Recently, I was at a party when I was railroaded into a conversation with a pretentious guy who insisted genre stories could never be seriously regarded as “real” literature. I’m guessing by “real” he meant substantive.
“War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov, and A Tale of Two Cities. Now that’s real literature,” the guy declared as he swirled his wine theatrically.
“So Frankenstein, Slaughterhouse-Five, and War of the Worlds don’t qualify as real literature?” I asked.
“Certainly there are a few exceptions,” he conceded reluctantly before making a hasty retreat to the giant cheese tray at the other end of the room.
Later that night I returned home and read almost a hundred pages of Stephen King’s, Pet Sematary. I just had the urge to delve into a horror story, perhaps to reinforce my own belief that good literature doesn’t necessarily have to be a grandiose production of a deeply philosophical nature. Sometimes all you need is some basic insight into the human psyche and a reanimated corpse wielding a scalpel.
So, to celebrate genre writing, I’m going to present a horror story of my own. I genuinely enjoyed writing this; it was nice to change gears and have some fun. When it was over I felt refreshed, and I was able to resume my other writing projects with a clearer perspective and renewed vigor. I hope you enjoy it.
Daddy Longlegs Goes Dancing
by Hawkelson Rainier
“We’ve got an outrageously extreme show lined up for you right here with Josh and Brandt on one hundred point seven, WYRU!” the radio screamed loud enough to obliterate Todd’s deep R.E.M sleep. He opened his eyes, and like most mornings, a profound depression swept over him. The alarm clock continued to broadcast The Josh and Brandt Show as he searched for the will to get up and turn it off.
“Triple X porn star, Bambi Charmaine, is in studio with us right now,” Josh bellowed, “and she has agreed to kick our long time sound engineer, Jeff Klingensmith, square in the nuts.” Then Brandt chimed in, “And here it comes folks! This is so extreme!”
“Oh this is gonna suck,” Jeff added.
Todd finally got out of bed and silenced the babbling alarm clock by throwing it against the wall. He stumbled to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. A balding, entry level data processor who hadn’t had a date in over six months stared back at him.
“You’re a loser,” he told his own image. “You’re thirty-three years old and you can’t even grow a real mustache. What is that on your face, Todd? Huh? What is that supposed to be?” Todd had been cultivating his mustache for more than a year, but it was no more than a gaggle of long, wispy hairs.
He dressed quickly, ran down three flights of stairs, hopped on his moped, and merged into the heavy flow of morning suburban rush hour traffic. As he pulled into the employee parking lot, his 50 cc engine rumbled with all the fury of several senior citizens clearing their throats in an otherwise quiet high school auditorium. Todd found an open spot, jammed on the brakes, and fishtailed before coming to a stop between the yellow lines. He sighed and began the long walk across the corporate campus to his cubicle.
A white Porsche suddenly pulled up alongside him, and Todd saw it was Wendy Lamar from marketing. “Todd, I’m glad I ran into you. I hope you’re coming to Za Za’s for Stacey’s going away party tonight.”
“Um…no, I wasn’t really planning on it,” Todd confessed. “Stacey from accounting, or Stacey from human resources?”
“Accounting,” Wendy informed him. “You know, she thinks you’re really cute, and this might be your last chance to…you know…hook up with her.”
“Stacey from accounting is leaving?” Todd asked.
“You didn’t hear? She got a job offer from Watson and Wyner in San Fransisco. It’s a big step up. You know, Todd, Stacey wanted to invite you, but she was afraid you might reject her.”
“Why would she think that?” he asked. The fact was, Todd always had a thing for Stacey in accounting. He never missed an opportunity to notice how the trace scent of her perfume lingered after she left a room. As it turns out, there’s a fine line between noticing the trace scent of somebody’s perfume and pressing your face into the seat of her swivel chair a few seconds after she vacates it. It’s a subtle difference, but one that almost cost Todd his job. He was still on probation for that little incident.
“You just seem distant sometimes, Todd. Probably because you’re involved with so many other women, but it makes the girls around the office feel inferior and trite,” Wendy explained.
“I never meant to be distant, or anything like that,” Todd countered.
“Look, it’s water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned,” and Wendy extended her hand through the open window of her Porsche to show she was being genuine.
Todd shook it, and said, “Water under the bridge. Right.”
“So you’ll be there tonight?” Wendy asked earnestly.
“Where is it again?”
“It’s at Za Za’s in Oceanside. Be there at 7:30. We have a private room reserved in the back.”
“Like a V.I.P room?” Todd asked.
“Exactly a V.I.P room,” Wendy said.
“They might not let me into the V.I.P room,” Todd said.
“Don’t worry, I’m going to put your name on the list.”
“Well, okay then. See you at 7:30,” Todd said.
“Remember, dress to impress,” Wendy yelled as she gunned the engine and the Porsche took off like a white stallion.
Around 11:30 AM a horrifying question erupted in Todd’s mind like a warehouse full of propane. “Is there going to be any dancing involved?” He was absolutely terrified of expressing himself through movement. It seemed vulgar and primitive, and besides, he had no rhythm, balance, or grace. He consulted Youtube on this most pressing matter, and found a very promising tutorial titled, How To Do The Macarena. Not wanting to draw the ire of his boss, Todd muted the video and went through the motions a dozen times. He committed the routine to memory, and got back to his Excel spreadsheet.
-Wendy and Stacey Take a Smoke Break-
“Come on, just a little hit,” Wendy said as she waved a burning joint in front of Stacey’s face. “It’s your last day. You need to lighten up a little.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Stacey conceded. “It’s not like they can fire me.” She took a healthy drag and doubled over in a coughing fit.
“My pot dealer, Eddy Spaghetti, said it’s from his own personal stash,” Wendy boasted. “He said his half brother’s brother-in-law grows it in Hawaii, like in some kind of jungle or something. Then, he sneaks it into San Diego on a tuna boat.” Wendy took a hearty puff, passed it back to Stacey who hit it again, and the ritual continued like that for a minute or two.
“What tuna boat?” Stacey asked in between coughs.
“What?” Wendy asked back.
“You said tuna boat before,” Stacey observed.
“Yeah, what about it?”
“Who has a tuna boat?”
“Eddy Spaghetti’s half brother’s brother-in-law, I think. He sneaks it in to San Diego from Hawaii,” Wendy said.
“You shouldn’t eat tuna,” Stacey advised.
“Why not?” Wendy inquired.
“It has mercury in it. And plus they kill the dolphins.”
“The tuna kill the dolphins?” Wendy asked.
“No, they get stuck in the tuna nets and die. It’s so sad,” Stacey lamented.
“So sad,” Wendy parroted. Her head began to fill with a syrupy haze that pushed all of her thoughts out, and then the haze evaporated, and a little particle of laughter materialized in the void. The particle began to inflate at an exponential rate until it erupted in a supernova of hilarity, and a shock wave permeated outward from Wendy and swept across Stacey’s consciousness, annihilating every last rational thought in her head too. A fit of laughter seized them, and they fell to the ground and rolled around in their smart business skirts and held their sides and stomachs to prevent anything from rupturing. Eventually, they were able to compose themselves.
“Jesus, that’s not like any joint I’ve smoked before,” Stacey finally said.
“Yeah, me either,” Wendy concurred. An uncomfortable silence settled over them, and the two shifted around on their shapely legs and checked their hair and makeup in little pink pocket mirrors.
“Guess who I talked to this morning?” Wendy offered.
“What? You mean, Todd?” Stacey asked.
“Yep,” Wendy said. “I invited him to the party tonight.”
“Wendy, what were you thinking? You know I caught him smelling my chair once.”
“We had a bet, Stacey. Now it’s time to pay up.”
“No, no, no,” Stacey protested, “We were at Ashleigh Lund’s bachelorette party and I don’t even remember that night…”
“Let me refresh your memory,” Wendy interrupted. “You said your interview at Watson and Wyner went horribly, and there was no way you were gonna get the job. I said that you were exaggerating, and I bet that you would get the job. We agreed if you won the bet, I’d take you out shopping, and If I won the bet, you had to get the scoop on Todd’s package.”
“No, I was too drunk when I made the bet, so it’s not official,” Stacey said.
“That’s bullshit, and you know it. I was wasted when we were in Acapulco and you dared me to pretend I was drowning so the life guard would rescue me.”
“You were gonna fuck, Juan, anyway,” Stacey argued.
“Look, I’m not saying you have to sleep with Todd. I’m just saying you have to get a peek at his package and tell me if it’s really as big as Kevin Levine said it is,” Wendy insisted.
“Why does Kevin Levine have insight into Todd’s package, anyway?” Stacey asked.
“You know Kevin’s out of the closet, right?”
“Yeah,” Stacey said.
“Well, one day he was standing at the urinal next to Daddy Longlegs, and curiosity got the best of him. He snuck a little peek.”
“And Kevin says it’s big?” Stacey asked, her curiosity piqued.
“Big isn’t the word Kevin used. I think he used the term, Loch Ness Monster,” Wendy raved.
“All right,” Stacey said with a little smirk, “I’ll see what I can do.”
-Dressed to Kill-
That evening, Todd arrived at Za Za’s forty-five minutes early, but hid in a back alley for an hour and fifteen minutes so he could show up fashionably late. At precisely Eight o’ clock, Todd approached a large man who guarded the entrance to the V.I.P room with the stoic determination of a Roman sentinel.
“Yeah?” the sentinel said as he sized up the balding man with the prepubescent mustache who was clad in white jeans, an aqua sports coat, a slightly darker aqua shirt, and brown penny loafers that smelled vaguely of dog shit.
“I’m expected in the V.I.P room,” Todd explained.
“Sorry, you have to be on the list to get in there,” the sentinel said.
“Wendy said she would put me on the list. My name is, Todd.”
The sentinel brought his clipboard close to his face and scrolled down a long column of names. He was surprised to see that a Todd, did in fact, appear on the list. There was a parenthetical notation scrawled next to Todd’s name. It looked like a woman’s handwriting, and it read, “Goofy looking guy.”
“Yep, you’re on the list,” the sentinel said as he moved aside so Todd could pass.
Todd stepped into the expansive V.I.P room and bass from the heavy house music shook his bones.
“I was afraid you weren’t coming,” Wendy said as she took him by the arm and pulled him over to the bar. “You’re late, and you have a lot of catching up to do.”
“What do you need?” the bartender asked over the droning beat of the omnipresent house music. Todd was about to order a ginger ale when Stacey suddenly appeared in a short, black skirt and a trendy white silk halter top. She greeted him with a very cordial hug.
“Todd, I’m so glad you could make it,” she said.
“Yeah, thanks. And congratulations on the big job,” he said.
“Oh, thank you so much. Be sure to order the good stuff because Wendy is picking up the tab tonight.”
“Okay,” Todd said as he surveyed the assortment of liquor bottles that filled the shelves behind the bar. “I’ll have a double Jack Daniels, straight up,” he announced.
Todd held the drink at waist level, horrified by the volatile vapors that wafted up from the brown liquid. Stacey seemed to be watching him, perhaps even studying him, searching for a sign of weakness. Todd knew that women like Stacey were only interested in the alpha male, and a double shot of Jack Daniels was exactly the kind of thing an alpha male would drink. The effect, if you can imagine, was something like being kicked in the stomach by a donkey hard enough to explode a nest of hornets that had previously colonized your abdominal cavity.
“All right, Todd!” Stacey howled like a college girl gone wild, “Let’s do it again.” Before he could protest, he had another helping of liquid mustard gas in his hand, and he clicked his glass against hers, threw it down, and waited for the sensation to hit him the way a condemned man waits for the firing squad to carry out his death sentence. To his surprise, it seemed that the whiskey had lost much of its sting the second time around. It occurred to him that drinking was easy.
Todd put his arm around Stacey and said, “Wanna dance,” and he grabbed her by the arm and strutted out toward the dance floor where he immediately encountered some technical difficulties. The Macarena seemed severely incompatible with the pulsing house music, and the presence of so many other people hindered his efforts even further.
“Hey, jerk, what’s your problem?” a big man in a tank top exclaimed when Todd inadvertently crashed into him during an exceptionally passionate sequence of moves.
“You want some of me?” Todd bellowed, and he assumed a ninja stance. The man grabbed Todd by the aqua sports coat, lifted him off of the ground, and tossed him down like a bag of dirty laundry. Stacey screamed, and Todd knew it was critical that he assert himself as the alpha male. He decided to stay low, so he scuttled toward the big man like a rabid crab and bit down hard on the guy’s ankle bone. The big man yelped, lost his balance, and an avalanche of pecs, biceps, and ripped abs pinned Todd to the dance floor. He struggled to breath, and was relieved when somebody lifted him from the carnage.
But Todd’s relief didn’t last as he soon realized it was, in fact, Tank Top Guy who had lifted him up, and continued to lift him until he was raised high over his head. The big man let out a growl that seemed more grizzly bear than human, and launched Todd into the air. Dancers scattered in all directions as the incoming Todd rained down upon them, and he hit the deck with as much grace as a duck stung out of the sky with a 12-gauge.
“Stacey,” Todd called out, “Stacey, where are you?”
“I’m right here you imbecile,” she hissed. During the chaos, a waitress had dumped a tray of wine glasses filled with Merlot all over her trendy, white silk halter top.
Several bouncers swarmed in to investigate the situation. “What’s going on here?” one of them demanded. It was the no-necked sentinel who had been guarding the V.I.P entrance.
“That guy right there started all this shit,” Stacey said, and she leveled a trembling index finger at the prostrate Todd. The bouncer grabbed him by the scruff and dragged him to a maintenance door somewhere in the bowels of the building. “Stay the hell out!” he yelled as he tossed Todd into the alley.
-Tuna Fish Delight-
Todd sat on a milk crate in the middle of the ally and tried to pin point where things went so wrong. “What a loser,” he mumbled to himself. “You’re pathetic.”
“Who you talkin’ to, man?” a shadowy figure said.
Todd jumped up and held his hands high over his head in surrender. “I don’t have any money,” he whined.
“Dude, relax. I’m just back here to hit this joint,” the shadowy figure explained.
Todd didn’t say anything. He sat back down on the milk crate and closed his eyes.
“You don’t look so good,” the man observed.
“I don’t feel so good,” Todd said.
“What’s your name?” the man asked.
“Todd, I’m Eddy. My friends call me, Eddy Spaghetti. I don’t know why. Probably just ‘cause it rhymes.” He extended his hand, and Todd shook it. “Are you here for Stacey’s party?” he asked.
“I was, but I got in a fight and the bouncer threw me out,” Todd explained.
“Sorry to hear that, bro. You wanna hit this joint with me?” Eddy asked.
“I don’t know,” Todd said.
“Come on, bro. This stuff is killer. It’s from my own personal stash ― imported from Hawaii. I call it, Tuna Fish Delight.” Eddy Spaghetti took a big hit and made muffled choking sounds, and exhaled a billowing cloud like a cooling tower at a nuclear power plant.
“All right,” Todd conceded, “I’ll try it.” He held the joint to his lips and inhaled. It was like breathing fiber glass, and he was afraid he might cough up a vital organ.
“Now you’re smokin’,” Eddy said, and he took another hit to celebrate.
“I don’t feel anything,” Todd said.
“Is it your first time?”
“Then you might not feel anything your first time. It took me three times to feel something.”
“Oh,” Todd said, a bit disappointed.
“Here, hit it a few more times and see if you get anything off it.”
“Okay,” Todd agreed. He and Eddy Spaghetti repeated the process several more times.
“Do you feel anything?” Eddy asked, “Because I am baked out of my fuckin’ mind. You know, my half brother’s brother-in-law grows this shit in like a jungle in Hawaii where there was a really gnarly battle with King Kamehameha and all these warriors fuckin’ hackin’ each other up with knives and clubs and shit.”
“Geeze,” Todd remarked.
“Yeah,” Eddy continued, “it was like hundreds of years ago, and he says that fuckin’ place is haunted ‘till this day, man. He says so much blood spilled in that jungle that it did somethin’ to the soil there, and that’s why this bud is so gnarly, man. He says if you’re in a bad frame of mind, bro, you shouldn’t even smoke this shit because it’s kind of like smoking the ghosts of all those dead warriors. I guess one day he was gettin’ shit from his boss, and his old lady, and his kid, and he went out back and sparked up some of this bud to help him relax. He said some crazy shit happened then.”
“Like what?” Todd said.
“He wouldn’t say. He just said it was . . .like . . . some crazy shit. But I think that’s all bullshit, bro. He can’t even handle his own weed, is what I think.”
“Wait, I feel something now,” Todd announced.
“Yeah? Are you high, dude? Dude, are you high?”
Todd shook his head yes.
“Man, you have one gnarly mustache, by the way,” Eddy said. “My friend, Wendy, tells me about this guy she knows from work. Daddy Longlegs is what everyone calls him because his mustache looks like someone pulled all the legs off a daddy longlegs and glued them to his top lip. That’s what your mustache looks like, bro. You should shave that fuckin’ thing off.”
“Daddy Longlegs?” Todd said. It all became so clear to him then. Wendy had invited him to the party so everyone could stare at him like some curiosity in a traveling freak show. Anger surged through him, and he began to quiver as if his bones had turned to jelly.
“Dude, bro, are you alright?” Eddy wanted to know.
Todd fell off of the milk crate and curled into the fetal position. Eddy Spaghetti rushed to his side and saw that his eyes were rolled back in his head. “This is bad, dude, this is definitely bad,” Eddy said. Todd curled his arms and legs in tighter and tighter, until his torso had absorbed all four limbs, and his head began to sink inward, like it was being swallowed by his own neck.
“Oh dude, oh dude, oh dude this is beyond bad, this is so way far beyond bad,” Eddy ranted. All that was left of Todd was a roughly spherical mass, about four feet in diameter. The mass was flesh colored, and it was all tangled up in white denim, and aqua colored polyester. A pair of brown loafers lay off to the side, and Eddy picked one of them up and examined it. “Dog shit,” he diagnosed, and set the shoe back down.
The thing that used to be Todd began rock back and forth, like a giant egg about to hatch, and Eddy Spaghetti stepped back a good distance. A spindly leg, about the thickness of a broom stick, poked through the fleshy mass with an audible pop, like when you bite through the tough casing of a bratwurst. There were seven more pops, and seven more legs sprouted out of the thing. “Jesus, those legs gotta be twenty feet long,” Eddy estimated. And then it dawned on him. “Holy shit, it’s a daddy longlegs,” he whispered, and he began to back down the alley slowly. “Dude, I swear to God, I’m never smoking pot again,” he vowed.
Daddy Longlegs looked at Eddy Spaghetti with two close set eyes that resembled a couple of large walnuts. “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit it sees me,” Eddy said. It seemed like a long time, but Daddy Longlegs turned its gaze from Eddy and began to climb up the alley wall. Its front legs stretched all three stories to the roof of Club Za Za while its back legs were still on the ground, and it proceeded to march up the brick facade with a mechanical gate.
“Man, this is killer weed,” Eddy declared as he sparked up another joint and took a good toke. “Killer,” he reiterated.
-In the Lair of the Very Important People-
Daddy Longlegs stayed on the roof and waited until the sun finished setting, then it climbed down the front of the building, deliberately moving through shadows. A considerable line of people had formed outside of Za Za’s, and everyone was too busy texting their BFFs to notice a monster had descended into their collective world.
Daddy Longlegs cleared a path for itself by batting twenty or thirty people aside with a single swipe of its forward leg. It advanced into the club, and people in trendy outfits scrambled to get out of its way. The large sentinel who still dutifully guarded the sacred entrance to the V.I.P room looked up from his clipboard to see what all the commotion was about, and Daddy Longlegs accelerated with the suddenness and power of a Corvette. The guard only had enough time to cover his face with the all-important clipboard before the thing trampled him into a quivering, unconscious heap. Daddy Longlegs slowed back down to a walk as it made its way into the lair of the very important people.
The house deejay had the music blaring by now, and party-goers moved in jerky fits and starts in the fractured waves of the strobe light. The unworldly creature blended in quite nicely with the unworldly environment, picking its way gracefully through the crowd on those long, skinny legs. It was able to make its way all the way onto the dance floor before a significant number of people acknowledged its presence with wild screams.
Daddy Longlegs scanned the floor with his beady eyes until he found the big guy in the tank top. He was dancing with Stacey, who had since discarded her wine stained halter top and was sporting a strapless, white brazier. She must have mistaken the crowd’s “shit your pants” type of screaming for the “spring break, let’s go wild” type of screaming, because she raised her arms over her head and yelled, “Wooooooooooo! I’m Soooooooooooo Wasted!”
The big man in the tank top was too mesmerized by Stacey’s bouncing boobs to notice that Daddy Longlegs was closing in on him with a pair of spindly, articulated appendages that protruded from its face like little tyrannosaurus arms. When it was in range, those skinny arms reached out and seized the man in a bear hug, and then stuffed him into its alien looking mouth.
Stacey finally caught on, and her screams turned into the “shit your pants” kind as she watched Daddy Longlegs devour her one night stand with deliberate pulverizing motions, the way people used to grind maize between stones. The big man in the tank top was conscious for much of process, and he howled as his flesh and bones were crushed into pulp, and then the howling became more of a gurgling, and then he made no sound at all as the last of him disappeared into the creature.
Stacey scrambled toward the exit along with the rest of the very important people, and when she got to the bottleneck, she looked over her shoulder to see if the thing was about to snatch her up too. But the creature was standing all alone, its body slung low, suspended only about two feet above the dance floor by legs that could have raised it through the ceiling had they taken a notion to unfold, and Daddy Longlegs began to wiggle and gyrate to the beat of the thumping house music.