Posts Tagged ‘Alternative History’

Part Seventeen: These are the Days

August 5th, 1998 Wisconsin

“Boy they sure murder you on this popcorn!’ Bernice said as she put her change back in her purse. Her grandson carried a large tray towards her great grandkids; Tommy and Lindsey, along with their friends. The teenagers eagerly snatched the bags of popcorn and paper cups filled with soda. Bernice remembered when she could see movies for a whole year on the amount of money she’d just spent, and these were matinee prices!

No matter though, these were her golden years, her platinum years even, in which she not only enjoyed grandchildren, but great-grandchildren, both of whom she spoiled rotten. She’d long sold her hardware store, and she and Robert, her second husband of over 30 years, now enjoyed all of their free time. 

The screen lit up the darkened theater as the previews began. Bernice smiled as the trailer began with a familiar tune. She figured the kids wouldn’t recognize the song Mr. Sandman by the Chordettes, but to her it brought back fond memories. Then the mood of the trailer shifted as that familiar 90’s preview voice spoke. “It’s 1998, in a California beach side town.” It then cut to a group of kids boasting about having a Halloween party. 

Bernice blushed as the characters joked about having a roaming orgy. “What the hell is this?” her husband Ronald complained, probably not wishing to explain the word “orgy” to the youngins. Bernice just laughed, figuring the kids heard much worse than this, given the kinds of things they put on TV these days.

On screen characters also took issue with the teen’s behavior. An attractive teacher says “No booze, no drugs, no kidding.” Bernice thought she recognized this actress; it was a Jamie something. She’d soon forgotten this as the trailer cut to the action. In the nature of trailers these days which gave away half the movie, the kids in the theater laughed and cheered as one by one the horny movie teens were dispatched by a mysterious shape.

That familiar trailer voice returned saying “The face of evil, will meet the face of good.” Some in the audience laughed, and others groaned, as a familiar, but long forgotten face appeared on the cue of “the face of good.” Ronald smiled as he recognized the face of Sylvester Stallone, whose career had fallen far from the heights of the 1980s. Ronald remembered when a few years back the actor even tried a few comedies. Hopefully, Ronald thought, a horror movie would be his ticket back over to the top of the movie business.

 “This time,” the voice over said, while images of what looked to be a sea creature floated across the screen, “it’s going to be a fight to the finish.”  

It looked like the eighties all over again as Stallone faced the screen, his wet muscles bulging as his hands gripped a shotgun. In his trademark deep voice he said “Hey yo,” then pumping the shotgun, ‘this monster’s gotta go!”  Like the action films of old, bullets were flying and boats exploded on the water, while Stallone spouted out lines like, “I shot it six times!” and “You don’t know what death is!” 

The trailer’s narrator concluded with, “At this beach, terror won’t be taking a vacation.”

The words “Halloween: H20” then appeared onscreen.  

“Cool.” One of Tommy’s friends blurted out. “I hope it’s better than Halloween: Resurrection of the Vampire!” 

“Be quite Franklin!” Tommy said, shushing his friend. Ronald was also annoyed but Bernice just smiled. She presumed the kids would want to see this once it came out in a couple months.

Finally, the feature presentation started. Bernice liked it already, it had the credits upfront the way movies used to, with a shrieking violin orchestrating the soundtrack. One credit got Ronald’s attention “Based on the novel by Robert Bloch.” 

“He was a local author,” he whispered to his wife. Ronald knew Bloch wasn’t from Plainfield of course, but he did graduate high school in Milwaukee. As the movie Psycho properly began, Ronald remembered hearing about the book. It was the author’s last work before he died about four years back. He said nothing as another familiar credit lit the screen. “Directed by George Kohler. He remembered the Kohler family from his home up the road in Amherst.

Not long into the movie the teens hooted and hollered at the sight of a beautiful blonde woman taking off her clothes and getting in the shower. “Yeah let’s see some titties!” Franklin yelled, but much to his disappointment, there were no naked female breasts to be seen.

Ronald didn’t like the outburst, but he did enjoy the sight of the woman in the shower. She reminded him of Janet Leigh, who was an actress he enjoyed back in the 1960’s. Thought’s of this starlet vanished once he felt his wife’s soft skin squeezing his hand as she whispered “I remember when I looked like that.”

The elderly couple had seen their share of horror movies, and sitting near the front of the dark theater, they were not frightened, but both were a little disturbed. Not at the murder scene on screen, as what looked like a female form pulled back the shower curtain and stabbed the young beauty to death, but that the kids laughed and cheered while it happened. Franklin particularly took delight at this scene, mimicking the stabbing motions while the violin music played. 

After the movie they all went to the skating rink in Hancock, Bernice and her husband sat down at a table with the teenagers. Pizza pies and soda were spread out ready to be consumed while the jukebox played a mix of current pop music and songs of the recently passed decade.

“How did you like the movie? Berncie asked her great grandson Tommy.

“It was great! Tommy said. “It was so scary, and that ending was crazy!”

“Did you like it grandma? Her great grand-daugther Lindsey asked.

“Yeah I liked it, it was a scary one.” 

Tommy agreed, “Yeah it was, and that ending was nuts!”

As Bernice thought about that ending, with a twist she was sure no one saw coming, she had a strange moment of reflection. “That Norman Bates sure was an odd fellow,” she said, “he kind of reminded me of old Eddie Gein.”

“Who’s Eddie Gein? Lyndsey asked.        

“He could have been your great grandfather!” Ronald teased.

“Oh stop it!” Bernice swatted him on the arm.

“Oh it’s true,” Ronald persisted, “he used to hit on Bernice all the time.” He then excitedly leaned toward the children, as if about to tell a secret. “He even asked her to come roller skating right here!” His old wrinkled finger pointed down to the ground as he spoke.

“Oh you!” Bernice’s cheeks were glowing red.

“What happened to him?” Tommy asked.

“Oh he died in a fire way way back.” Bernice thought hard about exactly when it was but couldn’t recall anymore. “Shame really, poor guy.”

“Well why did he remind you of Norman Bates?” Franklin inserted himself into the conversation.

“Well the poor man was dominated by his mother all his life, kind of like that Norman.” Bernice noted. “Wouldn’t let him have any friends, I don’t think he ever even had a girlfriend.”

“Did he kill anybody?” Franklin asked excitedly.

“Franklin you’re never gonna have a girlfriend either if you don’t stop talking about serial killers all the time.” Tommy objected.

Bernice laughed, “Oh goodness no, no no no, but he lived all alone in a spooky farmhouse, kind of like the house in the movie. All the kids in town thought it was haunted. Especially after he died, we would all tell stories about seeing his ghost at night and all such things haha. Most people remember him as a good man though. Always willing to help people out, he was harmless,” Bernice remembered, “if not a little odd.” 

“What kind of stories?” Franklin pressed, anxious to hear further details.

“Oh god, we got Franklin started on killers again.” One of the teens said in annoyance. 

“Come on let’s go play some Mortal Kombat.” Tommy said as he and his friends ran to the skating rink’s arcade section.

Franklin remained, still pushing to hear more. “What kind of stories, did you ever see any ghosts?”

“You go run along now.” Ronald said, waving his hand at Franklin in irritation. “Go play with your friends.” 

The kids then spent the rest of the afternoon playing video games and roller skating as the music continued to play. After a while, they all gathered back at the table to sing happy birthday to Tommy. Bernice Worden didn’t know the band Burn Victims, but their lyrics echoed through the skating rink. “These are the days to remember,” with the word “days” drawn out by the female singer. Bernice smiled as the song played. These were the days for her to remember, enjoying the love and the company of four generations of family and friends. As her great grandson blew out the candles on his Michael Jordan birthday cake, she thought about how next year she would be one hundred years old. Regardless of if she even made it that far, she sure felt lucky for what she had.

The End

Happy Halloween! Hope you all are safe and taking care of yourselves, and I hope you enjoyed this experiment in horror and alternate history. How many pop culture deviations did you find? What was the first one you noticed? Feel free to comment below. If you enjoyed this, stay tuned for No Gein Two: A Second Helping! 

Part Fourteen: A Bloch Letter

July 26th, 1991. Bethlehem Pennsylvania

George spent the afternoon at the comic store to blow off some steam. He’d just quit his sucky job, tired of working for such stupid people, but now he didn’t have to deal with them anymore. Now he drifted away into the Marvel Universe, picking up a new issue of the Ghost Rider series among other comics. The flame-skulled supernatural hero was fighting alongside the Punisher, who himself had a skull logo painted on his Kevlar vest. Ghost Rider and the Punisher together killing ninjas, what else was there in life?

There was one more stop to make before going home. At Blockbuster video he dropped off a VHS rental. He’d rented Silence of the Lambs. Great movie, about this serial killer who liked to dress up in the clothes of his victims. Pretty fucked up stuff. 

Finally coming home to his new apartment he thumbed through his mail. Usual shit, bills, catalogues, offers for cheap CD’s from Columbia House. Then there was a letter sent via priority mail. It was forwarded from his old apartment he’d just moved out of. He opened it up to find a letter addressed to him. “Cool Robert Bloch wrote to me again.” he thought to himself. He hadn’t heard from him in a while and he wondered what he had to say. Setting his comic books down he began to read the letter.

“Hello. It has been some time since we had correspondence. I hope this letter finds you well, and that you are still writing and pursuing your creative endeavors. Recently I recalled our prior conversation when we met at that horror convention. I confess that I did not put much stock in the tale of your relative. Please do not take offense to this, I never doubted you had heard the tale you related to me. It is just when you are in my profession, a myriad of people come out of the woodwork to tell you all manner of tales of haunted houses, grisly murders and other such maniacal ramblings. H.P. Lovecraft was a good friend to me, who I miss dearly, and to this day I am approached by those who speculate that Howard was in fact in contact with the Elder things or the Great Old ones, and that Cthulhu really does in fact sleep under the Pacific Ocean, and will one day rise up and take back the world he once ruled. But I suppose there are worse problems to face than the grievances of a successful author.

Anyway, I am digressing. I am digressing because even as I write these words I am afraid to finish them. Even as the ink hits these pages I speculate on whether I should continue,

but continue I must. This past summer I found myself back in Milwaukee at a high school reunion. From there I took a spontaneous road trip to the northern part of the state to look up an old friend. After my visit I saw a sign for the town of Plainfield. Remembering your tale, and having some time to kill, I spent a day there, taking a look into the local history. I read about an occasional fire or hunting accident, but at the time nothing particularly sensational stood out.

Rogbert E. Gard and L.G. Sorden wrote, “Wisconsin contains, if the yarns are an indication, more ghosts per square mile than any state in the nation.” If such a statement is true, then the town I stumbled into may be the most haunted place of all.

That evening, at a local tavern, the horrible news broke regarding the murderer in Milwaukee and the gruesome discoveries in his home. I cannot begin to imagine the pain being endured by the families of his victims. It is too much to think of. As an awful supplement to that terror, the bar patrons near me began spinning a yarn about their own local ghoul, an odd eccentric man from decades ago, who lived in a farmhouse near this community. As the tales were told, I sank away in a corner booth, becoming invisible as I jotted down a few points about their tales. Some locals defended this now deceased citizen, insisting he was harmless eccentric, others claimed things much more sinister.

After that night, I pursued my investigation, posing as a friend of your family. I can no longer stall the narrative, I must force myself to simply blurt out the truth. After talking to a first hand witness, and, after extreme hesitation, hearing the same story from another source, I have reached a terrible conclusion.

The stories of your Aunt were absolutely true.

Had she lived a very very long life, she could not have expected, nor could she have wished to see, as much of the mad and macabre as she saw that night. Enclosed is the contact information of the two eye-witnesses I spoke to, which they have permitted me to share. One, a retired local sheriff, the other, a longtime resident of Plainfield. I do not wish to retell this terrible thing I have heard. I shall if you insist, but I believe it will be better for you not to hear it second hand. I would encourage you to share this information with your father as well. 

No doubt you have heard of the recent awful crimes in Milwaukee. As I recall, you had a fascination with the outlaw members of our nation. While I confess an irresistible curiosity with these current crimes myself, my interest stems from how such a thing could occur. I would politely suggest to you that if you wish to learn about those who commit such horrible acts, you owe it to the victims to learn about them too.

It is my hope that this information may provide some peace to your family.

Sincerely yours, 

Robert Bloch”

Henry couldn’t remember the last time he played guitar, but after a few minutes of jamming with Franki it was like riding a bike. He loved the way she looked at him when he played, knowing full well he had a lot of catching up to do to match her talent, but she was nothing but encouraging as he strummed his old guitar. 

Helen liked her too, he was glad they’d gotten along so well. She was just a kid when he went through with his divorce. It was ugly, but Alice never stopped being good to Helen. Helen never liked it, especially after her mom died, when he started seeing other women, but she was older now and she could tell Franki was a good lady. 

His daughter also had someone in her life now. Ed was a teacher and she started going to church with him. Henry wasn’t read for that yet, Franki introduced him to the Course in Miracles which they started doing together, which was something about gaining awareness of the presence of love in your life. He didn’t know about all that either, but right now he knew that he was having a good time jamming on his porch with new and old people in his life. Helen accompanied he and Franki with a Tambourine, and Ed chimed in on his harmonica.

Their jam session was soon drowned out by the loud engine of a Chevy Impala and the metal that blasted out its windows. He didn’t recognize the massive car at first, but he noticed his daughter give a confused look as it miraculously managed to parallel park.

“He was still putting on weight.” Henry thought as his son got out of the car and crossed the street. Looking at the manilla envelope in his hand, he wondered what he wanted.

“Who is that?” Franki whispered to Helen.

Henry saw Franki’s eyes light up with joy as he calmly answered, “It’s my son.”

As George came up the steps Franki greeted him with arms wide open. “It’s so nice to meet you!” She hugged him tight. Pulling back she said “I’m Franki.”

“Nice to meet you!” George said in a chipper voice. Looking her over, he was impressed his dad landed such a nice lady.

“Hey George!” His sister greeted him with a small hug before introducing him to Ed.

“Hi,” George said surprised. “What brings you out here?”

“Well we were just jamming.” Ed answered.

“Cool beans.” George said as he looked over to his father.

Henry remained in his seat, still holding onto his guitar. Eyeing the envelope in his hand he asked “So what do you got there?”

Glancing nervously at dad’s lady friend, George said “Well I gotta talk to you about something.”

Henry knew Franki to be in tune with other people’s presence, their aura as she called it. He felt a pang of frustration as she said “Oh ok, well I’ll let you two catch up.” She took a step toward the porch steps but Henry wouldn’t have it.

“Whatever you have to say to me you can say to her.”

Franki thankfully remained still as George just blurted it out. “I’ve been talking with this author, you wouldn’t know him, but, anyway he’s from Wisconsin. I had him look into a few things for me, and well, he found out some things about my Aunt.”

Growing more irritated Henry said “You still trying to make a movie?”

“No dad, no dad I’m not making movies.” George said defensively, “I think what your sister said was true.”

“Yeah and…” This was no great revelation to Henry.

Holding up the envelope George explained “I got contact info on two people in this little town in Wisconsin. They can confirm her story.”

Henry shook his head. “That’s all in the past now,” he said dismissively. “What are you doing bringing all that up?”

Still holding the envelope in his hand, George looked confused as he looked around the porch. “Ok, well have a nice day then..” 

“Oh but won’t you stay a while.” Franki asked.

“Have a nice day.” George said, not looking at Franki or anyone else as he turned back towards his car. Henry’s daughter gave him a disappointed look as he watched his son walk off the porch and drive away.

“Fucking asshole!” George thought to himself as he slammed his apartment door shut and blasted Macabre’s album Grim Reality. He didn’t understand it. The demonic like vocals to Hot Rods to Hell growled as George vented to himself. Dad spent his whole life defending his sister when everyone thought she was nuts. George remembered his dad standing by Aunt Sally when she was in and out of rehab or the prison or the hospital or wherever the hell she was. Now here was proof that she wasn’t a total lunatic, and his dad didn’t care. Looking at the letter again with the contact information at the bottom, he thought about calling these people himself, but then he thought, “What’s the use?” and threw Bloch’s letter in the trash.

Now Natural Disaster, an instrumental track, shredded through his stereo speakers, but he turned it down when he realized someone was banging on his door. Probably a stupid neighbor about to complain about the noise. When he opened the door, his father was standing there. George said nothing, but his father just had one question. “Are you up for a road trip?”  

Part Eight: Film School

October 26th: 1990. Hallow-Con, New York City

“Man they kill you on these prices!” Dan complained as he handed cash over for two hamburgers and sodas. He then brought his tray back to the table in the convention venue cafeteria with Victoria and George, who had splurged on a big personal pan pizza and a large soda. 

“Well it was cool running into you.” Victoria said as she took her hamburger from Dan and started eating.

“Yeah man, so really what happened?” Dan’s curiosity was killing him. “You were the big man on campus, then you just disappeared. Some of us wondered if you were dead!”

“Haha, I was dead!” George relished in hearing exaggerated rumors about himself. “That is so great. No, the truth about what happened to me was worse, my fucking dad wouldn’t help me pay for the rest of the school year.” 

“Oh man that sucks.” Dan said.

“Sure does.” George said, taking a bite of his pizza. 

Dan then asked, “So what are you doing now?”

“Back in Bethlehem, working a sucky job. Sometimes I get some gaming in, and I’m working on a few projects.”.

“That’s cool.” Dan said before remembering. “I think the last time we hung out was in the East Village when we saw Macabre.”

“I think you’re right.” George agreed. “I just got the new Slayer album. It’s pretty wicked!”

“Cool,” Dan said. That venue we saw Macabre at is where Victoria and I met.” He then started eating his burger.

“Neato.” George said before taking a drink.

“Yeah, it was a Fibonaccis show.” Victoria happily remembered.

“I remember them. Sucks they broke up.” George pointed to Dan recalling “I remember you playing their album in the dorm. I liked that track Some Men, and the instrumental piece after it, what was it called, Romp of the Meiji Sicophantas?” 

“Sycophants.” Dan corrected.

“Right, not my usual cup of tea,” George said. “but cool stuff.”

“So you two met at school?” Victoria asked.

“Yeah it was at a Herschell Gordon Lewis seminar.” George said.

“Who’s that?” Victoria asked.

“He was this guy who made a bunch of sleazeball films in the 60s and 70s.” George explained.

“Yeah you probably wouldn’t have liked him.” Dan said to Victoria. “I read in an interview once that he thought about doing horror movies, but never followed through with it.”

“Too bad.” George complained. “His style would have fit the genre. He could have been a real wizard of gore!”

“Probably right.” Dan agreed. “So are you ever gonna come back to school?”

“I don’t know, I got more into writing recently, I’m gonna try to bang out a book or two. I tried to get some film projects going a few times, but you know how that is, poeple are stupid and flake on you and all that.”

“I hear you man.” Dan agreed. “I finished but I stuck around because Victoria here is gonna finish next year. We’re gonna get married once she’s done.”

“Cool beans,” George said before finishing off his pizza.

“Yeah, we also got a few projects going on but nothing big.” Victoria explained. “We both got a shit load of debt now, so who knows maybe you dodged a bullet there.” They all had a laugh at that thought.

“Say some of the old gang is meeting in the village.” Dan said. “You should come too. I’m sure a lot of them will be glad to see you.”

“Well I’m going to a panel then I’m gonna meet this author I’ve been corresponding with.” George said as he looked at his watch. “Actually I gotta go.” 

“That’s awesome. Well hey it was great running into you.” Dan said.

“I was happy to talk to you both.” George said as he stood up. 

“It was nice meeting you.” Victoria said.

“Laters.” George then walked away.

As Victoria watched George exit the eating area, carving out a path among the crowd wherever he went, she observed. “He was… interesting.”

“Yeah that’s one way of putting it.” Dan said, to which they both giggled. While watching his friend from film school walk away he said “He’s got an ego the size of Montana, but he was SUPER talented. If he ever got the ball rolling he could make some kickass films.”

Bethlehem, 1989

“This is bullshit!”

“No this is bullshit!” Henry held up a screenplay and slammed it down on George’s table, its front page emblazoned with the title ‘Deranged’. The murderous letters shined back at him in their red ink. “I’m not paying for you to make crap like this!”

“You just don’t want me to succeed!” George yelled defiantly. “You just want me to be like those asshole jocks in Freedom High School!”

Henry was beside himself in both confusion and anger. “You loved football when you were a kid!” he objected. “Then all of a sudden you stopped lifting and stuffed your face with pizza, I didn’t understand it.”

“I didn’t want to win the Superbowl dad, I wanted to make movies! My loan only gets me so far. Even if I have to work 80 hours a week I still can’t afford to finish my degree!”

“That’s not my problem!” Henry desperately tried to reel his emotions back in. “I know I told you I would help you pay for school, but I’m not gonna pay for you to exploit a family tragedy!”

“It’s not a family tragedy Dad! She was probably just high, you know how fucked up she was.”

“She was my sister, you son of a bitch!” Without thinking Henry lunged toward his son, his hands pushed hard on George’s chest, knocking him down to the couch. There was a loud thud when George’s body hit the cushion, followed by the sound of wood cracking as one of the legs of the couch snapped. Henry pulled back and braced himself. He was getting older now, but his son was grossly out of shape. He held his hands up, more than prepared for anything his son might do.

George remained still on the couch, it was now evident he wasn’t going to do a damn thing. Henry couldn’t remember the last time he saw George with tears in his eyes, and he was plenty upset himself. As Henry lowered his trembling hands he could feel his heart racing. He raised his right hand back up, pointing his finger at his son to say “You do what you wanna do, but you’re on your own.” He then picked up the screen play again and squeezed it with his fist. “But if you ever go through with this shit, then I don’t ever want to see you again.” He threw the document back down and walked out of his son’s apartment. 

Henry was brought back to the present by the voice, it was a female voice talking quietly over the microphone. “I remember cabbing home from an artist party, somewhere near my old shrinks building…upper West end, catching all the green lights.” Looking at the small stage Steve was now gone, and in his place was that lovely red haired woman who continued, “Till we hit this wasted eastside corner down in ‘Alphabet’ land.” Henry looked back at the table to make his shot, but he couldn’t stop listening to her voice. “And there was this crowd hissin to the street bitching of some old punk band.” He called eight-ball in the corner pocket. It was an easy shot, so easy he missed it, he missed it and the cue ball sunk. He’d scratched, she won. “When this kid comes up to my window with a chewed up styrofoam cup in his hand… and he says…”you gotta let life go…” Helen gloated as the woman laughed and said “What a rip!” Henry expressed no disappointment in his defeat. He simply put his pool stick down and looked at the stage while the woman slowly sang the words, “You gotta let life go.” In her light gentle voice she continued. “You gotta live, let live.” She looked a little older, maybe she was around his age,”Don’t even, search your soul.” Ha, not likely he thought. “You gotta let life go.” Her bare arms looked fit, and her face was quite pretty, but he could tell by the deepness of her eyes this woman had lived a life. He picked up his beer and took a sip while still watching, still listening. He’d lost the game, but he was starting to enjoy his evening.