A short (hopefully) funny horror story from a few years ago, written when I found myself wondering where all those flash-in-the-pan teenaged idols come from and why they seem to be from the same factory…
“This is the most stupid-ass thing we have ever done.” Carl’s voice sounded tiny in the vastness of the darkened recording studio. “If we get caught they’ll throw away the fucking key.”
“Don’t worry.” Mike’s voice was calm, self-assured. He was always calm and self-assured, even when he was pulling shit that would send him and his friends straight into maximum security. “I called in the bomb threat and they evacuated the building. The cops won’t be here for at least another hour. I got it covered.”
“Shit, Mike, do you know the meaning of the word ‘felony’?”
Mike ignored him. He was dressed like a ninja, in plain black with a balaclava pulled over his head and a collection of tools and computer equipment at his belt. He pointed down the hall.
“There. The masters are kept in B-57.” He moved silently toward the door and waved at Carl to follow. “Come on, you pussy. We’re gonna make history.”
“Shit,” Carl repeated, following along. What else could he do? He’d already broken a score of laws just getting in here.
Behind the locked doors of Room B-57 lay the unreleased masters for Jaden Valentine’s newest single “Girl, You Know You’re the One.” If past performance was any indication, the song would follow “Let Me Into Your Heart,” “Kiss Me, Thrill Me,” “I’ll Be Your Only Guy” and a dozen other brain-dead pop anthems to number one, further enriching 16-year-old Jaden, his pushy stage mother and his greasy manager. Not that his legions of 12- to 14-year-old girls really cared that the object of their worship was just another mass-produced, interchangeable pop idol – right now most of them spent all their time in school, writing “Mrs. Jayden Valentine” over and over again on their PeeChees and notebooks.
Mike’s website, bubblegumsuicide.com, took great pride in puncturing the pretentions of “artists” such as those represented by Replica Media, including heart-throbs like Jaden and his predecessor, the late but unlamented Jason Sweet, boy bands like In Step, slutty pop-tarts like Madison Starr and Chloe Leon and has-beens like 80s metal sensation Ricky Rockwell. When he’d suggested breaking into Replica’s studios and lifting Jayden’s unreleased masters, Carl had thought it was nothing but bravado.
“It’ll kick ass,” Mike had said. “We’ll release ‘em anonymously online — no one’ll know it was us, and we’ll link to ‘em from our site. Millions of those stupid little teenaged morons will download ‘em and Replica will lose a fortune. Jayden’ll be back working at Taco Bell and they’ll never know it was us.”
“Yeah, great idea, Mike.” Carl felt vaguely irritated at his friend’s smarmy confidence. “They’d just find another one exactly like him. Remember that Penguins pre-game concert two years ago? When the Zamboni dismembered Jason Sweet just as he was coming out for an encore? Six weeks later Replica Records trotted out Jayden Valentine and he took up the slack like nothing happened. They build those little fuckers on an assembly line.”
“Well, we gotta start somewhere, don’t we?”
Carl had only sighed and agreed that it would be a cool idea. He’d never expected Mike to actually go through with his plan.
And now, of course, here he was, staring at six to ten years in lockup, being a serial rapist’s bitch.
Why the fuck did he ever let Mike talk him into this kind of shit?
By the time Carl finished his reverie, Mike had already hacked the door combo and disappeared inside. For a long moment Carl considered simply running, leaving Mike and his stupid schemes behind. Then he heard a loud exclamation from inside the room.
“Holy shit!” For once Mike’s voice wasn’t confident or self-assured. Now it was just plain scared.
Carl burst through the door, saw what was inside and stood beside Mike, slack-jawed and staring, his heart pounding like a jackhammer. Behind him, the door clicked shut.
It wasn’t a recording studio. Well, there was certainly recording equipment – a glassed-in booth, mixing console, laptops, keyboards, drums and various instruments – but beyond the mundane gear the room extended at least the length of a football field, disappearing into gloom. It was lined with huge, upright glass cylinder that sprouted wires, cables and pipes. Each cylinder was filled with a bubbling clear solution illuminated from within, and suspended in it…
“Oh, god, what the fuck is this?” Mike’s voice was tiny now, like that of a small child lost in a vast wilderness. Slowly he pulled off his balaclava and let it drop to the floor.
Each tube contained a naked human body, floating like Luke Fucking Skywalker in the Fucking Bacta Tank. They were all male, all perhaps fifteen years old, and they all looked like…
“Jayden.” Mike walked toward one of the tubes, staring. “They’re all Jayden.”
Carl’s legs began to tremble and he stepped backwards, feeling for a chair or a wall or something to support him.
“No,” he said. “Someone just like him.” It all suddenly made sense. “The girls grow up, Jayden Valentine songs stop selling, then he gets sucked into a jet engine or something, they wait a while and defrost one of these fuckers… Make him look a little different… Give him blonde hair and a soul patch or some shit… Program him with some dumbass songs and just let the fucking money roll in.”
Mike continued to stare at the tube where the horrid Jayden-thing bobbed and floated like a corpse, tethered by wires and tubes, eyes closed, skin dead-white. Then he spoke and his voice was hard.
“No,” he said. “No. I won’t let ‘em do it.” He turned, striding toward the instruments that hung from the wall behind the drum kit. With a single motion he pulled a heavy black bass guitar down, gripped it by the neck and strode toward the cylinders.
“Shit!” Carl sprang into action, racing after his friend, grabbing his arm, trying to wrest the guitar away. “Don’t! Shit! We’re in enough trouble –“
Mike spun around. His eyes were wild and angry.
“You want to let them get away with this? Fuck you! I’m gonna smash every single fucking one of these things, then I’m gonna blow the whistle! I’m gonna tell the world!”
“Mike, no… You can’t –“
Then Mike swung the bass, slamming Carl in the stomach, tumbling him, writhing, to the floor.
Stunned, struggling to speak, to stop his friend, Carl watched as Mike smashed the guitar against the nearest tube. The entire structure vibrated and the naked thing inside twitched spasmodically, but the thick glass held.
Panting, snarling, Mike struck again, and this time dug a white gouge out of the glass, tiny sparkling shards flying. As he swung the bass back for another strike, Mike caught it on a bundle of wires and ferociously tore it loose. Sparks exploded and the lights inside the tube flickered. Down the line, other lights began to flicker and the creatures joined in a spasmodic dance, convulsing and thrashing.
At last Carl found his voice. “MIKE! MIKE, DON’T!” He staggered to his feet as the overhead lights began to waver.
He was too late. With a final swing, Mike slammed the bass against the glass. The neck broke and steel strings snapped, but the tortured glass finally surrendered, shattering into pieces, sending a rush of clear fluid gushing out, covering Mike and sending him sprawling as the rubbery body slithered on top of him, still twitching and writhing.
A shower of sparks and vapor erupted, replicated down the line of cylinders, accompanied by sharp electrical cracks and the shattering of glass. The air was hot and smelled of burning insulation. One by one the tubes collapsed, and the rush of fluid became a flood.
On the floor Mike struggled against the torrent and the pale, doughy creature from the cylinder. The fluid was sticky, dripping off their bodies like clear syrup, and as Carl watched with growing revulsion, the Jayden-thing seized Mike’s neck with clawed fingers and its ill-formed mouth began to gnaw at the side of his head.
“Girl, you know you’re the one,” it growled wetly with soft lips and an unformed tongue, just enough like Jayden Valentine to be sickening. “You’re the only one for meeeee…”
Carl rushed forward, shrieking, fighting through the syrupy flood until at last he reached Mike.
“Jesus!” Mike screamed. He’d dropped the remains of the guitar and now clutched at the creature’s face, trying to push it away. The flesh was soft and oozed through his fingers like jello, but the gaping mouth continued to open and close mindlessly. He jabbed a finger into the thing’s eye and it burst like rotting fruit, splattering black ichor.
“Girl, please… don’t… huuurt… meeeeeee…” Its malformed voice dropped in pitch like a toy running out of batteries.
Fighting nausea, Carl grabbed the Jayden-thing in a headlock and heaved, bracing his feet against the sticky floor. After a moment the creature came loose and fell backwards into the muck, then began to crawl back toward Mike.
“Girl… let meee… looooooooove… Youuuuuuu…” It was a ragged, barely audible rasp.
Mike scrambled to his feet, seized the broken bass neck and threw himself at the creature, stabbing. The broken wood plunged into its soft face and broke through to the other side, and the Jayden-thing collapsed, shaking and quivering.
Words continue to ooze from its ruined lips. “Girl… you’re… girl… you’re… giiiiiirrrlllllll…”
Carl grabbed Mike’s arm. “Come on! We gotta get the fuck outa here!”
Still staring down at the dying thing on the floor, Mike turned and let Carl lead him toward the door.
Carl gaped, terror flaring inside him. A half-dozen of the other Jayden-things had crawled across the slime-covered floor, and were between them and the door. One of them looked up at him with tiny black eyes and opened its mouth, yowling like an angry cat. A moment later the others looked at them and joined in the chorus. With a stab of horror, Carl realized that they were yowling in harmony.
Then the lights went out and Carl plummeted into darkness. Outside a klaxon began to sound, drowning out the creatures’ yowls. Carl wasn’t sure whether he was screaming or not, and he didn’t care, dragging Mike toward the place where the door had been, blindly waving one arm. He blundered into an office chair and felt the metal score the flesh of his shin, then fell against the mixer console. From out of the darkness he felt the pulpy touch of a half-formed finger and caught the rank, chemical scent of the thing’s exhalation. Then Mike screamed and was torn away from him, and the creatures’ howls rose up again, joining with the klaxon in a horrific cacophony.
“Let me take you in my arms,” howled a dozen voices as Mike’s screams faded away, replaced by wet, chewing sounds. “Let me into your heart…”
There was nothing more. Carl was a fleeing animal now, all thoughts gone save a desperate need to survive. He crashed into a wall but his questing fingers found the door and pressed against the handle. Carl felt a wash of desperate relief when the door moved and he stumbled out into the corridor, leaving the writhing horde in darkness behind.
He pulled the door shut. There was a hand caught there, but with a tug he slammed it, and the convulsing hand was sliced off, lying in a puddle of goo on the floor. Muffled but still horrific, the creatures howled in unison.
Lights flashed in the hallway and the sirens were still going as Carl limped away. His leg hurt – maybe he’d injured it on the chair, or maybe one of those Jayden Valentine clones had bitten it… He didn’t care. He was leaving. If they caught him, hell, the worst that would happen would be jail. Jail didn’t sound so bad, compared what he’d just seen.
With a clang, another door swung open, then further down the hall another, and then another. Carl stared, mouth open, trying to scream but knowing that nothing would come out.
From the nearest door a pinkish amalgam of four bodies spilled forth, welded together into a single multi-limbed mass, groaning and gurgling. The soft faces all looked youthful and horribly familiar. Words emerged from their gaping maws, a lisping parody of four-part harmony.
“Loooonely… So loooonly without youuuuuuu…”
…Replica Media… Jaden Valentine’s label… Along with boy bands like In Step…
A figure shambled from a doorway down the hall, dripping with the same fluid as the others. It was female, shapely, with long pale hair and a sculpted face. Carl recognized its face. He’d seen it on the cover of a hundred gossip magazines and in a dozen music stores. Then another, almost identical, appeared behind it, and another…
“Touch… my… body,” they sang in a dead monotone. “Touch my body… babyyy…”
…slutty pop-tarts like Madison Starr…
A bent and twisted thing that might have been an old man had it not been for its coating of sticky liquid and its half-formed face lurched toward Carl. It had thick, protruding lips and an aristocratic nose, and its eyes were blue…
…and has-beens like 80s metal sensation Ricky Rockwell…
The hallway seethed with the creatures, and as Carl watched, more doors opened and more ooze-covered forms emerged. He recoiled at the touch of the thing that looked like Madison Starr, turning and falling into the multi-armed embrace of the groaning members of In Step. He screamed as their soft fingers dug into his flesh, and the Ricky Rockwell thing grabbed one leg and began to gnaw.
“I’m ready for rockin’,” it mumbled, slime bubbling from its mouth. “I ready to rock ya…”
Carl screamed as the others joined in, moaning a grim dirge of pop hits.
He screamed for a long time.