Molly did the research on where to stay, on the theory that putting me in charge of finding a bed & breakfast would be like setting Molly in charge of hunting and killing a wildebeast - theoretically possible, but inadvisable. Using the Power of the Internet(!) she found us a place. For legal, don't-sue-us reasons, we will call it the "Back Porch Desert Garden Bed & Breakfast" 1
Now, on paper, the "Back Porch Desert Garden Bed & Breakfast" looked very nice. "Individual well-lit cabins," with "private fireplaces" and a "large selection of movies." All reasonably priced2. Molly set up the reservations over the phone with "Hilda,"3 the proprietor. The big weekend finally came and we left our workday stress behind us for the open road.
Insert creepy string music and ominous opening credits. Probably with dripping blood that wipes down to reveal a title like "Dead & Breakfast" or "Weekend Dead-Away".
God's honest truth, there were storm clouds brewing overhead by the time we actually made the drive to the area in the evening. Yes, that's right...
It was a dark and stormy night when we arrived just outside of Napa Valley where our B&B was located. As we drove along the lonely highway, though, it was nowhere to be seen. We stopped at a gas station and Molly called the number she'd been given.
A male voice answered. "Yes?"
"Hi. We have reservations for this weekend, but we can't seem to find you. We're at a gas station in [redacted]."
"You've gone too far. We're five miles back, take a right turn and we're just off the highway."
Molly came back and told me the directions. "That can't be right," we both thought. "All that was back there was a sad looking mobile home..."
Welcome to the Sad Looking Mobile Home Bed & Breakfast.
By the time we arrived, night had fallen and a cold drizzle was just starting to fall. Our initial impression was skeptical, at best, but being a couple of plucky troopers, we were determined to have a fine time regardless. We trudged through the rain to the stoop and rang the doorbell.
The door opened.
(Insert bone-chilling organ chord.)
Now, I've heard the phrase "dead-eyed" in fiction many, many times. But until that night, I never truly understood what it meant. The man standing in that door way had the deadest eyes I'd ever seen before or since - they were devoid of any sense of human kindness or really any emotion at all. This man had never been angry or heartbroken or laughed with a baby or tickled a puppy. I literally recoiled half a step. "And the part of the serial killer," I thought to myself, "will be played by this man."
This came up when I put "scary dead eyes" into Google.
For the record, Jack looked nothing like this.
It was a long moment before either of us thought to speak, and the whole time he just stood there, staring at us, saying nothing. "Hi, we're Hudson and Molly," we eventually stammered. "We talked to you on the phone a few minutes ago? We have reservations." (Oh boy, did we.)
"This way," he said without introduction and walked inside, leaving us to follow. Foolishly, we did so. He was standing behind a guest book. "Sign here," he said. Only when we had did he introduce himself.
"I'm Jack4. Hilda said Molly told her you worked on the new Star Trek movie.," he said without preamble. "I love Star Trek. I have all the episodes. And not just the original series, but Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. I have all the movies."
"Okay." (Seriously, what am I supposed to say?)
There was a long pregnant pause, and finally Jack said, "Your cabin is this way." As he led us through the home, he gave us a short, perfunctory tour. Breakfast served here, back porch there, and... well, that was it, really. I mentioned it was a mobile home, right? Not exactly a lot of room for little nooks and crannies. "If you want any movies, come find me and I'll get them for you from the library," he said.
One thing was noticeably absent, though: Hilda. As far as we could tell, Jack was the only person there. Hmmm....
The cabins were prefab little affairs - pretty nice, actually - set up behind the main "building". There was a path around the mobile home to them, but we weren't allowed to park our car there; it had to be parked out in front. 5
Once we had unpacked the car and replaced it back in the front lot, Molly and I took stock. We were not filled with joy. The room was tidy, yes, but small and sterile, with an ancient rabbit-eared tv and the "fireplace" turned out to be a small grated gas furnace. Still determined to make the best of things, we opened up the book listing all of the "large collection of movies." And there were indeed quite a few - at least a hundred. Beside each movie was listed a tape number to ask for.
(Ah, for my younger readers, this was back before DVD's became ubiquitous, and movies were often recorded on "VHS tapes." Ask your parents.)
(For my even younger readers, DVD's are what came before downloaded digital movies. Ask your grandparents. It'll make them feel special.)
(For my readers who haven't been born yet, this was all before we had genetically engineered brain-wasps inject the movies directly into our cerebral cortex. Weren't we quaint?)
It had been a long drive and cuddling up and watching some movies sounded pretty nice. As we scanned the titles, though, we noticed that many of them referenced the same tape number. From which we deduced that they had been recorded off of TV onto tape, and judging from the number of movies on any given tape, at the lowest possible quality. Great.
Ah, what the heck, I'm no videophile. We were there to relax, not count pixels and scan lines. Who cared about the quality? We just wanted something to watch. So we made a little list of movies we wanted, and I went to find Jack while Molly stayed to "slip into something a little more comfortable." Ah, yeah. Boom chicka bow-bow. You know what I'm sayin'? That's right... What's that? Molly's parents and brother can read this blog? Oh. Ah, by "something more comfortable," I of course meant a sensible set of warm flannel pajamas. Right. Moving on.
The rain was really starting to come down as I made it to the main building and rapped on the back patio door. When Jack opened the door this time, I was better prepared - I don't think I cringed at all, and any whimpering I made was certainly inaudible. "Um," I said as he stood there saying nothing, "We have some movies we'd like to get." I held the list out.
He looked at my hand, then turned and walked away. "Follow me," he said, leading me to the main bedroom door.
Okay, it's necessary to verbally map this scene out for you just a bit. The bedroom door opened on a corner of the room. As I stood in the doorway, the room opened up to my left, and the wall on my right extended forward till it reached the far wall I was facing.The wall on my right - wall of movies. Floor to ceiling bookshelfs packed with an impressive selection of tapes, each hand-labeled.
Directly ahead of me? Wall of Penises.
You probably missed that - this post is pretty long and you're probably skimming by this point, so I'll repeat it.
The wall was covered with a collection of framed pencil sketches of penises. Penises in all states. Soft, flaccid, turgid, straight, bent. It was the Louvre of Penii. To this day, two have stuck in my mind particularly vividly. One was half-flaccid, being gripped by a hand around its base, with a single drop of fluid hanging down from the head. Yeah. The other? Some sort of alien penis-plant, with a large central penis-stalk, off of which extruded many smaller penis-branches. Well, Jack did say he was into science fiction, though I can't say I remember that particular episode of Star Trek.
All of this took me about one quarter of a second to take in, before I immediately and sharply pivoted on my right foot to face the wall o' movies from four inches away. I have never more completely targeted 100% of my attention as I did right then. That wall of VHS tapes became the entirety of my universe while Jack collected my movies.
By the time I came back to our bungalow, Molly had slipped into the aforementioned "something more comfortable." I burst through the door and completely ignored her and her attire (you know, warm flannel pajamas) as I went around the room making sure all doors and windows were closed, covered and securely locked. "Darling," I said, taking her hand, "you are NEVER to be alone with Jack. Ever. For any length of time at all. Pinky swear on it."
After a bit6, we finally settled in to watch one of the movies I'd grabbed, "The Man with Two Brains" with Steve Martin. (I needed a laugh.) I think Molly may have tried to kindle some romance, but right then, Gandhi would have looked like the last of the red hot lovers compared to me.
Then we discovered that not only had the movie been recorded off of tv...
1) it had been recorded off of network tv, with all of the commercials left in...
2) but all of the language and dirty jokes taken out.
Molly looked at me and said, "What're you thinking?" she asked.
"Nothing good," I replied.
"What do you want to do?"
I thought for a second. "Leave," I said.
We repacked our bags and stacked them by the door. Then, in the pouring rain, we tiptoed through the moonless night to our car. As quietly as we could, we got inside and, without turning on the lights, drove it past the main trailer to our cabin. Then, half-convinced Jack would appear with a bloody cleaver at any moment, we jumped out of the car, threw open the door and flung our bags into the back seat. Then we jumped back into the car and peeled out, blasting Weird Al Yankovich from the CD player (on the theory that no one is ever horribly murdered listening to Weird Al).
It's true. I checked.
"Yes!," we shouted to no one at all. "We survived! We checked out of the Bates Motel! We're smarter than people in horror movies!" (Then we realized that we were speeding through the dark down a mountain road in the rain. Luckily, we slowed down before we killed *ourselves*. Irony is a harsh mistress.)
In the nearest town, we found an actual honest-to-goodness Bed & Breakfast that was willing to take us in the middle of the night after hearing our adventure. We spent the rest of the weekend in a big, beautiful house with wonderful food and pleasant, non-terrifying, non-batshit-insane people.
When the mysterious Hilda (who, come on, we're all pretty sure by now is actually just Jack, right?) called us later to find out what happened, we explained our strict "no penis art" policy. When she became a bit defensive, we further explained that recording movies off of tv and then using them in her advertisements for her B&B is just a tiny bit illegal. We received a full refund of our deposit.
So, when all was said and done, we had to actually be grateful to the Back Porch Desert Garden Bed & Breakfast for being so pants-soilingly frightening and awful. Because it was, we left and eventually had a wonderful weekend. If it had been just a little bit less terrible, we probably would have stayed and toughed it out, had a miserable time, and, of course, have been brutally murdered. So, a win-win all around.
Thanks, Hilda and Jack! I hope we never see or talk to either of you ever again!
1 I want to be perfectly clear here - while I can totally understand and excuse the instinct to regard anything out of my mouth as the nonsensical ramblings of a madman (a devilishly handsome and charming madman), this story is 100%, swear-on-my-mother's-grave-and-she-isn't-even-dead true.
2 "Reasonable" - bwah ha ha ha ha!!! "The Back Porch Desert Garden B&B, where reason is beaten senseless and sanity is a gimp we keep in the basement." Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself.
3 Another name change, I'm afraid. Look, I feel guilty that I'm taking the coward's way out and not actually giving the your information necessary to avoid this place. On the upside, though, if you do end up there, it's highly unlikely you'll survive to be able to blame me for not warning you. Well, it's an upside for me.
4 Yeah, yeah, not his name, either. Listen, it's a harsh world out there. If you get killed in a bed & breakfast by an emotionless serial killer, well, that's life, okay? I can't be responsible for warning every person away from every psychopath I've encountered! Jeez.
5 Designed to slow down escape routes, no doubt. It's nice to see a serial killer who takes the time to plan ahead. Too many psychopaths just do things in a slapdash manner, no pride in their work.
6 This doesn't really fit into the main narrative, but around this time I had to use the restroom. As I was sitting on the toilet, I looked down and saw a silverfish on the ground. It's existence didn't bother me - the room was actually quite clean, and there's always a few insects anywhere you go. No, what bothered me was that it was walking in a one-inch circle in the middle of the floor. Over and over and over and over and over.... "Shit," I thought, "I'm not just stuck in a horror movie, but it's apparently directed by David Lynch."