Nearing the end, though, I ran across a bit that made me stop and think. I wanted to get it down to remember it, just because of the things it made me consider. Here's the set up (to make this all make sense): The story arc goes like this: Simon Garth, captain of industry and all-around rich snob/asshole, is kidnapped by practitioners of voodoo and earmarked as a human sacrifice, thanks to a disgruntled ex-employee. The priestess, though, lets him escape (she turns out to be his secretary, who always loved him but never told him). As he escapes, though, the ex-employee attacks and kills him, stabbing him with a pair of garden shears. The rest of the group catches the priestess, and forces her to raise Garth as a zombie (the ex-employee doesn't feel Garth suffered enough, you see). Thus is born our main running character, a man without a soul, forced to serve whoever holds the Amulet of Damballah.
Yeah, kinda cheesy, but what do you want from early 70's horror schlock? Stick with me, this is beautiful.
OK, so, eventually, the voodoo priestess, Layla, tracks him down again, and vows to give him the one gift she can, the eternal peace of final death. In a rotten twist, though, Garth comes under the control of a bunch of a bunch of partiers who use him to get back at some people they dislike. one of them is a low-level typist who doesn't like the woman who lords it over the secretarial pool...and it isn't until it's too late that we discover that woman is Layla, who recently discovered how to lay Garth to rest. Driven by forces beyond his ken, Garth takes Layla to her mentor, who tries but cannot heal her of the damage.
Knowing she is soon to die, Layla decides to engage in one last ritual, the nature of which we are not told; the only thing we here is her mentor saying that her soul may be in danger. We see Layla and Garth laid out among burning braziers as her mentor begins to chant. The narrative describes how Garth, who has no soul and cannot feel, still almost instinctively feels the wish to cry, how what little is left of him almost finally, at the end, understands how things could have different, the people he could have treated better (ex-wife, daughter, business partner, even Layla).
He turns his withered head to the side, letting his soulless eyes fall on Layla's dying form.
A second chance? A Walt Disney concept, in a Sam Peckinpah world. Lightning crashes, a forked bolt hitting the two large braziers at their feet. When the light subsides and the smoke clears, Layla's body is gone, and only Garth's remains...Simon Garth, alive, well, and whole once more. He sits up and looks at his hands, his mind trying to understand the transformation that has occurred. Welcome to FantasyLand.
I look around me, at people, at the world, at life in general...and it occurs to me that this is exactly what we're all looking for, "a Walt Disney concept in a Sam Peckinpah world". Well, most of us, anyway. But if we give up trying to find that concept, I fear we'll end up in an even worse world.
Here's to Fantasyland.