The Haunting on Heliotrope Lane
The Midnight Show
“SO, WHEN THE GUY DIED,” my best friend Bess Marvin was saying as she walked out of the movie theater, “was that, like, black blood that came out of him? You know, when he was like . . .” She made a retching motion onto the sidewalk.
“Um,” I murmured, but my voice was hoarse from three hours of screaming. Freaky Friday double features can do that to you. “Can we talk about something else? Anything else?”
But George Fayne, Bess’s cousin and my other best friend, had already held up her pointer finger.
“Good question!” she said in her perfectly fine voice. “I thought the black stuff was evil. Like, liquid evil?”
“I thought it was the souls of all the people whose lives he’d ruined,” my boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, put in, adjusting his glasses as I thought back to the scene and felt my stomach roil. “You know, by making them eat their own organs. That was cold.”
“Oh gosh,” I muttered, grabbing my stomach. I almost forgot that part.
“Nance!” Bess cried, her blond hair puffing around her shoulders as she stopped short, suddenly taking notice of the state I was in. “Are you okay? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost!”
“I’ve just seen several ghosts,” I reminded her, leaning against a streetlight, “and some zombies, and that one guy with the liquid evil who kind of defies categorization. And a lot of carnage.” I paused, trying to think about golden retriever puppies, or soap bubbles, or sunshine—anything to counter the three hours of terror I’d just sat through. “Have I mentioned I’m not a horror movie fan?”
“Oh, Nancy,” George said, and smiled at me as Ned
put his arm around my shoulders. “I thought you said you were willing to give horror movies a try. I thought Bess was going to be the delicate one.”
“It’s funny,” Bess agreed, nodding, “so did I.”
“I did give them a try,” I said, my voice steadying, “and I think I’ve decided now. No, thank you. I think I’m done with Freaky Fridays.”
“That’s kind of unexpected for you, don’t you think?” Ned asked. “You’re not a scaredy type. You spend half your life chasing bad guys.”
This was true. My sleuthing—which had always been my favorite extracurricular activity—could get scary, sometimes. “But there’s a big difference between confronting a crook and having to eat your own organs,” I pointed out.
“True,” Bess said, nodding seriously.
“I’m sorry you got freaked,” George said, her dark eyes sincere. “I just really wanted to come to this, because you so rarely see Takara movies screened in the United States! And he’s such an amazing director. The way he sets up his tension shots . . .”
In the last month or so, George had discovered that she was a huge fan of scary movies. After exhausting her Netflix queue, she’d started checking DVDs out at the library, and then getting recommendations for streaming rentals from horror movie blogs online. She’d become particularly interested in the work of certain directors—like Takara, who, I had to agree, had a real knack for scaring the bejesus out of you. And maybe making you a little nauseated.
I took a breath through my nose, breathed out through my mouth. That’s how our gym teacher says you should center yourself. “I get it, George. I’m not mad at you. And I can see where the story was cool, if . . . well, if it wasn’t going to give me nightmares for the next month. I think maybe I just don’t have the constitution for this stuff.”
George nodded, smoothing her short black hair behind her ear, and Ned gave me a little squeeze.
“Let’s go back to the car,” he said. “Turn on all the lights. Play some really fun music, like Lily Jo Jarret.”
I smiled. Ned loves Lily Jo Jarret, but he always tries to act like he’s listening to her ironically.
“Yeah, we can go back to my house and watch something that’s totally the opposite of scary,” George suggested. “Packed House? I hear that was good!”
Ned took my arm with an encouraging grin and slowly, we made our way around the theater to the parking lot in back. It was huge, nearly empty—and strangely dark.
“Why aren’t the lights on?” Bess asked, frowning.
“Yeah,” George said, looking around. “The car is over there—I remember where we parked.” She led us toward her small red coupe. “But this is weird.”
“And probably a safety hazard,” Ned added.
“Maybe it’s because it’s so late?” George suggested, leading us in the direction of the car. She reached into her pocket, pulled out her car keys, and flicked on a little flashlight that was on her key ring. It made a tiny but strong beam of light.
“Maybe,” Ned agreed. “They could be trying to save on electri—AAAAAAUUUUUGH!”
A shadowy figure had suddenly jumped into the flashlight beam.