It’s time. My unaffected entourage has arrived. I take a deep breath and step past the bars into the corridor. I stop and take a moment to look around. It’s like a scene from a movie--a real low-budget loser--except there are no lights, no cameras, no clapboard, no director to yell “Cut!”
It’s just me, the padre, and four dour-faced screws. Two approach me while the others hang back. Cautiously, meticulously, they fasten a set of chains to my wrists and ankles. The smooth, forged metal feels cold against my skin. I shiver visibly and they react, reaching for their weapons. The smell of fear envelops them like stale aftershave.
I look down at my wrists. They’re some fancy manacles, I have to say that. In fact, they look to me like they’re made of real silver. I think about it, and find it a tad insulting. What do they think I am, some kind of werewolf?
“Let’s go, Sonny.”
We start down the corridor, which, I must say, seems inanely long. Whoever this set designer was, he’s obviously into melodrama. It’s as if he purposely lengthened it so you’d have a chance to ponder the script that had led you to this scene--one final opportunity to contemplate the error of your ways.
I shuffle forward as best I can with the heavy metal restricting my movements, and notice it’s almost midnight. I’m glad of that, at least. See, I’m a night person, both by habit and constitution. A rather unfortunate run-in with an exceptionally potent dose of radiation as a teenager in the early ‘50s left me a little sun shy. You can imagine the deleterious effect that had on my formative years. It meant dressing up like the Invisible Man just to go to school, and forget about going to the beach with the other kids. The whole adolescent experience left its scar on me--as if I didn’t have enough festering iridescent blemishes already. I never did finish high school.
Our pace down the corridor is almost leisurely. My escorts aren’t in any hurry. I look for a window, but can’t find one. I wonder if it’s clear outside. I’ve always loved looking at the stars. You may not know this about me, but I used to be in show business. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Actually, I made one movie--but I had the title role. It was one of the last B-movies of what they called the “Atomic Age.” It was released in 1959. You’ve probably never seen it. It didn’t exactly rock the annals of cinematic monsterdom. Nevertheless, it got some fair reviews. Then, after a decent opening, it got lost in the shuffle of the mammoth publicity campaigns launched by the studios for The Alligator People and The Tingler.
Don’t even get me started on The Tingler and its gimmicky electrified seats. Yeah, you heard right. Old Wild Bill Castle, the same guy who used stage wires to send skeletons flying over the heads of moviegoers the year before during screenings of The House on Haunted Hill, electrified theater seats to send mild jolts through the audience each time the Tingler appeared on screen. I get gas every time I think of the money they made with that stunt.
Pacific International never gave my film that kind of promotion, but then we had a bottom-feeding budget from the start. I never had the impetus of wide exposure--never got so much as a taste of horrific renown. I was a sideshow act from the beginning, a footnote to a decade of mutant freaks and monster mayhem.
My movie was called The Hideous Sun Demon. That’s me--the Sun Demon. Despite the title, I’m actually not all that hideous . . . if I stay out of the sun. Otherwise, I get this reaction--sort of a rash. Okay, it’s a little more than a rash. Actually, it’s a gross assortment of scales, sores, and tumorous lumps that would make the Creature from the Black Lagoon turn purple with envy. That aside, I’m not a bad-looking guy.
Sunshine, unfortunately, is also responsible for my mood swings. Not that I become a raving psychopath or anything (that was just in the script), but I can become somewhat disagreeable at times. Did I mention the fangs? I guess not. If I soak up too many rays, my incisors grow a good inch. They’re great for tearing into a steak, but not much for making out with the ladies, if you know what I mean. Needless to say, I don’t have much of a tan.
Speaking of the Creature, we used to hang out together. Yeah, we’d get wasted and scare the bejesus out of the kids who drove out to Point Dume to watch the submarine races. What can I say, it was good for a few laughs and I was much younger then. I lost touch with the big C when he lurched off to work for the Department of the Navy in ‘69. There was a rumor he was involved in some kind of black ops in Vietnam just before Saigon fell. That was the last I ever heard of him.
Of course he’d had a much more substantial career than me. I mean, it wasn’t anything like the Wolfman or the Mummy, but he made a couple of sequels and inspired more than a few ripoffs--not that he ever saw dime-one from the imitations. Let’s face it, the only monsters back then who got the choice royalty deals were guys like Frankenstein and Dracula--a couple of real stuck-up superstars if you ask me. Still, you have to give them credit. At least they were smart enough to use what they had going for them to get some tight contracts.
Me, I tried never to let the Hollywood hustle get to me. After the lukewarm success of The Hideous Sun Demon, I pushed for a sequel--well a prequel really. I even wrote the script, based on my own experiences growing up. It was wonderfully moving, fraught with angst and remorse. I thought it had Oscar potential. I called it I Was a Teenage Hideous Sun Demon. Sure it didn’t jive with the origin of the Sun Demon as it was revealed in the first film, but then how many people had actually seen it? Pacific International wasn’t interested, so I shopped it around the major studios. I guess, by then, they all thought I was too old for the role.
While the screenplay made its rounds, I spent my time going to open casting calls. I tried out for parts in Psycho, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Shop of Horrors--Roger Corman’s original that featured a young, unknown Jack Nicholson. Apparently though, I wasn’t the kind of monster they were looking for.
Once it became clear I was a one-shot wonder, I walked away from my cinematic pursuits, head high, without so much as a tear. Well, there was that one brief lapse in the Brown Derby where I was sobbing so hysterically that they asked me to leave. But I’ve been fine since then--really, I have.
The unbroken stream of rejections had toughened my hide, but inside that scabrous veneer I was empty, devoid of contentment. I tried my hand at several things, but nothing seemed to give me any satisfaction. For the longest time I felt like an artist with no canvas to paint on.
Then, in ‘63, I put together a folk rock band called Sunny D and the Night Dogs. Our sound never really found its audience, but we did have this one little tune that got as high as 36 on the charts. You might have heard it. It was called “Make the Sun Go Away.” It was a poignant little ditty. I’ve got the 45 at home somewhere.
Some of my old gang from back then, like the Mad Ghoul and the Creeper, still call me Sunny D. However, in ‘66, I decided I wanted a fresh start, so I had my name legally changed to Sonny Deamon. Of course (my luck) a decade or so later the nostalgia crazes kicked in. Had I known there was going to be an opportunity to make big bucks as a has-been movie icon on the convention circuit, I might have reconsidered the name change. Hell, I would have jumped on that gravy train sooner than I did, and squeezed every last drop out of that whole “Hideous” thing. Well that’s blood over the gums.
It’s certainly too late for regrets now. Too late to say I wish I’d done this or done that with my life. I can’t complain though. I got to experience some things most people will never have the chance to. Sure, I could have been more . . . I could have been less. It doesn’t matter anymore. Now I’m just a dead monster walking.
Looking back though, the funny thing is, I had actually, finally, exorcised the malignant spirit of procrastination that had bridled me, and had begun work on my tell-all book. That’s when I . . . well I’m certain you’ve heard how I ended up here. Then again, considering the relentless way the press came after me, maybe you should hear my side of it.
I was living in Walnut Park, in the lesser half of a rundown duplex. Still, the palm trees that lined the street were nice. I’ve always had a thing for palm trees. Anyway, I was minding my own business, slipping quietly into my golden years, getting by on Social Security and the few odd convention appearances and Halloween gigs. All-the-while I’m trying to get down a rough outline for my autobiography.
It was at one of those conventions I first ran into Gilbert McKenna. Yeah, him, the so-called “victim.” I was manning the “Fifties Forever” booth, and he was one of those diehard monster movie fans who’d seen everything from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to Curse of the Fly. When he found out who I was, he practically went berserk. And I don’t mean in a good way. You’d think, as a fan, he would have appreciated meeting a real B-movie monster. Yet, for some reason, he acted as if I was the devil himself (sure, like I could’ve ever gotten a part that good).
From the very beginning he showered me with ridicule. I mean this guy was out-and-out abusive. He wouldn’t let it go. It was like a rabid obsession. You’d have thought it was something personal, like I was the family curse. It wasn’t only at conventions--no. He found out where I lived and started sending these profane little notes. Nothing threatening mind you, nothing I could take to the police, just these trenchant little criticisms of my acting ability and a few caustic aspersions concerning my film’s lack of redeeming quality. Only his language wasn’t that erudite.
I don’t know why I was such an electrode up his ass. I mean, it was only one lousy movie for Godzilla’s sake. Still, he kept riding me and riding me until I couldn’t take it anymore. He showed up on my front lawn one day, and I was so distracted by his ravings that I stayed out in the sun too long. The next thing I knew, my hideous hands were wrapped around his throat, and I was tearing his face into jerky.
I don’t regret it--not really. I mean you don’t poke a junkyard dog unless you’re looking to get bit. What did he expect? Maybe that was his thing. Maybe it was suicide by monster. Maybe he was such a fan, that’s the way he wanted to go. If so, he got his wish . . . and I got this all-expenses-paid trip to death row.
So here I am. I have to say, in retrospect, that set designer knew what he was doing. The walk down the corridor has been just long enough for me to take my bittersweet stroll down memory lane.
Our little procession arrives at its final destination, and I notice a strange odor. It’s not death I smell--that’s a scent I’m all too familiar with. This is something else, something severely antiseptic.
The screws take off my shiny new manacles and strap me to a table that looks like something right out of the mad scientist’s handbook. The sight of it, the feel of the wide leather straps, sends me back--back to the day I was lying on a similar table, about to have my genetic structure irreversibly scrambled by a mega-dose of radiation. The day that propelled me down the twisted, wretched path that conveyed me through grim dementia and abhorrent atrocities to this grandiose finale. Who says you can’t go home again?
When they pull back the gallery curtain, I recognize a few familiar faces among the witnesses. The Monster of Piedras Blancas is there--we’d kept in touch and were in the same bingo club. I think I catch a glimpse of my old buddy Casmir, but, if it is him, he’s in the back row, keeping to the shadows. I can’t get a good look from my angle.
I’m a little surprised when I spot the Wasp Woman. We’d had a brief fling in the early Seventies, but I hadn’t seen her in at least 20 years. I guess, despite our rather tempestuous affair, she still had a soft spot in her poison sac for me. Either that, or she genuinely meant what she said the last time I saw her--the part about me dropping dead.
As I lie there, waiting, more anxious to get it over with than anything, I feel the needle go in. I try to relax as they attach the “death tube” (my words, not theirs), but I can’t get past my concerns that this might not end it all.
Let’s get this straight right up front, I’m no zombie--not that I have anything against zombies, mind you. They’re fine as long as they stick to their own side of the cemetery. Nevertheless, I have no interest in becoming one of the living dead. My concern is that the lethal injection might not be lethal enough to do the trick. Let’s face it, I’m not your ordinary, everyday condemned killer. I don’t want them to botch the job now that I’ve come this far.
My fears are somewhat mitigated when I feel the cool, minty anesthetic (for some reason I imagine it to have a minty flavor) begin to slither through my veins, easing its way into my capillaries, my arteries, and on into my anomalous organs. I know it won’t be long now. But I’m okay with that. I’ve made my peace. I’m ready to go. I’m no religious fiend by any definition, but I’m prepared, even eager, to deliver my lines with the immortals of horrific cinema. I don’t care if it’s just a bit part or a walk-on. I’m ready.
As my vision begins to blur, I can still see one thing very clearly in my mind’s eye. My legacy. I’ve made it. I’ve arrived. I’ve finally got my own little niche of monster immortality.