By Cory Sklar
By Alee Karim
By Christina Li
By Dave Pehling
By Ian S. Port
By SF Weekly
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
South of Market, outside the Plunder Industries warehouse, a disheveled crowd gathers in the biting cold. A woman dressed in Mission-style earth tones and a khaki Army jacket zipped to her chin bounces from foot to foot, trying to generate heat. She huffs and puffs into her clenched fists and makes flapping motions with her arms.
"For Christ's sake, woman," barks a bearded gent from the other side of the Plunder lot gateway. "Pay your five bucks and get your ass in by the fire."
"No can do," says the rosy-nosed lady. "Gotta wait for Bridgett." Bright white lights from a nearby billboard illuminate Bridgett's face as she approaches. She turns her eyes skyward and points a mitten at the moon, which hangs below the decrepit freeway overpass like a swelling orange.
"Looks like haunted house weather to me," she grins. A pair of green alien antennae bob from the top of her woolly cap as she forks over some rumpled bills.
Inside the dirt lot, people stand laughing and warming their hands over a small campfire while others stoke flames in large oil drums. The Plunder Industries' lot is much what one would expect from the creators of Plundertown and the life-size game of Mouse Trap. Spare mechanical parts lie under greasy tarps; wooden shelves, towering at least 15 feet into the air, are crammed with twirling gadgets, rusting toys, springs, giant bolts, wheels, and the like; the outdoor stage is covered with amps, projection equipment, and mike stands. An authentic Doggie Diner dog head grins at it all.
Oval Orifice, a beautiful woman with ink-black hair, stands on the highest point onstage, running a pair of slide projectors. As scenes from old horror movies fade in and out on the side of the warehouse, Orifice bends over her machinery, blending the images by hand with a tweaker's concentration. Barney, a theremin player, supplies an eerie assortment of electronic noise between traditional haunted house recordings and old-fashioned screaming.
A corpse named Mad Dog Professor Von Putz 'n Schlitz stumbles past waving a cane. "You're only famous after you're dead," he growls. "I just cut out the middle man."
The professor takes his post near Circus Boy, who stands on 6-foot stilts at the entrance to the haunted house waving a blood-soaked ax. Overanxious thrill-seekers are shooed away. "Go have a drink with Barbwire," Circus Boy drools.
Behind a plywood bar, Barbwire the Barmaid smiles impishly and flips her white-blond hair. "I've got Menstrual Medley [vodka-cran] and Sewer Soda [whiskey and Coke]," she coos, puffing out her plastic, yet ample, cleavage. "Mmmm ... good."
Beside the stage, the Molotov Malcontents, a husband-and-wife fire-breathing team, light up. The crowd closes in, moths drawn to the circles of flame. "Mmmm ... it's warm," sighs a woman in a nurse outfit as she glugs down another Menstrual Medley. The theme from Ghostbusters roars through the speakers and a woman licks the Doggie Diner dog nose, to her boyfriend's amusement. Pages of R.U. Sirius' latest book are ceremoniously burned. Chicken John, a one-man Elvis-impersonating band, hits the stage. A small dance floor is cleared where folks can roll around in the dirt, which, with the help of some more Menstrual Medley, they do. In the distance, hell dogs howl. The less horrifying garden variety run loose through the crowd, wagging tails.
Finished with Elvis, the revelers converge on Circus Boy and the Professor, demanding haunted house fun. "OK, OK," Circus Boy concedes, brandishing his ax for the hundredth time. "We'll take six people at a time." The crowd happily gathers in small groups, who are then led through a gate into a courtyard soaked in blood-red light.
"All right, here we go," sighs a bored guide who, someone points out, looks suspiciously like Wavy Gravy. "There is nothing you can do to prepare for the atrocities which you are about to witness. This will be the most terrifying experience of your life. Yadda yadda yadda. Everybody scream." The guide turns, leading the small tour through another gate and into a maze of black Hefty bags.
Within the first room, two deranged scientists/auto mechanics work with power tools to "create an audience that will appreciate them." They cackle and curse while their patient/creation lies in a pool of gore flapping its amputated stumps. Everybody screams. Next up is a Hellraiser beauty with a blowtorch who roasts marshmallows and rolls her eyes wildly. Everybody screams; some eat marshmallows. Farther on a woman in pigtails and a baby doll dress sits on a bed with blood streaming from between her legs. "Here's that long-lost sister you've been looking for," says the guide, a trace of enthusiasm creeping into his voice. The girl smiles and begins plucking the eyes off of one of her many stuffed animals. "Fluffy's been very bad," she says sternly. Everybody walks quickly out of the room. In the "Nazi camp," everyone on the tour is shuffled into an electrocution cage, where they are led through a rousing rendition of "Institutionalized" by Suicidal Tendencies. Everybody screams. Finally, the crowd is warned not to run out of gas on the way home because ... mongoloids will attack you with baseball bats. Of course. As proof, there is a bloodied motorcyclist lying next to his bike being, you guessed it, attacked by mongoloids with baseball bats. Everybody screams. It's a lot of fun to scream.
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