Reggie didn’t realize how drunk he was until he stood up to fetch a fresh pack of smokes. The recliner had lulled him deeper into his intoxication, as if he had actually been floating in the bourbon and ice cubes in his rocks glass. The chair’s cushions gave the same way the fresh Amazonian river water did. It was not an unpleasant sensation, but the recollection of days long passed stung. He eyed the cigarettes sitting on the countertop and knew he needed to burn the memory burgeoning inside of him.
Taking a step forward, one of his webbed feet snagged the suede ottoman. Reggie cried out a curse, but it ended up sounding closer to “shirt.” Six decades after being brought to the United States it was still difficult to nail the enunciation of English. Still, he spoke it better than anyone spoke his language.
“Shirt!” he repeated looking down at the small laceration on his pinky-web. At the counter, Reggie began the laborious process of pulling a cigarette from the pack. First came the scooping of the pack with one web into the other. Then, with webbed hands clasping the small box, Reggie upturned it, hoping that one of menthol sticks would slip out on the counter so that he could start the same process all over again to get the actual cigarette into his mouth. From there it was simply a matter of igniting the push-button stovetop to get it lit.
Successful in his miniature quest, he took his first drag and plopped himself down on a barstool trying to focus his sight on the television in the living room. The images blurred together more than usual, which he quickly attributed to the whiskey and his worsening glaucoma. Then again, evolution had gifted him amazing underwater vision, sparing him the atrocity of viewing the modern world quite so clearly. Reggie heard the opening overture of the film that had just begun playing on the television. The crashing horn section was unmistakable, undeniable, and ripped through Reggie like shrapnel.
It was the musical motif of the monster that Reggie had played throughout the film. Three notes to denote him as the creature from an unknown world, hell bent on eviscerating mankind. But what the hell did he know of mankind before it went dynamite fishing in the tiny lagoon that he called home? They even did him the disservice of recreating the scene of his real-life capture in his film debut.
The director, Jack “Jackie” Arnold, had been a sweetheart to him up until that particular scene. “Reggie,” he’d said, “just go out there and submerge your whole body. It’ll be an easy scene. Quick and painless.”
Floating in the shallows, Reggie felt a warmth overtake him that felt like home, even if it was in some backlot of a Hollywood studio. He closed his eyes, striving for meditation to put himself back in his warm aquatic home. Just as he was imagining what kind of fish his family might be eating, Reggie sensed the ripple then heard the muffled blast.
That was the last time Reggie ever trusted a human. He had been forced to come back for a sequel, but by the time the studio reached out to him in the hope of cementing a trilogy Reggie had been smart enough to lawyer-up. Since 1955 he had been living off royalties from the first two films, while advising on a few low-budget knockoffs, which had basically consisted of him standing around for hours and grunting when the director presented an idea.
Taking a final drag from the menthol cigarette, Reggie inspected his foot. The blood, a combination of green and red, had begun to pool and run down both sides of his webbed foot like a dual waterfall.
Reggie had always known that his America was smaller than the lagoon that he’d been born and raised in. His own neighbors, people he’d known of for thirty years, regarded him with unease. A half-hearted wave here, toothless grin there, and a slew of memories much worse than that. Once when Reggie had applied to be a baker at a donut shop on Santa Monica Boulevard the owner had pelted him with two dozen bear claws until he finally left. Still, Reggie had left the application behind in the vain hope that the man changed his mind.
Reggie heard himself roar on the screen and remembered how badly it had damaged his vocal chords the first few days that Jackie had forced him to do it.
“Come on, you’re a big guy,” he’d said to Reggie. “Seven feet tall and you can’t roar? Get it together, man!” He’d said it as if Reggie had auditioned for the part of the monster. The man who had bamboozled him into withstanding a second dynamite blast was lecturing him on the language of his species. It was the only time in his life that he had been swept up in a rage so fantastic that he contemplated ripping the director’s limbs from him and then say, “Get it together, man,” as he presented the director with pieces of himself. Still, Reggie was smart enough to know better. The dark curtain of Hollywood had made greater stars and lesser monsters than he evaporate quicker than dignity in the industry.
Reggie kept on growling.
At the end of the third day of growls, roars, and barks Reggie was handed a bottle of Evan Williams bourbon by one of the assistants. Since that day sixty years earlier, Reggie had never tried another brand. He was a creature of habit, no one had to tell him that, and the list of habits only grew.
The pain of his foot had dulled and he redirected his stare to the double waterfall of blood. It was mostly dry and for a moment, as the horn motif sounded again, Reggie wanted to die. Seventy-five years wasn’t old for his species, but it was around the median age of a human male, and wasn’t that what he most resembled these days? As the motif blared, Reggie slipped off into a state that felt like floating, and he thought that his will to perish had proven true. Then it all went black like it did caught in the wake of a dynamite fishing scene.
When he came to Reggie realized he was not dead. In fact, the horn section was blaring and from the commotion of the film he realized it was the film’s final scene; the scene in which he is riddled with bullets and “killed” in depths of the lagoon. Only death hadn’t been true and he had made it back to reprise himself.
As the film faded to black, like all black and white horror films, Reggie saw the first glimmer of the morning sun come through his drawn blinds. Coughing up the night’s phlegm and working the knot in his lower back, he wondered how long it would take him to swim the five thousand miles back to the Amazon.
Danny De Maio was born under the skuzzy southern California sun and baptized in the polluted Pacific Ocean. His fiction has appeared in Black Heart Magazine, LA Raw, Calliope Lit Magazine, and others. He earned an M.A. in English from Chapman University and currently makes a living writing celebrities in the hope that they’ll endorse sexy products like humidifiers. He is also co-founder of the Pour Vida art collective.