Willy lived by four words: work hard, play harder. He pulled the nine to five at a local garage. He would change tires and change oil. Most often, he cleaned up after the mechanics. Although a self-proclaimed hero at these duties, the other guys at the garage also knew he was the best at the little things.
“Boy can that guy push a broom!” they would often joke. Willy wasn’t trusted with the major repairs, like a slipped transmission or a broken fuel line. He just simply couldn’t be trusted with such responsibility. This was due to the alcohol odor that emitted from his pores every morning.
When he was done with the day’s work, Willy would stop at the local convenient store to buy two packs of cigarettes, twelve tall cans of cheap beer, and five scratch off lottery tickets. This was his routine, except on Friday, when he would buy enough beer and cigarettes to last the weekend, where he would drink from noon to blackout on Saturday and spend all day Sunday recovering from Saturday.
An outcast since high school, Willy was never invited to the local tavern after work on Friday’s. He figured it was due to the acne that covered his face. The excruciating pimples that infected his skin would often seep without warning. And although that was part of the reason, the other reason was that Willy was just plain weird. He would occasionally speak to himself while he worked, asking himself questions and answering them out loud. His peers would notice, but wouldn’t say anything in fear that he might one day chase them down with one of the many unused screwdrivers he kept in his back pocket.
On this particular Friday, one of the mechanics “forgot to flush”, but it was Halloween, so Willy didn’t care. He couldn’t wait to order pizza after his usual trip to the Stop n’ Shop and watch his favorite kind of movie, a creature feature. The lineup on Channel Six tonight was loaded with topless women and plenty of gore. The station would allow a little skin on Friday nights and that was fine by Willy. Sometimes he would close the blinds, he did have a little decency after all, and imagine he was the guy in the letterman jacket making out with the head cheerleader.
Once home, Willy set out a bowl of assorted candy for the beggars, opened a pizza box on his lap, and turned on the television. The first movie, It Came From Underneath the Bridge, was the perfect way to start his Friday night. A B-Rated Technicolor film set in the late 70’s, “The Bridge” followed a group of high school rejects who gathered along a desolate bridge outside a small town. There was plenty of second base action, swearing, and bloody violence. Willy was ready to shut the blinds as two teenagers found themselves alone in the backseat when the television reception went out. Black and white fuzz bounced around the screen.
“Goddamn it to hell.” Willy kicked the TV cabinet. “Fucking new wave bullshit.”
He was not happy that he had to get a digital box for his boob tube in order to watch television. He hated technology. He still used a land line for his rotary phone and cashed his checks from the garage at the local bank. He didn’t have an email account and he didn’t know what a Facebook was, nor did he care. He was just fine being off the grid from the satellite spies.
After smacking the top of the converter box with no success, Willy decided to check the front porch to see if there was any candy leftover. Outside, the pale moon had cast its spell over the trailer park where he lived. It floated behind shifting gray clouds. Inside of the orange plastic candy bowl, shaped like a jack o’ lantern, was a note. He looked around his small concrete slab of a porch with suspicion. A cat meowed in the distance, a steel garbage can toppled over somewhere close, and a dog howled in triumph.
Willy pulled his cotton flannel close to his body as a cold wind spun red and yellow leaves around his tiny lot. He unfolded the note. A single word was written across it: Trick.
“Ungrateful little bastards.”
Back inside, good fortune had struck. The movie was back on. A chubby girl with black eye liner wearing a matching leather jacket was buttoning up her shirt. She wiped her mouth with her leather sleeve and removed a cigarette from her purse. Lying on her back with her long haired lover, she stared at the stars and blew smoke rings into the still night.
“Happy Halloween, Willy,” he said. “No treat for you.”
Willy opened the mini fridge next to his microwave and removed two cans of beer and a fifth of rot gut from the freezer compartment. He closed the door and responded to a bumper sticker that was glued to the front of the ice box, proclaiming that he’d rather be drinking.
“Damn right,” Willy said. “Here’s to ya.”
Willy magnetized the top of the note below the bumper sticker, allowing the bottom flap to hang open. He curled his lip in an arrogant way, challenging the message with a snicker.
He sat back down on his couch, adjusted himself so the springs weren’t poking his ass, and drank until he passed out.
“Willy,” a voice commanded above him. “Willy! Wake up!”
Willy woke up in a one room cabin. The walls were similar to his own, cheap wood paneling covered with posters. Some were posters of women in bikinis spread out across the hoods of sports cars. One was of a deer looking onward into the wild. Another of a wolf perched on top a jagged rock, howling at the moon through thick wilderness. The floor was held together by soft, rotting wood. A single spring mattress sat inside of a wire frame next to a wood burning stove. It looked a little like home, but it sure didn’t feel like it.
“Willy, we have to go. Now!”
“Who’s there?” Willy said.
Out of a dark corner of the cabin emerged a short figure of a girl. She wore a dark, leather jacket. A purple skirt hung just above her knees. Her eyes were caked with black eyeliner.
“I’ll explain on the way,” she said.
The girl grabbed Willy by the hand and led him to the only window, a four paned view into a sleepy forest. Willy used his flannel sleeve, in a circular motion, to wipe the glass clean. Skeletal branches split the glow of the moon, lighting the forest in random areas.
“I don’t see nuthin’,” Willy said.
“Trust me, it’s coming for us.”
“Where in the hell did you come from darlin’?” Willy said.
“Don’t be silly, Willy,” the girl said. “How much did you have to drink tonight?” The girl put her hands on her knees and arched her back forward, showing him her cleavage. “You remember these don’t you?”
A rhythmic pattern of footsteps scattered above Willy and the girl. She tucked her face against his frail chest and squeezed herself tight against his skinny frame.
“I can’t find Johnny, Billy, or Veronica,” the girl said. “We’re the only ones left. What are we gonna do?”
Willy shook his head, trying to wake up his whiskey slumbered brain cells. The last thing he could remember was drinking large quantities of booze inside the safety of his mobile home. Then he remembered the note. Trick. The footsteps continued, sending another drumming pattern across the other side of the roof.
She opened the cabin door and pulled Willy behind her. A low fog hung above the soft forest ground. It was littered with pine needles and pine cones. He could feel them bend and snap underneath his work boots as he kept pace with the girl, his hand in hers. Her skirt bounced in front of him, exposing her soft, white legs. Willy wondered what those legs would feel like wrapped around his waist when a piercing wail echoed from the bare trees behind them.
They reached a clearing, a vast open field lit by the moon. The girl pulled Willy on top of her as they fell on the damp grass.
“You wanted a treat tonight Willy,” she said. “Now’s your chance.”
She locked her lips around Willy’s mouth and slid her tongue inside of it. Willy pulled away, knowing they were in danger.
“Are you stupid or something?” Willy said. “What about that thing on the roof?”
“I think we out ran it,” the girl said.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer to her face. Willy grabbed her by the wrists and pinned them to the ground.
“Are you fucking crazy? We have to get the hell out of here!”
She pursed her lips, pouting. “Fine.”
Another painful screech. Willy turned his head to where the forest ended and the clearing began. A hairless creature stood naked a hundred feet away. Its ribs expanded and collapsed as it sucked in deep breathes of oxygen. The limbs were disproportioned as its long, skinny arms almost reached the ground. Two red eyes glowed back at Willy. They burned like cigarette cherries.
The girl screamed. Willy hoisted himself up with his hands and ran, a sprinter at the starting line. He heard a shuffle behind him followed by another scream that quickly turned into a yelp. He took a quick glance over his shoulder. The creature was positioned on top of the girl like Willy had been, only it was tearing her face apart with sharp fingernails, occasionally taking a turn to feed from her plump body.
Willy did not allow his boots to slow him down. He ran fast, eventually reaching a dirt path that led him to a gravel road and a covered bridge. An old station wagon was parked next to an embankment that descended into a river. Unless he wanted to get wet, Willy would have to use the bridge to cross the gorge. He leaned against the station wagon, nauseous from the sprint that just saved his life and vomited all over the hood of the car.
Once his eyes stopped watering and he was convinced he wouldn’t spew again, Willy pulled on the steel handle of the driver’s side door. It opened. On the driver’s seat were a set of three keys. He sat down and tried one. It fit the ignition but did not turn the engine. He tried another one, no dice. The keys fell from his trembling hand. In a frantic, he searched for them in the darkness, trying to keep his nerves steady.
He placed the last key in the ignition. Not only did it fit, but it moved forward when he turned it. The instrument panel lit up, then shut off. The battery was dead.
Willy got out of the car and saw the creature running at great speed on all fours towards him. He sprinted around past the station wagon and headed for the bridge. The creature leaped and landed on the roof of the car. It spread its long arms out, revealing a webbed skin that stretched from its hands to its back. Leaping from the car, it glided towards Willy, mouth open, bloodied razor sharp teeth exposed.
Willy took one step onto the bridge and tripped over an unbalanced wooden plank. He heard the creature land close by and felt its hot breath above him. He turned on his back and crawled backwards as the creature sliced Willy’s face open with its pointed nails.
Suddenly, a lighting crew emerged onto the bridge, followed by a director holding a Super 8 camera. His black rimmed glasses and scruffy beard reminded Willy of a studious professor. The director’s tee shirt had the words ‘It Came From Underneath The Bridge’ printed across it.
“That was great Willy,” the director said. “Ready for another take?”
The director rubbed his chin before Willy could respond. “The cabin scene was good, but I wasn’t convinced you were scared. And if I don’t think you were scared, neither will the audience.”
Willy felt his face, still intact. He removed his hand. A sticky red substance covered his fingers.
“Go ahead and lick it,” the director said. “It’s just corn syrup with red food coloring.”
Willy looked around at the film crew, confused about what was happening. He licked his fingers, sure enough, the substance was sweet.
“Fake blood?” Willy said to himself in a whisper.
The creature was leaning against the bridge railing with its arms folded. The director handed it a page from the script. It peeled its mask over its human head.
“Son of a bitch it’s hot in there!” said the creature actor. “Anyone got a smoke?”
The girl, who Willy thought was mutilated by a fictional creature that lived underneath the bridge that they all were now gathered on, handed the actor a cigarette. The film crew gathered their equipment and hauled it back to where Willy just ran from. The director approached Willy.
“Let’s go man, we don’t have all night.”
He grabbed Willy by the hand, helping him to his feet, and smiled.
“At least some of us don’t.”
Willy found himself back in the cabin. The same posters decorated the same paneled walls. The single bed next to the wood burning stove was in the exact place as before.
A voice shouted from the shadows. “It Came From Underneath The Bridge. Scene Five. Take One. And…action!”
The girl emerged from the same dark corner of the cabin. This was Willy’s first take, all over again. This was the trick and he knew he had to look scared. But looking scared wouldn’t be a problem because Willy was forever looped in a creature feature, his favorite kind of movie.