How I Saved a Famous Movie Star’s
Life, that Guy from the Space Movie, the
One with the Monster, or Maybe It Was a Vampire,
I Can Never Remember His Name, But
You’d Recognize Him If You Saw Him,
By Martin Mundt
He crashed through the front door of Cyprian’s gun store, and the zombies piled in right on top of him. The first thing I remember thinking wasn’t, ‘Hey, it’s a bunch of zombies,’ which is what you’d think I’d remember; but ‘Hey, I know that guy. I’ve seen him in the movies,’ but I couldn’t tell if he was Robert Picardo, or Michael Ironside, or Wallace Shawn, or who he was, because right away I got distracted because a zombie grabbed his leg and tried to bite through it. He shoved the muzzle of a Glock 17 pistol against the flesh-eater’s forehead and blew his brains out the back of his skull. The zombie’s head snapped back, smoking from the bullet-hole, just as another zombie – this one a woman, young and probably pretty if she hadn’t been all broken teeth and dead eyes – tried to shoulder her way between the door and the doorframe, lunging at his throat with her sharp, snapping teeth, but he smashed her head with the door – it was made of plate steel – four, five, six times, clang, clang, clang, until her skull collapsed into black mush, and then he heaved her outside and slammed the door closed.
I could see right off the bat that he was a top-notch zombie-man. Cool under pressure. Experienced. He’d barely broken a sweat. But I wouldn’t have expected anything less from a celebrity. I remembered that spy-thriller-action-adventure-drama vehicle I’d seen him in five years back like it was yesterday. I don’t remember the title – I’m as bad with titles as I am with names – but he played an average Joe, just a regular guy like me or you who gets involved with international assassins and drug cartels and the President of France (who also turned out to be an international assassin) and a whole bunch of hot, deadly, ice-cold German chicks, and he just kicked ass.
Was he Clancy Brown? Jackie Earle Haley? Danny Trejo? I just couldn’t place him.
But it didn’t matter, because the zombies didn’t care; they just kept banging against the door, and it wasn’t going to hold them for long. I could already see daylight flashing around its edges every time the brain-eaters surged against it, more and more daylight every time, plate steel or no plate steel.
He ejected the magazine from his Glock and glanced at it. “Out,” he said.
God, his voice seemed even more familiar than his face. Was he Stephen Baldwin? William Baldwin? He couldn’t possibly be Alec Baldwin, could he?
The door began to bend at the corners and crumple. I got a look outside, and zombies filled the street like an SRO cemetery, all groaning and screaming and wailing. I unholstered my .357 Magnum and tossed it to William, or Stephen, or Alec, or whoever he was.
No, wait! Maybe he was Adam Baldwin! I studied his profile, but I just couldn’t be sure. But whoever he was, he caught my revolver by the handle and turned to the door in one smooth motion, finger on the trigger without any wasted motion, instantly ready to open up a can of Hollywood whup-ass on a zombie that was squeezing his head through a bent corner of the door.
I grabbed a Remington 870 shot-gun off the counter, when Cyprian, who owned the store, came out from the back room. He saw the corpse and blood on the floor and his door getting battered in. I had to give him credit; he came from the old country, and he knew a siege when he saw one. He cracked open a box of shotgun shells and tossed them to me; and then he pulled his trusty old Soviet Makarov pistol out from his belt at the small of his back, ready to plug the first person through his door.
I loaded while Adam – or maybe he was Andrew Robinson? I can never place anyone’s face. It’s very annoying – but anyway, we both backed away from the by-now mangled door as it swung open when its lock popped free. Adam, or Andrew, or maybe he was Armin Shimerman, fired with control and precision – one shot, one kill. He took out five zombies in five seconds, re-killed and sprawling in the doorway, but more scrambled over their twitching corpses trying to get at us in an instant. Well, hell, it wasn’t like I hadn’t expected zombies someday, you know? Or vampires, or wolfmen, or aliens, or agents of the one-world government. They were all the same, really, when you got right down to it – it was either me or them.
Adam, or Andrew, or Armin fired off the last round in the Smith&Wesson. Another zombie dropped like a sack of fan mail. “Out,” he said again.
By then I’d gotten a good, solid, analytical look at the way he handled a weapon, and I liked what I saw. I thought: maybe he’s William Sadler. He’s got Sadler’s smooth and graceful movements, almost weaponized in their economy. Or maybe he’s William Forsythe. He seemed gripped by a controlled rage, as if he could concentrate the fury of his personality into his bullets, making them more deadly and more destructive than bullets from a regular gun, like dum-dums, but with that little extra sizzle called star-power. But I still couldn’t quite place him. Maybe he was William Sanderson, with that tightly wound, cross-threaded, missing-an-important-safety-feature kind of intensity that Sanderson possessed.
“Behind me,” I said, and he slid behind me, as if not fouling my field of fire were the most natural thing in the world for him. I leveled the Remington at the door the instant the hinges finally sheared off under the weight of the undead.
“The koonter,” bellowed Cyprian in his vague, slow, guttural, not-quite-identifiable Euro-accent, as if he had learned to speak English by riding the Orient Express between Istanbul and Edinburgh in his youth. “Geet behint.”
I emptied the Remington into the nearly undifferentiated mass of howling, lurching zombies that oozed through the door like rotting, putrescent toothpaste. My shells splattered brains and skulls and thick black blood across the walls like the inside of Jackson Pollock’s shower after he painted One: Number 31, 1950.
William, or William, or William jumped the counter like he’d never needed a stuntman and never would. I pulled the trigger on my now-empty Remington, and still the zombies came on like Black Friday shoppers after the last 36” plasma TV. A middle-aged zombie woman jacked her mouth wide like some blue-haired python to eat my face off. Did I compare them to rotting toothpaste? Make that lava with teeth. I drove the Remington’s butt through the she-zombie’s mouth and brain and out the back of her skull. The crack of skull-bone sounded like victory.
Then I slid my ass over the counter, and that’s when I saw Cyprian break into a big, evil, shit-eating, Euro-grin. Cyprian’s grin always unnerved me, because he’d had his front teeth, top and bottom, replaced with clusters of some kind of small, black jewels, meant to resemble caviar. Why? I didn’t know. I did know that he always smelled faintly of fish. Just Cyprian being Cyprian, I thought. But I did know what was coming next.
Cyprian had told me once what he expected from life, and it wasn’t zombies, or vampires, or wolfmen. He was too grounded in the real world for that sort of thing. Gun store owners aren’t big on imagination. He knew what kind of dead-eyed evil the world could throw at a man without resorting to boogeymen. Cyprian liked to make vague references to Eastern European gangsters, references that sometimes blended into terrorists and smugglers and then back again without much in the way of specifics. His first line of defense had been to disappear into Cyprian, his false American identity, and dive into the murky ocean of capitalism. His second line of defense was a little more pro-active.
A claymore mine: a wedge-shaped charge of high-explosive set behind a couple of hundred steel balls, like a great, huge, directional grenade. And there’s a reason it’s named after a Scottish Claymore sword, because it hacks a huge, bloody, ugly swath through whatever it hits.
Zombies surged through the door.
I knew Cyprian had hidden claymores throughout his home, under his bed, behind his toilet. He had them in his car and his yacht. So I guess it was no surprise he had them in his store.
Cyprian set off the claymore he’d hidden in the counter.
A deafening BOOM-CRACK shook the room and nearly sawed my ears off. I swear to God I actually saw the shock wave as it fluttered through dead zombie flesh. The walls rippled like they were made of ballistics gel, and for an instant I thought they might collapse and bury us all in rubble. Hundreds of steel balls gut-ripped zombies in half like they were perforated bags of half-digested hamburger.
“Ha-ha! Zombie fooks!” Cyprian screamed. “I keel you all! Ha-ha!” He laughed so hard he started to cry.
I had to hand it to Cyprian; it was a beautiful sight, watching zombies get shredded by the steel hand of some sadistic Eastern European god of caviar smugglers. But by the time the smoke started to clear, I could already see more untouched zombies lumbering through the door. Cyprian had lanced the boil, all right, but the pus was still oozing.
“Back room,” I heard when my hearing started to work again. Damn, but his voice was familiar. Who was this guy? Will Patton? Bradley Whitford? Chris Cooper?
I knew he wasn’t a big star. I mean, I couldn’t not recognize a big star, right? I’d been on a bus one time with Tom Cruise, and let me tell you, I remember that experience. And I rode on an elevator once with Tom Hanks. And I filled my gas tank in a Shell station this one time not ten feet away from Ted Levine. So, like I said, I know from big stars, right?
For one thing, really big stars all have really big heads, and I don’t mean that as a cheap-shot slam at their egos. I mean it literally: stars’ heads really are big in proportion to their bodies. It’s actually sort of creepy in person, but also weirdly hypnotic at the same time. It’s like you start looking for the wires they need to hold up their heads. But I guess that really big heads must be more photogenic than regular-sized heads.
But this guy didn’t have a really big head, not like a big star’s really big head. Don’t get me wrong. His head was big, bigger than mine, and bigger than Cyprian’s, just not really big. I guess it was in-between big, like character-actor big. But I still couldn’t place him.
Was he Julian Richings? Michael Berryman? Frank Langella?
But his identity didn’t really matter much at that moment. We had to retreat, so we retreated, and we slammed and barred the door against the zombie horde. The problem was, we’d already seen exactly how well putting a steel door between us and the dirt-nappers worked: it didn’t. But at least Cyprian’s back room came stuffed to the rafters with weapons.
The zombies started to pound on the door.
“I’ve seen this movie before,” I said. I hoped my clever, yet relevant, mention of his industry might prompt him to reference a movie he’d been in, and then I could figure out who he was. I was leaning toward Anthony Zerbe, or maybe Brad Dourif, or maybe Luis Guzman, but my little ploy didn’t work any better than I expected the barred door would work. He focused on the moment, on survival. I should have known. He was a celebrity, a star. He was used to focus, used to doing what needed to be done, used to living on the edge. His eyes took in the layout of the room and its contents in a moment, but even that wasn’t fast enough for Cyprian.
“We out the back go,” Cyprian said, and he flung open the door to the alley. “Stoopid zombie fooks.”
“Nooooooo!” screamed that maddening, familiar voice. Scenes from movies where actors screamed ‘Nooooooo!’ flashed through my mind, scenes from video games, from commercial voice-overs, from animated movies, but I still couldn’t remember his name. Was he Seth Green? Seth Rogen? Seth Meyers? No, no, and nooooooo!
The door slammed hard against the wall.
Zombies filled the alley like they’d been poured into it, then been tamped down to squeeze out all the air pockets between them, and then more zombies had been poured in on top of the zombies already there, so that there were as many zombies as possible inside the alley. All in all, as Cyprian might say, a whole metric fookload of zombies.
Cyprian never had a chance. They grabbed him and tore him limb from limb, like they were the diamond-drilling head on a tunnel-boring machine and he was a vein of caviar-bearing rock.
Seth, or Seth, or Seth tried to save Cyprian, but a blonde zombie woman in her twenties clutched him by the arm, and tried to take a bite out of his bicep.
Now, there’s one thing you have to understand about me. No one – and I mean no one – fooks with celebrities around me, not if I have anything to say about it. They have enough crap to deal with in their lives, if you ask me. So I swept up the nearest weapon without even looking at it and fired. I hit the damned she-zombie right in the eyes with the two steel prongs of a Taser (and a hearty Thank You! to the good people at TASER International, Inc. for their fine product), and scrambled the connection between her muscles and her dim bulb of a brain, making her dance like the Shakira of my dreams; except, of course, she wasn’t really as photogenic as Shakira, because she had a really small head, especially after it burst into flames and exploded from the electricity.
He slammed the door in her flaming face, severing her arm between the door and the doorjamb. And there we stood, the two of us, alone. Thrown together by circumstance. Facing death together. Me and Tracey Walter. Or Tom Savini. Or Daniel Dae Kim.
Zombies hammered on both doors like sledgehammers, the steel already failing. Funny. I’d never given much thought to hinges before, but now they seemed like one of the pillars of Western civilization. We looked at each other, and at the very same moment, we both laughed. Neither of us would have wanted this any other way.
We didn’t have much time.
“Back to back,” we both said, again, at the very same moment.
We spent the seconds we had left in a montage. Picture a dizzying variety of deadly but sleek automatic weapons being loaded and strapped onto deadly but sleek bodies. Picture magazines being slammed home into semi-automatic pistols and shoved into belts. Picture machetes and KA-BAR knives being sheathed in leather bandoleros stretched across deadly but sleek chests. Then picture the final weapons of choice. Both men grin like wolves when they open a crate covered in Cyrillic letters. They recognize the contents, clearly smuggled. They help themselves to this weapon that makes them truly happy and content. But the audience is kept in suspense, because this weapon is a surprise, and the audience will find out its identity at the same moment that the zombies find out.
We braced ourselves back to back in the middle of the room, him facing the inside door, and me facing the alley door. I stretched my neck muscles, cracking my vertebrae like Bruce Lee, and then I was ready.
“Good luck,” I said.
“Luck’s got nothing to do with it,” he said, and I knew he didn’t need any overpaid Hollywood writers, because he came up with these lines himself. He put the period to his sentence by slamming home his final magazine in his final weapon. He knew drama. He knew suspense. He knew action. I wondered if he knew happy endings.
By this time, the zombies had smashed the doors into four-dimensional shapes that should only have been possible in theory and not in reality. And when we were both hot and ready, both doors collapsed at the same instant, like the start of a dog race.
Did you ever have that dream where all of a sudden zombies are everywhere trying to eat you raw, and it’s like you’ve got six cybernetic arms to fight them off with, and your mind expands until you’re ten times the man you ever thought you could be and you’re so preternaturally calm you even scare yourself with the depth of your calm in the face of your own certain death? Well, the back room of Cyprian’s gun store got just like that dream real fast after those doors smashed to the floor. And then, just like in the dream, I felt a powerful sense of sudden slow-motion fill me. A peaceful stillness. A profound tranquility.
The zombie horde staggered into range.
That’s when I set off the triple layer of claymores I had strapped to my chest, and he set of his, and the recoil of all that C4 hurled our bodies against each other, and our flesh rippled and fluttered together, and for the briefest of moments, we became, through the force of the C4, almost imploded into each other, an intimacy I had never before and never expect to feel again with another human being ever. Was he Vincent D’Onofrio? Ron Perlman? Or, perhaps most disturbing and/or transcendent of all, Linda Hunt? I wish I knew.
Well. Now you probably expect me to describe the carnage, both in every forensic detail and splatterpunk particular, but I’m not going to do that. You know what zombies are like. You know what carnage is like. You can put the two together, and see zombie intestines blown through the ceiling, and zombie feces spilled sloshing ankle-deep on the floor, and zombie brains exploding all around like giant, corkscrewing sprays of Coke and Mentos; and everything your imagination will show you is better than any description I could ever give anyway -- unless of course you’re under thirty and spend all your free time playing first-person shooter video-games and your imagination has atrophied to the point where it’s nothing but a small, hard, black pellet of rabbit crap: in which case I’ll say that the battle was so intense that decapitated heads caked the walls a yard deep all around, and severed limbs were so thick in the air that we inhaled them.
In fact, we filled the room with walls of the dead.
We kept firing for thirty minutes after the last zombie fell under the weight of our bullets. Ever since that day, I have never been able to straighten my trigger fingers all the way out again. My sense of smell died that day as well. But that’s okay, and do you know why? Because I was alive at the end of it all.
And so was John Noble. Or Michael Moriarty. Or Tony Todd. Because it turned out that he did know happy endings.
And then I saw the pens – Sharpies – in zombie hands, and the bits of paper, now ripped and charred by hot lead and sodden with blood and bile, and the 8X10 photos of Jeffrey Combs, or Andrew Divoff, or Kurt Fuller, or whoever he was.
I set my boot on a pile of body parts and shoved the sloppy pile of hot, wet meat aside. More Sharpies appeared inside the meat like plastic ribs. And more photos. And autograph books. And the truth revealed itself to me in a flash like a stripper’s final reveal.
I saw it all.
“Fans,” I said.
“Fans,” he said, and he said the word with such a deep, abiding sadness that God Himself would have wept to hear it, even if He were having a pretty good day otherwise. “Fans,” he said, “in Stage Three of the disease.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Sometimes, something just happens to people, you know? A spontaneous transformation, and people just … change. Lots of people are Stage One fans; they have their favorite TV shows that they don’t like to miss, their favorite actors, nothing too serious, mostly a vicarious thrill. Then there’s Stage Two. Stage Two people watch TMZ, subscribe to People Magazine, The National Enquirer, attend the Oscars in order to see the stars in person, and even try to put themselves in position to meet the stars if they can. Mostly harmless, but sometimes they can veer towards the edge of obsession. But then there’s Stage Three.” He indicated the bloody, broken, mutilated, dismantled, dismembered, vivisected, disarticulated bodies on the floor all around us, their faces frozen in a horrid oblivion beyond lust, beyond obsession, beyond even the horrible emptiness of the people who appear on reality TV shows.
“There’s nothing you can do for them once they’ve entered Stage Three,” he said. “We’ve tried. God knows we’ve tried. The studios have set up institutes all over Hollywood to study this problem, so we could reverse it, or at least arrest the effects at Stage Two, but even after decades of study, we’re still no closer to a cure. And once they enter Stage Three, they can’t get enough; celebrities are nothing but food to them; they’ll tear us to pieces, given half a chance, and I mean any celebrities – weathermen, infomercial pitchmen, cable-access horror movie hosts -- if you’ve been on TV, they’ll eat your brain.”
The quarter dropped.
“You mean,” I said. “River Phoenix? Sam Kinison? Chris Farley? They didn’t …”
“Die of natural causes, or drugs, or whatever the press said about them?” He shook his head and laughed a rueful laugh. “No. They were torn to pieces by people just like these. Hollywood hushed it all up, of course. It’s not their fault, and we’re still working for a cure. And we won’t give up. We can’t give up. This is our responsibility, in some small way.”
One of the zombies moved, struggling to free herself from the pile of severed limbs and dismembered torsos lying on top of her. She scrabbled a bloody hand, holding a Sharpie, towards his foot. He shot her between the eyes. Twice. Two empty cartridges thumped into the sodden pile of body parts. It no longer sounded like victory; it sounded like sadness, two sticky lumps of sadness.
“We can’t give up,” he said. “Someday we’ll find a cure.” He looked into my eyes. Was he searching for the first signs of the disease in me? Was he considering blowing my brains out as well? I’ll never know, but after a moment, he shoved the pistol into his bandolero and held out his hand to shake mine.
“Thanks,” he said. “But be careful.” He took my hand in his. He had a strong, solid, deadly but sleek grip, but I had expected no less from Doug Jones, or Wes Studi, or DJ Qualls. “There could still be some of them around, and it can happen in the blink of an eye. Sorry, but you’re in danger as long as you’re around me.”
He left through the front of the store, picking his way over the slippery mounds of bodies.
When he was gone, I looked in my hand. In my palm, I found he’d left me a pass for a Universal Studios tour in Hollywood. Half-price for one. And I had to kick myself.
Because, after all we’d been through, I’d forgotten to get his name.
And now I had no idea how to contact him with my idea for a screenplay about a movie star and his best friend and sidekick, who he meets in a gun store, and their adventures as the lead members of a quick-response team of zombie-killers operating out of a secret base in Hollywood.
I call it ‘Beyond the Walls of the Dead’.
I think it’s the perfect action-adventure-horror-thriller-fantasy-sci-fi vehicle for Dave Foley, or Jeff Fahey, or Jeff Conaway, or Keith David, or David Keith, or Keith Carradine, or Matt Frewer, or Daniel Roebuck.
Oh, wait, wait! I know who he was! Billy Drago!
Or maybe he was Fred Willard.
I can’t quite place him.
Well, anyway, if you read this, you know who you are.
Call me: we’ll talk.
- The End -