Out on the cabin’s porch, the morning after their first night of filming sequel number four. Hot out, only a fitful, feeble breeze like the hopeless breaths of the slain. The scream queen focuses her binoculars on a mangy squirrel scrambling up a pine tree, but then the squirrel disappears, and there’s nothing to see.
Frank and the others are drinking coffee in their underwear. Faded boxer shorts, matching bra and panty sets, bed-wrinkled flesh. A cigarette in Frank’s lips. Someone suggests a swim in the lake.
Frank says, “Too early,” but soon they’re running toward the water. Frank doesn’t call out to her, but one of the other girls does. “You coming, Carly?”
The scream queen shakes her head. She watches Frank’s boxers fall from his pale ass like a raggedy Band-Aid from a wound.
Then there’s a series of splashes. Heads bob up, marring the lake’s smooth surface. The heads laugh and screech.
If they were filming right now and she were the killer, what would be her strategy? Would she sneak up from below and pull them under one by one? Or play shy, refuse to shed her own clothes upon entering the dark water, a weapon secreted in her pocket? When her first victim screams and blood gurgles to the lake’s surface, the others would suspect something bestial, an alligator perhaps. Certainly not the scream queen.
She is always a victim. Because she’s female. Because her legs look great in cut-off shorts. Because Frank says that when she opens her throat, every cock within earshot throbs.
Frank is their director. He’s also the killer: Victor. Because chasing the scream queen and the other girls, machete in hand, gets him off. Frank isn’t ashamed to admit this. The machete is obviously a penis, he says. The girl’s screaming mouth is obviously a pussy. He says a monster terrorizing a pretty girl is the oldest fetish there is.
The scream queen used to think Frank was onto something. He’d be pursuing her through brambles, and she’d be running and screaming, and yeah, she’d get hot thinking about what he was going to do to her later in their shared bedroom in the cabin. She’d think words like ravage and plunder. She’d throb too.
But lately it all seems kind of pathetic. Ravage and plunder mean to destroy or to ruin, but last night when Frank chased her through the woods with that machete and that grin, she just felt tired. Like anything else you do again and again, running from a psycho killer gets monotonous.
Watching again and again gets old too, which is why the last sequel didn’t get nearly as many views on YouTube.
She told Frank that he ought to change things up. “Maybe I could be the killer,” she said.
Frank shook his head. “That works in a rape revenge film, but those don’t have good sequel potential. And anyway, not really my thing.”
“Then at the very least you could swap out the machete for scissors or an axe or, hell, a sharpened pencil.”
Frank wouldn’t have it, though. He said, “Victor is a machete man.”
The scream queen rolled her eyes, but only after Frank turned away. He’s a sensitive guy, Frank. Earlier this morning from their cabin bedroom window, heart pounding, the scream queen watched a hawk pluck a rabbit from the earth like a fat tuber. Fifteen minutes later, that rabbit was a bloodied scrap of fluff beneath the hawk’s talons. Frank called to her from the shower, “When I get out, I’m going to rip you wide open, Baby. You should see how huge my cock is just thinking about it.” She said, “A hawk doesn’t need its prey to tell it what great big talons it has.”
The shower ran for several more minutes, but Frank didn’t make another sound. She’d taken him by surprise. Slaughtered him so quick, he didn’t have a chance to scream.
Michelle Ross’s debut story collection, There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You, won the 2016 Moon City Press Fiction Award and is forthcoming in February 2017. She serves as fiction editor for Atticus Review.