Wednesday, March 31, 2010

NYUCK, NYUCK (part 3)

And now, the thrilling conclusion to "Nyuck, Nyuck". Thanks for reading, folks:

NYUCK, NYUCK (part three)

William S. Burroughs had thrice wandered into the town of Bethlehem; two of those times had been completely unintentional.

After wandering the wasteland desert for a spell, William decided he really wasn’t much of an Eagle Scout. There was no way a city dweller like himself could possibly survive the elements. Assuming that he’d succeed at nothing more then feeding a flock of buzzards, and believing that men were inherently good (which was a thought that he did not subscribe to – he’d seen the horror that lurked within a man’s chest) he hightailed it back to Bethlehem. How he’d manage to convince Burl to “take him back”, he was unsure. All he knew was that it was worth the effort.

Burl was placing the coffin, of the man with steer horns, on display outside the local tavern. Though William’s eyes were filled with grit and flecks of tumbleweed, he could see Burl’s face turn from amusement to anger as the undertaker caught sight of his sorry ass strolling back into town.

“Get on,” Burl had said, shooing the much hated beat out of town.

The second time William had stumbled into Bethlehem had been a complete surprise. He had wandered the desert for hours, though it felt like days. He would pass cacti and other desert flora. Delirium had made it so that each and every time he passed a cactus, he would do a sweeping bow and introduce himself. Fuck – the combination of heat, exhaustion, and withdrawal were sending him on something that was starting to rival most of his trips.

A couple of cacti William tried to cut open. While not an Eagle Scout, he seemed to remember Kerouac saying you could cut open a cactus and find water. What Kerouac had failed to explain – and what William failed to comprehend or even think about – was how one went about doing such a thing without tools. Burroughs had succeeded at nothing more than impaling fingers and palm with spikes and needles.

One line of cacti had purple blooms sprouting from the skin. Burroughs carefully picked several of those and shoved them in his maw. He did this not for nourishment or any liquid they might be carrying. No, he did this strictly out of curiosity. Someone discovered magic mushrooms and the Indians had discovered peyote. If he were going to be stuck in a desert, dammit, William S. Burroughs would discover what flora or fauna would get you high (he was not beyond eating a Gila monster lizard if he had an inkling of its potency).

A flock of seagulls followed him overhead. He hated seagulls. Buzzards and vultures had the decency to wait until the spirit left the body before chowing down. Seagulls just went in for whatever they wanted – and here he was, cooking like jerky.

As he was about to surrender to weakness, William caught sight of something that gave him hope. It was the silhouette of a town, rippling like a lake reflection, dead ahead.

A new found energy sparked and his legs sprang into action. As he ran his thoughts bounced back and forth between hope and despair:

Thank God! If I ever meet you big Fellow, I’m going to have to break out my best shit. Oh, we’ll smoke a bowl.


Fuck! It’s just a mirage. It’s got to be a mirage! There’s no town. There’s no seagulls. This is just hell, pure and simple.

He skidded to a stop just before he could smash into the walls of one of the town’s buildings. Cautiously he extended a hand and rapped his knuckles on the wall. Knock, knock, knock. Seemed he owed some good shit to God after all.

He stepped into the town and felt his feet sizzle. William tiptoed towards the shadows cast by the awnings of the local tavern. He never registered that there was no chortles of drunken cheering coming from the bar.

In one mighty leap, William sprang from the main strip of dusty road onto the wooden porch of the pub. He was greeted to relief; the planks of wood were definitely warm, but nothing like that scorched earth. Then he saw it and his heart stopped beating.

On the porch, in a box, was a dead man with steer horns coming out his head.

“Oh, stupid luck,” muttered William. “I went in a damned circle.”

“No, no, no, no,” Burl chattered. The undertaker was rushing across the street waving a horse leg at him. “I tol’ you. Now get.”

So once more, William had headed back into the wastelands. And once more, he found himself strolling back into the streets of Bethlehem. He realized he lacked survival skills, which included navigational sensibilities, but he was fairly sure this was beyond coincidence. There was no way he’d traveled in a circle. None. Each time he’d wandered the desert, he’d seen different cacti with different blooms. He’d eaten blue ones and purple ones and one pink one. No way was this coincidental.

Something was drawing him in. Like a tractor beam. Perhaps he was indeed trapped in a Sisyphean Hell, from which there was no escape.

“Look mister,” said Burl, rushing from out his barn. “You can’t be here.”

“I’ve no desire to be here, Mr. Ives. But just when I think I’m out, it draws me back in.”

“Please,” said Burl, tears welling up in his eyes. Each tear drop evaporated before it could roll down his cheek. “You gotta leave. You got no idea what them boys are capable of.”

As if on cue, the rumbling started.

Burroughs and Ives both flicked their attention to the desert beyond Bethlehem. A great cloud of fog and sin headed towards them. Within that thunderous rumble of giant horse hoofs on cracked earth, they could make out the high falsetto laughter, random gunshots, and someone crying “nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.”

“They find you here,” Burl started, “they’ll go ahead and string me up, too. You gotta…”

The undertaker’s words trailed off. A bullet to the dome will have that affect. One minute he was frantically trying to push the beat out of town and the next William’s face was showered with brain matter. His face looked like the start of a Pollock.

The bullet had entered the back of Burl’s oversized head and stirred around a bit. Then it exploded out one of his eyeballs, creating a geyser of vitreous fluid and brain particles. The large man swayed a few times then tumbled to the ground. William was sad to see him go, but he was grateful to have a Mister In-Between when the bullets were flying.

The writer panicked and froze as the cloud drew nigh. The rumbling rattled his eardrums and the high-pitched cackles sent shivers down his spine. Then it was all over.

Burroughs didn’t hear the men, which instinctively made him thing he’d gone deaf from the thunderous rattling. He wasn’t even aware it had all come to an end until one of those massive horses snorted and sent a cloud of phlegmy nasal mist into his hair. He slapped at the grossness that had caked his head and slowly turned his gaze upward. The star blotted out most everything. He could make out shadows, silhouettes against that blinding, piercing light. There were three figures – one he knew was Jew-fro (Larry, he remembered), one was Bowl-cut (Moe), and one seemingly had a bald head and no neck. He could also feel the heavy huffs of horse sinuses.

“So, this is the wise guy, eh?” shrilled a voice. It must have belonged to the new member of the gang, the bald one.

“Yeah, this is him,” said Moe.

A massive hand came down and grabbed Burroughs by the hair, jerking him upward.

“He don’t look like too much to me,” said the newer voice.

William felt the man drag him across the street, much the same as a caveman would have done to a mate. He couldn’t see with the light in his eyes, but he could sense that the other two – Moe and Larry – were following behind them. In a festive manner at that. They were singing an odd song as if it were a blood chant.

“B-A, bay. B-E, be. B-I, bicky-bye, B-O, bo. Bicky-bye-bo. B-U, boo. Bicky-bye-bo-boo! C-A, cay…”

The childishness of the song in contrast with the macabre violence that was about befall forced William to release his bowels.

“Smells like he shit hisself,” cackled Larry.

William’s head felt like it exploded as the large man cabertossed him into a building. Darkness fell around him, but it was not from fading consciousness, rather the absence of that godforsaken star above. He was inside something. He fluttered his eyes like a butterfly on speed, hoping to catch the slightest glimpse of his attacker. Blurred vision surrendered their forms. He spotted the silhouettes of Larry and Moe, but he knew they were there. The other was a hulk of a man – easily three hundred pounds – with a shaved head. Curly, Burroughs thought, that’s cute.

Curly approached Burroughs, a sausage-sized finger pointed at him like a javelin.

“So, the boys tell me you’re a wise guy.”

“I’m sorry they said such a thing. I wouldn’t consider myself any wiser than anyone else.”

“You talk like a wise guy,” said Curly, jabbing his thick finger into William’s chest. “You like to use them pretty words. You know what we do with wise guys around here?”

“I haven’t a clue,” said William, his voice quavering with fear.

“You’re a wise guy, I’m sure you can figure it out.”

“Please!” William spit the word out in a whirlwind of spittle and tears. He sniffled hard.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Curly, his voice oddly soothing. “I didn’t mean to make you cry. I was just spookin’ you a bit.”

The big man gently held William’s head in his hands maternally. William stared at the brute through tear-stained eyes. He snuffled hard.

“Sounds like you got a runny nose,” cooed Curly. “I can help you with that, if’n you want.”

“If you feel charitable enough,” William said weakly.

“Absolutely.” Curly’s cooing had been replaced with the mischievousness that had been there before.

The man pinched William’s nose with his first two fingers. He squeezed hard and William felt something crack within. In a massive display, Curly brought his other hand down hard on the fingers pinching the nose like he was swinging a mallet. POW!

“You got his nose!” squealed Larry.

“You got it good!” voiced Moe.

For that instant, William was convinced that Curly had indeed gotten his nose. He remembered that retarded game crazy uncles used to play with nieces and nephews. That “I’ve got your nose” game. William was certain that Curly had just given him the reality edition of that game. He’d knocked his nose clean off.

He was happy to find that he was wrong…sort of.

The author/wise guy brought his hands up to his face. He wheezed snotty blood all over his fingers, an indicator that this was bad. Slowly he felt where his nose should be. There was a cavernous hole in his head that was spitting blood like Ol’ Faithful. Fuck! His nose was really gone. Nope, there it was. His fingers fumbled with a dangling piece of flesh. It felt like a big skin tag. As he fingered it, though, he knew it was his nose. He could feel the chunks of cartilage.

“Boys, it looks like I didn’t quite get it all!”

Curly reached down, snatched that dangling nose of William’s, and ripped the thing right from his forehead. William opened his mouth to scream but nothing came out. Larry and Moe cackled in the background.

“Nyuck, nycuk, nyuck,” said Curly. “I got his nose.”

William began crawling across the wooden floor, intent on crawling out the front door. As futile as the idea was, he was operating on instinct, not logic.

“Feed it to him, Curly! Make him eat it,” said Moe.

“That’s disgusting,” said Larry.

“It is disgusting. Like eatin’ a booger samich,” said Curly. “I like it.”

Burroughs continued his escape, looking like a geriatric inchworm. He heard the conversation that was surrounding him, heard them threaten to feed him his own nose, but couldn’t quite comprehend it.

Larry and Moe seized the struggling beat by the shoulders. They flipped him over and held him tight. His vision was still blurred, but he saw Curly’s ginormous hand gripping his bloody proboscis.

“Please!” tried William once again.

“Why soitnly,” Curly said. Burroughs knew he was saying “certainly”.

Curly shoved the thing into William’s mouth. The two stooges that were holding him gripped his jaw line and forced him to chew. William felt bile rush up his throat with every crunch. He swallowed hard and felt bits of cartilage and flesh flow down his esophagus.

The human body is a funny thing. It’s no surprise that a person can drink themselves silly until two in the morning and wake up still drunk. Things have a way of staying in the body longer than we’d expect them to. Sometimes it’s temporary; other times, not so much. It definitely depends on what it is you’re imbibing and how often you find yourself doing it.

William S. Burroughs was a living, breathing Petri dish of drug research. He’d snorted, smoked, toked, eaten, dropped, and inhaled anything and everything. Despite that he was not elderly or geriatric, decades of the lifestyle had led to a certain tolerance to drugs as a whole. Meanwhile the residue that had been left over – from every spliff, every line snorted, every drop of LSD – had terraformed his body into their own personal village.

The withdrawal had been a bitch. Now, as he chewed that nose, he felt left over cocaine re-entering his bloodstream. He tasted the sweetness of marijuana residue. He sucked the blood from the nose and instantly felt the oncoming rush of a high. His mind worked up imagery: William S. Burroughs was Popeye the Sailor Man and that nose was his motherfucking can of Spinach. He watched the scene playing in his head as his biceps ballooned into bowling balls and his calves inflated. He’d gotten a fix and he was unstoppable.

The movements were fluid and they occurred without William being fully aware of it. It was as if his subconscious and his body were having a private conversation. His hands turned to fists and the arms jerked upwards violently. Each fist made contact with a nose – Larry’s and Moe’s.
“Packed with peanuts,” William said, though not sure why.

With the two stooges hunched over in pain, William opened his left fist and slapped Curly across the face. It was fast and vicious and William could feel his hand still vibrating. Curly buckled in pain.

Curly regained his balance and glowered at the beat. William saw he’d drawn blood from the big man’s face. He liked that.

“Why I oughta…” Curly said, and began rushing towards him.

“Come get some,” replied William. He sidestepped just before the big man could barrel into him like a freight train. Immediately behind William was a wooden post that existed to help keep the top floor on top. Curly didn’t have time to stop. He hit head first, the wood splintering under the attack. A chunk of wood split through the big man’s dome sending blood and brain matter across the floor below.

Larry and Moe were awestruck. They were too far away to recruit Curly Joe (a doppelganger who sometimes stood in for Curly). They watched William to see what he would do next. The writer wasted no time.

William S. Burroughs bitch slapped Moe across the cheek. It wasn’t as hard as he’d slapped Curly, but it did send the stooge to the floor.

“Why I oughta…” started Larry.

“Like talking to a broken record. You all just keep saying the same thing.”

William brought his hand up like a cobra, his index and forefingers ready to strike. His arm waggled in front of Larry’s face, going up, then down, then up again. Larry was transfixed. Then the cobra struck.

Two fingers poked into Jew-fro’s eye sockets. “Look who’s blind now!” shouted William. He jabbed further and felt warm vitreous fluid wash over his fingers. He wiggled his fingers while they were still in the sockets and felt his fingernails scratch the brain. Larry slumped to the floor.

For the first time since stumbling into Bethlehem, Burroughs had a smile on his face.


The noise reverberated within his dome. He’d forgotten all about Moe, who had seen fit to take advantage of the situation by slamming something into William’s head.
Burroughs spun around to defend another blow. There was Moe, frying pan in hand, ready to strike out again.

“We hate wise guys ‘round here,” said Moe.

The beat needed to defend himself. He glanced around the room. Nada. He felt in his pocket. No dice. Then he saw something that might aid him. It was a canister of some sort jutting from Larry’s pocket. He ducked and grabbed the item.

“A seltzer bottle?” Moe guffawed. “What? You gonna squirt me, wise guy?”

And that was what William did. He made the bottle spit its contents right into Moe’s face.

“Wah, wah, wah,” William laughed.

Moe screamed in bloody agony.

“It’s just soda water! There’s no need to be a big baby.”

The stooge screamed again.

His vision was already fading – partially because of the blood and grit, partly because William himself was fading. He strained as hard as he could and glimpsed the grotesque vision. Moe’s face was sizzling. Steam rose from his head, and puss jutted from popping boils. The seltzer water was eating him alive. Or maybe it wasn’t soda after all. Perhaps it had been acid.
The screams grew softer and before long, Moe was a headless corpse on the floor.

William laughed, completely unsure why he was doing so. He fell to the floor and felt his head begin to split. It was literally splitting in two, a crack spreading from where his nose used to be. So this is what they mean by splitting headache!

He chuckled at his own joke – after all, nobody else would or could. The darkness came swift. First his eyes flickered out, then he couldn’t feel his arms or legs. He felt his heart rhythmically slow, each beat sending him further into hypnosis. He wondered if Jack and Allen ever made it to Mexico. That was his last thought, before death swooped over him and he was nothing more than a memory.

He died with a smile on his face and his hand raised offering a middle finger to the world. It was satisfying to have one final trip.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NYUCK, NYUCK (part two)

The steeds trampled the earth beneath them. Their snorting sent violent clouds of haze into their wake. Each was larger than horses should be allowed to grow – more like Babe, Paul Bunyon’s big, blue ox. The sheer size of the beasts made their riders, at a distance, appear to be nothing more than dwarfs.

William watched through the cracks of the barn wall, his feet sizzling on the scorched earth beneath him. They were beginning to smell like bacon. Still, he couldn’t pull his eyes away from the scene unfolding in the streets. He bit into his lower lip, hard enough to draw blood, and kept his attention.

Out on the streets none of the residents of Bethlehem could be seen. Surely there were other residents here beside Burl Ives. The riders hadn’t reached the main strip that ran through the town, and already the landscape looked like chaotic vomit: a horse trough bubbled and boiled under the sun’s heat, several windows shattered as poorly aimed bullets burst through them, and piles of horse manure ignited, courtesy of the heated soil.

It was like every version of Armageddon William had ever heard of.

The horses rampaged into the main strip of Bethlehem; a hefty tumbleweed of fog ensconced them. As the dust settled, William caught glimpse of the men. They were odd and seemed out of place – though everything seemed out of place in this Sartre hell.

Both men were about the same height and each wore matching outfits – white button-up shirts that had yellowed over the years, turd-brown pants, and red suspenders. Neither man wore hats, but each wore a hefty belt that prominently featured two holstered pistols.

One of the men was grayer than he other, his skin thick and ashy. His hair was fashioned in an odd sort of way, as if someone had placed a bowl on his head and cut everything that hung past the rim. He also had a Hitler-like fashioned mustache that quivered in the warm breeze.
The other had a peachier complexion, like blood still flowed beneath his skin. His hair was auburn and stuck upright in crazed tendrils. One of William’s friends In New York had referred to a similar hairstyle as a “Jew-fro”.

A third man rode with them. Well, not so much rode as he was dragged. Two thick ropes were attached to the coffin that dragged behind the men. Inside the box, William could barely see, was a fellow that looked vaguely similar to the Hitler wannabe, sans mustache. The corpse had been dead for a bit – the eyes had been devoured by crows and the cheeks sunken in like fleshy craters. Looking at the corpse, William felt an odd connection, like he had been responsible for the man’s death.

That’s impossible, he thought. I was with Jack and Allen. That guy’s not a beat.

“Burroughs!” shouted the Hitler look-a-like. “Get your ass out here!”

“We ain’t got nobody named Burroughs here,” said a voice. William couldn’t see the owner, but instantly knew it was Burl. “Now you boys get on out of here. I ain’t lookin’ for no trouble.”

“Big Daddy, we don’t want no trouble from you. We just want Burroughs.”

“And, I b’lieve I just said, I they ain’t nobody named Burroughs here in town. Don’t try to muscle me around, Moe.”

The chills of withdrawal washed over William’s body. He felt thousands, nay millions, of spiders running across his skin. He felt the cool sweat rushing down his head. He looked down at his hands and saw them tremble. At that moment, William realized these were not symptoms of his withdrawal. Rather they were signs of pure terror. What were the odds that there was another person named Burroughs in this town? Even if it was spelled Burrows.

William returned his gaze to the cracks in the barn wall. Burl Ives came into view, approaching the two riders as if he was immune to fear and threats.

Jew-fro leapt off his horse and jabbed the hefty undertaker in the chest. “Lookee here, see. We know there’s a knucklehead named Burroughs here somewhere. We followed tracks that went this way.”

“Those tracks could have been made by anybody,” Burl said.

“They could’ve been made by anyone,” the man named Moe said, “but we know they came from Burroughs. Who do you think you’re talking to, Big Daddy? Do you really think Howard, Fine, and Howard are a bunch of maroons.”

Burl swallowed back a verbal jab. He’d always considered them stooges more so than maroons.

“And what do ya want with this guy Burroughs? What’d he do?” asked the undertaker.

“What’d he do?” asked Moe. He turned to his comrade. “Larry, the guy wonders what Burroughs did.”

“If he don’t know,” said Larry, “then he must be blind.”

Moe sauntered over to Burl. “You blind, Big Daddy?”

“Not last I checked. No sir.”

With deft, speed-of-light moves, Larry brought his index finger and middle finger, like a frog gig, and jabbed them into Burl’s eyes. The action wasn’t strong enough to gouge out the eyeballs, but Burl did drop to his knees and rubbed his eyes furiously.

“He’s blind now, Moe,” cackled Larry. “Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.”

“Well since he’s blind,” said Moe to Larry, “I guess I better describe the scene. Y’see, this kid, Burroughs, he decides to up and shoot ol’ Shemp back here. He’s the one wearing the wooden kimono back there.”

Burl spoke, but his tone had turned somber. “I’m sorry for your loss. But they ain’t no Burroughs here.”

“You play your games, Big Daddy, and we’ll keep playing ours. Nobody happens upon Bethlehem my accident. This is the place you go to die. For this Burroughs fellow, we’re hoping to expedite that a bit. You be sure to let him know that. We’re going to bury brother Shemp and then we’ll be back.”

“And with Shemp out of the picture,” said Larry, “he’ll be dealing with brother Curly! Big Daddy, you want to make damn sure you’re out of the way when we get back.”

Not Curly, thought William, though he was unsure why. How did he know these people.

The stooges – or maroons – mounted their horses and exited the town in a thunderous rumbling.

Wiping the grit from his eyes, Burl headed back towards the barn. The childlike energy that he’d had minutes ago had all but faded. Now, he maintained a solemn and somber stance like every undertaker William had ever known (which wasn’t many).

With the action ended, William turned his attention to other things. Like his feet. The things hurt like a sumbitch (as that rat bastard, Ginsey, would have said). They smelled of bacon fat sizzling in a skillet and felt like a thousand scorpion stings. How he’d not noticed the severity prior was beyond him. This cursed scorched earth was literally cooking him. He could hear the hiss of searing flesh.

He leapt away from the barn wall and climbed onto the cot he’d found himself on when he slipped back into consciousness. The reprieve was temporary. He heard a spring door slap a door frame.

“William!” boomed Burl’s voice.

William did not answer, but his heart actually stopped a beat.

“William! Get on out here now.”

As well meaning as Burl seemed, William knew he should heed the request. The large man was capable of hammering steer horns into a man’s head (granted the task would have been much more difficult if the man had been alive), surely he’d have no trouble crushing him like the proverbial bug.

The first step was painful as the earth bit his feet. He jumped from shadowy spot to shadowy spot, all the while singing a frantic chorus of “fucks”.

“Is your name Burroughs?” Burl asked, not waiting for William to reach him.

This was a clustered mess. Should he say “no”, which he was inclined to do, then what would it mean for Burl? Would those boys actually return and gouge out his eyes like melon balls? Could he live with that?

Of course, answering “yes” was certain to deter his little breathing habit.

He opted to avoid the question completely and just offered a shrug.

“You are Burroughs, ain’t ye?”

“I suppose I am,” William said.

“Look, besides shooting Shemp, which was the dumbest of the dumb ideas a person could have, I don’t know what you did to piss them boys off. You gotta leave, mister. I can’t get involved with the likes of them…or you. Heckfire and tarnation is what’s comin’.”

William felt a sinking sensation inside, like his bowels were made of quicksand. He’d managed to somehow piss off his two best friends, who’d fed him to this hellhole. Now, the first person he’d met he’d managed to piss off. More impressively, he’s managed to piss him off without doing a goddamn thing.

“Here’s the thing, Mr. Ives. I don’t know what I did. There’s a vague familiarity when I noticed them out there, but I can’t remember them. I certainly feel I would be incapable of killing someone. Seems, I’d maintain a certain recall of that.”

“You talk real fancy,” said Burl. It was the first time William could make out actual spite. “Since you’re kind of fancy smart, answer me this: how’s a person do something and not remember it? You got that amnesty?”

“I believe it’s called amnesia,” answered William. “And to answer your question, well as smart as I am, I’m only capable of utilizing thirty percent of my brain function. The other seventy percent is a muddled mess, I’m afraid. You see, Mr. Ives, I’m an experimenter. Those experiments have left craters in my brain, and those craters are filled with lakes of absinthe, rapids of laudanum, and fog clouds of ether.”

He knew it would sound impressive to the undertaker. Hell, it sounded impressive to him. Still, he knew he was no goddamn “experimenter”. He was a fucking junkie and he knew it. Just the mention of the word “ether” caused him to salivate and twitch. Damn, he needed a fix, stat!

Screw Jack and Allen, he thought. Those two beats were probably neck deep in fresh sticky buds down Mexico way.

“I don’t understand much of that,” said Burl. “I ain’t never heard of ‘loud anum’ or ‘absent’. You talk fancy, but use made-up words. Earlier I remember you askin’ for some benzy dream. Regardless, I don’t want to get messed up with them Fine boys. Nor do I want to get messed up with you and your strange addictions. Now, get on, boy.”

Great, William thought, I’ve been downgraded from mister to boy.

“Where am I supposed to go?”

“Far the hell away, I’d reckon.”

“And how am I to get far the hell anywhere? You said there are no horses.”

“Those two things growin’ out your hips ain’t celery stalks boy.”

“Well then may I at least beg you for a pair of shoes or boots? My feet are frying as it is.”

“That damned star does play hell on the soil here. We can’t grow nothin’ in it,” said Burl matter-of-factly. “Shines all night and all day. The ground’ll scorch the skin right off you, if ye ain’t careful. Sadly, I ain’t got no shoes I can spare. Just the boots I’m wearin’ and the nice ones I wear to church.”

“That will make walking all the more difficult,” muttered William.

“You could try runnin’. I reckon the faster you move the less time your feet’ll be on the ground. Now I must bid you good day. I wish I could do more for ye, but I can’t.”

Burl seized William with his two massive paws and tossed him out into the streets of Bethlehem. So much for thinking of him as the Good Samaritan. As he hit the street his cheek sizzled from the heat.

“That smarts,” he said, not really to anyone.

Taking Burl’s advice, he broke into a sprint and raced towards the wastelands that lay just outside of town. He figured there really wasn’t any other choice.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nyuck, Nyuck, Part One

As a special treat, to all of you who have made "Naked Metamorphosis" a success to date, I'm offering an unpublished story just for you. This story came about through a conversation between myself and Jordan Krall, author of "Fistful of Feet". I'm not sure if it's any good - you'll have to be the judge. I like it, biased as my opinion is, and haven't really shopped it around. I've been told if you liked "Naked Metamorphosis", you may like this one. I'll be posting this in parts. Enjoy!
(And if you've not purchased your copy of "Naked Metamorphosis", do so here:

(part one)
by Eric Mays
Three wise guys rolled into the town of Bethlehem on two ponies that were weathered and begging for a bullet in the head. They didn’t have maps to guide them through the desert wasteland. The only landmark they had to follow was a glowing star that hung above the city and could be seen for miles on the flat landscape.
Though it sounded biblical, the town of Bethlehem, Texas has strayed far from Christian ways long ago. The town was nothing more than spittle on a map and as time had progressed the town had faded from commonplace into the annals of folklore. It was as rough and tumble a town as you’d find in the western wasteland of Texas. Needless to say, nobody ever happened upon Bethlehem. It was the sort of place you went to if you never wanted to be found again. There were no immaculate conceptions, or innocent infants in mangers, or frankincense and myrrh (whatever the hell that was).
As unusual as it was for three men to search out the fabled town of Bethlehem, the wise guys’ attire was just as out-of-place. The two men working the horses to the bone wore matching outfits: black suits, thin neckties, and dusty bowler hats. One of them was heavyset, nearing two hundred and fifty pounds. The other was as slender as they came. The third wise guy lay slumped on the back of Skinny’s horse, his hands and feet bound with a heavy rope, and his bowler hat long gone.
The ponies tramped past the welcome sign of Bethlehem and into the dusty streets. The only light present was the overwhelming luminescence of the damn star that hovered above. No gas lamps glimmered, no candles flickered in windows. The town was dead.
The ponies came to a stop and the hefty man grabbed the bound form off his comrade’s horse. With one grunt and shove the third of their party landed in the dirty street.
“Another fine mess you’ve gotten us into,” said the skinny man.
The bound man came to, flickering his eyelids, shaking the shock from his system. His throat was dry from days in the desert, but he croaked a dry retort. “Jack? Please don’t do this. Ginsey?”
The heavy man said, “You know I never liked the name Ginsey, Bill. I’m fine with Allen, or Ginsberg, or Allen Ginsberg. But, calling me Ginsey when I’ve firmly asked you not to is insulting, Bill.”
“And you know I do not prefer the name Bill. It’s William,” said the man in the streets. He shot his glance over to the skinny man, Jack. “So what? You’re just going to leave me here in the streets?”
“You’ll like it, William,” said Jack. “It’s your kind of place. Meanwhile, we’ll be on the road.”
“I thought we were all heading to Mexico,” said William, tears welling.
“Kerouac and I are headed to Mexico,” said Ginsberg. “We don’t have much of a choice, thanks to you. We have to hide. You need to just disappear.”
“The fuck I do,” spit William. “We’re a team.”
The two men snatched their respective reins and began steering the horses back towards the desert. William, still with tied wrists and ankles, wriggled along the dusty street like a cocoon birthing a butterfly. He shouted, though it was nothing coherent.
Allen turned his pony around and held a finger to his mouth. “Shhhh! It’s not real polite to wake the neighbors, William. That’s not how you make first impressions.”
“You bastards!”
The other pony turned to face the struggling William. Jack said, “A word of advice, William: get off the shit. You get that stuff out of your system and never put any back in and you might have yourself a pleasant life.”
William watched as Jack and Allen rode away. He watched as their forms shrunk until they were nothing more than the size of ants. And he watched as the faded away. His stomach ached with anxiety. Pangs of stress raced through his system. And despite that his hands were bound, he could feel them violently tremble. Damn he needed a fix; that was the only way to deal with the current predicament.
As soon as the thought hit him, William passed out from exhaustion and the world dissolved around him.


He awoke in a cold sweat with the sensation of a million cockroaches running over his skin. He jolted upright and brought his hands to his face. He fingered his jaw line and realized he was in desperate need of a shave. He stopped. Shave, he thought. Holy shit! His hands were untied and he was…in a bed.
William took in the surroundings. He was positioned on a cot in what looked like a barn. Hay was strewn about and a miasma of manure and urine wafted past his nose. Sun streamed in through cracks and crevices. And there was an incessant banging in the background. Where the hell was he? Had it all just been a dream. Maybe, Jack and Ginsey were waiting with coffee and ganja.
He stood from the cot and examined himself. He was still wearing his black suit and narrow tie, but his shoes and socks had been removed. He stepped across the dirt-bottom barn floor and the heat from the ground sizzled his feet. He tiptoed to a shadowy spot and worked to hop-scotch across the barn in the shadows as he pursued the source of the banging.
As he leapfrogged through the shadows, he was oddly surprised that he found no animals in any of the stables. No cows, horses, chickens. That made the smells of feces and piddle all the more perplexing. William didn’t waste too much time on the oddity, primarily because he was hypnotized by the rhythmic banging. With each beat a vision became clearer. First it was a hammer. Then he saw the hammer smashing the contents of a prescription bottle. Then he saw a fist slapping the table and sliding the powder into an envelope. The thought made him salivate and gave him an erection.
Past the stables, William found a small work area. There was indeed a man working at a table. On the table was what looked like a large, wooden box. The burly man, twice the size of Allen Ginsberg, was hammering away. Cautiously William approached.
“Excuse me,” he said softly.
“Holy son of a honky,” the man screamed, spinning on William, his hammer raised above his head.
The two exchanged glances – William’s was pure terror, Mr. Burly’s was confusion.
“Well, hell friend,” the man said, with an overwhelming twang. “You cain’t sneak up on folks like that. I ain’t much for violence, but I coulda accidentally smashed your melon in with this here hammer. Don’t worry, I’d felt bad about it.”
William was still working to reclaim his breathing function. That Joan Vollmer bitch had given him a scare with that whole William Tell thing back in the day. He’d not breathed right for a year after that.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
The burly man tossed the hammer down to the table and wrapped William in a bear hug embrace. “Don’t you worry about it, friend. Ain’t nothin’ to be sorry for. I just don’t want to hurt you. Not too sure what brought you into Bethlehem. It’s usually not anything good. But, like everyone who stumbles into our town, you’re a friend.”
William’s head was swimming. In the most fantastical of trips, nothing he’d experienced had been quite like this.
“What’s your name, friend?”
“William,” he said, feeling the words exiting his maw outside his control.
“Well, William, most people ‘round here call me Mr. Ives. I think that’s so impersonal. You can call me Burl, got it?”
William, once again outside of his control, felt his head nod.
“Now I’ll fix you up some eggs and some bacon, if you like. You look like you could use a good meal. Right now, though, I gotta finish this job. I’m on a deadline.”
William inched towards the table and the box in order to catch a quick glimpse at what the man was working on. He instantly regretted it. In the box was a macabre vision that force bile to creep up William’s throat.
The box was a coffin that housed the corpse of a man, a fairly young and muscular lad. What Burl was hammering was much darker than the image of a corpse. The big man was hammering the horns of a mighty steer into the head of the dead man.
Now, William was sure he was most certainly, as the kids said, tripping balls.
Seeing that the stranger was about to vomit all over his masterpiece, Burl aided William to the ground.
“Breathe deep, friend. Ain’t nothin’ to be worried about! It was his last request.”
“Who requests something like that?”
“Well, we folks around here still got imagination. Seems the rest of the world has moved on.”
Seeing William’s confusion, Burl elaborated:
“See, when one of ours passes, we like to decorate the corpse. Makes it that much more festive. There was this ol’ boy who passed of cholera a while back. That fella was obsessed with these things called jackalopes. You know what a jackalope is, right? Rabbit with antlers. Well, he wanted antlers attached to his forehead when he passed. Bein’ the undertaker and all, who was I to say no?”
“And this fellow?” asked William, turning green.
“Well, this fella used to get razzed all the damn time. He used to travel into New Mexico and those boys there would joke on him for bein’ from Texas. They’d always say ‘they’s only two things from Texas – steers and queers, and we don’t see no goddamn horns.’ So he passes of typhoid and asks me to find some steer horns. Wants his body shipped into Santa Fe so he gets the last laugh.”
William nodded. As perverse as it was, it did make sense through a certain eye. “Where’s the rest of the steer?”
“Smothered and chunked, I s’pose. We try to use up ever last scrap ‘round here.”
“I see,” said William. A sense of ease settled like a fog around him. If he wasn’t tripping, then Jack and Alan had indeed left him to rot in this godforsaken town. He knew in that instant that he needed to make a run for it. “Mr. Ives – Burl – I’m grateful for all you’ve done. I appreciate the offer for bacon and eggs. It’s beyond generous. However, what I truly need is a horse. And some Benzydrine.”
“Ain’t never heard of bennzy-dream. And, sadly, I ain’t got no horse. One came through here yesterday. The thing just sort of wandered around town.”
“Well, where is it now?”
“Well, it’s in pieces back in the work shed. Ol’ man Gustefson always wanted be hung like a horse…”
Burl’s words repulsed William, but he was still intrigued and wanted to hear more. Unfortunately for his ears, the undertaker’s words were drowned out by the sound of hell riding in. Gunshots, yelling, and the thunderous sounds of giant horses drowned out all that was around.
“William,” said Burl, swapping the niceties for caution, “you’d better hide yourself. Sounds like Shemp’s boys are back.”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Zombies Aplenty

I saw this article…and have to say, WOW! It’s the perfect source material for a blogsite called “ZomBicurious”, right? The top 10 best zombie films of all time. As ridiculous as it is for me to refer to myself as a zombie aficionado, that’s just one of the things I am. I can’t get enough of zombies – good, bad, and wretchedly horrible. It’s the perfect stuff for a good laugh. And, forget about Team Jacob or Team Edward. In the Zombie universe there’s Team Fast and Team Slow and I’m somewhere in the middle.

If you want to look at Stylus Magazine’s Top Ten List, do so here:

While I agree with many of the choices they made, I have to say the order is a little off, in my opinion. Here’s my top ten list for not only zombie movies, but also zombie books. You gotta have both!

Top Ten Zombie Movies of All Time:

1. The Night of the Living Dead: It’s really kind of difficult to argue with the film that started the whole zombie craze. Yes, there have been many other zombie films that preceded this one, but not on the same level. George Romero’s first film is not his best, but it kick-started a sub-sect of the horror genre that would be repeated over, and over, and over again!

2. Dawn of the Dead: This is Romero’s finest film. And it works on every single level. From the campy Tom Savini make-up to the over-stylized gore (anyone remember that blood pressure machine?), to the uber-depressing ending. Plus, there’s a hefty social commentary running throughout. (A side note: Zach Snyder’s remake of “Dawn of the Dead”, which is really more of a reimagining, is excellent, and sadly would have come on the list had the list run past ten)

3. Shaun of the Dead: If Romero is the one that ignited the zombie genre, then Edgar Wright, Nick Frost, and Simon Pegg ignited the zom-com. Yes, Dan O’Bannon did it years before with the Return of the Living Dead films, which I think are pure hilarity, but they were nothing more than a blip on the map. Yes, I’m a Dan O’Bannon fanboy, so it’s very hard for me to substitute Team-Shaun here, but they did it. They did the same thing Romero did – create a genre that would be copied for years to come.

4. Dead Alive: Peter Jackson’s movie was once dubbed the “goriest film of all time”. It’s gory, no doubt about it. It’s also good to see a classic Peter Jackson film. I love Peter, but I’m sad that he’s not doing fun stuff like this any longer. Still there’s a lot to like in a movie that features campy comedy, a zombie virus spread from a vicious rat, and zombie sex that results in zombie baby. I challenge you not to laugh during the taking the zombie baby to the park scene.

5. Fido: “Fido” was barely seen by anyone, but it created an alternate 1950’s that had suffered the perils of the “zombie war”, rather than the Cold War tensions and threats from the Korean war. It’s a clever piece, and a near flawless film, and yet it’s nothing more than a boy-and-his-dog story. Billy Connelly has no lines as the title zombie, and the cast is filled with recognizable character actors but no real stars. It’s an exceptional film. If you’re one of the many that has not seen it, by all means rent it!

6. 28 Days Later: I realize that this is testing everything that I should be against. For starters, these are not even zombies. They’re infected with rage, and they are sort of brainless and only motivated by human flesh, but are they really zombies? No. And, they’re not the shuffling stiffs that have been represented in the previous 5 films. This, though, is where the genre began to change a bit. We began seeing fast zombies rather than the norm. There is a certain sense of dread that accompanies the fast, Russian-gymnast-esque zombies. Still, I will toss it a bone and say it’s a pretty cool flick.

7. Evil Dead 2: I should have this higher on the list, as I’m a Bruce Campbell fanboy. I’m also a friend, so I really should have this higher. Evil Dead 2 has not only zombies and, well, evil dead. It’s got a zombie deer head mounted on the wall. It’s also got one of the baddest ass zombie killers around – Ash, housewares. I’m still waiting to see if Ash can kick the ass of any other classic movie monsters.

8. Zombieland: This film kicked the zom-com into overdrive! Woody Harrelson is classic Woody. And the expectations should be kept relatively low. Why is it on the list, though? Well, the center of the humor of this film is in the repeating of the rules of a zombie movie. Everyone that’s seen a zombie flick knows the rules by heart already. But, this film makes a joke out of them and it works. There are countless rules. Having Bill Murray is great as well. There’s just so much to love about this film. It’s pretends to be nothing than what it is.

9. Zombi: This was made as a follow-up to Dawn Of the Dead. And it’s on the list for two reasons: 1.) Zombie versus Shark! And 2.) Conquistador zombies rising from the Earth!

10. Night of the Creeps: Fred Dekker was the man of the 80’s. Night of the Creeps and the great Tom Atkins made this horror-comedy work. Slugs get into your skin and turn you into flesh eating zombies. It’s great fun and, according to Troma alum, James Gunn, it inspired “Slither”. Finally this is released on Blu Ray, and the transfer is pretty gorgeous in all its 80’s gore.

5 Zombie Books You Must Read, if you like zombies, that is:

1. World War Z: Max Brooks mimicks Studs Terkel to great success here. It’s a book of accounts from the great Zombie War, and it’s excellent. Vivid detail from the recounts of the beginning in China to the United States Homefront. If you can listen to the audio book, you’ll be exceptionally impressed – Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner, Mark Hamill, Alan Aldo, Jurgen Prochnow, Henry Rollins, and others perform.

2. Breathers: Just finished this, and this is a thought-provoking look at the life of a zombie. It suffers from the same syndrome Shaun of the Dead does, in that it takes you on a hilarious journey, then reaches a weird plateau and is not sure where to go. Still, the end product is worth it.

3. Cell: Stephen King’s visceral look at the world turned to zombies courtesy of a signal pulsed through cellular phones is fast paced (very short for King) and visceral. Many argue that it’s not a King novel. I argue the opposite. In fact, after being disappointed by King, this was a nice return to some of his earlier horror fiction. I loved it.

4. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: The dementors marked a dark turn for the fantasy series. However, this book introduced us to the Inferi, which are the undead. I was tripping when I got to them. Zombies in a Harry Potter book? Awesome. This, too, marked a dark turn in the series, and I was elated to see them appear again in the final book of the series. Who knew Harry Potter and zombies went together?

5. The Rising: The book that really put Brian Keene on the map. It’s not well written. There are typos aplenty. Yet, the action is raw and in your face. The situations are horrifying. The dialogue is believable. And the zombies offer a new twist. It’s pretty awesome. If you like it you can always check out two others in that universe: City of the Dead and Dead Sea.