Buzzcut: The Massacre Begins
Ruth and the other kids screamed at her to run, but Candace was already running. She ran faster than Ruth had ever seen. From inside the school bus, she watched her best friend gasp for air. Her small breasts jiggled beneath her tattered T-shirt. The masked psycho must’ve ripped it somewhere in the woods. You could see her bra. Dear God, Ruth thought, she’d be so embarrassed to die looking like that.
The kids in the bus sucked in their collective breaths, the surprised air whooshing inside them, as Candace stumbled and groped blindly for the ground. She recovered. The masked psycho was catching up, his chainsaw wielded casually in one hand. Its roar might be the last thing Candace hears, Ruth thought. Her mother had warned her against this trip. Panicked anew, Ruth screamed for her to run faster, she was almost safe.
The masked psycho was clever, though. He’d been slaughtering barely-dressed teens for years. As Candace leapt over a dry ditch, a few hundred feet from the bus, the psycho hurled his chainsaw. Candace was slim and strong. Ruth often complimented her figure. But the weight of the chainsaw, its mad spinning propulsion, was too fiendish to escape.
There was a burst of blood, followed by Candace’s startled yelp. The kids on the bus couldn’t stop watching. If they defied this horror by not turning away, perhaps it would vanish. Ruth, however, turned away. Her screams hadn’t helped, so she stopped. In the field, Candace cried out in agony. Soon enough, though, she didn’t. The kids kept screaming. Ruth wished they’d be quiet. She worried that every time she remembered Candace, she’d hear only the screams.
Masquerade Madness II: Butcher in Disguise
No one expected Ruth to dance. She was the sort of girl who looked at the popular boys a moment too long. Notice them, Candace had urged, but don’t stare.
The two girls stepped cautiously through a darkened doorway allegedly leading to a bathroom. Candace had big news and Ruth knew she’d be the first to hear. A cackle erupted from a dark corner, and Candace grabbed Ruth’s arm. The scared girl was obligated to be scared—she was dressed like a Japanese schoolgirl. Ruth placed her hand over her friend’s, promised it was just a cat. Something smells rotten in this house, Candace said, the scare forgotten.
The girls found the bathroom. It was small and the exposed bulb cast long, dripping shadows over their faces. A green vinyl curtain obscured the shower. Anyone could be waiting to leap out. Grinning and clapping, Candace told her best friend that Brock finally said he loved her. Isn’t that the best! I was starting to worry!
Ruth was still worried. That ugly sound hadn’t been a cat—she just hated seeing Candace scared. Something did smell rotten in this house. While her friend’s face froze in bafflement, Ruth ripped open the shower curtain. Enough grime for ten showers, all of it green and brown and clinging. That’s fucking gross, Candace said. Ruth agreed but relief washed over her anyway. Ruth knew it was her job to point out things only a plain girl could see. She had opinions about Brock, but they could wait. She was dressed liked a doctor, complete with white lab coat. Her mother thought a nurse’s outfit would make her look cheap.
Relieved, Candace opened the bathroom door, and Ruth watched the meat cleaver sink into her face. Too shocked to scream, she watched Candace twirl around the bathroom, blood spraying in jets, arms flailing she sank to her knees, to her hands and then flat on the tiles.
Ruth hadn’t seen the psycho. He remained in the dark, in the adjoining room. It never occurred to her the psycho might kill her next. She knelt beside Candace’s corpse, her lab coat soaked with red. She started to cry, wondering how she’d break the news to Brock.
Maniac Inside Me III: Weekend Cabin Nightmare
Ruth read quietly in the den. It was a Western, one she had read before. She liked confronting moral ambiguities safely wedged inside an alien world of dust, pistols and sassy madams. Finally, she placed the book face down on her lap. She’d read the same page five times.
She was kidding herself trying to concentrate on anything, anything but Candace’s whispered confession at the bonfire that she and Brock planned to finally have sex that night. He won’t wait much longer, she’d said. Besides, maybe I’ll like it. Ruth had smiled and hugged her friend. She knew Brock had already scored two blowjobs that weekend from sluts now upstairs having sex with their actual boyfriends. She knew to hold her tongue.
Just as the two girls started back toward the bonfire, the class trickster popped out from behind a tree. He wore a rubber werewolf mask and snarled. After they recovered their breaths, the girls laughed. After he pulled off the mask, Candace pecked his cheek. From that moment forward, Ruth didn’t exist for him.
She jerked in her chair upon hearing Candace call her name. She followed the voice and found Candace on the upstairs landing, leaning over the banister and dressed in a paisley silk robe. Ruth’s mother forced her to wear a flannel nightgown to bed. As her best friend cooed about her wonderful night, Ruth smiled. There were things Candace needed to know, but she didn’t need to know them now.
Just as she started describing how Brock had decorated their room, a masked psycho reached from behind, grabbing her head. He’d waited in the darkness. Ruth gaped in shock as the masked psycho, with his grimy hands, twisted Candace’s head until her neck broke. The only thing louder than the snap was the silence that followed.
So quickly she rushed upstairs, Ruth didn’t think to beware the killer. She gathered Candace’s body beside the banister and cried. She cried, waiting for their friends to hurry out of their rooms. She waited a long time.
Babysitter’s Blood IV: The Line Goes Dead
Ruth hustled down the lane, past one tract home after another. How would she find Candace? All the streets looked alike. They were all named for trees that didn’t grow anywhere near. The cell phone clutched to her ear, she promised Candace that she’d be there soon. If she didn’t make it, the police surely would.
Her best friend whimpered like a scared little girl. She was a scared little girl. He’s going to kill me, she cried. She had locked herself in the closet, but the killer was already in the house. Ruth, gasping for breath, asked if she’d seen his face, but Candace was so terrified, she started rambling. She kept saying I love you, but Ruth had no idea who she wanted to hear it. She didn’t think it was her. Candace had never said that before despite Ruth saying it the one time Candace talked her into drinking a Hurricane.
The night was chilly, the streets empty, but beckoning rectangles of light poured through the windows. Her mother had wanted to live in a neighborhood like this, but she settled for what life gave her. Ruth’s face brightened when she saw the two-story tan house with the blue shutters. She yelped in relief and told Candace to run out of the house. She’d brought her pepper spray. What if he catches me, Candace gasped. Ruth promised that wouldn’t happen.
The line went dead and Ruth pushed herself to run harder. She was about to barge though the front door when she heard a terrified scream from upstairs. She looked up at the windows, finally finding Candace. Someone was strangling her with his bare hands. Ruth felt sick, wanted to storm the house, but the front door was locked. Helpless, she stumbled back out to the front lawn.
The struggling twosome stumbled into the light spilling from another room. It was Brock, handsome but nothing else. He stopped choking Candace but kept her throat in his grip. He glared down at Ruth. The window went dark.
Slumber Party Slaughter V: Can’t Stop the Carnage
Ruth watched a slasher movie on basic cable. It was old and unloved. All the commercials were for party lines and household gadgets that could be hers for three easy payments.
Candace hadn’t come back downstairs. She’d mumbled something about a shower and left over a half-hour ago. Ruth was slightly relieved. She didn’t know what to say to her best friend. The only thing she knew about boys was that they knew nothing about her.
Sometimes she wondered why Candace was so loyal. She was pretty and friendly and smart and caring. Everyone at school adored her. Her perfection was so benevolent, not even the bitchy girls could bring themselves to hate her. They told her Brock was a fool who liked to break hearts, and Ruth watched Candace smile sadly, pretend to believe them.
On TV, a masked psycho chased some dumb girl with big breasts as she raced toward her friends waiting on the school bus. Dumb bitch, of course he’d catch her. Men always catch girls like that. After a mouthful of popcorn, Ruth decided to check on her. Walking upstairs, she wondered what she’d tell her mother. She didn’t like Ruth staying over all night, convinced there would be drinking, convinced there would be boys. She wished more than anything her father hadn’t left. Things would be different. Maybe not better, but different.
Through the bathroom door, Ruth heard the shower’s steady rhythm. She knocked and called Candace’s name. Nothing. After thirty seconds of knocking and calling, she opened the door. It took her a moment to realize the blood wasn’t supposed to be there. It took her a moment to realize Candace had lost too much to live. The wounds on the insides of her wrists looked like matching mouths, always hungry for more.
Ruth backed away, trembling. She dashed to the banister and called down for Candace’s mother. She was probably passed out drunk in her sewing room. Ruth scrambled downstairs and dialed for an ambulance. When the operator asked her address, she reddened with shame, unable to remember the street number.
Father’s Day VI: Girls’ Night Out
Candace liked to make fun of Ruth, already eight years old and still afraid of the video store’s horror section. They’re gonna getcha, she teased. They’re gonna cut you to itty-bitty bits and pieces. Ruth blushed and followed, her shoulders slouched. She was worried Candace would figure out she was a dweeb, so she didn’t say how wonderful she felt.
Candace tugged on the coat Ruth’s father wore while he paid for the rentals. In his warm voice, he chided his daughter’s friend for being so cruel. He might leap from the shadows when she least expected it. I’m not scared, the little girl insisted, chin thrust high. Ruth watched her, making meticulous notes.
He asked Ruth if she knew Candace was kidding, and she nodded her head. Videos in hand, he knelt before his daughter, put his arm around her. Still smiling, he told her not to worry. Anytime you get scared, he said, I’m right here.
Thomas Kearnes had to come out three times in his life. First, as a gay man. Second, as an atheist. And finally, as a socialist. Originally from Podunk East Texas, he now lives near Houston. His work has appeared in Hobart, Word Riot, SmokeLong Quaterly, The Adroit Journal, Eclectica, A cappella Zoo, BULL: Men's Fiction, wigleaf, Gulf Stream Magazine, Split Lip Magazine, Sundog Lit, and dozens more. He tries to maintain a reputation among LGBT venues but, oddly enough, has more luck selling queer fiction to mainstream publications. He holds a master's degree in film writing from UT-Austin. He works as a cashier. He tries to find the humor in this development.