Chapter Seven

     Vera sat on the edge of the boat dock, dangling her legs in the water. It was so quiet and peaceful out on the lake, she didn't really feel like going back inside and having it out with Shelly. She sighed. Why couldn't he simply take the hint? Any other guy would have realized long ago that she simply wasn't interesting in him, at least not that way, but Shelly couldn't seem to get it through his head. He kept trying to push the issue, as if he thrived on rejection.

     She kicked her legs back and forth, enjoying the feel of the cool water on her bare feet. I came on this trip to get away from hassles, she thought, to just enjoy a quiet weekend in the woods. She didn't ned this crap from Shelly. He wouldn't be such a bad guy, she thought, if he would just relax and stop trying to show off and impress people, if he would just be himself. Why couldn't he just. . .

     Something grabbed hold of her leg.

     She gasped, lurching forward, almost falling off the dock into the lake as a hand sticking up out of the water clutched her around the ankle, trying to pull her down. She screamed, and clung to the dock with all her might, kicking with her leg, trying to wrench herself loose, but she felt herself slipping. . . and suddenly the hand let go.

     As she scrambled panic-striken back onto the dock, looking fearfully down into the water, a large figure in a black wet suit broke the surface of the water with a loud cry, brandishing a spear gun and wearing a white plastic hockey mask. Shelly pushed the mask back on his head and grinned at her.

     "You've just learned a valuable lesson," he said as she stared at him with stunned disbelief. "A beautiful girl like you should never go out in the dark alone."

     "Damn it, Shelly!"

     She came at him furiously, meaning to strike him. But seeing the expression on her face, Shelly quickly backed away.

     "Why do you do these stupid things," she said, in exasperation.

     "I have to," he replied defensively, raising his arms slightly as if to ward off a blow.

     "No, you don't have to," she said, making a face at him and mimicking his tone.

     "I just want you to like me," Shelly said dejectedly, avoiding her gaze and looking like a dog that had been kicked.

     "I do like you," said Vera, with exasperation. "But not when you act like a jerk."

     "Being a jerk is better than being a nothing," Shelly said, in a small voice.

     "I never said you were nothing," Vera protested.

     "You don't have to say it," he said miserably. "I can tell."

     "You're wrong," she said. "Shelly. . . "

     He hung his head and walked away, looking like a big black seal in his wet suit. She sighed, shaking her head. God, he was truly hopeless, she thought. He acted like an insecure twelve-year-old who would do anything for attention. Like the boys who used to chase her all the time when she was a little girl. The teased her, pulled her hair, and acted like utter idiots around her because it was the only way they knew who to show they liked her. He was making her crazy. She went back to the end of the dock and sat down again, staring out at the lake and wondering if she was going to survive this weekend.

     Shelly sat down on the porch swing and stared down at teh dock, where Vera was sitting with her back to him. He felt like a jerk. She's right, he thought miserably, a jerk is exactly what I am.

     The idea had been to make her laugh, but it had backfired, as his ideas always did. He would imaging the whole thing in his head, the way it would go, complete with dialogue, as if it were a movie that he was directing. He would see it played out in his mind frame for fram. He would leap up out of the awter in his mask and wet suit, Vera leaping back, frightened at first, then amused at the stunt and flattered by the trouble he had gone to on her account––but, of course, that was not how it turned out. These things never turned out the way he imagined they would.

     Shelly sighed heavily. I give up, he thought. What's wrong with me, anyway? Why can't I ever do anything right? I ought to just give up on the whole thing, forget about Vera, forger about a career in filmmaking, and get a job as a cook at a fast-food restaurant. The thought suddenly made him long for a double burger, a quarter pounder with cheese, a couple of orders of large fries, a large milkshake, and maybe a fried fish fillet with extra sauce and an apple turnover. He wondered if there were any fast-food places nearby. Or at least a pizzeria. He was starving.

     A shadow crossed one of the windows and he glanced up to see who it was, but the figure had already passed. Whoever it was had gone around the house, heading toward the barn. Shelly got off the porch swing and went down the steps toward the barn, carrying his mask and spear gun. He went up to the window and looked in, but it was way too dark to see anything. He tapped on the window.

     "Chuck? Chili? What're you guys doin' in there?" He grinned. "You guys doin' something I shouldn't see?"

     He pushed open the door and fumble for the light switch. Powerful fingers suddenly closed around his wrist in a vise-like grip and brutally yanked him forward. He gasped with shocked surprise, then he saw a flash of steel and opened his mouth to scream, but he never had the chance. The knife blade whistled through the air with the speed of a Japanese chef slicing up a stir fry, and Shelly felt the agonizing fire of its razor-sharp edge as is slashed across his throat.

     Vera shifted uncomfortably on the wooden boards of the dock and reached into her back pocket to see what was poking her. She pulled out Shelly's wallet. She had forgotten to give it back to him after that scene with the bikers at the convenience store. Out of curiosity, she opened it and started going through the contents. She paused at a photograph of Shelly and his mother ang guiltily closed the wallet. She looked around, but he was nowhere in sight. He must have gone back to the house, she thought. She started to get up, but as she rose, the wallet slipped out of her grasp and fell into the water.

     "Oh, that's just great," she said, looking down at the wallet floating in the lake.

     Fortunately, it was one of those codura nylon outdoorsman's wallets, used by fisherman and boaters because they floated, but it had drifted out of her reach and now she couldn't get at it from the dock. There was nothing else to do but go in after it.

     She walked back to the opposite end of the dock and stepped onto the ground, going down to the water's edge. Slowly wading out into the water until it was up over her knees, she reached out for the floating wallet and picked it up. As she shook it off, the sound of heavy footsteps on the dock above her made her look up.

     She saw a dark figure wearing a white hockey mask and carrying a spear gun walk out onto the dock. Shelly, she thought, was still playing his stupid games. Well, he probably wouldn't think it was so funny when he found out she had dropped his wallet in the water. Everything inside was soaking wet.

     "Hey. . . I dropped your wallet!" she called out. "I'm sorry!"

     She saw him raise the spear gun.

     "Hey, now cut that out!" she shouted. "That's not funny!"

     It was pointed straight at her. Suddenly she realized that the dark figure wasn't wearing a wet suit. It wasn't Shelly, but a much larger man, some huge and frightening stranger wearing Shelly's hockey mask and aiming Shelly's spear gun at her face. . .

     "Who are you?" she shouted, staring with sudden fear at the figure on the dock. "What are you doing?"

     Jason pulled the trigger. With a click and a sharp, hissing sound, the steel spear hurtled through the air and struck Vera in her left eye, penetrating deep into her brain. She fell back into the water, her right eye staring blindly at the sky, the shiny spear shaft protruding from her left eye socket as blood leaked out from around the window and mingled with the cold waters of Crystal Lake.

     Jason dropped the spear gun onto the dock and turned back toward the house. He looked up at the light in a second-floor bedroom window , where Andy and Debbie lay wrapped in each others arms.

     "That was the best one yet," said Debbie, sighing contetedly. "Was it you. . .me. . .or the hammock?"

      "I vote for me," said Andy, with a grin.

     "I vot for the hammock," she said, giggling as she sat up and lowered her feet to the floor. She stood and reached for her bathrobe.

     "Where are you goin'?" Andy said.

     "I'm taking a shower," she said, pausing at the door. "You ought to try it sometime."

     She went into the bathroom, flicked on the light switch, and turned on the shower.

     "Hey, Debbie, can you hear me?" Andy shouted from outside the bathroom door.

     She dropped her bathrobe to the floor. "Barely," she said.

     "I'm going downstairs to get a brew," he called, "You want one?"

     She got into the shower and started soaping herself. Downstairs, the front door opened and Jason walked in, carrying a machete from the barn. He slowly crossed the living room and started up the spiral staircase to the second floor, and the sound of their voices.

     As Debbie washed the soap out of her eyes, the door to the bathroom opened. She heard a banging noise and turned off the shower.


     She wiped the water out of her eyes and opened them. She could see a shadowy figure through the shower curtain. She drew the curtain back and saw Andy, upside down, walking on his hands. The banging sound had been him kicking the bathroom door open. She roller her eyes at him.

     "He came down out of his handstand, grinning,"Do you want that beer, or not?"


     "I'll be right back," said Andy. He kicked up into a handstand once again and walked out of the bathroom on his hands. Smiling, Debbie shook her head and pulled the shower cutain closed. He was always showing off. She turned the hot water back on.

     Andy kept his balance perfectly as he walked on his hands into the hall, whistling to himself. One of these days, he thought, I'll have to see if I've got enough nerve to try this going down the stairs. Wonder if I can make it without getting killed?"

     "Andy. . . " Debbie called out from the bathroom over the sound of running water. "Are you still out there?"

     He stopped and pivoted around on his hands. . . and found himself looking at a pair of dirty work boots. He glanced up and saw a large figure wearing a white hockey mask and brandishing a gleaming machete. He screamed as the razor-sharp blade chopped down savagely between his legs, slicing through his upside-down body like an ax splittle logs.

     Over the sound of the running water, Debbie thought she heard a yell, followed by a crashing sound. She finished rinsing off the soap, turned off the water, and stepped out of the shower.

     "Andy?" she called, reaching for a towel. "Are you still out there? I can't hear you! Will you quit fooling around? Cut it out!"

     She dried off, then wrapped the towel around herself and opened the bathroom door. She stuck her head out and looked up and down the hall, but there was no sign of him. He must've gone downstairs, she thought.

     "I changed my mind, I don't want that beer!" she shouted, looking down over the balcony as she walked down the hall to their bedroom, her bare feet almost stepping into a trail of blood. "Andy? Andy? Did you hear me about that beer?"

     She stopped at the bedroom door, listening for a moment, then sighed with exasperation and went inside. "I hate when you don't answer!" she said, slamming the door shut and plopping down into the hammock. She reached over to the nightstand, picked up a magazine, and settled herself down comfortably, flipping through the pages while she waited for him to return.

     With a soft, pattering sound, several large drops of blood fell down from above and splattered on the pages of her magazine.

     Not realizing what it was at first, Debbie frowned and touched the red drops with her fingertips. "Where's this coming from?" she wondered aloud. Then she looked up and saw Andy's mangled body draped over the rafters like a slab of beef hung up in a smokehouse.

     She opened her mouth to scream, but before she could utter a sound, Jason's hand came out from underneath the hammock and clamped down across her forehead. He held her head down while his other hand drove a carving knife up between the rope strands of the hammock and into the back of her neck. The long, sharp blade ripped through her trachea and vocal cords as she croaked horribly, choking on the blood that flooded her severed throat. The steel blade went completely through her neck and, in the last agonizing seconds of her life, Debbie saw the reddened tip of the carving knife rising up out of the hollow of her throat like some grotesque growth erupting from her body. Through a haze of red fire, she saw Andy's body up above her in the rafters, one arm dangling down, as if her were trying to reach out to her, and then all feeling went away as she slipped into oblivion.

     Chuck staggered back into the kitchen and started pawing through the pots and pans with a tremendous clatter. He giggled as he throught to himself, Man, am I wrecked! He selected a huge pot and poured a generous amount of corn oil into it, straight from the bottle, without bothering to measure. Then he turned the flame up all the way and tossed a couple of test kernels into the pot, just as the instructions on the jar said. Then he decided, the hell with it, and dumped a whole handful of popcorn kernels into the pot. He stared at it thoughtfully for a moment, then dumped in another handful just for good measure. Then he upended the jar over the pot and dumped it all in.

     He rummaged through the shelves, knocking over spice tins and containers of dried herbs, looking for some salt. He found something labeled "sea salt" and figured that was close enough. He shook a mess of it out into the pot, and for variety's sake, he added some pepper and some MSG. He shook the pot and after a few minutes, the popcorn started to pop. When he lifted the lid to check, popcorn exploded up into the air like sparks. He leaned in with his mouth open, trying to catch them on the fly.

     Chili came rushing into the kitchen. "Did I hear you screaming?" she said, looking at him anxiously.

     He grinned at her, his mouth crammed full of popcorn. The MSG actually helped the flavor. "It's probably Debbie having an orgasm," he said with his mouth full, replacing the lid of the pot. He frowned. "How come you don't scream when we have sex?"

     "Give me something to scream about," she said wryly.

     All the lights went out.

     Chili screamed.

     ""What's the matter?" Chuck said, frightened.

     "Nothin'. I was just practicing."

     "Well, don't do that to me!" he said, taking a deep breath to calm himself. The only light in the kitchen was the blue flame from the stove. Chuck quickly removed the pot from the flame before all popcorn burned. He heard Chili rummaging through the kitchen drawers, and a moment later, she clicked on a flashlight and handed it to him.

     "Here," she said, "go down in the cellar and check the fuse box."

     "In the dark?" he said. "Alone?"

     Ever since childhood, he'd had an irrational fear of the dark that, unlike other children, he had never managed to outgrow. When he slept alone, he still slept with a nightlight. In the darkness, coats hanging in open closets took on the ominous aspect of strangers lurking in the shadows, waiting to leap out and attack him. A bathrobe hanging on a hook screwed into the back of a door looked like some sinister ogre reaching out for him. Furniture took on soft, indefinite shapes in the darkness, which his imagination transformed into ravening monsters crouching and ready to spring. He knew, of course, that there were no strangers hiding in the closet, only coats, and that there was no ogre standing by the door, but just his bathrobe on a hanger, and that it wasn't a werewolf crouching in the corner, but merely an armchair. Intellectually, he knew that, but emotionally, he was convinced that strange, malevolent beings crept out of the woodwork when the lights where out.

     "Be a man, man," Chili said, taking a lantern down from a windowsill and setting it on the table to prime and light it. Chuck sighed with resignation and headed for the basement stairs.

     He opened the door and shined the light down the steep steps. He wrinkled his nose as he smelled the damp, musty odor coming up from the basement. Slowly, he tiptoed down the steps, talking to himself as he went.

     "There's nothin' to be afraid of, man" he said, moistening his lips as he carefully picked hs way down the stairs. "So what if it's dark? Nothin' to be afraid of."

     He got down to the bottom of the stairs and his bare feet stepped into water puddled on the cellar floor. Great, he thought, the damn cellar's flooded. The water came up to his ankles. He swallowed hard and tried not to think about all the things that could be swimming around in that dirty water–––rats, snakes, leeches––leeches? In a cellar? Come on, man, he thought, get it together. Don't go freakin' out just 'cause there's a little water on the floor!

     He swung the flashlight beam around and it fell on a lean, vicious-looking creature with a long snout and glittering eyes. Its teeth were bared in a feral snarl.

     "Aah! Jesus!" he cried, recoiling from the hideous-looking thing, raising his arm to ward off its leap, and then he realized that it was only a stuffed animal. Relieved, he exhaled heavily and approached it. It was a stuffed weasel, which he touched gingerly and grimaced. Who the hell would want to keep such a thing around? Well, apparently no one, because they had stuck it in the basement. he swept the beam around over wooden crates and moldering cardboard boxes, some closed and some open, containing all sorts of junk and bric-a-brac.

     The flashlight beam fell on an old 1940's nudie pinup. He grinned with appreciation. "All right!" As soon as he got the situation with the fuse box straightened out, he'd roll the poster up and take it with him.

     There was a noise behind him that sounded like a footfall on the stairs. He quickly spun around.

     "Who's there?"

     Upstairs, Chili discarded Chuck's popcorn disaster and started fresh with a new pot. It was a good thing Chuck didn't have to cook, she thought. He'd be utterly lost in a world with out burger drive-ins, taco joints and pizza parlors. She made a face as she dumped the greasy popcorn and started to shake the second pot. Suddenly, something heavy fell against the kitchen door.

     She picked up the lantern. "Chuck? You back already?"

     There was no answer.

     She hesitated, then reached out and pulled open the door. Shelly fell against the door frame, his eyes bulging, his mouth working as a ghastly, incoherent wheeze came out of him. His throat was slashed from ear to ear and blood was running down his neck onto his shirt. He stretched his hand out to her and blood trickled from his mouth.

     "Nice makeup job," said Chili, turning away from him. She wasn't falling for that trick again!

     He slumped down to the floor and fell forward on his face, blocking the door.

     She turned and looked at him irritably. he was getting to be a real drag. The deat of the party, she thought. "Stop foolin' around, man."

     As she died, she went back to shaking her popcorn.

     Chuck swept the flashlight beam all around the basement, but there didn't seem to be anyone else in the cellar. Yet he was certain he had heard something. Only the house settling, he told himself. Old places like this always creak and groan. He took a deep breath to settle his nerve and exhaled slowly. Damn, he hated being alone in the dark! It was giving him the creeps. If it wasn't for the flashlight, he'd never have been able to handle it. He moved deeper into the cellar, sweeping the flashlight beam back and forth and, finally, it fell on a gray steel fuse box mounted on the far wall. At last, he thought.

     He moved closer, peering at the box. It had been left open and he could see that it wasn't exactly up to code. The old fuses had been replaced with circuit breakers, but the wiring was all exposed and the old cloth insulation was badly frayed. Not very saft at all. Man, he thought, this is just not my day.

     He shined the flashlight into the box and saw that the main breaker had clicked into the "off" position. It must have been a power surge. Gingerly, her reached out, all to aware of the fact that he was standing barefoot in ankle-deep water, and quickly clicked the breaker switch back to the "on" position. Then he pulled his finger back quickly. The dim forty-watt bulb in the fixture overhead flickered on and Chuck sighed with relief that it was over and he could go back to his munchies. He was beginning to think he'd never get out to that basement.

     "That's better," he said, turning to go back upstairs.

     He gasped at the sight of the huge, backlit figure standing close behind him. The flashlight beam fell on the white hockey mask, and before Chuck coule take another breath, Jason's hand shot out and closed around his throat, seizing him and lifting him straight up off the floor. Chuck wriggled like a fish in the immensely powerful grip, his eyes bulging wildly as he vainly gasped for air.

     With one smooth motion, Jason hurled him right into the open fuse box. Electricity cracked as Chuck slammed back into the old wiring and his bare feet hit the water. Splayed out against the fuse box as if he were crucified, Chuck jerked and writhed as the juice coursed through his body and electrocuted him. Sparks shot out of the box, the light bulb overhead flickered madly, and the smell of burning flesh filled the musty cellar.

     Chili stood at the stove, frowning up at the lights as they started to blink rapidly on and off. "What's goin' on?" she said to herself, wondering what the hell Chuck was doing down there. Chuck, she thought, will you stop playing with the juice.

     She picked up the lantern and headed for the door. Shelly's body blocked the way. She sighed, rolling her eyes. Him, too, she thought. Who needs this? It was enough to make her want to scream.

     "Get up, Shelly," she said, prodding him with her foot. "Enough is enough!"

     He didin't move or respond.

     Chili set her teeth and bent down to shove him out of the way, but he was dead weight. Then she noticied how very still he was lying. She reached out to touch him and her hand came away stained with blood. She looked at her fingers in the light of the lantern and realized with a dreadful certainty that this wasn't makeup. It was the real thing.

     "Oh, my God. . ."

     Screaming, she recoiled from him and ran into the living room. The fireplace was blazing from the logs Chuck had added to it earlier. The flames threw garish shadows on the walls. In her panic, she didn't notice that there was an iron fireplace poker stuck between the logs.

     "Andy! Debbie!" she screamed as she ran up the spiral staircase to the second-floor bedrooms.

     "Shelly's dead! He's dead!"

     Jason's hand closed around the handle of the iron poker he had heated in the fire. Its tip was glowing red hot.

     Chili started screaming uncontrollably as she beheld the horror in Andy and Debbie's bedroom. Debbie was lying on her back in the net hammock, her eyes bulging, her face twisted into a terrifying grimace, a carving knife sticking up out of her throat as if it had spurted from her neck. Blood was puddled on the floor beneath her. Andy's body was draped over the rafters, his arm hanging down loosely, his eyes glazed, the blood from his grisly wound draining onto the floor as if he were a side beef in a kosher slaughterhouse.

     She fled screaming from the bedroom to the rail, racked with dry heaves. She hung over the rail, gulping for air, desperately trying to stop the tremors that had seized her.

     "Oh, my God. . . Help!"

     The lightrs continued to flash on and off wildly as she staggered down the stairs, knowing she had to get out of the house and flee, run for her life, get as far away from there as possible. She stumbled down the stairs, almost falling head-long, ran straight for the door. It was ajar and a strong gust of wind suddenly blew it open, slamming it against the wall. She screamed, thinking someone had thrown it open, and she turned. . .

     With a powerful thrust, the sizzling, red-hot poker was driven straight into her stomach. It penetrated deeply, crisping her sking and sending thin tendrils of smoke curling up from the cauterizing wound. The breath hissed out of her as she felt the shock of the brutal impact and the fiery agony of the glowing iron. She saw the loathsome eyes behind the stark white mask and then her vision blurred. She couldn't even scream. She was beyond screaming. She was beyond pain. And a moment later, she was beyond caring.

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