In about a month or so I will be re-releasing The Ultimate Bike Path—A Retro Ride: Book Two, the first sequel to my comedy/sci-fi story, Bicycling Through Space and Time. My character, cosmic bike rider Jack Miller, will be pedaling his 21-speed mountain bike with the alien-implanted 22nd gear into some more weird, wonderful, and dangerous places. I don’t even have a cover finalized yet, but here is the original Ace/Berkley cover from when they published it in the ’90s.
Of all Jack’s crazy adventures, one of my favorites (naturally) fills up the seven chapters in The Ultimate Bike Path where he rides into a “world” of old horror and science fiction movies. Yes, I had a ball writing this. A sample is forthcoming.
To set it up: Jack has not had a good couple of days. His bike has been taken, and he’s been bitten by a creature called a padoodle, leaving him cursed. The previous night, by the light of the half-moon, he turned into one of these things and wandered the countryside. Now, he is traveling to the castle of Dr. Frankenstein, whom he hopes will be able to lift the curse. He has just left a small village, where the peasants (the usual Angry Villagers from most of those old films) have given him some food and drink to take along. Here is the scene. Enjoy!
The bottom line was, I left the village with two sacks of food, three skins of wine, a walking stick, and a fist-sized rock with red letters painted on it that said, Souvenir of the Place You Just Came From (now there was something really useful). Again dat ole refrain, the vay is not alvays an easy vun, sounded after me.
Let me ruminate on that for a moment: I’d already covered about nine of the alleged twelve miles, and so far what was the big deal? Van Helsing the vampire hunter, although weird, was one of the good guys. The Gill Man could have caused bodily harm, but he was easy to outdistance. Lon Chaney Jr. was around, but harmless for at least another week or more. So with only three miles left to Castle Frankenstein, I wasn’t too bent out of shape.
Would that I could know what was yet…
But first things first. To say I was hungry would have rendered me the perpetrator of a gross understatement. Besides, not having eaten since…whenever, I must have expended a lot of calories during my padoodlistic meanderings of the night just passed. In deference to the townspeople and their paranoia I left the village quickly, stopping as soon as I was out of sight. Picked a nice place, too, a grove of sorta-eucalyptus trees surrounding an idyllic pond. The water was neither black nor tidi-bowl-colored, but normal. No matter, I wasn’t about to drink it, despite an overwhelming thirst.
Accordingly I squeezed half a skin of wine into my mouth, not something you’d normally do on an empty stomach, but I didn’t care. To tell the truth, this “wine” wasn’t anything like a ten-year-old Chardonnay; more like week-old, watered-down prune juice with a slight bouquet of Mr. Clean. Anyway, it was wet and did the trick.
Helga’s sack held a stale roll and a long, thick piece of wurst. Hilda’s sack held a stale roll and a long, thick piece of wurst. The piece of wurst in Helga’s sack was very tasty; in fact, it was the best wurst I’d ever eaten. On the other hand, the wurst from Hilda’s sack was terrible. Without a doubt it was the…
Go ahead, you finish it.
Anyway, I ate everything in both sacks and washed it down with the other half skin of “wine.” As I was finishing, an angelic-faced little girl of about six approached the far side of the pond. She was holding hands with the Frankenstein monster (Karloff’s version, definitely not Christopher Lee’s), who had this shit-eating grin on his stitched-up face. They dropped to their knees side by side and started throwing flowers atop the surface of the water. The monster thought this was really cool.
“Hey, kid,” I called, “you don’t really want to do that.”
The little angel stuck out her tongue and said, “Eat shit and die.”
The monster jerked up its middle finger and said, “Mlooorg brabblag.”
Yeah, well, the two of you have a nice day! They resumed tossing the flowers, and I got ready to leave. But as per the script they ran out of flowers, and the monster got all teary-eyed, because he liked watching pretty things float. Now, this is the scene they censored in the 1931 movie, later restored on videocassette. The monster picks up the kid and heaves her into the water, where she’s supposed to flounder and drown. But not this time. I reached in and dragged her to safety.
“See, I told you!” I said. “Little girls shouldn’t play with monsters. If I hadn’t been here you could’ve—”
Doing her best impression of the Trevi fountain, the brat spewed a quart of water in my face. She kicked me in both shins, then backed away a few yards as I hopped around in pain.
“Tear his arms off!” she cried to the monster. “Rip off his scrotum!”
“Dooooong makkkaaa,” the monster said menacingly, starting toward me.
All right, the hell with it! Let him drown the little shit next time. Grabbing my walking stick I exited stage right…in haste.
Moments later I was back on the rutted road that, a hundred yards farther along, narrowed as two sheer-walled cliffs on either side thrust themselves toward each other. At the same time an incredibly dense fog dropped down, filling the narrow rift and limiting visibility to ten feet…enough to see what was now on the road behind me.
A tall, spectral figure with seaweed and slime and shit dripping from it and eyes that glowed like burning coals. In its hand it held a nasty-looking gaff. It was the leprous Blake, and behind him the rest of his pissed-off crew from the Elizabeth Dane, the vessel sunk by the founding fathers of Antonio Bay, California, over a century ago. They were back, as usual, for their own brand of vengeance.
Gads, did these guys give me the willies!
“Jaaaa-c-c-kk,” Blake called in a gurgling voice, the gaff swinging like a pendulum as he and his crew shuffled toward me.
Did you know that Mach one could be achieved on land without the aid of a vehicle?