PREFACE: Some of you may have heard me talk about the horror novel I am currently writing. So I thought I'd share the first chapter of this book-in-progress, Slasher Movie Girl, not only to generate interest but to hold myself accountable. Because I want to see this thing through and make sure it gets finished. Because the next time someone asks me, "How's your book coming along?" I want to answer honestly with a promising status update. Because, frankly, I want to get this bloody thing published, read by the masses, and optioned for a big-screen adaptation (naturally).
What is Slasher Movie Girl about? I wish I could give you the elevator pitch, but since I'm releasing a tiny portion of this into the world, I'm afraid that's all I can do for now. (Can't give it ALL away now can I?) Besides, hopefully this excerpt does a good job setting things up. And if all goes well, perhaps I'll release more and see if anyone else gives a damn...or if my agent resurfaces and takes the bait.
Thank you for your time. Hope you enjoy.
When the bloody blade of a machete is protruding from your chest, there are two things that quickly cross your mind.
The first one is pure, unadulterated disbelief. The shock of being turned into a human shish-kebab comes instantly. You think to yourself, How the hell did this happen? Is this some kind of trick? One moment you’re gathering firewood in the middle of the woods, because you were the only one who volunteered for the task, and the next, you’re the helpless victim of some maniacal, masked killer who’s been stalking you ever since you stepped outside your friend’s cabin to face the deep, dark woods all by yourself. Never in a million years did you think that you would be on the receiving end of some deformed, psychotic hillbilly’s rage. After all, what are the odds? (Apparently, taking a trip to the site of a twenty-year-old bloodbath increases those odds – greatly – but more on that later.)
The second thing that runs through your mind is utter disappointment. A machete that has been driven through your torso means that you’ll never get to enjoy the rest of the weekend getaway you and your friends had been planning for months. You’ll never get to make out with someone while under the influence of four tequila shots. Scratch that; you’ll never get to explore the possibility of making out with someone while under the influence of several tequila shots. You’ll never get to finish that trashy mystery novel that’s been sitting on your nightstand for months (but you’re pretty sure it was the promiscuous, money-hungry mistress who did it because, let’s face it, it’s always the money-hungry mistress). And most importantly, you’ll never get to graduate from college, which means you’ll never get to feel the excitement of moving out of your childhood home, taking the plunge into an unstable job market, and finding ways to pay off student loans that will haunt you until middle age.
Those were the thoughts that ran through my mind when I became the first victim of an urban legend that appeared to be very, very true.
I, Heather Farnsworth, lover of slasher movies and connoisseur of all things horror, someone who considers herself extremely well-versed in scenarios like these, became the hapless young girl who gets butchered shortly after the movie’s opening credits, the beginning of a body count that would rise until the designated heroine defeated the near-indestructible villain. I couldn’t believe my luck.
When I left the cabin to grab some firewood, I grabbed a flashlight for the brief walk to the shed behind the house. I also grabbed my sweatshirt because it was unseasonably chilly for May. Sure, I was tipsy, but my judgment was still intact. Those shots of tequila were taking their time taking over my bloodstream. My plan at the time was to go back into the cabin with some firewood and get a cute boy to sit next to me by the roaring fire where I would work up enough liquid courage to unabashedly flirt with him. This flirting would then lead to some snuggling. (When you tell boys you’re cold, they are obligated to do everything they can to warm you up.) This snuggling would then lead to a simple kiss on the cheek, thanking him for such chivalry. This simple kiss would then lead to a more involved kiss on the mouth. And by “more involved,” I clearly mean “some tongue action.”
The cute boy in question was Adam Kozlowski. I always thought of him as an intellectual loner, but he was clearly social and capable enough to come on this weekend getaway to the woods with eight other people. See, I’m a sucker for a cute guy in glasses, and Adam had these thick, black-rimmed spectacles that perfectly framed his big, brown puppy dog eyes. He didn’t believe in contact lenses because he couldn’t stand sticking a finger in his eyes. (He shared this tidbit with me when we partnered up for a sociology class project last semester.) And he didn’t wear them ironically. He wasn’t one of those douchebags who picked up a pair of lens-free frames from Urban Outfitters as an accessory simply because “the nerdy look” was in fashion. Adam had an actual prescription for his 20/80 vision. He also had a thing for Ray Bradbury novels; he had a paperback in hand whenever I saw him walking around campus. What made him more attractive was the fact that he didn’t realize just how attractive he was, and when a guy is clueless about how hot he looks, that just makes him hotter. He never did that peacock strut most guys at school usually do when they try to bring attention to themselves. Adam didn’t have veiny, pumped-up Zac Efron arms or a washboard stomach that he flashed while wiping his forehead with the bottom of his T-shirt, another narcissistic move most guys on campus tried whenever the weather warmed up. (We get it, you workout.) Adam was not a schlub though. I caught him a couple of times jogging past the student union, so I knew he was somewhat health-conscious and took care of himself in a reasonable manner that didn’t require a Crossfit membership. He wasn’t a label whore either. I never caught him wearing any shirts emblazoned with some obnoxious brand logo or pun-laden phrases with some kind of stupid, visual punch line. His wardrobe was non-descript, timeless, unassuming.
I admit: sometimes I fantasized about ripping those clothes off him.
I always imagined that he would be a good kisser, too. Attentive. Sensual. But now I will never find out. I will never know how his lips would feel brushed up against mine. I would never get to smell his neck as he ran his fingers through my hair. I would never find out if his scent was a mix of sandalwood, coffee, and musty paperback novels, a mix I concocted in my head because of the amount of time he spent at The Nook, a local café that doubled as used bookshop (he worked there part-time). I would never get to tell him how good he looks in that gray, slim-fit Henley shirt I’ve seen him wear on occasions.
All because some psycho bastard rammed a highly unsanitary-looking machete blade through my chest.
I never had any time to put up a fight. It happened so suddenly. And that sucks. It sucks hard. Had I known some creepy, hulking figure was sneaking up behind me I would have run like the wind, screaming my head off. There was no proverbial snapping of a twig or rustling foliage to alert me of an intruder’s presence. I didn’t even get to shout out into the darkness, “Okay guys, who’s out there? If this is some kind of joke, it isn’t funny!” I just stood there with my basket of firewood, and then BAM, I’m skewered meat. I immediately dropped my basket, clumps of wooden logs falling to ground.
No one was going to warm themselves by a roaring fire anytime soon.
Here is where I ask myself, “Why me?” Why did I have to be the first one to fall prey to some deformed, backwoods hillbilly? I know every trick in the slasher movie handbook. I even own a copy of How To Survive A Horror Movie – it would make a great coffee table book for the nicely furnished living room I was going to have in the apartment I would have rented after college. After all, I always saw myself as the perfect Final Girl, the last survivor of a bloody massacre in any given scary movie. Think Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) in Scream, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Laurie Strode (the inimitable Jamie Lee Curtis) in the granddaddy of all slasher flicks, Halloween. I was never a cheerleader. My grades were a priority. My boobs weren’t particularly bouncy (and inch below average, by pervert standards). And I never had a boyfriend.
That’s right, world. Yours truly died a virgin.
Talk about tragic, right?
I thought I’d lose my virginity by the time I was 20. Not too young to be reckless, but not too old to be embarrassing. I thought it would be with a guy like Adam Kozlowski, someone gentle and understanding. Maybe a guy who was in the same virgin boat as I was. (We’d both fumble our way through it together.) But the situation just never presented itself. And to be honest, sex wasn’t on my mind as much as it was among the girls who lived in my dorm during my freshman year. True, I fantasized about ripping Adam’s clothes off his body like some kind of overacting, hypersexual soap opera diva. But I didn’t make it out to be some mission I needed to accomplish after graduating from high school. And even if there were girls from my class who did lose it during high school, I never heard them obsess about it afterwards. Sure, sex wasn’t this big mystery for them anymore, but unlike the boys, you never got the impression that they wanted it every minute of every day of every week.
I enjoyed other things in life…like tearing through Stephen King’s Dark Tower series in one summer, bingeing on Game of Thrones (my Daenerys costume killed at last year’s Halloween ball), and attending the bi-annual Friday the 13th marathon at the Kensington Theater, an old moviehouse known for its midnight screenings of cult films and old-school concession stand with student-friendly prices. In other words, in addition to my schoolwork and other stuff that “mattered,” I focused my attention on geeky shit. I didn’t worry myself with a countdown to the moment some boy would take my Big V. I wasn’t going to contribute to any sexual statistics. It would not happen in one of those clichéd, collegiate scenarios in which I’d attend a kegger, get wasted, and hook up with some equally wasted guy on his stained futon under a Star Wars poster in a room illuminated by strings of Christmas lights and neon beer signs.
I like to think my life was far above the shenanigans displayed in most 90s teen movies. There were no pledges to hook up with someone by the end of spring break. (I spent the second week of March writing Walking Dead fanfic that I later submitted to a nerd mag that published similarly themed short stories.) I wasn’t in need of a makeover nor was I the object of some “guy bet.” I didn’t have to take off my glasses and shake my hair out of a ponytail to catch the eye of the star quarterback. And I certainly didn’t attend any wild house parties that featured a colorful array of stock characters with a Top 40-friendly soundtrack.
And now, here I was, a dead body with a gaping wound. When I fell to the ground, the already dark woods went completely black. When I came to, I thought the entire incident was a dream, some kind of bizarre hallucination, but I was now staring at my own lifeless body. It was a weird shift in perspective. So this is what an out-of-body experience is like. It was like looking into a strange mirror, only I didn’t have control of my reflection. I was just a crumpled heap of clothes. My sweatshirt was ruined. My ass didn’t look as huge as I thought it was. Bending down to get a closer look at my face, I saw the shocked expression on my face, which was now frozen and losing more color by the second. I then realized that I was pretty cute for a chick twenty pounds overweight. Too bad I couldn’t come back from my current state and carry on with my weekend with this new outlook. It would have been a much-needed boost of confidence.
A brief wave of sadness washed over me, but it was soon replaced with frustration brought on by a sense of overwhelming powerlessness. Maybe if I willed myself to get up, I could hop back in my body and stumble back to the cabin to warn the others. Maybe I wasn’t really dead. After all, where was the proverbial white light? Wasn’t this supposed to be the moment where I was led to the pearly gates of Heaven? I waited for what seemed like a solid ten minutes, and nothing happened. All I heard was the wind in the trees, a few crickets, and a silence that was as heavy as it was unsettling. My killer was nowhere in sight.
Perhaps I wasn’t greeted by a saintly figure in a white suit, recruited and dispatched here to check me into Heaven, because I didn’t really believe in that gloriously carefree utopia up in the clouds.
My relationship with religion is a funny thing. I was baptized and raised as a Catholic, but over the years, my view became more agnostic. Years and years of Catholic school instilled in me a vast knowledge of pain and suffering endured by groups of people in a time and place that supposedly existed eons before anything else in history. There were lots of melancholy songs sung by choirs at lots of Sunday Masses attended, and my classmates were taught to obey the Law of God – or else. But that fear never worked on me. I didn’t have to study the Holy Bible to know that being good to others was a basic rule every human being should follow in order to live a beautiful life.
Reincarnation was always a concept that fascinated me. I believed in the idea of the soul being rebooted, just like any beloved movie franchise from the 80s or 90s. Same basic essence, sensibility, and core instincts, but guided by a new director with a new cast of characters.
So where was my rebirth? Why was I stuck here in these woods with my former shell of a self? How long would this – for lack of a better word – purgatory last? If this was the waiting room for Heaven or whatever New Life I was about to enter, then I wanted to make a complaint to the Powers That Be. Was there a customer service representative I could speak to?
“Hi, I’d like to suggest creating some kind of clear signage and more comfortable accommodations for those of us waiting to move on from this plane of existence. K, thanks.”
Is this what that dead chick in The Lovely Bones went through after she was murdered? I read the book and saw that disappointing film adaptation starring Mark Wahlberg. I wish Peter Jackson were here to direct my own personal experience with the afterlife. It could use some beautiful visuals and dynamic cinematography right about now.
“Hello?” I shouted into the darkness.
“Can anyone hear me?”
Somewhere nearby an owl hooted.
“Thanks, Mr. Owl.”
If animals could hear me, maybe I could get them to cooperate and deliver a message to my friends!
As if, I thought to myself. Last time I checked, I wasn’t trapped in a Disney movie. And it didn’t seem like I possessed any supernatural abilities. When I bent down to pick up a rock, my hand passed through it, just like all of those movies in which a dead person has to adjust to his or her ghostly form. I couldn’t grab any physical objects.
I was a hologram.
“This is just great,” I said to myself. “I’m a ghost with nowhere to go.”