Is It Hot In Here, Or Is It Just Me?

AN APARTMENT. EXTERIOR. PLEASANT-ENOUGH DAY. A DOCILE, AMORPHOUS ZOMBIE HORDE IS.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) You would be blessed to have forgotten our last episode, in which Steve finally managed to leave his apartment under threat of sister-in-law. Why this was enough to finally overcome fractured time and space, a pleasant, yet violent man named “Melvin,” and a literal zombie horde, I’ll never know. Whatever the case, Steve eventually made his way through enough of the aforementioned zombie horde…

STEVE PUSHES HIS WAY THROUGH THE ZOMBIE HORDE, TO A CLEAR-ISH PLACE THE SIDEWALK.

…to reach the sidewalk outside his apartment.

STEVE: What’s with this zombie horde anyway? There’s a billion of them, but none of them seem particularly blood-thirsty.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) You almost sound disappointed.

STEVE: A bit.

STEVE LOOKS UP, DOWN, AND ALL ABOUT THE PLACE.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) As he looked every which way but within, Steve saw the horde stretched on and on, seemingly without end.

STEVE: I can speak for myself, ya know.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Fine. (WALKS AWAY) (OFF) No. No, Brixby. He said he can speak for himself, so let him do it. I don’t need this today.

A PAUSE.

STEVE: What was that about?

ZOMBIE #1: Are you in line?

STEVE: (STARTLED) Fucking Hell!

ZOMBIE #1: Is that a yes?

STEVE: I don’t know.

ZOMBIE #2: (GESTURES) Back of the line is over that way. It just snakes back this way.

ZOMBIE #1: Thanks.

STEVE: All of you are waiting in line?

ZOMBIE #1: I don’t know about anyone else, but I came here to take a picture with the new mural on the side of some gourmet erotic edible shop.

ZOMBIE #2: Oral Delights.

STEVE: You’re all here to take a photo of a wall?

ZOMBIE #1: No, with a wall.

STEVE: Oh. Well, that make’s much more sense.

ZOMBIE #1: It does?

STEVE: Not at all.

ZOMBIE #1: Oh.

STEVE: What’s so special about a wall that you’ll wait hours to take a picture with it?

ZOMBIE #2: I’ve been waiting for about three days, actually.

STEVE: (TO ZOMBIE #1) They said, “three days.”

ZOMBIE #1: They did.

STEVE: Why?

ZOMBIE #1: It’s a very popular wall.

STEVE: Popular as it may be, don’t you have anything better to do than to wait three days to take a picture of a wall?

ZOMBIE #1: With a wall.

STEVE: Right. Sorry. 

ZOMBIE #1: You want to take that one again?

STEVE: May I?

ZOMBIE #1: Please, do.

STEVE: Thank you. (BEAT) Don’t you have anything better to do than to wait three days to take a picture with a wall?

ZOMBIE #1: What else am I going to do?

STEVE: Watch a movie? Read a book? Drink some chemical cocktail that will ensure one never has to wait three days so as to take pictures with a wall?

ZOMBIE #1: With a wall.

STEVE: I said that.

ZOMBIE #1: Sorry.

ZOMBIE #2: I’m sorry, but don’t you feel this premise has become a bit unwieldy?

STEVE: Yeah. Sorry about that. Someone’s taken the rest of the day off, and left me to sort this one out on my own.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Oh, is that what happened?

STEVE: Yes?

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) I hate you.

STEVE: Me, too. And the faster you wrap this up, the faster we can both move on for the day.

A PAUSE.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Fine.

ZOMBIE #2: Thank you.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) And it was right about the time some idiot named “Steve” realized he was a big idiot…

STEVE: I’m sorry?

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) …the scene inexplicably came to a merciful, belated end.

STEVE: Wait. That’s it?

ZOMBIE #1: It does seem a bit lazy.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Not my problem.

ZOMBIE #1: Fair enough.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Tune in next time for our next half-assed attempt at entertainment: My Way, or The Hemingway!

I’m Allergic to Selfish, Or Bucket of Artificial Crabs

AN APARTMENT. STEVE SITS WITH HIS WIFE.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) In our last turgid episode, Steve made yet another attempt to leave his apartment, so as to get a bit of sun and hopefully stop smelling so much like the dog. But when he opened the front door, Steve came face to face with a large, but pleasant man named Melvin.

STEVE: (TO AUDIENCE) He really was pleasant.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) As his wife…

WIFE: (TO AUDIENCE) Hello.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) …their neighbor, Rory… 

RORY: (TO AUDIENCE)(OFF) Hi!

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) …and eventually Steve himself…

SILENCE.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Well?

STEVE: (LOOKS AROUND) Me?

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Yes, you. Aren’t you going to say “hello” to the audience, too?

STEVE: What? No.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Really?

STEVE: Seems a bit gratuitous. Besides, (GESTURES) they already did it.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) You’re serious.

STEVE: Deathly.

A PAUSE.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) As these idiots stepped out into the hallway, Melvin proceeded to rip them in half with his bare hands for reasons even Melvin wasn’t entirely clear on.

STEVE: That part wasn’t very pleasant, I’ll admit.

NARRATOR: (TO STEVE) I hate you. (TO AUDIENCE) Anyway. Steve and his wife now sit in their apartment, perhaps a bit confused and inexplicably damned in all sorts of ways, but otherwise fine.

WIFE: Steve… What’s the real reason you won’t go outside?

STEVE: I’ve tried!

WIFE: So you keep saying, and yet… (GESTURES)

STEVE MARCHES TO THE FRONT DOOR.

STEVE: (GESTURES) Every single time I open this door and attempt to leave, something awful happens!

WIFE: There’s no need to be so dramatic.

STEVE: Dramatic? First, I can’t step foot out of this apartment without breaking physics itself by stepping right back into the exact same apartment. Then, a large, pleasant man named Melvin rips us in half in a definitively unpleasant manner.

WIFE: So, you’ve experienced a few negative interactions. You can’t let that color how you see the whole world.

STEVE: Okay. Well, let’s see what absurd Hell awaits us today, hmm?

STEVE OPENS THE DOOR.

A HORDE OF ZOMBIES FILLS THE HALLWAY.

STEVE: Zombies.

ZOMBIE RORY WALKS BY.

ZOMBIE RORY: (WAVES) Hi, guys.

STEVE & WIFE: Hi, Rory.

ZOMBIE RORY: You two thinking of joining the zombie horde?

STEVE: We’re undecided.

ZOMBIE RORY: I hear ya. I wasn’t sold on it at first, to tell the truth. But then I…

STEVE SLAMS THE DOOR CLOSED.

STEVE: Preachy zombies.

WIFE: Steve, they’re people just like you and me.

STEVE: They’re flesh-eating ghouls!

WIFE: We all have our faults. Besides, it’ll do you good to socialize.

STEVE: But I don’t want to socialize.

WIFE: Fine. Have it your way. But just so you know, my sister is coming over today.

STEVE: The one I dislike, or the one I dislike slightly less?

WIFE: The one you can’t stand.

A PAUSE.

STEVE OPENS THE DOOR, STEPS OUT INTO THE ZOMBIE HORDE.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Steve stepped out into the zombie horde, unsure of what awaited him, aside from all the zombies, or that he’d left without his wallet, keys, or phone. Tune in next time for our next complete waste of time: “Is It Hot in Here, Or Is It Just Me?”

The Waiting Game, Or Out of Line

AN APARTMENT. STEVE, LOOKING AS IF HE’S BEEN BEATEN WITH SOME SORT OF BEATING ROD, STARES AT THE FRONT DOOR.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) When we last left Steve, the reclusive man made of dust and despair had been specifically instructed by his wife to leave their apartment for a little sun and a lot of de-mold-ification. But when he finally relented, Steve quickly discovered that while he could look outside his apartment, any attempt to cross the threshold somehow sent him stepping right back into it. Of course, when his wife returned…

WIFE ENTERS, LOVINGLY HOLDS BEATING ROD.

…she proved herself a woman of her very violent word. For his failing, Steve was beaten mercifully out of sight of an audience and left to think about why he was so comfortable smelling like a petulant chihuahua.

STEVE: (TO AUDIENCE) It could be worse, the dog could smell like me.

WIFE NODS.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) After a good night’s rest for his wife, Steve woke the next morning and hadn’t stopped staring at their front door. His wife, meanwhile, stood there wondering why her husband wouldn’t get out of her way.

WIFE: Are you going to stand there all day, or what?

STEVE: Sorry.

STEVE STEPS ASIDE, OPENS DOOR.

WIFE: (WAGS BEATING STICK) You better leave the apartment today. I don’t care how long you’re out, but at least roll around in some dirt or something to mask that awful smell. People are starting to wonder if there’s a corpse rotting away in here.

STEVE: Did anyone else ask about all the pained screaming or sound of a beating rod cracking against bone?

WIFE: Oddly enough, no.

WIFE STEPS INTO THE HALL.

Oh, and I’ll be a little late tonight. I’ve got to take the beating rod in for repairs. I think I bent it on your clavicle last night. (WAVES) Love you!

SHE TURNS, LEAVES.

STEVE CLOSES DOOR.

STEVE: Finally, this plot can get moving.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Indeed! Because only a moment after he’d closed the door, Steve heard a blood-chilling scream come from beyond it!

STEVE: What? No, I didn’t.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Odd, there was supposed to be–

WIFE SCREAMS A BLOOD-CHILLING SCREAM FROM SOMEWHERE BEYOND THE DOOR.

Ah! There it is!

STEVE: That certainly was a blood-chilling scream.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) After wondering whether or not he really wanted to involve himself in someone else’s business, Steve eventually opened the door.

STEVE: (POUTS) Ugh… Fine.

STEVE RELUCTANTLY OPENS THE DOOR.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) But all he found out there was a rather large, but pleasant man covered in blood and viscera.

MELVIN: (WAVES) Hello.

STEVE: Who are you?

MELVIN: I’m Melvin.

STEVE: Hi, Melvin. Did you happen to hear someone scream a blood-chilling scream out here?

MELVIN: When?

STEVE: Just now.

MELVIN: (LISTENS) I don’t hear anything.

STEVE: No, not “right now.” More like “right now, but really a moment ago.”

MELVIN: Oh! Then, yes. I do recall hearing someone scream a blood-chilling scream. Why do you ask?

STEVE: Mostly to keep this show moving along.

MELVIN: Fair enough.

STEVE: Did you also happen to see my wife leave?

MELVIN: Is your wife the lovely woman who stepped out of that apartment of yours?

STEVE: That’s right.

MELVIN: I was afraid of that.

STEVE: What do you mean?

MELVIN: I have a bit of a confession to make.

STEVE: Go on.

MELVIN: I killed your wife. Tore her to pieces, drank her blood. That sort of thing.

STEVE: I thought that might be the case. Any particular reason why?

MELVIN: (SHRUGS) I’m not sure. But I’ve been killing anyone who stepped out of their apartment for as long as I can remember.

STEVE: And how long is that?

MELVIN: (CONSIDERS THIS) Huh. I don’t remember.

STEVE: Fascinating. Well, if you did kill my wife, where’s her body?

MELVIN: Oh, Perry the Corpse Recycler comes along and cleans up after I’m done.

STEVE: Of course.

MELVIN: Perry’s been an absolute life saver. I don’t know how I’d manage to violently dismember every damned soul that made the mistake of leaving their apartment and properly dispose of all the bodies.

RORY STEPS OUT OF THEIR APARTMENT.

RORY: Hey, what’s going on here? Who’s the guy covered in all that blood and viscera?

MELVIN: (TO STEVE) Sorry, I’ve got to get back to work.

STEVE: (LOOKS TO RORY, BACK TO MELVIN) Right. Have at it.

MELVIN APPROACHES RORY.

MELVIN: Hi, Rory. Off to the store again?

RORY: That’s right. Do I know you?

MELVIN: Oh, you’ll remember soon enough.

STEVE CLOSES THE DOOR.

STEVE: Nice guy.

RORY SCREAMS A BLOOD-CHILLING SCREAM FROM SOMEWHERE BEYOND THE DOOR.

STEVE: But I wonder what Melvin meant by all that “damned soul” business. (SHRUGS) I’m sure it’s nothing.

MELVIN: (OFF) Thank you, Perry!

STEVE: Well, I suppose there’s no sense in stretching this premise any thinner.

STEVE OPENS DOOR, STEPS OUT.

STEVE: Hey, Melvin!

STEVE CLOSES DOOR.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) But if he had waited a moment longer, perhaps Steve wouldn’t have been so bored as to willingly throw himself into the waiting, blood- and viscera-soaked arms of a large man named Melvin. Because just a brief moment after Steve stepped out, but also a brief moment before he was torn in twain by Melvin, Steve’s wife returned home in one piece.

DOOR OPENS, WIFE ENTERS.

WIFE: Steve? Are you home? I forgot my…

STEVE SCREAMS A BLOOD CHILLING SCREAM.

WIFE: Huh. I can’t believe he actually went outside.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Be sure to avoid our next meh-tacular episode: “I’m Allergic to Selfish, Or Bucket of Artificial Crabs!”

Hell, Or Something Like It

AN APARTMENT. STEVE STANDS AROUND LIKE THE CLUELESS RECLUSE THAT HE IS.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Our story opens today in a depressing apartment where Steve, amateur professional and local recluse, made the mistake of reading a message from his wife.

STEVE OPENS, READS MESSAGE FROM HIS WIFE.

WIFE: (VOICE-OVER) My love, my sweet, my mold- and dust-infested rock chained around my ankle, for the love of hyperbole, please go outside and get a bit of sun today. Please.

STEVE: (POUTS) Ugh…

WIFE: (VOICE-OVER) I heard that.

STEVE: (LOOKS AROUND) What? How?

WIFE: (VOICE-OVER) Never mind that. Just go outside, or I’ll beat you clean like a rug when I get home. Honestly. You smell like the dog.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) With his wife’s insulting threat of violence fresh in his mind and an insecure whiff of himself…

STEVE SNIFFS SELF, SHRUGS.

…Steve eventually left his apartment and ventured forth into the sun-infested world beyond.

STEVE RELUCTANTLY STEPS OUT OF HIS APARTMENT.

Or, at least, that’s what he would have done…

STEVE INEXPLICABLY STEPS BACK INTO HIS APARTMENT.

STEVE: What the hell?

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) …had he not inexplicably stepped back into his apartment.

STEVE: (TO NARRATOR) That’s crazy, and you know it.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Perhaps. Yet, here we are.

NEIGHBOR: (OFF) Who ya talkin’ to?

STEVE: (STARTLED) Fucking hell!

STEVE TURNS TO FIND NEIGHBOR STANDING IN THE HALLWAY.

NEIGHBOR: Hey, neighbor!

STEVE: Hey… (PUZZLES THIS) You.

NEIGHBOR: You forgot my name again, didn’t you?

A PAUSE.

STEVE: Nevermind that. Can I ask you a question?

NEIGHBOR: Can you tell me my name?

STEVE: No, but I’m going to ask my question anyway. (GESTURES) How did you get there?

NEIGHBOR: Well. The way my mom tells it, it all started when my dad was startled by the sound of my grandparents’ station wagon pulling into the driveway…

STEVE: The hallway. How did you get there, out in the hallway?

NEIGHBOR: Oh… (HOLDS UP BAG OF GOODIES) I stepped out to get myself a drink and some snacks from the corner store.

STEVE: You just… stepped out?

NEIGHBOR: Yeah.

STEVE: And that worked?

NEIGHBOR: Uh-huh.

STEVE: So, you didn’t step out only to then immediately step right back into your apartment?

NEIGHBOR: Nope.

STEVE: I see.

A PAUSE.

NEIGHBOR: I’m going to go back to my apartment now.

STEVE: (SHOOS) Yes, fine. Go.

NEIGHBOR WALKS AWAY, ENTERS THEIR APARTMENT.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) With his neighbor, whose name he totally remembered, back in their apartment and nobody else around…

STEVE STICKS HIS HEAD OUT THE DOOR, LOOKS AROUND.

…Steve leaped out his door…

STEVE LEAPS OUT HIS DOOR.

…and inexplicably lands right back in his apartment.

STEVE INEXPLICABLY LANDS RIGHT BACK IN HIS APARTMENT.

STEVE: Fucking hell!

A DOOR OPENS DOWN THE HALLWAY.

NEIGHBOR: (OFF) You okay there, Steve?

STEVE: Yes… (CONSIDERS THIS) Rory?

A PAUSE.

NEIGHBOR: (OFF) You got lucky.

DOOR CLOSES DOWN THE HALLWAY.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) For the next several hours, Steve jumped out of and back into his apartment…

STEVE STEP JUMPS OUT, BACK INTO HIS APARTMENT. AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN.

…threw canned goods out of his apartment…

STEVE THROWS A CAN OUT INTO THE HALL. IT STAYS THERE.

…that, for whatever reason, didn’t immediately come right back into his apartment…

STEVE STARES AT A NOT-INSUBSTANTIAL PILE OF CANNED GOODS, THE PILE OF CANS STARES BACK.

STEVE: Hmm.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) …and he even tossed his dog out into the hallway, just to be sure.

STEVE TOSSES HIS DOG OUT INTO THE HALL.

DOG WALKS BACK INTO THE APARTMENT, CONFUSED, BUT FINE.

STEVE LOOKS AT DOG, TO THE PILE OF CANS IN THE HALLWAY, BACK TO THE DOG. THEN…

STEVE: Shit-fart-damn-hell!

WIFE: (OFF) What are you doing?

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) It was right about the time someone asked, “What are you doing?”, when Steve’s Wife returned home.

STEVE LOOKS, FINDS WIFE STANDING IN THE HALLWAY.

STEVE: Hello, my love.

WIFE: Don’t tell me you’ve been in here all day again.

STEVE: Okay, I won’t.

A PAUSE.

WIFE STEPS AROUND STEVE, INTO THE APARTMENT.

WIFE: Close the door, please.

STEVE: Yes, my love.

WIFE: (OFF) Oh, and get the beating rod.

STEVE: (SIGHS) Fine…

STEVE CLOSES THE APARTMENT DOOR.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) But just as he closed the door to their apartment, it occurred to Steve that he never bothered to try the window.

STEVE: (BEHIND DOOR) Farting balls!

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Don’t miss our next oddly mundane episode: “The Waiting Game,” or “Out of Line.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

Tickson Flea Market

A FLEA MARKET. ROBERT, CLOAKED IN ODD RAGS, SKULKS ABOUT THEIR BOOTH OF ASSORTED, YET UTTERLY UNSORTED, SORDID KNICKKNACKS.

ROBERT: (TO AUDIENCE) Hello, I’m Robert, the humble proprietor of this booth, located far too close to the dank closets they call restrooms here at the Tickson Flea Market. I offer to you an assortment of unsorted, yet sordid stories, a litany of lessons learned much too late, a plethora of pain and suffering, and a menagerie of morbid miscellaneous. But I must warn you, there are no refunds or exchanges.

A CUSTOMER ENTERS, PICKS UP SOMETHING FROM THE VARIOUS PILES.

CUSTOMER: How much is this?

ROBERT: Five dollars.

CUSTOMER: I’ll give you a buck for it.

A PAUSE.

ROBERT: Fine.

CUSTOMER: Cool.

CUSTOMER HANDS ROBERT A DOLLAR, EXITS.

ROBERT: (SHAKES HEAD) He’s really going to regret that when his genitals fall off. (TO AUDIENCE) As I was saying… Every item here is cursed by dark spirits, plagued by poltergeists…

CUSTOMER #2 ENTERS.

…varying moral quandaries, ethical whatevers, uncomfortable twists of fortune and nipple alike, and the occasional act of vengeance from beyond the grave. Nasty stuff, really.

CUSTOMER #2 HOLDS UP A VHS CASSETTE.

CUSTOMER #2: Excuse me.

ROBERT: Yes?

CUSTEROM #2: How much for the signed VHS copy of Masters of the Universe featuring Dolph Lundgren?

ROBERT: Fifty bucks, and your body will wither away with every passing moment until, by the time the credits roll, you’re only dust and bits of bone.

CUSTOMER #2: (CONSIDERS THIS) How do I know this is actually Frank Langella’s autograph?

ROBERT: Forty bucks.

CUSTOMER #2: I think I saw it going for thirty online.

ROBERT SNATCHES THE VHS COPY OF MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE FROM CUSTOMER #2’s HANDS.

ROBERT: Then you are welcome to get the hell out of my booth and make your unholy pact with the devil that is Ebay.

CUSTOMER #2 SHRUGS, LEAVES.

(TO AUDIENCE) Some people have no respect for the sanctity of the flea market. I have to make a living too, ya know. It’s not easy selling cursed items and harsh life lessons for reasonable prices. Not in this economy. In fact, just the other–

CUSTOMER #3 ENTERS.

CUSTOMER #3: I’m sorry, but can you point me to the restroom?

ROBERT: (GESTURES) Back the way you came, make a right at John’s Used Car Seats and Hair Products, and it’ll be there on your left. You’ll know it when you smell it.

CUSTOMER #3: Thank you.

CUSTOMER #3 EXITS.

ROBERT: (TO AUDIENCE) He wouldn’t thank me if he knew what it looked like in there.

Whispers in the Dark: The Sound

Transcribed from tape labeled, “Taylor.”

TAYLOR: “It sounded like a pod of whales, and looked like a sea of lights.”

My Layla passed away a few years ago. One morning she woke up and died. Doctor said something popped in her head. I never talked about it much. I guess a lot of us wish we had. I know I do.

I heard on the news it started at 12:42, when all the lights went out. Some people online said it was later than that. Of course, some said it was earlier. I don’t know what time I heard The Sound. I only remember it was late, and cold. But, The Sound? The Sound… it was soft, pleasant. “It sounded like a pod of whales, but it looked like a sea of lights.” Sometimes I wish I could keep waking up to it. Sometimes, I dream that I do.

Layla waited for me outside the front door of our apartment. Pale in white, like the day I married her. And in The Sound, I heard her voice. She called, she cried. She said things – things only she knew. Things only I knew. Things she shouldn’t know. Called me awful names when I wouldn’t let her in. All I wanted to do was let her in.

I never thought I deserved Layla. She was too kind, too sweet, too understanding. Too trusting. I was a mess before she met me.

I was a mess when she married me. I was a bigger mess after she left me. I don’t know what I am now. But to see her standing there? I didn’t deserve to have her back. But I’m starting to think, maybe… maybe I deserved what came next.

From the window, I saw others opening their doors. They let in whatever they saw. I once heard someone saw a cat. So, who knows? But they saw what they saw. We all heard what we heard. And some of them… they opened their doors, and let that light in.

Our neighbors – sweet girl, awful mother. We used to hear them scream at each other through the walls. One day I realized the fighting stopped. Saw the girl one day in the laundry room, and she was all smiles. That night, when the sound began, she was screaming at her mother to go away. Screaming and screaming, “You’re gone, you’re gone! I killed you! You’re gone!” She kept her door closed.

The woman across from us… she opened her door. She’s gone now. Like everyone else.

My neighbor moved the next day. I helped her load a few boxes and bags into her car. We didn’t say anything the entire time. Box, car, box, car. (CHUCKLES) She didn’t even thank me, now that I think about it. But before she drove off, she, uh… She said, “It sounded like a pod of whales, and looked like a sea of lights.” I don’t know where she is now. I guess she’s gone too.

Whispers in the Dark: 264 Hours

Transcribed from tape labeled “Sergio.”

SERGIO: When I try to sleep, all I see is a man’s eye dangling in a way that eyes shouldn’t.

I haven’t slept in about… seven days? I’m not sure. What day is it?

I once read a man went like, 264 hours without sleep. I don’t know what happened after that. Maybe he died.

I saw a guy die once. Did I ever tell you about that? Not too long ago, actually.

I’d been working overtime, extra shifts. Whatever I could get. We had to get some serious work done on my wife’s car. Cost a fortune.

One night, I’m scheduled to work swing. My wife needed my car, so I got a lift to work. But I was on my own going the other way, though. Had to take the bus.

(SIGHS) All I wanted was to get home.

It’s like a forty-five minute trip home. Straight shot, which is nice. No transfers. But that’s plenty of time for something to go wrong.

The old man was there when I got on. The kids came in about ten minutes later. Buncha college kids – not anymore, of course. But they were at the time. And they were laughing, giving the driver a hard time. I think they were drunk.

Something about the old man caught their eye. Maybe it was just him being there. Could’a been me.

It started with some jokes. One of them pulled out their phone, started recording the whole thing. Made the old man the star of their pretend late-night talk show. They sat there on all sides of him, asking all sorts of personal, awful questions they had no business asking. I can still hear the twisted way one of them cackled. Not a laugh like the others, but a cackle. Like this was the funniest thing in the world to them, but they hated it at the same time. It was… sick.

The old man wouldn’t play along. They got mad. And then, they hit him.

I love hockey. Something about the raw, hard-hitting nature of it. This big kid – red hair, something he thought was a beard – he body checked the old man – boom! – right against the glass. Shook the whole bus.

The bus driver didn’t say anything, he just pulled over and ran. Maybe I should’ve done the same.

Sometimes I wonder if those kids were just bad people. Not that I’m much better. I sat there and watched it happen.

They pounced on him, stomped on the old man like they were putting out a fire. By the time they stopped, his head… his head, it… it looked like a kicked-in jack-o-lantern.

Sometimes I wonder why he was there. Where didn’t that old man get to? It keeps me up at night, that old man and his eye.

Whispers in the Dark: Lexi

Transcribed from tape labeled “Lexi.”

LEXI: Sometimes I dream of a shape of a man, little more than a vague approximation – two arms, two legs, something like a head. Maybe more, sometimes less.

At least, I think it’s a dream. Pretty sure.

Most nights it stands outside my home, beneath the dirty glow of the street light. Other nights, closer. Sometimes on my lawn, beneath my orange tree… or, uh… at my door.

They stand there, looking at me looking at them from behind the safety of the curtains hanging in the window of my living room, this shape lost in fractured light and shadow. It shouldn’t see me, but it does. I can feel it.

Trim

The girl sat in a chair in the kitchen of a small house in an unincorporated corner of Anaheim, a bed sheet tied around her neck. Polyps stretched and reached from the pores on her face, the skin there twitching and pulling taut. Their slender tendrils writhing, flicking, and teasing at thin slits of light slipping in from where the curtains were drawn and pinned shut. And a boy, not much younger than the girl, stood across from her, a pair of his mother’s scissors trembling in his chubby fist.

“I think this is going to hurt,” the boy said.

The girl nodded. “Yeah. Do it.”

Whispers in the Dark: Tearing Me Apart (Sam)

DENA: I still have this picture of us from that day. See? That’s the three of us, sitting on the sand a little bit out that way. Cassi is the one on the left, Sam’s the brunette in her swimsuit. And that’s me, sitting on a bit of driftwood. It’s been… God, it’ll be fifteen years this summer. I’m older now than Sam ever was. Has it really been that long?

We, uh… We were all coworkers. We all worked at [REDACTED]. Remember those? (LAUGHS) I guess I’m showing my age. But, uh… Cassi and I, we were both just kids then – we went to the same college, actually. Sam was a bit older than the two of us, but you couldn’t really tell by the way she acted. The two of them worked together for a bit before I came along. I transferred to that location a little less than a year before that photo was taken.

(SIGHS) If we only knew…

I’m sorry. It’s… It’s been a long time, but it hasn’t. Ya know?

Umm…

A SILENCE.

Anyway. The three of us were close, I guess. We talked a lot. We even went out for drinks after work, especially if we all got stuck working the night shift on a Friday or Saturday. You start doing that, you get to talking and sharing. Sometimes a little bit more than you probably should. Sam shared – a lot. But she never said much about her husband. With everything she told us, Cassi and I knew Sam like a sister or a… or, her gynecologist. Ya know? I knew more about her body than my own. I knew the name of her high school boyfriend – that I still remember. But I couldn’t tell you her husband’s name.

One night while we’re locking up, Cassi asks Sam why she’s been looking so tired all the time lately. And that’s when Sam told us her husband left her.

An hour later, we’re drinking and talking. And Sam tells us how she found all these messages and photos on her husband’s phone. They were watching TV, and he left to use the toilet. And he just left his phone there, with all this opened up for anyone to see – he was that checked out. And as she’s looking at all this, he comes back and sees her looking at all this. And she said that’s when he told her he was leaving. Just like that. He said that, turned around, packed a bunch of his things, and walked out. She hadn’t seen or heard from him since.

The three of us didn’t work together for a while after that. It was just the way the schedule came out, I guess. At one point, Cassi got to thinking Sam had asked not to work with us anymore. But I don’t think Sam would have done that.

After a few weeks, maybe even a couple of months, we all worked the same Friday night together. Cassi got there first. And as I’m clocking in, we both see Sam walk through the door, looking like the living dead. She must have lost twenty pounds in just a few weeks. Her hair looked thinner. We asked if she was feeling sick, and she just sort of waved at us and said it was a bit of food poisoning.

I don’t remember who suggested the beach first, if it was Cassi or me. It was warming up lately and we’d been throwing the idea around for a while, but our schedules hadn’t lined up in forever. But at some point that night, Cassi looks at the schedule and sees we all have that Saturday off. So, she and I start talking about maybe going to the beach first thing in the morning. A minute later, Cassi shouts across the store, “Hey, Sammy! You wanna see me in my bikini tomorrow morning?”

Sam said, “No,” actually. (LAUGHS) But, uh… Cassi eventually convinced her. Somehow.

A SILENCE.

I only saw Sam two more times after that day at the beach. This is the way I like to remember her.

Sam emailed us that and a bunch of other photos later that same night. She was so happy to use this expensive looking camera of hers, with all these lenses and accessories. The way she ran all over the sand and tide pools, snapping a photo of the waves and seagulls and starfish, you’d never think anything was wrong. Like, everything that had been pulling her in every direction let go all at once. Even if only for that morning. She didn’t even realize she’d cut her foot on something until after she sent the photos.

I didn’t see Sam again for another week, but Cassi worked with her that Tuesday. Cassi actually called me up during their shift, asking me to keep an eye on Sam, telling me how Sam somehow looked worse than ever, that she was hobbling around on one foot and complaining about an infection on the other. By the time I saw it on Friday, the skin above her ankle was all red and tender, with these blistering sores that oozed and stuck to her socks. Sam said she was taking antibiotics and left it at that.

I was scheduled to work with Sam two nights later, but she never showed.

A week passed before anyone started asking questions. Two weeks passed before Cassi and I agreed to visit Sam’s apartment after work.

Sam lived in this cute little one-bedroom with her husband, just a block away from the store we all worked at. (LAUGHS) It was a five minute walk, but she still drove every day.

We knocked and knocked at her door until one of Sam’s neighbors stepped out and told us nobody had been in or out lately. They figured she’d run off or something. But the way they described Sam… they said she was a loud girl, always fighting with her boyfriend. Even after he’d left, they still heard Sam crying and screaming day and night. But now it’d been silent for a day or so.

We, uh… Cassi, that is – she managed to get us into Sam’s apartment.

A SILENCE.

It was dark. Very dark. All the lights were off, the curtains were drawn and pinned shut. And warm, so very warm with the way the doors and windows were closed up. But the smell… It smelled like dead fish and sea water. You could hear the hot water running from every faucet – in the kitchen, in the… in the, uh…

I threw up immediately, just as soon as Cassi opened the door and that thick, moist wall hit me in the face like a brick.

Cassi went in ahead. A minute later, I heard her screaming.

The carpet was so wet I almost slipped while walking down the hall to her bedroom. I remember that too. I took out this little setup she had there, with these photos of her dog and sister and mom. Knocked all of that to the ground.

But, uh…

Jesus.

(HEAVY SIGH)

There was… blood… blood and, uh, rotting flesh. Everywhere. The carpet, the walls. Like it had melted and dripped all over the place.

(SOBS)

I’m sorry. I just…

No. No, I’m okay.

(BREATHES)

Cassi is just… She’s screaming in Sam’s bedroom. Screaming and screaming and screaming. And it’s so hot and wet everywhere. And I’m still trying to catch my balance. I had to throw my shoes away after that, they were just soaked and caked in all of the, uh… They were ruined. Just ruined.

But I get into the bedroom, and there’s this leg on the floor. Like, just sitting there. Right there on the carpet by the bed, like it had fallen off in her sleep. Like it had melted off.

And then we looked in the bathroom.

Uh…

(NERVOUS LAUGHTER)

I turned on the light, and we found her. We found Sam.

(EXHALES)

Most of Sam was floating there in the tub, in this… (SNIFFS) this soupy mess of salt water, blood, and, uh… (CLEARS THROAT) and everything else. One of her arms was missing from the shoulder down. The other was a half-melted glob of goo. And her… Her other leg was floating in a puddle on the tile.

I remember screaming, and then not much after that.

A SILENCE.

I still dream of that day on the beach. It’s the rest I wish I could forget.

IT’S OVER

Whispers in the Dark: Brixby

ANONYMOUS: Mr. Brixby stepped out for his nightly smoke at a little past one in the morning. Fifteen minutes later, I’m watching him get his arms plucked off behind a dumpster.

I’d been working at the El Dorado for about two, three years by that point. I was hired to cover the swing shift a few nights a week, then it just sort of took over my whole life. Eventually, they had me working mornings and graveyard so often that it felt like I lived there as much as everyone else.

Mr. Brixby was what we called a “long-term resident.” Most of our guests were. Not that there were ever many guests for much of the year. Not outside the summer tourists. It wasn’t exactly anyone’s first-choice. And the ones who stuck around weren’t exactly there by choice, if you get what I mean. Mr. Brixby was one of those. He said he was there for work, but I don’t think any of us knew what he actually did for a living. But he was a nice guy. Paid his rent on time. Loved to talk about the latest tech toy he’d picked up somewhere. This one time, he came back from wherever with this 3D camcorder. Remember those?

Anyway. When he wasn’t out doing whatever it is he did when he wasn’t there, Mr. Brixby was usually in his room. The only time he ever stepped out before morning was for his nightly smoke. In fact, he was in a smoking room. Had been the whole time he lived there. So, I never understood why he always stepped out to smoke in the parking lot, same time every night. I’d say it was for the fresh air, but…

When I worked graveyard, I’d empty out the lobby trash cans and join him. We’d just talk about his latest toy, movies. Not the most stimulating conversation, I guess. But his weed was great. And plentiful.

The night it all happened, I was working graveyard. And I saw Mr. Brixby step out that night too, same time, same way. But before I could get to all the cans and join him, this couple came stumbling in, belching and farting something about needing a room for the night. If they hadn’t been so drunk, I wouldn’t have taken so long to get out there. Or maybe I should’ve just told them to kick rocks – it wouldn’t have been the first time. And I think about that a lot, ya know. If I had just gotten out there sooner, maybe, uh, Mr. Brixby wouldn’t…

Anyway. I get out there some fifteen minutes later, and I don’t see Mr. Brixby anywhere. His car’s parked back there. Not even a whiff of smoke. Just me, a bunch of dripping garbage bags, and a dark, empty lot.

So, I go to the dumpster.

SILENCE.

Working graveyard at a motel, you see your fair share of freaks and crazy shit. I’ve seen people hiding in other people’s rooms. I’ve been threatened by people meth’d out of their mind. We even got cursed once, this family we kicked out laid out these weird, I dunno… markings? They drew markings in salt at the front entrance as they left with all their shit. But you never expect to see a man being…

(SIGHS) I know what the cops and papers said, but it wasn’t some coyote. I was there, not them. I saw them. And, look. I know it sounds how it sounds. But there were two… At first, I thought it was a couple of homeless guys digging in the dumpster. It happens. But…

One of them was holding Mr. Brixby there by the arm, twisting it, and he’s got Mr. Brixby doubled over on his knees, like this. And his eyes are screaming – I see his eyes looking at me looking at him, and I can see they’re screaming – but nothing’s coming out his mouth. And the other one is there, just off to the side, eating Mr. Brixby’s other arm. Just gnawing and tearing away at it like, uh… like one of those big turkey legs you get at the fair.

And then, I screamed.

The cops showed up not long after. One of our other guests must have heard me out there screaming and called. But by the time they got there, those two… I told the police the same thing I told the papers, and somehow they turned it into a story about a coyote attack. But I told them I saw two homeless men attacking Mr. Brixby and that they both took off running, over the fence and into the river trail.

Truth is, I don’t know what I saw that night. Or maybe I know exactly what I saw, and I can’t even admit it to myself. But whatever I saw, I guess my screaming scared them off. And I did see where they went. But they didn’t run. And they didn’t head for the river trail.

SILENCE.

My family didn’t exactly live in the best part of town when I was growing up. I still don’t, really. It was never bad, but… This is an old town. There’s a lot of the old sewer lines and drainage running beneath any given block, ya know? So even in the nicest house on the nicest street, you’re likely to find a cockroach here and there – those big ones that look like they could run off with a small dog if it tried. They crawl out of the sink, out of the bathtub. Had one climb out of our toilet once. When I screamed, those things dropped what was left of Mr. Brixby, fluttered these fleshy flaps or wings on their back, and scurried down an old storm drain. I don’t know how, but they… squeezed and slipped right down through that small hole. (SNAPS FINGERS) Just like that.

Just like that.

IT’S OVER

Whispers in the Dark: Mark

MARK: My wife and I used to rent a place a couple of blocks up that way. She got a new job and we moved here to cut down on the commute. That sort of thing. It’s a nice little spot, isn’t it? Quiet. Lots of sun. Plenty of trees. Parking’s a little… But we made it work.

SILENCE.

Sorry. Drifted away for a second.

Anyway. The first few nights, I slept better than I had in years. But after that… I don’t know. Maybe it was the stress from the move, sleeping in a new place with new sounds and new people making sounds, but after that first week, I’m sleeping less and less. I’d just lie there in bed for hours until I’d dozed off without even realizing it. Eventually, I’m up pacing for just as long, back and forth, back and forth, until the sun’s starting to rise and my feet beg me to stop. I don’t want to read, I don’t want to look at a screen, I don’t want to listen to music. I just want to sleep. But I can’t.

After a couple of weeks of me waking her up and keeping her up, my wife went from concerned to annoyed to leaving me a hand-rolled joint and a note that said, “If you’re going to huff and puff for several miles all night, I would prefer you do so outside.”

So, I went for a walk.

I went for a lot of walks, actually. A lot of walks on a lot of nights. And something about doing that, walking around when the rest of the world was asleep, it worked for me. I still wasn’t sleeping much, but I was sleeping.

And as I kept doing this, I developed a little routine. I’d walk up Gomer, cross to Pyle, and then back up around Howard or Fine. Just like that. I liked to watch the ships come into the harbor from the hill.

That’s where I first saw the old man.

Actually, I’m not sure when I first saw him. One night, it was like he was just there. I mean, nothing stood out about him. Not really. Aside from him being this one-hundred-year-old man walking up Pyle at two in the morning with what had to be about twenty, thirty pounds of something in this large canvas bag. I never saw him in or around a car or bus. Every store in walking distance closed hours earlier. But every night, there he was, inching his way up the hill with that heavy bag of his. Crawling in and out of the shadows and street lights.

It never even crossed my mind to offer to help the old man with that bag of his. Not once. Not until that woman did.

Can’t remember her name off the top of my head, but there was a bit about the woman in the news. I think. Right after it all happened. I didn’t know her, but I’d seen her around here before. Probably lived in one of these apartments. She was always in workout gear, always out for a jog. A lot of people run by you like you’re not even there, but she’d always look your way, give a little wave or smile or nod.

That night, I heard the woman before I saw her. They were standing right over there, on the other side of Pyle. I was standing about here, bunch of cars parked in front of me, and I heard someone say something. I don’t know what she said exactly, but with it being as quiet as it is at night around here, I still heard her say something to the old man from this far up the street. Maybe she was trying to get around him, or she turned the corner and almost ran into him. Anyway, I heard someone say something, so I looked around and saw her standing over there with him. And she pointed at his bag, clearly offering to help. But the old man shook his head and waved his free hand at her and clutched that heavy bag with the other. The way he’s acting, I figured he’s told her, “No, thanks,” and wants to be on his way. But then, she insisted. And then, he resisted. And they went back and forth like that for a minute.

Finally, the old man relented.

I remember reading something about how the woman had some kind of heart defect. That she must have just dropped dead on her jog that night, blissfully unaware that her heart was ready to stop at any second. It’s a cute story. But, uh…

(SCOFFS) Look. I know this sounds absolutely crazy. And I feel crazy for even being here, telling you all this and hearing myself say it out loud. I know I’m crazy every bit as I know that woman didn’t drop dead from a bad heart. I know there was an old man with a, uh… a bag. This plain, normal, not-crazy looking bag with, I dunno, something in it just as plain, normal, and not crazy. But when he opened the bag and she looked at whatever it was she found there, that’s when she dropped dead. She didn’t tip over. She didn’t clutch at her heart. She didn’t even try to brace herself. She just, uh… It was like she was a puppet and someone cut her strings. Whatever held her up was just… gone. And then, she… she collapsed and folded up on herself. Just right over there. Sometimes, I think I heard her ribs cracking.

And the old man, he stood there for a bit. I don’t know how long, but he stood there. He didn’t look around. Didn’t call for help. He just stood there, shaking his head.

And then, he left. Same way he always did. Walked right up Pyle, passed me like I wasn’t even there, and then over the hill.

SILENCE.

Sorry. I was just…

Anyway. That was, uh… that was years ago now. I don’t go out much after dark these days.

IT’S OVER

Eldritch Trial Separation

A PIER ALONG A SUNNY STRETCH OF CALIFORNIA SHORE. A SMALL CROWD GATHERS, LOOKS, AND POINTS.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) It was a day at the beach. The sun was there. Water and sand all over the place. Cruise ships and oil rigs littering the horizon as far as the eye could weep.

MAN ON PHONE ENTERS, SITS.

And all squandered on a man sitting at the end of the pier, half-assedly pretending to listen to a very angry woman’s voice on speakerphone berate him for his part in a years-long affair that has done irreparable damage to their marriage, family, and social media following.

MAN: Look. I know I’ve been a selfish, heartless bastard who cares little for your needs, wants, hopes, and dreams. And I know I’ve consistently and utterly failed to pay my fair share of, well, anything. I get it. My bad. But, I don’t understand why you’re so upset.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) As the woman started to categorically, chronologically, and somethingly explain, more or less, precisely why she was so upset with this selfish, heartless bastard, the selfish, heartless bastard decided he didn’t care…

MAN SHRUGS, TURN TO…

CROWD GATHERS, LOOKS, AND POINTS, ONLY NOW WITH GROWING CONCERN.

…and turned his fleeting attention to a gathering crowd pointing and gathering and crowding about something along the horizon.

CROWDER: It’s gone!

LOOKER: What’s gone?

POINTER: The oil rig!

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) The selfish, heartless bastard looked back out across the water, and wondered how anyone would even notice one oil rig went missing.

CROWDER: (TO MAN) Because I happened to be staring right at it. It was there one moment, gone the next.

GATHERER: Bullshit.

POINTER: (PETULANT WHINE) It’s true! I saw it sink right into the water, like the bottom fell out, or somethin’!

WOMAN: (PHONE) I’m sorry. Is this conversation about our rotting corpse of a relationship too distracting?

MAN: Yeah. A little. Sorry.

WOMAN: (PHONE) No, no. It wouldn’t be time spent with you if it wasn’t wasted.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Now. Had the man been paying any attention whatsoever, what turned out to be the woman’s last known words to anyone might have stung. But it was at this moment when something breached the water and swallowed one of the many cruise ships whole.

SOMETHING BREACHES THE WATER, SWALLOWS A CRUISE SHIP WHOLE.

And it was at that moment when the crowd lost its collective shit…

CROWD PANICS.

…children flipped, dogs clothed, fish strangled. Internet search histories ineffectively deleted. A man even defecated in a flower vase and nobody so much as took a photograph. Madness. Simply madness.

EVERYTHING GOES STILL, SILENT.

And then, it monstered onto the shore.

SOMETHING MONSTERS ONTO SHORE.

Suffice it to say, it was quite the sight. It was big, of course. Very large and very something, indeed. Not quite a fish, not quite a cuttlefish. Definitely something nobody had seen until they did.

SOMETHING LAYS WASTE TO ALL BEFORE IT.

And then, it just sort of made its way up the sand, as things like it do, onward to destroy humanity, or something. I’m not sure. Didn’t think to ask, which seems like quite the oversight, now that I think about it. The damnedest thing, though. I suppose you had to be there.

PANIC, DEATH, AND DESTRUCTION CONSUMES EVERYTHING.

Anyway. I forget where I was going with any of this.

IT’S OVER

Grand Ghoulish

A twisted and bloody love affair!
(all-new ebook coming Halloween ’22)


Click image to start reading
on Substack.


CONTENTS

ACT ONE

I-I. Two Types of People
I-II. Bedsheet Curtains
I-IV. Lavender
I-V. Click
I-VI. Clock on the Wall

ACT TWO

II-I. Sex, Motels, and Voicemails
II-II. One Punch
II-III. An Unearthly Sound
II-IV. Broken Clock
II-V. Click II
II-VI. What She Said

Grand Ghoulish: II-VI. What She Said

II-VI. WHAT SHE SAID

A bustling super-secret, super-freaky art gallery with clocks on a wall, teenagers frozen in ice sculptures, and HAROLD’S BRAIN in a jar, floating and bubbling in some clear solution. This monstrosity is somehow wired to an old laptop, a cheap pair of speakers, and a projector. Noisy, pixelated sights and sounds plucked out from Harold’s Brain flash and flicker on a wall.

A confused, yet confused PORTLY COUPLE with literal “bear hands” watch this morbid show.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) There are precisely two types of people in this world.

The first are those eclectic few showcasing their gaudy wealth in a secret art gallery located beneath the surface of the sort of affluent California “community” where everyone is as artificial as the grass, trees, and even the lightly-scented air. For fear of being assimilated, the name of this particular town escapes me at the moment.

(a beat, then…)

Meanwhile, the other sort are the art. And as Harold – or, more precisely, Harold’s skillfully preserved brain and eyes – stared at a clock hung between a pair of terrified teenagers frozen in freshly-carved ice sculptures, he took solace in the fact that while his most embarrassing memories were currently being projected on the wall behind him, at least the portly couple with matching bear-hands in front of him couldn’t tell he was crying.

BRENNIPHIA: (off) Hey, you!

Harold’s Brain bubbles at the sound of her voice. The feed briefly scrambles, then continues.

Portly Couple turn ever so slightly to their left to…

Brenniphia, now a pink bob cut in a silk sundress and adorable shoes, joins Portly Couple.

PORTLY COUPLE: Sophia!

BRENNIPHIA: I go by “Brenniphia” these days, actually. New me, new…well, new everything!

PORTLY COUPLE: (to each other) How naughty!

BRENNIPHIA: I see the two of you are enjoying Oliver’s work.

Portly Couple hold up their literal “bear hands”.

PORTLY #1: (gushes) Our grandson absolutely loves it!

PORTLY #2: Soph… I mean, Brenniphia… you’re looking so daring these days!

Brenniphia teases her hair, fingers glide across faint, but thick lines on her scalp.

BRENNIPHIA: I wasn’t going to keep it, but it kinda grew on me.

A woman’s voice, Sophia’s, crackles again and again from the cheap pair of speakers.

SOPHIA: (recording) What does that make me?

Brenniphia and Portly Couple turned to Harold’s Brain.

What does that make me? What does that make me?

Harold’s Brain bubbles in its solution. The projector flickers vague images, flashing frames of bodies in pieces and blurred faces.

What does that make me? What does that make me? What does that make me?

PORTLY #2: What is that awful thing?

BRENNIPHIA: One of Oliver’s little toys.

PORTLY #1: Bit gratuitous, isn’t it?

Brenniphia nods, “Mmhm.”

BRENNIPHIA: But don’t let Oliver hear you say that.

SOPHIA: (recording) He’s a magnificent surgeon…

BRENNIPHIA: I’m sorry. I better get Oliver over here to fix this.

SOPHIA: (recording) …you can only roll back the clock so far…

Portly Couple say their goodbyes, waddle off, paw-in-paw.

SOPHIA: (recording) Do they bother you?

Brenniphia turns to Harold’s Brain.

Harold’s Brain bubbles.

An uncomfortable silence. Then…

She begins to speak, thinks better of it, and then disappears into the crowd.

THE END

Grand Ghoulish: II-V. Click II

II-V. CLICK II

A very large and dark room. No windows, no doors. No sound but the electric humming of medical equipment. No light but the harsh, cutting white of several, well-placed surgical lamps reflecting on impressively polished steel tools with lots of little blades and teeth.

Harold is on an operating table, unable to move. Only his face is lit and in clear view. His body is obscured by shadow and sheets. Wires run from his head and body to one of the humming bits of medical equipment.

HAROLD: (silently screams)

OLIVER: (off) Sorry, sorry.

Oliver, eating a sandwich in his desk chair, casually rolls out of the darkness, over to Harold. He flips a switch on the humming bit of medical equipment.

You looked like you had something to say.

HAROLD: (yelps)

OLIVER: (scoffs) Was that it? Go on. Get it out. Nobody can hear you scream.

HAROLD: (considers this) Pot to Kettle, how much more of a cliche can you be?

OLIVER: Not to put too fine a point on this, but I am a surgeon holding his wife’s lover captive in a big, secret laboratory.

HAROLD: Fair enough. But, where the Hell did you come from? I thought I was alone.

Oliver gestures to sandwich and feet.

OLIVER: Bit of lunch and socks.

HAROLD: Where’s Sophia?

OLIVER: Why? Feeling lonely?

HAROLD: What did you do to her?

OLIVER: (gestures with sandwich) I scooped out her brain and put it into the relatively younger body of a pink-haired woman who tried to sell me cologne from the trunk of her car.

HAROLD: Did none of that sound crazy to you?

OLIVER: Look. If it helps, you weren’t the first.

HAROLD: What?

OLIVER: Yeah. Sorry. There was this old flame from high school, a few coworkers, this guy from the social security office…

HAROLD: Bullshit.

OLIVER: Hey. I’m not even Sophia’s first husband. Now, that guy? Real piece of work. I got some good practice out of him, though.

HAROLD: Why would she do all that?

Oliver finishes his sandwich.

OLIVER: (shrugs) It makes her happy.

HAROLD: You’re shitting me.

Oliver picks up a shiney steel tool with the scary little blades and teeth.

OLIVER: You slept with my wife. I don’t think you get to shame other people’s kinks.

Harold seizes on the scary little blades and teeth, ignores everything else.

HAROLD: Jesus. If you’re going to kill me, just do it already.

Oliver picks at his teeth with the tool.

OLIVER: Don’t be so dramatic. I’m not going to kill you.

HAROLD: (puzzles this) You’re not?

OLIVER: Of course not. Keeping you alive is the whole point.

HAROLD: Wait. What?

Oliver rolls over to another switch, flips it.

The lights come on and reveal what is, more or less, a chrome-finished Salvador Dali painting. But instead of melted, sagging clocks, twisted figures, or surreal landscapes, Harold’s insides stretch and sag and drip on the outside, all over Oliver’s otherwise spartan, make-shift surgery room. Lungs are draped over the back of a chair. Entrails wrap around one of the surgical lights, across the operating table, and inexplicably tied on the other end to an old Victrola. Harold’s head dangles above this from several cables, with a number of tubes and wires clipped or stuck into this or that hole.

OLIVER: See, Harold?

Oliver holds up Harold’s still-beating heart, jangles it like a set of keys.

I’m a bit of an artist myself.

Harold ignores this, screams.

Oliver shakes his head disapprovingly, then flips the switch.

OLIVER: Yeah. That’s enough of that.

HAROLD: (silently curses)

OLIVER: What? I meant nobody else can hear you scream.

Grand Ghoulish: II-IV. Broken Clock

II-IV. BROKEN CLOCK

That third-floor master suite of a “stately manor” located in the expensive corner of a somehow even more expensive strip of Southern California coastline. Only this time it’s all rather messy. Furniture is tossed, flipped. The walls smothered in blood, gore, more blood, and bits of sick. Also, Sophia is dead in her bed. Harold, not dead, looks upon all this.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) What remained of Sophia slumped awkwardly in her bed. Swashes of blood, splatterings of brains, and bits of skull clung to everything. And as Harold looked on at this from the doorway, he couldn’t help but feel like he made a huge mistake by stopping for gas.

Now. To be perfectly fair to Harold, his grandmother’s near-mint wood panel Ford station wagon was one Hell of a gas guzzler. And the trip from their home in Buena Park to that manor by the sea was already a good hour-long trip down the 5, give or take. Between the forty-year old fuel efficiency standards and some inexplicable bumper-to-bumper gridlock that began and ended for seemingly no reason whatsoever, Harold had zero chance of arriving in time for some heroic save. In fact, Harold realized this back in Irvine. But he also realized that he was a failed photographer in his thirties, living in his elderly grandmother’s garage, and having a summer fling with a married woman. So when the congestion blinked out of existence somewhere around Lake Forest, Harold steered the Ford off the freeway, put several dollars worth of gas in the tank, double-backed a bit, and eventually made his way up to Sophia’s bedroom doorway where he continued standing about like he wasn’t at some grisly scene worth reporting immediately to the local authorities.

OLIVER: (off) Good thing you dropped your phone.

Oliver enters, freshly made up.

Otherwise, this could have gone–

Harold ignores this, breaks Oliver’s nose with a wild and wholly lucky punch.

Oliver brushes this off, pinches at his bleeding, crooked nose.

OLIVER: I suppose I owed you that.

Harold growls, looks for something large and heavy to beat Oliver with, repeatedly.

HAROLD: I’m only getting started.

OLIVER: You know, I completely agree.

HAROLD: (blinks) What?

BRENNIPHIA: (off) Harold.

HAROLD: Brennifer?

Harold turns, sees…

BRENNIPHIA, a woman with a pink faux hawk in sweatpants and a tattered Bon Jovi tee. Fresh surgical incisions wrap around her head. She looks like Brennifer, but talks and moves like Sophia…

What the Hell did he do to you?

BRENNIPHIA: These?

She glides her fingers over the incisions.

Do they bother you?

HAROLD: Sophia.

She steps closer.

BRENNIPHIA: It’s like I told you, Harold. Oliver’s a magnificent surgeon.

She embraces Harold.

HAROLD: I don’t understand…

She sticks a syringe into Harold’s neck.

BRENNIPHIA: Turns out…

She empties, removes the syringe from Harold.

…when the clock stops rolling back, you can just get yourself a new clock.

Harold collapses to the floor, stays there.

OLIVER: Did you see his face? I think we broke his little mind.

BRENNIPHIA: (gushes) Right? (gestures) But did you have to do that to my body?

Oliver looks upon his work, shrugs.

OLIVER: You’re not the only one who loves a little theatrics, Sweetie.

Brenniphia shakes head, sighs.

BRENNIPHIA: Shut up and help me move him.

OLIVER: Yes, Ma’am.

Grand Ghoulish: II-III. An Unearthly Sound

II-III. AN UNEARTHLY SOUND

Grandma’s. Grandma sits on her couch, stares blankly at nothing in particular.

Harold tantrums into the house.

HAROLD: I’m gonna fuckin’ kill him!

GRANDMA: (yawns) Are those MacGuffin boys teasing you again?

HAROLD: (puzzles this) What? No. Grandma, the MacGuffins haven’t lived around here for years.

GRANDMA: Are you sure?

HAROLD: Yes, I’m sure. Remember? Their house burned down when Mr. MacGuffin’s meth lab blew up during a police raid.

GRANDMA: Our water was off all day!

The unearthly sound of a landline telephone rings. Harold answers.

HAROLD: Who’s this?

SOPHIA: (phone) (sobs) Harold?

HAROLD: Sophia? How’d you get this number?

SOPHIA: (phone) I’ve been calling your cell, but it keeps going to voicemail.

Harold checks his pockets and finds only his wallet and keys.

HAROLD: Aw, shit.

SOPHIA: (phone) Harold… Oliver found my phone. He knows everything.

HAROLD: Yeah, I kinda picked that up after he sucker-punched me at the gallery.

SOPHIA: (phone) He already found you?

HAROLD: Not gonna lie. I think I got off kinda easy, all things considered.

SOPHIA: (phone) (screams in that way one tends to do when their muscle-bound spouse suddenly returns home during an in-progress, infidelity-fueled rampage)

HAROLD: Sophia?!

Silence. Then…

Sophia, are you okay? Sophia, are you okay? Are you okay, Sophia? Sophia, are you okay? Sophia, are you okay? Are you okay, Sophia?

Another silence. Then…

Harold inspects the phone.

Oh. Battery’s dead.

GRANDMA: Harold, does this mean you’re going to be late with the rent again?

Harold ignores this, storms out the door.

Harold?

She walks to the door, watches Harold speed off in the station wagon.

(sighs) I’m never getting my car back.