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Author Topic: Bootleg  (Read 6177 times)

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on: 11:42:10 PM 05/31/13
"I got all the good ones."

Conway casually noted this as we strolled through his expansive downtown apartment. He had a certain way of speaking that put most people off of him right away. It was as if every word he spoke were patently obvious, and it was merely a formality for him to utter the syllables.

I studied the posters on his walls. They were for B-Movie rip-offs of well-known franchises. I started to get the distinct feeling I had stumbled into an alternate universe. In Conway's world, "Predator" never existed. Instead, a horrible-looking film titled "Predictor" had been produced. Similarly, "JAWS" was now "JAWED" and "Halloween" was "Hell O' Ween".

The last one was particularly strange, with a tagline the boldly announced "FEATURING HORROR ICON MICKEY MIRES".

"Some College students out west made their own version of The Phantom Menace with like $5,000. I got that one."

"Sounds interesting," I said, not at all interested, "Must be funny."

The slouched, wiry man turned to face me. His acne-riddled nose pointed like an accusing finger. It was hard to believe such a classic nerd cliché had survived the public school experience. Now he was in his late 30s, though you would probably assume he'd just started college.

"It's not funny." His beady eyes hardened. "It's a masterpiece. Better than Lucas could do."

Having corrected me, Conway turned his boney ironing-board back to me and continued to lead me through his geeky personal Bat Cave. Misshapen dolls that only slightly resembled their legally licensed counterparts stood in Plexiglas display cases. I could almost picture the sweatshop that would churn out such a desperate and half-assed attempt at a product.

This was clearly a world where garbage was to be coveted.

"Don't make fun of me, by the way." Conway didn't stop walking. He didn't turn to see my reaction, because apparently it didn't matter. "I read some of your articles and you make fun of people sometimes."

"Oh, that's not true." I shook my head, not that he'd notice.

"You wrote about the guy who collected bananas. You called it a 'fruity endeavor' and made ton of bad puns."

"Yeah," I chuckled, "You have to admit it was kind of ridiculous. Banana hats, banana pillows, banana-shaped pool. It's silly."

Conway stopped at a doorway and disappeared into the dark within. I wasn't sure if this was what he wanted to show me... or if he'd just stepped into the bathroom. That possibility caused me to stop at the threshold.

"Silly." His voice crawled slowly from the blackness. He didn't sound offended or confused. He simply repeated the word with the same tone and timber I had used.

When the light flicked on within that space, I could see no toilet or sink. Thankfully, he'd simply entered one of his showrooms. Conway stood next to a green floor lamp painted with Green Lantern symbols. A knockoff, no doubt. All four walls of the room were obscured by large shelving units with clear sliding doors.

The shelves were packed with hundreds, if not thousands, of toys.

"Here." Conway walked to a seemingly random shelf and pointed into it with one hairy-knuckled finger.

I stepped into the room and approached the shelf. A group of five tiny monster figures stood in a cluster. I felt as if I was a God, peering down at deformed mortals who could only find safety in each other.

"These are from the 'Look! At Monsters' line," Conway explained, "There's an exclamation point after 'Look!', make sure you don't leave that out in your article."

He slid the door open and carefully palmed a few of the small plastic whatsits.

"Only five characters were made, and I have three full sets. The other two are mint in package. The seller for these no longer had the boxes. Naturally, you'll notice that these are based on the popular 'Pokémon' phenomena. Everyone's heard of 'Pokémon', and I'm sure you know that some of the cards are rare and worth some money."

Conway held the figures close to his face and studied them like a mother searching for any sign of dirt on her child's face.

"These figures, together, are worth more than the most expensive one of those cards. If I told you how much they're going for on eBay, you wouldn't believe me. Then, you'd look it up and your jaw would drop."

He replaced the figures in the same exact order and positioning, careful to adjust away any differences. As he slid the door closed, an overwhelming amount of sarcasm suddenly saturated his words.

"I really hope you don't think MY collection is silly, too."

I cleared my throat and started typing out notes on my shiny new iDevice. "TOTALLY NOT SILLY". All caps.

Conway was across the room by the time I looked up from the screen. Once again, he pointed into the small plastic horde.

"Robert Cop," he mumbled before moving to another section, "Here's 'Sense of Right Alliance'... next to them I have a Simpsons diorama where the makers swapped Bart & Lisa's hairstyles. If you look closely, the television screen is a 'Ren & Stimpy' sticker instead of the 'Itchy & Scratchy' you'd expect."

As I surveyed the befuddling mass of garish colors and stiff poses, I noticed a lot of Power Rangers. That was one of the only character types I recognized. Some where short and squat, others were too tall. An entire rainbow of Rangers modeled after flavors of ice cream rubbed elbows with shamrock-emblazoned counterparts.

The nonsense of it all was making me dizzy.

"Next room." Conway said flatly. I was glad to follow him out of the eerie mess.

"So how many bootleg toys do you have?" I got ready to type out what was sure to be an alarming number.

The collector's answer surprised me.


"Huh?" I looked back to the door we'd just left, "I don't get it."

"I don't own bootlegs. Don't call them that, it's insulting. 'Knockoffs' is even worse so don't use that word either."

Conway still didn't sound that offended. It was as if he himself was one of the off-putting, not-quite-real figures he collected.

"What word should I use, then?"

We stopped at another door. Conway threw it open and entered.

"I'm not writing your article for you." He snorted.

The room was already lit when my strange host had entered, but the light flickered and faded. Colors streaked across the walls and ceiling. The entire area was illuminated by eight to ten flat screen televisions playing a variety of movies.

"Wow!" I stood in the center of the chaos and spun in place. I was finding it impossible to take in the sights and sounds. Horror movies mixed with Sci-Fi, which blended with Bollywood dance numbers.

Shouts and gunfire were unpleasantly colliding with soaring soundtracks and poorly delivered dialogue.

"This is my viewing room." Conway walked to each screen and turned the volume down a bit, "Right now my favorite is 'A Dark Night', no 'K' in 'Night'. It's basically the same as that Batman movie, but without the useless extra plot lines and with the ending cleaned up. The Joker is credited as 'Himself', but I think it's the same actor who played Mickey Mires."

"What, do you watch them all at the same time? Are they always running, or what?" I could scarcely believe the sensory overload. I felt as if I'd barf at any moment.

"No, no, no," Conway clucked his tongue, "This is just for display. It's part of my collection. I want to be able to look at my stuff whenever I want."

I couldn't get out of that Technicolor blender fast enough. Conway seemed as if he might've been irked by my quick exit, but it was hard to tell with him.

"What's your most valuable item?" I asked, leaning on a wall in the hallway, "Something that would really grab the readers' attention."

Conway stood before me, and for the first time I saw an expression that wasn't self-assured and cold. I could see that there were some gears turning in his head, and he wasn't quite sure what was most valuable.

Was it the most expensive item? The rarest? Maybe just what he loved above all the rest?

"We can skip that, if you want." I regretted asking, since it was elongating my stay.

"No. Hang on."

Conway tapped his red, rashy chin with one finger and pursed his unsettlingly cherry red lips. Finally, he turned on his heels and moved quickly to the farthest door down the hall.

"I keep my most valuable collection in here!" He said excitedly. It was almost a chirp, and the happy version of this strange man was even more creepy than his usual lack of emotion.

"What is it?" I asked, wanting to rattle off a list of my assumptions.

Toilet paper made to resemble Superman's cape?

Transformers that change into boring household appliances?

Barbie dolls hilariously mis-marked as "Boobie Doll"?

I managed to hold all of it back, knowing that even the slightest sign of disrespect would probably cause him to clam up. At that point, I'd have nothing interesting to write about, and this awful experience would have been pointless.

"I hope nobody gets any funny ideas," Conway noted as we walked into the back room, "I don't want anyone trying to steal these. My security system is pretty advanced, but you can never account for everything."

Finally, I was seeing something that impressed me.

The room was larger than all the others I'd seen... and still every available amount of space seemed to be used. Clear cases that nearly touched the ceiling lined the walls, and in each of them was a dummy wearing some sort of fantastic costume.

A Jason Vorhees costume was there, as was the outfit from Daredevil.

"Hey, this is really cool..." I gawked in wonder, secretly asking myself how one man had managed to acquire so many props that had clearly been used onscreen.

Then I froze.

Toward one of the corners stood a case that contained a Wonder Woman styled costume. It was just "wrong" enough to spot as a knockoff. Inside the costume, sewn TO the costume, was the withered and twisted corpse of a young woman. Her black hair was falling out in clumps, settling on the floor of the display.

"Wha... What's that from?" I stammered, realizing it must've been a horror prop.

"Huh? That?" Conway seemed surprised, as if I'd asked about the least interesting part of this assortment, "Wonder Woman."

"Is that title? Not 'Woman of Wonder' or something?"

"No, it's Wonder Woman. I made it myself."

Conway walked to the case and ran his hand across the glass door. He crooked his head a bit and looked into the hollow eyes of the lady corpse.

"The costume or the body?" I slowly walked up next to him, trying to comprehend the grim sight.

"The costume, of course." Conway snapped, "How am I going to MAKE a body?"

I audibly gasped in horror as a single, stark white maggot wriggled its way free from the woman's nostril and rolled down her face, sticking slightly to the chin before dropping.

"Damn!" Conway opened the case quickly as I was assaulted by a heinous, rotting funk that had been sealed away. "I don't know how flies keep getting in. It's so frustrating."

I backed away from the cadaver as the collector carefully moved the woman and tugged at the cloth that was fixed to her leathery skin with expert stitching. As I cast my glance to the Daredevil costume. The only thing not covered by red fabric was the greenish mouth, its lips receding back from clenched, yellowed teeth.

I hadn't noticed anything odd about the Slave Leia costume because it was sewn onto a fresher body than the others. She was clearly new, with blue lips and pale, bloodless skin. I could see no injury... no mark of murder... and assumed Conway had been careful to ensure it would be covered by the scant clothing.

All of the forms around me, the muscular Superman... the squat, painted over Oompa Loompa... once I knew what to look for, I could see they were all dead bodies.

Conway the Collector had created his own imperfect knockoffs of the actors themselves.

My hand found the doorknob as a certain fog of fear began building inside of my head. I gave the thing a few hard turns, but found myself unable to open the door. A key pad was built into the wall.

Why hadn't I noticed the keypads before? Was it because I'd given so little thought to this stupid story?

"Don't bother," Conway closed Wonder Woman's invisible coffin, "I told you I have a really great security system."

Fumbling with my phone, I began to dial 911.

"Everyone tries that." Conway shook his head as he approached me, drawing a syringe from his pocket. "I don't think the reinforced walls will let you call out, though I could be wrong. I really don't want anyone messing with my collection."

The only option left was to stand my ground, fists clenched.

"I don't know what you're thinking," I tried to sound imposing and failed, "But people know I'm here. Someone will come looking for me!"

"That's okay," Conway said, his demeanor as flat as ever, "I'll show them around, but there'll probably be a genuine 'Man Who's Steel' cape hanging over that door when I do."

He drew closer, and I took a wild, stupid swing. I was taken aback by how deftly he avoided the blow. He was wiry, all right... wiry and quick like a Spider at home in his web.

He casually opened the Jason display and took an ax from the body's hands. I looked frantically for any other such object, only to spot none. He advanced slowly, cautiously, leaving little room for options.

"I didn't really care about the article, though I guess you know that already. I just saw your photo next to your column and knew I had to acquire you."

Conway continued on as I backed into a corner.

"The only thing I can't decide," he noted, "is whether you're more of a Buck Rogers or a Han Solo."

I didn't look very much like either one... but I suppose that was the point.
« Last Edit: 11:57:19 PM 05/31/13 by chwolf »
If I should live until I wake, I pray the web my death to fake.


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on: 10:34:19 PM 05/08/14
Someone needs to work on his embalming skills...

Mr. Zsasz666

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on: 11:23:18 PM 05/29/15
O)_(O...... Well, That Suddenly Makes Bootleg Toys A Whole Lot FUCKING Scarier!


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