deepundergroundpoetry.com

Video Nasties

a horror story

1989

After he killed her, he returned her library books.

They were piled on a stand by Mary-Anne's armchair, which faced the walnut-encased television set. John liked to watch his videotapes on that, and now with her gone, he'd be able to more often.

If you get away with it...

I will, he snapped back in his thoughts. He shovelled the books into a bag, but not before one last disgusted grimace at them. The Sheikh's English Bride. The Millionaire's Harlot. Love on Ward 7. Kissing in the Common Room. She had no taste, no class.

He'd been with her out of necessity, of course. A decrepit old widow with Medusa-like hair kept semi-permanently in rollers just so she could "look sharp" at bingo; as if anyone should care to impress the vile wrinkled bags and pathetic old boys who gummed up that den of senility with their cigarette smoke. He'd gone to bingo with her once and then made it clear that he never would again. Listening to all their miserable conversation once was enough.

('There's Mickey, he had a hard war...' 'This your grandson, Mary?' 'Looks like he could do with some porridge and a bit of hard work.' 'Have you seen that Boy George? I'm telling you, in my day he wouldn't have reached the end of the block.')

As if anyone would look at you with anything approaching desire, John thought, mentally addressing the corpse in the bathtub, to which he'd soon return with a hacksaw, bleach, and bin bags. His initial plan had been to call the police and say that she'd died of a heart attack. She was old and frail enough. He'd even killed her in such a way as to facilitate this, sneaking up on her with a shopping bag and slipping it over her head as she watched Countdown.

John fancied that she'd looked at him just before the veil was forever pulled over her eyes and that in that moment she'd regretted all the petty humiliations she'd subjected him to, making him cash her pension book and then sorting the amount in front of him before she'd hand over even a penny. The disgusting sexual favours he'd had to do just to keep a roof above his head while he went about his work.

Some chance. Her last earthly vision had probably been Richard Whiteley in his grey suit and specs, making some inane crack about what Carol was spelling on the letters board.

Mary-Anne's daughter, Barbara, had put paid to the heart attack plan. She'd been sniffing around for several months, having reestablished contact with her mother after many years of estrangement. He didn't know why the old girl suffered her ingrate kid. She was just back because her husband had hung himself during the miner's strike and left her up shit creek with no children to lean on, and knew that her miserly mother was sitting on a small fortune that someone would have to inherit.

'I suffer my daughter, young man, because families stick together irregardless of the past.' Irregardless... She acted like such a well-to-do Victorian lady, sitting there in that Gothic scream of a townhouse, but even he could have told her that her English was so much pigeon shit. Not that he would have. He liked having somewhere to sleep. And all that crap about family... She suffered Barbara because she loved having control over her again, holding that inheritance above her head. Leaving all her worldly goods to a 23-year-old ex-con whom Barbara regarded as somewhere on the level of used toilet paper would be the final humiliation.

But the bitch was making trouble. She'd spread it about that John was only with Mary-Anne for her money, and should the old girl ever fall down the stairs or die of a heart attack, it would be well to make certain that his fingerprints weren't where they shouldn't be. He'd received the idea about how to circumvent his new nemesis' machinations while watching one of his horror tapes, what Mary-Anne called his "nasty films".

It was one of his favourites: The Essex Stripper. ('He strips them... TO THE BONE.') The painted cover depicted an impossibly pneumatic young woman whose frontage was like Sheba's Breasts, obscuring her head, although her blonde hair hung down in a greasy fall. She was halfway up a stripper pole and hanging horizontally, back arched like a comic book vixen, silver bra and heels shining in the spotlight. She was covered in blood.

The film was about a freak who stalked and killed local strippers and sex workers. He disposed of their bodies by chopping them up in the bathtub, which he'd obsessively clean with bleach afterwards. The double-bagged body parts would be placed among refuse put out for collection the night before. Come morning they'd be taken to the dump by unsuspecting binmen.

'How can you watch this trash?' He'd been startled out of his reverie by the voice from the doorway behind him. Having rolled another joint, he quickly pocketed it, paused the film, and looked around. 'They make me laugh is all' he'd said, and instantly regretted it. He also regretted the shot on which he'd paused, of the freak's leering face and Deidre Barlow specs, spattered with what he called "whore blood".

Mary-Anne, whose sagging and emaciated form he'd been expected to treat like the firmest pinking flesh, curled up one end of her mouth in a sneer so marked it could be seen from space, settled down beside the Great Wall of China. 'You've got a weird sense of humour' she said, each word acid from a broken bottle; turning away, she finished with: 'And you better not be late for work tomorrow.'

As if, he'd thought. Working in the video shop was his real downtime. Stuck here with this hag and her romance novels and daytime telly shows and soaps in the evening was the job. The store's owner was Bobby, a rich couple's son sent south in shame to manage one of their smaller outlets, what they called their "entertainment emporiums". His father had managed cinemas in the '60s and '70s before moving into home video retail with his wife.

Their son was a pill-popping loser on whom they'd wasted a private education. In truth, John didn't have much respect for Bobby either, but then he didn't for most people. And Bobby at least had introduced him to the occultic arts, of which John was now a much more talented practitioner.

All Bobby wanted from the other realm was the freedom to get wasted on a Tuesday afternoon, but just as he'd introduced John to deeper mysteries, John had allowed him to accompany him on his real work. Bobby had certainly come to appreciate making love to women on black altars in the basement of the video shop. Sex meant little to John; he'd long ago exhausted his interest in that, and access to the occult books and paraphernalia that Bobby had acquired only dulled further his sexual need.

He felt himself becoming something far stranger than a human man with an evolutionary sex drive. Something superior to all the players in his life, from Bobby to Barbara to the slim sack of bones in the bathtub.

Pulling up outside the library, he pulled a book from the bag on the passenger seat, a last ritual to signify the end of Mary-Anne Winthrop's importance to the life of John Sillitoe.

“She fell into his arms like an innocent thing.” [Read the book at the page he alighted on.] “And he an almost father-like protector, the thick tailoring of his Savile Row suit like a buffer for his manly chest. ‘And you thought I was too rich for you’ he said, and she melted in the radiating warmth of his smile.

“‘I said nothing, guv’nor’ she replied with a cheeky wink and wrinkle of her nose.

“‘We’ll have to do something about your grammar’ he laughed.”

John turned back the cover. It was a photograph of a tanned city boy embracing a feather-hatted woman in front of a market stall. A Posh Boy’s Search for Trouble and Strife by Juliette Sparrow. How did Mary read this trash? Was this what she fantasised about when telling him of her days as a beauty queen in Bournemouth in the late ‘40s, an inveterate winner of lovely legs competitions at Butlin’s “even after Babs blew out my hips”?

‘So are you going to return those, or are we going to sit here reading Mills&Boon like a couple of homos?’ Bobby was sat at the other end of the van’s cab, leaning against the door like a sulking teenager. He was reading a fanzine, one of those sold at the video store. John recognised it as the one containing an essay about The Essex Stripper, dealing with its supposed theme of postfeminist male anxieties.

John grabbed the bag. ‘Remember you’re driving when I get back’ he said before climbing out. ‘Once I’m done with Mary it’s your turn behind the wheel. And cheer up, Bobby. Remember we’re doing the dancefloors tonight. I’ll find someone to sacrifice, you’ll get yourself a girl.’ That did seem to cheer up the long streak of piss. John saw the sides of his mouth turn up.

As he crossed the busy road to the library he reflected on how long it had been since his last kill, excluding Mary. A heroin addict who’d trickled down from up north somewhere, on a construction job, so he said. Fancied himself a functioning user, John supposed. It didn’t matter. He’d been lured to the cellar of Video Plaza easily enough, where plastic sheeting hung about the room, around a rosewood black altar. John had garrotted him, nearly decapitating the man, while Bobby and some girl he’d picked up did coke upstairs.

The man’s blood soaked into the altar, which was carved with mystic runes, and John had delivered the memorised incantation that would permeate the building and addle the already intoxicated girl, making her Bobby’s slave for however long he pleased. John didn’t care to know what depravities had been unearthed in his colleague by his spiritual power over women. They all survived, anyway. So far. All John cared about was the blood. Delivered to the altar and those daemons whose essences clustered about it, returned in a rising incense that John would inhale like smoke from a hookah, feeling its addition to his earthly power.

His sway over people was already increasing. He’d somehow convinced Barbara to take a holiday to Benidorm, allowing him the time he needed to kill and dispose of her mother, then travel abroad himself with the rest of her money and whatever he could claim through inheritance when he staged her death in some foreign locale.

He walked into the library, structured around a central checkout desk at which a woman was watching Channel 4. A large man with mutton chops, rabbit’s teeth, nerdish specs, and a tax inspector’s nasally voice was discussing the deleterious effects of horror films. ‘This violent and frankly sadistic imagery we know has a profound effect on children’ he said, ‘and possibly certain breeds of dog.’

The Received Pronunciation of a respected broadcaster took over as the scene switched to the front of the Old Bailey. ‘Just last month a film critic stood before a judge in defence of a work entitled Nightmares in a Damaged Brain. He said that it was well-executed, to which the judge replied: so was the invasion of Poland.’

Mary Whitehouse of the Viewers and Listeners’ Association appeared next and stood before a still image of a blue-skinned demon come up from the cellar. John recognised that movie. The Evil Dead. He’d watched it with Bobby in the video store, turning off the TV (that was supposed to play old movies on low volume) whenever someone came in.

‘Can I help you?’ John put the bag on the desk. ‘Returning these’ he said. The woman looked at him like he’d dumped a carrier bag full of used wanking socks on her new tablecloth. Standing up to peer inside, she seemed relieved to see a stack of romance fiction. ‘Doing a favour for your grandmother?’ she asked with what she supposed passed for polite interest.

‘Something like that’ John replied. Sad old bitch, he thought and imagined doing to her what he’d done to the late Mrs Winthrop.

On returning to the van, Bobby was now behind the steering wheel and John picked up the fanzine to read as Bobby drove them into town. The essay on The Essex Stripper contended that “what our anti-hero (if such a vile creature can be called even that) represents is men’s fear of women’s sexual liberation and autonomy in a world moved beyond the more patriarchal age, an age when women needed a male guardian’s approval before opening a bank account.” (That would have saved me a lot of trouble, thought John, smiling. So far as he was concerned, the women in his life having financial freedom had been nothing but a drag.)

The distance to town wasn’t far, but Bobby seemed to have elected to take the scenic route, and John realised why when he pulled up outside a tenement block in a narrow and dirty street like a slum out of Dickens. ‘Really, now?’ said John. Bobby clambered out. ‘It’ll only take a second’ he said, taking some rolled-up notes from the glove compartment. John sighed and flipped to an article on the Satanic panic currently sweeping America. The writer reviewed a book called Danger in the Den by Wayne Bunyan, about which children’s programming was a gateway to such Satanist vices as premarital sex, drug abuse, and New Age beliefs. ‘Bunyan claims that cartoons like Power Rangers teach children to seek their power in defiance of the Lord…’

John’s mind drifted towards what he’d do when he reached Spain. He imagined himself sitting on the terrace of a villa overlooking a bright blue sea, a glass of something cold and strong in his hand, aviator sunglasses protecting his eyes, his wrist and fingers wrapped in gold. Though sex was less of an urge for him now, since access to the daemon world had shown him things beyond the flesh, he wouldn’t mind a girl or two in a skimpy outfit, serving him drinks and tending to guests from the finer side of life. Wasters like Bobby and hags like Mary-Ann and Barbara would be long forgotten.

Speaking of, Bobby climbed back into the car sans cash but with several baggies that he chucked into the glove box. ‘Fuck, man, you trying to get us thrown in jail?! I’ve told you what I need to do and you’re risking our arses like this?!’

‘Relax, baby’ said Bobby, ‘the filth ain’t come this way since you were biting tit.’ The van started up and rolled into town. John wondered whether he’d have to kill Bobby, but only briefly. He was a loser, but he was reliable as people went. John bought the bin bags, ropes, bleach, and other necessities from a variety of different shops, taking care to destroy the receipts from each. When he returned to the van he was half-worried that Bobby would be smoking a joint in there, but instead, he was staring dully at some schoolgirls across the street. John figured that he might as well pop into Rumbelows and check out the VHS players.

The aisles were dotted with housewives in shoulder pads and mops of curly hair and a few middle-aged guys in gaudy shell suits. Margaret Thatcher was praising the hard work for good causes done by Jimmy Savile, on one of the larger television sets. The wizened old man with dyed blond hair and tanned, leathery skin accepted her admiration. John felt as though Jimmy was a man with his secrets. Maybe he too had come up from the bottom with the aid of daemoniac sponsorship, concealing his dark altar in the spare room next to his mother’s. It would explain why such a fuck ugly bloke was a TV star, John thought and laughed to himself. A woman looked at him and narrowed her eyes; he made his retreat.

He had Bobby drop him at the opposite end of the park facing Mary-Ann’s house. It was as he was crossing the park, with his bag full of the implements that were supposed to facilitate Mary-Ann’s distribution across the county, that he saw that his world was falling apart and his stomach fell out of his arse.

Barbara was outside the townhouse, in the little concrete garden with several police officers who were walking in and out of the open front door. She was hysterical, her large chest shaking, wracked with sobs, mascara coursing down her chubby face. She was supposed to be in Spain for another ten days. What had happened?

And suddenly he knew what had happened. For the first time in his life, someone had been smarter than him, had figured out what he was capable of and didn’t underestimate his resolve or intelligence.

He could hardly blame himself for having thought that no one would. It had been eight years since he’d beaten his father to death by the side of the road, having lost his temper during an argument on the way home from a boxing match.

His father pulled over to start hitting him, John fought back, and he suddenly started to feel his sex drive coiling around a depthless capacity for violence as he beat his dad to a pulp. No one was clever (or cynical) enough to think that the victim’s fifteen-year-old kid was responsible, but Barbara was smart and cynical enough to see this coming…

‘There he is!’ She was pointing directly at him and screaming, and that’s when several policemen gave chase. His world reduced to a pinpoint of pure survivalist instinct, he dropped the bag and ran. He shoved a man to the ground as he vaulted the fence of a playground and darted across it. He barely registered a woman pulling her son from a spring rocker to protect him.

It was getting on for the evening and the dusk was reclining into night. Soon it would be dark and he’d have cover. If only he could get to the video shop. He turned a corner and saw the van… pulling away from him. Bobby must have wandered down the road and seen what was unfolding or just heard the shouts. ‘Don’t leave me!’ cried John, a kitten in the wilderness.

John managed a hard run and, finally, the video store came into view. He rootled in his pocket for the keys and they felt like a talisman. All was coming right and he almost felt as if the sky had opened a panel to cast a heavenly spotlight on him.

Then the first shot rang out. Instead of running he stood for a moment in dumb shock and turned his head towards two officers running at him from the other end of the street. One of them shouted something. In a burst of pure adrenaline, he jumped at the storefront window. Another shot was fired and pierced his gut like a lance as his body shattered the glass. He landed on a bed of shards, striking his head on a shelving rack that wobbled and dispensed cassettes.

The wound was weeping over the shop. Drawing on a last reserve of wild energy, he stood and ran through the nearest aperture, becoming tangled in the doorway beads. He was in the "nasties" section, the tapes that had to be sold in their own private space, like pornography. They stared at him from the four walls like a daemonic senate, as if Screwtape himself might lean forward and point a red, gnarled finger through the spine of POWER DRILL PERVERT.

He collapsed in the middle of the room and allowed himself to die, feeling what he could of the spiritual force around the altar in the cellar below him. He saw it as a mist that rose through the floor and encompassed the 21 grams of fog that was his life force, now leaving their pitiful mortal frame.

The mist coalesced into faces that dispersed again like dandelion seeds, and among which would soon be his own. He vaguely heard a crunching sound of jackboots on glass. Static through a walkie-talkie. It all seemed unimportant now. As he ascended, however, one curious thing stopped him from leaving the room: reels and reels of videotape.

2024

‘I wish I lived in the ‘80s.’

‘Oh, yeah, you’d love it. Section 28, rampant homophobia, the AIDS crisis…’

‘You know what I mean! I wouldn’t have been affected by any of that anyway. I’d have been partying with Boy George and all the fabulous gays.’ Georgie opened the glass-plated door to the museum and let them both inside. Michael followed him, grinning. ‘Please’ he said, ‘you’d have hated it.’ It was after midnight. The two young men had hooked up after meeting by chance in a bar, a year after they ended their fledgling romance when Michael left to work on a film project in America.

He was 33 now and felt old. Georgie was 26 and blond, with hair in Raphaelite curls and plump, compact buttocks squeezed into slim-fit jeans. His pronouns, “He/They”, were written on his name badge, attached to a leather jacket studded with pins. Rainbow flags, “TRANS LIBERATION NOW”, Black Lives Matter, and so on. Regardless of whether he was He or They, Michael reflected, he looked good enough to eat. He looked forward to helping Georgie slip off his jacket and jeans and then devouring the poor boy whole.

Georgie worked for a museum of ‘80s memorabilia with its own horror section, memorialising the video nasties of that era. Sleazy VHSs that once were the target of the moral majority and much discussed by feminists. Men, Women, and Chainsaws by Carol J Clover sat on a coffee table in the video room, whose walls were lined with up to a thousand VHS tapes of horror films from around the world, including (or so the museum boasted) each and every title banned or censored under the Video Recording Act. Georgie had laid a blanket in the middle of the floor at one end of the room, alongside a six-pack of beer and a sex prep kit branded with the insignia of a gay men’s health concern.

‘Very ‘80s’ said Michael. ‘You’ve thought of everything.’

‘I told you in the chat’ replied Georgie, snuggling up to him. ‘I’ve been desperate for a proper fucking.’

‘In front of an audience of slasher movies?’

Georgie laughed. ‘That’s not all’ he said, pulling down his jeans. ‘Some of these tapes were taken from a store in the ‘80s where a serial killer died.’

‘Fuck off…’

‘Seriously!’ Georgie had now removed his jeans and rolled onto his belly, from which position he started to slide down his briefs. ‘His name was John Sillitoe. He killed a bunch of people with the guy who ran the store in these weird, ritual ways. They were devil worshippers, and the police got a hold of them. But they shot John when he tried to flee, or something like that, and his blood sprayed all up the video shelves. Some say those clamshells are haunted.’ By now Georgie’s buttocks were fully exposed and Michael had very little interest in ghost stories.

‘What a charming tale to get the rubes into the tent’ he remarked. ‘Now, I don’t want there to be a stitch of clothing anywhere near you.’ Georgie giggled and obliged, tossing his jacket so that the pins clanked against the tiled floor. They made love, with escalating aggression as a year of pining for one another reached its denouement. They bit and spat and laughed and growled, two animals in heat, so unaware of their surroundings that they might as well have been in a prehistoric cave.

So unaware that they didn’t hear the clamshells rattling.

Those plastic cases starting to drip with fresh, wet blood.

They finished together, roughly, and Michael pulled the still-nude Georgie to his chest. ‘Did you hear that?’ said Michael. Georgie made a vague sound in reply, still recovering.

‘I thought I heard a noise in the hallway.’

‘You’re imagining things’ said Georgie. ‘Have a beer. No one else is coming ‘til Sunday, so you can get comf…’ A clamshell hit the floor. ‘What the fu…’

Just then the door burst open and the dimmer switch rose to full blast. In the doorway stood a man in workman’s boots, butcher’s apron, and a mask of what looked like human skin crudely stitched together. Georgie screamed and clambered to his feet. In trying to run while dragging Michael behind, he slipped in blood now soaking the picnic blanket and knocked himself unconscious on the corner of a bookcase. Michael looked at his nude lover lying stunned like cattle in a lake of spectral blood. He opened his mouth to scream if only to reactivate his petrified body.

The intruder was holding a chainsaw. He pulled the string, revved it, and then walked towards the latest young fools to enter the video nasties' room after midnight.
Written by Casted_Runes (Mr Karswell)
Published
Author's Note
Had this one in mind for ages and this is the result of it finally being completed and then re-edited. Hope it's not terrible!
All writing remains the property of the author. Don't use it for any purpose without their permission.
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