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About the Book:
Frankenstein, Dracula, Mr. Hyde, the Phantom, the Hunchback…they’re all here, the ones you grew up watching on the silver screen. But these monsters aren’t lumbering across a fog-shrouded moor or clambering along the ramparts of a Gothic castle; no, they’re here, in sunny modern-day Southern California, in places you know and may have visited. That homeless vet with the rebuilt leg lounging before the liquor store in Santa Monica – could that be Frankenstein’s monster? The eerie host making promises at the end of an Orange County amusement park ride – is he really the Devil? Some of these monsters you might recognize instantly – it’s hard to disguise a Giant Monster, after all – but you’ll never know what to expect in these stories that range from black humor to the farthest extremes of extreme fiction.
About the Author:
Lisa Morton is the screenwriter of cult favorites Meet the Hollowheads and Blood Angels, and has also written numerous episodes of children’s animated series. She is a four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award (including Superior Achievement in a First Novel for The Castle of Los Angeles), and her short fiction has appeared in such books and magazines as Dark Delicacies, The Living Dead, Cemetery Dance, The Mammoth Book of Dracula, and (forthcoming) Blood Lite 3. She is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Halloween, and her book The Halloween Encyclopedia was released in 2011 in a 2nd edition. She is a native and lifelong resident of Southern
Monsters of L.A. is her first collection.
California, and lives online at www.lisamorton.com.
From “The Creature”:
Billy Danning pointed at the tar pit and exclaimed, “Look, mommy – it’s bubbling.”
Billy’s mother, Ashley, barely looked up from her phone conversation. “…oh, I know, can you believe it?” she continued, trying to wave her eight-year-old son to silence, “he’s such a douche. I mean, the first one was bad enough…”
It was a crowded, sunny Sunday around the La Brea Tar Pits; couples posed for photos with the giant sloth statue, kids ran shrieking along the concrete walkways that bordered the glassy black pits, and parents chattered on cell phones or punched in text messages. Yet, despite the substantial crowd, only Billy was watching the bubble forming in the tar, plainly visible just beyond the fence and a short grassy expanse; a few feet to the side of the bubbling, a huge plaster mastodon was eternally sucked to its doom as its family watched from the safety of the bank.
The bubble expanded to nearly two feet across, popped loudly, and promptly grew again.
“Mom…” Billy said, now tugging his mother’s sleeve and gesturing with more urgency.
“Billy, stop it.” Ashley glared at him briefly, then shrugged off his grubby fingers and went back to her call. “Sorry, we’re at the La Brea Tar Pits and Billy’s getting all excited by tar…oh, I know it’s incredibly dumb, but we drove past here last week on the way to a play date and he saw those retarded elephant statues or whatever they are, and he simply had to come here today.”
Ashley turned and walked a few feet off. Billy looked back at the oily surface -
- and something broke it.
At first it was so ooze-covered that it was hard to make out the shape pushing its way slowly up out of the liquid asphalt, but as Billy watched, paralyzed, sludge fell away and revealed a large hand with webbed, clawed fingers.
“He doesn’t even care about his own son,” Ashley was saying behind him. “Ever since he took up with that slut, Billy doesn’t even exist.”
The hand became an arm, reaching up. The arm was connected to a shoulder…then the top of a head pushed through the surface…one inch, two, three, four, and Billy knew that head plainly belonged to something that wasn’t human.
“MOMMY!” he screamed.
Ashley whirled. “For God’s sake, Billy, what -?!” Then she followed his madly waving hand, and saw the creature that was agonizingly, impossibly emerging from the tar, using a leg of the fake mastodon to haul itself up.
“Holy crap,” she said, then remembered the cell phone. “Angie, can I call you right back? Yeah.
She finished the call and turned her attention fully to the creature. A crowd was gathering now, a murmur growing. Billy danced excitedly, nearly hyperventilating.
“It’s a monster, it’s a monster -!”
Ashley laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous, honey. It’s a guy in a suit. It’s probably a promotion for a new movie or something.”
The crowd picked up on Ashley’s statement, and guesses began to percolate. “Aren’t they doing a new swamp monster movie?” said a tall man with glasses. “I think I saw a commercial for this,” said a woman as she fiddled with the camera settings on her smart phone. “That’s pretty cool,” said a kid with three lip piercings.
“Billy, do you remember how to work the video camera on mommy’s phone?” Ashley asked.
The creature now had one leg on land and was awkwardly trying to pull itself free from the last of the tar’s embrace, grasping onto an imitation mastodon tusk. As more tar and water sluiced off of it, a scaled, faintly greenish hide was revealed, and trembling flaps on either side of its face that looked like gills. It had no nose, no hair, and huge amphibious eyes.
Somehow, Billy instinctively knew it wanted to kill him. He reached for Ashley’s hand and tried to pull her away. “Mom, we have to GO -!”
Ashley ignored him, stabbing triumphantly at the screen on her phone. “There’s the video!” She lifted the phone and pointed it at the creature, who had planted both clawed feet on land.
The excitement in the onlookers grew. Cameras and phones were held aloft. “My followers are going to love this,” blurted out a young man wearing a t-shirt featuring a horror movie poster. A giggling teenaged girl turned to her friend and said, “Maybe this is a reality show and we’ll be on MTV.”
Ashley lowered the phone and hit a number, then raised the phone to her lips again. “Ange, you’ve gotta see this – check out the picture I just sent you. They’re doing some kind of crazy promotion here today…yeah, that guy in the photo just came up out of the tar…no, you can’t even see his oxygen tanks or whatever. Isn’t that awesome?”
The creature shambled up past the statuary to the fence, leaving a trail of tar behind it. It reached out to the bars, beat its hands against the barrier once – then it grasped the fence and simply tore a section aside, the snapping metal sounding like machine-gun pops.
The audience applauded.
“Dude, that rocked!” “What movie is this for?” “I hope we get free t-shirts!” “I didn’t even notice that section of fence was fake…”
But Billy wasn’t clapping or waiting to be handed a promotional baseball cap – he was screaming. So were a few others, but not many.
“God, Billy, shut UP!” Ashley said, then returned to her call. “I swear, he is such a little geek sometimes…”
Overcome by animal panic, Billy ran. He skirted around the crowd and dodged a few others who were likewise fleeing. He sped past a figure of a giant prehistoric bear, but when he found his path blocked by more gawkers, he leapt into a tree, scrambling into the branches until he was eight feet overhead. He crouched on a limb there, shaking violently, bobbing his head until he could see what was happening.
The creature, freed now from the encumbrance of its tar prison, was picking up speed. It abruptly lunged and grabbed one of the giggling teenaged girls, who shrieked with glee.