THRILLVILLE: Will "the Thrill" Viharo's weird, wild world of Pulp Fiction, B Movies, & the Lounge Lizard Lifestyle.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

"People Bug Me" by Will Viharo

by Will Viharo

A stylized short story synthesis of my two favorite movies...

The random reports coming out of Rockdale were all over the map, a map leading me someplace I didn't want to go. But I had no choice. My career as a New York publicist was finished, and I'd barely beat that bum marijuana rap hanging over my head like second hand smoke blown out of Satan's fart fissure. I figured if I could sell a major piece to a national magazine, my name and rep would get paroled off of Death Row, even if my soul had already been sold to the only bidder for chump change.

After I checked into a cute, cozy little motel that would've been considered a dive if it wasn't so antiseptically clean, I headed over to the nearby diner for lunch. I sat silently at the counter, surrounded by the local yokels, who all looked serenely traumatized, like they'd stepped right out of a Norman Rockwell cover of the Saturday Evening Post, with special guest editor Alfred Hitchcock. They seemed to know something I didn't. Not in the smug, patronizing, pseudo-sophisticated manner of the hoity-toity high-falutin' snobs with whom I once strategically rubbed shoulders, whose knees were as sharp and dirty as their minds. These blank-eyed suburban zombies had nothing to hide with their hypocrisy but the sinister secrets of the scandalously supernatural, as well as their own sexual suppression.

Rockdale was a sleepy little slice of postcard-perfect Americana, and the snoring was contagious. But I immediately sensed a seductively evil presence lurking beneath the deceptively placid facade. These dinky little towns were all alike. They didn't fool me with their church choirs, softball games and sidewalk swap meets. After all, people are the same all over, and people are rotten to the core. All you have to do is take a bite out of one, and a worm will be squirming down your throat along with the sickly sweet poison. Despite the conservative propaganda, good old-fashioned sin bubbled beneath this sanitized surface and sometimes boiled up like rancid chicken fat in a pot of your mother's best natural cold remedy, making you gag on the grease even as you're forced to swallow the scum. After all, it was for your own good.

But I wasn't here for the cruddy soup du jour. Just the raw ingredients to a steaming hot story. As I said once to an infamous ex-friend of mine, "The cat's in the bag, the bag's in the river.” But in this case, I was planning to bag a wolf that had already drowned. All I needed was its head in a sack, even if it did stink like a wet, dead dog.

As I sat there stewing in my own bitter juices, I picked up and scanned a copy of the local rag. The headlines echoed the same shrill, bold-faced hysteria screaming from all the nation's newspapers that day: AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN ATTACKS LAS VEGAS! Apparently some bald, diaper-wearing, 60 foot freak incidentally exposed to atomic radiation had bashed in the Sands' neon sign on his way to a watery grave at Hoover Dam. He got it easy. Sinatra wouldn't have made it so quick after the big baby crashed his nightclub gig.

I shook my head. That coverage would've earned me an international byline, along with everyone else riding that bandwagon to journalistic glory. While in Sin City anyway I could've been stirring my martinis with some shapely showgirl's garter clip. I should've been there instead of following mere rumors of a rampaging monster all the way to little old Rockdale, where I had about as much chance of getting laid as Joe McCarthy at a beatnik poetry reading.

However, for the sake of distinction, if not integrity, it was either this or following up on the gossip coming out of some other map speck called Hicksburg, where the local kids were swearing up and down that their dullsville town had been recently invaded by “saucer men” from outer space, killing people with booze in their claws, but the Army had it all sewn up. I'd decided that nonsense just sounded like a bad, babbling hangover. The tale I was trailing now was a bit more plausible, if only because it wasn't being told exclusively by teenagers. I hate them and their phony, ugly rock 'n' roll. They have no class or respect for anything, and their musical tastes are in their ass. Jazz was my gospel. And Elvis had stolen my hairstyle, anyway. That hip-swiveling hick wasn't even a real brunette, but a natural blonde - a slimy, spastic, fish-eyed poseur with a purloined, pompous pompadour. Nice voice, though, even if he did sound like a Harlem hillbilly.

After I forcibly ate my bland sandwich, which made me yearn for the Carnegie Deli like an unhappily married man missing the nasty whore who took his cherry back in the Army, I headed over to meet with my only real lead in the case, Dr. Alfred Brandon, the local shrink. In a repressed town like this, filled with quietly desperate nobodies, he had to be a busy man. The thing was, he'd just been released from the hospital himself. From what I'd heard, his throat had nearly been torn out, and he could barely talk. That's why I brought a pencil and a notepad with me.

A lot of people didn't believe the quack's account of the mysterious events. Even the cops had shut the case tighter than an Amish snatch. They wouldn't even talk to me. But Brandon immediately agreed to meet after I'd phoned his reluctant receptionist. In fact, he couldn't wait to spill his guts, even if most had been spilled already, all over his own floor. I nearly slipped on their residue as he led me into his office. There was truth in what he had to tell me. I could smell it on his breath like dime-store whiskey, and booze never lies, even the cheap stuff.

In fact, after greeting me at the front door, he offered me a shot of bourbon, which I naturally accepted.

“Take a seat, Mister Falco,” the quack said to me in his raspy whisper. “As you can hear, my overly educated eloquence has been fatally compromised, so our chat must be brief and directly to the point.”

I sat down in the chair opposite him and stared at the bandages around his neck. What appeared to be deep scratches were protruding at odd angles from beneath the bandages onto his ruddy cheeks, like the legs of a spider squashed beneath a soiled cocktail napkin. Poor bastard must've really suffered. No sense in prolonging his existential agony.

“Yea, let's get right down to it then,” I said. I tossed my notepad and pencil on the desk. “I don't care if your voice shakes as long as you shoot straight, Doc. No dirt dishing or mud slinging. Just the clean scoop.”

Brandon picked up the notepad, scribbled something on it, and threw it back on the desk. I lit up a cigarette without asking permission, and took a gander at what he'd written: “Lycanthropy.

I looked up at him quizzically. “That's it?”

“You wanted me to be succinct, no?”

“Well, what the hell does that even mean? Like...a rare disease, or what?”

“Of a sort.” He suddenly went on a coughing jag, spurting up a little blood into his pocket hankie. I pretended to be patient.

“What kind of disease? By the way, you don't sound so healthy yourself, Doc.”

“It's...a form of...behavioral regression...induced by hypnosis.”

“Oh yea? Sounds like those mental masturbation marathon sessions back in New York. Just one big intellectual circle jerk.”

“Why did you leave New York?” Brandon asked me.

“I didn't want to get all sticky with cerebral semen.”


“Seriously? Too many people,” I said, which was only partially true. “People bug me.”

Brandon chuckled, which led to more coughing and spitting. It was disgusting.

“What the hell's so funny?” I asked.

“That's just what he used to say.”


“My...previous subject. Tony.”

“Tony Rivers? The kid the cops shot?”

“Yes. Although...he wasn't just a kid when they shot him.”

“He was...some kind of monster, right?”

“Not just a monster. A werewolf. At least that's the culturally recognizable term for this condition. It's funny – you remind me so much of him. Your volatile nature, your almost primitive energy. All of mankind springs from the same savage ancestry, but some of us are more in touch, shall we say, with our primordial roots than others. From what little I know and have observed of you, Mister Falco, you are one of those rare, ideal case studies.”

“Wait a minute, just can the psychoanalysis, Doc. I didn't come here to get my head shrunk down to a shriveled prune. Squeeze some other sucker's skull for brain sap, I'm tapped out. Let's just stick to the facts, shall we?'re trying to tell me the kid was a teenage werewolf? Like in the old spook shows and pulps?”

He nodded. “Not in the traditional sense, meaning his transformation was more the result of an emotional catharsis brought about by scientific catalysts than any sort of malevolent, medieval magic. But yes. That's exactly what I'm saying.”

I leaned forward, mesmerized. “So the rumors are true. Can't you just prove this?”

“Only by replicating the experiment, I'm afraid. But as you can imagine, I've had no volunteers lately. I'm actually out on bail, Mister Falco. The police are trying to pin Tony's death on me. I'm their fall guy, since the townspeople won't accept the premise that a relatively harmless juvenile delinquent was gunned down for no good reason. Tony had only a sketchy, mainly innocuous police record, mostly for schoolyard fights and such, only minor offenses. He was actually a promising student. Obviously intelligent, but internally troubled. Like you, I respectfully surmise. The recent murders were obviously committed by either some kind of wild animal or...a madman. Essentially, both and neither are true. In any case, since I've always been viewed with skeptical animosity by the small-minded members of this provincial community, and Tony was found dead in my office, I'm considered the main suspect, even if they're having difficulty putting all the pieces together into a coherent picture to fit the frame. My defense hangs in the balance of this interview, I'm afraid. I need you to clear me, Mister Falco, by exposing the truth the entire world. Even if you will have to publish it under a nom de plume given our mutually special circumstances.

“I'm not sure what you're referencing and so sorry to hear about your troubles, Doc, but since we do share this spiritual kinship, as you suggest, just call me Sidney. Smoke?”

He scowled and shook his head. “I'd rather not.”

“You mean smoke or call me Sidney?”

“Neither. Familiarity breeds contempt, and I already don't like you, Mister Falco.”

“Well, I don't want or need your friendship, Doc, or even your respect. Just your story. In fact, I need to tell it as much you need it told, so we're on the same page here. Literally. But if you can't provide me with any hard evidence to chase this hard booze, I'm afraid you're wasting both our time.”

He let out a long, discordant sigh, like a TB victim blowing infected air through busted glass. “My former assistant Hugo and I filmed the final transformation, but I'm afraid it was destroyed. I do have my notes, but without physical manifestation, recorded for posterity, they're so much science fiction, at least as far as the authorities are concerned.”

“ other witnesses.”

“Oh, others most certainly saw the...'beast,' for lack of a better term, Mister Falco. But those who did are either being forced into silence by the mayor and his minions eschewing the public panic as well as the damaging publicity, or they're...dead.”

“I see. So...what now?”

“Well, that's where you come in, hopefully.”

“Yes, but I told you. I need some kind of proof before I pitch this piece to a respectable publication. Otherwise they'll lock me up in the loony bin right next to you, and frankly, I prefer tailored suits to straight-jackets.”

“Actually, Mister Falco, I was hoping you'd willfully submit to my special brand of...therapy.”

I laughed, but nervously. “You're joking, right?”

“Not at all. I've actually done my research on you, Mister Falco. Technically speaking, you're a fugitive from justice, like me, on the lam after you were allegedly set up for drug possession, specifically marijuana."

I stood up and pointed my shaking finger at him. “I was framed by Hunsecker, the lousy, lying, two-faced bastard! That fat, sweaty cop planted that stuff in my coat!”

Brandon remained impressively calm, but after facing a drooling teenage monster, I couldn't have been all that intimidating. “I'm not questioning your denial of the charges, Mister Falco. Though skipping town as well as your own court date might not have been advisable, from a prudent point of view. I'm only pointing out that we could both benefit from this situation, risky as it may be. At least for others, if not us.”

“Well...what if I refuse to be your were-guinea pig? Which, by the way, I am.”

“I'm afraid it's too late to refuse, Mister Falco.”

“What do you mean?”

“You see, I invented a very specific narcotic for this therapy, which is normally injected into the patient's bloodstream. But since I rightly assumed you'd refuse to cooperate, I naturally resorted to a more subversive method of...treatment.”

That's when I began to feel woozy...

The bourbon. It was the god damn bourbon. Never trust a shrink with a drink. I should've known...
When I woke up, I was strapped to a reclining chair in another room. A 16mm film camera was set up at the foot of the chair. I could already hear it whirring.

Brandon was behind it, expertly operating the equipment. He didn't say anything. He just kept watching me with unnerving intensity. I screamed several randomly selected yet circumstantially appropriate expletives at him, and that's all I can remember of that moment...except for the vague sound of Brandon's relentlessly droning voice, counting backward from one hundred...

I did have a dream though, which I recall with vivid ferocity. Or rather, it was a wet nightmare – soaked in a sickening variety of various bodily fluids, all blended together by way of fiendish, insidious alchemy, served chilled and neat. The lid had been blown off my Id. My nocturnal visions were full of screaming strangers and violated flesh and dismembered body parts. In particular I recall the image of a young, sexy girl with her tight sweater ripped down to her small waist, and deep claw marks shimmering across her ample breasts and soft, white torso, her big blue eyes wide open with shock, staring into apathetic eternity, her long dark hair casually tossed across her blank, pretty face. Then there were seemingly miles and miles of very thick, black, barely moonlit woods in a seemingly endless rural landscape, dotted by blazing torches, like fireflies in an angry abyss, with the sounds of shouting and sirens and gunfire resonating repeatedly in the distance.

Then there was nothing but cold, silent darkness for what seemed hours.

With the rays of dawn rudely invading my bloodshot eyes, I woke up in a roadside ditch somewhere on the outskirts of town. My Fifth Avenue wardrobe had been ripped to shreds, stained with gore, but I couldn't tell how much of it was mine. I had one hell of a hangover.

Pain wracking every fibre of my being with every step I took, delirious from my delusions, I walked back into town and found my motel. Miraculously, nobody seemed to notice me but the milkman, who did a double take, but kept right on driving. Didn't even offer me a lift. So much for small town hospitality. I didn't deserve a ride, anyway. I might've killed the poor schnook's daughter, for all he knew, or I knew.

On the way I passed Brandon's office, but there were three cop cars and an ambulance outside, lights flashing ominously and a body with a sheet over it being carried out on a stretcher, so I kept my discreet distance. Looked as if someone had finished the dirty job Tony Rivers had started. Probably me.
I didn't even bother to check out. Just broke into my own room, retrieved my car keys and nothing else, and walked out.

Then I left Rockdale, destination unknown, innocent blood dripping from my Thunderbird's tailpipe. At least I didn't have to be the sap who broke this story anymore. Now, I was the story. And I'd already been broken wide open.

NOTE: this story also appears in Nightmare Illustrated #5.

Also check out my short story
at Flash Fiction Offensive!




VOLUME ONE: A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge and
Freaks That Carry Your Luggage Up to the Room
VOLUME TWO: Lavender Blonde and Down a Dark Alley

VOLUME THREE: Chumpy Walnut and Other Stories

Fate Is My Pimp, Romance Takes a Rain Check, I Lost My Heart in Hollywood, Diary of a Dick

The new Vic Valentine novel HARD-BOILED HEART now available from Gutter Books


My story SHORT AND CHOPPY and editor Craig T. McNeely's article WILL VIHARO: UNSUNG HERO OF THE PULPS featured in the premiere issue of the new pulp magazine

My story THE LOST SOCK featured in the second issue of DARK CORNERS (Winter 2014)

My short story ESCAPE FROM THRILLVILLE as well as my Tribute To Ingrid Bergman
included in this issue of Literary Orphans

My short story BEHIND THE BAR is included in this anthology:

My Vic Valentine vignette BRAIN MISTRUST is included in this anthology: