This isn't it.
In the Jacinto Cemetery of Zacatecas, just north of the Yucatan, many small parade processions wind like candlelit snakes between the plots, careful not to step on any space sitting six feet above a grave. The people dress in cotton and traditional weaves. The baskets they carry are filled with freshly baked cinnamon breads, pots of beans, hand-made gorditas, raw-milk cheeses, thinly sliced lemons and bottles of tequila. Black and white photos of the deceased are held to mourner's chests, face out so everyone can see their silvery smiling countenances wreathed in gold painted rococo frames. Garlands of marigolds are hung from headstones. Quiet tunes are played on flamenco guitars. Tequila is sipped while good stories are told of old friends faintly remembered. Eyes tear up. Eyes too stern to show emotion by the harsh light of day find freedom in the darkness of the night.
Apart from all this scurries a ghoul in a tattered black cloak, leaping over graves to make his way towards the biggest gathering he can find. He stops the music of one procession with a gnarled hand grabbing the fret of a man's guitar. The charro playing it, name of Miguel, looks up at him perturbed.
“Please Senor,” says Igor in broken Spanish, “I need your food.”
Miguel looks him over. The man doesn't seem to be starving, but it is hard to tell from the billowing black cloak.
Igor pulls out a raggedy handful of brightly colored bills and shakes it in Miguel's face, “I have pesos. I can pay.”
Miguel pulls his guitar back from the man's hand. If the ghoul had been poor and starving he would have conceded, but a man with money on the day of the dead who did not think in advance to get himself a meal deserves to go hungry, at least until daybreak.
“I am sorry,” says Miguel, “I cannot help you, our food is for family, the living and the not. Maybe he can help you. Over there. Mr. Moundshroud.”
Miguel points Igor to a tall man slowly pushing a canopied cart along the cemetery road, one lit by the burning lumps of a thousand dying candles.
Igor leaps over a cemetery plot, marigold petals swirling in his wake, and makes haste in the cart's direction.
MoundshroudThe cart has been crafted from petrified wood with discarded wheels whose bands are rusting and missing rivets. They wobble on their axles and scrape against its sides as the cart rolls along. Mr. Moundshroud, the man pushing it, is a skeleton standing tall beneath a thin linen sheet. When he moves his limbs drift through the air with a deliberate lack of speed.
YOUR NAME, says Moundshroud before Igor's gaping mouth can utter a sound.
“I need whatever you've got in the cart,” splurts Igor.
YOUR NAME, repeats Moundshroud.
“Ah, I uh. Yes. Igor.”
IGOR, says Moundshroud reaching into the canopy covering the cart. There dozens upon dozens of flat sugar skulls swing from red ribbons, brightly frosted with yellow petals about the eye sockets and pink fringed teeth. On each forehead has been scripted a name in blue sugary goop.
Moundshroud runs a boney finger beneath the cookie cutter confectioneries until he reaches the I's and pulls down a skull for Igor. This candy is a bit wobbly shaped with one eye socket three times the size of the other. Moundshroud holds it out at arms length and compares it to Igor's head – a perfect match.
IGOR, says Moundshroud, handing him the candy.
“Why thank you,” says Igor, “this is very nice, yes, but it is not what I need. I need actual food.”
YOU ARE NOT STARVING
“It's not for me. It's for someone who is dead. But hopefully not for long,” smiles Igor, hopefully.
This catches Moundshroud's attention, his skull pivots on a stack of dusty neck bones.
ON DIA DE MUERTOS IT IS TRADITION TO COOK MEALS FOR THE DEAD USING THE HOME HEARTH THEY KNEW WHEN THEY WERE ALIVE ANYTHING ELSE IS UNACCEPTIBLE
“And what if our guy knew, like, a whole bunch of different home hearths spread out over, like, a really wide area?”
IT IS FOR THE DEAD
“Yes. Kinda. Sorta.”
If Moundshroud could, he would sigh. Instead, he lifts a thin arm and points Igor off into the darkness.
THREE MILES ACROSS THE DESERT WHERE THE JAGGED HILLS SWALLOW THE STARS THERE YOU WILL FIND WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR FOLLOW THE PALE LIGHT
Igor chirps out a Thank You and scrambles off into the night.
Back in the Lab“Honey, I'm home,” calls Igor as he slams the door on the Hacienda, arms loaded down with white plastic sacks of food.
“Good! Good! It's about time,” calls the doctor, leaning backwards so he can look down the hall without having to leave his work. “Put it in the blender. PUREE it. We haven't much time!”
Igor hurries past him to the lab's bar blender/margarita machine and it isn't long before he returns with a carafe of brown soupy goo. On the operating table the creature has been splayed open like a dissected frog. Igor picks among the bulging internal organs until he finds something resembling a stomach, cuts open a hole and funnels in the gurgling fluidy lumps.
Once finished, Igor sews the stomach shut and pokes it with a crusty finger. He smiles as the organ jiggles back and forth.
“That's a mighty fine Haggis you've got there Misses McGillicutty,” says Igor.
“This is not a JOKE!” shouts Doctor Frankenstein, wiry orange mane curling with the electric current of his own brilliance “This could be THE ONE!!!!
“We must have him ready before daybreak!! Before this measly third world nation wakes up and BEGINS to overload its PITIFUL excuse for a POWERgrid!!!!”
“Well, you might save some energy by not using so many exclamation points.”
“SHUT UP IGOR!!!!!!!! Find me THE calipers!”
Not far away, Hitler's brain watches all of this unfold from inside his glass tank. Life has reduced him to a floating pinkish gray mass suspended in blue aqua velva. Of his original body all that remains are two eyeballs and a small black mustache attached to the brain stem by optic and nasal nerves. No. Life has not been kind to the fuhrer since the 1940's, but tides are turning. He can feel it. Soon he will have the chance to rule again.
Hitler grins to himself as best he can. This makes his mustache itch, so he brushes it against the bottom of his cerebellum and dreams of fire-bombing Paris.
DaybreakWith the cold blue of dawn filling the windows and the distant crowing of roosters filling their ears, the long night of work comes to an end. Every green slice of skin on the monster has been stretched tight and either stitched or stapled in place. Fluid levels are normal. Essential salts are stable. All it lacks is a pulse.
“Quickly Igor,” shouts the doctor, “stoke the Van De Graffs!!!!”
Igor throws an iron shod lever that sends ham thick currents of electricity climbing the bulbous steel receptor towers encircling the lab.
“Done,” says Igor.
“And VENT it through the TESLA COILS!!!!!”
Igor rapidly unwinds a anaconda thick extension cord, linking the Van De Graffs to the Tesla coils which now sparkle and whip-crack with life.
“DONE,” cries Igor.
“And,” shouts the Doctor, on the edge of collapsing from exhaustion, “AND.... PLUG in THE COFFEE POT!!!!!!!!!!”
Igor runs yet another extension cord from the Tesla coils to a De Longhi Brewmaster 5000, plugs it in and backs away as the machine begins to glow with an unearthly light.
“BREW,” exclaims the Doctor to both heavens and earth, “BREW GOD DAMN YOU BREW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
And it does.
It takes about ten minutes.
Once finished the doctor dons a pair of heavy rubber gloves and proceeds to pour some into a Hello Kitty coffee mug with “World's Greatest Mad Scientist” printed on its back. Using a stainless steel safety claw they carry it over to the creature. Carefully, the doctor tilts a little dribble into the monster's lips.
“Now, Igor,” the doctor whispers, “apply the current.”
Igor slides a switch that slips a trace amount of electricity into the battery clamps attached to the bolts on the creature's neck.
They have learned much since the mob of torch and pitchfork wielding peasants ran them out of Bavaria, of how too much current could simultaneously fry a brain while also giving it life. No, what the process needed was an electro-chemical reaction. One that could only come from the Arabica Dominiscus, one of the most potent coffee roasts known to man. One only grown on this plantation in the arid reaches of central Mexico.
“A LITTLE mooooooooooorrrrre,” says the Doctor, hands starting to shake.
A quiver comes to the creatures lips. Something like a groan escapes, although it might just be air escaping the esophagus. Eyelids quiver and crack. Igor frantically works the foot pump that tilts the slab upright. The doctor pours another sip into the creature's mouth. This time nostrils flare – the doctor is certain of it – and a tongue.
“A TONGUE,” cries the doctor as the creature's tongue emerges like a fat bumpy lizard from its mouth to lick its lips.
“Moooooooooooooooooore,” groans the creature.
“ALIVE,” shouts the doctor, shaking the metal claw and spilling coffee everywhere, “MY CREATION!!!!!! IT LIVES!!!!”
“Mooooore Coffeeee,” grumbles the monster.
Arms begin to jerk and pull against their restraints, stretching leather, creaking bolts. Heavy canvas rips. Belts burst across the monster's chest like a crypt door being cast aside.
“Master,” inquires Igor, “I hate to intrude on a moment of triumph but-”
“WHAT!!!!” shouts the doctor.
“I think he wants more coffee.”
Igor peeps this, not because he wants to sound like a baby chicken but because it is the best he can do with a giant green fist wrapped around his neck.
The doctor offers the creature the mug at the end of the metal claw. The monster grabs it, laps down what is left and smashes the mug on the floor.
“MORE COFFEEEEEEEE,” it roars, kicking free from the table and stumbling across the floor, leaning on a thoroughly terrified Igor like a cane.
The monster takes two steps, throws Igor aside, grabs the pot with both hands, and begins to guzzle the black elixir straight from the pour spout.
The doctor's mind flows back to Mindy, his last intern. She was a cheerleader from LSU, so young and nubile and in the prime of health. Mindy had consumed barely half a cup of the Arabica Dominiscus but it was more than enough to set her off on a spring of acrobatic explosions from which she, as well as a few thousand dollars worth of lab equipment, would never return.
“NO!” cries the doctor, now trying to grab back the pot, “YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!!!”
With a free hand the monster grabs the doctor by the lab coat and flings him across the room to crash land upside down in the garbage bin.
Finished, the creature wipes a sleeve across his mouth and slumps at the shoulders. Satisfied.
“Good,” rumbles the creature, “Nice bouquet. And finish.”
Brow drops. Lips drop. He peruses the area and shoots left a small fart. Phbbbt!
Then from deep inside his belly comes a sepulchral gurgling that freezes the monster solid. The glass carafe slips from his fingers and shatters on the stone pavers.
Lips pucker. Knees knock together.
“What IS it,” inquires the doctor, trying to find a footing in the loose slide of trash, “What IS wron-”
A white plastic bag catches on the doctor's fingers. He uncrumples it to reveal a corporate logo, a devil-horned sombrero made from corn chip wedges of purple, gold and red.
“Igor,” exclaims the doctor, “by my eyes. Is this a Taco Hell bag I perceive before me?”
“I ah, well um,” stutters Igor, “all the Cantinas were closed and-”
“You gave my CREATION – for his first MEAL after the AFTERLIFE - a cheap stew of FAST FOOD MIASMA!!!!”
“Well, I wouldn't exactly call it that,” says Igor, “some of it sounded quite good. Let's see. Tamales ala frisco fresco. A crunchy flaming anus loco supreme- ”
At this the creature winces, grabbing his stomach as if feeling razor sharp shards of broken glass sliding past his pancreas.
“-a double decker kidney wrecker. A seven layer dirty sanchez burrito. An ant-eater enchilada. And a side salad. But that was for me – no dressing because I'm watching my figure - woohoo!”
“ARE YOU INSANE!!!! That's not FOOD, that's a CRIME against HUMANITY!”
“Oh! Now aren't we the pot calling the kettle black?”
“On top of it all,” nearly whispers the Doctor in awe, “a whole POT of Arabica Dominiscus.”
“Actually, that would be *beneath* it. Like, technically speaking.”
“DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU HAVE DONE!”
“Racked up fifteen points on my Taco Hell club card?”
From out of the creature's belly comes a heavy wobbling sound, something like a walrus falling flat on its face. The creature's eyes go high with fear and apprehension. Its thick fingers fumble with the rope tied about its waist but the knot won't come free. With rage the monster pulls the rope until it snaps. Black burlap trousers hit the pavers.
Without a clue of what to do next, the creature shuffles over to the giant fishbowl containing Hitler's brain and slaps his slab-like buttocks down on top of it.
Sweating like a lawn sprinkler, the monster squeezes his thighs as if trying to crack walnuts between them. He strains. He bites his lip.
He's trapped. Not like a goldfish in a bowl but a siamese fighting fish in one of those dime-sized glass thimbles they give away at carnivals. The brain swirls around to look up at the big green and black sphincter widening overhead. The stitches holding it in place are rumbling, convulsing like techtonic plates desperate to pull apart from one another.
Hitler's brain cowers against the bottom of the tank, terrified, so wanting to scream, so wishing they had saved his lungs instead of his mustache.
Up above, stitches begin to burst like a river dam blowing fissures in its concrete sides-
Fourth MealAnd the screen freezes.
It freezes with a staticky still shot of Frankenstein's green sphincter on the edge of exploding.
You tap the buttons on the Roku controller, and it beeps to tell you that *yes* you are pushing buttons and *no* it does not give a shit. This has happened far too often since you switched from DSL to Cable. The call center in Pakistan said something about neighborhood-lag and how your service will drop whenever the people living around you are inside and also trying to use their internet connections.
Disgusted you pitch the controller across the room. It misses the sofa you had been aiming at and shatters against the wall.
The screen fills with a bouncing purple Roku logo, meaning no more TV for you tonight.
Some Halloween this has been.
No trick or treaters. No parties.
You reach into the candy bowl to grab another peanut butter cup and find nothing but wrappers.
And now no more candy.
And nothing to watch.
“Well, I'm going out,” you say to no one in particular. You grab your wallet and keys and out the door you go.
Out on the main strip, with your '66 Impala ragtop drifting between pools of streetlight, the night seems no different from any other. Most stores are closed. Car dealerships have left their showroom lights on, making them seem cold and odd like refrigerators with their doors hanging ajar. There are people milling around outside the mini marts, the liquor stores. None are in costume. The fast food joints are all still open but not doing much business.
Shame on them, you think, wheeling in under an internally lit sign bearing a devil horned sombrero scraped together from wedges of red, purple and gold.
The girl behind the counter is a teenage dream in a tight fitting polyester polo shirt. Her sullen expression brightens as you approach. She twirls a strand of black hair and tucks it behind one of the red plastic horns attached to her headband. You're not sure if this is something special she put on for tonight or just another part of the uniform.
“Welcome to Taco Hell,” she chimes, “nice costume. May I take your order?”
“Sure. Thanks,” you croak and look up at the billboard menu. There you stand, tapping a finger on your chin in thought.
It all looks so, so.... edible.
Then, just as you are about to place an order for some Tortillas Torquemada, the rotten stitching in your wrist breaks free. Your hand drops to the counter, palm up like a beetle on its back, green fingers twitching madly.
The girl's eyes go wide, not sure whether to be horrified or impressed or perhaps a little of both.
“You wouldn't happen to have a needle and thread in the Feliz Comida,” you ask.
“Hold on,” she says, bolting from the counter, “let me go check. I'll be riggght back.”
Distantly, a car squeals out of the parking lot. Horns blare as it muscles its way on to the road.
And there you stand. And wait. And wait.