PseudoPod 780: Flickering Dusk Of The Video God

Flickering Dusk Of The Video God

by Luciano Marano

A fresh burst of white noise roars through my head and jittery tracking lines wiggle and squirm through my vision again, even worse this time. The world stretches and distorts like in a mirror in a funhouse that’s no fun at all.

The girl behind the bar pushes my pizza and a sixer of sweaty beers forward, a look of disgust on her small-town pretty face. If this were a movie she’d be played by Lori Petty, circa a few very hard years after Free Willy. She was nicer to me yesterday, even nicer when I first came in four days ago. I know how I look, enacting this, our daily routine, in the same wrinkled clothes again. I know what she’s thinking.

I desperately shove my fingers into my eyes until pain stars flare up and drive away the other stuff, blink hard. Things are normal again, and I realize I know this girl. I’ve seen her before, and not just in the bar.

She’s on the tapes.

For a second, even though it’s stupid and doesn’t matter, I want to defend myself. It’s a reflex. I want to tell the pizza princess that I’m not nuts, that she’s not so hot. A Rust Belt eights an L.A. two at best, baby Back home, I’ve kicked hotter than you out of bed for snoring, for hogging the blankets. Ask my ex-wife. I’m still someone who matters. But I’ve been away from the house too long already.

Money down, sustenance acquired, I go back outside into the dishwater-gray afternoon, into my dad’s rattly Buick, down the only real road in this dead-end western Pennsylvania town I thought I’d escaped half a lifetime ago.

The world warps again. Ids happening more often. The ragged staticky lines do their awful dance and I pull over into the gas station lot, jamming my fingers back into my eyes until I begin to cry.

A knock on the window makes me jump. Fred—hardware store swami, bestower of king-size Crunch bars at Halloween—leans over me with an enormous CinemaScope smile. If this were a movie Fred would be played by Brian Cox circa Super Troopers. He smiles and raps again on the window, insistent. I roll it down a crack, but just a crack. He’s on the tapes, too.

“You all right, Davie?”

I nod, wiping away tears with my sleeve.

“Sure is a shame about your old man. We’re all real sorry.”

His face is doing a strange twitchy thing, movements all herky-jerky like a movie watched in fast forward. His eyes don’t match up with his smile, words don’t match his lips. The soundtrack for this scene is out of synch.

“Need any help up at the house?” he asks, words coming a full second after his lips cease to move. “Going through their things can be real hard. And your old man, well, he never did throw nothing away did he?”

I put the car in drive.

“Did he, Davie?” Fred’s smile is gone, his face too close to the window “Did he keep… everything?”

I start to laugh as I drive away, leaving Fred behind. He looked so painfully earnest, so awesomely dramatic. If this were a movie—not one of mine of course, a good one—such a display would never fly, ids too operatic. But in real life people in crisis often behave like bad actors. Life imitates camp, so maybe my stuff’s more realistic than the critics say I mean, just look at me. Behaving like one of the characters in my own trashy films instead of doing what I know I should: Get the hell out of here.

Past the old white church, abandoned and covered in peeling paint. Stained-glass windows shattered by vandals. Other than that, though, things look shockingly great around here. Aren’t places supposed to be worse in reality than memory? Isn’t it the real world that comes up short, not time-tinted recollection?

I drive past the grocery store, marquee promising a sale on organic juice. Gone are the discount notices for Mountain Dew by the case. The parking lot is free of young mothers with too many screaming babies clinging to them. I don’t see a single obese form straddling a scooter puffing Pall Malls. Gone are the slouching junkie kids, and the shambling homeless drones with filth clouds in tow The sidewalks are even and unbroken. Lawns are clear and mowed. Houses are freshly painted. Good God, is that a jogger?

Ifs as if a Mayberry filter’s been applied to footage of my hometown, and that’s what I’m seeing projected on the car’s windows instead of actual passing scenery What happened here? I drive past Dads shop and the familiar neon Video Realm sign, darkened now for good. No point going back there again. All those tapes are just movies.

Four days ago, it was the first place I went. Took a cab from the airport, a two-hour drive and a hefty fare, to find the door wide open, locks busted, tapes scattered all over and the sheriff (a pudgier young William Hurt, if this was a movie) already there, too eager to help me straighten up and figure out what had been stolen.

“Kids,” he said, greedy eyes scanning the scene, looking everywhere but at me.

“Meth heads?”

“Oh no.” His face was full of condescending civic pride. “We got none of that around here, thankfully Not anymore.”

Maybe he was right. Nothing was missing. In fact, only the VHS section had been touched at all. The few DVDs and Blu-rays the old man had tentatively begun to stock, the only stuff in the place worth any money, were arranged just as they should be. Nobody cracked the register. Hell, there wasn’t even any candy taken. What kind of thieves break into a dead man’s movie rental shop to riffle VHS tapes and don’t even take any?

I came back and went through the entire inventory the next day Every copy of every title was accounted for. Of course, by then I’d already found the tapes they’d been looking for. They were at Dads place the whole time. Safer there, he must have thought. And he was right.

I began to see what happened. Even a Z-grade schlockmeister like myself, the infamous David “Hacksaw” Holland, can put a plot that obvious together. There was no way they could have known I was in New York for a convention, no way they could have known I’d be home in hours instead of days. I surprised them, and nobody had time to check Dads house before I got there. Now I have the tapes, and they know it, too. But what does it all mean? What’s happening and who is involved? I’m only halfway through the tapes and already—

Tires squeal as I slam the brakes, jerk the wheel. A huge stag stands in front of the car. Dark charcoal, with an enormous ornate antler spread, eyes shiny and black. It appeared in front of me as if inserted somehow, out of nowhere. I watch it begin walking away moving too slowly and then too quickly like the fast forward thing is happening again. Like frames of this movie are missing.

The buck looks back once as it bounds away and out of focus. Not out of sight. Not into the woods that line the state road. It just gets blurrier and blurrier until ids gone, worn-out film that’s been rewound too many times at last dissolving to nothing.

When I get back the door is open. Someone has been inside, but it doesn’t matter because the tapes and ledger were in the trunk of the car. I bring them in, along with the pizza and beer, and get back to it, my own little private film fest.

My father had still lived in the same small shabby two-story structure I grew up in, a glorified cottage crouching at the end of a short gravel drive, nearly impossible to see from the paved road if you don’t know what to look for. I’m bivouacked in the den, semi-unpacked duffel bag in the corner spilling clothes. I rearrange the VHS tapes in their clear cases into small stacks before the enormous widescreen television—the nicest thing he ever owned—like a miniature plastic Stonehenge.

Bottles of scotch stand ineffective guard around the room, the only thing the old man loved more than movies. He had good taste in both. Authentic classic posters adorn the otherwise drab walls. He was a cineaste of the highest order, my dad, which only made my discovery of the prominent David Holland display at the shop all the more shocking. Two or three copies of all my films—even To Serve the Devils Favor, hard to watch even for me—sitting by the register. Each one had a detailed synopsis attached, written in a tight professional script I know well. I didn’t think he’d even seen any of my movies, let alone that he’d promote them.

I’m only more certain he didn’t kill himself.

The store was somehow thriving. Even in the age of Redbox and streaming services, Frank Holland was the movie man in Pritchard County In this part of the country yesterday is sacrosanct and tomorrow is suspect. Being the patrons of quite possibly the last video store in America would have been seen as something to be proud of, another fine tradition being upheld. And poor people are weirdly obsessed with customer service. Rich folks enjoy automation; they don’t want to hear the lawn boy at work. But these people, my people, know they’ll only ever be the boss when they’re exchanging cash for momentary privilege. They liked knowing somebody was there at the video store waiting to serve them.

Also, half the kids who grew up around here worked in the shop at one time or another. I spent most of my young life there. It worked out for all involved. Dad got cheap help, the kids got free rentals, and everybody in town either worked, had worked, knew or was related to somebody who worked there. Hence, the video store was an institution. Hell, more than an hour’s drive to the nearest theater, it was practically Hollywood.

It doesn’t make sense. Mom died more than a decade ago. He was as over that as he’d ever be. I suppose I can’t be certain he wasn’t sick. When was the last time we even spoke? I can’t remember. I ignored so many calls, deleted how many voicemails unplayed? I left him here, all alone. Would I have even believed him, would I have believed any of this, if I had bothered to answer?

He hated guns anyway, never owned one in his life. So I find it hard to believe my old man would have chosen to go out chomping on a pistol, like the sheriff said, even if I could picture him punching his own ticket— which I can’t.

I eat little, drink more—two, three beers rapidly Plastered is my preferred state of mind to work in, nobody sober could have made Nasty Nuns Tame Sasquatch, but these are strange waters in which I can take no chances. I stop at three for now, select the next unwatched tape from the nearest wobbly stack, push it hesitantly into the bulky VCR.

The cool feel of plastic, the smooth electronic sound of the tape being accepted, the closing of the little front door, the whirring as it begins to play: familiar reassuring things I did not realize I missed. I am comforted. The glaring TV screen is the only light in the house and I huddle before it like a campfire, a man lost in the woods, clutching my father’s ledger.

Then, the images begin.

I’d thought myself desensitized to violence. Hadn’t all the panic-ridden shrinks and parental groups promised that would eventually happen if only we watched enough? I’m a professional provocateur, a connoisseur of atrocities, but this is different. This is real.

In a large empty barn, three men are wrestling with a struggling young girl. She’s wearing an oversized T-shirt, hair wild from fitful sleep, eyes wide with panic. Her bare feet and legs are kicking, fighting desperately If this were a movie—a real movie, I mean—the girl would be played by some unknown. Somebody cheap with great legs.

Over the girl’s mouth, muffling her screams, is a thick patch of duct tape. One of the men grappling with her is Fred, good old smiley Fred.

The men never speak. Ids clear they don’t know about the camera, never once even look in its direction. They tie the girl to a large wooden post and leave. She sobs into the gag. The picture is black and white and grainy, clearly recorded on video with a cheap camera. The sound is scratchy and clipped. A lantern is hung near the girl cutting out a section from the surrounding dark like a theater spotlight. The contrast of the picture is high, making the edges of the room impossibly black.

My father began to rent video recording equipment along with VCRs at the shop years ago, back when I was still around. It never caught on, but became something of a hobby for him. All movie buffs are frustrated, would-be filmmakers. Our home movies had title cards. Clearly, Dad had found a new project to dedicate his talents to late in life.

I do not see the thing in the corner until it moves.

After, I don’t know how I missed it. Rewinding the tape, I cannot determine the exact moment it appeared. Maybe it was always there.

Long, thin fingers reach out slowly from the dark. The girl sees what is coming and becomes hysterical. Slowly, the thing comes into the light, flesh the color of neutral gray on a photographic color card. Two long gangly arms, and legs ending in strange clawed feet, snake out from ids grossly swollen torso. A pendulous belly droops over its lap, obscuring the thing’s gender. I cannot look at it for long. It shimmers and blurs as if ids moving too fast for the tape to capture, even while seeming to be reaching out in slow motion. Tracking lines pull its shape this way and that. My head hurts.

Before, in the other tapes, I’d only glimpsed it. A hand reaching, a blur in the corner, an out-of-focus gray something standing near a ritual, observing a sacrifice, lording over a frenzied orgy and watching the bodies mingle, stroke, fondle, squeeze—always on the edges, though. Like a director. Like me. Now, I see it all.

These people, I realize, the people on the tapes, the people of my hometown, they’re performing for this thing. They aim to please it, to entertain it. They serve it. And now I understand, numbly watching as it embraces the squirming girl and begins to sloppily devour her, they also feed it.

Her blood on the hay-strewn floor is too dark, too thick. Romero’s

Bosco chocolate syrup ichor straight out of ’68. It doesn’t look real. For a moment the gag comes free and the girls screams fill the room. I stare saucer-eyed at the glowing screen, crouching still in the dark, ledger forgotten. Quickly the shrieks die in a wet gurgle.

Christ, Dad. What did you find out here?

The gore-streaked thing shuffles silently back into the dark in that same eerie, sputtering way it moved before. Soon, the men return and begin to clean up the scene of the sacrifice. The sheriff is among them this time, along with Fred and several others I recognize. The men of town going about a hard, unpleasant task with the usual stoic determination of rural workers the world over. Bloods just business here. Not unlike any other harvest season, judging by their faces. Some are even smiling.

I review Dads annotations. He recorded dates, times and the places where he filmed these things. Camera settings, tape brands. Dozens of locations. He’d been at it for months.

Fast forwarding to the end proves there is little more to see. The men finish and leave in a speedy rush, and the light of dawn floods in through the open door to fill the empty barn. Finally, the camera is moved, taken from its hiding spot. I see a brief flash of my father’s tired old face before he turns it off.

Dad and I talked about movies the way other fathers and sons talk baseball or cars. After Mom died, it was all we had. My memories of my father are all in Technicolor, the good times echo through my brain in Skywalker Sound. His ghost smells like popcorn.

If my life was a movie, he’d be played by Martin Landau or somebody else really good. He deserves somebody good, somebody who’d never be in one of my movies. I know the power of pictures, and so did my old man. This documentary project would have seemed to him the best way to combat something he did not understand. If s what I would have done.

I eject the tape and stand in the cold light of the blank blue screen, sipping his scotch from the bottle. I scan the walls of my father’s favorite room: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Gene Kelly’s Singing in the Rain. Orson Welles stares down at me from a vintage Citizen Kane poster. The curdled prodigy’s final bitter performance was voicing the planet-eating baddie in The Transformers: The Movie. I think of my film school degree, ambitious dreams buried somewhere in L.A. beneath a mound of scripts with titles like Lesbian Vampire Hobos and Revenge of the Jurassic Octo-Sharks and recipes for fake blood and vomit. I also know something about wasted potential. Guess nobody ends up where they think they will. Ask my second ex-wife.

Outside, a car is trundling down the driveway Through the window shade I see headlights growing in the darkness. If this were a movie I’d know what to do. God, I wish this were a movie. I also wish my father had felt differently about guns. The biggest knife in the kitchen will have to do.

I stash the tapes hurriedly in my duffel bag, toss some clothes over them and move to the door, bottle of scotch in one hand, enormous knife in the other. I flick on the light above the small front porch, prepared to greet my most unwelcome guest.

Ids the pizza princess. Climbing out of a Ford Taurus more rust than red, carrying a fresh six pack and a pizza box. She looks better than she did earlier. A fitted black T-shirt hugs her best assets and her jeans are tight enough to make me concerned about her circulation. She is smiling until she sees the knife. Then, she starts to laugh.

“Ids a peace pizza,” she says. “I promise.”

“I already ate. You know I did.”

“Ids for tomorrow Thought I’d save you a trip.”

“Who says I’ll still be here tomorrow?”

She walks slowly closer, stepping more into the light. I remember the gray thing on the tape, the way it snuck out into the lantern glare, bit by bit then all at once.

“Stay right there.”

“You can relax.” She stops walking. “I’m just here to talk. They thought you might listen to me.”


She looks sad for a second, then pushes it away “I didn’t think you recognized me. We went to high school together. My name’s Heather. You remember?”

I shake my head, eyes on the dark behind her. The sound of crackling static is in my ears again, nagging and distracting.

“I’m not surprised. Two years of meth is like ten years of regular life. Sometimes I don’t recognize me either.”

“Funny, the sheriff was just telling me how clean this town is.”

“He’s not wrong, not now Used to be real bad.”

“Guess quality of life around here depends on which side of the camera you’re on.”

“We just want the tapes, Davie. We want the tapes and we want you to go home. You don’t belong here anymore. No hard feelings.”

There doesn’t seem to be anyone else in the dark, but I’m starting to feel foolish posing under the spotlight. A classic Hollywood victim. “Come inside. Slowly.”

She follows me in, putting her offerings on the coffee table next to empty bottles. “Nobody wants to hurt you.”

“Is that what you told my dad? Was it you who blew his head off?”

She looks around the room with a hint of wonder, like someone walking through Graceland or the White House, like she’s amazed to be there at last. “That was unfortunate, but it was required. Your father was going to close the shop and take the movies away He didn’t understand.”

“That’s why you killed him? So he wouldn’t close that stupid shop?”

She looks at me, eyes flickering as if lit from within by phantom film projectors. Or maybe its my eyes that are flickering. Either way the static is getting louder.

“Your father was killed because the God of the Screen wished it so.”

“I’ve seen the tapes.”

“All gods demand sacrifices, Davie.”

“You think that’s God?”

“He’s a god.” She shrugs. “The one that’s here. He’s the one that cares, anyway.”

She began walking around the room, running her hands over the furniture and the posters as if they were sacred relics in an Old-World cathedral. I suddenly feel far too sober for this conversation.

“The house of the Purveyor,” she says reverently “It was in your father’s films that the God of the Screen appeared to us. Flickers at first, like glitches. We did not yet know how to look. Later, as we learned, He became clearer, His wishes more obvious. But only ever through your father’s films could we see Him, never in any others. We tried. We tried to find Him elsewhere, but we could not. Then, when your father learned what redemption required and could not understand, when he threatened to take the movies away, we did what we had to. We must visit the Realm and conduct the renting ritual. It pleases Him.”

She pauses before the television, head bowed slightly Bathed in the cool blue light, she looks dead. “He saved my life, Davie. I was lost and He found me. I had nothing and He gave me purpose. He saved me, saved the town.”

I adjust my grip on the knife’s handle. “Did he save that girl in the barn? Or how about the kids, the ones on the missing posters my father collected? What did he do for them?”

She smiles, a quick flash of teeth. “He made use of them. It was more than they’d ever do for themselves.”

“Time for you to go, Heather.”

“Just give me the tapes, Davie. Give them to me and leave. You did it before. You, like so many others, abandoned your home as quickly as you could. All we ask is that you do it again. Go back to California. Go make more movies. We still walk the old roads, still worship the old gods.”

“You rent videos,” I say, sneaking a quick gulp of booze. “Not exactly forgotten lore, is it?”

“Nobody reads anymore.” She gestures to the tapes, the movie posters. “This is the new ancient. We must have the tapes. Then, we will take them, plant them in whatever other rental shops remain, and in rummage sales and secondhand stores and spread His gospel. We will make the world over again, Davie, so much better this time. We’ll get it right.”

I think of the car accident that killed my mother. Not a drunk. Not an epic pileup. Just a wayward deer, a buck on the road—dark charcoal, eyes shiny and black. Just a plain old everyday life-changing, life-ending accident. It would make a lousy movie.

I think of my father sitting alone in this room with his movies and his booze and a son who ran half a world away to make great art. A son who failed, who didn’t answer the phone when it mattered.

I think of Hacksaw. Gritty, authentic: The one time I got it all perfect. Someone’s remaking it, I hear, updating my best work already.

Heather turns, begins peeling off her shirt.

“What are you doing?”

“I am for you,” she says, undoing her belt. “Tonight, you can do what you like. I am His messenger, meant to please you. To show He wishes you no harm. Tomorrow, you will give me the tapes and go away We won’t hurt you, Davie. You make movies.”

She’s suddenly naked. There’s a black garter tattooed on her left thigh, something a wannabe bad kid would have done. The kind who couldn’t afford to run off to California, who didn’t have a proud papa waving bon voyage with one hand and dishing out tuition checks with the other, so proud of his aspiring auteur, his little future Fellini. It made me sadder than I thought possible.

“But I make lousy movies.”

“Oh, no.” Her eyes are big as IMAX screens and filled with that hypnotic flickering again. “He loves all movies, even yours. Especially yours, in fact. He has often come to us in your work. He favors you, David, Son of the Purveyor. He’s in you already.”

She’s nearly pressed against me. Maybe ids the booze, or the strange pulsing lights in her eyes, or the increasing noises in my head—sounding more like voices all the time—but she is undeniably appealing. If this were a movie you might be screaming at the screen right now, telling me to get out of there. My father always hated people who did that. So do I.

She reaches out to stroke my face, whispering. Her words are like the rumbling of surround sound thunder. I feel them and want to believe the things she says. The television screen begins to strobe behind her. I watch it ignite and die again and again. She leans in to kiss me, so obviously a trap.

If this were a movie, I might even fall for it.

I bring the bottle down over her head. It shatters, covering her hair and face with bits of glass and liquor. But it wasn’t how the movies promised me it would be. The sound, the feeling, her reaction—it was all so disappointingly real.

Then, suddenly it wasn’t.

She looks up, wide eyes full of static. Her gashed face drips spilled scotch, but no blood. She opens her mouth to scream, but only white noise explodes out. She’s a dead channel turned to max volume. She grabs for my neck with both hands, and I shove the knife forward into the taut muscles of her stomach. Her skin stretches and splits apart like cheap cellophane. The knife, then my fist, is swallowed. Her insides are dry and smooth and cold.

I shove, and she falls limply to the ground like a zombie shot through the head. The knife is tangled in the long black tendrils of her film-strip guts, plastic entrails that shine in the quickly strobing light. They stretch out from the void in her stomach like the tentacles of a parasite Cronenberg would dream up, unspooling further as she crawls away to lean against the wall.

She looks from the hole I gouged in her, up from her own dangling celluloid parts, to me, test pattern eyes brimming with tears. “I was all used up, Davie. I was dead and He began my life again. He rewound me.”

I pull the knife free of the shimmering strips, move quickly to stand over her. Raising it high, knowing already what I’m going to do.

“I hate remakes.”

The blade went in easily through her eye, nearly up to the hilt. Light spills from the gash, filling the room. I stab her again and again until that light goes out at last, until she lays down and is good and still and stays that way.

There’s no blood. The television goes dead. Fade to black. Roll credits. That’s a wrap, people.

Except its not.

In my business we call this part the Third Act. The finale. If this was a movie there’d be very serious music playing over a quick series of cuts showing yours truly hurriedly getting things together. An awesome ’80s- style montage of getting packed up and into the car. I’ve got the bag full of Dad’s tapes, three bottles of that fine scotch, and a tank half full of gas. The cigarette lighter in Dads junky old Buick still works fine, one of the only parts that does. And I’ve got a neon-crowned chapel to burn.

Speeding back down the state road toward town, the headlights show flickering glimpses of something large and gray on the shoulder always just ahead of me, out of focus. But I know what it is: The God of the Screen is angry But that’s okay So am I.

The world is again stretched and distorted by tracking lines. He’s in you already, that’s what Heather said. If that’s true he’s in good company slinking around with the Wolf Man and Godzilla and a horde of vampires, mutants, and masked killers. I’ve been dreaming of monsters my whole life. I’ve seen all the movies. I know what to do.

I drive through the dark, remembering how it feels to live a dream, why I loved the movies so much back before it became a grind. Just a job. A way to meet women. I see why Dad never stopped. It can be a drug as powerful as any I ever found in L.A.—and I searched thoroughly.

I’m Han Solo, back to cover Luke and see the Death Star explode.

I’m the Duke, sniping Liberty Valance from across the street.

I’m Rocky, still on his feet in the fifteenth round.

But then I’m just me again, a scared guy in a crappy Buick. Ids tempting to hide in the comfy haze of nostalgia, to make our lives fit the stories we love. I’ve made a pretty decent living at it. But life has no end credits, no second takes. And remakes suck, almost always. I’m old enough to know that. I’ve paid my respects, but the old gods had their day.

Behind me, I see red and blue lights flashing. The sheriff must have been nearby, chaperoning my time with the pizza princess. An insurance policy, in case I didn’t respond to sweet talk and seduction. Everybody speaks bullets. I can’t outrun him, not in this heap. But that’s OK, too. I don’t have far to go now. I never did.

I think maybe I’ve always been working my way back to the shop. A part of me never left. I don’t know if torching it will have any real effect. I don’t know if these people can be saved, if they deserve to be saved. Because in many ways things here are better than ever.

Not for Dad though, are they? Not for the girl in the barn, either. Not for those missing kids, and who knows how many others? Nobody came to help them. Failing a better contender, it seems I turned out to be the hero of this strange little saga. It’s a new role, against type for sure, but I’m getting comfortable with the idea.

Nearing the shop, I see the Mayberry filter fade. The grocery store’s sign doesn’t actually advertise a healthy sale at all. Its broken, missing most of the letters. The church windows are shattered—that was real. But the houses are just as decrepit as I remembered. The yards are patches of weeds. The homeless shapes slump against crumbling walls. These special effects are cheap and actually pretty easy to spot if you know how to look.

I depress the cigarette lighter.

Did you see the truth too, Dad? I think it’s a matter of taste, like a tolerance. Maybe our preferences made us harder to trick. It certainly made him harder to please, cranky old snob. Maybe he was saved by that snobbery? His standards were too sterling. And me? Well, I never minded a little squalor. High class, poor taste—our educated eyes imbued us with resilience to this, whatever it is. Not immunity, I think. Maybe we just know what we like.

If that thing is in my mind he should be the one afraid. He should have already seen there was only one way this would end. Because maybe I was a lousy son, maybe I have squandered my talent, maybe I don’t treat people very well, and I sure do hate a lot of things—not least among them myself. But I like a big dramatic ending. Just ask my last wife.

The lighter ejects.

I touch the glowing tip to the pile of tapes on the seat beside me. It goes up quickly, as I thought it would. On the floor is the booze, bottles uncapped, sloshing onto the carpet. Pedal to the floor, I aim the Buick at the large front window of the Video Realm. One hand on the door handle, I prepare to bail.

Hope this is as easy as the movies make it look.

I don’t know what it takes to topple a god, even one grasping so tenuously to power as the God of the Screen. My occupation is the creation of myths. But I do know one thing: There’s a California sunrise waiting for me on the other side of this nightmare. If I die, I’m a tragic artist, gone too soon and awaiting rediscovery They’ll call me a genius. And if I live, maybe ids not too late for me after all. I do hate remakes. But sequels? Well, I like sequels. Redemption stories are what great cinema is made of. And if I live through this, mine will make one hell of a movie. My best work yet.

I think I’ll play myself.

About the Author

Luciano Marano

Luciano Marano

Luciano Marano is an American journalist, photographer, and author. His award-winning reporting, both written and photographic, has appeared in numerous regional and national publications, and he was named a 2018 and 2020 Feature Writer of the Year by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association. His short fiction has been featured in several anthologies – including Monsters, Movies & Mayhem (winner of the 2021 Colorado Book Award for Best Anthology); Crash Code (a 2021 Splatterpunk award nominee); The Nighside Codex, and Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Vol. 3, among others – as well as the podcasts PseudoPod and Horror Hill. Originally from rural western Pennsylvania, Luciano now resides near Seattle, where he is currently at work on a novel and seeking representation. A U.S. Navy veteran, he enjoys movies, craft beer, jogging, and would choose Wolverine-style healing abilities if he could have any superpower – or maybe just the ability to grow Wolverine-style sideburns.

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Robert C. Eccles

Robert C. Eccles

Bob Eccles is a Parking Enforcement Officer with the University of Michigan Police Department. He served in the U.S. Army Military Police, and is a 30-year radio broadcasting veteran. Bob has previously appeared on our sister podcast, PodCastle.  Bob has also written a few short horror stories of his own. He’s a member of the Horror Writers Association, the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers, and The Fictioneers.

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Robert C. Eccles