There’s an experiment that scientists often do. They will insist to a child that they must remember a time that they were lost in the mall. They will describe it in vivid detail until the child claims to have remembered it as though it actually happened. If memories can be fabricated this easily, who is to say anything is actually real? Well, the only reason I bring it up is because there was an old show based on a Tim Burton film titled Beetlejuice. It was a cartoon, you may remember it if you grew up in the 90’s.
I really kind of liked this cartoon, but there was something messed up about one episode that I watched once. We’ve all seen and heard of these lost VHS tapes, as there are many of them. You’d think by now we’d have moved onto something else, haunted DVDs, Bluray discs covered in hard drives, thepiratebay torrents filled with spooky owls, but no, they’re VHS tapes. The last VHS tape to ever be made was in 2006, and it was a B-Juice cartoon of all things. VHS tapes had a unique creation process, as the hand woven tapestry of the tape had to be carefully wound up by Indian women while the plastic itself was manufactured primarily in Florida in areas where Indian burial grounds are very popular and filled with the dead souls of our ancestors who haunt these lands. Why this? Why that? What’s with all the questions? But there was something sinister about this tape that spooked me out of ever going to Gold Coast Video ever again.
I was sitting in my living room reading “Choke” by Chuck Palahniuk when I noticed a VHS tape on my lawn. Someone had dug a ditch and placed a pizza box that resembled a tombstone in front of it. The words “RIP” were scrawled in poorly done marker. I picked up the VHS. I assumed someone had dropped it, but when I examined the cover I noticed a great deal of scratches. It was as though it had simply fallen out of the sky. I knew I had seen it ago, a long time ago. As a kid, I had a doll of Beetlejuice that came with a plastic bed tombstone and you would slide it in and a secret compartment would lock Beetlejuice away, creating the illusion he had vanished. I’ve said Beetlejuice three times, but keep in mind I’m stating this after the fact. I actually said Beetlejuice many times. Perhaps one more time than I should have. I said Beetlejuice at least six times.
I noticed when I got into the house that someone had gone into my fridge and moved the orange juice out of its proper receptacle. I assumed it was merely a burglar, or perhaps a very intelligent squirrel, and closed the fridge. I dropped my glass of orange juice when I noticed what happened next in my kitchen. There was a man’s head with a greasy white head and crooked, yellow teeth where I usually kept the pineapples. I dropped my orange juice, spilling it all over the linoleum floor. I blinked and the image was gone. Did I imagine that? Of course I did, heads don’t rest on countertops. The pineapple stared at me, smiling. I suddenly had a strange craving for buffalo wings. I preheated the oven to 350 degrees, wrapped a baking sheet in tinfoil and basted some wings with buffalo sauce. Just then my phone rang. The caller ID said “Bjuice”. I was a little distracted, and may have added too much spicy wing sauce.
I could’ve left it alone, shut it off, ate my buffalo wings and went along on my merry way. But I didn’t. I picked up the phone. “Hello?” I said.
“How are the wings?” a voice whispered. I looked out my window and thought I saw a man in a striped pajama suit dance by, but It was merely a collection of coats.
I sat down on the couch, licking the wing sauce off my fingers. The couch seemed more slithery and scale-like. I noticed blood dripping from one of the legs of the couch, but I made no notice of it as I continued to lick off the wing sauce. I put the VHS tape in, after not having said anything about it for a long time.
It was indeed a Beetlejuice cartoon! But something was…off. Instead of the normal episode, it was just Beetlejuice walking into a Red Lobster and ordering popcorn shrimp. He sat there for about nine minutes alone, waiting for the popcorn shrimp to arrive. It was when he checked his watch that I began to get nervous. “Shrimp’s alive!” he giggled to the waitress. Wait a minute. I had said that to the waitress when I went to red lobster last week, and she found it very awkward. I was starting to think that there was something very sinister and disturbing about this tape that made me feel the sudden need to shut it off.
“Lobsters are in the same family as the roach,” Beetlejuice said. “They’re basically the giant, meaty lobster roaches of the sea.” He wasn’t really talking to anyone. He pointed to the large, hairy and deformed strawberry in his strawberry daiquiri. “And this is a genetically modified strawberry,” he began. He pointed to a burger that seemed to be dripping bacteria. A man that looked like Hitler was shown sitting with him, eating a hamburger. “And this burger, was cooked out of cows that are up to their knees in their own shit all day.”
“Aren’t we all?” Beetlejuice snickered, and the tape cut off.
When it came back on, Beetlejuice was going home. Except it was my home. Same lawn, same Ford Taurus with a dented rearview mirror, same living room. What in God’s name was going on? I felt something sinister occurring as he jimmied the cartoon lock to my door, walked into my cartoon living room, went into the kitchen and opened the stove door. He was eating my buffalo wings, hungrily. “Beetle…juice?” I had said it once.
I checked on my buffalo wings to ensure that they were still being properly cooked and basted in dad’s famous wing sauce, and they were, then ventured to continue watching the tape. I went into the bathroom and noticed a strange scar on my mouth. I heard a voice whispering at my window. “Did you ever consider the thought that maybe, just maybe, we are all bacteria? Bacteria that evolved to enclose itself, learned to walk, clothe, invent.” I went on WebMD to check the symptoms of genital herpes. Then I went back to watch the spooky tape. But the couch was situated facing the TV, meaning I would have to walk all the way around, and somehow a pair of comedically large rollerskates had blocked the path, to the extent that if I walked anywhere near them I would surely trip considering there was still orange juice dripping all over the floor. Brawny towels aren’t as effective as you’d think. They’re not as effective as you think at all.
Boy, that salty wing sauce had sure made me thirsty. I poured myself an ice cold glass of OJ and went to take a sip. As the glass reached my lips, I felt a tiny insect pincer latch onto my tongue and clip it in two pieces. Blood dripped down my chin, but I continued drinking the orange juice as I was quite thirsty. My juice- it was filled with insects! Not just any insects, but beetles! “There are beetles in my juice!” I screamed aloud, even though no one would have heard me. “I wanted orange juice, not beetle juice!” I stuttered. Suddenly a chill crept across my spine. I had said it twice.
I screamed suddenly as I turned my head and noticed someone had put an anatomically life sized skeleton version of my self inside the kitchen near the breakfast nook. He was sitting the same way I did and someone had left eaten buffalo wings around him. The skeleton was smiling. All of a sudden, a tiny man danced across my kitchen table.
I squinted to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, and I wasn’t. He was in a striped suit. I think he wanted me to solve a riddle for some reason. He pointed to some dishes. Then he pointed to a shovel near the grave outside. “Dish- shovel?” I said. He slapped his face angrily and ran under the fridge where I had a combat roach trap resting. He ate a small piece of the food inside as his intestines began to get jammed and turn to glue, and he fell over dead. I immediately dialed 9-1-1 and told them that a tiny man had broken into my home and was eating my roach traps. They sent a paramedic to have me admitted to the insane asylum, but I fortunately gave them my neighbors address, who I saw being put into a straight jacket as I got out a potted plant and dug a grave for the tiny suited man. I buried him in the planter.
I ventured to watch the tape again, and dropped my jaw as I saw the exact sequence of events that had just occurred occurring within the tape. Everything including the juice filled with Beetles, the tiny man who choked to death on a roach trap and the planter burial was all included. Except instead of a skeleton in the chair, there was merely a tombstone with today’s date and my name written on it. I thought the tape was over. I got up and looked at the planter, but the grave was open. Strange. A tiny plastic VHS was at the base of the grave, not unlike the one outside, but smaller.
The VHS tape…was still playing. I turned around to see a shot of John Lennon and Paul McCartney using a Jack LaLaine power juicer. “Mmm, we’re beetles, and this sure is good juice,” they said. It was strange that the Beatles would advertise juice in a children’s cartoon in the 90’s, especially because John Lennon would have been dead at this point in time, but I thought nothing of it. John Lennon smiled at the camera. “Hey kids, if you like the Beatles, and juice, I want you to yell at the camera really loud. I LOVE BEETLEJUICE.”
I paused, thinking this may have been a trap.I mean in the movie and cartoon, saying Beetlejuice three times usually caused Beetlejuice to be exhumed from the dead and harass, posses and terrify people. But that was just a cartoon, not real life. “I LOVE BEETLEJUICE!” I yelled excitedly and saying Beetlejuice a third time.
The VHS player exploded. A massive tarantula walked across my lawn. A gristly man with yellow teeth and an oversized-putty like head began to scream at me, banging pots and pans. I immediately ran over to hide under the couch- but the couch was a snake! A massive, serpentlike head turned and bit at me, cutting into my thigh as I fought it off with an umbrella. The stove- the wings were burning. Dozens of living plastic skeletons came in and began to party. They rooted through my cupboard, eating my pasta and tomatoes. They turned up the music really loud and several dead bodies started to pile up on the floor. Body after body was coming up out of the ground. A native American man was sitting in the corner, crying as the house began to tremble and shake. Countless dead people intermingled with the skeletons as the man with yellow teeth snickered away. Blood was raining from the roof, and various large lobsters were crawling across the living room, along with a giant toothbrush with eyes that kept reminding me to brush before they fall out. Beetlejuice smiled at me as his head began to swell. “Snake’s alive!” he screamed and exploded into pythons, bushmasters, asps and fancy mice. The brawny paper towels had clogged the toilet. The septic tank exploded, and raw sewage flowed across the floor as the highly abrasive urine destroyed my cherry oak shaker cabinets. Beetlejuice kicked me in the mouth, and my teeth did fall out. And that’s how teeth work. They only fall out twice, and never again. You will never get your teeth back. Someone smashed them with a hammer and they exploded into crystalline dust.
I pressed stop and then reverse on the VCR, and the entire sequence of events concluded. I lay there, bleeding, cold, and naked, as the skeletons packed up and left while everything else reversed all the way up to the point where I spilled the juice. It was strange watching life in reverse- it was as though I could see where I’d made every mistake and could start again. Like something new, and clean, like a newborn baby. As I sat on the couch, it all seemed like a distant memory. I KNEW this had happened, but at the same time, it was just a memory. How could it be a dream? Who could imagine this. Well, anyway, I’ve typed the tale down before I forget it, as it just happened five minutes ago. I lost the VHS anyway, it’s probably under the couch. Maybe I’ll check one day. I’m typing this onto my iPad and I’m about to finally eat my buffalo wings, as they’re cooked at least. The sauce is grand and since it’s happening in the present, I have a more concrete record at present that the sauce is delicious, and it is. I’m standing outside of my body while a strange cab driver guides me through a brick wall.
“Please help me,” I said. The sauce was too spicy. Someone had added too much spice to the sauce. I was choking to death on buffalo wings before my very eyes. I picked up my cell phone and dialed 9-1-1, and they had me on caller ID. I told them that the bone was in my throat and tears are dripping down my face, please send paramedics immediately. The bone was too deep, it was clogging the air passage.
I fell onto the floor, gazing out the window as the paramedics knocked on the neighbor’s door.