The Heights, a decayed pastel decorated modern lined apartment building belching ice cream vomit against the sun drenched blue sky, while milk candy floss clouds float daubs of paint above a row of stack chimneys. This quirky novelty can be found encapsulated on street vendor racks sold daily as tourist postcards exhibiting Art Deco history. Marzipan toothpaste runways intersecting sun glinting glass afforded the residents a vantage point to view the parked police cars below. The shiny chrome sparkling against the black and white wax buffs reflecting the balcony edge elongated faces smeared with melted sugar candy liquorice. Hell, sometimes in the heat of L.A. this place smelt like the floor of a sweet factory, artificial saccharin pouring from every open fridge, ice boxes with rum and pineapple chunks, Piña colada aroma swirling through ceiling fan blades.
Today it was the turn of Apartment Eighty Six. Lightening Bolt. Hanging from a line of tied urine stained sheets was Georgie, a strip entertainer for studio A. His gig was to dress as a silk costumed caped crusader, handing out flyers to greedy hot dog sightseers. His designated stretch kept him visible for two blocks between fast food teddy monster and the Unicorn Rainbow. Hunched shoulders, stark white hair, the preceding years had withered his frame with arthritis, bending him forward, forcing Georgie to drag his left leg, a zombie lightening bolt. The studio kept him on because he was good with directions and could reel off stories about tinsel town decadence, strangeness and excesses of fame. The punters loved him as if he were a lucky totem, a gateway to the promised land, an endearing old codger still cool enough to play dress up. From here to eternity Georgie had pissed himself , soiling his hockey pants with a dank kidney shaped shadow of released bladder, his buttocks partially exposed from where a tear had stretched the cheap nylon. His lower jaw had sunk with gravity, a toothless cave mouth bruised purple and mauve clung to the memory of a last breath or the pain of a snapped neck. Like one of those novelty chopper fang toys you buy in a joke store, a set of polished dentures had fallen from the foul cavern of Georgie’s mouth resting next to the outdoor swimming pool in the communal palm tree yard usually reserved for cooking up tans and barbecue breakfasts.
The cops were waiting for the ambulance, which would provide a taller roof than their cars to stand upright on so as to untie and inspect Georgie, eventually lowering him to the ground. A commotion had begun since two plain clothes swooned up the driveway in a Cadillac convertible, muscling between onlookers and neat cadet traffic cops. For a full hour hour they had occupied Georgie’s apartment. This was odd because normally suicides are treated as corpse management, meat packing so to speak. Cut the cadaver down, put on a stretcher with sheet or blanket over the top, slip into ambulance, hang a pine tree air freshener to mask the stench, throw a bucket of soapy water to remove body waste. A few statements might be taken if drug abuse was suspected. Today the suited shoe shines were involved and that meant something heavy had gone down, something which every five years or so turned debauched la la land into weirdsville. People blamed the coyotes shitting and pissing near water works infecting supply with contaminated bacteria which would seep into the human bloodstream of Los Angeles causing some to become deranged with homicidal madness, others were convinced degenerative casualties of incest, nuclear war testing , drug abuse experimentation had lost themselves to the deserts beyond. Campers, hitch hikers, agricultural animals, all were unsafe in these periodic weird years. Folklore psycho park.
The truth is probably more simple. This arsehole cesspool of evolution, this twinkle town of billboard lights gives free reign to every form of corruption and attracts every type of immoral sicko, cloaked in a money making industry fuelled by dinosaur greed tempting young flesh desperate for the pop of a camera bulb. Like jellyfish deep in the ocean the hunger for light draws the predators closer. Billionaires swan around in neon caked limousines picking up disease ridden whores, to be murdered hours later in snuff porn factories deep in the belly of warehouse central. Anything Goes.
The police, hardened by such symptoms are paid very well to accept that their role is garbage collection. For the most part the real sick shit is kept off the street, kept discrete behind the distraction of advertisement, glamour and filthy amounts of green back cash. The cleansing pain relief of opium dollars. Years accumulate, the pressure cooker over steams and people are forced to take notice as lower down the food chain transients emerge from the farmlands of America or poor ghettos of inner cities in the east and north. Bible salesman with serial killer urges, dangerous southern drawl cowboys playing Wild West, motorbike gangs dragging Papa Joe seventy miles or a neurotic housewife with cracked lipstick storing a pantry of poison while craving an addiction to Valium. A culmination of murder, cult and tacky pop kitsch explodes the American dream seeping puss from a lanced boil onto the surface of the red carpet, onto the front pages of gossip magazines. Human strangeness sells sequins and sparkle, perfect teeth and false hair wigs. Imagine every home filled with mannequins, Mother, Father, the children, all used as target practise, all riddled with bullet holes, decapitated with machetes , delimbed with chain saws, knives buried in a smiling face. In the strangeness of Hollywood, the orange moon years become bad trips of Halloween, sanitised horror shows replacing censored movies. It all begins with an abandoned wooden shack out there somewhere under a baking sun, isolated from passing trade and human contact, housing a sideways television set looping cartoons of ant farm explosions and giant pink pigs powered by an oil fired generator. The lost land of mutant cyclope births.
The two gumshoes emerge pale and nauseous. The elder detective Buck Morgan carries a clear plastic evidence bag with a severed hand of a baby. The hustlers with half stubbed fags behind the ear shuffle their ink stained bodies back into their cockroach infested holes, the pan handling dream seekers turn away quickly, unable to face the horror. Only a small group of writers have the stomach to carry on smoking while watching the scene unfold, leaning against a cluster of stacked striped deck chairs propped against the wall. The press tools will be here soon, pouring over salacious details of Georgie’s life, intruding into neglected privacy, pretending it all somehow matters. Only death and beauty sell the news, life gets squeezed to marginal lines on milk cartons advertising for invisible missing children. The writers cough and palm shake, some old boy gets a slap on the shoulder, grown men between marriages and heart attacks.
The crackling of a camera flash breaks the monotonous wait for information. Georgie is filmed, canned, photographed. Tidy documenting beavers lugging metallic chrome equipment up the stairways, between the alleys, perched on the bonnet of steaming cars, anywhere to get a better view. Voyeuristic thrills played out with professional copy writing clowns, capturing morbid pictures for the media circus. The afternoon wilts under the heat ushering evening toilet breaks, food consumption, reshaping hair in a wing mirror, just simple gestures entertaining the illusion of normality. The soothing blue of the swimming pool interfused with the darkening shades of a dying sun provides the backdrop for the story to emerge.
Everybody knew that Georgie had drink problems but a sicko killer was a stretch of the imagination. The writers postulated that there must be a link between the severed baby hand and the suicide of Georgie, that the two were not unrelated but directly linked. Detective Morgan would ease out a few details for two bottles of iced beer kept round the back of Shaky Susan’s Emporium of Delights. She always kept the beer rationed to affordable credit but considered unlocking the fridge for early cop info a good investment. She had hookers and gin girls to consider. Detective Morgan popped off the cap, swinging the lush bottle of beer from the neck, swigging great gulps in the torrid heat, wiping his foamed lips with the back of his profusely hairy hand.
“Supposing I told ya that Lightning Bolt swinging over there…..
Detective Morgan knew the power of his performance, captivating the residents with his posing moral righteousness, the magic that afforded him the right to flash a badge.
“…was nothing more than a scared old coot, a hare caught in the glare of headlights, that he was no more a murderer…than…well, let’s just say he ain’t for chopping hands off babies…neither is he one for slipping a knot around his neck…no Sirs…Georgie is a victim in these trying times of misadventure…”
The humbled assembly of writers, misfits, failed actors and morning dodgers listened intently heaving a collective sigh that Georgie was a victim of external events rather than a protagonist slavishly disturbed to a proscribed family history affecting his underlying psychology. Hey, whatever psycho babble gets you through the night. No. Georgie was killed. Snuffed. A collective agreement of pseudo experts who believe they have seen enough strangeness in life to cultivate an informed opinion. Shit had gone down and murder was logic.
“You all wondering about the hand…the hand we found on a plate of noodles…we got to thinking something happened in China town…Georgie bought a meal to go…noodles with octopus…the hand was in the carton swimming in sauce…sometime between dinner and bedtime Georgie called the restaurant…we think he didn’t want any trouble with the law…seems a child had put his hand in a meat grinder…rushed to hospital but the hand was lost in the meat and fish trays…got scooped up with the Chop Suey…the restaurant called the station last night…about the hand…”
The guests of the spectacle muttered shocked amazement before the astute pipe smoking, eye piercing ambitious script writer chirped up “ So who killed Georgie ?”
Detective Morgan slugged a few more gulps of beer pretending to be a forbidden apple that should never be picked.
“Well Georgie died of a heart attack sometime around 9pm last night…he managed to send out a storm signal to that kerb drifter hanging around the porn flick houses…you know the young dude with orange hair that spits a polish…anyways…he came over and found Georgie dead so decided to fake a suicide…some messed up head joke we thought initially. He scarpered town with Georgie’s wallet but we picked him up at the state line…he had been hooking lines of horse…steaming off his head…”
The writer choked with tobacco smoke, wheezed. “Well that’s just plain odd…just when you think you have seen and heard it all…”
“The kid drifter thought he might get Georgie’s apartment as a suicide would put people off moving in…he thought he could get it cheap on account of the negative publicity…so he dragged old Georgie to the balcony and hung the body…at least that is what he said down at the station…I think his brain is fried…space cadet syndrome…early signs of demented drug abuse.”
Detective Morgan placed the empty bottle on a plastic table, slipping his sweating hands into pleated trouser pockets, arching his broad shoulders, cracking a neck bone back into place with a sharp reflex as the sky above began to reveal a few potted bright stars.
Sebastian can generally be found behind a camera on film sets fulfilling continuity, production design or directing. He turned down the opportunity to go to film school, instead making himself experienced by hands on development. Writing scripts has been an enjoyable part of his film career and has given him some success at the indie wise Miami Film festival and the World Bach Festival in Florence.
You can read Sebastian’s previously published short stories below:
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This is the tale of a town on the fringes of fear, of ordinary people and everyday objects transformed by terror and madness, a microcosm of the world where nothing is ever quite what it seems. This is a world where the unreal is real, where the familiar and friendly lure and deceive. On the outskirts of civilisation sits this solitary town. Home to the unhinged. Oblivion to outsiders.
Shallow Creek contains twenty-one original horror stories by a chilling cast of contemporary writers, including stories by Sarah Lotz, Richard Thomas, Adrian J Walker, and Aliya Whitely. Told through a series of interconnected narratives, Shallow Creek is an epic anthology that exposes the raw human emotion and heart-pounding thrills at the the genre’s core.
Shallow Creek Paperback
Set of Horror Bookmarks
SHALLOW CREEK EBOOK
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