If you recognise it, it's not mine.

'Firearms at Midnight' is a film I invented for the purpose of this story.

Penny rolled her eyes as she heard the familiar knocking on the door.

"Penny?"

Just before he could finish the routine, she walked over and pulled open the door. Hey, she was a currently-single, currently-waiting-for-a-better-job waitress. She had to get her kicks somehow.

Even that didn't work.

She opened the door and got a fist to the face.

"Ow!"

"You scared me!"

"You punched me in the face!"

"I was expecting to hit the door!"

She glared at him.

"Penny," he finished meekly.

"Can I help you?" she asked, gingerly feeling her nose to check it wasn't broken. It didn't feel broken, but still. For a skinny geek, Sheldon had a pretty mean punch.

"Yes, actually. I was wondering if you would join us in watching a movie."

"Is it Star Trek?"

"No, although I still believe that would be a better choice than what Raj brought." He glanced back across the hall hopefully, then turned back to her.

"What is it then?"

"It's called 'Firearms at Midnight'." Penny frowned, fairly sure she'd seen a trailer for it somewhere. Wasn't that a horror movie? "The plot is extremely basic. The young girl is awoken every night at midnight by the sound of gunfire, but nobody else in the spooky country mansion can hear it. The events escalate until she dreams that a dead soldier will come to her door and take her to be his undead wife forever more."

Penny stared at him. "All that's on the back of the box?"

"No, I searched it on Wikipedia."

"So how does she get out of it?"

"I'm not going to tell you. That was designed to pique your interest."

Penny sighed. "Why do you want me to come watch a movie with you?"

Seriously, she was pretty sure she had been banned from taking part in movie nights after she mixed up Ewoks and Wookies. Who wouldn't get confused between furry sci-fi creatures?

"Wolowitz is attending his cousin's wedding, and I need someone to act as a buffer between myself and Koothrappali. He has a tendency to become somewhat clingy whenever we watch anything scarier than scene 38 in the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and I'm uncomfortable with the excess touching."

"Am I supposed to know what that is?" Penny asked, locking the door of her apartment.

"Entitled 'Shelob's Lair', it is the scene in which Frodo must fight Shelob, the great arachnid."

Penny raised an eyebrow as they entered the apartment.

"The bit with the giant spider," Sheldon clarified.

"Oh, right. Meh, not that scary. Budge up, Raj."

Raj broke off mid-sentence, swallowed a couple of times, nodded, and moved up a seat. Penny sat down and reached for the popcorn.

"Sorry about this," Leonard sighed, gesturing to Sheldon as he wandered around, evidently checking that the doors and windows were properly sealed. "He gets a little paranoid before we watch scary movies."

"He does know they aren't real, right?" Penny asked, watching Sheldon look behind the dartboard as if there could be a hidden bomb or something there.

"He's actually worse after zombie apocalypse movies. Last time, he insisted on getting his DNA tested in case he had some sort of mutant zombie gene."

"I've got jeans with rhinestones on the back pockets," Penny shrugged.

Sheldon finished debugging the apartment (or whatever he was doing with the microwave) and joined them on the couch. "You can press play now."

Frankly, the movie was awful. They could have been reading out the Cheesecake Factory's menu for all the sense the script made. Sheldon could pass for a human being more effectively than these guys could act. Mirrors showed cameramen lurking in the background, the set looked like it was made by a class of fourth graders, and every couple of scenes, the heroine was wearing different earrings. Sheldon, of course, pointed out most of these things. Penny stuck to laughing at the rest of the movie.

"I have heard nothing. Why, have you heard something?"

"Oh, it sounded like the most terrifying thing alive. It sounded...it sounded like...gunfire!"

"Oh, come on. That's just ridiculous. Firearms are not alive."

On screen, the girl sobbed hysterically as she climbed the steep stairway. As her hand touched the door handle of her room, there was a sort of squelch, and she screamed.

"F sharp," Sheldon muttered. "Out of tune."

"How can you be out of tune with a scream?" Penny demanded, barely paying attention to the rotting bunch of roses the girl had just stood on.

The story wore on.

Eventually, the girl was standing on a balcony. She had been visited by the dead soldier, who had threatened to kill everyone in the house if she didn't marry him.

"How can she marry a dead person? I mean, imagine trying to take a ghost to Vegas?" Penny rolled her eyes and reached for her glass before remembering she had finished it at about the same time the ghost attempted to propose and threaten the girl with death at the same time. And I thought Leonard sucked at that stuff...

"Shh, Penny. Las Vegas would not have had the same marriage facilities at that time, so that isn't actually an option," Sheldon hissed back. Penny rolled her eyes.

For some reason, there was a grandfather clock on the balcony, reading ten minutes to midnight. The doomed girl leant on the railing, tears in her eyes as she looked at the full moon.

"Oh, my father...if only you could see me now, giving up my youth and freedom to marry a foul ghost."

Penny made gagging noises. The clock began to chime, despite the fact it couldn't have been longer than a couple of minutes. And wasn't it a full moon a second ago, rather than a crescent moon?

Suddenly, the girl saw an old key lying on the railing beside her. She grabbed it and locked the door, seemingly trapping the ghost inside.

"If he's a ghost, why doesn't he just walk through the door?" Penny asked, rolling her eyes at the melodrama.

The ghost began to pound on the door, slow, heavy strikes which rattled the frame.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

His silhouette was just visible through the clouded glass. The girl backed away in fear, tossing the key away over the edge of the balcony.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

Penny suddenly sat up straight, almost knocking over the popcorn. "Oh my god, it's ghost Sheldon!"

Sheldon reached out to pause the film, fortunately not noticing Leonard's laughing fit behind him and Raj giving a double thumbs-up to his left.

"I think you should leave."

"What? Why?"

"You ruined the dramatic finale and if you don't go, he'll keep whining until we all go," Leonard said, shrugging apologetically.

"But..."

Raj stood and opened the door, looking like he'd far rather be the one leaving.

"At least tell me how she gets out of it!" Penny shouted through the door. She heard the sound of shattering glass, another scream, and then...

"B flat. Is she tone-deaf, or something?"

Penny turned round, went into her own apartment, and googled the climax of the film. "Seriously? That's actually kind of a good ending to a crappy film. Who would've thought?"

Sheldon woke up to the sound of creaking and moaning.

"Leonard, I said a twenty-four hour warning, is that too much to ask?" Turning on his bedside lamp, he saw a crowd of corpses gathered around his bed. "A zombie apocalypse! But how did you get in? Leonard, wake up! I hereby initiate the Zombie Apocalypse clause of the Roommate Agreement! Leonard!"

He reached up to bang on the wall. His hand was mouldering and grey, and suddenly all he could think of was brains...

"Nooooooo!"

Sheldon sat bolt upright in bed. "A dream...just a dream..." he muttered. "That's it. Penny is definitely never, ever, getting invited to another movie night."