by David Barton
Jess Ronson was a star. The heartthrob actor was currently
to be seen on TV screens all across America in the nation‘s favourite medical drama, Sunshine Swabs, concerning
the lives and loves of the doctors and nurses at a LA hospital.
While filming for his latest movie role in Phoenix, he decided
to spend a night in the same hotel that countless stars, and even presidents of the United States, had stayed in, The Arizona
Biltmore Hotel. He was especially interested in the fact that Marilyn Monroe had once stayed there, and insisted on having
the same room.
He’d always been a big fan of the actress, and had all
her films on DVD. To him, there was no modern actress who came close, and he‘d worked with many of the most glamorous
women in Hollywood, at that.
Jess awoke in the night, during the early hours. Someone was
in his room. As he peered into the murk, he made out the shape of a woman. Then as she stumbled around in the darkness, she
seemed to bang her knee. ‘Ow!’ she cried out.
‘Who’s there?’ Jess called into the darkness,
towards the woman’s shape crouched nursing her knee at the foot of the bed.
‘Sorry, didn’t mean to disturb you,’ she
uttered. ‘I didn’t know there was anyone else in here, in fact …’ The voice seemed familiar somehow,
but for the moment, Jess couldn’t quite place it. Perhaps it was the blonde maid he’d seen earlier, the one who’d
asked him for his autograph and given him that look he got a lot; the one that said in her eyes that she wished he was hers.
Well you can’t all have me ladies, he had thought to himself, as he very often did in those kind of circumstances. He
laughed to himself at the memory.
In fact, currently, he was supposed to be dating Lucy Liu,
star of Kill Bill and the Charlie’s Angels films, but that wasn’t true. No such luck – she
was a babe! It had just been a rumour the showbiz columns and the television gossipmongers had cooked up. If the showbiz columns
and the like where to believed he’d dated almost every babe in Hollywood, married or single. That would have kept him
kinda busy, he thought.
‘What are you doing in my room? It’s a bit late
for cleaning,’ he said to the woman crouched at the foot of his bed.
‘Cleaning? Oh no, I’m not the cleaner,’
she told him, ‘I’m just … lost …’
‘Lost?’ he asked. ‘A lost soul who wandered
into my room, is that it?’ He laughed in her direction.
‘Something like that,’ she said.
‘I’ll switch on the bedside light,’ he told
her. Jess reached over and did so.
Nothing could have prepared him for the sight that met him
when the room was illuminated. It was Marilyn Monroe, or at least a very good look-alike. I mean, that was the most likely
scenario, wasn’t it? I mean: Marilyn Monroe – dead screen goddess – would not be in his room, nursing her
knee in the middle of the night, would she?
She looked around. ‘I thought this was my room,’
she said. ‘It looks like my room, only … things have changed.’
She was an amazing likeness. That face, those eyes, the face
and eyes of a goddess, a sexual being, and that body! Those curves! Man! And that familiar long golden mane of hair. Yep,
it all added to up to Marilyn Monroe all right.
But this was crazy! I mean, not only did he have Marilyn Monroe
in his room, but she only had a towel around her! Now that was a gift from the gods if ever he saw one!
‘Who are you?’ he asked her.
‘Don’t you recognise me?’ she said. ’I
mean, not everyone does, not when they get up close. They only usually see me on the screen, or on TV, or in the papers. So
I suppose when they get up this close, they don’t really recognise me.’
She certainly sounded like Marilyn Monroe, too. But then again,
a lot of those professional look-alikes did, didn’t they? Although, he’d never seen one that so closely resembled
her; who was this convincing. I mean: it could be her stood there!
‘Haven’t you seen nay of my movies?’ she
He decided he’d play along with her, humour her; after
all, she could be an obsessed fan for all he knew, one who’d broke into his room. ‘Sure, I’ve got them all
on DVD,’ he told her.
‘DVD?’ she asked, appearing puzzled.
‘Course, you won’t have heard of DVD,’ he
said with a wry smile. ‘Having died in 1962.’
‘I’m not dead, silly,’ she said, and gave
‘I suppose not,’ he reasoned. Then he lost himself
in thought for a moment. ‘Guess you live on in our hearts.’
‘I don’t want to die just yet,’ she said,
‘I mean, not when I’m having such a blast!’
‘Okay, jokes over,’ he said, suddenly becoming
serious, ‘who are you?’
‘Why, I’m Marilyn, silly.’
He ignored her response. ‘Who put you up to this?’
She bent to her knee and rubbed it again. ‘I really
hurt my knee, wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t a bruise in the morning.’
One of the actors on the film must have put her up to this,
Jess now reasoned; sent her to his room as part of some prank. Yeah, that was probably it.
‘Was it Ryan, was it him who put you up to this?’
Of course it must be him, his fellow star on his new flick they were shooting, Ryan Rogers.
‘I don’t know anyone by that name,’ she
‘Yes, it would be him, wait till I see him,’ Jess
said out loud to himself.
However, looking her over again, something told him that maybe
she hadn’t been put up to this by anyone, but that actually she could be the ghost of his favourite starlet come back
to haunt him. But that wasn’t possible, was it?
He’d never believed in such things before, but he’d
heard stories recounted by others, people who you wouldn’t expect to believe in such things, who had. And they always
sounded so sincere didn’t they? Maybe there was something in it. Maybe it was possible for the dead to come back and
haunt the living?
‘A ghost?’ he said quietly to himself.
Marilyn had been rubbing her knee again and so didn’t
hear him; she looked up towards him. ‘Sorry?’
‘If I touch you, will my hand go straight through you?’
‘You want to touch me?’ she said, lifting her
eyebrows. ‘You don’t want to get fresh with me, do you? I mean, a girl has her reputation to consider.’
‘Just want to see if you’re real, you know?’
‘Well, I guess so,’ she said. ‘Okay, you
can touch me, but watch those hands, mister. I don’t want you touching me anywhere inappropriate!’
He edged along the length of the bed to where she was sat,
and reached over to her face and stroked the side of her cheek. She was real enough, her skin as smooth as a babe’s.
‘Am I real?’ she asked.
‘Oh yeah, you’re real all right!’
He took his hand away.
‘Now we’ve established that I’m not a ghost,
or anything silly like that, maybe you could help me find my room?’ She got to her feet, and as she did so, the towel
that was around her slipped from over her breasts. ‘Oops!’ she said. But before she could cover herself up again,
Jess saw that in place of her nipples, were two eyes staring out at him. There was something evil about those eyes too, something
sinister. Like they were the devil’s eyes.
He awoke and flicked his bedside light on, and peered around
the room. Merely a dream, he thought. No doubt brought on by the fact that he was in the same room that Monroe had stayed
in all those years back.
But then he suddenly became aware of the presence of someone
in bed next to him. He looked to his side and saw that it was Monroe, asleep beside him. She opened her eyes and said in a
voice that was clearly not her own, but more like the voice of a man, ‘We want your soul!’
‘Oh, Marilyn, what a deep voice you have,’ Jess
quipped, expecting that this was still a dream.
Then her face melted away and he saw a hideous thing in her
place, like a monster from a horror movie. He bolted out of bed, stepping away from it, and then turning back to look at the
monstrosity in his bed. The thing rose to a sitting position. ‘Just think of it,’ it said, ‘you’ll
live forever. You’ll be immortal! Never grow old. They’ll always remember you, as you are now, a star. No shit
sixth and seventh seasons of your TV show. Let us take you now while your still young and still good.’
What? What was the thing trying to say?
It continued. ‘Those movies you did, they got rave reviews.
You were Oscar nominated for your last one, was you not? We take all the Hollywood stars early, the ones that became legends.
We took Monroe, we took Dean, even, River Phoenix.’
It took a moment to think to itself, as if savouring the memory
of those past conquests. Then its face clouded over. ‘Some of them didn’t let us take them however: Brando, Nicholson,
De Niro. But look at the horseshit they’ve done since. You don’t want to be remembered for horseshit, do you?
‘De Niro?’ said Jess, thinking of one of his favourite
actors, ‘de Niro’s made some great films!’
‘Not after he did, Goodfellas.’
‘What about, King of Comedy?’
‘After that, then.’
‘Now you’re just being picky.’
‘And, Nicholson?’ said Jess. Nicholson too was
one of the best actors around.
‘Oh yeah? What about, Wolf?’ the thing
said, ‘or, Mars Attacks?’
‘Well apart from those.’
‘And I can’t say I’m too fond of The
Witches of Eastwick either.’
‘Thought you’d have liked that one,’ Jess
said, ‘what with it being supernatural. That’s what you are isn’t it? Supernatural?’
‘I think we’ve strayed slightly from the point
I’m trying to make,’ it said.
‘And that is?’
‘Sure, Jess, you might do the odd good TV show here
and there, one good movie, once in a while, but mostly they’ll be garbage. As the dollars come in and you don’t
give a shit anymore what badly scripted, overblown garbage you do for it. Can you imagine if Marilyn had lived? You don’t
think that all her subsequent movies would be that great do you? Sure they wouldn’t! Pretty soon she’d have been
making turkeys. It happens to the best of them, doesn’t it? If they go on year after year, getting older, caring less.
If you let us take you now, they’ll always think how good you could have been, if you’d lived.’
This was nuts, thought Jess.
‘We took them all; we came to them in the night, much
as we came to you. In hotels much like this one, the ones that had a history of stars in residence. We claim your soul now
– you pay later! But not much later. In a few days, weeks, or even months … we’ll collect! Just think of
this moment as you putting down a deposit, signing the agreement, as it were.’
The thing reverted back to Monroe.
‘Come with us, Jess,’ she said, in her normal
voice again now, ‘it’ll simply be a blast!’
He backed away from her to the door of his room and located
the doorknob behind him, and tried to open it. But someone had locked him in. Then he remembered what the maid had said to
him when he’d given her his autograph. ‘I’ll always remember this,’ she had said. ‘The time
I met you, what you looked like at this particular moment. If only I could keep this moment forever.’
Then he’d made some crack hadn’t he, like, ‘Yeah
wish I could stay like this forever, but we all need plastic surgery, eventually!’
The way she’d looked at him then, her eyes had seemed
to say that he should never grow old; never have to resort to such measures. That he should remain like he was, at that moment,
Then he realised who’d locked him in this room with
the creature that wanted his soul.
It was her.
This was taking obsessive fan behaviour a bit too far, he
thought, just before the thing behind him grabbed hold of him and turned him round to face it again. It was back in the form
of the creature again.
And it now asked him the question he was so hoping it wouldn’t
ask him again. ‘Now, are you gonna give us your soul?’ it said. Because asking him this again, Jess knew
that the temptation would be too great. The temptation to become a never-dying legend like, Monroe and Dean.
‘Yeah, why not?’ he said, ‘it’ll simply
be a blast!’
David Barton 2005