She wasn't the original, of course. The original Marilyn Monroe left the world when colour tv was a new thing. This Marilyn Monroe worked the West End summer-night dinner and theatre crowd. Her fast-talking guy snapped sidewalk souvenir pictures for five bucks. Joe lined-up for a movie one midnight, not at all interested in the late showing of Earth versus Shee, Conqueror Queen of Venus. This Marilyn Monroe was running through her poses, in the white dress. Joe passed the guy five bucks. Joe had her picture still, saved in his pocket hacker, this Marilyn Monroe blowing him a kiss.
"Hurry, master." Mutt scrabbled around the counter end and floored-it for the front door, his four legs barely under him, like a car on ice. A tin of something clonked the floor.
But her eyes...were not as Joe remembered. One was that Marilyn Monroe impossible blue. The other was dark. She seemed not to notice Joe had shambled past the buggy meats case, and rounded the counter end. Joe's belly tightened. His heart pattered its warning. She wasn't staring. She was gazing. Like a doll in the window, with mismatched eyes. And ruined hairdo, sickly yellow in the streetlight.
Mutt was chatting about her through the glass door with a female-sounding golden retriever.
"...Please don't go. It's just my master will notice your lady's strange. I'm his dog, I haveta ask."
"I found her on the beach. I couldn't leave her." The retriever jerked her head right and left. "It's late. Dangerous outside."
Joe reached the glass door. He glanced over the street. It was deserted, except for Marilyn Monroe at the deli window and the golden retriever.
Mutt wagged his tail. "Master, open the door. I'm gonna mate."
The golden retriever, her tail down, head low, stared at Joe.
Joe stared back. A string hung from the dog's mouth. The string trailed toward Marilyn. To a snarled knot around her dusty ankle. Marilyn was shoeless. Her dress, that dress, wasn't white now. This Marilyn Monroe might've stepped from her breezy subway grate and off a bridge. She looked like she'd drowned and dried out.
The she-dog. "We must come inside. Or go. Tell your man."
Joe gripped the door handle, rattled it.
"MASTER NOOO." Mutt jumped him, jabbed him, jujitsu'd him, two paws to his kidney, knocked Joe face first against the glass.
"GEDDOFF GEDDOFF!" Joe fended him off. Stars spun. Joe felt sure when he opened his eyes he would see those stars. And himself twirling in nose-first freefall.
"SMELL HER. MUTT SMELL HER. IS...SHE DEAD?"
There. Said. And accomplished with both his eyes screwed shut against the vertigo. Perhaps the last man on earth suspecting aloud this Marilyn Monroe pawing the deli window, a sidewalk Marilyn Monroe Joe kept a picture of in his hacker — perhaps the very last Marilyn Monroe — was in fact a Marilyn Monroe Joe now had to lock outside. Because she was something else entirely. A Trojan Marilyn Monroe. A zombie.
The moon-sized world-threatening alien ship was real. Anything might be possible. Even a zombie Marilyn Monroe. Before Joe said it.
He clung unsteadily to the door handle. It was still locked. Joe test-wriggled his nose. It felt merely smashed. One nostril seeped hotly. Joe swabbed it with his other hand. He opened his slightly blurry eyes. No stars. The deli. Both dogs staring at him.
Mutt's eyes twinkled. His brushy eyebrows wrestled over whatever he was thinking. His bearded mouth fell open. Mutt seemed about to laugh out loud. He didn't. "Mutt, master? I like Mutt, master."
The retriever outside swung away, slunk toward Her, perhaps the very last Marilyn Monroe. "Lady, we must go. Now."
Mutt whimpered by Joe's knee. "She look dead to you, master? I was gonna mate. Oh she's going."
Gripping the string in her mouth, the she-dog slipped past her lady.
Joe didn't correct Mutt about which female he thought might be dead. It was pointless. Joe glimpsed his slack-jawed reflection, streetlamp-yellow in the glass. Like the last fish in the tank.