Chapter no 6

My Heart Is a Chainsaw

Stab, Stab, Stab.

Jade jams the sharp end of her litter stick into a Styrofoam cup and imagines the cup writhing, moaning, begging for mercy. She hikes the stick up, uses her gloved left hand to push the dying cup off the stainless steel tip and into the canvas bag slung over her left hip like the most cavernous purse.

Today the bright yellow litter stick is a spear, but in the afternoons since graduation it’s been a pike for bulls, except that made her feel evil; a long push-dart for wolverines and badgers—rabid, of course; a laser beam that cooks whatever trash it comes into contact with (lots of hissing sound effects); a blood-sampler for crocodiles, also probably rabid; and, like so many of her fantasies, the weapon found sticking up from her father’s right eye socket.

But the left can work too. She’s not picky.


In the Scream franchise, that’s what the movie dramatization of Gale Weathers’s tell-all book is called. That and a nickel’ll get you five cents, Jade knows, and can’t help smiling about.

Because nobody’s around to catch her, she can smile all she wants. Smile and sing, thrash with Cyco Miko in her earbuds, even do a cartwheel if the urge strikes and her inner cheerleader just has to express herself. This is what summer-janitoring for the county is about: there are no kids to clean up after in the halls of the schools, so you become custodian for the whole town.

And, to be sure, if Jade has an inner cheerleader, it’s one of those ratted-out punk ones from that Nirvana video—the

pep rally from hell. That’s nineties not eighties, but so was

Popcorn, so was New Nightmare, so was Scream.

“Without memory, there can be no retribution,” she mumbles, eviscerating a Copenhagen tin’s shiny thin lid with a nice pop. “Without memory, there can be no retribution” is a line from Popcorn, maybe the line. That’s another thing she can do since no one’s out here: quote horror all the day long to test herself, to keep her slasher Q up. It’s just her and the blowing trash, after all, and, somewhere out there, surely, an actual slasher rising from the depths.

As near as she can suspect, it’s either going to look like or be Stacey Graves, which will be pretty wicked, or it’ll look like or be Ezekiel from Drown Town, the scary-ass preacherman with the big hands and too-wide mouth, the better to sing with—think Poltergeist 2, “God is in, his holy temp-le,” which Jade delivers at high and sudden volume to the birds that keep gathering around in case she uncovers something tasty.

One of the early extra credit papers she did for Mr. Holmes had been on him—Ezekiel, not the Poltergeist 2 preacher. It was a two-pager, which she had mostly copied from online: when Henderson-Golding was being flooded with what would become Indian Lake, he’d locked his congregation into his one-room church with him, and they sang until the waters swamped the town, and are maybe, Jade said in her conclusion, still singing, awaiting the day they can rise from the depths to punish the town that replaced Henderson-Golding. And then they turn their attentions to Glen Dam, let the waters of judgment flow forth, down-valley, freeing their beloved, soggy little town.

The problem with Ezekiel, though, it’s that he’s not really slasher material. What’s there for him to revenge? The people of Henderson-Golding had found him in the woods, nursed him back to health, taught him language even though he already had white hair. They’d probably even

given him the Bible he would use like a hammer to smite down what-all he saw as sin—everything, pretty much. If Ezekiel was hanging around, it should be to thank all those people who found him, not choke their descendants out with his big hands.

No, Ezekiel’s more like a dark and scary force. The only thing he’s got against teens, or anybody, is that they’re all sinning. But, according to him, the whole world is sin, right? Therefore, the whole world needs to burn. He’s more like Nix from Lord of Illusions: came for the mayhem, stayed for the massacre.

Stacey Graves, then. Either her or someone dressed up like her. Someone killing like she probably would. Case in point: those two Dutch kids out on the water.

Jade spears a tissue she doesn’t want to touch even with her thick glove, then stabs through the side of a Diet Coke bottle, then goes for a triple-stacker—a long, faded receipt in addition to the Diet Coke and tissue.

Lifting gently, slowly, she guides them all into her bag of infinite holding. Infinite smelly holding.

Stacey Graves does make sense out on the water, she supposes. But it’s not like Ezekiel doesn’t. The lake is both of their territory, and probably the shore too.

Jade looks out across the lake and mimes poling ahead with her litter stick, both hands, has to jog to catch a candy wrapper trying to make it to the tall grass. Candy wrappers are always the fastest. Something about their no-friction paper and their basic weightlessness, and how each upflung tatter is another sail.

Stab. Stab.

When the candy wrapper flits up into the air instead of riding her spear into the bag, Jade tries to move slow enough to impale it at eight feet high and spiraling. When she misses three times in a row, just scaring it higher away, she takes a couple of running steps and hurls her stick like a spear at it.

One one-hundredth of a second after the handle’s gone from her hand, she thinks to look ahead to where her litter stick might be landing.

Time slows for her, hardly even moving at all.

At the other end of this not-a-javelin’s arc is—is… there’s the sheriff’s big plate glass window, there’s two county vehicles, there’s the light pole with the frosted glass bulb by the sidewalk leading to the sheriff’s building, there’s a blue post office box which it’s probably a federal crime to puncture.

Jade turns her head away to not have to witness this, and, when it has to be over, her future decided, she takes a timid peek.

The litter stick landed point-first in the hump of grass. A small brown bird flutters down, perches on it, and gives Jade the eye, like this new and unexpected vantage point is his, now, thank you very much. Jade looks past the bird to Sheriff Hardy’s window, which has to be like his big television screen, the one always tuned to “Proofrock.” Just, now it’s got this one girl traipsing across it.

This one girl who owes him some community service.

Which she can’t dodge anymore, can she?

“Might as well,” she says. She has to go over there anyway to collect her litter stick, doesn’t she? Maybe signing up for some hours can be her payment for the luck of not having broken out any windows, perforated any car roofs.

Jade waves the bird away, its sharp claws not letting go of the stick’s handle until the last possible instant.

That would for sure be scary, Jade thinks, tracking the bird zigging and zagging away: a human body with a sparrow head, like the owl-head dude in Stage Fright.

Slashers these days tend to be more off-the-shelf, though, don’t they?

As if to prove this, Jade pulls the so-called lapel of her coveralls over on the left side, to check if the dull white

Michael Myers mask she’s got stashed there is riding well. It’s just a hard plastic shell with a wimpy elastic band, your basic face eraser, but no way can she risk carrying a sixty-dollar pull-on full-head bleached-out Captain Kirk around in her pocket just for kicks and grins. No, in circumstances like hers, keep a little two-dollar clearance job that you can leave behind if need be. It’s not like she paid the two dollars for it anyway.

Now that she’s actually here at Hardy’s building, though, this close to the threat of community service, she’s kind of having second and third thoughts.

What if he wants her to wash his Bronco? What if he tells her to use her litter stick out in the shallows of Indian Lake, where every third piece of flotsam is going to be not just a rubber, but the rubber of someone she knows?

No thank you.

Maybe she can just cross the summer with those twelve hours untouched. What’s he going to do, arrest her? Keep her from graduating any more than she’s already not graduating?

Moving sneaky, she dislodges the gross tissue from the top of her canvas bag o’smells, lets it go in a gust of wind, then jogs backwards-like, being as conscientious a litter-stabber as she is, she has no choice but to run catch it. Except it keeps being one stab ahead of her stick. And again, again, until she has to be out of sight of Hardy’s office window.

The life of the summer janitor, yeah. Gloriouser and gloriouser, until she can’t contain the gloriousness anymore, has to burst with sunshine from the pure joy welling up inside her.

Which is only halfway a lie: the longer this slasher takes to rise, the more her anticipation has been ratcheting up. Time and again, watching Letha Mondragon walk from her stepmother’s slick little Audi to the pier for their cigarette boat the Umiak, Jade’s reached out for her, to warn her, to

explain it all to her, but she’s never reaching with her hands, quite. Just with her eyes. She’s going to have to actually tell her at some point, though. It’s not stacking the deck, it’s just common courtesy.

But, Jade has to admit, she guesses the reason she hasn’t approached Letha Mondragon yet is that she’s not a hundred and ten percent absolute certain that this isn’t all just in her head, that she isn’t a victim of wishful thinking. Maybe all her videotapes have rotted her mind. Maybe all the hatred balled up inside her has started sending tendrils out into her thinking, to blacken her thoughts, dim her perception of the actual world.

If she starts seeing tracking lines in the sky, that’s when she’ll know, she tells herself.

Until then, she’ll just keep watching, and waiting.

Except—except it has to be true this time, doesn’t it? Letha Mondragon wouldn’t be here if there weren’t a slasher in the vicinity, would she? That’s not the way it works. Jade guesses she doesn’t know which came first, the slasher or the final girl, the chicken or the bloody egg, but she does know that where there’s one, there’s gonna be the other, so it doesn’t really matter.

And, okay, she does know which came first: the slasher, of course. It rises to right the wrongs, then when it gets all carried away, nature spits up its governor, its throttle, its one-woman police force, its fiercest angel: the final girl. She’s the only cap the slasher cycle recognizes.

But Jade’s not writing her cute little papers for Mr. Holmes anymore. Those days are over, gone forever.

Now she’s in a slasher.


This time it’s a dead bird. The meaty feel and muted crunch comes up through the fiberglass pole into Jade’s palm, and she makes it last as long as she can, imagines a paternal hand spread on the ground, fatherly fingers clutching at the gravel, a left work boot jerking involuntarily,

blood leaking down into the whorls of an ear. Right or left, it doesn’t matter.

Instead of burying the bird in the trash bag at her hip, she uses her heel and the point of the stick to scrape a deep-enough hole under a bush by the post office. It’s Saturday, so nobody’s there to ask her what she’s doing.

She pushes the dead bird in, covers it up, then studies the dark blood on her stainless steel prod.

It makes a lump swell in her throat. This is what stories mean by “gorge,” she knows.

She turns away, spits long and stringy but doesn’t quite throw up. Technically.

Just from a one-ounce bird, yeah.

Real brave, Jennifer, she tells herself. Very metal.

To deal with the trauma, she works her way around to the side of the post office then sits there for an hour she measures in cigarettes smoked, the shadows lengthening all around her, the temperature clicking down with the sun.

If she doesn’t get back to Golding Elementary in time to turn her stick back in, big loss. It’ll just mean not being in Rexall’s hidden camera, and that can’t be the worst thing in the world. And Hardy’s not even in his office to catch her not working. From here she can see him out on the water, skipping around in the airboat he bought with the insurance money for his daughter’s death back when.

“Get him, sir,” Jade says.

She’s talking about Clate Rodgers, Hardy’s daughter’s junior high boyfriend at the time of her drowning.

What was her name? Jade’s mom used to say it sometimes, as if, had this dead girl lived, the whole town would be different, better, as if, with that one girl walking down its streets, Proofrock could be what it was meant to have been. Not the current thing it is.

Melanie, that’s it.

It’s lettered right there on the sides of Hardy’s airboat, were Jade close enough to see. The first time she sounded

the name out, just trying to make it be a word, not a jumble of blue letters stuck to his hull, she was… second grade? But it could have been first, she supposes. In the summer, it’s tradition for all the kids who don’t think they’re too old to line up on the pier in their swimsuits, line up and hold hands, Sheriff Hardy coasting his airboat back and forth before them like a drill sergeant, informing them about water safety, about how all of them, if they follow his instructions to a T, can have the best, and safest, summer ever.

The whole time the kids are flinching and trying not to run away, especially when he hauls the rudder over fast and guns his big fan, performing a neat little kick turn on the water.

They’re waiting, they’re holding their breath over and over, but they have to breathe too. Jade remembers it so well, so clearly. She was holding Bethany Manx’s hand on one side, Tim Lawson’s on the other, and she wasn’t that weird horror chick yet, was just another kid, nine years old, the whole summer spread out before her, waiting.

Sheriff Hardy just kept lecturing about water safety, though, and he kept not doing it, and not doing it, and she was about to explode with anticipation, they all were, they couldn’t wait any longer, and Jade remembers seeing Hardy’s lips trying not to smile, and then he ran his left index finger up the bridge of his nose, pushing his chrome sunglasses all the way on, and then he finally did it, finally gunned his airboat’s throttle all the way up, hauling the rudder over hard, pelting the whole line of kids with a spattery wall of ice-cold water.

After which he just kept going, standing up in his airboat, skipping out deeper and deeper into Indian Lake.

This was maybe ten years after his daughter washed up, Jade guesses.

He probably needed his sunglasses on better to hide his eyes.

No, when he carried Jade up from the shallows, no, he

wasn’t going to let any more girls drown in his lake.

Jade wipes her eyes, tries to keep her chin from being a stupid prune, and tells him she’s sorry, okay? She’s sorry, she couldn’t help it. And she hopes he fucking kills the goddamn shit out of Clate Rodgers.

Maybe some of his friends too.

She sniffles in, stands up against the post office wall, and wonders if that’s it, then: will the slasher this time be dressed like a local cop, like the melty terminator from Judgment Day? Maybe that’s what this slasher cycle will be called when it breaks on the national news: “Judgment Day.” Except it’ll probably be “Wilderness Massacre,” something insulting like that.

No, of course: “Camp Blood, Chapter 2.” Because, like Randy says in Scream 2, the sequels always have to be bloodier. Unless whoever it is is actually wearing some giant Stacey Graves getup, in which case: The Lake Witch Slayings.

Jade likes the ring of that one.

That’s all later, though. Right now she needs to clock out, always keeping her eyes on the floor so she doesn’t accidentally look into any of Rexall’s—

She flattens herself against the post office wall, holding the litter stick across her chest in both hands, her lips set.

A Jeep is blasting past, top down, packed with former Hawks cheerleaders.

It’s on a collision course with the Umiak, surging across the lake, Tiara Mondragon at the flashing chrome steering wheel, her hips wrapped in a gossamer sarong from a fashion catalog, her top a black string bikini, her eyes in, of all things, ski goggles.

When the Umiak slides in for a sideways stop, washing water over the top of the pier, Letha Mondragon rises from below.

Jade steps away from the wall to see better.

The cheerleaders in the Jeep are standing, calling Letha over. Jade catches “finally” and “it’s going to be great!” For them, two weeks after graduation is still a celebration. But that’s probably because their tassels are in frames on the wall already, not burned string by string with a series of cigarettes, just to watch that soft nylon curl up in pain, try to get away, climb back into the safety of high school.

Letha looks back to Tiara, and Tiara shrugs, washing her hands of this, so Letha hops down from the tall side of the boat as graceful as any cat burglar, touches down on the slick wet boards like sticking this landing is no big thing, just everyday for her.

Jade cannot wait to see her go up against the tall shape on her dance card. It won’t matter if he’s got a chainsaw or a harpoon gun or is two-fisting machetes like nunchucks, faster and faster. Letha Mondragon, final girl extraordinaire, will walk open-eyed into those whirling blades, come out with a dark heart in her hands.

She’s everything Jade always wished she could have been, had she not grown up where she did, how she did, with who she did.

It’s going to be epic, this final-girl-against-slasher high noon.

Unless Jade’s just making it all up, she reminds herself.

To prove she’s not, when Letha Mondragon chocks her sneaker up onto the rear tire of the Jeep and vaults in, sitting under the roll bar not on it, Jade steps out from the wall she’s been hiding against, tracks the Jeep’s exit to get a read on where the party is tonight. Right before the shadows take Letha, she looks longingly back across the lake, as if beaming apology over to the yacht, to her family, for doing something for herself for once.

Jade knows that look.

She outgrew it in fifth grade, but still, she remembers not wanting to leave the house, broach into the big scary world.

“But everything’s scary,” she reminds herself, gathering her coveralls at her throat because too much exposure to Proofrock might finally just do her in. When the Jeep’s headlights finally kiss each other goodbye, fold themselves into the dusk, Jade beats the darkness back by lighting a cigarette. It flares harsh orange, and, her lungs swirling with death, her litter stick hidden far up under the bushes, she falls in behind the Jeep and just goes ahead and says it out loud: “The party was great on… Girls Nite Out.” It’s the slasher where the killer wears the bear suit with whackadoodle eyes. But, extra points for the blades hidden in the paw, right? 1982 too, a couple of years before the Springwood Slasher would have knife fingers. But Jade can’t get lost in her head, needs to keep up with the Jeep long enough to get a read on where this party’s going to be. But these girls—the driver’s Bethany Manx, Jade’s pretty sure— are making it easy. The way they’re hugging the shore, the only place they can be going is Banner Tompkins’s house, right on the lake. His parents aren’t jet-setters or anything, but it is bowling night up the road in Ammon, and bowling usually takes until two in the morning to weave back from. Leaving time to invite a few friends over. Say, twenty of them, and all the booze they can carry?

Jade knows it’ll be swim trunks and bikinis until about midnight. After which it’ll be nothing but smiles.

On the twenty-minute walk to get there, skirting the Bay and Devil’s Creek, Jade keeps finding herself looking to the left, across the lake. She tries to come back, watch for tripping hazards, keep from busting her face on a tree root, but her chin keeps cranking over, her eyes tunneling across all that water, to Terra Nova.

She hates it on principle, sure, but it’s also what’s delivering a final girl to town, so maybe she should give it a sort of grudging pass. At least until this slasher cycle is over. After that it can burn, be a haunted husk in the cold open of the sequel, where that installment’s blood sacrifice

happens, well away from prying eyes that might try to shut things down before they even get going proper.

Why is she watching it now, though?

She actually stumbles when the obviousness of it hits her: she’s not watching Terra Nova at all. She’s glaring back at Letha’s father, Theo Mondragon, the one who rolled his arm forward for the graduation crowd, telling Proofrock it could get on with its little ceremony.

The chip on her shoulder for him isn’t only about that, though. It’s… it’s that he’s a father of a sort-of young girl, isn’t it? An innocent girl, at least.


Jade collects herself, walks faster, with more purpose.

Her job here, it’s not only to educate Letha on what’s coming. It’s also to keep her safe so it all can happen.

That includes keeping her safe from her father, who, by marrying a woman half his age, is already whispering to the world that he’s not averse to stepping well outside his age group. Maybe even has a taste for it.

Is this the chink in Letha Mondragon’s otherwise impervious armor? Final girls these days do have those pesky pre-existing issues, Jade knows. She thought it was whatever happened to Letha’s real mom, which would be enough, but—no no no—she has something more intense, doesn’t she? Something in her past, in her childhood, that’s left her skittish, that fundamentally broke her confidence in the world.

Her father.

It all tracks, doesn’t it? Letha isn’t timid and conservative and right-moral’d from nature, but because she’s trying to make up for something, trying to cover it with good deeds. Something that wasn’t even her fault. She was just a little girl left alone with her dad for the afternoon.

Jade is crashing through the bushes now.

Chancing another look across the water, she can nearly see Theo Mondragon up in his office in their yacht, getting

off scot-free one more time, skating like he always has with his wealth, his privilege, his good looks and charm. His funny excuses, his believable lies.

He’s smug because no one is ever going to know. Letha sure isn’t going to tell, and, from what Jade hears, it’s just them over there—the Mondragons. The other Founders swing through on and off to check on the progress of Terra Nova, but they’ve got empires to run, and their yachts are probably cutting through other waters anyway, the world being their playground and all.

“You’re being paranoid,” Jade tries to tell herself. But she doesn’t slow down any. What she’s seeing now that she’s deeper in the trees, cutting across to the flickering bonfire at Banner Tompkins’s, what she can’t help but picture, is Theo Mondragon in what he would probably call a skiff or a dinghy, with a silent little trolling motor. Not the Umiak, as everybody knows that one, and of course not the pontoon boat with all the seats that they use when the other Founders are in town. It’s got festive lights strung all over it now anyway. And the catamaran with the big sail would be like advertising his progress across the lake, and the gondola boat tied to their dock has to be purely for show, and wouldn’t last out in Indian Lake’s chop anyway, and the canoe and rowboat are too slow, too labor intensive for a CEO, and the stupid white pedal boat with the high arching swan neck and tiny aristocratic swan head has to be just for any kids who show up, doesn’t it?

No, a little flat-bottomed jonboat with a trolling motor. It’s like putting a silencer on a small-caliber pistol. Theo Mondragon’s probably sitting in the bow right now, his hand on that steering handle, the wind in his tight hair, his five o’clock shadow raspy, his eyes brimming with the most expensive wine.

Does he have a spotting scope up on that tallest part of the yacht? Has he been tracking the party?

Jade can’t say there’s not a sliver of a chance.

And, right now, Letha, she’s in a between-place, she’s unaccounted-for, it’s her first big night out on her own. Anything can happen.

Jade slows a few feet back in the trees, eases the Michael mask out, fits it over her face just in case, fluffing her purple-tinged hair out over the elastic band. Watching like this, a mask just feels better. It’s not the first time she’s done it, of course—she treats parties like anthropology field work, taking mental notes the whole time—but it’s the first time she’s doing it for a reason that might make sense later. The bonfire blazing in the yard is the jumbo-size version of her dad’s yearslong fire pit in the backyard, that he makes

her scrape out some Sundays.

The Jeep is already there.

Jade creeps over, holds her hand close to the tailpipe, feeling for heat, then finally thins her lips, just clamps right on.

It’s only warm.

Letha’s in the house, then. With all the music, all the loud talking, all the squeals.

Good for her. She deserves this. Be a kid before it’s too late, this is the last summer for it.

Jade feels around for the right tree to stand behind, for the right dip to crouch in, for the right pile of junk to mask her pale coveralls, and it doesn’t match the mask, but she can’t help doing the sound effects a bit: ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-ma.

She’s not here to carve through the party, though. Let them have their fun, she doesn’t care. She’s here because— because what if Theo Mondragon is about to drag his Saturday night special jonboat up onto the shore?

Jade would never kill anyone just because. With reason, though, yeah. Twice-over, with interest, and more than a little attitude, maybe even something a little extra, for style points.

Her plan is to wait until Theo Mondragon throws Letha down in the tall grass. Then Jade’ll step into frame, having

filched a piece of rebar up from the scrap pile, limbered an axe up from a stump. There’s always an axe around when you need it. If there’s one thing horror movies have taught her, it’s that.

For now, though, she just lips her new cigarette, knows better than to spark up.

Already couples are traipsing out to the cars, steaming up the windows. Meaning all the beds inside must be occupied.

Normally, in a town the size of Proofrock, there’d be even money that she’d have gone to seventh-grade homecoming with one of those naked backs in the front seat, that she’d have a secret matching tattoo with the prom queen who’s just bare feet-on-glass, that she’d have written love notes to whoever’s in that car with the squeaky springs. Guy or girl.

There’s nothing normal about Jennifer Daniels, though.

By seventh grade she was already the death metal girl, the D&D girl, the devilchild, practically was the walking, talking cover for Sleepaway Camp II. She knew all the songs the other kids’ parents knew, had memorized all the movies those parents had screamed to in their own junior high, and she could reel them out on command, from the slightest provocation, like weaving a cloak of protection around her, and pulling tight.

Anyway, she doesn’t need the stupid rituals of parties like these, does she? All the laughter is nervous and forced, all the come-ons and invitations so inelegant.

It’s better to just watch, she tells herself. It’s better to hide in the trees, part the leaves, take notes in her head, not missing a single thing, because you never know what’s going to matter. And then when it’s time, she’ll step out with that sharp piece of rebar, step out and drive it through a thick fatherly chest, and the blood is going to mist across her graduating class’s faces, and they’re going to thank her, because this night could have gone the complete other way.

Jade can see it all in her head, from every angle.

Hours later the bonfire is down to embers, though, and nothing’s happened yet, except in her head. There’s less cars, but there’s no dragon silhouette taking shape in the shadows. She taps her knuckle on her hard plastic cheek like a metronome, to anchor herself in the moment, to stay awake, and, finally, thirty minutes before midnight, ten minutes after telling herself screw it, the side door off the garage opens, spills thready blue light.


They’re watching movies in there, then. Horror movies, probably. What else would you watch in a garage, with a group, at this time of night?

It’s something she’s seen, Jade knows—she’s seen everything twice—but still, she wants worse than anything to just catch a glimpse, to make the movie out from a single frame. One of the Child’s Plays, maybe? Ringu? Dialing all the way back to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre? She wants worse than anything to speak up from the back of the garage, let them in on the true story of this cursed production, on the trivia about the movie’s limited engagement in Italy, about how the soundtrack in the theatrical release isn’t the same as the one that was released on VHS. For reasons she can explain and trace and unfold for however long they’ll sit there listening.

Wasn’t meant to be, though. Either she’s one of the flock, or she knows horror movies. Not both. And they’re probably jeering at the effects anyway. Overplaying their reactions to the jumpscares. Not even paying the right kind of attention.

Jade’s glad not to be in there. She lifts her mask to spit, and when the eyeholes settle down again like binoculars, the doorway opens. A girl steps into it, two girls, three girls now, the second helping the first.

The second is Letha Mondragon in a pair of bright white shorts she must have borrowed at the party, since she didn’t have them on at the pier. And of course the second

one is her. She would never be stumbling drunk like the first one obviously is. But she would keep the drunk one safe.

The third one is Bethany Manx, the Jeep driver, the principal’s daughter, always trying to shake that mantle off. Jade can tell it’s her from her rail-thin profile, her mod cut, longer in front than back, and the flash of silver from her mouth: the tongue stud Daddy Dearest doesn’t know about, that she only, famously, puts in for get-togethers like this.

Bethany peels off, has some errand back at the cars, leaving Letha and the drunk one—it’s Tiffany Koenig. She’s throwing up into the tall grass by one of the cars, which, if scuttlebutt heard over bathroom stalls is right, is kind of her party trick. Letha is patiently threading Tiffany K’s hair back from the puke.

The good thing about people throwing up outside is that the janitor doesn’t have to clean it up. In the great outdoors, raccoons are the janitors. And they love their job.

After it’s over and Tiffany K’s crying—you do that when it comes out your nose as well as your mouth, you do that when you panic that you’re never going to be able to breathe again—Letha stands her up, steadies her a bit, and starts to lead her into the dark house, to clean up.

Tiffany K pulls away. It’s embarrassing, looking like this. Vomit stringing between your fingers. Cheeks wet with hot tears.

This party is happening right by a giant sink, though…

Letha looks around for help, for guidance, for Bethany who’s nowhere, and finally just leads Tiffany K carefully around the coals of the bonfire. Because unsteady people shouldn’t lean out over the water alone, she takes her shoes off and squelches into the mud of the shore with Tiffany K, helps her splash her face.

Jade creeps closer, trying to see if this—“friendship”— looks like it does in the movies. Of the two of them, she imagines she’s Tiffany K here, the self-destructive one. Not the responsible one. Not the good friend.

It’s best she leaves now, she knows. It’s best she was never here. There’s no corporate tycoon trolling across the lake to rape anybody. There’s no dragon, using its mighty tail to cut through the water.

Jade turns, her breath heavy and close in her mask, knows that as soon as she’s twenty steps away she’s going to be lighting up, breathing deep, holding the smoke in for as long as janitorially possible—but then she stops, cocks her head back to the lake.

Someone’s walking through the water? It’s Letha.

“What?” Jade says out loud, on accident, but nobody looks her way. The problem here is that this isn’t on-script, this isn’t in the genre, isn’t a trope. The final girl in the first act isn’t curious. Curiosity is what’s going to get all those other girls killed, not her.

Jade steps closer, into the dull glow from the dead bonfire, the skin of her neck contracting in the heat, the plastic of her face impervious.

Letha’s wading out farther now, is getting her borrowed white shorts wet.

Jade shakes her head no, no, but then she sees what Letha’s after.

There’s… it’s someone floating out there. Her heart thumps once, deep.

“Don’t,” she says to Letha, not even close to loud enough for Letha to hear, but Letha senses Jade all the same—final girl radar—and looks back for long enough that Jade is aware of each red coal flickering off her mask.

These are just work coveralls, she wants to whisper across these thirty feet. They’re not Michael Myers coveralls, they’re just work clothes.

Her white face isn’t so easy to explain.

Letha, either having seen Jade or not, turns back to her task. Her duty. She steps out again, again, up to her stomach now, then, all at once, her armpits.

She’s a short pull away from this floating person now.

“Hello?” she says, splashing water up onto him, or her. It. No response.

This could be a practical joke, Jade wants to warn. Banner Tompkins is kind of famous for them, and this is home ground for him. Maybe it’s a sex doll they keep in the shed for a floatie. Maybe it’s a punching dummy from when he was in martial arts with Mason Rodgers, sophomore year. Maybe it’s a deer some old-fashioned hunter was trying to float across the lake.

Letha gives herself to the water, pulls with her arms to this body and grabs on, turns around immediately, paddles for the shore.

Tiffany K is just sitting there hugging her knees now, crying like you do when you’re drunk and you know it’s not over yet. She’s not seeing what Jade’s most definitely seeing: the final girl being a final girl, hauling a corpse in. Finding the first body.

Inside her mask, Jade smiles wide, with unadulterated wonder.

This is—this is… this means it’s real, doesn’t it? That it’s not all in her head, but outside it too, for once.

She almost goes to help Letha drag this dead body in, beach it, announce it, but no, this has to be all the final girl. This is all Letha Mondragon. And she’s athletic and capable and determined enough that she should be able to do it.

She gets it into the shallows, anyway.

It bobs in the give-and-take of the lake’s surface, the water cleaning the pondweed from its head at last.

At which point Tiffany K starts screaming. And screaming.

Letha, probably having gone through lifeguard training one country club summer, turns the wide-shouldered body over in a way that says she knows how to administer CPR, and is honor-bound to try.

Except some of the pale skin from the corpse’s back sloughs off onto her right hand, an oozy black welling up

where the skin’s torn away.

The only reason Jade sees the next part is that Letha’s white shorts are wet, but they’re still bright. And they’re right behind this boy’s Dutch-blond head. The head that’s in her lap. The face.

There’s no lower jaw.

Jade’s laughter wells up from deep-deep inside, lives inside her mask, fills her head.

“Well then,” she says, striding fast away before the party can convene over this tragedy, and by twenty yards out she’s running just for the thrill of it, the branches tearing at what would be her face, her coveralls keeping anything sharp from touching her. Once she’s far enough away she skids to her knees in a clearing, in the moonlight, and rips the mask off, leans back pushing the heels of her hands into her eyes, because she can’t stop crying.

First the final girl. Now the blood sacrifice—proof that the recording on that pink phone was real.

This is Laurie Strode seeing Michael Myers outside her school. This is Sidney Prescott, seeing that black robe descend in that last bathroom stall.

And now there are steps that must be taken—a letter that has to be typed in and printed out. But first, first all Jade can do is hug herself tight and shake with gratitude.

It leaves her panting on her knees, panting and smiling, looking at the darkness all around her.

He could be anywhere, couldn’t he? He already is.



Hello, Letha Mondragon. You may remember me from the bathroom by the gym.

I had blue hair. Enclosed please find A Bay of Blood from 1971 by famed Giallo director Mario Bava, which let me tell you changed my life in 6th grade when I found it. I was in Idaho Falls for a doctor’s appointment I couldn’t do in Proofrock and I was in the gas station for the bathroom while my mom was having a

conversation with herself in the car about will she won’t she and then this movie was in the bargain bin like trash. But let me tell you it wasn’t.

The reason I’m selecting to pass that same sacred copy of A Bay of Blood to you in this clandestine fashion is that many including me consider it to be the main grandfather of the slasher genre. When you’re watching A Bay of Blood

you’ll notice the eerie similarity in the opening credits to Indian Lake. The first time I was watching it in secret my heart dropped let me tell you. I thought it WAS Indian Lake.

But as to A Bay of Blood’s ancestoriness, there are many who say that Sean

Cunningham the director of Friday the 13th 9 years later modeled his slasher ON A Bay of Blood. The reason for that is partially the set up and mostly the kills.

However Sean Cunningham objects that it’s really just great minds thinking

alike. But one of the main premises of A Bay of Blood is some teenagers going to party at a lake and having sex and then they get killed in the most violent and satisfying ways, which is also the set up for Friday the 13th.

But what you need to pay attention to with A Bay of Blood isn’t that the way to avoid a blade to the face is to leave the lake. What to pay attention to is the 13 ways there are to be killed AT a lake, and also that you can’t trust anyone not to be the killer.

What I’m telling you is that pretty soon, probably at our annual July Fourth party on the water, Proofrock is going to be turning INTO A Bay of Blood, I

promise. Instead of explaining pranks and revenge and red herrings and final

girls and reveals all right here I’m just going to instead fold in a lot of the papers and interviews I wrote for Mr. Holmes in History Class, including a bonus on Jaws since that matters. Those papers can be your bible and your map and guide and gospel. What I’m telling you is that the Dutch boy you found in the lake is the

beginning, not the end.

As for the end, nobody not even an expert in the slasher genre like me can guess it this early, but the rules say that whoever is already chopping necks is going to use for disguise the thing we’re already afraid of. Here in Indian Lake

that’s Stacey Graves. 2 years ago I 100 percent believed in Stacey Graves. But I realize now that the age of the supernatural slasher was the Golden Age, with Michael and Jason and Freddy and Chucky. This is the age of Ghostface and

Valentine, which is mostly people wearing masks for revenge.

But you should know about Stacey Graves the Lake Witch all the same. That’s why I’m including the interview paper about her.

My number is inside Bay of Blood if you want to talk more.

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