You know how people keep having these reoccurring nightmares, right? Like they’re falling from things or they keep dying horrible deaths? Well, I have my own reoccurring nightmare. You can hear it in my voice, right, that I’m from the South? I came all the way from North Carolina to pursue my Hollywood dream. I wanted to be an actress just like Theda Bara and Lillian Gish. I didn’t even get an audition to star in one of those silent films. I ended up as an extra in a movie about a circus. And this movie actually had real animals in it. One of the tigers ended up getting loose and he was chasing all the people on set. Guess who that tiger caught? That tiger ended up catching me. But something strange happened. I thought that tiger was going to eat me. But the tiger pounced on me, and I saw this bright light. I remember standing up and going to a mirror on set, and I saw that my hair was a bright red instead of the blonde that it once was. I still had blue eyes, but that’s just a cover for my yellow eyes now. I used to be about five feet nine. Now I’m six foot five. I grew inches in moments because somehow my body merged with this tiger’s. I used to have the daintiest fingers. Now they’re long and skeletal, like claws. I’m sure you get the idea—didn’t you say your name was John? Yes, John. John Laughridge.
Every morning when I go to sleep, I dream about that day. I see that tiger pouncing on me and merging with me. I dream of how I saw LA before I was pounced, and how warped I saw LA after the pouncing. You know how you see the world through a camera’s zoom lens? That’s how I see LA now. Not all the time, but the most detailed images, that’s what I dream about now. And I used to be terrified about getting pounced, and how I see LA these days. But I know now why I keep dreaming of that day, and why I dream of the minute details of LA. That tiger is reminding me that it’s a part of me now. And I am a part of that tiger. We’ve accepted our symbiotic relationship. Now the question is are you ready to accept our symbiotic relationship? No, we’re not gonna merge. The tiger has merged with me and only me. I’m not gonna let you go. I’m either going to torment you here in the alley or I’m gonna eat you.
You’re telling me tigers don’t usually eat humans. You’re right, John. They usually eat things like deer and buffalo. But the tiger that merged with me likes human flesh. The skin’s too tough for me, but I like the more muscular parts of the human body. Arms, stomach, thighs—you’ve got some big thighs, John. I’m glad you told me you were a football player.
Hmm...what if I ate you?
No one told you not to sit at the table in Osko’s held by the tall red-headed woman with the massive feathered perm, looking down at the dance floor, pretty close to the stairwell? No one, John? You’re shaking your head. Huh. I thought the bartender would’ve told you to go to any other table, or even better, go down to the dance floor downstairs or the room that looks like an igloo on the bottom floor. Maybe he hated you that much.
I’m not one for Cosmopolitans. But thank you anyway. I’d tell you next time to get something with gin it, like a gin and tonic, but I don’t think there’s going to be a next time for you.
I see it your eyes. You want me to pity you because you decided to come to LA for spring break all the way from Cal. You’re a defensive tackle who warms the bench while your teammates get the honor of battling UCLA and USC. Hey, you decided to come up to my table. You let me get a good look at your face while you were bragging about how you were going to stop some star running back from Oregon. Meanwhile, I told you LA is like a jungle, and especially after midnight. I mean, during the day, there’s a lot of traffic and pollution and it’s hard to navigate on foot or on wheels. But at nighttime, when all you see is neon lights and spotlights, it’s even worse. And I told you not to leave Osko’s after midnight by yourself. You knew what you were getting into. And you should’ve gotten out while you had the chance. You had two chances. You could’ve left before midnight. You could’ve left after midnight with someone. I’m not picky. I know you were playing up how macho you think you are, but I really didn’t care if you left with a guy or not. I don’t go after couples. I may be tall, but I don’t have the size advantage against a couple of people or more beating up on me. I know. I’ve tried. I’ve failed.
So you left Osko’s some time around two. I believe you were trying to get to Studio One and you were trying to catch a cab, walking up La Cienega, waving your arms. Actually, you could’ve went there instead of going to Osko’s. You would’ve been safe. Now, because I know your face, and I know how appetizing you are, I started following you.
It wasn’t hard to find you. As I said, I dream of the city every time I go to sleep during the day. I pretty much know all the roads in LA by memory, even as they’ve changed to accommodate convertibles and station wagons. You gave up trying to catch a cab. You were complaining about getting hot, and how you were under too many streetlights and neon lights for your liking. You looked up and you noticed there weren’t any streetlights or neon lights above you. You turned a corner. Then you stopped. You turned around and you saw my yellow eyes. I put my finger up to my lips. I told you not to scream. But you screamed and you ran anyway. Don’t you know the stupidest way to attract a tiger’s attention is to panic and to draw attention to yourself?
So you started running. And it’s obvious you don’t know the streets of LA, because every time you started to run, you’d run into an alley. You’d run, you’d see my shadow—don’t I look more like a tiger in the shadows, John?—and then you’d run some more. About those alleys, John? I think you managed to find ten of them tonight without trying too hard. And not once did you find your way back to La Cienega. I know where we are right now. Would you like to know, John? Oh, that’s right. I’m not telling you.
This is it, John. I’ve found you. I’ve always been able to find you. Once I know my prey, I never let it go. Tell me what to do. Or not. Do I pin you down on this alley floor that smells like garbage and is covered in some sort of incomprehensible moisture? Do I drag my nails all over your body, hoping to draw a bit of blood? What if I eat you?
You’re a good kisser, John. You really are. You really thought I was flirting with you, and maybe I was joking about the tiger eyes and the tale of me being pounced upon in the age of the talkies. But I didn’t lie to you. I am a tiger. And I decided that after you didn’t listen to me, not once in Osko’s and not once in this alley, that I decided to eat you.
I told you I wouldn’t let you go. That was a lie. Now I have to let you go, because there’s no more of you. Have a good evening, John. See you again sometime? Ha, I kid. Probably not.