Dear Final Girls,
You dont have time to read this, I know. Youre probably in the third reel already, most of your friends slaughtered, a mask or a shape stalking you, always there when you least expect it. Soon youre going to have to rise to a level you didnt know you had in you. Only you can rebalance the world, temporarily.
But, on the chance your story hasnt started yet, on the chance its still the summer before your senior year, say, and youre clutching a stack of books to your chest, wearing a path between your house and the library or volunteer shift or nursing home or wherever it is you go to establish youre not putting yourself in harms way – if thats you, if the leaves havent turned yet, if youve still never seen what a blade can do to a neck when applied with the proper violence, then listen for a moment, please?
This is life and death were talking about.
Soon a slasher will rise. It may be the left-for-dead victim of some grade school prank or it may be your best friend in a latex mask, but, as soon as some event gets planneda party, a dance, a reunion, a holiday, it doesnt matter so long as theres enough bodies for a massacrethat will wake your slasher from its long slumber.
The two of you are already bound together, your timid naiveté the only thing that can finally, desperately get turned inside out enough to put this slasher back to sleep for a while. You, not your friends. Simply put, they don’t have what it takes. Look at them. Arent they already engaged in some sort of violence? Be it social cruelty or slow self-destruction, their pendulum, as it were, its not cocked back far enough to knock a slasher down. Yours, though. Youre still at the top of that dangerous arc. Its all flowers and unicorns where you are now. But theres blood waiting for you on the back end of that swing. Theres gallons of blood, walls of gore.
This is all part of the process. Dont worry.
Bloodlust can only be counteracted by that specific timidity about lust you already have. Its a dance older than either of youthan any of us. Its the dynamo that surges the world ahead year after year.
And I dont mean to deny you that cathartic self-realization when you finally take up that machete or that axe or that chainsaw. This is a baptism, we all understand. In blood. And, that way you dont smile in that slowed-down instant when your hand closes on the grip of that machete, on the handle of that axe, the way your lips are set in a grim line when you pull the ripcord on that chainsaw, its one of the more perfect moments there is, yes.
But at what cost, right?
Your friends, your family, your pets, theyre all gone by now. Not just decapitated, either. Theyve been pummeled and eviscerated, dismembered and posed. That hall you walked down to get to this last room, where youll face your demon, your loved ones bodies were spring-loaded all along it, werent they? The worst jack-in-the-box nightmare ever.
You will live through this, yes.
But youll also have to live with this.
There is another way, though.
At some point in this weekend or dance or graduation, youll knock this slasher down, in what seems like a permanent way. I know it doesnt seem possible, but trust me. Whether with bullets or fire or a truck on the interstate, this slasher will get laid out, left for dead.
Its so you can breathe.
This is your moment to fall to your knees. Not in celebration, but in exhaustion. Now the tears can come. Now you can look around at what used to be your high school gym, your familys lake cabin.
Its bad, yes.
Its bad, but you lived.
That smile you dont quite allow to happen? We can see it anyway. We can feel it on our own faces.
Except, we know where we are in the story, too.
You think its over, dont you? The slashers finally, finally dead and its over, its done, no more monsters, no more killings, no more blood. Nothing could live through that.
If only these stories were that easy.
Some stories, though, theyre meat grinders.
Moments after you stumble outside, to what you think is going to be the arms of the police, the lenses of the reporters, the arms of your aunt and uncle just getting back to town, moments after you leave this gym flooras if you can ever leave a scene like this behind youan eyelid will peel back all at once. An index finger will twitch. And now its starting all over.
But it doesnt have to.
Granted, a chest pierced with .45 slug after .45 slug isnt quite enough to get the job doneevil doesnt have a heart to blast throughbut there are bodily mechanics that even the most wronged, driven slasher cant get around.
While your slashers down, instead of stumbling away to the light, step back into the darkness for a few moments more. Kneel down over this body. Kneel down with a blade, or with teeth, with whatevers handy.
Remove the right boot.
Start with the Achilles tendon.
You might have to saw a little, but try leaning down hard on the ball of the foot, to stretch that tendon even whiter. Youll have to scream while doing this. Theres no other way.
The sound of that tendon rupturing, though, youll want to hold your breath for that. To hear it. To feel its quick release, its wet snap.
Now take the left boot off, and repeat. If you only take away one of your slashers ankles, then all youve done is given it a scary limp, which, in the peculiar algebra of horror, will only serve to make it somehow faster. Both ankles, though, and its slashing radius is significantly reduced.
If your slasher doesnt wake from that second tendon slithering back up into its dark calf, then you may want to do whatever damage you can to the patellar tendon as well. This is directly below the kneecap. And, those two rubber bands behind the knee, that feel like steel? Theyre not. Feel them now, so you know what Im talking about.
Scissors will get that job done.
If youre in a high school, check the closest teachers desk.
Right knee, left knee. Snip snip snip.
After this, you can go higher on this body to satisfy your rage, yes, to try to extract whatever justice you can from this moment. You can get involved with the elbows and fingers, even the shoulders if you understand where to apply pressure with ball-joints. But understand that this is exactly what the slashers waiting for. If you could see behind that mask, youd know that one eye is already open. And, while slashers dont feel pain like we do, still, it knows its legs are no longer its own. It knows its going to have to finish this with its hands, and whatever blade it can grub up from the bloody mess of a floor.
And theres always a blade.
Its vital that you understand this.
So, stay at knee-level on this slasher, and then back away, because you know its going to sit up from the hips, faster and quieter than youd think it could manage.
If it happens to get your hair, thenyouve still got your blade, dont you?? Hair grows back. Heads dont.
Now you can walk out, into those end credits. But dont expect applause. Youve graduated, see? It was that kind of ceremony. Youre no longer the timid bookworm you were, once upon a lifetime. Youve faced things most in your community have never even dreamed of. Youve faced things that would have killed them in the opening scene.
The girl you used to be, shes dead.
You stand taller, now.
At least for the moment.
What you do next, its walk stone-faced through that crowd, past your aunt and uncle, past the one deputy who somehow survived, past the paramedics trying to lure you into their ambulance, trying to pull you back into decent society.
Walk through them all, final girl.
And keep that blade.
The sequels already starting.
Yours in blood,
Laurie, Nan, Sid – all of us
[Editor’s Note: This is an original piece of work by author Stephen Graham Jones and I’m thrilled to be giving it a home at Shock. You can find his novel – The Last Final Girl – on Amazon now via this link.]