The music never stopped even when the balloons rose up to heaven. The odd, atonal music seemed to propel them on their slow, devious journey beyond the sky. He knew they weren’t really balloons – they were invaders. The clouds were also invaders, alien life forms intent on devouring the Earth, turning everything into a poisonous red desert. It was a movie. Rangle Ditmouth sat near the back of the dark theater. He was in pain – his lungs were closing down. He heard himself wheeze and it sounded like gasps from a pipe organ. He remembered the Director who said, “when the music stops you must freeze,” but the music never stopped. Rangle longed for silence, but that would mean death. All he wanted was to see the end of the movie. It was a terrible movie filled with confusion, perverse characters, unresolved conflicts, and bad music; but Rangle needed to know how it ended. He recognized himself on the screen (or someone who looked just like him). He was hooked, addicted to the drawn-out, interminable story that (oddly enough) seemed to have meaning beyond the flimsy projection. Rangle was surrounded by shadows, other people in the theater who shifted about as if they were bored or anxious. In the gloom of the theater the audience appeared to be made up of ghosts. They flickered around Rangle as if he didn’t exist. Blistering images filled the giant movie screen: hooded figures, skyscrapers silhouetted against a red sky, a killer in a black mask. Screams merged with the incessant music. Another movie played in Rangle’s mind. He saw a fat man who held the key to his existence – a man who determined his every move, Ransumm Rotobar. Other names and faces flickered across his mind’s eye – it all started with the invention of a time-machine, a mad-man’s tormented dream. The chain that linked everything together (movies, dreams, life and death) was the Red City, a living entity. Rangle sat in the dark theater realizing that no seat was safe. He recognized a wraith at the front of the theater dressed in black and wearing a white mask like a harlequin. He remembered reading a sign that said “Aurora” above the entrance to the theater. Shots rang out and panic ensued. This was the end – at last, Rangle found the Harlequin-beat Angel … and now he was dying. He had an assault rifle in his hands. He was firing multiple rounds. The children were screaming. Rangle was choking on his own vomit – suffocating inside his breathing machine. He couldn’t stop the screams. The foul sands closed around him like a ravenous predator as he sank into the Red Desert. Laughter pierced his armor like sulfuric acid. The Harlequin laughed, but the Angel cried. Rangle Ditmouth was redeemed.