Michael reaches the climax of the story, his deep voice filling the room. He likes the way his story makes Beth squirm, but he’s overdoing the theatrics, trying to get a reaction from John who is as stoic as ever. I listen carefully, using the action of the story as an excuse to curl closer to Kyle on the couch.
“He lunged at the knife in his attacker’s hand. He wanted to kill the girl. He couldn’t help himself. Tears blurred his vision, but his anger propelled him forward to overpower the stunned girl. And without hesitation, he stabbed her in the stomach. One penetrating blow into the hot, slick flesh wasn’t enough for him. No. He stabbed the girl again, and again, and again until the blade finally slipped in his bloody hand, slicing his palm open. He walked away slowly. His shoulders hunched in defeat. He crumbles on the floor next to his dead lover’s body, weeping cradling the almost decapitated corpse.”
Michael stares at each of us in the silence, letting the images from his horror story sink into our psyche. I try not to laugh at Beth’s overreaction, with her iron clad grip around John’s arm, her face buried in his shoulder. Michael becomes more animated as he finishes.
Somehow, he has roped us into sitting next to the fireplace as he waves a flashlight in his face attempting to scare us all. This is not how I planned for the weekend to go, but I’m content right now, sitting next to Kyle who cannot take his eyes off of Michael and his story.
Once he feels like the silence has completed its purpose, Michael lowers his voice, angling the flashlight under his face so the contours of his features are more pronounced.
“He glared at the body of his attacker, angry he could not reanimate it for the sole purpose of killing her again. He didn’t want to remember what had happened and what he had done. He grabbed the spare tanks of gasoline from the shed, spreading the contents throughout the house, taking slight pause in his work to douse each body thoroughly. Outside, in the night, he threw a lit match on the wet steps, watching calmly as the cabin was quickly engulfed in flames, burning brighter than the stars in the sky. Satisfied. He walked away without looking back, not wanting to think of that dismal weekend ever again. Today, he walks among us as a broken man.”
Once Michael finishes his story the spell breaks, and Beth fills the silence. “Did they really have to be in a cabin in the woods? I’m terrified now.” Beth’s voice breaks as she cautiously looks from around John’s shoulder.
“So it worked.” Michael answers with a charming wink.
John gently pries Beth away from him, shaking his arm to regain blood flow. “At least someone makes it to the end. It should have been the black guy for once. You know, mix it up a bit. You could have even thrown in a lesbian, a samurai, or a witch. They are very underrepresented parties in the creepy campfire genre.”
“Or, their parents could have showed up and baked them cookies. Well, not in my story, buddy.” Michael retorts, slightly annoyed at John’s slight critique.
John ignores him turning to Kyle, “What did you think of it, Kyle Earl Scott?” He smiles at the mention of his full name. John’s the only one that calls Kyle by his full name. It’s weird.
“I think there was a great moral to the story.” Kyle looks between me and Beth as if he knows he’s about to say something he shouldn’t. “Chicks are crazy.”
“Shut up.” I playfully hit Kyle across the shoulder, but all of the boys can’t stop laughing.
“Ow, Natasha,” Kyle rubs his shoulder, speaking only after his fits of laughter subside. “It was only a joke.”
Beth doesn’t respond to Kyle’s comment at all. She’s still terrified from the story. She has her hands clasped together, shaking in her lap. Her makeup is smudged all over her face, but her hair is still tied back immaculately, a glimpse of Beth’s true nature when she’s not scared out of her mind. “Can someone please turn on the lights? And get some firewood? I’m freezing.” Beth starts rambling off demands that are hidden as requests.
I like the cold. I like the draft that’s natural to the cabin and the random creaks of the old wood. It comforts me to know that this place has history. People have lived here. People have died here. It’s wonderful.
Michael turns on the light, while John offers himself and Kyle to go get the firewood. Kyle agrees because he’s a nice guy, but I want him to stay. That is the whole point of the weekend, for me to be with Kyle. But, somehow, John got invited and then Beth and Michael. I’m just trying to make the best out of the situation. Think positive like the book my mom gave me tells me to.
John puts on his letterman jacket before leaving, beckoning for Kyle to follow, “C’mon. We have tiring work ahead of us.”
“Don’t worry Natasha.” Kyle gently adds, still trying to get away, “If a mad slasher woman comes barreling through the woods, Michael will be here to protect you.”
“Yeah. Whatever,” I can only roll my eyes at the ludicrous comment, before finally letting go of him.
“Fat chance,” Michael retorts from the kitchen. “I know what happens to people like me. We die. First sign of trouble, I’m hoping in my car and driving until I get a signal on my phone. It’s everyman for himself. Survival of the fittest. It’s only natural for-” The rest of his rant is lost in muffles as he begins to stuff his face with food.
“You don’t mean that,” Beth snaps, slowly getting back to her normal self. She’s opened a compact mirror and has begun to put back on the foundations of her face.
“It’s okay,” John remarks in the frame of the door, obviously eager to get out into the night. “If you scream loud enough, we’ll come running back.” Kyle slips out the door behind John and the wait for him to come back begins.
“You ladies hungry?” Michael momentarily surfaces from in the kitchen, offering us a plate of food.
Beth waves him away with a hand, and I leave as an answer. I don’t like either of their presence here, ruining my weekend away with Kyle. I walk upstairs to my room. My parents and I move around a lot because bad things always seem to happen around us.
This cabin has been in the family for years, and it just so happens that this year we live close enough to it that I can use it on a regular basis, instead of as a vacation destination. I haven’t been back long enough to redecorate my room, so it is still filled with all of the things I loved when I was seven. Random CDs and a picture of me and my best friend at the pool are all scattered on my dresser. Her name was Alice. I saw her drown. Then we moved for the third time in two years.
The Secret, a book my mom gave me so long ago but I only recently cracked open, lays on the bookshelf as the only new addition. My mom gave it to me as a not so subtle hint. I resented her at first, but I’ve been trying to follow what it says about positive thinking lately. If the start of this weekend is any indication, positive thoughts don’t work.
Someone knocks on my door. Michael pops his head around the wood, with the last vestiges of his sandwich disappearing between his lips. If I’m not with Kyle, I want to be alone, but Michael can’t seem to get the hint.
“Go away,” Even before I spoke, I knew my command would fall on deaf ears. He walks into my room anyway and sits next to me on my bed. Wait. Positive thoughts. Hopefully, Michael will get hungry again and walk away.
Michael begins to do the most irritating thing he could possibly do right now. He opens his mouth and words start to come out. “I’m trying to figure you out. You invite us all down here yet-”
“I didn’t invite all of you.” I interrupt him, trying to make it clear that this weekend has not been going the way I wanted it to. If he knows that I positively don’t want him here then maybe he’ll go away. “I only invited Kyle.”
“Oh, if that’s the case then let me tell you right now that it’s not gonna happen, sweetheart. Trust me.” Michael smiles as if he’s laughing at an inside joke. “Don’t waste anymore time on him.”
Positive thoughts aren’t working. Michael isn’t going away, so I have to make him got away.
“Follow me,” I say with a smile, instantly switching strategies.
“Um, okay,” Michael stutters before stupidly following me into the bathroom. “What’s going on?”
“I just want to show you something,” I turn on the shower first then quickly look for the knife I used to keep in here. “Here it is.”
I turn around and jam the dull knife in Michael’s neck. He doesn’t even have enough time to look surprised. A soft gurgle escapes his red lips, but the steady rhythm of the shower drowns out his muffled screams. His fingers weakly grab at me as I stab him again with more precision, making sure to hit a major artery. He crumples on the floor in front of me. For fun, I stab him in the chest; his last heartbeat reverberates from the steel of the blade to tingle the palm of my hand.
“Everyman for himself, right?” I whisper mockingly over Michael’s corpse. Not wasting any time, I drag his body over to the bathtub. First, I lift his legs into the tub, then the rest of his body. I’m covered in blood so I decide to take a shower while I’m here. The water feels nice cascading down my back as I straddle Michael’s body, my feet completely immersed in his blood. With one down, I have two more to go before I’m alone with Kyle. This weekend might not be so bad after all.
After I’m all cleaned off, I hear boots and the door opening downstairs. That has to be Kyle returning. I can’t help the smile that engulfs my face and the excitement I feel as I put on fresh clothes.
I reach the bottom of the steps before I can see Kyle. He’s smile beaming as he puts his logs on the fire with one hand, using the other to brush leaves and twigs out of his dirt hair. If we were alone, Kyle and I would be sitting next to the fire together. He would whisper in my ear and I would-
“Where’s Michael?” Beth interrupts my thoughts.
“I don’t know,” I answer with a shrug of my shoulders, switching my attention from Beth to John. “You guys didn’t bring back enough firewood.”
“That’s all we could find. We checked everywhere,” John shares a laugh with Kyle for some reason.
“Well you didn’t go in the shed. That’s where we keep most of the firewood. Follow me John. I’m going to need some help,” This time John follows me out the door, and we make the short trek to the shed.
“So why do you call Kyle by his full name?” I ask, wanting to know before I kill him.
John opens up easily, “With a name like Kyle Earl Scott, how could you not?” John gets oddly animated when talking about Kyle’s name. “It’s so perfect. Each part of his name could be a first name. And it’s like you just know one of his parents wanted to call him Earl and the other didn’t want their son to go through his childhood years with the name of a grandpa. And it’s just one of those names you have to say it fully because it just sounds better. And of course, once I started calling him by his full name, I couldn’t stop.”
We finally make it to the shed, and I let John enter first. I follow, but instead of going to the piles of firewood, I go to the back of the shed, grabbing my axe. I stand there for a moment contemplating what John said about Kyle’s full name. Kyle Earl Scott. Kyle Earl Scott. Kyle Earl Scott. It sounds nice, but I don’t like it. Kyle Scott sounds better.
I turn around and John is still bent over the pile of firewood. Without a moment’s hesitation, I swing the axe high, aiming for his neck. I feel a satisfying thunk as the blade of the axe connects with bone. Blood splatters against the wall and along the piles of wood but thankfully none gets on me. I could explain one costume change but not two. Beth already thinks I’m weird.
John slumps onto the ground, his head jutting off at an unnatural angle but still connected to his body. I’m impressed with my work. John has a thick neck, but I easily cut through half of it with one swing. Those trips to the gym have been paying off.
I want to move him into my bathroom so all of the bodies are in the same place. I wrap John’s body in a tarp and drag him to the back door of the house. I make sure Beth and Kyle Scott are not around before entering the house. For being a starting football player, John is oddly light. I get him to my bathroom without any problems. When I come back downstairs Kyle Scott and Beth are sitting on the couch together, looking worried.
“What’s wrong?” I feign concern.
“Michael. We can’t find him anywhere and his car is still here.” Beth answers truly concerned.
“Where’s John?” Kyle Scott asks, his eyes wide with panic.
“He’s still getting firewood. Calm down.” I answer, sitting next to him on the couch and grabbing his hand. “Maybe Michael saw trouble and left. Everyman for himself and whatnot.” I say with a halfhearted laugh.
“But his car is still here.” Beth says, clinging to logic.
“We can look for them again if you want,” I say, giving in so I can get her alone with me. “You and I can check upstairs and Kyle Scott can stay down here.”
“What did you call me?” Kyle Scott asks stunned.
“Kyle Scott. I like the way it sounds.” I look at him, wanting him to smile like he did when John said his full name, but I don’t even get a smirk. That will change when we’re finally alone.
I walk upstairs and Beth follows. “We should look in my room first since it’s at the top of the stairs.”
Beth can’t find the words to answer but she nods. Beth had just finished putting herself back together, now she’s starting to unravel again. Her usually pristine nails are chewed to bits. Her clothes seem ruffled and her face seems to be riddled with lines. She is stressing herself out and it is tearing her apart. If I toyed with her a bit more, I bet she would go crazy and take her own life. But I don’t have that kind of time.
I slip into the bathroom, grabbing the knife I used to kill Michael. I do have some time. Maybe I can gag her and have a little fun. I could get rid of the rest of her nails or make my own lines on her body. The knife is old and dull so it will hurt, and I will be able to see the pain in her eyes. I scurry out the bathroom in my excitement, careful not to open the door too wide.
Immediately, I see the red cover of The Secret flying at my face, knocking me on the head. Someone throws me against the wall and my feet give out from underneath me.
“It’s you. You’ve done something to them?” Beth says calmly while kicking the knife out my hand. For once someone has taken me by surprise. “Michael goes to look for you then we can’t find him. John gets wood with you, and he still hasn’t returned. Where are they? What have you done?” Again her questions demand answers.
I try to get off the floor but she kicks me back down. Instead, I tackle her knees, taking her down with me. We grapple on the floor, but I easily gain the advantage. I wrap my arm around her neck, pulling tight. She struggles. Who knew Beth would be the fighter in the group? I like it. I like not knowing if she will overpower me or not. She struggles and struggles until she’s finally still in my arms.
“Is everything okay up there?” Kyle Scott yells from below while running up the stairs. Panicked, I quickly kick Beth’s body into the bathroom, unable to fully close the door before Kyle Scott finally barges in.
Getting over my initial panic, I can’t help but smile. We’re finally alone.
“What’s going on? Where’s Beth?” He belts, frantically walking to the other end of the room as if one of his friends will magically appear.
“She’s down the hall, looking for Michael.” I answer calmly.
“I heard something in here, though. It sounded serious.”
“That was just my book falling.” I lie unconvincingly as Kyle Scott’s eyes find the smallest book on the floor. He raises an eye, trying to connect the amount of commotion with the small novel. I should really get better at lying on the spot. I don’t want to have to kill Kyle Scott. That would make this weekend a waste.
His eyes find the knife instead still coated with Michael’s blood and his eyes turn wide. “John never came back. Michael is gone and now Beth. What have you done, Natasha?”
“Nothing,” I answer. “I just wanted for us to have a nice weekend together and they were in the way.” I try to grab Kyle Scott’s arm and pull him toward the bed but he doesn’t budge.
I can tell that he’s not taking it well. My parents didn’t take it well the first time they found out either. I don’t want to hurt him, but I might be forced to. Maybe, he will see that I did this all for him.
“Natasha. Where are they?” Kyle growls at me, demanding an answer. I point to the bathroom. He gently tries to open the door but is stopped by Beth’s body. He steps over her body and disappears behind the door.
“No! No!” Kyle Scott yells as he fully begins to comprehend what I’ve done.
“But we’re alone now. We can be together.” I try and convince him through the door, but I pick up the knife in preparation.
“I’m gay, Natasha!” Kyle Scott yells barreling through the bathroom door, blood on his hands and tears streaming down his face. I see the fury in his eyes, and he lunges at the knife in my hand.
I’ve already been told what’s going to happen next. I’ve already lived this life. This is the story of how I die.