Sunday, July 20, 2014

Shoes, Chuds, and Faulty Memories!

As I was doing some writing, I stumbled upon an original draft of stories from my first collection In 666 Words.  I was amused to find a story called The Shoe Collection, which did not make the final draft.  There's an amusing story of why this happened.

Back in the mid-1980s there was a low budget horror movie called C.H.U.D. (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers or Contaminated Hazardous Urban Disposal – depending on which part of the movie you’re watching – SPOILERS!).  The movie had a fun concept and certainly captured that shitty early 1980s, pre-Giuliani clean-up period for New York City.  The biggest problem, as I hinted at, is the movie has zero budget to back up its’ grand premise.  If this movie had focused on S.W.A.T. troopers entering the sewer systems and battling these man-eating monsters, like Aliens in New York, that would have been so bad-ass.  But, with little funding the movie is basically too much of Daniel Stern working at a soup kitchen and people running around wasting our time.

I was not a fan of C.H.U.D. and one viewing was plenty.  There was never any intention to revisit the movie.

Flash forward almost three decades and I am somewhere in the midst of writing In 666 Words.  While I’m working on that I also have one night a week free from writing where my brother and a friend join me for what we deem Netflix Night.  The goal of this one evening is to choose a bad movie so we can essentially riff on it nonstop like our own personal Mystery Science Theatre 3000.  The kind of movies we aspire to watch are things like Maximum Overdrive, The Substitute, Foxy Brown, and, of course, C.H.U.D.

So we’re watching C.H.U.D. and I have a horrendous twist in my stomach as I realize that a key scene in the movie is essentially the exact same thing I recently wrote for a story in In 666 Words.  How in the hell did that happen?  Was there still a lone memory lodged in my brain from a lousy movies I watched thirty years ago?  Obviously I was not stealing the concept as I had no clear memory of this moment in C.H.U.D., but it’s clear as day that my story and an early scene of the movie are simply too similar.  Now, I’m sure this happens more often to writers than we hear about.  Immediately I am thinking of the plot of The Simpson’s Movie and the Stephen King novel Under the Dome.  No matter, I knew at that point that I had to remove my tale from the book before my initial outing would be reviewed by people shouting, “This guy is ripping off C.H.U.D.!”  Nobody wants that, probably less than they want to realize that memories of C.H.U.D. are still floating around in their subconscious.  However, I’m proud of the little tale I penned, especially when I thought it was 100% original, and even though it won’t make it into any collection I post for sale, I wanted it to live on for readers of my blog.  So included below is the complete story.  I’ll leave it to you to decide if it’s too similar to C.H.U.D. or if my memory lapse isn’t bordering on copyright infringement as much as I think it is.  Granted, you'll need to go watch C.H.U.D. to give an unbiased opinion on the matter.

(a tale in 666 words)

“So, I hear you have quite a shoe collection?”  Jessica jumped right to the point.  It was late, she was cold, tired and uncomfortable in the dilapidated old office building.  The place smelled of urine and worse.  To make matters worse, she was dressed up for a fund-raiser she was supposed to be covering for the paper.  She could only imagine the filth she might stumble into or the odors that would cling to her when she left.

Still, the increasing disappearance of women in the city was the hottest story going.  Every reporter was scrambling for leads, and Jessica’s tips led to her current location where she hoped something would deliver.

Laying on the ground next to her was a bum who went by the name of “Al Pro” because of his love for wearing sports jerseys while panhandling before football and baseball games shouting “Eat ‘em up!” while jiggling a cup for change.

Al Pro looked at her for a minute, his eyes hazy.  “Shoes?  Yes, I gots shooooooeeess.”  Then he started giggling.  He pointed to the next room.

Jessica walked over and was immediately stunned by the sheer amount of woman’s shoes displayed before her.  There were easily over one hundred.  Al had set up make shift shelves to display them.  It looked like a twisted shoe store because the wide variety of shoes only had one of each distinctive style.  Inspecting them revealed little.  There was no blood or evidence on any of the shoes.

From the other room Al was still looking at her, “I likes them shoes.  You got.  Red is my favorite color.”  Then he started mumbling a song.

She took out her phone and snapped a few pictures of the collection.  The lighting and quality were horrible, but for now it would suffice.

Al was still lying on his filthy mattress.  “Sees, all thems shoes!  I love me some shoes!”

“Al, where did you find these shoes?”

He thought for a minute.  “I find them in the street mostly.  When I go walking in the morning.  Loves the colors,  I can look at ‘em all day.”

“Yes, they’re very nice.”

Jessica had more questions, Al had fewer answers.

The street was barren as Jessica walked back to her car.  Her mind was racing in several directions trying to determine her next course of action.  Right now, all she had leading her to the missing people were the shoes.  She was hours late for the party she was supposed to be covering.  Her lead was mostly a bust, and all she wanted was to be out of this part of town.  She picked up her pace, hearing her footsteps echo down the concrete canyon.

There was the sharp ting of metal from the street.

Jessica froze, listening for it to return.

Then she looked down and realized the sound was coming from directly at her feet.

The sewer lid shook.  She was sure of it.

Stepping closer, her brain made the final connections a split second too late.  The metal cover pushed up and a grotesque reptilian claw shot out, snatching her ankle.  It was like a vice.  Jessica fell backwards, sprawling across the cement, clutching for anything to gain a handhold as she felt herself swiftly pulled towards the sewer opening.

Jagged nails scraped over her leg, removing her shoe.

Jessica saw her red heel spiral away into the air and clatter alone in the middle of the street.  That’s when she felt the razor sharp teeth dig into her foot.

“Help!”  She shouted as the full fight-or-flight kicked in.  Then her screams became unintelligible as she was pulled below, into the dark sewer.

The heavy metal lid slammed back into place with a clang of finality.

This late at night, the city paid no notice.

The next morning, while making his rounds around town, Al found a beautiful red high heel shoe sitting alone in the street.  He took it home and added it to his collection. 

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