Bear with me, here, because I may be onto something brilliant.
All right, so I was at the gym the other day, talking with a good friend, when the conversation somehow turned to something I’d heard on the radio. Probably brought on because we were discussing sports—more specifically, the disappointing loss suffered by our beloved basketball team, who’d effectively knocked themselves out of the playoffs after an abysmal performance the night before—I mentioned hearing that some guy, some literally insane guy, had purchased a pair of the great Michael Jordan’s shoes for, if I remember correctly, $70,000!
What!? I mean, I love MJ as much as the next guy—but $70K? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. People have bought way weirder things before (thank you, Internet). And it was this point specifically that my friend brought up: People buy all kinds of weird things, dude.
In the midst of rattling off bizarre items he’d heard of people buying on the Internet, my friend dropped the words, “Bagel bitten into by Justin Timberlake.”
Now, that got me thinking. First, where where where did you, Mr. Internet salesperson, find such an item? Are you maybe a butler at the JT residence? Did you watch Justin exit a Dunkin’ Donuts, bagel in hand, only to observe him take a bite and then quickly cast it aside, saying, “That’s enough for me! Gotta keep this A-lister frame!”
Second, how do I know this bagel is authentic? Where’s the certificate of authenticity? Where’s the stalker footage of JT walking out of the Dunkin’ Donuts? Where’s the hostage video of Justin reading off a cue card, declaring that he is who he says he is before taking a bite of a bagel presented to him by a mysterious, heavyset figure, wearing a ski mask and surgical gloves?
And third, who on earth would buy such a ridiculous—wait a minute. I had an idea.
“Dude,” I blurted out, eyes wide with epiphanic shock. “That’s—that’s kinda weird, you know?”
“What? The bagel? How so?” he replied, nonchalantly proceeding to curl the dumbbell in his hand.
“All right, hear me out for a second,” I said, sitting down on the bench across from his and motioning with my hands for him to pay attention to me. “Let’s say this bagel really did belong to Justin Timberlake. Let’s say he took a bite out of it and said, ‘Heck, I bet I could get a ton of money for this online!’ Let’s say he’s a bit pressed for cash at the moment and would say something like that.”
“Get. To. The point,” spewed an inpatient tone, laced with a few weightlifting grunts.
“He’s gotta be careful, man,” said I, leaning in, as if telling my friend a blurb of top secret information.
“Okaaaaaaay. Aaaaaand,” begged my friend, dropping the weight and wiping his brow of sweat.
“Well, I mean, there are some really, certifiably crazy people out there.”
My hand instinctively motioned to a guy in 1970’s basketball shorts and knee-high socks. Wearing a Tom Selleck moustache and a glaring smile, the awkward man battled hard, with arms and legs, against a chest press machine beside a treadmill, whereon an attractive, young female in yoga pants ran uneasily. Obviously aware of his presence, she jogged with one eye on the television playing Ellen, and the other scanning the room for the best escape route, in the event Joe Creeper should work up the courage to speak to her.
I continued on with my revelation. “Let’s say one of those crazy people somehow knows how to collect DNA from the dried saliva on an old bagel.”
“Can you even do that?” my friend asked.
“Whatever,” I said, shaking off the potential improbability of my suggestion. “Let’s say they can, and they use that technology to clone their own JT. How insane would that be?”
“I guess it would—”
“What an idea for a horror movie!” I interrupted, excitedly.
Bemusement fell over my friend’s blank face, as if it had been hurled upon him like water from a bucket.
“You lost me,” he muttered, mouth wide and eyes blinking.
“Like a comedy-horror,” I declared, holding my palms out, as if I were offering him my idea on a platter. “A Horromedy. A Comror. A comedy-horror.”
The blankness on my friend’s face persisted.
“All right,” I said, taking a seat beside him. “Picture this,” my hands spread wide before me, as if parting a curtain, “a group of college-aged individuals walk into an old, abandoned warehouse. One of them is a young and handsome medical student. He’s on spring break with his girlfriend, the super attractive cheerleader, and her best friend, the outcast emo virgin—or the outmogin, for short.”
I haven’t much experience with horror films, but those three personalities sounded right to me. Attractive people always end up in horror flicks—everyone knows that. But I chose to add the virgin element because I remember hearing once that such a player was common, even necessary, for a complete horror film. Something about how the virgin always dies last, or something. I honestly don’t know. But alas, I went with it.
“All three were planning on meeting up with their friends,” I continued, “a surfer guy, who hates the medical student, for whatever reason—we’ll say he believes vaccines are polluting the ocean, or something ridiculous like that; the surfer’s airhead girlfriend, aaaaand…how about a nerd? Yeah, we’ll throw a nerd in there.” I mean, why not have a nerd, right? “He’ll probably die first,” I said, after quick contemplation, “so no need to think too much about developing him into a character with any real depth or believability. We’ll just give him some thick glasses, a pocket protector, a wallet with the Star Wars logo imprinted upon it, and some vocabulary like, ‘probability,’ ‘percentage,’ ‘precisely,’ ‘according to my calculations,’ and ‘jeepers.’”
Side Note: I have nothing against nerds. In fact, I’m pretty nerdy about Star Wars and all things Batman, myself. I just figured that if this cast of characters were to truly get themselves lost in a mound of horror clichés, the smartest members of the group would have to be cookie cutter cinema stereotypes, and would need to drop out of the race early. Bad news for the medical student, I guess.
By this time, my friend appeared intrigued. He’d been gazing sternly into the opposite mirror and caressing his pasty arms for much of my genius horror story’s setup. I’m not sure exactly when his attention finally diverted, though.
“Anyway,” said I, continuing on, “the surfer, airhead, and nerd are on their way to pick up the med student, cheerleader, and outmogin. The three were planning on meeting up with surfer and the gang at a, let’s say, spring break luau; but broke down and blew a tire on the side of a country road.”
“Wow! Double whammy!” declared my friend.
“Indeed,” I replied. “And no matter how hard they stared at the engine, or rubbed their chins and scratched their heads as they twisted caps and tapped tubes on the smoking machine, the vehicle would not revive. And so, with no tires to spare and no luck observing the engine back to proper functionality, the three call their friends for help, and give them their location just before their phone batteries die—all of them, all three batteries mysteriously die at the same time.”
“No,” I dismissed. “Convenient is what it is. Anyway, the group grows impatient waiting for their friends to arrive, so they decide to explore the countryside. Surfer and friends find the abandoned vehicle shortly thereafter—because time is also a convenient commodity in this horromedy universe—and proceed to follow their friends’ tracks, until they find them standing outside a giant, seemingly abandoned warehouse.”
My friend’s weight shifted in his hips from left to right, and he began gently nibbling on the ends of his index fingers.
“The place is obviously threatening. Vultures hover overhead, barbed wire encircles the area, wolves howl at the setting sun (don’t ask me why), rusty signs stained with fresh blood warn of danger; even Freddy Krueger himself bursts from within the place, his scarred face riddled with tears, and screams in terror before running off, ‘Wake me up! Please, wake me up!!’
“None of this, however, fazes the group in the slightest; and they decide to venture on in. Inside, they find none other than pop singer Justin Timberlake, chained to a support column and wearing his suit and tie—he’s barely alive. Amid desperate gasps for air and several blood-filled coughs, he tells them that he, too, was on his way to the spring break festival, when his million-dollar-mobile broke down, his phone died, and he wandered off into the countryside, only to find the warehouse. Coincidences.”
“Is he all right?” my friend begged, his knees rattling together. “Is he gonna make it?”
Turning my head slowly toward him—eyes first, and then head—I gazed with unwavering intensity, shook my head, and said, “Dead and gone.”
My friend let out a teary gasp, and covered his mouth with both hands, mortified.
“He knew the minute he set foot in the warehouse that there would be no escape,” said I, sounding like I was reciting JT’s eulogy. “He knew very well that his time was about to expire.”
“But why?” pleaded my friend, like a desperate child. “What was it made him think so? And who was the monster that tied him up and left him for dead? Who, I ask you? Who!?”
“Cinnamon raisin,” said I in a hushed tone.
“His last words. Justin’s last words: Cinnamon raisin.”
“What on earth does that mean!?”
“Before expelling his final breath,” I explained, “Justin warned the six friends to beware of the smell of cinnamon raisin, for behind that smell, he apprised with grave severity, lurked a creature far more ferocious and terrifying than anything this world has ever seen before!”
“What?” my friend screamed, drawing a great deal of attention from other gym members. “What creature?”
“The creature of which he warned the pack was himself—a monster born of his own genetic material, a fiend forged from the DNA of the delectable carbohydrate delight he so foolishly and unwittingly sold to a mad scientist, a scientist with the technology to clone for himself a living, breathing, pure evil Justin Timberlake.”
“Oh, my gosh!” declared my friend. “That’s unbelievable!”
“Most plot points in horror flicks are,” I replied.
“But why warn the group about cinnamon raisin? What’s that all about?”
My friend has a nag for asking questions that move my stories along smoothly.
“‘Twas the cloning process, my friend! The cloning process, I tell you,” said I, raising a declarative fist into the air! “The maniacal scientist was far too careless, too consumed with lust for a Justin Timberlake to call his own that he extracted the essence of the cinnamon and raisins within the bagel, along with Justin’s DNA, thus creating a perfect clone of JT, with pores that radiated the sweet and intoxicating smell of cinnamon raisin!”
“Dear me!” cried my friend, slapping himself on the forehead. “What a monster! And what bad taste in bagels! I mean, didn’t he know they sell chocolate chip bagels? Or bagels with egg and cheese? Or cream cheese?”
“Apparently not,” I said with a shrug. “But as I was saying, before poor Justin dies, he warns the group of the smell that precedes certain death. ‘Cinnamon raisin,’ he cries! ‘Cinnamon raisin! Cinnamon ra—’ Thus he was no more."
My friend lowered his head and lifted his hand to remove his hat—but he wasn’t wearing a hat. His fingers felt around his scalp for a moment or two, looking for the phantom garment, before dropping into his lap. I’m not sure, but I think I heard him utter a silent prayer, as well.
Continuing with my story, I said, “SLAM!”
My friend jumped a mile high.
“The door through which the group entered shuts!”
Chattering. My friend’s teeth began chattering.
“‘Jeepers!’ stammers the nerd. ‘According to my calculations, the probability of surviving a shut-in at an abandoned warehouse is precisely twenty-three hundred to one, or exactly point zero four three five percent! Jeepers!’ Before anyone can reply, the nerd runs for the outer wall and holds on tight, pushing and pulling to no avail and screaming to be let out.
“‘Don’t hold the wall!’ cries a booming voice that shakes the building. Instantly the nerd is whisked away into the shadows by a mysterious force.”
“He got him! Oh, no! He got the nerd!”
“Yes, my friend,” I replied softly. “He did.”
“I don’t like this guy!” cried my friend.
“The surfer then declares, ‘Screw this, dudes! I’m like totally gettin’ us outta this bogus place!’ And he grabs his airhead girlfriend by the hand, and bolts across the empty space.”
“Idiot!” shouted my friend with a slap on the knee. He was apparently very disappointed with the surfer guy.
“‘Wait!’ cry the others in unison. But it’s too late. A bundle of bricks that hung from the rafters detaches and crushes the surfer’s girlfriend. ‘TKO,’ whispers a voice that echoes through the space.
“In a panic, the surfer sprints wildly, arms flailing; and then trips over a conveniently placed something or other, and falls helplessly into a boiling vat of liquid that just so happened to ex machina its way into the scene. Emerging from the scalding pool, the surfer screams as giant mirrors drop before his face, and he beholds his hair, now bleach blond and Jheri curled. Unable to bear his new look, the surfer rips the mirrors down on top of himself, perishing under the shattering glass, while in the air a voice whispers, ‘I'm bringing sexy back.’”
“I knew it! I knew he was gonna get it!”
“Hours pass,” I continue in a foreboding voice, “and the traumatized three—the med student, the cheerleader, and the outmogin—wander about the warehouse, huddled together and shivering from fear. But then, the med student’s head perks up, his nose sniffs the surrounding air, and instantly all the blood leaves his face as he says, ‘Oh, no.’”
“OH, NO!” my friend yelped.
“Oh, yes,” I cackled devilishly. “‘Cinnamon raisin!’ screams the med student. No sooner do these words leave his lips is the warehouse consumed with an echoing whisper, ‘I wanna rock your body,’ it says.
"A deathly wail rings out from the cheerleader, for there on the ground lies the outmogin, the first virgin ever to die before the end of a horror movie.”
“Dude! You’re like breakin’ rules, here!”
“I like to live on the edge,” I replied, rather proud of my innovative contribution to American cinema.
“Both the cheerleader and the med student run for their lives,” I continued. “Just then, a mighty, eye chain hook, like a wrecking ball, swings in front of the med student, nearly grazing his nose.
“‘Whew!’ he declares. ‘That almost took my head off!’
"Another echoing whisper, ‘What goes around…’ SMACK! The hook returns and lobs off the med student’s head. ‘…Comes back around.’”
“They’re droppin’ like flies!”
“The cheerleader sprints,” I said, my speech hurried and excited, “crying hysterically and screaming obscenities at the whispering, cinnamon raisin smelling phantom. ‘Cry me a river,’ she hears a voice say, as she slams against a door that’s chained and bolted shut.”
“It’s the end for her, man! I can feel it!”
“Frantically she pulls on the door handles,” I said, mimicking her desperate pulling, “but the doors refuse to open. And then, as stories like this tend to go, the smell of cinnamon raisin becomes overwhelming; and she falls to the ground, impaled by a flying whatever-it-is that the evil, sweet-smelling clone throws at her.”
“I called it!” announced my friend, lifting his arms and pointing to himself in a manner suggesting he wanted everyone in the gym to know of his foresight. “Did I call it? I called it!”
“The world becomes blurry,” I said in a soft whisper, closing my eyes. “But just before her eyelids seal her away into eternal oblivion, the pungent aroma of cinnamon and raisin draws ever nearer, and beside her kneels a dark figure, who then whispers softly into her ear, ‘Bye, bye, bye.’”
C. K. Conners
©2015 by C. K. Conners