This is the part where she should start running, like the last girl alive in a horror movie. But she knows that no matter how fast she goes, the wrong person will always find her. This one isn’t necessarily unattractive, and he didn’t show up late, start the date with some lame joke, or kill all of her friends before going after her, too. He doesn’t seem to be carrying a weapon, either, and she suspects there’s nothing supernatural lurking beneath his wrinkled blazer. But he also wouldn’t shut up about fantasy football during dinner, and when the bill finally came for the cheap sushi, of course he only paid for half.
When she asked him what he did for a living, he waved a hand and said that he freelanced, which she understood to be at least a little bit dangerous, but not in a sexy way. What she wants is Freddy Krueger, someone who follows her even into her dreams. What she wants is a chainsaw massacre—for someone to investigate her from the inside out.
There have been some close calls, like the high school boyfriend, the football player who proposed to her at the prom. Sometimes his eyes had glowed yellow in the night, and there was no telling what he would turn into under a full moon. But even his midnight sprints through the darkness always brought him right back to where he started. And then fresh out of college she met the French restaurateur, the one who closed the bistro just for her on their third date, locking the doors and opening a bottle of his most expensive wine, and then hoisting her onto the bar counter, taking what he already assumed was his. He bit her neck like he’d drink all of her and still wouldn’t have had enough. But those were still just the opening scenes. By the end, she could predict his every move. Always the same wine, always the same counter, as if he only knew his way around the smallest of spaces.
“This isn’t going to work for me,” she says later to the freelancer, interrupting the obligatory goodnight kiss at the door of her building. If he had been a vampire he would have needed to be invited inside, but she would rather he not even have to ask. She wanted him to pick the lock and wait for her there in the dark, then chase her when she tried to run. And it’s difficult to explain this to her friends, mostly the kind of girls who get snatched up by the first guy to show any interest, brutally slaughtered in the early scenes. Girls like that always fall for one of the usual tricks. They don’t know what to do at crunch time. They move too slowly, lacking the appetite for the chase.
“I don’t get it,” he says, pulling away from her. “I thought we were having fun.”
She had been waiting for some sort of sign, maybe a series of mysterious phone calls interrupting dinner or an allusion to a dark secret which would be revealed later. Now she tries to picture his previous victims, beautiful bloody bodies which he might keep stacked somewhere in his basement—all the other girls who had finally made him ready for her.
But she finds that she can’t imagine him ever actually dealing that final blow. The guy she really wants would have stared at her hungrily, maybe slowly dropping his head to one side, trying to figure out the answers without asking any questions. He would have slid his knife slowly across her throat as he considered which way he wanted to have her. But now here’s this guy standing in front of her, something green stuck in his teeth from the sushi, his forehead gleaming beneath the fluorescent lamp, and she backs away slowly, leaving him standing there alone, knowing that she doesn’t want her story to end in some run-of-the-mill abandoned summer camp, some haunted house at the end of a manicured cul-de-sac.
She retreats into her building and stands for a moment in the lobby next to the row of mailboxes, trying to imagine what could be waiting for her in those dark corners. She wants someone to materialize in the shadows and pull her down to a place from which she wouldn’t know how to ever come back. She knows, though, that when she gets upstairs and turns on the light, she’ll see everything laid out exactly like she left it, no loose ends promising even a mediocre sequel.
But first she’ll stand there for a while in the dark. And she knows she has to flip the switch eventually—everyone keeps telling her, especially her worried mother, her friends whose weddings she always attends alone—but if it were up to her, she would stand there all night, waiting for the bogeyman to find her.
Richard Scott Larson is currently an MFA candidate at the NYU Writers Workshop in Paris. His stories have appeared in a variety of venues including Strange Horizons, Subterranean, ChiZine, and Pindeldyboz, as well as the anthologies Beyond Binary and Wilde Stories 2011. He also writes about books and movies for Slant Magazine and Strange Horizons. He lives in Brooklyn. Visit him online at https://richardscottlarson.com.
Lead image: “Dawn of the Anna” (via Flickr user 55Laney69)