The Horrorphiles by Stephanie Thompson, 1,776 words
Veronica watched the blinking cursor on the computer screen and tried to comprehend what had just happened. Who started yelling first? Who’d yelled last? Or did his final door slam count as the last word? Wasn’t it just yesterday that they’d laughed together while watching The Evil Dead? Didn’t he cheerfully volunteer to make the second bowl of popcorn just before Army of Darkness? Hadn’t he held her close in the theater during the scariest and goriest parts of the newest Evil Dead? So why was he suddenly angry?
She looked over the last sentence she’d written before the interruption. This is how it starts… What was she even writing about?
She looked at the title at the top of her blog post. The Newest Entry into the Land of the Deadites. Right, a film review.
She looked at her notes, some of which had fallen to the floor while she and Jordan were arguing. She’d scribbled them in bed last night, after they returned from the theater. Had he turned off the light in a huff? Did sleep further away from her than usual? Did he give any indication that he’d break up with her today?
Her eyes traveled back to the computer screen. The cursor blinked away coldly and uncaring, awaiting her next word. Only few minutes ago. . . Or was it a dozen? Thirty? Before the argument, before he left, the blog post had seemed so important, but now she didn’t know what she thought, what she wanted to say, or what she’d even thought of the movie in the first place.
“My readers will be expecting this review today, Jordan. I really should have typed this up last night or before breakfast.” She’d only had half her mind on what she was saying, the other half was scanning a Google image search for the best promotional pictures to use.
“Ronni, your blog only has ten followers. I’m one and the rest are in your stupid Horrorphiles group, who you are going to meet up with tomorrow night.”
“Tomorrow is the live chat. Fridays are for meet-ups.”
“Who gives a shit, Veronica!”
His shouting made her jump. That’s when she dropped her notes. So, he’d started yelling first. Did it matter?
She picked up the loose leaf pages and piled them on her desk without putting them back in order. She left her desk, the dishelved notes, and the blinking cursor then sort of drifted through her own domicile in a daze like she was haunting her own life.
Were they really broken up? How could one argument really lead to the end? Here eyes fell on their Dvd’s. Was that her copy of Saw 3 or his? That was definitely his Taken 2. Would he back for his stuff? Should she call him and ask? If she called him, could she apologize until he came back?
What could she say? What could she promise? What had he actually wanted today? She tried to think back to the moments before he shouted. Weren’t they just eating breakfast? Wasn’t he just clearing away some dishes? Why couldn’t she remember? Why wasn’t she paying attention?
She was in the bathroom now. He left his prescriptions. Melethydone, take one nightly. Surely that was important enough to call Jordan, wasn’t it? Or did he have a back-up bottle at his apartment? Would he even answer if she called?
When she made it to the bedroom, she fell in to the bed. It still smelled of him of course. He’d only just left a few minutes ago. A dozen? Thirty? Was time always this malleable or was it just today? Was it something else she hadn’t noticed? What had she been busy doing?
Nothing. She had done nothing. Nothing but lost everyone she’d every loved.
When she cried, she cried into his pillow, and she cried for what felt like forever.
The problem with a landline is that it doesn’t stop ringing. Not without an answering machine but Great-Aunt Wanda had never been one for answering machines.
“If it’s important enough, they will call back,” she use to say. “If they don’t, then it isn’t that important now is it?”
Nobody called for Great-Aunt Wanda anymore and Veronica gave the number out to very few people. Like only in case of emergency type people. Only two people actually.
She finally answered, hoping it would be Jordan but she couldn’t make a sound. Couldn’t say his name with hope in her voice only to be disappointed by a telemarketer, a wrong number, someone else. It was the same reason she’d stopped looking at her cell phone and eventually let the battery die. Her heart broke a little more each time it wasn’t a text or call from Jordan.
“Jesus, dude. Thought you were dead. We doing this thing tonight or not? Had to have the live chat without you, it was chaos.” Becky’s staccato sentences were punctuated with the noisy crunching of eating. “Dan wouldn’t shut up his latest whatever video, like completely off topic, and somehow the night ended on the best pizza joints opened after midnight. Can’t do this without you. No, go further, won’t.”
Veronica made no reply, no response. She had no desire, no energy, no nothing. She was stretched out on the couch surrounded by kleenex and empty poptart wrappers, watching the menu screen of Jordan’s Dodgeball dvd for the hundreth time in a row.
“Uh, hello? Earth to Ronny? You there?”
“So it’s either Ronny or her murderer with a head cold.”
“I don’t feel like going out,” she finally managed.
“Sick?” She was still crunching whatever god-awful loud crunchy thing she was eating.
Probably Doritos, she loved Doritos. Jordan said she ate them so much her skin was starting to match their artificial cheese color. Becky’d said that Jordan was a manscaping prat who was after Ronny’s trust fund to buy his annual supply of hairspray. Becky would probably celebrate the break-up. Ronny would probably start another round of crying when she did. To save time, she just started crying.
“Ok. Be there soon.”
Ronny and Wanda became best friends in 6th grade when they bonded at a sleepover as the only girls to keep their eyes open all the way through Hellraiser. Becky was the first friend she’d made since she moved in with Great Aunt Wanda and Becky was her best friend now. She came through the door without using the key, which meant Ronny had been in the place for however long completely unsecured. She was lucky enough to not be murdered for real. Becky took one look at Ronny and knew exactly what had happened.
“Why didn’t you text, eejit?” she said.
“He’ll be back, for his stuff,” Veronica said. She’d been saying it to herself for the past few days. A dozen? Thirty? It was the first time she’d said it to someone else. The first time she’d even spoken to someone else.
“Like hell. Let’s set it on fire and post the video on YouTube.”
“Don’t be like that.”
Becky sat at the end of the couch, bascially on Veronica’s feet. She made no effort to move. “No, you don’t be like that. It’s pathetic. He doesn’t deserve it.”
“But he was mine.” Her voiced shook, tears threatened to burst free.
“You guys had nothing in common. Hadn’t even seen Scanners til he met you. Constantly terrorized you with jump scares. His favorite horror movie was Paranormal Activity. He is the worst. You can definitely do better. Dan would be better than Jordan.”
She wouldn’t call Beck’s pep talk ‘working’ but she wasn’t on the verge of tears any more but she didn’t feel up to a night of horror. “Go without me.” She finally pressed play on the remote again and Dodgeball began again.
Becky turned the whole home entertainment center off. “What you need is a good night of horror, some real food, and probably a shower by the look of things.”
Veronica didn’t resist, she did nothing. She silently let Becky pull her from the couch, push her to the bathroom, into the bathtub fully clothed, and start the shower with cold water. Becky left her in there and eventually Veronica started to do things.
The Horrorphiles normally met in Panera’s but today they were in the Mexican restaurant at the other end of the strip mall. The Mexican place had a bar and Veronica needed a bar or so Becky said. And food. By her third Cadillac Margarita, Veronica could see the merit in this plan.
“All I’m saying is that the remake, while recreating many of the iconic scenes from all three of the original movies, it didn’t add much of it’s own twist or new material. I mean an addiction metaphor, that’s it, seriously?” Dan said between bites of the nachos he was eating off Veronica’s plate.
Could Becky really think he was better than Jordan?
“Yeah but did anyone else capture all The Exorcist references? Do you think they were purposeful, unoriginal, or just hard to avoid given how so much of them are really established tropes at this point?”
“No, let’s talk about how anyone can make a cabin in the woods horror movie, even a remake, after Cabin in the Woods? I mean, a film that cutting should have launched us into some post-modern horror age and yet we keep repeating the same formats.”
Was every meeting like this? Just people talking over each other, no one listening, no one building on topics? Would she ever stop questioning everything? Would she feel normal again soon? For now she had to accept feeling sort of drunk.
“I think these are all valid points,” she said, surprising herself. “But let’s just address them one at a time, shall we?” That wasn’t something she’d say normally. “What kind of material could they have added, Dan, that wouldn’t have pissed us all off equally?” She wasn’t sure that was exactly what she meant to say but she pushed ahead anyway. “Take the remake for Halloween 2. When Rob Zombie got a free hand, he ruined the sequel to his great remake of Halloween. One remake changed very little, the other…” She’d been gesturing with her hands which she wasn’t actually aware of until just then in the middle of her sentence she didn’t finished. Now, she stared at it trying to figure out why it was moving. Becky pushed another margarita under her nose.
“But even in his first Halloween, he added enough new material to be different and interesting. Unobtrusive but enhancing.