When booze becomes the only thing that floats your boat, it’s time to drain the lake.
This is why I was seriously considering hanging up the fez hat, shades and smoking jacket after 17 years in this thankless racket. Defending Thrillville from a motley assortment of mad scientists, monsters, gangsters, rapists, killers, kidnappers, and jaywalkers had definitely taken its toll on my sanity, which eventually meant sacrificing my sobriety. My giant martini glass had once been a main source of my power. Now it had become my worst enemy. Even more than lousy fashion and crappy music.
I’m Will the Thrill, by the way. Lounge Lizard for Hire. I fight crime for a living. Except it doesn’t actually pay anything, so I’m always broke. Cheap thrills do not pay bills. To be honest, I steal what little money I have, typically from crime scenes. Sometimes I sell the dope I’ve recovered. I’m not a good guy. I just act like one. I guess I’m what’s known as an “anti-hero.” I’m also anti-social. I hate people. Except for the ones with nice tits. And even then, only if they’re nice to me.
Superficial appearances count. I only dress like I’m a swingin’ hipster. It’s all part of my fabricated public image. People don’t believe what you tell them, they believe what you show them. Before I donned the snazzy duds, I was just another poor (in all senses), chronically lonesome schnook wasting his nights home alone with a good book or a bad movie. But once I found the magical Fez in a thrift shop one crazy day, my entire life changed. I soon discovered that with great power comes…you know, all that jazz. I hated the actual responsibilities of being a superhero. I’m a lazy bastard. I don’t even work out. I’m totally out of shape. I didn’t fit the popular profile. Plus my motivations were hardly altruistic. I was only in it for the pussy. And boy, did I score on that front. Chicks dig a cool uniform, even if there aren’t any muscles underneath. The only thing that turns them on more is money. That’s one superpower I did not have. But I managed to get by without out it. As long as I wore the Fez, which protected my true identity as a total loser. It was like a condom for my ego. I also found out it paid to wear pinkie rings on each fist when punching people in the face. My customized, unbreakable martini glass the size and density of a sledgehammer made an effective weapon as well. For wheels I had the Thrillmobile, a tricked out 1957 powder blue Thunderbird with leopard skin upholstery and a portable cocktail bar in the trunk, for on-the-fly crime-fighting fuel.
Rescuing damsels in distress kept me knee-deep in nookie on a regular basis, all right. If you can’t get paid you might as well get laid. But now even my penis was pooped. The pilot light inside my heart had blown out, too. Inside, I already felt dead. I was just waiting for that other cuff link to drop.
Anyway, one recent night I was slamming back serial bourbon shots while moping around in the Thrillpad – a single-room, pastel-painted, plushly appointed, midcentury modernist studio apartment equipped with a LP stereo system stocked with classic lounge/exotica albums; a big screen TV with a DVD player and a few dozen carefully selected old movies; a dime-store rack full of pulp novels; a closet full of backup fezzes and alternate silk smoking jackets in varying colors; a bureau with a mirror and a drawer full of black shades and pinkie rings; a hatrack where I hung my various luchadore masks for my undercover, international alias, “Guillermo El Thrillermo”; and of course a round, rotating water bed. Behind the martini bar was a portrait of the Holy Trinity: Frank, Dean, and Sammy. It was my shrine, where I went to worship when I needed sustenance from a Higher Power. And nobody got higher than those guys. The Thrillpad was my Fortress of Solitude and my Batcave combined. Except much smaller, with a lot more kinky sex toys scattered around, like tiki-shaped vibrators, edible hallucinogenic dice, and pornographic strip poker card decks.
It had been one long, wild thrill-ride.
But now it seemed the party was over. I was a middle-aged wolf, after all. Even my sidekick, The Tiki Goddess, the most beautiful and exotic woman I’d ever met, whose superpower was seduction, didn’t answer the Thrill-Phone or respond to the Thrill Signal anymore. I think she was tired of waiting around for me to marry her or something. I’d blown it. I was retiring from this racket exactly the way I’d started: alone.
That’s when a beautiful brunette with familiar bangs whom I wanted to bang on the spot knocked on the door then walked in when I opened it. She was a dead ringer for Bettie Page.
“I want you to find someone for me,” she said.
“No, I mean who do you want me to find.”
“Me. I want you to find me.”
“Who are you? You look just like Bettie Page.”
“Yea, that’s who you look like.”
“That’s also who I am.”
“I thought you were dead.”
“So did I.”
“Um…don’t take this wrong, but you didn’t die in your prime. You were, y’know…old.”
“Exactly. Weird, huh?”
After nearly two decades of facing off with everything from nympho vampires to alien hit men to rampaging robots to lycanthropic mobsters, I was accustomed to weirdness. Overly-familiar with it, in fact. This was exactly the kind of thing I was trying to get away from.
Then she suddenly let out a long, evil laugh.
“I’m just fucking with you,” she said. “I’m not actually Bettie Page. I’m just messin’ with you.”
“Because. That’s what I do. I’m The Mindfucker. Pleased to meet you.”
“Oh…well, please to meet you too, doll.” I extended my right hand for a shake.
“I’m sorry, I can’t shake your hand, because that would require corporeal presence.”
“I’m not actually here. You’re imagining all this.”
“Because I made you imagine it. In fact, I made you.”
“Because. I’m The Mindfucker. It’s what I do. Well…see ya!”
Then poof, she was gone.
I didn’t know what to make of this mysterious encounter. Did she present any actual danger? A pain in the ass, sure. But an actual public enemy that needed to be stopped? Hard to say, though given her unique powers of mind control, the potential certainly existed. I was reminded of my old nemesis, The Headshrinker. She was an impossibly sexy voodoo priestess who made one head swell while shrinking the other one – basically sucking both till they were left limp, empty and useless. But last I heard she was locked up in the Thrillville Asylum. And projecting mental illusions wasn’t really in her trick ‘r’ treat bag. I also flashed back to the notorious bitch known as The Ballbuster, but as far as I knew, she was dead. This was most likely an entirely new player. Just when I thought I was out…
At the time I was wearing only my wife beater, silk boxers, and argyle socks. I put on a white shirt, black slacks, skinny pink tie, aqua green smoking jacket, striped white tiger fur fez, and shades and went downstairs to the garage where I climbed into the Thrillmobile and drove around town, lost in thought, my perpetual jazz soundtrack on the radio. There was a full moon over Thrillville, which was a shadowy town even by daylight, though the sun hardly ever shone here. It was perpetually cloudy, which meant the neon signs on all the nightclubs were never turned off. And Thrillville was almost nothing but nightclubs, cheap residential hotels, diners and dive bars, all Googie style, the city council’s architectural mandate. The denizens were of both supernatural and human origin, mixing and mingling and mating in general harmony until a crime of passion or opportunity was committed and I was called into action. But things had been quiet for a while, and I figured they could live without me. The question was: could I live without them?
After driving around aimlessly for a while, I finally stopped at the urban tropical oasis known as Forbidden Island, the tiki lounge where The Tiki Goddess performed her nightly torch singing gig. Entertainment was her real career. She only became my crime-fighting sidekick after we were accidentally thrown together onto a case when Thrillville was being attacked by The Grunge Gang, a bunch of ugly thugs whose superpowers were bad hair, bad clothes, and bad attitudes – and they were contagious. They really rubbed her sense of style the wrong way, and she took on the task of sticking her sweet high-heeled feet right up their torn blue-jeaned asses before I jumped in and helped her. So I guess in effect I was her sidekick. In any case, we’d been close allies ever since. We slept together a few times, but I could tell she was getting serious, so I told her I couldn’t see her as often, and she cooled off from the crime-fighting bit. The truth was she was getting to me and the one vulnerability a crime-fighter can’t have is a loved one. I worried too much she’d become a target of my many enemies. Also, I was afraid of commitment. The reality was, she was the one and only person who knew my true identity as a complete schmuck, but still accepted me. For some reason, I couldn’t handle that.
The Tiki Goddess was onstage performing a moody medley in her smokey Julie London/June Christy style, backed up by the house band, a bunch of beret-wearing, bongo-beating beatniks called The Moon-Rays. I took a seat at the bamboo bar, ordered a classic Mai Tai, and waited for her set to end.
When she was finished, she joined me, but with a cool demeanor that clinked around in the air between us like the ice in my glass.
“Welcome to Chillville,” I said.
“What do you want?” she asked, cutting the chit-chat while nodding at the bartender, who responded immediately with a ready-made French 75.
“You had your chance.”
“True. And I regret that choice daily. But I’m only here with one question: Have you ever heard of a super-villain called The Mindfucker?”
“What do you mean, ‘sure’?”
“I mean yes, I’ve heard of The Mindfucker. It’s been around forever. Why?”
“He. She. It. Whatever. It assumes whatever form suits its particular agenda.”
“Which is what?”
“That constantly changes as well.”
“So how do I find it?”
“That the secret power of The Mindfucker. There is no Mindfucker. Not in singular, tangible form, anyway. That’s how The Mindfucker can operate without ever being captured. He/she/it remains at large, a perpetual perpetrator, precisely because he/she/it is constantly being regenerated by his/her/its own victims, even though the victims are in fact the perps.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “So The Mindfucker is an eternal entity?”
“Yes. It’s common knowledge, really. Surprised you’re just hearing about it. But then you’ve always been trapped inside your own head, haven’t you? That fez is more a like locked lid.”
“That’s crazy…so how do we know The Mindfucker isn’t controlling our senses right now?”
“So…my entire life, all of my memories, this very moment, could be…an illusion? Like a dream?”
“Yes…” She leaned closer to me. The mutual attraction was to strong for either of us to resist.
“Even…this?” I said.
“Yes….” She closed her eyes, bracing for passionate impact…
But before our lips met, there erupted an abruptly disruptive chorus of screaming from the surrounding patrons as a swarm of moaning undead monster men (and women) with glazed eyes and drooling mouths suddenly invaded the place. I recognized them right away, especially since they all dressed alike in gray sweat pants and T-shirts with matching corporate logos, but their physical appearances had deteriorated a great deal since I’d last noticed them. A steady diet of cloned pop culture will do that to a person.
The Corporate Corpses, as they were dubbed by the local media, were a ragtag band of normally peaceful zombified consumers controlled by an unseen but all-powerful billionaire industrialist known as The Conformist. The Corpses were dismissed by society as sad annoyances, stumbling around the local mall, bumping into each other while shopping for stuff they’d never need, but for some reason they’d suddenly developed a taste for other human brains, perhaps because of their own cerebral deficits. That may have been The Conformist’s master plan all along. But was The Conformist really in cahoots with The Mindfucker? Or were they in fact the same being?
A particularly aggressive zombie tore off The Tiki Goddess’s shiny satin dress, so she was wearing nothing but her leopard skin underwear and snake-skin pumps. I found this very distracting, but it didn’t detract from The Tiki Goddess’s ass-kicking abilities, as she swung her magnificent gams around with lethal athleticism, kick-boxing her way through the horrible hordes, smashing the skulls of her avaricious attackers, their putrid brains spilling all over the bamboo floor.
So why would The Conformist’s mindless minions, normally as harmless as mannequins, suddenly morph into cannibalistic predators, feasting on human flesh? Was The Mindfucker behind this sudden, radical change of behavior? Or was this even really happening? No time to debate myself. The screams of the patrons attempting to flee the zombies sounded all too real.
I ran outside to the Thrillmobile to retrieve my own trademark weapon, the giant martini glass, then returned to join the defense against the violent assault. But something unprecedented happened: my unbreakable martini glass broke. I just dropped it on the floor by accident, and it shattered. Defenseless, I was overwhelmed by the zombies. I felt them tearing into my body and my soul. I couldn’t see The Tiki Goddess anymore. One of them stabbed a metal straw right through my fez, penetrating my skull, and my brains were being sucked out right through the top of my torn scalp…
I was saved by the shrill ringing of the alarm clock. I looked at the time and groggily realized I was almost late for work. Again. I couldn’t afford to get fired from another job. I hopped out of my Murphy bed and into the shower after putting on an Esquivel album to set the mood for my day, which I was determined would be special. Then I neatly combed my hair, put on cologne, and wore my best tie, even though I was only a clerk in a chain store. Maybe today was the day I’d finally summon up the courage to ask my my dream girl and favorite customer out on a date, first summoning up the courage to actually talk to her outside of the heartless transactions. Then I’d quit my job. It was time for me to outgrow reality in favor or my fantasies. I was going to spike my coffee with whiskey, as usual, but instead settled for cream, and ran down to meet my bus.
By the way, I thought I should tell you that none of this actually happened, except in my own mind. And now yours.
Will “the Thrill” Viharo is a freelance writer, pulp fiction author, B movie impresario and lounge lizard at large. His novels A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge, Chumpy Walnut, Lavender Blonde, Down a Dark Alley, Freaks That Carry Your Luggage Up to the Room, It Came From Hangar 18 (with Scott Fulks), and the entire Vic Valentine, Private Eye series (including Love Stories Are too Violent For Me, Fate Is My Pimp, Romance Takes a Rain Check, I Lost My Heart in Hollywood, and Diary of a Dick) are now available. Actor Christian Slater is currently developing a film version of Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me. The original “Vic Valentine” cocktail is now being served exclusively at Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge in Alameda, CA. For more info swing by The Thrill’s
Bio photo by Jim Ferreira
–The color illustrations are isolated images from Thrillville event posters by artist Aaron Farmer.
–Theme song written and recorded by the Chicago band The Moon-Rays
–The b&w illustration from a column Will Viharo wrote in Too Much Coffee Man Magazine.