Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bev Vincent and the Hidden Secrets of the Universe

I first encountered Bev Vincent about thirteen years ago. I'd gotten a hold of some photocopied screenplays of unproduced Stephen King films and, like all opportunistic nerds in 1998, I decided to make copies and sell them on eBay. Bev bought one, and I very idiotically asked her if she wanted photocopies of THE PLANT.

No, thanks, she said. I have the real thing. That may not be verbatim, but there it was. She proceeded to school my ass in the finer points of why offering to sell photocopies of a Stephen King novel was not a good idea.

I got her check, saw her name and that of her wife, and thought, awesome, a lesbian doctor.

Five or six years later--long after I learned that Bev was, in fact, a man, and that the possibility didn't cross my mind because I was raised in a semi-literate redneck hell in which men named Bev could never be permitted to exist--my wife and I got the bright idea to start a small press.

(You probably know the story. If not, follow that link once I'm done blowing your mind.)

Anyhow--we decided that an anthology would be the first venture of the newly-formed Creeping Hemlock Press, the evocatively titled Corpse Blossoms. By that point, we'd become friendly with Bev, so he was one of the first people we invited to submit a story, and he was the very first to deliver. It's a damned fine story, and we bought it.

A year later, Corpse Blossoms was compiled and awaiting its trip to the printer, and we were homeless, thanks to Hurricane Katrina. In a hellishly slow nineteen hour drive, we evacuated to Houston, where Bev visited us at our hotel and treated us to a lovely meal. We were harried and in shock, but it was a wonderful experience--Bev is (or appears to be) a very sweet and kind human being, and meeting with him made us feel as if we were actually a part of this strange little community.

We stayed in touch via the magic of the internet, and I next saw Bev four years later, in Atlanta, at a Stephen King public appearance in support of Under the Dome. Once again, I was a mess, this time because I was on the tail end of a nasty bout of swine flu. My motel was farther from the event than I'd thought, and I foolishly chose to walk instead of catch a cab. I arrived sheathed in sweat and bubbling snot, but I managed to not get anyone sick. Bev inscribed my copy of The Stephen King Illustrated Companion (For that bastard Ronnie), and we had a great old time.

Take my hand and move forward with me now, and this will all start to make horrific sense. WORLD HORROR 2011 in Austin, Creeping Hemlock's first major convention appearance. We launched our awesome new zombie imprint there, Print Is Dead, and an even greater time was had. Bev was there, serving as Guest of Honor Liaison, and we were very happy to see him again.

And again. And again.

See, every time I turned around, it seemed like Bev was there, sitting in a chair wearing one of his trademark loud shirts, his laptop perched upon his knees. The dude gets around. He's in great shape. He's a ball of energy.

It wasn't until near the end of the con that I learned about the room with the free coffee and donuts. This was late in the day on Saturday. Friday night had been intense, and I needed coffee. Bev was there, perhaps getting coffee himself. I half-joked that he was everywhere and that a thinny (those strange portals between worlds in King's DARK TOWER novels) must surely be involved.

Bev laughed, and something about the look in his eyes chilled my heart and made the flesh of my scrotum tighten.

I got my donut and coffee, left the room with Bev in it, walked down the hall--it was a long walk--and got to the elevator. Rode it down to the lobby, stepped out...

Walking toward me? Bev Vincent. Not possible, but there he was.

He gave me a wicked, knowing smile, and I felt the world shift beneath my feet. Everything clicked into place: the nineteen hour drive that led me to my first meeting with Bev; the Captain Trips-like flu that plagued me prior to my second meeting with him.

And now this. Whether by accident or by some strange design, the purpose of which has not yet been made clear, I was afforded a glimpse past the veil of this reality and into the greater truth beyond--that of the Tower.

What is Bev Vincent? He is not human--that much is clear. I saw him several times more before the convention ended. We stood outside of a packed party and talked Planet of the Apes while Peter Straub shuffled by with a drink in his hand and Nick Mamatas threatened to kick someone out for being a loudmouth asshole. Bev came to our table and talked shop. And through it all, there was an awareness, an unspoken acknowledgement.

I saw him sitting in the lobby on that final day, his laptop once more placed atop his knees, which now seemed knobby and to quiver, the cloth of his pants holding back some impossible insect anatomy, the patterns on his shirt shifting, ever so slightly, his glasses doubling and trebling his eyes until I found myself blinking away the lidless alien leer of a spider.

One can only withhold the truth for so long, and I am no longer strong enough to do so. Nor do I care that people will think me mad. I need the nightmares to stop. I need to stop looking up at the clock every single day just in time to see it click over to 9:19.

I need to stop seeing Bev Vincent every time I close my eyes.

I probably won't survive the day. As soon as this goes live, I expect the agents of the Crimson King, led by his chief emissary in this When--Mr. Bev Vincent, who is not a lesbian doctor--to congregate at my house and unravel my mind.

Which is a shame, because I was hoping in my next entry to reveal another cosmic truth I learned at WHC 2011: every time you look at John Skipp, no matter how often, he is climaxing.

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