, so she had waited for the film to screen again? Unfortunately she died, too many questions would forever stay as questions and will never be answered.
“Can you tell me specifically how and when the lead character dies?” Ning Ning attempted to get an answer out of the doorman.
But the doorman shook his head and said, “I cannot leak the plot.”
Ning Ning had no other choice and said, “The year of 1987.”
To prevent any uncertainties, she had decided to enter a year earlier. This way, she would have ample time to make preparations. Along with helping Wen Yu, she would still have some time to take care of her personal problems…
The doorman took the ticket and tore it. He gave way. “One person per ticket, invalid upon admission.”
Ning Ning looked at the wooden door behind him for a few seconds, before starting to walk towards it.
“Wait.” The doorman sounded out from behind as she walked past him.
Ning Ning paused her footsteps and looked back.
The doorman was standing outside the door, he was also looking back at her. The sky was getting darker, the lanterns were already lit, he stood at the boundary of dark and light, the snow-white mask on his face was shone by the lights.
“…Try your best to stay away from the lead character.” The snow-white mask faced Ning Ning, his gaze penetrating her from behind the mask.
What did he mean by that? Ning Ning looked at him, but he didn’t seem to want to explain further, turning back and continuing his duty as the doorman.
Ning Ning could only enter the cinema with a heart full of doubt. Maybe it was because the ticket in her hand was different, the staff was much more passionate this time around. A lady with an ancient female official mask led her to her seat, she even brought her a drink. Ning Ning took two sips before the lights dimmed and the screen came on, the movie had started.
The first thing to appear on the screen was one sentence.
“This film has been adapted from a true story.”
Next was a voice of a little boy, singing with a pure and juvenile voice, “The world kisses me with pain, but I repay it with a song, until my voice gets taken away from me, I will never be able to sing again.”
Ning Ning put the drink by her side and thought, ‘It’s here.’
Just like last time, she was frozen in her chair, unable to speak, unable to move. Men, women, old and young, voices of strangers closing in on her, they rang out beside her ears as they get more realistic.
Finally, a name slowly appeared out of nothing on the poster on the front door.
Title: <<Abandoned Child>>
Starring: Wen Yu, Ning Ning
Author: “Do you have any last words madam?”
The old woman looked at the doorman, “You..are..such..a..jinx..”D