The Un-End

It started out like any other day – a lot of stories do. I was walking my dog, Patsy, at the usual time in the usual place. But there was something distinctly unusual about the air. It was cooler than the average autumn morning (if you can really call it morning when the sun has barely yet committed to rising). More to the point though, the air was heavy, as if it should have been thick with fog or humidity. Instead, it just seemed to weigh on Patsy and me.

After urinating on her favourite tree, Patsy bellowed a deep gurgled cry and began digging. Any other day I’d have left her to it, anxious to see what all the fuss was about. But not that day. On that particular morning, the cumbrous chill was burying itself in my pores and nesting an uneasiness all through me. I felt uncomfortable; irritated. I tugged on her fraying leash to hurry her along and had half a mind to bark back when she vocally resisted. I crouched down and plucked her off the soft grass, wetted by the fresh morning dew. She struggled to free herself from my grip – and that’s when I saw it. Her paws were caked with blood. I know you see that sort of thing in the movies all the time, but somehow I hadn’t been prepared for the absoluteness of having a stranger’s viscous, rancid, heart-juice pawed onto my chest.

So that’s the story of how Patsy found poor Bailey Marcus; a plain-jane, straight B student majoring in nothing, holding no special achievements with which to mark her gravestone. I know that sounds pretty harsh, but it’s true, and I’m sure she knew it. What the unremarkable Bailey could not have known on the night that she got done in, though, was that she was finally about to have a profound effect on someone’s life – mine.

See, it was right about then (the moment with the viscera and the barking) that I started obsessing about Bailey. Her blood was on me, and it doesn’t get much more weirdly intimate than that. I felt like I owed it to both of us to seal that bond. The problem, of course, is figuring out how one goes about sealing a bond with a dead girl. Thinking about it made my head blur and swirl, the way cream does when it hits the dark abyss of coffee in a black mug. Spinning in circles seemed appropriate, though, since I had no starting point and no idea what the end point would be.

After the police questioning, the bagging and tagging, and the four hour diner shift that managed to feel like 16 rather than the typical 8, I headed home intending to crash land on my bed. During the walk I let my head blur and swirl as it pleased until I looked up and realized I was no where near my bed. I’d wound up at the university. It was as if I had been drawn to it by a magnetic force. At the scene of the crime, I had overheard the detectives going through Bailey’s wallet. It’s how I had learned her name, and that she was a student. I guess I was curious. I never applied to university; never stepped foot on a campus until then, which seemed as good a time as ever. As did the next day, and the day after that. I had no idea what I was looking for, or what I was getting out of the experience; but somehow walking those same grounds that Bailey had walked brought me peace of mind. It felt natural; right, even. I hadn’t considered how strange it might be until a detective questioning some of her classmates noticed me.

October was just closing in and the air was dry and rough against the skin. I was sitting on a rock in front of the entrance to the Film Studies department. I suppose it looked as though I was people-watching, but really I was just in my own head. I had recently taken to making up stories about Bailey that would take place wherever I happened to be on campus. On this particular occasion, I was imagining she had sat on this very rock skipping class, reading The Bell Jar, when a fire alarm hurried everyone outside. She would have dropped her book in the crowd and had to crawl over people’s feet to find it. I’m not sure where that story was going, because it was abruptly interrupted by a stern man looming over me, his badge catching the only bit of sunlight peeking through the dense mid-morning clouds.

He obviously had no leads on Bailey’s murder yet, and asked me why I was sitting outside of her World Cinema class, and whom I was waiting for. I explained that I had no idea that it would have been one of Bailey’s classes, and that I just liked the scenery there. His inquisitive nature led to a few more questions, to which I gave snarky remarks. But when he left, my heart began to pound. I had managed to find Bailey, a real piece of her. World Cinema.

That day, I sat in on a lecture about the ephemeral nature of Italian Neorealism; how it has no beginning, and no end. How it is independent of rules, of law, and of death. The room was surprisingly warm for its size. With an amphitheatre structure, it was easy to just become another face in the crowd – Bailey’s, even. So as the days grew colder, and shorter, I was comforted by following the day-to-day of Bailey (or what I had created of her, anyways). And then it happened. It always happens when you least expect it, I guess. Death.

I was walking home from an evening lecture on Gothic Architecture (I had branched out my stolen studies), when I caught a glimpse of a shadow behind me. You always like to think that when it happens, you’ll do all the right things, and put shame to those scream queens on the silver screen. But you don’t. He came upon me with such force, such intent, I almost admired his gumption. I fought back of course, but it didn’t matter. Seeing his face became immeasurably important. I snatched off his hood, and pulled down the scarf. Lyle Jones. An obnoxiously well-spoken front-row student in Bailey’s World Cinema class. He’d been eyeing me, but not in a way that put me on edge. Actually, it was flattering. When he looked at me, it was as if a familiarity shot between us. But now, there was nothing between us except blood.

And that’s when I realized it. The story was never about Patsy finding Bailey, or my obsession with Bailey – hell, it wasn’t even about me. All along it’s been about this guy; Bailey’s killer. And now, I won’t get to see how it ends.

 © Shyla Fairfax-Owen

The Morning After

The sound of his heaving envelops you; your heart rate syncs itself to the chase. At some point you start to pant and realize your sweating – slippery, sticky, terrified. Your legs go numb. Your thoughts start to jumble. You try to plan your next move and the one after that. The only signal your brain seems to compute anymore is GO.

So you go. It’s all instinct, now. You go, go, go. You know you can’t keep going, and yet – you do. There’s a desire you never knew you had; a desire so strong it fuels you when you have nothing left to give. It’s the desire to live.

He catches your arm and in an instant it might be all over. Might be – but it’s not. Because you drive the knife right through him. And the skin is tougher than you imagined; everything under it, softer. Physically, it’s a difficult thing to do, but you do it. He drops. The blood seeps out of him and crawls towards you; disappears under your feet and surrounds you.

You did it. You survived. Now what?

Welcome to HellHaven

“Welcome to HellHaven. Where innocence comes to die, and gratuitous desire comes to thrive.”

Catchy, Gina thought to herself as she watched the hostess give her rehearsed speech about the unique sexiness of an R-rated New Gothic Horror Theme Park. She still couldn’t believe she had signed up for this  gig – but she was about two steps away from desperation, and two steps past virtue. Sure, she hadn’t shelled out $20,000 dollars of art school tuition to take photos of tattooed thrill-seekers and Goth Lolitas – but maybe it would grow on her, with the right attitude. Gina sighed at the thought, and tried to tune back in to the hostess’ closing arguments. Although, it was difficult to concentrate on anything other than the getup she donned. Red fishnets, pink leather mini, breasts popping out like they were planning an escape. A little farther north her purple do sat atop her head like a beehive, and the black eye shadow and fake lashes pulled it all together. Gina wondered what she’d have to sink into to fit in.

“Ahem”

Shit. Gina had tuned out again, and it hadn’t gone unnoticed. While the other new hires had scampered off she had lingered, staring at the hostess who was now staring back.

“Gina, is it?”

“Yes, ma’am.” The “ma’am” was unintentionally tacked on to the end of her sentence like an afterthought which drained it of its respectful nature.

“Well, Gina. I see your hesitance. Resistance even. Now, if I cared I might ask you what’s on your mind and help you pro and con the scenario. But I don’t. Get to wardrobe.”

She pointed down the hall in the direction the others had left in. Ashamed, Gina nodded and launched forward, but a firm yet feminine hand on her shoulder stopped her. “And Gina?”

“Yes?”

“Smile, or growl. But don’t look indifferent. It’ll get you canned.”

By Gina’s fourth day, she had gotten just comfortable enough to not see it coming. She had succumbed to a pink pig-tailed wig and purple eye-shadow. She’d even tied up her blouse and undid the top button. But she had kept her jeans and runners – that somehow made her feel better. A quiet revolt.

It happened in the Tunnel of Horrors. She was perched between a few fake rocks that lined the blood river that “lovers” would row through in their canoes, passing bobbing heads and other appendages likely manufactured in China. Gina had propped one leg up which looked silly but gave her one hell of a shot. The objective was to get the screams of delight when the wrapped up plastic body (with a brick chained to it) unexpectedly fell into the water. The last three couples had cheered, but Gina was aching for a scream to capture. She would have stayed there all night if she had to. But, of course, she didn’t. The scream came – just not from any of the patrons.

Where the hell are they? Gina wondered impatiently as she checked her watch. The ride wasn’t on a schedule, but as one of the most popular, it usually ran twice an hour. Her body was beginning to cramp and she knew it was time to radio in a ride out, but she didn’t. That was her second mistake, the first being accepting the job at HellHaven.

When the boat finally came, Gina was so eager that she poked her head out farther than usual to catch a glimpse of who she’d be snapping. The person was alone in the boat, which was against policy. Immediately Gina grew alert. At that point, the figure was still only a shadow, but she was quite certain it was hooded. She thought to radio in for an explanation but knew it was too late. Her voice would echo and ruin the magic for this patron if it was indeed nothing to worry about.

But it was something to worry about. As his boat approached, Gina sunk back, gripping her camera, finger on the trigger. But when the body splashed down at them, the figure launched at her. He (as it turned out to be), knew exactly where she was, and had timed his own attack.

In an instance he was on top of her. Her camera dropped, crushed against the fake rocks, and finally lodged between two. Red dyed water lapped over its cracked lens as Gina fought for her life – grunting, growling, biting. The tunnel captured the sounds of her struggle, of the attacker’s laughter, and of his eerily shallow whispers: “Lets make this a real blood river, shall we?”

“Welcome to HellHaven. Where innocence comes to die, and gratuitous desire comes to thrive. Thrill seekers from far and wide travel here to lose themselves in just a few hours of monstrous glory, and it’s up to every single one of you to ensure they get every mile and penny’s worth of it. Why? You might ask. Why would people pay to experience a horror? The thing about horror is that it asks us to confront social boundaries, and to push them. Some people like to be pushed, so they come here. Others, struggle with their desire to be pushed, so they work here.”

The hostess smiled, and waited for her final statement to settle upon the crowd of new hires. A hand rose.

“Didn’t some photographer chick die working here last summer? That’s why I’m here.”

The hostess slumped, annoyance flashing behind cold eyes. “Are you a journalist? An investigator of some sort?”

The girl smirked. “No. Just a freak.”

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

 

 

 

Christmas Night of Horrors

“Why is decorating a Christmas tree never as romantic as you remember it from childhood?”

“Because you’re killing the magic by complaining about it. Here, put some more bulbs on your side. Mine’s getting crowded.”

“I’m sorry. This was a good idea. I’m just…”

“A Grinch.”

“Damaged. It’s an awesome cottage though. How long have you had it?”

“It’s been in the family for a while. I used to spend Christmas eves here as a kid, but I haven’t been back in years. You’re the first person I’ve brought.”

“Well, I’m honored. Even if I don’t seem it.”

“Haha. Ok, I’ll make our next egg nogs stronger. That’ll cheer you up.”

“It will. You know me so well.”

“Hey! It’s snowing!”

“OK! Now it feels like Christmas.

“A Merry Christmas toast then.”

Clink.

******

“Jaime? Jaime, did you hear that?”

“Mm?”

“Jaime! Wake up. Did you hear that?”

“W-What? No. Go back to sleep.”

“Fuck. Useless.”

“Hey, where are you going?”

“I heard something. I’m going to check it out.”

“It’s just the house. It’s old, I told you.”

“No. I HEARD something. Stay here if you want.”

Creeeak

“Careful! The bed is old too. … Aubrey? Aubrey!? Oh for fuck sakes.”

Creeeak

 

“There you are”

“Shhhhhh!”

Seriously? Ok fine. I’m whispering, but it’s four thirty in the morning and I’m not indulging this shit until sun up.”

“What happened to all your Christmas spirit crap?”

“I left it in bed; where I should be.”

“Knock it off. You’re the one who dragged me up to the mountains for some stupid Christmas rendez-vous. The least you can do is not let us die here.”

“Well it seems you have it perfectly under control. .. [sigh] Okay, I’m sorry. Don’t look at me like that. I’m just tired. It’s fine. Let’s check it out.”

“Thank you. It came from over there, I think.”

Tink tink tack

“There it is again!”

“Yeah – ok, that is weird. I think it came from the attic, though. Pass me the flashlight.”

“Don’t you have another one?”

“No.”

“Why did you bring me to a cabin with no electricity and one freaking flashlight?”

“Because I want to see you squirm, obviously. Follow me.”

 

“Jaime? Wait up, please. Ouch. Dammit. “

“You okay?”

“Yeah, stubbed my – AHHHHHH!”

“Aubrey! Run!”

“Let go! Ah – No! JAMIE!”

snap.

******

“Aubrey? Can you please describe the incident, again?”

“[sniffle] Mmhm. Jaime just wanted us to have a nice Christmas, you know? Not have to deal with our families and stuff. Let it be about us for once, not about our choices.”

“So, once again, You and Jaime arrived at what time?”

“Noon. No one was in the house. I mean… [sniffle]… I don’t think. I guess we didn’t check it out until I heard it in the night.”

“And what time was that?”

“Uhh.. shit, I don’t know. Four, Four thirty. I should call someone… Yeah, can I call someone?”

“You did. You called your brother. He’s on his way.”

“Right.”

“Aubrey?”

“Yeah, sorry. Uhh, like four thirty. And we were trying to follow the sound. Fuck. That sounds so dumb now…”

“Go on.”

“Yeah, so we were checking it out, and Jaime got really far ahead of me so I was rushing. I stubbed my toe and when I bent over something grabbed me from behind.”

“Go on.”

“I should call someone.”

“Your brother is on his way. Tell us what happened next.”

“I-I can’t. I mean, I don’t know. It fucking grabbed me, [sniffle], it fucking grabbed me! And Jaime lunged and – ahh. I don’t know. But it killed Jaime. Just like that. I don’t even know how it happened, really. Can I call someone now?”

******

“So I guess they made the naughty list.”

“Haha. Looks like it. Or the more obvious – lover’s quarrel?”

“Maybe. Kid seems pretty traumatized though.”

“All we have from the crime scene is the glove. Covered in blood. That doesn’t scream evil Saint Nick.”

“True.”

RIIIING

“Detective Carson… Another one?… Okay, we’re on our way.”

“Same description?”

“Yup. Fat guy in a red suit with a hell of a right hook.”

“Eyes scooped out of the vic?”

“Yup.”

“I’ll drive. Oh, and someone get our witness a phone.”

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

The Liebster Award

 

Liebster Award

Thank you to electrobeth for nominating my site for a Liebster award, which celebrates new blogs. It’s quite the honour.

Here are the rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and post a link to their blog.
  • Display the Liebester Award on your blog.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer 11 questions your nominator has asked.
  • Nominate up to 11 bloggers with less than 1000 followers.
  • Ask them 11 new questions or the same ones you were asked.
  • Let the bloggers you nominate know!
  • Copy the rules into your post.

So, here goes!

11 Random Facts About Me
  1. I am a technical writer
  2. I have a cat who bullies all other living creatures in the neighborhood
  3. I have an irrational fear of fish and other sea creatures that are not mammals
  4. I am obsessed with fairytales – Grimm’s tales, to be more specific
  5. I hate wearing socks
  6. I got married in a movie theatre that was built in 1932 (it’s so beautiful!)
  7. I have a master’s degree in Film Studies – my thesis is titled Women in Slashers Then and Now: Survival, Trauma, and the Diminishing Power of the Close-Up
  8. I have had two children’s poems published in a book of nursery rhymes
  9. I hated the book Divergent and did not finish it
  10. I read too much Anne Rice and V.C. Andrews in my younger years
  11. I don’t have Facebook, Twitter, or any other popular social media
11 Q & A from my Nominator
  1. What made you start your blog? Although technical writing is a great, steady, job – it can be a bit dull. I needed a creative outlet, and writing stories had always been a hobby of mine. Problem was, I never finished them. And then I discovered flash fiction, so here we are.
  2. How do you de-stress after a long day? I have two strategies: curl up with a book or graphic novel, with some soothing background music; or curl up with my husband and binge-watch some of our favourite TV shows.
  3. What fascinates you? Society’s obsession with social media – well, it both fascinates and frustrates me. Unplug people!
  4. If you could meet any famous person (dead or alive) who would it be? Robin Wood (deceased). He is my favourite film theorist and the reason I fell in love with horror cinema. We could have a critical (but Geeky) discussion about slasher flicks. It’d be a dream come true.
  5. What is your biggest fear? Fish. AH! I hate them. Why are their eyes so far apart?!
  6. If you could live in a fictional world what one would it be and why? Hmm, as it turns out I read and watch too much horror/dystopia and subsequently only seem to engage with terrible fictional worlds I would not want to live in. I guess I’d have to choose Halloween Town of The Nightmare Before Christmas because it could be Halloween all year round.
  7. Who is your favourite fictional family? The Addams Family (from the original TV series, not the movies – although, I did like those too).
  8. If you could be any animal what would you be and why? I guess a cat because they just do whatever they want all the time.
  9. If someone was going to make a film about your life who would play you and why? Ignoring the physical, maybe Christina Ricci because she seems strange enough.
  10. What is your favourite type of weather? Early Autumn (read: sweater weather and fallen leaves).
  11. What would be your dream job? Novelist. And I’d want a weird creepy old cabin too.
My Nominations:

50 Flash Fiction

AA Czostedt

A Drop in Time

Books and Hot Tea

Douglas Graham Purdy

Fix of Fiction

Jody’s World

Thank you to all of these awesome bloggers for giving me something to read each day. If you choose to accept, follow the rules aforementioned, and here are your 11 questions:

  1. How did you come up with your blog concept?
  2. What inspires you to keep blogging?
  3. What are you currently reading (or most recently read)?
  4. What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?
  5. Are you a night owl or a morning bird?
  6. What in your life are you most proud of?
  7. Who is your hero?
  8. Do you have a phobia? If so, what is it?
  9. If you were to write the story of you, what genre would it be and why?
  10. What is the best movie you’ve seen recently?
  11. What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Generation Slasher

Jessica gasped lightly. A shadow lingered in her peripheral vision, and she had to hold her breath to keep calm; to keep from screaming. Her heart rate increased and tiny pools of sweat emerged from under her bangs. She could feel her pulse in her neck; a constant thud that she was sure must be visible, if not audible. Her stomach churned. She suddenly regretted the mixture of popcorn and soda she substituted for a freshly cooked meal. The room had always had a chill in it, but now Jessica could barely contain her shivering. Her teeth even wanted to chatter, although she had clenched them with such force it seemed more likely that they might crush under the weight of her fear.

And then it came. The man jumped out his hiding spot and pounced on the half naked teenage girl. She screamed as the knife penetrated deeper and deeper.

Jessica let out a yelp, and although it was embarrassing, she was glad she had. Now she could breathe again. Unable to watch the gore unfold on the huge screen before her, she squeezed her eyelids shut and tried not to imagine anything worse than what might actually be happening.

Beside her, Erin burst into laughter. It was genuine, but those who didn’t know her might find it obnoxious. Suddenly, Jessica was hiding not only from the blood bath on the screen, but from the other moviegoers who might be getting irritated with her friend.

“Shh,” she whispered, still refusing to open her eyes.

“Oh, please” Erin retorted. Her voice was lowered but it was certainly not a whisper.

The credits began to roll, cued in by the last victim’s fading scream and the rising level of the ominous theme song that had been a staple of the franchise for the last decade.

“That was the worst one. I tell ya, no more. I’m done with these sequels,” Erin blurted as they hustled out of the packed, dark, cinema.

“It was scary. And gory. That seems like it’s exactly your thing.” Jessica was feeling more like herself now that the film was over.

“Not even! It was just a hack. An imposter of the greats.”

Jessica rolled her eyes, knowing she was in for a long walk home.

“Think about it,” Erin started, “There was all the typical slasher icons: it had the maniac in a mask who is human but borders on the supernatural in his ability to kill, fight, and not die. It had the mixed bag of unsupervised teenage pals: a jock, a nerd who is cooler than he lets on, and two hot girls, one a bit more… promiscuous… than the other.”

Jessica nodded, wondering exactly where this was going.

“Then we have the setting – secluded getaway with a killer on the loose. But, of course, the kids don’t know that because they’re too wrapped up in their teenage love-triangle bullshit to listen to the news. Wrong place, wrong time. One by one, they get the axe.”

“Yeah, I’d say that about sums it up. All of them.”

“That’s my point. Those are the main ingredients – nay, the required ingredients to put together a slasher. It’s what you do with all the in-between that makes it a great film, or a waste of everyone’s time. This one was of the latter category.”

“Okay, so what makes any of these great? As you say, it’s all formulaic. The purpose it to make us squirm, and I do. Mission accomplished. Success.”

“No. It’s not that simple. Horror movies are made for horror fans. The people squealing next to us are the people we dragged with us.”

They turned off of Main St. and the wind picked up. Erin kept talking.

“Horror fans don’t watch it to scream. We watch for a bunch of different reasons; personally, I watch for the final girl, which this film severely lacked. The ‘no survivors’ angle seems original, until you realize that with no survivors there’s no story. No one to route for, route against, laugh at, identify with. All of that is embodied by the final girl; or, on the very rare and generally unsuccessful occasion, the final boy. Either way, that archetype is essential. I wanna see some girl that everyone underestimated kick some ass.”

“Wouldn’t that also be predictable?” Jessica couldn’t help but ask.

“Maybe. But it depends what you do with her.

There are two types of slasher films. You’ve got your run-of-the-mill reactionary film. Typical of the 70s, and it’s all about punishment. It’s a reaction against the civil rights movement, women’s lib, gay rights and anything else that was considered leftist or unnatural. All those things get knifed. The black guy, the sexual women or any form of sexual activity. Whatever isn’t the typical picture of 50s suburbia. In those films you’ve got a virgin for a final girl. She’s hope for the traditional values. Usually she’s even kind of a damsel in distress and she gets rescued.

Then you’ve got your progressive films which are all about the Other fighting back against the monster who represents social oppression. There, you get a badass final girl. She isn’t going to take shit, she’s smart, and she’s capable and she wins. It’s not luck, it’s strategy.”

Jessica pondered on that for a minute and was surprised by how much sense it made to her. Erin caught a glimpse of that in her eyes and smiled, pleased with her persuasive argument skills.

“You see,” she added, “horror is all about living vicariously through these characters. But that doesn’t mean we’re all masochists.”

“I might be. You don’t really drag me here. I could say no. I like the scares and I watch to squirm,” Jessica finally admitted.

Erin laughed. “Yeah, I guess you might be, then.”

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Haunted

There was no way to undo it. That’s the thing about surviving. The medley of blood, hair, and fingernails just kept swirling about in Jordan’s mind, imprinted behind his ocular nerve. Tugging and pulling so that the recalled sight of it was accompanied by physical pain. It was all he could manage to spread his eyelids every now and again; check if the world was really still there – wondering if he had really made it out, wondering if Jess and the others really hadn’t.

The melody of the epidecium hummed deep in Jordan’s ear drums, rattling them back and forth no matter how unpleasant. This was what it was to be haunted. The ghosts were only inside of his head, but they were real. They were persistent. They were his friends; all of them dead, along with the biggest part of him.

“Jordan Marks?”

Jordan looked up, surprised he had recognized a sound outside of himself. The secretary was trying to smile as she held the door open for him. “Dr. Casey will see you now.”

The doctor was gentle, but rushed. There were a lot of patients in the waiting room, so it came as no shock to Jordan that getting the prescription had been so easy. Anti-depressant experiment number 4. Maybe this one wouldn’t make him tear at his skin, drool on his sheets, or mix-up his words. Maybe.

The first few hours were good. Relief came like a tidal wave, throwing him off balance then gracefully carrying him away. He didn’t think about Jess; about the blood, the hair, or the fingernails. Instead, he thought about the beach on a sunny day. But once the high dulled, so did the sunshine, and Jordan was back in his dark, damp, room. No – he was back in the dark, damp, cave. And there was the medley of gore he just couldn’t escape. He thrashed in the swamp of sewage and bodily fluids. He clawed at the rocky walls, and screamed so loud he hoped he might break, and somehow blind himself from the horrors before him.

Jordan’s mother crashed through his bedroom door and eyed her son helplessly as he scrambled violently in his bed. She cried out his name through a tear-soaked tongue, trying to remember a time when he was just a normal teenager, vibrant and brave and full of life, seeking an adventure. A time before the monsters came.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©