Chapter no 9

My Heart Is a Chainsaw

Jade comes to all at once and dives for her phone, frantically changing her school email password to, to.… to “S@v1N!,” sure, why not, doesn’t matter. Anybody who knows anything about horror or about her could crack it third try, but what’s important is that it’s not what it was last night, this morning, whatever. Meg’s browser at the sheriff’s office might have lodged that one in its memory, giving her access to Jade’s sent box.

Close one.

Jade lies back, her heart pounding, and watches the sun climb the sheet that’s her curtain, calms herself down beat by slower beat with the knowledge that on one side of Indian Lake or the other, maybe halfway around at Camp Blood, this same piercing light is sifting down over the slasher as well, his mask of a face probably looking over to the glowing horizon right now, his eyes still locked in shadow.

Jade can’t help but smile, and feel a certain spring in her step.

Two hours later she’s using rubbing compound on the graffiti scratched into the main men’s bathroom in the high school—so she is setting foot there again—four hours later she’s across the hall at the SKANK STATION, applying eyeliner but also clocking the background of her reflection for if Rexall’s got an eye in the sky, and then six hours after daybreak she’s clocking out for lunch. Her make-up is good, her ruined hair hidden under a different cap, and—“Shit,” she says, catching a wavering image of herself in the glass of the double doors she’s about to push through.

Jade pulls her cap down lower, trying to get her hair under control, and knows full well she’s stalling, that here in the middle of this unscary day, she’s scared. Not of Letha Mondragon, but of… of talking to her?

What if she laughs about Jade telling her she’s a final girl? What if she read that letter out loud to Cinn and Ginny over French toast this morning, the three of them laughing so hard they had to be excused from the breakfast table? Of course she won’t have a taste for horror, final girls never do, that makes the horror coming for them even scarier, but… what if the prospect of a slasher cycle happening right here in Proofrock doesn’t even track to her, just sounds like a weak attempt at a bad joke?

“So she’ll feel sorry for me, then,” Jade mumbles. Which isn’t exactly better than being laughed at. It’s kind of worse, even.

Maybe she just shouldn’t go, right? If Letha’s a real and true final girl, she’ll rise when it’s time to rise, she’ll fight the good fight for all of them. Well, either that or she’ll bounce down into the cellar to check out that weird noise, get gutted or decapped or bisected or flayed, and then— then Jade can’t be sure: would Ezekiel have to come up from Drown Town to put a cap on this slasher cycle? Can an evil preacher count as good when he’s stopping a masked killer from slicing a town open?

Jade shakes her head no, she can’t let it come to that. Meaning she has no choice but to try to talk Letha into being the final girl she’s meant to be. Everybody has a function, everybody in a slasher cycle has a role—isn’t that a line from the Bible, even? Not the over-the-top violent one Craven and Carpenter wrote, with all the massacres and gore, but the other violent one with all the massacres and gore. The one where revenge comes not in a hulking shape lurking at the edge of the light but as a series of plagues that starts out feeling random, come to feel a lot more like justice, like the scales rebalancing.

Same thing, different church.

Jade pats herself on the back for that and takes the alley behind the drugstore because alleys are where custodians lurk, because alleys are where the horror crowd holds its dark masses. And because Hardy’s white Bronco is at the bank.

Seventy-five yards ahead, Letha Mondragon is already on Melanie’s bench, the Umiak bobbing by the pier. Meaning this rich daughter of Terra Nova gets to take it out on her own, is trusted with a three-hundred-thousand-dollar cigarette boat.

Jade wonders if a girl like Letha’s ever even had to clean a toilet. Probably to the filthy rich, toilets are disposable. Mario and Luigi are always standing by to switch a new one in after each use.

“You’re still stalling…” Jade tells herself.

She broaches a timid foot out into the gravel of the parking lot between her and the lake then steps in all the way, damn the torpedoes, whatever that means. The gravel holds her, lets her crunch across its warm back.

Letha is just sitting there staring across at, Jade guesses, her house coming together on the point over there? It’ll just be a summer crashpad for her, though, most likely. A place to decompress between semesters. A place to throw epic spring break parties if her dad and stepmom are in Bali that week, or can agree to be.

Unless of course Indian Lake comes to hold bad memories. Which is pretty much a foregone conclusion. There’s nothing to be done about it, though. It’s just the way a good slasher cycle works: the first death or two are people way outside the final girl’s periphery—a Dutch boy, a Dutch girl—but then the shadow starts to fall closer and closer to home. Deacon Samuels, just a hop and a skip from where Letha sleeps. And it’ll get much closer than that. Before it’s over, any cherished pets Letha has will definitely be history, and… Theo Mondragon? Tiara? If it’s only one of them, then Tiara

is both the intruder into the family unit and probably the most disposable to Letha. Factor in the added benefit that her getting the blade can draw Letha and her father closer, facilitate some healing, and, well: Tiara’s got X’s for eyes, pretty much. Jade hates it for Letha—you’re supposed to have a mom—but it’s not like she makes the rules. She just happens to know them all.

She shouldn’t open with that right now, though. Coming in hard like that will scare Letha off. No, what you do with someone like Letha is lure her in like you do a bird in the backyard: with closer and closer pinches of a single piece of white bread.

And, though she wants to with every last fiber of her being, Jade doesn’t look back to see if Hardy’s behind the wheel of his Bronco yet, just sitting there watching one picturesque girl find a moment of repose on the bench he dotes over, another girl sulking in to shatter that peace forever.

Better than the alternative, Jade tells him. Anyway, wouldn’t it be even crueler to let Letha just keep bouncing through her skippy-drippy unicorn daydream of a perfect world, not tell her about the shadow creeping in behind her? “Hey,” she says, catching her hand on the backrest of the


Letha’s eating from a baggie of baby carrots. Of course. “Oh, good,” she says, and makes a motion that means

she’s scooting over, but she’s already left room, would never have sat down in a way that didn’t invite company and conversation.

Jade takes her seat, tries to take a wind-reading to see if the harsh scent her hair’s still manufacturing is going to waft left or right.

Blame it on the coveralls. Blame it on work.

“Now we can shake hands,” Letha says, extending hers after wiping the idea of carrots from it.

Jade takes her hand, says, “Town reject, nice to meet you.”

Letha’s dimples suck in and she shakes her head no about that, sets her bag of carrots down on her other side, says, “Jade Daniels, the legend.”

Jade has to blink, look into her lap. At the leg suddenly so close to hers.

“Nice pants,” she says.

They’re the ones A Bay of Blood was wrapped in, the ones that were supposed to just be an excuse for making a delivery. On Letha, rolled up to just under the knee like that, they’re cute and baggy, of course. On Letha, they’re killer.

“A friend gave them to me,” Letha says, patting the top of Jade’s hand. “And… I don’t mean this in… in any negative way either,” she adds. “Really it only casts a negative light on me, or where I’m from, how I’ve lived. But, if I don’t say it

—you’re the first Native American I’ve ever known, I think.”

Jade breathes out, relaxes a touch. Somewhere in town behind them, there’s the regular thunk of an axe into wood, because, at this elevation, winter is always coming.

“Indian dude backed his tow truck down that pier right there once,” Jade says, proud.

“Relative of yours?” Letha asks, her tone glad to have elicited this reply.

Jade is studying the Umiak now. A umiak is an Inuit whaling boat, according to her phone’s dictionary. To better hunt the giant catfish that’s supposed to drift past the windows down in Drown Town, maybe.

“I got your letter, yes,” Letha says, signaling to Jade that the bullshit’s over.

Jade nods, is ready.

“I—” Letha starts, doesn’t know where to go, how to finish. “Stacey Graves,” she finally gets out, batting her deer eyelashes. “That was the paper you wanted me to read, right?”

“All of them can save your life,” Jade mumbles.

“But that little girl,” Letha says. “What I’m—why is she so important, I guess that’s what I’m asking.”

“Because whoever’s doing this is probably dressing up like


“To you, I mean. I read your letter six times, standing by the mailbox. By the end I was crying.”

Jade has to press her lips together to keep from smiling like an idiot. If you cry writing it, maybe someone will cry reading it. It’s more than she could have hoped for, is all she was wishing for.

“That bargain bin in Idaho Falls…” Letha says, kind of shrugging with her voice.

Jade sneaks a look over at the carrots, can only see the top corner of the baggie. It’s open, meaning the carrots are drying out right now. Proofrock is killing them.

“I read between the lines, I mean,” Letha adds.

“Mr. Holmes makes us double-space,” Jade says, not following.

“To what you were really saying,” Letha says, her hand on top of Jade’s again. “And—it can’t be easy to ask for help, especially from a complete stranger. It’s really… it’s brave is what it is.”

Jade sneaks a look up, hoping that Letha’s face can decode this.

“When we first moved here, I didn’t know why,” Letha goes on. “It was my senior year, all my friends are back home—but I see now. I’m here for you, Jade.”

“In that I’m part of Proofrock and Terra Nova and Indian Lake,” Jade says. “Yeah. Final girls, they fight for everyone, and—”

Letha starts to reach a hand up Jade’s forearm to be even more consoling but Jade shifts away, unsure what’s happening here.

“I just wrote that because you have to know,” Jade tells her, the truth of that so obvious. “I can—if you’ll let me, I can walk you through everything that’s coming, I can—”

“I can help, Jade,” Letha says, which pretty much sets off every last one of Jade’s alarms.

“No, it’s me who can help you,” she says. “I’ve been watching these movies since, since junior high—”

“Textbook,” Letha says. “It makes perfect sense.”

“And it’s definitely you,” Jade insists, trying to push through Letha’s supportive tone. “Anybody who’s seen any of them, even the bad ones, they can tell right off what you are—who you are.”

“A friend,” Letha says, pouring her earnestness across, the palm of her hand warm on Jade’s forearm now. There’s something so Sunday school about it that Jade can almost feel the black paint on her fingernails steaming away.

“Sure, yeah,” Jade says, halfway trying to take her arm back but not making a show of it, “friends later, fine. We can

—you and me, we’ll come to the ten-year reunion for the sequel, how’s that sound? That’s when Ezekiel will finally be coming up from the lake. We’ll stand back-to-back in the middle of the gym floor, crepe paper floating down all around us in slow motion, and—and you’ll have the sword from the trophy case, and I’ll have ripped the blade off the paper cutter in the main office, and we’ll, we’ll—”

“Don’t hate me,” Letha says, her eyes flicking up and to her right.

Jade can’t help but follow them over to the sudden grille of Hardy’s Bronco, maybe six feet from the bench. Its tires had to have announced it crunching in, but Jade must not have been checked in to her surroundings. Real good, horror girl. Shit.

As if on cue, like this has all been rehearsed, Hardy steps heavily down from the driver’s seat, the night’s lack of sleep weighing on him, it looks like. He peels out of his chrome aviators, blinks against the new brightness, then fixes his eyes on Jade, studying her for the first time all over again, it feels like.

“What is this?” Jade says to Letha, fight-or-flight kicking in.

Letha’s non-answer is answer enough. That and Mr. Holmes, climbing down from the passenger side of the Bronco.

Jade stands, looks back and forth between them, then to Letha.

“You, you—?” she manages to get out.

“I had to report it, Jade,” Letha says, pushing her lower lip up like explaining how this is for the best, really.

Jade turns to run but one of her boots is already back to its natural state, so the dragging laces tie her feet up right when she’s trying to find that hyperspace button. She faceplants, the heels of her hands instantly raw and dented from the gravel around the bench.

Letha is there to hold her by the shoulders, make sure she’s okay.

“You showed it to them?” Jade says, hoping her voice isn’t shrieking like her head is.

“Them?” Letha says with concern, looking up, taking stock.

“Them,” Jade confirms.

Hardy is running the pad of his index finger along the top of the backrest of his daughter’s bench, looking at that instead of Jade’s current indignity, and Mr. Holmes is just standing there, the end of his brown tie flapping in the wind, his flinty eyes fixed where they always are: across the lake.

“No, no,” Letha assures Jade. “I just—I read it to him over the phone, the sheriff, to… to show. To prove. So he could help.”

“But the cops are always useless in cases like this!” Jade says, struggling to stand.

“I know it feels like that,” Letha says. “But you’ve lived alone with this for too long. How could I go out into the world knowing I’d walked away from—from someone asking for my help? Someone brave enough to ask for help?”

“It’s not me who’s gonna have to be brave!” Jade says, her voice panicking.

“This isn’t easy for any of us,” Hardy says, wading into this.

“Jennifer,” Mr. Holmes says in what sounds like the most reluctant, apologetic greeting.

“Jade,” Jade corrects, on automatic. It’s the call-and-response they’ve been flailing through since freshman year.

“Ms. Mondragon here was only doing what she thought best,” Hardy explains, his hat in his hands for some reason, even though he’s mostly bald and the sun’s shining.

“It’s just a—a personal letter and my old history papers,” Jade says. “I don’t know what you think—”

“Jade,” Letha says in a way that Jade has to look back over to her.

“Tell them,” she pleads. “I did,” Letha says.

“She did,” Hardy confirms.

“Then we all know, right?” Jade says. “Good, good, might as well have it all out in the open, why not. Not that that’ll change anything. She’s the final girl, yes, and there’s a slasher around here somewhere, and, I don’t mean to speak bad of anybody, but after Deacon Samuels, it’s more than likely someone from over on the other side of—”

“Under that,” Letha says. “Before all that.”

“Okay, okay,” Jade says to Hardy. “What you caught me printing the other night at the library.”

“The extra credit?” Hardy says, scratching his head.

“I’m sure Mr. Holmes has already told you I was lying about that,” Jade continues, “because why wouldn’t he. Not like I can get detention anymore. That wasn’t a late paper for history. Mr. Holmes is retiring, doesn’t want to read any more of my bullshit. Which is fine, whatever, really. But—I had to tell Letha what was coming. I was trying to protect her. It’s no crime to try to keep someone safe. I can pay back for the paper, and Connie might not even care—”

“Connie’s known you do your schoolwork afterhours there for three years,” Mr. Holmes says, pursing his lips after

saying it, and holding Jade’s eyes.

Jade opens her mouth to keep going, finds there’s nowhere to go.

So… so Connie the Librarian’s always known Jade’s hiding just on the other side of the audiobooks aisle after lights out?

And then Jade sees what everybody else here has already seen: now that high school’s over and she can’t tell Mr. Holmes all her slasher theories, she’s trying to find someone else to latch onto, impress with her slasher Q.

“No, no,” Jade says, backing away from all three of them, which is just going to land her in the lake. “That Dutch boy she found in the water, he—him and his girlfriend, and… they were the blood sacrifice, see? They were the first ones, the proof, the promise of more to come, the appetizer that comes before the meal. That’s how it always works. They trespassed, were somewhere they weren’t supposed to be, so they paid the price, the ultimate price. That’s how it goes, sorry. Then—that Founder, Deacon Samuels. He—this proves that this is really happening, can’t you see?”

Hardy’s fingers worry the brim of his hat. Finally he looks up, says, “Are you saying the bear—”

“It wasn’t a bear, Sheriff,” Jade tells him, tells all of them. “Bears don’t have revenge arcs. The bear’s just being framed, but nobody’s going to believe that until—”

“A party,” Letha offers, meaning she’s read at least one of the papers.

Jade holds Letha’s eyes, nods slowly, asks her back, leading her so slowly, so carefully, “And… what’s the big party here every year?”

When Letha doesn’t answer, Jade turns to Hardy, to Mr.

Holmes, says, “She’s not from here, she wouldn’t know.” “Independence Day?” Hardy says with a shrug.

Jade fingershoots that correct, says, “Even in the form of a question.”

“July Fourth?” Letha says all around.

“You’ll see,” Jade tells her.

At which point Mr. Holmes wades into this debate, directing himself to Jade: “And so it was this, this slasher that killed that herd of elk over in Sheep’s Head, then?”

“Sheep’s Head?” Letha says.

“It’s what the old-timers call that meadow,” Mr. Holmes says with a shrug, like that isn’t the important piece of what he was saying.

“I told him he shouldn’t have showed that to you all,” Hardy says. “It’s exactly the kind of thing that can add fuel to an overactive imagination.”

“No need to use names, Sheriff,” Jade says, pointing at her own temple, the overactive imagination in question.

“Independence Day,” Letha repeats softer, which makes it somehow louder.

“I know you thought you were helping,” Jade tells her, flabbergasted to the point of no return here. “But, and you couldn’t have known this, authority figures—cops, teachers, parents—it’s not possible for them to believe, not until it’s too late. But your impulse to get help, to fight back, to stop this, that’s what we can take from this, that’s what we can weaponize, that’s what we can—”

“But we can stop it,” Letha says.

“You can, yeah,” Jade tells her back.

“That’s why I called Sheriff Hardy,” Letha says, again with that apologetic tone.

Jade turns to Hardy about this.

“I pulled in Mr. Holmes because I—” he says, fumbling a bit, which isn’t his usual way. “I know he was your favorite teacher. Is, is your favorite teacher.”

Jade levels her imploring eyes over onto Mr. Holmes.

He shrugs, toes at the gravel with his loafer, says, “I confirmed that you’re crazy for this subgenre of movie. For these type of horror movies. These… slashers.”

“Thanks?” Jade says.

“Just… and this is on me,” Mr. Holmes says, spreading his fingers to touch his own chest, indict himself. “I never saw it like Ms. Mondragon is… I knew you didn’t want to write about history, but I never suspected it might be your own history you didn’t want to talk about. So all the papers on horror—”

“About slashers.”

“Complete with boogeymen,” Mr. Holmes adds.

“He shouldn’t have fostered that kind of speculation, he’s saying,” Hardy says, his tone getting across that he’s sort of speaking for Mr. Holmes here, saying what Holmes can’t say himself.

Still, “I think you mean ‘foment,’ Angus,” Mr. Holmes snaps back to Hardy.

“That’s Sheriff,” Hardy says.

Mr. Holmes shrugs, and Jade can tell he’s here against his will, somewhat.

Not that that helps her even one little bit.

“This isn’t about me,” she tells all three of them, her tone ramping up into a plea, which she full-on despises. “This is about that dead kid in the water, this is about the Founder who got killed with that fancy golf club—”

“With?” Hardy asks.

“Alongside,” Jade corrects, brushing the clarification off. “This is about who might have gone to the dollar store specifically to buy a long black wig, and why they needed to look like that, and how they’re, I don’t know, pretending to walk on the water—maybe they’re tying Jesus lizards to their feet—we don’t know yet!”

“But, in your estimation, someone is dressing up like the Lake Witch and playacting a horror movie,” Mr. Holmes clarifies.

“A slasher,” Jade clarifies right back.

“To use your chosen subject matter,” Letha says, taking Jade’s hand from the side, “yes, as Mr. Holmes was saying, this is about the boogeyman, one hundred percent.”

Jade jerks away, holds her hand in her other hand as if it’s burned. She tries to smile these accusations off, to make a display of how preposterous all this is getting, but knows full well her smile has to look mechanical and scary to them, like if Michael Myers ever tried a grin on in the dayroom for Loomis. So she gives up, knows she can’t convince all three of them. But… maybe just one? The important one? She turns to Letha, says, “Listen, if you care about your family, about Terra Nova, I need you to—”

“I read between the lines, Jade,” Letha repeats slower, like that’s going to make Jade finally hear what she’s saying. “You were dressing it up as best you could, trying to hide, even hiding it from yourself, but—here, I’ve got it highlighted.” She extracts Jade’s printed-out letter from the back pocket of the pants that used to be Jade’s, holds it up, flips to the page she wants, and: “ ‘A doctor’s appointment I couldn’t do in Proofrock.’ ”

The silence after is as wide as the lake.

“That was—” Jade starts, starts over: “My mom, she didn’t want Doc Wilson—”

“Because he was local?” Letha asks.

“No,” Jade says, taking a step back, casing all three faces of her little make-do jury, here. “I was just—I was telling you where I found Bay of Blood! Every slasher has an origin story. Jason, Freddy, Michael, Chucky, but every slasher movie has an origin story too. The first time you saw it. Where you found it. That’s all I was—that wasn’t about me, that was about Bay of Blood.”

Jade looks to each of them in turn again, waiting for the obviousness of this to register. For any of them to hear the logic of it.

“ ‘My mom was having a conversation with herself in the car about will she, won’t she,’ ” Letha reads this time, since that’s a lot to recite.

Jade just stares at her.

“What are you saying?” she says at last. “This is—I was at a random gas station, I happened to look into the bargain bin—”

“You were at your most vulnerable, your most broken,” Letha says, about to cry. “And you reached out for the first thing you saw, held it as close as you could, like armor. Like it could protect you. And it has, hasn’t it?”

“A Bay of Blood?”

“Slashers,” Mr. Holmes says.

“She’s kind of been hiding in bad behavior too,” Hardy’s compelled to add.

“What—what—” Jade says, her thoughts swirling, only some of her words finding her mouth. “What are you saying? My mom did something to me?”

“Your dad,” Letha says, barely loud enough to register. “My dad?” Jade blurts out.

“Happens more than it should,” Letha says. “And among Native Americans, the percentage is even—”

“You think he’s why I was at the doctor in Idaho Falls?” Jade asks all of them, polling this jury now.

Yes, none of them say out loud.

Jade closes her eyes in pain, slams her fingers into her gunky hair and pulls, turns around on her combat heels, giving them her back, and—she doesn’t want to do this, doesn’t want to have to deploy the nuclear option, but what else is there?

“You’re a father, Sheriff,” she says, no louder than necessary. “Would you have ever done this to your daughter? To Melanie?”

“Jennifer,” Mr. Holmes says sharply.

“Jade,” Jade spins back around to hiss at him. “And aren’t you always the one saying read between the lines, sir? Try this on, then. All this… all these accusations, all this textual evidence, whatever. Who’s to say I didn’t pack that in intentionally? Why would a girl like Letha ever give me the time of day if she wasn’t feeling sorry for me? Maybe I wrote

it like that to tug on her heartstrings, make her worry about me. Whatever it takes to get her here, talk her into my harebrained scheme about slashers and final girls.”

Mr. Holmes just stares at her about this.

“What was your mom arguing with herself about in the car that day?” he says at last, super calmly. “Don’t think, just answer.”

“What was she—?”

“ ‘Will she, won’t she?’ ”

“Will she leave my loser dad, won’t she leave my loser dad,” Jade says without missing even one single beat.

Before Mr. Holmes can press her on this, she spins around again, glares out across the glinting water, arms crossed.

“Apologize to the sheriff,” Mr. Holmes says.

Jade lowers her head, closes her eyes, says, “Sorry, Sheriff. That was out of bounds.”

“You were scared,” Hardy says back, and Jade closes her eyes harder, because she knows not to take this bait. If she nods yes to this, then the next question will be Scared of what? The truth? And if she says she wasn’t scared, then what she did to Hardy was just cruel.

There’s no way to win. Same as ever.

Why she even gets her hopes up anymore, who knows. “We’re just trying to help,” Letha says.

Jade opens her eyes to the brightness and tears spill down both cheeks. Tears she fucking hates.

Instead of wiping them away, she slashes her right hand back in the direction of Mr. Holmes, because she can smell his nicotine on the air. He slips the butt between her waiting fingers.

“It’s not your fault,” Letha says again, still right there.

“No,” Jade says again, breathing smoke out, finally turning around so they can see her wet face, see what they’re doing to her here. “It’s not what you think. Fathers don’t do that to daughters, not even fathers as sucky as mine, as Indian as mine. I would say you’ve seen too many Lifetime movies,

but if you’ve seen too many movies, what does that mean about me and my slashers?”

After maybe three seconds, Letha has to smile about this. Jade grins with her, takes another long drag, handing the cigarette back to Mr. Holmes before exhaling.

“Just saying,” Hardy says, getting his own cigarette going, having to lean down into his cupped hand the way cowboys in westerns always do, “it would explain an awful lot. Your— all this gothic stuff, the way you dress, your attitude, the trouble you’re always—”

“That’s just me,” Jade tells him, blowing her smoke out now, as underline. “Horror’s not a symptom, it’s a love affair.”

“Are you saying—?” Letha starts, and Jade finishes for her: “I’d be like this anyway, yeah.”

It’s only when she looks up to Mr. Holmes that she hears what Letha tricked her into saying. It’s the same story you hear about drunks on a traffic stop, arguing how they can’t even say the alphabet backwards when they’re sober. Meaning what Jade just said to all three of them was: Even if my dad hadn’t done that to me when I was eleven, I still would have fallen hard for horror.

And trying to backpedal would just be protesting too much, she knows.

“Ask my mom, then,” she says, just plucking the idea straight from the air without running it through the fire first.

“Kimmy?” Hardy asks.

“She’s at work,” Jade says, pointing with her lips down Main, to the dollar store.

All three of them look, and in that moment Jade knows she can run, that none of them can catch her, untied laces or no. As full of hatred as she is now, she could probably even run on top of the water, because no way would Ezekiel let her pollute his lake.

But her mom is her ace.

“She’s got no reason to lie for him,” Jade adds, to sell it. “Tell me I’m lying.”

Hardy just keeps looking up Main.

“She’s got a point,” Mr. Holmes says. “The mom would know.”

“It’s a small house,” Jade says. “And it was back then too.

You hear everything.”

“I don’t like this,” Hardy says, coming around to the three of them. “She can—she can warn him. Kimmy, I mean. She can warn Tab.”

“Tab?” Letha says.

Nobody answers her.

“Just because he’s Indian doesn’t mean he can turn to smoke,” Jade says. “If anything, he’d turn into a puddle of beer. But there won’t be anything to warn him about. Just false accusations.”

“If it matters, I don’t think they talk anymore,” Mr. Holmes adds, just to Hardy.

“All you have to do is admit it for the process to start,” Letha says, like reading from a pamphlet.

“I know you’re trying to help,” Jade says, studying the gravel between her boots now, “and I thank you, really. I’m a stranger, I’m nobody, I’m the town reject, the weird girl, the walking suicide, the Indian who shouldn’t even be alive, and you’re—you are who you are, what you are. But you’ve got this all wrong, trust me.”

“There are tests,” Letha says. “Kits, the hospital can—”

“Test if I’m a virgin?” Jade scoffs. “Do you really think anybody in this town suspects that the custodian with different hair color every week has been able to keep her legs closed all these years? That she’s even tried to?”

Neither Hardy nor Holmes can push back against this.

“I asked around,” Letha says at last, like a card she didn’t want to have to play. “You’ve never dated, never had a boyfr


“Maybe I’m not into guys,” Jade cuts in.

“It’s not about—” Letha says, trying to start this whole line over. “It’s perfectly natural for you to want to defend him, it’s the… it’s like you consider yourself an accomplice just because you were involved. But your involvement wasn’t complicit, wasn’t voluntary, it never is, it can’t be, you don’t even know you can say no to a parent. Parents are good, parents are shining and right, they’re the gods of our world, so whatever they do can never be wrong. It must be your feelings that are wrong. Their mask is that they’re parents. Some of them are more, though. Some of them are monsters. But now, all these years later—”

“ ‘Our’?” Jade says.

All eyes shift to Letha.

“We all think our parents are perfect,” she says, blinking a touch faster than she has been, a tell Jade logs. “They feed us, clothe us, keep us safe—”

“Bring in another mother when the original’s…?” Jade says, leaving that blank for Letha to fill in: Just what happened to your mother, final girl?

Letha’s own face becomes a mask then. Nothing changes about it exactly, just, now she’s hiding behind it. But she can’t be owning up to all this yet either, Jade knows. There’s a time and a place for everything. Both bibles agree on that. “Family Dollar,” Jade says, letting the pressure off. “Her

break’s in ten, so we might want to get there.”

It’s a lie, of course, but the best kind, in that it’s the last question Hardy will ask, standing at the register of the dollar store in an official capacity.

“We’ll take my—” he says, reaching back to pat his hood while clamping his hat on, but Jade’s already brushing past. Letha falls in, and then Jade hears Hardy and Mr. Holmes crunching through the gravel as well, and suddenly it’s like the four of them are doing some epic walk down to the OK Corral, Jade’s eyes slits to shoot arrows through, Hardy clamping his hat on tighter, Letha’s hair bouncing with her every step, and Mr. Holmes’s tie trying and failing to blow

back over his right shoulder, his eyes both grim and, at the same time, amused, too aware of the absurdity of all this.

Jade does okay with the walk until all the eyes on Main could be clocking them through the plate glass windows. Like every time she’s ever been the center of attention, her legs go robot, so that she’s now having to give precise mechanical instructions to her hips, her knees, her ankles and feet, even to her arms that don’t know how to swing anymore. How does Michael do it, his Panaglide walk? He’s so inexorable, completely unstoppable, never wavering, always taking the most efficient line.

Jade decides that the reason he can do it—walk—and she can’t, not without practically having a seizure from all the brain activity required, is that he has that singular focus: the next babysitter. Whereas what Jade has is… it’s all the usual shit she drags with her, that she doesn’t want to think about, but now there’s even more tin cans dragging behind her: Letha’s sincere but misdirected pity, Hardy’s shrugging suspicion that Letha might be right, and Mr. Holmes’s not even remotely wanting to be here, just wanting to please be retired. And, worse, a complete blindside, does Jade feel responsible here? For all the lives this slasher can take, and how many more it can take if she doesn’t get Letha prepped right?

That’s the part that’s not tracking for her: she should be thrilled about the prospect of necks being opened, limbs being hacked, guts spilling their steamy delights.

Proofrock deserves it.

But Letha doesn’t, she decides. And, who knows, right? Maybe every final girl in the history of final girls has had a horror chick whispering to her from just off-screen. Maybe this isn’t a deviation but the usual build. Just one nobody ever knows about until they’re smack-dab in the beating heart of it.

Jade nods, likes that.

It’s best she’s behind the curtain, too. Unless the play she’s in can be about robots, in which case her arms and legs have already got that down.

Thinking about what she must look like, walking like this, doesn’t help at all, either.

And—and the pressure building around them, around all of Proofrock. It’s like they’re trying to cross from one side of an inflating balloon to the other. But Jade knows the pressure-relief valve: the front door of Family Dollar.

She flails her arm ahead to haul it open, stop this moment from lasting any longer, please, but… Hardy has his meaty paw on her shoulder, is keeping her from pushing through, into the store?

“Excuse me?” Jade says, spinning away from his hand, probably making it more dramatic than it needs to be.

“Stay here with your favorite history teacher,” Hardy grumbles, not a hint of give to his voice, and then he’s barreling through the door alone, on a mission, only reaching back at the last moment to hold his cigarette up for whoever wants it.

In solidarity or at least an attempt at it after her betrayal, Letha slides in before the door can close, nodding to Jade on the way like she’s going to make sure this is all legit, that she isn’t going to let Jade fall through the cracks.

But the cracks are where bugs like me live, Jade wants to tell her back, and then have roaches spill from her mouth and eyes. Instead she brings Hardy’s cigarette up in frustration, draws deep on it, and turns her head to the side to blow a clean, pissed-off line of smoke. When Mr. Holmes is just standing there awkward and unsure, she offers him a drag.

“It’s not against the rules now,” she says about the cigarette. “You’re not a teacher, I’m not a student.”

He looks away, down Main and across the lake.

“You really hate it, don’t you?” Jade says to him. “Terra Nova, I mean.”

He shrugs a noncommittal shrug.

“What’s the history there, teach?” Jade asks. “No history.”

“There’s always history,” Jade says back. “A certain somebody might have impressed that upon my just-forming psyche once upon a freshman year. Nothing just pops into existence. Everything comes from somewhere. It’s all got a story. Just a matter of if we’re committed enough to dig it up.”

Mr. Holmes shakes his head in amusement, genuinely impressed for once, it seems.

“Won’t say you were my best student over all these years,” he tells her, measuring his words. “But you are the one I’m going to remember.”

“Voted most likely to die in a horror movie, right?”

“And I apologize for not—for not realizing what you were really saying, Jennifer.”


“I should have, I mean. I could have helped stop all this from—”

“History needs documentation to be history,” Jade cites back at him, her eyes flashing. “Documents, testimony, artifacts—the holy trinity. Otherwise it’s just a pretty story. Compelling but empty, that’s what you said, isn’t it?”

“We haven’t questioned him yet,” Mr. Holmes says right back, licking his lips at the end in what Jade thinks could be anticipation, which she reads as him wanting to protect her from the “him” in question: her dad. It almost makes her feel something, but she can’t allow that.

Instead she breathes in, says, “You haven’t asked why this princess of Terra Nova is all bent out of shape by the possibility of a father going Chester the Molester over here in Proofrock. Or, in our case, all Rexall the… the—”

“Guinea pig,” Mr. Holmes fills in. “It’s an Italian slur. What they used to call him in high school, because of his weight.”

“It’s not his Italian-ness that makes my skin crawl. It’s his


“Are you talking your Nightmare on Elm Street or that one, the… Last House on the Left?”

“Good old Springfield Slasher his wisecracking self,” Jade says, surprised Mr. Holmes has kept all those titles in his head. “Fred, Freddy, the Mr. Rogers of Elm Street. He was the one into kids.”

“But the other one was a rapist, right?”

“Not a lot of nice bad guys in horror, no.”

“And you say you recognize Rexall for being like that,” Mr. Holmes says with a shrug. “Must we then ask why your senses are dialed in in that particular way?”

“I can’t say anything to make you believe, can I?”

“To get me to disbelieve?” Mr. Holmes asks back. “Ms. Mondragon in there makes a good case, a strong and telling textual analysis. All the symptoms and characteristics are there, Jennifer.”

“Not everything with spots is a leopard,” Jade says. “Now where did I hear that particular nugget?”

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t care.”

“Rather be flying,” Jade says. “I understand.”

Mr. Holmes snickers, caught. Says, like finally giving up, giving in, “When I was a kid, we had a fort over there.”

He tosses his chin across Indian Lake, to Terra Nova.

Jade takes another drag and holds it, not wanting to wreck this moment.

“We built this raft, had a pirate flag and everything,” Mr. Holmes goes on. “We’d meet on this side at the new pier—it was new then—we’d meet at midnight, have candles and everything, our parents asleep, and we’d paddle across to our secret clubhouse.”

“So they’re messing with your childhood by building their fancy houses, that’s it?” Jade says, turning her head again to exhale.

“Clubhouse was long gone by the time Theo Mondragon and his… his lords of what counts as industry got there,” Mr. Holmes says. “I mean, childhood, sure, that’s gone before you even realize it’s slipping away, blink and you’ve got a mortgage. But the fort was long gone as well. Burned.”

“The fire,” Jade says, ashing between them discreetly, just tapping the cigarette with her index finger the way people in movies do. And in real life.

“How about this?” Mr. Holmes says, looking up to catch her eye, let her know this is for-real, not just their usual parrying and thrusting. “I’ll trade you. Honesty for honesty. Nobody knows this anymore except—”

He hooks his head behind them again, meaning Family Dollar. Meaning Sheriff Hardy.

“He was in your pirate club?” Jade asks.

“That fire was…” Mr. Holmes says, his mouth and neck contorting to finally be saying this out loud after all these years, “it was us. Our campfire that night. Burned for nine days. Two campers from Kansas died. One firefighter from here—his uncle.”

Jade widens her eyes, seriously impressed.

“You old scallywag,” she says. “So, by slasher logic, which is, you know, the logic, then one of the Founders, these lords of industry, should have been a Proofrocker fifty years ago, and a pirate too. That’s probably how they all heard about that virgin shore over there—no, no. One of their dads, right?”

Mr. Holmes shakes his head, says, “You never stop, do you?”

“That doesn’t sound like a no.”

“Your turn now,” Mr. Holmes says, reaching across to take the cigarette from her, guide it shakily up to his own mouth. He cashes it, grinds the butt under the sole of his loafer longer than he needs to to rub the cherry out, but about the right amount of time to memorialize the monumental

confession he just made.

“My turn to what? Turn in another paper?”

“You can play dumb with him,” Mr. Holmes says. “You can play dumb with everyone, doesn’t matter to me. But I know, Jennifer. You’re not dumb.”

“Thanks, I guess?”

“I told you some painful truth, now you tell me some.” “Quid pro quo,” Jade says with a snicker.

“Latin,” Mr. Holmes says. “You never fail to surprise, Jennifer.”

“Or disappoint,” Jade adds. “And it’s Jade, thanks.” “It’s your turn, I mean.”

“I haven’t started any fires visible from space.”

“On the walk over, it hit me,” Mr. Holmes says. “The one horror genre you never broached in your papers and essays and creative pieces. How it was no accident that you avoided it.”

“I do slashers, you know that. All kinds of subgenres I haven’t written about. I mean—exorcisms are boring, just confirm western religion, and vampires and werewolves have so much lore they’re practically fantasy, no matter how many throats they rip open, and haunted houses are just stand-ins for—”

“I’m talking about rape-revenge, Jennifer.” “That’s not my name.”

“Why’d you never delve into that subgenre?”

Jade lets her eyes unfocus so she can burn through what he’s asking: rape-revenge is where a raped woman is left for dead but climbs back to life to take brutal revenge on her attackers, often using poetic justice, and usually a lot of primal screaming.

“Okay, so… if rape-revenge is going to be slasher-adjacent,” she says, figuring this out as she goes, “then you’re saying the rape is the prank, right?”

“You tell me.”

“And you’re saying that this woman, she becomes the spirit of vengeance personified,” Jade says. “All that’s

missing is… is a mask—”

“She doesn’t need one,” Mr. Holmes says. “She’s supposed to be dead. And the rapists weren’t exactly interested in her face anyway. Or maybe their violence gave her a mask? The bruises, the black eyes, the fat lip.”

“Okay, okay,” Jade says. “But this is usually the same weekend, too, right? Raped on a Friday, killing all through Saturday and Sunday? There’s no five or ten years where the pranksters can forget their crime even happened.”

“They forgot her the moment they were done with her,” Mr. Holmes says, seemingly ready for whatever Jade might have. Meaning his silence earlier was really thinking. Preparing. Scallywag indeed.

“Okay, I’ll give you that,” Jade says, though she knows this is a trap.

“But if you elect to exclude it from being one of your slashers,” Mr. Holmes goes on, “if you say it’s from a different shelf altogether, then you’re saying that the crime itself doesn’t warrant revenge, aren’t you? That rape gets a pass. That sexual violation isn’t beholden to the scales of justice you’re always talking about, is somehow outside its purview.”

Jade just stares at a bird prying something from a sewer grate.

“Either that or you’re acknowledging that a minor can’t take that revenge,” Mr. Holmes adds, quieter. Because this is where he was going all along.

Jade kind of hates him right now.

It doesn’t mean he gets to win, though.

“The reason rape-revenge isn’t a slasher is that the slasher and the final girl would have to be the same person,” she says, pushing off the front of Family Dollar with her butt. “Problem with that is that the final girl and the spirit of vengeance are forever locked in opposition, not the same jumpsuit. That’d—that’d be like Batman peeling his cowl off and being the Joker. Would that even work?”

Mr. Holmes is just watching her.

Jade shakes her head, says, “But really, is there anything I could say right now that might make you believe she’s wrong?”

“She being her,” Mr. Holmes says, tilting his head back to the store, to Letha.

“She not able not to be her,” Jade says with a snort.

“There is one thing,” Mr. Holmes says after a long consideration. “You were asking about documents or PDFs in my inbox? Well, when I got my degree in education, the final hurdle I had to clear to get my diploma was my orals. The out-loud part of the test.”

“I was listening in class, I promise, but I can’t remember all the dates.”

“Just one question. No dates.”

“So you’re holding my diploma hostage,” Jade says after thinking this through.

“That would be unethical,” Mr. Holmes says, pushing away from Family Dollar now as well, and stepping out to study the street, his hands behind him, which means he’s back in teacher mode. “But you have been petitioning for me to allow you to make up for your eight weeks’ absence.”

“I meant with more papers.” “About slashers.”

“This a trick?” “It’s a gift.”

Jade breathes in, shakes her head no about this—it’s not a trick, it’s a trap—but… just one question, and she graduates?

“Shoot,” she says.

“You’ve got to be honest.”

“Swear on my father’s life?”

Mr. Holmes chuckles, asks the question: “Will she or won’t she what? Your mom, I mean. Down in Idaho Falls that day, when you found that videotape in the clearance bin.”

“A Bay of Blood,” Jade fills in.

“That’s not the answer I’m looking for,” Mr. Holmes says.

Jade looks at him with just her eyes, weighing this all out in her head, full-on hating being in this corner, in this discussion, in this day, and then, before she can make something up, “sell him a bill of goods” as he wrote in the margin of one of her papers once, the glass door of Family Dollar opens all at once, spilling Hardy and Letha and a long sigh of air-conditioning.

“So?” Jade says to Hardy and Letha. “I some posterchild victim in an afterschool special, or was I just born bad?”

“It’s never that simple,” Letha says, and that’s all the answer Jade needs.

Hardy puts his sunglasses back on one leg at a time, says, “According to your mother, and she’s promised to get me the papers on it, that doctor’s visit in Idaho Falls wasn’t for… what we were thinking, based on your letter to Ms. Mondragon. You were there for a private reason, yes, but that private reason was getting your stomach pumped, wasn’t it?”

Jade swallows, the sound loud in her ears.

“Getting your stomach pumped isn’t a pleasant thing,” she says.

“This isn’t over,” Mr. Holmes says to Jade, just for Jade— meaning her one-answer out-loud test is still coming, and probably when she least expects it, so he can feel like he’s getting a real answer.

“Not supposed to be pleasant,” Hardy goes on, about the stomach-pumping thing, his eyes boring into Jade’s. “It was, there’d be no reason not to eat a whole bottle of aspirin.”

“It was cherry flavored,” Jade mutters. “So it was an accident?” Letha asks.

Jade swallows, the sound loud in her ears, and holds her suicide-wrist up like a badge. “You all thought this was my first time, didn’t you?” she says with the most superior, judgmental sneer she can muster.

Letha’s eyes are shiny wet, about to spill over with concern, Mr. Holmes is just staring in through the front door of Family Dollar, probably wishing he were two hundred feet up in the air right now, and Hardy’s got his eyes behind chrome lenses, meaning he could be anywhere. A thousand miles away already. Skimming across Indian Lake, the hull of his airboat only touching water every thirty feet or so.

So this is what winning feels like, Jade tells herself.

Minus the jubilation and accomplishment and impulse to cry tears of joy, she guesses it’s pretty much what she expected. Give her ten, twenty minutes of scrubbing cusswords from bathroom stalls and it’ll just be part of the background hum, the usual suckage of Proofrock.

And no, this lunch hour hasn’t gone exactly as planned.

Right now Letha’s supposed to be slackjawed on the bench, one hundred percent believing that this slasher is real, that all of Indian Lake is in jeopardy, and that she’s the one pre-ordained to stop it all. Instead she’s standing there with her arms crossed, her right hand over her mouth, her eyebrows up in worry. About Jade.

But it’s not Letha’s fault, either. Jade should have anticipated this, shouldn’t she have? Letha’s a good-enough person—a pure-enough final girl—that if there’s even the possibility that what she thinks about Jade is true, then she has to try to right it. Balancing the world and avenging injustices is what the slasher does, after all, always and only. Yes, the slasher is the governor on unfairness, but the final girl is the governor’s governor, the one who puts a cap on the cycle once it threatens to bleed beyond its own initial scope, go full-on franchise. Which is to say: the final girl is all about justice as well, is all about righting wrong wherever wrong’s encountered. Even if it’s between the lines in a letter, if you squint just right.

“This isn’t over,” Letha says, somehow holding both Jade’s hands like they’re about to drift out onto a dance floor.

“You’re right about that,” Jade says, trying to make Important Eyes, except a crusty clump of black bangs is poking into her right pupil, it feels like. She bats it away, turns to sulk off but then stops, makes herself say it, to all of them: “Thank you. I know you’re trying to help. But, really, I just like horror. Not everything has some dark reason behind it. And I don’t even do pranks anymore.”

“Except trying to convince us there’s a slasher on the loose,” Mr. Holmes can’t help but say.

“That’s no joke,” Jade says right back to him.

“I’ll give her a ride back,” Hardy announces, breaking the tension, his cop hand already around Jade’s left upper arm, so he can steer her.

Jade lets it happen, only looking back once to Letha, who’s watching her retreat, her eyes all about how she could have done more, she should have done more, it doesn’t have to end like this.

But it’s only just getting started, Jade assures her, then shakes free of Hardy, pulls ahead, hauling the passenger door of his Bronco open before he can.

“I’m working at the high school this afternoon,” Jade tells him once he’s easing them from the parking lot.

Hardy stops the left turn he was making, hauls the wheel over the other way.

“Jade, never mind what your mom told us. If your dad has ever—”

“Letha Mondragon’s the one with the overactive imagination,” Jade tells him, using his own words against him. “Some mother hen complex where she wants to take care of all of us. And I’m the least likely chicklet to survive, so that means I’m the first she has to save.”

Hardy sighs, says, “I think what you mean there is ‘hatchling,’ maybe?”

Jade slumps down in the seat, chocking her knees against the warm dash.

“And she’s right,” Hardy goes on. “This isn’t over.”

“I was just—”

“I’ve got some questions, I mean.”

Jade looks over to him but he’s watching the road with every last ounce of his remaining attention, as if he hasn’t driven this stretch of Main ten thousand times. He switches hands on the wheel, nods to himself that it’s finally right in his head, and says, “You knew about the Maruman at the old camp, meaning either you were there when or right after it happened, or you somehow got hold of Meg’s transcription.”

Jade doesn’t say anything.

“And if you were over there,” Hardy goes on, reaching into the backseat to plop something on the console between them, “I know what you were wearing.”

It’s her dad’s muddy boots from the porch.

“I would shoot myself in the face before touching his boots,” Jade says, elbowing them away to prove how gross they are to her.

“History of suicide attempts, yes,” Hardy says.

Jade opens her mouth to ask him why doesn’t he just haul her dad in, since they’re his boots? But that would just be setting a red herring up, wouldn’t it? Because no way could it really be Tab Daniels. Slashers, in their own way, are as pure as final girls.

“What?” Hardy asks, letting his foot off the gas so Jade can say whatever she was about to.

Jade shakes her head no, nothing.

“Anyway, that’s not even the worst of it,” he goes on, stopping in the hug-n-go lane of the high school with her for the second time this month. “You said there was a Dutch boy and a girlfriend. When we only know about the boy, whose dental work is actually turning out to be European, at least in the forensic report that just hit my inbox two hours ago. Leading me to think you have some knowledge that we don’t.”

“They travel in pairs,” Jade tells him. “Common knowledge. Casey and Steve in Scream. Barry and Claudette


“ ‘They’ being… the Dutch?”

“I only said that because he was blond. Like on the paint cans.”

“So you were there.”

“I was at the party, yeah. Can I not go to parties with my ex-classmates?”

Hardy doesn’t like her answers, but neither can he take them out at the knees, Jade knows.

“Then I’m sure you know we made a list of everybody who was at the Tompkins place that night,” he says. “I don’t recall your name being on that.”

“I left early.”

“But stayed until the end, too? To see the color of that dead kid’s hair?”

“Was on my way out.”

“I’m sure the Koenig girl or one of the others can confirm this.”

“Tiff’s recall of that night might be… blurry.”

Hardy shakes his head, impressed—he must know Tiffany K was sloshed—but still, “So either you were at the party or you…” he leads off, using his fingers to pick words from the air, it looks like, “or you have unlawful knowledge about the events that led to that kid being there. Same as the golf club.”

“Would you believe a bus ran over my evidence, or is that too much like the dog eating my homework?”

“Excuse me?”

“Third option, I mean,” Jade says, opening her door, hanging a leg out for solid ground.

“I don’t—”

“I’ve watched too many horror movies,” Jade says. “I’m just making shit up left and right, because my dad did some unspeakable shit to me.”

Hardy just sits there, brake pressed in, eyes hidden behind chrome lenses.

“Are you saying that Mondragon girl was right about him?” he finally asks.

“I’m saying something’s coming for us, Sheriff,” Jade says, stepping all the way down now. “I don’t know why, I don’t know who, but I do know when.”

“July Fourth,” Hardy recites. “Speaking of that.”

This stops Jade. Then she connects the necessary dots.

“You can beef up security all you want,” she says. “It won’t—”

“In hindsight, your letter is a credible threat to the proceedings that night,” Hardy says, using the official phrasing. “If you show up and try to self-fulfill your little prophecy, then it’ll look like I was negligent, just some country bumpkin law enforcement officer not paying enough attention.”


“What I’m saying,” Hardy says, speaking over her, holding her eyes for this, “is that your presence will not be needed that night, Ms. Daniels. Rex Allen and Francie will escort you out if you try.”

“But you can’t. I’ve been waiting for this for my whole—”

“It’s for the best,” Hardy says, challenging her to tell him otherwise.

I’ve been waiting all my life, she wants to say, but can’t.

All she can do is stand there on the front sidewalk of her ex–high school, her world crumbling around her, all of it just falling away. Hardy tips his hat bye to her and eases away, and Jade can’t even think of anything sharp or cutting to say. She’s numb.

“Went ahead and clocked you in,” Rexall says in passing, carrying a crumbling pipe over his shoulder, both ends seeping unmentionable sludge. “Thank me later, yeah?”

Jade doesn’t have any clever comeback for him either, a silence he’s probably taking for acceptance of this deal— timecard-action for later, to-be-ascertained action…

That’s all distant to Jade now. Happening to some other girl.

Thirty minutes later she’s trudged back inside, is scrubbing profane words from bathroom stalls. By midafternoon, using her county razorblade, the metal wall by the urinals her dark blue canvas, she’s carving her own profanity, each letter a foot tall and deep, going down to bare metal.


That’s definitely what they’re going to call it the morning after, when all the bodies are floating facedown in the water, blood blooming out from their sides like wings.

It’s going to be glorious.



What’s lucky is that you can go on teacher vacation for MY WHOLE JUNIOR YEAR but when you come back all the same rules of the slasher genre still keep

applying, and we can now finish your education, sir. Or should I say Night Flier. That’s not a slasher but it’s still from the horror mind of Stephen King, who has a high bodycount in his books and movies but his Freddy Krueger is Pennywise the Clown and his Chucky is Gage and his final girl is Carrie and his Jason Voorhees is a dog, but none of them are really slashers. Really if you want some truth then if you compare Mr. King with a little old lady then she’s probably done more to

give the slasher legs and arms and a secret face than the acknowledged king. That’s right I’m talking about Agatha Christie and the next important slasher ingredient, which is the Reveal.

But first a reveal of my own if you don’t overmind. Since this is the 2nd week of class only that means this 2 pager in your extra credit box is me putting money in the bank. Because Halloween is going to be here before we know it.

So, the Reveal in the slasher is when all will be said out loud and made clear as to Who’s been doing all this and Why and also How. So when I’m mentioning Mrs. Christie above what I mean from the one book of hers I mostly read titled And Then There Were None which has nearly as many titles through the years as A Bay of Blood, where people are dying and who’s doing it, who’s doing it, then at the end, SURPRISE! It was this one dude all along, and here’s why, and he’s showing his secret true face at the end.

Or if Scooby Doo is more your thing then that’s the very same thing, sir. I know he’s a hippie dog to you but he also faces ghosts and werewolves who all pull their masks off at the end and explain WHY they were doing all this, which made great money sense at the time to them even if it was a LOT of trouble, on par with some of the Joker’s schemes.

But in the slasher where there’s real necks getting the axe, how that works is, okay, pretend all the people who have been killed in the movie get to be alive

again for five minutes in a living room and then the slasher comes in and

explains to them why he did what he did to them and they all look at each and nod and say that, Yeah, they probably did sort of deserve this. It sucks that it had to hurt so bad and it was pretty scary and they really had other plans and

their families are going to be sad and who’s going to feed their dog now, but they should have thought of that before doing whatever Bad Thing they did to someone who couldn’t protect himself or herself at that point, and for sure wasn’t even close to asking for it any way whatsoever. At which point any good slasher will unlimber his machete and kill them all over again, just paint that living room red.

However note that this is only for slasher movies of the mystery variety like

Scream and not the supernatural variety like A Nightmare on Elm Street. Scream at the end has Billy Loomis giving a lecture REVEALING why he’s been doing this, while Nightmare has Freddy giving his lecture through the whole franchise with quips, because while Tina does pull his face off, showing his animatronic skull, Freddy’s really only more of himself without it, which isn’t really a Reveal, just a magnification.

Though if we’re talking Agatha Christie like this then we need to talk about fish and fishing, Mr. Holmes. Specifically, Red Herrings. Coming soon to an extra credit box near you.

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