Badger McCormack told himself he could stomach that all these creaky monsters had so suddenly and inexplicably sprung up into reality. But he personally knew industry lawyers who were profoundly offended that the shopworn bogeys had no respect for copyright law. Didn’t Universal Studios own them? They called to mind Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, James Whale, electricity zapping up a Jacob’s Ladder. And of course they’d all turned up in Hollywood, as if just to rub everyone’s noses in their baffling actuality.
It was no stunt. The werewolf got furry and furious at the full moon, the bloodsucker could turn into a bat, and that enormous lumberer really was sewn together out of corpsey spare parts. Everything had been verified scientifically.
This being Los Angeles, the stale medley of fiends had gotten immediate representation. Agents had swarmed like pitchfork-wielding villagers, which had probably freaked out one or two of them. Now, inevitably, they were celebrities. And that meant Badger McCormack, Tinsel Town blogger extraordinaire, had a legitimate shot at an interview.
But, like a bad pick out of an unlucky hat, he had drawn this chump.
It was a poolside interview — what else? The beach hotel was a chromed Deco affair, the tiles around the huge unoccupied pool alternately robin’s egg blue and some Tuscany sunset shade. Badger eyed his subject across the patio table. Even knowing this was a living entity, even seeing firsthand the scaly body undulate with respiration and glisten with natural moisture, it still looked like the man in the proverbial B-movie rubber suit. That rankled him on a deep level, one far beneath all the surface sleaze of his profession. It was a secret shame of his that those classic horror films had scared the blinking bejeez out of him as a kid. And maybe they still did… just a little.
Badger had all his recording apparatus set up. Water sparkled with mineral goodness in the glass his subject lifted with an extravagantly webbed hand.
“So,” Badger started in archly, “where do you see yourself in five years?”
You could ask a celeb — especially a newly minted one — anything, and for the first fifteen minutes all you’d get was the press release version. Studied mannerisms, self-conscious graciousness, cloying optimism.
Badger was a hardened veteran of these self-promoting tactics. “How is it that you’re even answering my questions?” he cut in after a minute, just before his subject said that what he really wanted to do was direct.
“S-s-s-s-sorry?” Great seawatery amphibian eyes regarded him.
“You’re speaking. I didn’t know you could do that.”
This had already wearied him. Badger McCormack was no mouthpiece. His was a reputation for incisive, cutting, renegade journalism. When the great comedians saw bullshit, they called it bullshit. Badger fancied himself possessed of that same integrity.
“Okay,” he said, squaring his shoulders under his trademark leather car coat. “What’s your problem with women, then?”
That grotesquely lipped fish mouth could always be said to be in mid-gape, but now the non-mammalian features appeared to register true shock. “I do not — ”
’ — have a problem? I beg to differ. What is it you do with a kicking and screaming female? Where, exactly, do you haul her off to? Come on, it’s your thing, your hook. No means no, guppy.”
“That’s-s-s-s not… that’s-s-s-s…” A trembling long-nailed hand upset the mineral water glass.
Badger felt the deep-down thrill, that predatory instinct. The annals of his semi-popular blog were filled with his scathing attacks on privileged celebrities. But this was something more. This had the feel of a personal revenge — for all those boyhood scares, the nights hiding under his covers, the wet bed sheets. All because of cheaply rendered frights like this.
“You know what I think?” Badger said, sitting back in his chair, leather coat creaking in the sultry afternoon as he gleefully broke the journalistic ‘fourth wall&rsquo. This was the beauty of blogging — the blogger’s opinions were relevant; more, they were front and center. “I think that you and your musty, moldy cronies are all manifestations of our collective cinematic unconscious. You’ve been stored up for so long in so many memories, the stuff of childhood nightmares, and now you’ve been pushed out into the real world. We made you once, as movie monsters, and we’ve made you again, as living breathing walking… props!”
It felt good. A keen, razor-bright satisfaction filled him. He grinned acridly at his subject, knowing he had collected enough material to twist this interview any way he wanted. If these freaks wanted to step out into reality, fine. Let them find out how the world worked now.
The poolside table was hurtling upward several stories into the feverish LA sky, but all Badger really saw was the webbed, nailed hand, a great prehistoric thing made for swimming through murky waters, pausing now at the end of its sudden, fantastically strong upward swing. He had no time to regret the loss of his recording equipment. Nor to react in any meaningful way to the creature’s lunge toward him, those moist scaly arms enclosing, the turn, the dive, the vast splash.
There was little that was lagoon-like about the hotel pool, and Badger McCormack was no buxom dame in a swimsuit to be spirited off by a creepily smitten fish-man; but as he soon discovered, you had to respect a monster, even one of the rubber-suit variety.
Eric Del Carlo‘s fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Talebones and many other publications, and is upcoming at Asimov’s. He has written several novels with Robert Asprin, like NO Quarter (DarkStar Books), and some on his own, such as Nightbodies (Ravenous Romance).