The Third Reel

There’s a third reel to Kaleidoscope.

No one has ever seen it (but everyone knows a guy who has). It doesn’t exist. But what part of Kaleidoscope does? It’s as real as the rest of the film (the reel deal.)

Depending on who you ask, it’s meant to be played between the first and second reels, or after the second one. Some people claim it should be played first, before either of the others. All three are equally problematic.

The third reel is only five minutes long (most of the time.) In it, Carrie Linden walks out of the funhouse alone. (But is it the Carrie who stepped through the mirror, or the real one?)

If you play the reel first, there’s no context. Or is there? Does Carrie become the prime mover of the film? After all, she was there before every one else. (And she’s still there at the end.)

If you play the third reel last, after the other two, what does that mean? Why would Carrie go back to the carnival alone, after everything is said and done? (Or did she ever leave?) Does she exist here, in this moment, outside the funhouse? Or does she exist in the final frames of the movie (the ending everyone knows, don’t let them tell you otherwise), running, always running?

And if you play the third reel between the first and second reels, where it’s supposed to go (depending on who you believe), is it any better? Carrie Linden steps out of the funhouse alone. (She has always been alone.) But is it really her? Maybe it’s the ghost of Carrie Linden, following herself out into the night, made up of all the pieces she tried to leave behind when she stepped through the mirror. Maybe it’s her evil twin. Maybe it’s an imposter. Everyone has a theory. (They’re all right. They’re all wrong.)

In the end, there is only this – a reel that doesn’t exist, in a film that isn’t real. No one filmed it; it manifested itself, a ghost haunting the edges of the cinema of the mind. Like the opening sequence, (the most famous three and half minutes ever put on film) there’s no sound. Carrie Linden walks out of the funhouse alone. She stands on the gravel, cutting-sharp, and looks everywhere but at the camera. She takes a step. (Does it make a sound?) Some people think they hear a whisper as Carrie walks toward the camera (still not looking).

She’s unsteady, as if drunk. She stumbles once, but she never falls. The third reel is just this: Carrie steps out of the funhouse, walks toward the camera without seeing it, and disappears from the frame. (If you’re really paying attention, you’ll notice it’s the same way she entered the movie, but in reverse. In the party scene, Carrie walks away from the camera to straddle the lap of a man twice her age, and never once looks back at camera, as if it isn’t there.)

The third reel of Kaleidoscope is the least famous five minutes ever put on film. It doesn’t exist. Nobody has seen it, but everyone knows someone who has. And they all know, deep down in the dark, if they wait long enough, one day, they’ll see it, too.

4 Comments

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4 Responses to The Third Reel

  1. Ellen Datlow

    I love this.

  2. Thank you so much!

  3. Cody

    Having just finished reading the story and coming here to find this really made my night. What absolute perfection – the story itself, and this entry.

  4. Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story, and the post!