It’s only a first draft, but check it out and leave your frightful comments at the end.
STILL THE KING
By A.R. Howerton
Hey. How you doin’ there? Wanna hear a story? It’s a good one…
You’re gonna call me crazy. You might even call the cops or scream for help and run away. You can do that, but you’re gonna miss out on a hell of a story the likes you ain’t never gonna hear again.
You know about vampires, right? Sure ya do. You’ve seen the movies with the guy in the black cape with the spooky eyes… the monsters with the big fangs… even the new kind of glittery teen douchebag vampires, right? The ones that are all sad and moody and don’t eat people… Well vampires are real. Just not exactly like that. Not exactly.
What about Elvis. Presley. You know him right? Everybody knows E. He’s the biggest of the big. He’s the goddamn King. You gotta know Elvis. You do? Well, what if I told you that, not only is he not dead… not only is he still very much alive and kicking… but that he is a bona fide, 100% real, in-the-flesh vampire?
See, now you’re already thinking I’m crazy. “This guy is totally full of shit!” That’s what you’re thinking. But it’s true. About Elvis. He’s what the B-movie writers like to call a ‘bloodsucking fiend from beyond the grave’. He loves that shit. Old vampire monster movies. Watches em’ all the time. What? Yeah. Well, he’s not dead. He’s not undead neither. You wanna hear my fucking story or what? Well then shut up and buy me another beer and maybe I’ll continue.
Thanks kid. What’d you say your name was again? Margaret? Shit. E will love that. He still talks about ol’ Ann Margaret. I think that was his one big regret when he got turned. Not bringing Annie or Priscilla with him. Now he gets a couple of nights of romance a year, unless he wants to put up with that stuck up cunt Cleopatra… Oh. Sorry. Excuse my language, Miss. Didn’t mean to offend you. But that Cleopatra, she’s a real piece of work. Been alive for more than 2,000 years and she still plays little mind games like a 16 year-old cheerleader. E hates that shit. He tried to have a fling with some of the others, but a lot of em’ – Antionette, Joanie Arcadia, that Irish broad… Boadicea… and especially Nefertiti… they all see him as a young pup still. Won’t give him the time of day. Can you fucking imagine? A woman in this day and age not wetting her panties in the presence of Elvis goddamn Presley?
What? Oh yeah. Right. Yeah, I guess you’d have to call him a vampire, but it’s not all Dark Shadows or Near Dark (that’s E’s favourite, by the way. He loves the ol’ shitkicker vamps driving around like gypsies). Here’s how it works, see. I guess, what, like, 2600 B.C. or something… Imhotep… what? No. Well, I guess like in that Mummy movie… anyways, Imhotep was an Egyptian sorcerer. Actually he was like the first real doctor in the world… something like that… Anyways, turns out that all that crazy shit about ‘ancient astronauts’ that you see in the back section of the bookstore… that’s fuckin’ TRUE!
What? FUCK NO! I ain’t crazy… why you want I should… Wait. Wait. Alright…Where are you goi…? Come on… I’m just talking here. I’m not gonna hurt anybody… I’ll stay in my corner of the bar here, you stay over there. What are you drinking? YO! BARKEEP! TWO MORE OVER HERE.
There, see. Shit. I may be crazy. I’m just telling my story. You wanna hear it or what? I guarantee you won’t get better anywhere else. You got something better to do? Somewhere else to be? Well, are you listening then? Shall I continue?
Bottom line is that Ho-Tep (that’s what he lets me call him. Very cool cat, that one.) He figured out that the Egyptians were worshipping gods that were actually just some kind of… what? primordial astronauts, I guess. They crashed here in like 4000 BC and more or less elevated us humans from what we were – real smart monkeys – to the walking, talking smartasses we’ve become. Anyways, Ho-Tep figured it out. He also figured where they crashed and found one of em’ still alive after 1400 some years and struck up a friendship. Ho-Tep managed to get this spaceman’s secret to everlasting life and, in exchange for helping the astronaut find the stuff he needed to fix his ship. What? Umm… wait… lemme…. Oh, right. Yeah. Ho-Tep told me this… plutonium? The otherworlder (that’s what Ho-Tep always calls him) he knew where the shit was, but he needed labour to mine it… Ho-Tep convinced the Pharaoh to use the massive slave resources of Egypt to find enough of it and the spaceman went home. Before he did, he gave Ho-Tep the recipe for a magic powder that would keep a human being in a state of suspended ageing forever. Well, you tell me. Ho-Tep just had his thirteen-hundred-and-something birthday last week.
Bullshit? Fuck off… It’s true. Every goddamn word of it. Drunk? Fair enough, but it’s still the fucking truth. You don’t want to listen, you feel free to just carry on with your evening. I’m just telling my story here.
Alright then. Glad you changed your mind. I kinda like you, kid. You’ve got what E calls ‘moxie’.
Works like this, alright? Ho-Tep picks people he feels are ‘historically significant’ and likely to be sick and tired of the limelight pretty early on. I think, aside from Ho-Tep (and that nasty Chinese bastard Lo Pan) I think most of em’ are in their 40’s… maybe Abe… he’s what? 56? Very cool though. Really loves wrestling with his ‘boys’ though. We all think maybe he’s a closet job. Loves Walt Whitman poems, wrestling half-naked with teenage boys… he is fun though. Very cool guy. Throws parties like you wouldn’t believe.
Who else? Well, umm… lemme see. I mentioned Cleo and Nefertiti, right? Tut. Aristotle. He’s fucking hilarious. Alex. He’s a huge ladies man. Pulls ass like you wouldn’t believe, but I guess that’s the kind of confidence you get from conquering the entire world, right? Umm… Who else? Vlad. He’s the reason for all of this cheesy vampire bullshit. Back in the day he got bored and wandered around pretending to be a Hungarian professor named … shit… I can’t remember the name… anyways, he was hanging out with this writer… yeah Bram Stoker? Vlad gave him all the bullshit about vampires being supernatural demons and sucking blood and all that shit… thought it was funny… now look what happened? They’ve got these teen dream actors with greasy hair pretending to be conflicted undead animals. Ridiculous, I tell ya… E hates those new vamp movies. Don’t know why Ho-Tep took that sadistic prick in the first place. He’s like a mean little kid tearing the wings off flies… And Lo Pan never shuts up about it. Pisses him off to no end. He fucking hates Vlad. Makes for a real uncomfortable time at the bi-annual meetings.
Hmm? Oh, right. Sorry, kind of spaced out there, didn’t I? Who else? Uh, Arthur. He’s cool. Big jock, loves baseball. I told you about Joanie, way too serious about everything. Raphael. He painted a picture of Priscilla that E keeps hanging over the bed in the mansion. Graceland? Fuck no! Could you imagine? He’d never get away with being alive if he tried to live in fucking Graceland. Nope. Had to leave it ALL behind in 77’. Who else? Czar Nick and his wife Alix, they’re cool. He’s still pissed that Ho-Tep wouldn’t take the kids. What? No. Shit no. Ho-Tep would never let that happen. No, the kids got shipped off to the US and lived lives of fancy in New York. Just Nick and Allie that turned. Almost got burned when little Annie Romanov started yapping bullshit and trying to reclaim the throne… Umm. Janie Austen. She’s a hot little number. Loves to party. There’s Ed Poe. Morose motherfucker that one. Still bitching about his wife after 150 years. Depressing as all get up… That little bastard Bonaparte. Don’t get me started on that little prick. Thinks he still rules the world, the asshole. Oh! Yeah! Jackie K., of course. He and E are like brothers. Golf twice a week and drinking at least three… Yeah… Kennedy. You have never seen a party til you’ve seen E and Jackie K drunk off their asses and warbling ‘Marie’s The Name’ at 3 A.M. Who? No. That was some unfortunate sad shit Ho-Tep’s big regret, to hear him tell it.
Yep. Mr. King died when he died. Bobby Kennedy too. Nope. Not Marilyn or James Dean. Ho-Tep only takes a couple a century, generally speaking. This century? Well, there was Jack, E… oh shit… Jayne Mansfield. She’s been around the block. Lovely girl, smart as all hell, but loves the cock. Oh, sorry. Like I said, I’m not used to being around people much anymore. Just E… and Jackie… and the other ‘assistants’. Yeah, that’s it I guess. NO! Fucking Kurt Cobain. People always ask me that shit. Cobain and Hendrix and fucking Janis… Well, to be fair, Ho-Tep tried to talk to Joplin, but she was so far gone and whacked out of her tree that she was convinced he was nothing but a bad trip. Oh well, we got enough badasses in the gang, I think. Once you’ve been in the middle of a barfight between Bill Bonney and that giant fucking Greek, Hercules, you’ve seen enough badass for a lifetime.
Yeah, well, like I said, he picks a few a century and he’s been doing this for damn near 40 centuries, right? Is my math right there?
Oh! Stephen King! Shit! Right!
Ho-Tep’s had his eye on him for a while. He was supposed to change over when he had that ‘accident’ back in 99’… no, he just decided to go for a couple more years in the spotlight. That’s cool. E loves his fucking books. Especially the one about the guy going crazy in the hotel in the mountains… The Shining… that’s the one. E says that’s how he felt near the end back in the 70’s… like he was going to go crazy and start killing people. Anyways, E was the one they sent to talk to Stevie King at first. Should have seen the look on that fuckers face when he realized that we weren’t just nutjob fans! He’s a good guy though, very down-to-earth.
Oh! and Chaplin! I guess Ho-Tep approached Charlie Chaplin back when… he said no. First person to ever turn down immortality. Ho-Tep was pretty disappointed. I guess he gave him a little something that gave him a few extra years. Chaplin was the only one I know of that knew all about us and wasn’t one of us. Had a lot of integrity that little fella. He was still hanging around the immortals when he died. A lot of em’ brushed him off – they said he annoyed them – but we all know it was because they can’t stand to be near a reminder of how the rest of the world ages. Well, usually they get, umm… retired. Just like it sounds, kid. Well, not quite that mafia, but yeah… basically.
Yeah, sure it sounds like a lot of horseshit. The best and truest stories usually do, don’t they? That’s what makes em’ good stories, right?
Well, I was E’s gopher starting back in, what? 1974. Fuck of a good year for me. Met E at an all-night CVS pharmacy in Las Vegas, just off the strip. I was a stock boy. Imagine my surprise, 20 years old… Elvis fucking Aaron Presley walks in at 3 AM?! Anyway… old prick pharmacist wasn’t going to fill his prescriptions… said they looked ‘fake’. Old buzzard had no goddamn idea who he was talking to. I took the old man in the back to talk to him. Locked him in there, gave Elvis all the pills his boys could carry. He offered me the job on the spot. Gave me a card with a number to call. Shit! I cleaned out the registers, bought me a nice new suit in the morning and was picking up E’s cheeseburgers by that afternoon. That’s how it went until 77’… Picked up his prescriptions, washed the Caddies, picked up birthday cards for Lisa Marie… that kind of shit. See, when somebody gets turned, they get to keep an assistant. Yeah, I still work for E. I’m what your postmodern vampire lore refers to as a ‘familiar’. I get a prolonged life and I get to be E’s right hand man… but basically I’m a slave.
What? No? It ain’t no Kunta Kintay whips and cotton bullshit. I just mean… well, I don’t get paid money… that’s one thing. Also, I have to do whatever E asks, or my membership gets rescinded and I probably don’t see the light of the next day. Huh? Oh yeah. No, that’s complete bullshit. They can go out in the day, no problem. E likes to wear lots of sunscreen… he had a skin cancer scare round 1987… but, yeah, they go out in daytime. Most of that other stuff is bullshit too. Holy water, garlic. Shit. E loves nothing more than a pepper steak rubbed in raw garlic and sitting with a side of garlic au gratin mashed. No. They don’t drink blood. Not exactly.
Well, I’m getting to that… Yeah, sure. Knock yourself out Margaret. I’ll get us another round while you do your powderin’.
Hey, barkeep! Two more over here, buddy.
Good lookin’ chick, huh? Yeah, her you go. Keep the change.
Well there she is! Almost thought you chickened out on me. Yes Ma’am, it surely is a good goddamn story.
Yeah, yeah. Like I said, we’re getting there. Let me finish telling you about 77’ though. Might help understand how the whole thing works.
See, by 1977 I’d been with E for three years. We were practically family. Course, he had plenty of ‘family’, right. He was the most famous man in the world. Had people hanging on and bleeding him dry, left right and center. He’d lost his wife and daughter to the road, lost his Mama, most of his real friends. What he had left was bodyguards, agents, stylists, runners and so on… he was floating face down in it. He couldn’t play a full show, couldn’t write songs anymore, couldn’t even get it up for the ladies… The worst part was, E had these bodyguards, Red and Sonny West, they’d been tight forever… Well E’s daddy, Vernon, he fired those boys because they were getting a little rough with the fans and they were giving E a hard time about getting fat and being all doped up… Well, after Vernon fired them, they went and wrote a book, was called… “What Happened To Elvis?” or something like that… E was devastated by that book. He knew that people were going to turn against him when they read about the drugs and the craziness and, especially, how he’d gone impotent… that was the worst for E… he’d spent 20-some years being the most renowned pussyhound on Earth… He knew it was going to end, one way or another… he was gonna kill himself with drugs, or food, or the .357 he kept under his pillow… That’s when Ho-Tep came to see us, well came to see E…
Umm, what was it? April, I guess… right around Easter, I think, 1977. We got a call that an Egyptian gentleman wanted to see E about doing a tour of the Middle East. Well he came up to E’s big office one afternoon, wearing a beautiful silk suit, finest gentleman you ever saw. Spoke perfect English, excellent manners. E was taken with him right away. E had been having problems with his back for years, and it was acting angry that day so he was set way back in his recliner and whacked out on enough painkillers to take out a bull elephant. The gentleman asked after E’s health and offered to give him something for his back. Well, shit, E had been taking every drug known to man at that point, what was some camel-dung paste or desert-scrub pill gonna hurt, right? Well, Ho-Tep helped E out of his chair, lifted the back of his shirt, felt around the muscles in his back and then BAM! He fucking popped him a little rabbit shot, seemed almost in the kidneys. E dropped like a stone, the boys went apeshit and were about to destroy this little Egyptian fella when E stood straight up, gave the hips a little swivel and said ‘WOAH BOYS!’. He smiled, bigger and brighter than I’d ever seen. Waved the boys out to the hall and gestured for me to get him a drink from the bar as he took Ho-Tep by the shoulder and they sat on the big couch in the middle of the room. I hadn’t ever seen E sit on that couch. He’d always sat in big recliners, set way back and looking like he was ready to sleep.
Well, when he did shows, by ‘74 he was doing a 45 minute set and was walking on nothing but the pills and shots the docs crammed him full of before he hit the stage. Shit, by ‘76 you could barely understand what the hell he was saying half the time and, when he was on stage he was soaking through a costume change in ten minutes. He spent more time mumbling into the mic and mopping his face with all those goddamn scarves…
The rest of the time he was practically comatose. That all changed in that spring of ’77…
Ho-Tep laid it all out for him, showed E some pretty heavy proof and some historical artefacts to back it up. He also had some pretty crazy technology that the rest of the world is just catching up to. He had a fucking video phone, IN 1977… that’s fucking nuts, am I right? Well E ate it up and agreed to go to a meeting with the rest of the immortals. Ho-Tep explained about how E would have a few months to get his affairs together and then they would help him fake his own death. He’d live forever, if he wanted to, never get old and have eternity to do what HE wanted to do. That was big. Bigger than you could possibly imagine. E had belonged to his Mama, to Colonel Tom Parker, to America, to the world, to Priscilla… but never to himself. That was his greatest dream come true. Just being in control of his own decisions. He took the deal right there.
He played some shows to finish out the tour and took the time to get back into shape a little, get off the drugs… he was totally clean and happier than I’d ever seen him. He started thinking that maybe he’d stay for awhile, take the deal a few years down the road… but then he did the last show… Market Square Arena in Indianapolis on June 26… He was feelin’ good, pulled out a hell of a show but realized about halfway through that the thrill was gone. He was singing ‘There Goes My Everything’ and it just struck him looking out at all those faces… all those middle-aged women with beehive hair ten years out-of-style… All those people owning him with their eyes and their screams, clawing for a piece of a legend… he realized he was already gone and he didn’t want to be that guy anymore. He finished up with the standard ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ (I always thought he shoulda wrapped up that show with the ‘American Trilogy’ or fucking ‘My Way’ but that’d be playing the cliché, right?)… Then he just seemed lost, like he was in limbo… he wandered around the stage, pacing back and forth, shaking his head and mopping the sweat from his brown as the people went crazy. Eventually, the band struck up the exit music and he just dropped the mic, spun one last rock n’ roll pose and left the stage… forever.
Yep. We’ve talked about that night plenty of times. I think he’s always gonna wonder if that was the right move, to just walk away… I think, judging by how much people still love him… the idea of him… and the music… He went out on top, you know? He was the King… Shit! He’s still the King… Always the King. Yeah. Shit yeah. Here’s to fucking E… The King.
Now? Well, he reads, he see movies, he works out, gets it on every chance he gets… Hangs out with Jackie… We’ve had some pretty good times the last, shit… could it really be 30 years? More than 30! Man… you wouldn’t think time could move so fast if you’re not getting any older. Oh yeah, he still sings. Belts em’ out all the time. Only puts on the suits and the shades for special occasions though… too much attention… you can imagine.
Hey! You wanna meet the King? You wanna see E? In the flesh? Party with the immortal King of Rock n’ Roll?
The vampire stuff? Right. We got totally off that topic didn’t we? No matter.
Oops! Looks like you’re getting a little wobbly there… maybe I best help you to a cab, young lady…
No problem at all. See, this is the part where I tell you about the vampire stuff. It isn’t so much like the books and the movies… he isn’t gonna sprout fangs and chew your neck off… no ma’am… E wouldn’t play it that way, even if it was how it were to be done… oh, here he is now. Your chariot awaits…
Well gimme a goddamn hand for a second, E! Thank you. Nope. She’s timid as a kitten, King. Yep. Told her the whole story, well almost…
Now listen, Margaret. You are gonna have the time of your life tonight. You get to spend your last night on Earth with the man himself! Well, sure, I had to put a little something special in your drink. You girls are never too likely to come along without a little convincing. Ho-Tep came up with that little concoction as well. It’ll make things nice and breezy. You’re gonna have the time of your life… We will have to drain your blood to make the patented Ho-Tep immortality shake, but I promise you won’t feel a thing. And besides – knowing E – you’ll be glad to do it by the time the sun comes up in Memphis. Everybody loves The King. Ain’t that right, E?
Alright. Everybody comfy? TCB baby! Let’s rock n’ roll!
October 28, 2009