B Movie

by K. Simpson



Somewhere in the California desert...

They'd left LA simply hours ago, and the sun was getting low; they hadn't seen a thing for miles. Soon, it would be dark. Darkness in the desert. Not her idea of a good time. She didn't think it was even possible to have a good time in a desert. As soon as they got to a phone, she was calling her agent and raising hell about this audition.

Spitefully, she pulled down her sunglasses and turned to the man. "Are we there yet?"

"Almost, baby."

It wasn't a total lie; he didn't know where they were going, exactly. He'd rented the Lexus with unlimited mileage, so it didn't matter much. But he thought he'd rehearse the story he'd told her again, in case she asked any more questions.

They'd met at a tiny indie festival in Oxnard a week ago. Her latest film, Layover in Paris, was playing to indifferent audiences; most likely the market could bear only just so many vixen-stewardess pictures. But she'd looked good up there, with that flame-colored hair and those giant assets, and he wanted a piece. So he made a point of finding her after the screening.

I'm an independent producer, he said.

She yawned.

I'm a big fan of yours, he said.

She shrugged and started to walk away.

I've got a project in development that's perfect for you, he said.

She turned on her six-inch heel.

Over drinks–many drinks–he'd spun out his tale. This picture was a killer. Couldn't miss. Guaranteed box office. It would make her as big a star in America as she already was in the Balkans.

She was listening.

Money? Sure, he had the money. A big investor group in Europe had practically begged him to let them finance it. Why, the first draw-down amount was due the first of next month.

Distribution? Sure, he had distribution. They were fighting over it at Fine Line and Miramax right now; his rep thought he could get an even bigger deal at Warner.

What's it called? she asked.

He ordered another round while he thought about it. Hell's Motel, he finally said. Killer concept. This French guy and this Swedish broad are lost in the desert at night, see, and they find this motel. But it's haunted, see. By a ghost with a chainsaw.

She chewed on the end of her paper umbrella for a while, looking almost like she was thinking. Sex scenes? she asked.

A few, he said. Tasteful as hell, though. They're just there to advance the story.

And you're paying me how much again?

He checked the cocktail napkin on which he'd written the initial figure. Surreptitiously, he added one more zero before he shoved it back over to her.

I'll call my agent, she said.

He'd had a week to have business cards printed and a couple of script pages written. Then he called her agent. Could she audition for him? Yes, of course she already had the part, but the investors wanted some guarantees that she could handle the sex scenes. They'd just go to the motel where they'd be filming and run a few lines so he could conceptualize it on location. It would be just him and her–no crew yet. Didn't want to inhibit her performance.

Her agent advised her against it. But she said what the hell; she'd never had a part she hadn't slept for yet.

So he'd picked her up that afternoon, and they'd been driving ever since. He hoped there really was a motel out this way.

Finally, a half-hour past all reasonable hope, when the sun was only a smudge behind the mountains, they saw the bright lights ahead.

TWILIGHT ZONE MOTEL, the big sign said. Below it, small red neon letters flashed V CAN Y.

"We're here, baby," he told her.


He couldn't believe his beady eyes. This place was a freaking time capsule, straight out of the '50s, all pink and turquoise down to the kidney-shaped pool. He half-expected to find Studebakers and T-birds parked in the lot. There weren't, of course. In fact, there weren't any other cars of any kind.

But it didn't matter. Besides, he could go for a little privacy tonight. He had a hunch that this broad was a screamer.

She waited in the Lexus while he went in the motel office. For lack of anything else to do, she scanned the sides again.


Oh, Pierre! You mustn't! This Wonderbra was a gift from my grandmother!


Your grandmother isn't here, ma petite. Let me see your sweet treasures.


Oh, Pierre!


Now, little one. Or I shall perish of love.


Oh, Pierre!


Gawd. Well, maybe Pierre would be cute.


The desk clerk, busy reading the evening paper, didn't look up when he walked in.

"Got a room with a king bed?" he asked.

The clerk kept on reading. "Got fifty bucks?"

Sold. Fifty bucks, and he didn't even have to buy dinner. Was this a great country or what?

The clerk took his money, counted it several times, and lifted a key off the pegboard on the wall. It was just as antique as the place itself, consisting of a Yale key chained to a gilded wooden tag. He could barely make out the faded TWILIGHT ZONE MOTEL, ROOM 22 stamped into the tag.

"Haven't seen room keys like this in years," he remarked.

The clerk didn't answer.

"What's checkout time?" he asked.

For the first time, the clerk made eye contact. "Checkout?"

"Yeah, checkout. The time we have to be out of here in the morning. Checkout."

He didn't see anything particularly funny about the question. But the clerk was still laughing when he went back out to the car.


The audition was a great success, and much later, they slept. So did the desert. No other car pulled into the motel that night; no traffic passed on the highway.

In the lobby, the desk clerk was still reading the newspaper. There was nothing odd about that in itself, but there was something odd about the dateline. Had the man not been in such a rush to audition the woman out in the car, he might have noticed the year on the front page: 1959.

He might also have noticed the other man, who'd been standing outside the lobby.

Now that man, dapper in a dark suit, thin tie, and slicked-back hair, strolled past their room. He paused for a moment to listen; then he continued on to the pool. He leaned against the rail facing their door and lit a cigarette. Half in shadow, half in reflected aqua light from the pool, he stood there smoking, waiting.


They got up early. He had to get the Lexus back to the rental place by noon, and she had to get home before her primary boyfriend got back into town. Neither of them admitted those reasons, of course; they'd just spoken vaguely of urgent business in the city.

"I think that went well," he said, knotting his tie. "I'm satisfied with your performance. I'm sure the investors will be, too, when I make my report."

She didn't say anything. She'd known since 3 a.m. that there were no investors and that there was no project, because she'd gone through his wallet and his pockets while he snored like a pig in the bed. Still, the evening had been kind of fun, in a way. And you never knew. If this guy ever did turn into a real producer, she'd given him reason to remember her.

Misreading her expression, he grinned and pulled her to him. "Let's have one for the road, baby."

With patience born of experience with real producers, she let him have his fun for a minute or two. Then she reached down to administer a sharp mood-altering honk.

He yelped. "What was that for?"

"It's almost 8. We've got to get going."

Well, he was ruined for the next few minutes anyhow. "OK, OK. Let me open these curtains, and then we'll go."

She watched him cross the room and fumble with the curtain pull, which seemed to be stuck. Idly, she wondered how often this room got cleaned.

Neither of them noticed the sticky white liquid that had just started oozing out of the baseboards.

Finally, he got the curtain open and started to move toward the door. But for some reason, his foot was stuck. "Goddamn cheap motels. Carpet's as sticky as a movie-theater floor."

She shrugged. She'd auditioned in worse places.

"I ought to make that lousy clerk give me a refund for–hey! What's that white shit?"

"What white shit?" she asked, incurious.

"On the carpet." He tried to pull up his other foot, but it was stuck too. "Come here and help me, would you?"

She checked her watch again. Quarter past 8. Damn him, if Ricky got home before she did... Well, she'd help this jerk out, and then she'd call a cab if she had to. So she started across the room.

Three steps later, she was stuck herself. And the white goo was spreading all over the carpet, running toward the center of the room.

"Let's take our shoes off," she suggested.

They tried that. Then, u

nwisely, they tried walking again. Now their actual feet were stuck.

"Fucking motel," he growled. "Can you reach the phone?"

She tried. But she lost her balance and fell into the goo, which promptly glued her in place, facing away from the window.

For her sake, it was just as well; she didn't see the shadow that blocked the light from the window, and she didn't understand why he screamed.

"What's the matter with you?" she screamed back.

He couldn't draw breath to answer right away. He was staring at what was outside staring in at them:

Six giant cockroaches, antennae twitching, scaly legs tapping the window glass gently.

"Oh, my God," he whispered.

"Oh my God what?!?"

Too bad about what happened after that. It would've made a great picture.


(c) 2002, K. Simpson


Notes: I don't know whether there's really a film festival in Oxnard; I just like the name. /// "The Twilight Zone" was in its first season in 1959–hence, the date on the newspaper the clerk is reading.

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