Crazy Larry the Beach Bum was sprawled out on the hot sand enjoying some South Florida sunshine. The tide was coming in and the waves were creeping up the beach. Already cool rushes of water were washing over his toes and running up almost to his knees. The air was hot and humid and laid over Larry’s face like a hot towel at the barbershop. There was just enough breeze coming in off the waves to cool his cheeks. An almost, but not quite, empty bottle of white rum was planted in the sand next to his head.
Life was good.
Life was about as good as it had ever been for Crazy Larry, at least since the “Crazy” part got latched on to his name.
He stretched and smiled at the sun and wiggled his toes in the Atlantic surf.
Larry’s reverie was interrupted by a dull thumping sound drifting in from the sea. There was an ugly, snarly noise underneath the thumping beats. A woman screamed.
Larry’s eyes shot open.
Maybe it was just a seagull?
Then the scream came again, followed by some indistinct shouts.
Larry’s heartbeat began to race.
He sat up, frowning, and squinted out across the waves.
A motorboat was racing around, bouncing on the surf. It left a boiling white scar on the sea behind it.
Larry relaxed a little bit.
His hand was trembling.
He swallowed hard. His mouth was dry. Crazy Larry unscrewed the cap on the almost, but not quite, empty bottle of rum and emptied it.
The thumping sounds were the beats of rock music, muffled by the surf and muted by distance. The woman’s screams were frolicsome, not frantic.
Larry let out a sigh and felt a little less crazy.
He smiled at the kids dancing on the boat. The guys were shirtless and muscular and crispy brown from the sun. The girls were lithe and limber with sun-bleached hair, golden skin and skimpy little bikinis.
Larry sat up and smiled wider.
One of the girls was waving in his direction, swaying back and forth with arms up flapping.
He raised a hand and gave them a timid little wave back. Soon all the kids in the boat were waving and whooping. They raised beer bottles in rowdy salute.
Larry lifted his now sadly empty rum bottle and waved back.
First one, then another of the girls reached back and undid their bikini tops. Screaming again, they whirled the tops over their heads, bare breasts bouncing like white bubbles, pale against the tanned torsos.
Crazy Larry jumped to attention and stood up. He put his fingers to his lips and let rip a wolf-whistle that easily pierced the distance between him and the boatload of kids. The motorboat roared around in another couple of turns, then raced off to the West along the beach. The girls waved bye-bye and dropped down laughing, to sit on the deck.
“Children, they are so amusing.” Said a rich, cultured voice from behind Larry.
“Ah, they’re okay!” Larry replied, grinning. He didn’t turn to look at the speaker because he knew there was nothing there to see.
“What are they doing out here?” Larry asked. He shielded his eyes with a hand and watched the boat dwindle into the distance.
“They’re here to shoot a movie, if you can believe that!”
“Here? On Viuda Island? They must be mad!” There was alarm in Larry’s voice.
The unseen speaker chuckled.
“They are young. Youth is nothing if not a bit of madness.”
“How long are they going to be here?”
“I don’t know, for sure. Not long. They just want to shoot a few scenes on old ‘haunted’ Viuda Island for publicity. Then they’ll go back to the studios in La Mirada.”
“They’re not afraid to be here? They’re not afraid of monsters and ghosts and bloody death?”
Larry sounded a little offended.
“They’ve heard terrifying stories about the island. So of course they are thrilled to be here. The excitement just rolls off of them in sheets.”
Larry sighed. Shook his head.
“They are so amusing.” The cultured voice repeated, a little darkly.
“They’ve got to go Geoff! They can’t stay. Not for long. The Moon will be full in just a few days. They have to be gone by then!”
“I know. I know, old friend. I have to put my face on and go talk to them. Then…” Geoffrey chuckled. “Then I will see what I can do to convince them to leave.”
Crazy Larry the Beach Bum ran his fingers through his hair. He rubbed his cheeks. He was a little jowlier than before. His cheeks were rough with stubble.
“I need a drink.” He muttered.
Larry shuffled over to his shack, nestled between a pair of palm trees, and began to rummage around inside, looking for another bottle.
“I’m out.” He muttered angrily.
“Don’t worry. I’ll bring you another bottle down from the House. Right after I talk to our guests.”
Larry nodded glumly. That would have to do.
“They have to leave, Geoff. Soon!”
Crazy Larry watched the footprints walk away down the empty beach.
He didn’t quite trust Geoffrey Radcliffe, even though they’d known each other for years. But what else could he do?
The kids had to leave. Before the Moon was full again.
They had to leave, or they would die.
“What’s the matter, Andrea? You’re a million miles away!”
“More like a million years.” Whispered the brooding brunette. “You shouldn’t be here, Frank. Not tonight. You’re in danger being here. Being with me.”
“Aw, you’re not getting rid of me that easily, pretty lady.”
The muscular young man flexed his biceps and grinned. “‘Sides, I’m up for a little danger!” He leaned in and tried to kiss her but she turned away.
“I’m more than a little danger. I’m… death.”
“A little death never hurt no one.” The man whispered hoarsely.
He seized her shoulders and dragged her close to him, smashing his mouth upon her lips.
A white fog began to boil out of the nearby ocean. It spread quickly across the oil-dark waves and spilled over the sand.
“Oh, no…” moaned the girl as she surrendered to the kiss.
A head appeared, rising out of the sea.
It was not a human head. Covered with armored scales, long whip-like antennae curled off the forehead. The hair was thick like metal wire and plastered tight against the skull. Huge black, unblinking eyes stared over the waves toward the shore. A mouth full of fangs opened and salivated.
As the man continued to crush the girl to him, bender her shoulders back and her head down beneath his mouth, She began to emerge from the sea, to stalk toward the beach.
Shoulders as broad as a linebacker’s rose above the water. She was a nightmarish blend of human and crustacean, nearly eight feet tall. Great round breasts the size of bowling balls sat upon her chest, covered by slabs of hard shell. Her abdomen was a serrated nightmare, lined with curved spikes to either side. She raised arms above the surf, brandishing lobster claw hands.
As the girl continued to moan and make whimpering noises beneath Frank’s mouth, which soon slid down to her neck, the armored She-Creature waded out of the water. A dark wake swirled in the fog behind her. Silently, the antediluvian monster lumbered up behind the couple, claws poised to strike.
The girl, Andrea, saw it first when her eyes fluttered open for a second. Her eyes were rolled up almost under her lids, showing almost entirely white, but she registered the sight enough o give a convulsive heave and scream.
Frank stepped back, startled by the sound, just to have a huge lobster claw descend upon his neck.
The foam-rubber claw flexed, spilling seawater that had soaked into it all down the front of Frank’s shirt. Then the claw rose and jabbed him several more times, flexing and folding each time.
“Grrr! Argh!” snarled the She-Creature in a decidedly masculine voice.
Man, woman, and monster all broke into giggles simultaneously.
Director Roger Tennant dropped his bullhorn in the sand and wiped his face with weary hands.
“Could be please get through just one take without you three cracking up? We’ll be losing the light soon and I don’t want to stay on this creepy island an hour longer than absolutely necessary.”
Bobby Burton in the sopping wet She-Creature suit made squelching noises with a shrug of his shoulders.
“This thing weighs a freakin’ ton once it gets wet. Can I get out of it for awhile?”
“NO! It takes half an hour to get it back on you each time. We need to get through three more scenes before we’re done with the She-Critter today. We can’t afford to have you hopping in and out of the suit between every take.”
“I need to take a bathroom break!” Bobby complained.
“You said the suit was already wet, right? No harm, no foul. Have at it!”
‘Har! Har! Har!”
“The scene’s supposed to be at night. I don’t see why we have to film it all in the middle of the afternoon.” Whined Bobbi, the brunette.
“Because we need the light to film, genius. It’s ‘Day for Night.’ That means we shoot in the daylight but it will look like it’s night-time when the print is made.”
“If we’re lucky.” Smirked Thompson, the camera-man.
Roger sighed and took a swig of the coconut and papaya juice drink that his doctor swore would be good for the ulcers he was developing.
“What’s that?” shouted Toni, the blonde dancer/actress who wasn’t in this part of the movie and therefore was sunbathing several yards up the beach.
Roger and the rest of the crew turned to look in the direction she was pointing.
A strange figure was walking toward them through the scrub brush and stunted trees that passed for woodlands on the island. Covered from head to foot in a flowing white hooded robe that looked vaguely Bedouin, the approaching man’s face was covered with thick white cream and he wore enormous dark sunglasses that gave his face an unsettlingly skull-like appearance.
“Shit.” Muttered Roger, tossing his shooting script to an assistant.
“Okay, everybody. Let’s take an hour for lunch and reset. Mike, help Bobby out of the She-Critter before he soils her insides. I have some business to attend to.”
“Too late!” shouted Bobby merrily.
“I didn’t hear that!” Roger shouted back.
Tennant sighed wearily, got out of his folding beach chair, and went to intercept their approaching visitor.
“Mr. Bierce! So good to see you.”
The man in the white robe chuckled, as if at some secret joke.
Roger shook hands with their host, noting that Bierce wore long opera gloves that covered his hands and arms up into the sleeves of the robe.
All types. Roger told himself, remembering to smile.
“You didn’t have to come down here, not in the daylight. Not with your condition, Mr. Bierce. I would have been happy to call on you up at the house.”
“Oh, I don’t mind.” Bierce replied with his usual crisp accent.
“I do love a bit of sunshine, myself. You see. It’s just that the sun doesn’t love me. Or perhaps she loves me a bit too much, hmm?”
Roger knew about Edgar Bierce’s medical condition. He was apparently hyper-sensitive to sunlight and didn’t dare venture outside during the day without complete protection. When Bierce greeted the film crew at their arrival on the island, he’d been dressed much as he was now, covered from head to toe with a thick layer of sunscreen cream slathered over his face and dark sunglasses. He’d carried a huge black umbrella as well, but had left that at home today.
Roger laughed politely at his jest.
“Have you given any additional thought about that matter I discussed with you?” Roger asked hopefully.
Bierce gave him an almost pitying sidelong glance.
“Mr. Tennant, you know that I am merely the caretaker here. The House belongs to the Castillo de Viuda Trust of the La Mirada Historical Society. Any filming of historical landmarks has to be approved by the full Board of Trustees. I still haven’t heard from them. Frankly, I’m still surprised that the Trust granted any approval for filming on the island.”
“I can be a very persuasive guy.” Roger said with a smile.
They both knew that it was really the money of Tennant’s Producer, Dmitri Lejos, that had convinced the Historical Society to grant the company filming permits for the island. The island was under the broader, looser administration of the Historical Society in general, rather than the much tighter restrictions of the Trust that technically owned the single building on Viuda Island.
Everyone called it “The Castle” on the mainland, and it had started as a Spanish fortification that guarded approaches to La Mirada’s harbor. An eccentric industrialist acquired it during the 19th Century and renovated it into a luxury home that looked more like a classic European castle, complete with crenelations and parapets. It had later been acquired by a wealthy but disreputable scientist named Mornay. The House, “Mornay House” on most relevant documents, was the site of now legendary misdeeds and criminal experiments which led to the property being abandoned for many years, and to rumors that it was haunted which persisted to the present.
“Well, regardless of your charm and ample persuasiveness, Mr. Tennant, I must decline to take any risks that could end in my dismissal.”
Tennant shrugged with a boyish smile.
“Can’t blame me for trying!”
“Of course not.” Bierce’s zinc-covered lips granted him a tight little smile. The cream-covered moustache above them twitched like a loaded paint-brush.
“I just came to inquire about how much longer you and your crew would be shooting on the island. Hurricane season is coming and it would be unfortunate to be trapped on the open beach during a storm.”
“Oh, the height of the season is still weeks away and there’s nothing in the weather reports so far that is cause for alarm.”
“Nevertheless, storms can blow up around here very quickly, especially during the full moon. I need you to understand that the House is not to be opened to outsiders without the express instructions of the Board of Trustees. Not even for shelter. Not even in an emergency. If the weather turns sour, you will be entirely upon your own.”
Bierce’s voice dropped the air of charming banter he usually affected and had become stern, even cold.
“I’m sure we’ll be alright, Edgar.” Roger smiled even wider than before.
Bierce visibly winced at the use of his first name.
“Perhaps it would be best if you returned to the city, then. Just at night, mind you, and did all your shooting during the day. For safety’s sake.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.” Roger said in a tone that made it clear that he would do no such thing.
Bierce gave him a tight, unfriendly smile, a slight nod, then turned around and began to saunter back up the steep, winding path to the House.
“Wow.” Said Thompson. “What was that all about?”
“Don’t know.” Roger replied, squinting at the ghost-like figure in white working its way up the path. “But I think we’re beginning to wear out our welcome.”
“We were welcome? When did that happen?”
“Never before Opening Night!” They both said in unison. It was a running joke with the crew. They rarely had the luxury of permits for filming.
Mike grabbed a handful of the She-Creature’s breast, cupping the bowling ball-sized mound of foam latex. And squeezed. Seawater gushed out over his fingers.
“Oh, Baby!” He moaned.
“Boss! Mike’s squeezing the Critter’s tits again!” Bobby yelled.
“Quit molesting the She-Critter, Mike.” Came Roger’s bored, absent-minded reply.
“Just can’t help it!” Said Mike with a grin. “She’s just sooo much woman!”
“Better her than me.” Muttered Bobbi, sweeping off the long brunette wig she wore as Andrea over her own blonde bob.
“You’re next, Sweet Meat!” Mike swept a hand out in the actress’ general direction, eliciting a mock shriek of dismay.
“Just get me out of her.” Bobby said. “I’m sweating like a pig in this thing.”
“Hey!” Burton shouted toward Roger. “What’s the deal with these things anyway? Since when do lobsters have tits? And how are they supposed to work? They’re covered with armor plates. Do the scales tilt up, or what?”
“It’s the She-Creature, Bob. Shes got tits, that’s how we know they’re Shes. So the She-Critter’s got tits. To show that she’s a She. Got it?”
“Got it.” Mike said, honking the fake mammary again, with another squirt of seawater.
“Quit molesting the She-Critter, Mike.”