Saturday
Jan042014

Terrible Lizards

Meghan McCarron


 

You are on a desert island. The sand, stirred by the hot wind, pricks your tender, waxed calves. A duffle of makeup sits at your feet; you wish it held water, or guns. The producers tell you to strike a pose. You perch your foot on your duffle, lengthen your neck. The producers are flanked by contractors armed with automatic weapons. Something big stomps through the forest. It roars.

*

On his first night of college, a shy boy sneaks up onto the dorm's roof with his hallmates. They sit in a circle, a false tribe that will quickly fracture. A hippie kid in bare feet lights a blunt and passes it to a girl wearing a lacy slip and a necklace of plastic pearls. The hippie picks out "Like a Rolling Stone." They smile like they're practicing to be famous. The shy boy is a southern kid in ill-fitting jeans. He actually will be famous. It starts when he dresses up as Lou Reed for Halloween.

*

On her first day at work, a girl sits in a cubicle looking up two hundred and forty-eight direct-to-video horror movies on IMDb. Her company acquired the rights to these movies, but they came with no information besides their titles, Blood Bathz 6 and Death Cruise. She edits summaries by users like BigBob777 and LadieVampyre. Triplets separated at birth discover they are all werewolves. Passive-aggressive Satanists encourage suicides to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Vampires are actually aliens. They live at the center of the earth.

*

A vampire lives in the tunnels underneath the dorms. The tunnels once housed a small acid factory; the vampire stumbles across blotters, still, mixed in with the rest of the kipple. The school locked up the tunnels in the eighties. All the graffiti is archeology, Bokonon quotes and naked rainbow women and tags from a graffiti artist featured in Style Wars. The vampire hungers for company.

*

My nine A.M. Chinese class releases us into a bright Tuesday morning. A kid I've known for three weeks stops me on the green to say a plane flew into a building. I laugh out loud.

*

The office worker hides her spreadsheet and pulls up video of a new reality show. She watches a girl she knew in college arrive on a desert island. The model holds a triumphant pose, like a conquistador. Behind her, a T. Rex lumbers onscreen.

*

A girl takes off her clothes in the bedroom and returns to the party naked. Everyone is naked. The paint ran out because people splattered it on the walls, and now there's only markers. She never realized how strongly a room full of naked people would smell. Some girl scrawls her name across her back, like when people signed each others' shirts the last day of high school. KIT! A boy draws a pot leaf on her arm, ha ha. A stranger draws a picture of a wolf and bites her on the shoulder. He draws blood. Ha ha.

*

At fall break, every house on my cul-de-sac is flying an American flag, like it's the angry Fourth of July. Plastic wrap and duct tape sit in neat stacks on my mother's dining room table. My stepfather bought a BMW to do his part for the economy. I get drunk in the backyard on dusty liquor cabinet leavings, high school style. Before bed, I drink one of the hoarded bottles of water in the basement so I won't be hungover. Ha ha.

*

The office worker has finished editing the summaries, but she has to look busy. On Facebook, someone tagged pictures of the boy who dressed up as Lou Reed. He's on the cover of a magazine, licking maple syrup off a hunting knife. The office worker opens her screenplay. She's writing a high school comedy. High school seems far away and imaginary, but not like a movie. She clicks back to IMDb. There is a sequel to the vampires-at-the-center-of-the-earth movie. It is set on their spaceship, which looks like a castle. On the movie poster, they all look like Nosferatu, including the teeth.

*

The werewolf wakes up naked. She is alone at dawn in a graveyard dating back to 1650. Brownstone grave markers list towards her, their messages washed away by the rain. Here lies . . . Anno Domini . . . Betsey . . . Lord. A dead dog lies next to her. A black lab she's seen around campus. Her name was Derrida, ha ha. Derri for short. Derri's throat has been ripped out, and the werewolf's mouth is caked in blood.

*

I jump the police barricades to join the protestors swarming down Madison Avenue. The crowd is a spectacular sea. There are signs and hats and puppets and bugles and girls in suits, toting pies. This will be on the front page of The New York Times. The avenue will flood CNN. No way. No way will they start this war.

*

On the next episode, the models tie a goat to a stake a la Jurassic Park and finish hair and makeup in the trees. When the T. Rex emerges, one of the models rushes out to greet the dinosaur first. The scene ends abruptly. The group is reprimanded by the judging panel, but there seem to be fewer contestants than before. The office worker looks closer. The girl she knew from college is missing.

*

The next full moon, the werewolf unlocks the tunnels with a stolen key. The corridors are lined with doorless rooms filled with discarded children's desks, rusting campus-issue bedframes, piles of flammable trash. The werewolf picks a room occupied by a lone orange armchair and undresses in the last wash of sunlight. When the change starts, her nose twitches with a new smell. Nosferatu leaps out of the darkness, and her mouth fills with teeth.

*

We play a State of the Union drinking game with arak, because it rhymes. Iraq! We cry, throwing back shots. Arak! I wake up outside my room, number 303, in my underwear. The door is covered in runny, never-drying paint from when my roommate shot it up with paintballs. People are smoking hash down the hall, and the carpet smells like stale cupcakes. Someone has covered me with a little tent of cardboard, like my torso is homeless.

*

The office worker finds a YouTube video, a single shot of a goat tied to a stake. The quality is terrible, but she recognizes the goat. The T. Rex massive head shoots down into the frame and gobbles the goat whole. Then it shoots down again and snatches up the model. The office worker's college friend charges by with an elephant gun. Shots are fired. There is a flash of pumping legs, and the smoking barrel of the elephant gun, disappearing into the trees.

*

The werewolf wakes underground naked and bruised. The vampire is curled up next to her on a pile of blankets like a loyal dog. It has a bite on its leg. Does this make her a vampire now? But no, pale light leaks through the tiny window and she does not burn. Her body feels electric and exhausted, like she's just taken a vigorous swim. She thinks she has found a solution to the problem of being a monster.

*

The secret dance party is in a white mansion in a room covered with graffiti. A giant's chair, red and decaying, looms in the center. People dance, people thrash. A friend slaps his chest and roars. The crowd sings along, lies lies. It's toxic, it's high voltage, it's like a Polaroid picture. But we can't shake forever, pictures do emerge, and they're of naked bodies and hooded men, thumbs up.

*

When the office worker calls Model Reality's production company, they claim to be a biotech firm. They financed most of the movies she's looking up on IMDB. One movie's title suggested zombies, but it's actually about terrorists who hijack a rock star's party plane. The rock star drives them out of the cockpit with disco. The go-go dancers put their panties on the terrorists' heads. The drummer dunks them in the hot tub. They land somewhere in the California desert, laughing and screaming like old friends. Ha ha.

*

The next month, the vampire greets the werewolf with submissive, fangy smiles. She bares her teeth; she has been looking forward to this. He hovers around her as she undresses, and she wonders if they fuck. But when the fur springs from her skin, the vampire snatches the keys and throws the tunnel door open. She shouldn't follow, but the world has never smelled so good.

*

For my final in Dystopian Literature, I make an 8mm movie. I shave my actors' heads and cover them in fried eggs. I steal skinned deerheads from the taxidermist's dumpster. I paste headlines about nuclear war onto The New York Times. I feed everyone Dunkin' Donuts. But I loaded the film wrong, and the entire reel comes back blank, except for a shot of the paper, falsely declaring the end is nigh.

*

The office worker meets her fellow alums at a bar with deer antler chandeliers. A hurricane is about to hit New Orleans. Everyone watches the televisions as if their careful attention can avert disaster. The model walks in. There's something different about her eyes, or maybe the way she walks. The office worker rushes up to her and asks if she's okay. "I'm good," the model laughs, in a voice that's not quite right. Something metallic glints in her eye, but her skin is warm as they embrace. "So, what's your story?"

*

The werewolf wakes up naked, lying in a parking lot. Next to her, a human foot is dangling out of a car door. The foot is marble-white, lined with tufts of dark hair. Another foot lies on the ground, bloody and lonesome. The vampire is nowhere to be found. It's just her, on the other side of a big, fat, yellow line.

*

The boy who dressed as Lou Reed gives an interview to the alumni magazine. The interviewer asks why he doesn't make protest music. He points out that Bob Dylan and Dick Cheney were born in the same year. He'd be better off joining the Pentagon and playing the long game.

*

You are the only one left on the island. The production crew fled weeks ago after they were beset by animal attacks. You hate them, but sometimes you pretend they are still here, judging you, dangling a prize. Your ammo stayed dry, and you think you can pull the trigger with your claws. Tomorrow is the full moon. Something stomps in the forest. It roars.

*

The last week of school I spend in my room drinking whiskey and reading science fiction. The sun is too bright, and everyone's acting like there's nothing wrong. One afternoon, a boom in the distance announces that the first bombs have started to fall. Then I see lightning. Rain.

I call my mother and start to cry. She tells me when I was a baby she thought Reagan would kill us all. "I used to rock you and plan on how I'd keep you alive. It's okay, baby. Here you are."