The Night I Killed the King (conclusion)

Paul Schulz's Winning Conclusion to

"The Night I Killed the King"

In issue 2, Lights Out! presented an uncompleted Robert R. McCammon short story entitled "The Night I Killed the King" and asked subscribers to finish it; in issue 3, we proudly presented the "best" ending, as selected by Robert R. McCammon himself. Response to the contest was enthusiastic, with 13 outstanding entries.

The first-place ending was written by Paul Schulz of Casper, Wyoming, who included the following note with his story:

"Yes, it is pretty bad, but what do you expect from someone who's only heard Southern dialogue in Burt Reynolds movies?"

Well, obviously Paul has a good ear for it. The original manuscript to McCammon's short story "Yellowjacket Summer," which first appeared in the October 1986 issue of The Twilight Zone Magazine, is on its way to Paul. Second and third-place winners were Richard Alan Kaapke, of Las Vegas, NV, and Ray Rexer, of Essexville, MI.

Picking a winner wasn't easy for McCammon, so we decided to run the winning story and excerpts from the other entries. Each of the excerpts was selected by McCammon as being representative of the author's style and and sufficient to indicate the direction the plot was taking. Many thanks to all those who entered the contest.

And now, Paul Schulz's winning conclusion to Robert R. McCammon's "The Night I Killed the King"!

We got to the King's place about fifteen minutes later. It was one of them tin burritos rural gents of, ahem, modest means seem to prefer. Graceland West was certainly a step down for the King. Only two things separated it from the run-of-the-mill poor-boy estate: the satellite dish off to one side and the dumpster located where most folks might put their trash cans. The dumpster looked full to overflowin', too.

I stopped the car on the graveled area in front of the King's home. Miralee got out of the Chevy first and ran up to the trailer door. She ducked inside, then stuck her head out and waved us in.

"Don't try anything now, King," I told him, and jabbed the .38 into his blubber. "Just get out nice an' easy, and walk into your home."

Once in the trailer, you could see that the King's taste in interior decoratin' fit in with his current fashion statement. Dirty clothes, empty chicken buckets, and food wrappers were strewn all about the livin' room. There was an old record player pushed against one wall, right under a velvet picture of the King in his Las Vegas days. On top of the TV was a glass statue of the King. All in all, the place looked about as invitin' as a Beirut swap meet.

"I suppose you want to know why I left it all," the King wheezed out as he settled into a La-Z-Boy.

"No, we don't," I said. "The only thing we want from you is the money you got hid out here. Where is it?"

"Oh, it's buried outside. Let me rest up a minute and we'll go get it. But anyway," the King continued, "it was in the spring of '77. One of my boys had been on vacation in England. When he got back, he brought me a little present. He said it was the biggest thing goin' over there. Thought I might get a real kick outta listenin' to what trash the kids were into.

"Well, I played that record, son. And it changed me. See, no matter what else I'd been over the years, I'd always had the Power within me. The music was the Power. Hearin' that song was like pissin' my pants. I could just feel my life drainin' away. When it was over, I was empty. There was no music left in me. I just knew I couldn't go on like before."

The King paused for a minute. I looked over to Miralee, to see what she made of all this. She was starin' at the King, but not in that nasty way she has. No, she seemed to be really payin' attention to this crap.

"I talked to the Colonel about it," the King started up again. "And we decided that I should get away for awhile, out of the public eye, 'til I was feelin' right. That's why I went underground, so to speak. Just bidin' my time, waitin' for the Power to come back to me."

"What changed then, King?" Miralee asked. Boy, she really seemed to be into it now.

"About six months ago, I read somethin' in the Midnite Tattler about a Harmonica Conversion. This Conversion was supposed to be some kinda mystical moment when all the spheres would line up. The Tattler said it was a real special time when anything might happen, even the Second Coming of the King. So I started to pave the way back for me."

"I read about that, too," Miralee jumped in. "But it said you needed a special charm to help focus the astral energies."

Elvis turned to face Miralee. "Yeah, darlin', that's right. See that little statue on the TV? There's my talisman. Got it from the Home Shopping Club for $49.95. I've been concentratin' at it for weeks now, tryin' to make it work. Nothin's happened yet, but I can feel that the time is almost at hand."

"Say, son." The King looked at me now. "I'll bet you'd sure like to know what it was exactly that caused me to drop outta sight. Why don't you reach into that drawer next to you and I'll show you."

I opened the drawer slowly, expectin' a snake to jump out. The only thing in it was an old 45 in a greasy paper sleeve. The title on the single was blurred out and I could only make out part of the band's name: -ex Pis-

"Real impressive, King," I said, tossin' him the record. "Now, why don't we head outside and get that money before it rots in the ground."

"Just give me another minute or so," the King said. "I really want the two of you to hear this."

The King waddled over to the record player and put the single on. Out of the speakers blasted a noise like a car crusher sinkin' its teeth into an old pickup. The singer, if that's what you'd call a guy who sounds like he'd just got a butt full of buckshot, was screechin' somethin' about the Anti-Christ, Anarchy, or whatever. Just listenin' to a few seconds of it was enough to make my fillin's ache.

"Christ almighty, King!" I yelled. "Those pig farts are what made you give up your music?" Killin' him would be an act of mercy. He must already be tone dead.

The King didn't hear a word I said. He seemed to be in some kind of trance, starin' at the crystal Elvis. The statue had started to flicker with a weird milky light. The light got stronger and stronger as the song rasped on. By the time the song got to the last chorus, it was bright enough to cast five o'clock shadows in the room.

"This is it!" the King said. "It's the Harmonica Conversion! I can feel it! My music's comin' back to me!"

The King lumbered toward the TV; Miralee got up off the couch to stop him. The King may have been plumped up like a Christmas goose, but he still had some speed left in him. He put one of those karate moves you used to see him do on stage to Miralee, and she ended up face down back on the couch. The King picked up the crystal Elvis and cradled it as if it was his day-old Lisa Marie. It was funny too, but in the light of the statue the fat seemed to melt off his face and, just for an instant, you could see the real King underneath.

That damn song finally ended. As the last note bleated away, the King turned around and faced me. He had a really odd look in his eyes, sorta like a starvin' teenager eyein' a jumbo bag of Doritos.

"Come on over here, son. I've got somethin' to show you."

I glanced over at Miralee. She was still out cold on the couch. Things were gettin' a little too weird. It was time to wrap it up.

"Okay, King," I said, though my voice wasn't any too strong. "Why don'cha just put down that figurine and we'll go outside and dig up that stash of yours." Once the money was out of the ground, I figured the King's grave would be half dug. A quick headshot, ten minutes of shovel work, and Miralee and I would be out of here.

The King took a step toward me. "Well, son, I have to admit that I told you a little lie there. There ain't no stash. I get my money from the Colonel a little bit at a time, and this month's check hasn't come yet. But here, why don't you take this beautiful statue instead? It oughta be worth somethin'. Here."

He held out the statue. The damn thing was still glowin'. Lookin' at it made me feel a little dizzy. It was gettin' hard to keep my mind on things. I took a step back and pointed the .38 at the King.

"Turn that damn thing off before I shoot it outta your hand!" I screamed at the King.

The King just grinned and moved in. It struck me that things weren't workin' out the way Miralee and I planned. The King seemed to be followin' his own agenda now.

"Stop right there or I'll drop you where you stand!"

"But I thought that's what you came lookin' for me for." The King was gettin' too close. A few more steps and he might try that karate crap on me.

BANG! The pistol seemed to fire on its own. The King grabbed his left leg and fell to the carpet. When his 300+ pounds hit, the whole damn trailer shook. The phonograph started up and the -ex Pis- began caterwaulin' all over again.

Sweet Jesus, I couldn't believe it! I had actually shot the King. Dwayne Pressley, the Assassin of Rock 'n' Roll. That's how I'd be remembered. I didn't want to finish him off now. To hell with that stupid plan of Miralee's. I dropped the .38 and walked over to him. He just lay there, curled up like a baby, huggin' his leg and that glass Elvis.

"Oh, God, I'm sorry, King," I bawled to him. "I really didn't mean to shoot you. I ain't never shot at anything but squirrels before. Just lie still 'til I can get you a doctor."

The King rolled over to face me. "It's too late for that now, son. I'm a goner."

Now that statement seemed to be a bit odd, comin' from a man who had only been grazed in the leg. I figured the pain must have addled his wits. I saw an old sock on the floor and pressed it against the wound.

"Don't you worry now, King. You're gonna be alright."

"You're right. I'm gonna be just fine."

With that, he swung that crystal statue at my head. Only instead of hittin' my skull, it felt like it passed straight through my brain. I felt a cold shiver go all the way from my eyeballs down to my tail bone. Things got all white and I couldn't see anything except for a black dot a long ways away. The dot came closer and closer, 'til I finally got sucked all the way in.

I don't know how long I was out. When I woke up, I felt tired and fuzzy. My left leg hurt like the dickens, and I couldn't move my arms or legs. I guess I must have been sittin' up, though I couldn't really make sense of things. The King was standin' in front of me, but he looked different. He seemed to be a lot skinnier than before, and better dressed. In fact, he was wearin' my clothes. And my Miralee was standin' next to him. They were whisperin' somethin' I couldn't quite hear.

"Are you awake yet, Dwayne?" Miralee asked.

"Barely," I croaked back at her. Funny, but my voice sounded different. "Say, what happened to the King? How'd he get my duds on?"

"The Harmonica Conversion, son," the King answered. Even his voice seemed changed now. Not quite right, as if he was tryin' to do a poor imitation of hisself. "It gave me back the Power. With a little help from you all, of course."

I peeked down. Below me ballooned out some stubbly layers of chin flab, a food-speckled checked shirt, and some overstuffed blue jeans. The body fillin' the clothes seemed to be taped to one of the dinette chairs. I looked back in horror at the King.

"You damned thief! You stole my body!"

"I wouldn't call it stealin'. More like tradin' in mine on a newer model."

"Well, I don't much like the terms of the trade!" I told the King. "Put me back in my own body right now!"

"Now, why would I want to do somethin' like that, son?" the King asked. "I've been waitin' for the Power to come back, and I'm not gonna lose it now."

"Miralee, help me! What about our undyin' love, all those nights in the back of the Chevy? What about my career, the big future ahead? Untie me, honey, and we'll get this hoodoo hillbilly to put things right!"

"I don't think we can do that," Miralee piped in. "See, accordin' to the books, the Harmonica Conversion only comes around once every 34,521 years. A soul swap can only happen at that time. And the moment's gone, Dwayne. 'Course, you could always hang around 'til the next one and try again."

"You mean I'm stuck in this overstuffed sausage?" I screamed at them.

"Yes, but don't worry," Miralee said. "Just follow the Midnite Tattler crawdad-and-whipped-cream diet and those pounds will fly off in no time."

"Besides," Miralee continued, "I kinda like things the way they are now. Why should I keep workin' on makin' you into a blue-light-special version of the King, when I can have the real thing?" She reached over and squeezed my old body's arm.

I turned my glare back to the King. "Well, body snatcher, what are you gonna do now? I'll get the FBI after you soon as I get free."

"Son," the King drawled, "who'd believe you? You're wearin' Elvis Aron Presley's body now. Tell your story and all you'll get is a comfortable suite at the local fruit farm. Best settle in and make the best of it.

"As for me, well, I'm gonna try usin' the Power again. Of course, with the real Elvis field bein' so full up, the real King comin' back and all, I'm gonna have to get me another style. Think the world is ready for a down-home Johnny Rotten?"

"Miralee, darlin'," I pleaded with her, "help me!"

"Now hush up, Dwayne," Miralee said. "Elvis bandaged up your leg, and you'll be just fine. The newspeople will be comin' across this place in a few hours, and they'll cut you free. Just think of this as your big break. You'll be able to do the King now for the rest of your life."

After she spoke her piece, she linked arms with my old body and left the trailer. On his way out, the King began singin' a snatch of a tune about feelin' pretty vacant. I heard my Chevy fire up and roar off into the night. I stared at the glassy lump on the floor, all that was left of the Elvis statue after the big changearoo. At that moment, the lump kinda matched the feelin's in my heart.

Well, I had a long time to think things over. Even if the world believed my story, the King was right; no person in their mind, even Midnite Tattler readers, would buy into this yarn. The return of the King was gonna be enough of a shock as is. A line from an old movie kept runnin' through my head: "The King is dead. Long live the King." Well, maybe it was true now in more ways than one. The old King everyone knew was gone for good now. Maybe it was time for a new one.

The newspeople didn't get to me 'til late Saturday night. By that time, I was ready. I heard a car squeal to a halt outside the trailer. The door burst open and bright camera lights were shinin' in my eyes. That Al Capone fella stuck a mike in my face and started jabberin' away.

"America, this is certainly the most momentous event of my life! Even my special on the pagan groundhog cults of Fort Lynn, New Jersey, must pale beside this! Twelve years after his purported death, the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, has turned up alive and well in a trailer outside Eustace, Arkansas. So many questions to answer, so many mysteries to unravel, so many ratings to improve! Elvis, your public awaits! What do you have to say to them after all this time?"

I looked him straight in the eye. I cleared my throat, and then I spoke, as the King, for the first time. "Well, son, before we get to talkin', it might be a good idea for you to cut me loose. And while you're at it, pass me over that box of moon-pies."

Read samples from the other entries

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