Oscar was hunched over his desk while Heidi stood waiting. He was focused on the contract the producers emailed him a few days earlier. He looked up. A nervous chuckle replaced the nothing expression of his mind at work, “This is more money than I’ve ever made — combined!”
His manager’s job was to reassure him, to keep him on-track. “Those psychopaths you conjure have been an ATM for the studio for years.” She nodded at the contract, “This is where you cash-in.”
He glanced at the enormous number on the contract, “What if I can’t live up to that? What if I can’t bring him to life?”
“You’ve got this, O! But, hey, only one schizo at a time, right? We’ve got to get this film out there first.” He nodded, understood. “Good!” she said. “I arranged for a car. It’ll be here at eight A.M. sharp. Be ready!”
Oscar’s wife, Mandy, entered his office from the hall. She stepped around Bruno the Golden Retriever and past her husband’s collection of Houston Astros memorabilia, including José Altuve’s game-winning bat from the 2017 World Series victory over the Yankees, and handed Oscar his mail, “It’s a light day. A funny post card, though. It even looks a little like your handwriting — hey! a fan! — but with anything but your opinion. I’m leaving before the rant.” She stepped out of the room and Oscar found his way to the solid black postcard at the back of the stack. He turned it over, read its message, laughed; his wife was right.
“What’s so funny?” Heidi asked. He handed her the postcard. “What’s Event Horizon?”
Oscar was appalled, “You haven’t seen Event Horizon?” She stared at him with an I-don’t-give-a-fuck expression. “Where a mysterious force from a black hole causes everybody on a spaceship to start hallucinating?” He waited. “Murder? Mayhem?”
“Sorry. No go.”
His tone turned grave, “You’re fired!”
“Rent it tonight. I’m not kidding! The best two hours you’ll ever spend.”
“Yeah, that’s happening.” She nodded at the contract, “Sign on the dotted line, fanboy, then go pack your bags. We’ve got places to be.” Oscar signed the contract and she pulled it from his desk. She turned for the door, “Eight A.M. Try not to be late this time. L.A. awaits!”
Heidi exited the room, and Oscar flipped the post card in his hand, checked the top for a return address. It said simply “Austin, Texas” and carried the local postmark. He read the card again: “Event Horizon sucks!” He laughed until the unease set in; how did that idiot on Twitter, with whom he had a pointless tweet war over a twenty-five-year-old film, get his home address? Oscar entered his name and “address” into Google and clicked. His info was everywhere, like everyone’s, and included every address he had lived at from his childhood home up through his and Mandy’s last house. But none of the websites listed the home they moved into just three months earlier. He tapped at his phone, sent Mandy a text: “Have you given our home address to anybody other than the usual?” He quickly followed up: “No worries. Just curious.”
Mandy replied: “No one.”
The following afternoon, Oscar stepped into a luxurious single at the Beverly Hotel. A California king filled the center of the space. Two comfortable chairs, a table, and a sleek desk sat under a bank of windows. A bottle of champagne rested in a bucket of ice on the table, and next to it a post card. On the card was written “Event Horizon sucks!” He laughed, “Nicely played.”
Later that night, after hours of brain numbing meetings led by assholes surviving on their daddy’s money and name, Oscar and Heidi were riding back from the studio in a large black car. The plush ride was all but parked in rush hour traffic. “It’s only eight blocks up. You wanna get out and walk?” Oscar asked.
“Fair enough.” He took a sip of wine and grinned, “I got the postcard. You watch it?”
“What postcard? Watch what?”
“Event Horizon. And the card you sent with the champagne.”
She was confused, “That movie you cum to?”
“That wasn’t you?”
“Do I look like I give a shit about some old sci-fi flick? We’ve had that talk.” The traffic started to move.
“Horror not Sci-Fi,” he mumbled.
Oscar entered his room and stepped immediately into the shower. Twenty minutes later, he was drying himself off as he walked to the window of his fifth floor room. He loved third through fifth floor rooms. They were just high enough for his middle-aged eyes to see as far as they needed and yet were low enough for him to catch the details on the ground. It was the perfect analogy for that place where writers needed to play. (He liked that insight, planned to write it down and keep it for later!) He stepped away from the window, tossed the towel on the bed, grabbed some worn red briefs from his suitcase, and slipped them over his short chubby legs. He stared blankly out the window.
Oscar missed his home. And Mandy. He had been away so much the past few years that both were coming to feel like a fantasy. Less real than his stories. Success had a price. He glanced again at the postcard, picked it up, studied the solid black front that was just like the last one, reread its simple message. He took note of the “Austin, Texas” postmarked across top. Its author’s resolve gave Oscar a chill, the kind that was one of those Stephen King moments that made the world a dark and magical place. Yes, he admitted, it was 3×5 inches of weird, but the most it could do was give him a paper cut. He set it down. He had to get some sleep. They had an early flight out.
Oscar and Heidi were trudging through San Francisco International Airport with their bags in tow. She checked her phone for the time and amped up her stride, “Pick it up, stumpy! We’ve got an hour til the presser!”
Oscar was sitting in front of Jack Bernard. (French. Film critic.) It was Oscar’s sixth interview in two hours and Bernard was speaking a mile a minute with no effort to break the accent barrier. And if that French fucker wasn’t going to make the effort, then neither was Oscar, who answered “Yes” to every question the Frenchman posed. (Like anyone this side of the Atlantic was going to pay attention to this Parisian Bozo!)
Oscar and Heidi were again in the back seat of a big black car. And, again, they were drinking. “I hate the French,” he said.
“I’ve got no opinion of the country, but Bernard can make or break us in France, and that’ll set the tone for the rest of Europe. So I hope you kissed him after you blew him.”
“Kiss him, too? I’m not a whore!”
“You are, actually.” She took a sip from her glass, became serious, “You treated him right, right?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Oscar flopped onto his bed in the tiny hotel room. He was exhausted. Too bad! The junket had two more weeks before it concluded. One of those would be in Europe. He wondered if he had time to learn French, but immediately dismissed the prospect. He’d blown up (but not blown) France; the French were toast. Germany! He needed to learn German.
Maybe it was Europe. Maybe it was the stress of knowing that he had suddenly become a big fucking deal who carried expectations with him now. Whatever it was, Oscar stared at the ceiling for hours, unable to sleep. He missed Mandy.
He sat up in bed, stepped to the window, looked out at the city, hoped there wouldn’t be a massive earthquake while he was sleeping, looked up, checked the ceiling for structural soundness. He had to pee.
Oscar turned for the bathroom, glanced at the dresser, noticed a white rectangular reflection in the night’s gray light. “Where did this…?” He spun a slow, almost imperceptible, three hundred sixty degrees as he looked for the card’s courier. No one was there. Yet they were, somehow, even if in another form. He picked up the card to read it but knew what it said. Still…
Like a child hoping to arrive at a different destination by walking on the opposite side of the street, he began at the top of the card: “Austin, Texas” He forced his eyes down against a black raging current of fear. “Event Horizon sucks!” He placed the card back on the dresser, stepped to the door, slipped the chain in the slot, turned the knob and checked the lock, and asked himself what he was afraid of. He didn’t answer. Didn’t know. He just knew that he was hemmed within that void where gods and insanity were born, a place in which, ironically, he should have found the most comfort. It was a world that he had exploited for years for fame and, soon, fortune. He glanced back across the room at the postcard and wondered how it got there.
Oscar stiffened his spine and stormed into the bathroom and pulled the shower curtain aside with a sudden, forceful jerk. Nothing. Pulled the door quickly from the wall. Nothing. Walked angrily back into the room. “Who’s here?!” he screamed. Nobody.
Oscar crawled into bed and began humming the Full House theme, rolled on his side and closed his eyes and tried to forget about the card. “Yeah, bud. Good luck.”
Heidi was signing them in at the front desk of the Algonquin in New York City. Oscar stood next to her staring at the hotel’s cat. The cat stared back. Oscar wondered what the feline term for bastard was. “Do you know the feline term for bastard?”
She glanced over her shoulder at him. She was annoyed, “What?”
Oscar looked away sheepishly, “Nothing.”
She received the keys from the clerk. “Hold up!” the young man said. “Forgot!” He handed her a postcard.
She handed a key and the card to Oscar, “This was waiting.” He took the card and noticed the gloss black front, inhaled a deep calming breath that wasn’t calming at all, flipped the card, saw the Austin, Texas postmark, and laughed uneasily. What else was he supposed to do? Call the cops? “What’s so funny?” Heidi asked.
Oscar tossed the card into the trash, looked at her, “You need to rent Event Horizon.”
“Third floor,” she said, and then walked away uninterested.
“I’m not kidding!” he called out. “It’s terrific!” She pressed the elevator’s Up arrow without a word. “Seriously!”
Oscar sat at the window end of a Midtown hotel room across from a reporter from The New Yorker magazine. She smiled, “I read in an interview you gave to the French magazine Oi that you said the musical group Yes had been your biggest artistic influence during your early days. That’s an unusual muse for a young writer. Can you elaborate?“
“There might have been a language barrier.”
She laughed, “Then I’ll ask the same question in fluent English. What artist or artistic creation most influenced you?” Questions like this were bullshit, of course. Writers weren’t influenced by any one particular thing. They were influenced by the exquisite imperfections that the universe hurled at them like particles in an accelerator: colors, words, shapes, smells, sounds that were immediately consumed by their demented imaginations and shit out as “art.” A writer’s imagination was different today than it was yesterday and would be different tomorrow than it was today. A writer’s influence was everything, but it was most of all unknowable. And yet during these interviews, the products of which would be sandwiched between advertisements for foot cream and mascara, every writer played along.
“Event Horizon,” he said. “That was my primary influence.”
“The old sci-fi film?”
“Horror. It’s horror. Yes.”
“I’ve never seen it. Why Event Horizon?”
The world’s ignorance toward one of the greatest movies of all time was starting to get to Oscar. First Twitter, then Heidi, now this bitch. “Because it’s fantastic!” he screamed.
Miami, London, Stockholm, Berlin, Paris. The skylines changed but the questions never did. Neither did the postcards, which arrived for Oscar at every stop on his tour. The only difference was their postmarks.
It had been fifteen days since Oscar had been home. It was late evening when he slipped quietly into his office and to the floor beneath his Astros collection. His suitcase and Bruno rested at his sides, the wall at his back.
Oscar petted the dog as he flipped through his latest screenplay for the first time in two weeks. He was excited by the prospect of fresh eyes; time away helped you find the glitches. But nothing was registering tonight. He placed the script on his lap. He was spent.
He rose to his feet and stepped to his desk, where he dropped into his chair and rifled through the mail Mandy had piled neatly by his lamp. At the bottom of the stack was another black card. He laughed, accepted the weirdness, wondered when it would end. He flipped it over — “Event Horizon sucks!” — and shifted his eyes to the postmark. That’s when he saw it. It was only a small change, just two words in the reply-to line, but it stole his breath away. “Austin, Texas” had been changed to “Oscar’s Den.” He read it again and fought harder for air.
He looked into the darkness of the unlit hall and his stomach tightened. This was a gag, right? Or was somebody in his house? And where was Mandy? “Shit!” he whispered urgently. He glanced again at the card before he dropped it to the floor and rose from his chair and retrieved José Altuve’s bat from the wall. “Come on,” he said quietly to Bruno. They stepped into the hall.
At the far end of the hall, last door on the right, was a former bedroom that Oscar and Mandy had converted into a home theater with six comfortable recliners, a big screen TV, and a kick ass sound system. Flashes of blue light from the television flashed beneath its door as Oscar raised the bat like he was preparing for a Verlander fastball. He walked quietly toward the light.
As Oscar edged toward the opening, his steps became tip-toes: short, silent, tentative. He reached for the doorknob, grasped it gently, inhaled deeply. Then, with an unrepentant and singular motion that both empowered and terrified him, he turned the knob, kicked the door open, and prepared to swing. A woman was sitting in one of the recliners. “I didn’t hear you come in,” she said cooly.
The stranger was unfamiliar, menacing, with a face that mocked him, “Sane when she has to be, crazy in her off-time.” She fearlessly rose to her feet and stepped toward him without a word. “Stop!” he yelled.
“What?” she laughed. She kept walking. Twelve feet, ten feet, eight feet, six, five, four… That’s when Oscar made his move, swung José’s bat like the Series depended on it. The first hit took out the woman’s left knee. The second nailed her right. She dropped to the floor, looked up at him, screamed for him to stop. But Oscar kept swinging — at her legs, at her body, at her head. His impacts were brutal. The cops would call the pummeling “psychopathic” when they discovered her dead body at the first light of dawn. But, tonight, it — the feel of the bat reverberating up Oscar’s arms as it connected with her increasingly faltering body, the delicate yet monstrous sound of him shattering her bones — was primeval in its allure, as beautiful as it was real, as the stranger cried his name, “What are you doing, Oscar? Stop!!! My God, Oscar, stop!!!”
But Oscar did not stop. He simply screamed in reply, “Event Horizon is a great fucking movie!!!” as Mandy curled into a ball and begged her husband to stop killing her.