By Matthew Ross
I could really use someone to talk to, even if it is just myself, more or less. And it’s not like I can talk about any of this stuff out loud, since never mentioning The Rules is pretty much the biggest Rule there is. Ok, maybe not the BIGGEST Rule – that’d probably be going off on your own. Or maybe nudity. But it’s definitely top three.
Maybe I’m taking a dumb risk, keeping a journal like this. But it still seems safer to try venting this way rather than slipping out some night to sneak a sip of that fermented berry schnapps that Dan keeps hidden under that loose floorboard, or nibble some of the forbidden mushrooms that grow down by the critter snares. I mean, everybody’s gotta find some way of blowing off a little steam, otherwise you’re bound to slip up sooner or later. The next thing you know, you’ll find yourself taking a cleaver through the face, like dad, or wind up in some weirdo’s torture-porn puzzle trap, like mom. And since sex is off the table for me, why not try writing?
Just in case this ends up being my only entry, I guess I’ll say it now: I’m glad I gave journal writing a try, even if it does get me stabbed or decapitated or something. At least I’m pretty sure it’s not cursed, since I’ve seen Meegan rip pages out of this thing for t.p. like four times in the last week, and nothing bad has happened to her.
I’m still alive! Wooo! Looks like journaling is not against The Rules. Of course, last night being the pod’s sex night was almost enough to make me wish that my first journal entry had Called one of Them to stab me to death with a fountain pen or something.
(Just in case They really can be Called through writing: THAT WAS JUST ME BEING SARCASTIC. PLEASE DO NOT STAB ME TO DEATH WITH A PEN, FEATHER QUILL, OR ANY OTHER WRITING IMPLEMENT. ALSO, PLEASE DO NOT CRUSH ME IN A HUMAN-SIZED PRINTING PRESS, SMASH MY SKULL IN WITH A TYPEWRITER, DROWN ME IN A VAT OF INK, OR MURDER ME IN SOME OTHER WRITING-RELATED WAY.
Or any other way, for that matter. Thank you.)
That said, there’s no two ways about it: being the only single guy in the pod just plain sucks! I don’t know if it’s any easier for Amy, being the only single girl and all – probably not, since at least I can still masturbate without Calling one of Them – but it’s still no picnic, believe you me! I mean, the coupled-up girls are usually nice enough – oh sure, every once in a while Marissa will give me a bit of a stink-eye on sex night (as if I could see anyone’s naughty bits under their muumuus, even if I wanted to – it’s like, hellloooo, that’s the whole point of never taking off our muumuus, Marissa!), but Gretchen always goes out of her way to thank me for standing watch while they’re all doing their thing.
The guys, though…it’s like they always have to make a big deal about how ‘sensitive’ they’re being around the poor single. Saying stuff to you in that slightly condescending tone, like, “Cheer up, bud! You never know – Amy might change her mind some day. Or a new single could wander in here at any moment – you just have to stay positive! I’m sure if you’re patient, you’ll get your chance to couple up too one of these days.”
Are you, Frank? ARE YOU ‘SURE?’ Because it seems to me a helluva lot more likely we’ll get a new single in the pod because one of you screws up and Calls Them than because some rando single just happens to stroll through the front barricade.
It’s like, I get that they’re trying to be nice, or whatever, but they don’t have to be such jerks about it. I know I’m the only male single, Frank – you don’t have to keep reminding me!
Well, Frank’s dead. I know I should be sadder about it, but it’s like, seriously – who goes out to check the generator…in the middle of the night…ALL BY THEMSELVES? That’s just like BEGGING to be eviscerated and strung up by your own entrails. Everybody knows you either wait until morning or wake up the rest of the pod so we can all go check it out together! It’s only, like, Rules 101: “Never wander off ANYWHERE on your own.”
I’d never say it out loud, but part of me thinks that maybe he did it on purpose just because he couldn’t take being coupled up with Meegan any more. I mean, she’s cute and all, but she can be pretty annoying. It’s like, we get it Meegan – we know you wish you could go to the bathroom in private. We don’t need to hear about it five times a day! You’re not the only one who’d like to enjoy a nice, private poop every once in a while instead of having to go in the bucket while everyone turns their backs and sings campfire songs to cover up whatever sounds you’re making. Find something else to talk about already!
Anyways, I spent pretty much the rest of the day mopping up entrails. Guess who’s got two bloody thumbs and is going to sleep like a baby tonight…it’s this guy! Meegan was too upset to pitch in so the other coupled girls spent the day consoling her, but Amy helped us out with the clean-up, which I thought was pretty cool of her. Too bad she’s super-committed to the whole ‘Final Girl’ thing – total purity, and all that.
Silver lining though? It looks like Meegan is available now!!!
So much for that idea – Meegan didn’t even survive a full day after They got Frank. Poor thing must have been deranged with grief, because it was clearly suicide – she snuck off at some point in the middle of the night to take a shower.
We found her – well, we think most of her – this morning. She was chopped up pretty good, but whoever did it made sure to scrub all the blood off her (I guess the shower aspect must have Called some kind of psycho neat freak?), so the clean-up wasn’t so bad.
The crazy thing was, when we were gathering what was left of Meegan up for burial, we ended up short by one boob. Isn’t that wild? I mean, what kind of slasher neatly arranges a bunch of body parts into a perfect pentagram, meticulously wipes up every drop of blood around said body parts, and then steals a single boob to take home. Why was it just the one boob – was there something wrong with the other one? Did it make a difference if it was the left one or the right one? And what are They planning on doing with it, anyways?
I had a lot of time to think while I was on watch last night and I’ve been feeling really guilty about how everything went down with Meegan yesterday. I mean, I know I used to roll my eyes a lot when she’d complain about the whole privacy thing, but she really did have a lot of good points to make. And not just about the bathroom bucket.
I know we all struggle with the lack of privacy – always having to do everything with your pod. Never being able to go off by yourself. Not even being able to split up into smaller groups every once in a while (unless you’ve thrown in the towel and are actively TRYING to Call one of Them, of course). Maybe it’s different when you’re coupled, because at least then you have someone who’s right there in it with you. Plus, it’s gotta be nice having one person you can share stuff with instead of having to always share everything with the entire pod at once. Having someone to whisper back and forth with when you’re not on watch, and share muumuus with on sex night. Someone who cares enough that they’d throw their own life away if one of Them gets you – even if They only got you because you did something monumentally stupid, like go out to check the generator in the middle of the night all by yourself (not that I’m pointing any fingers here, FRANK). I mean, who’s gonna miss me after I’m gone?
Well, even if I don’t have anyone else to whisper secrets to, at least I’ve got my journal. That’s more than I had before, right?
They got Karen this morning. She must’ve fallen too far behind when we went out to check the traps, because one minute she was there, then the next thing we know, POOF – no more Karen. I almost can’t remember the last time They got somebody that quickly – maybe the time we accidentally forgot to let Daquan walk in the center of the group, and They snatched him up as soon as the rest of the pod had moved into the other room?
I don’t know if Karen said something after she realized she was alone or if it was just the luck of the draw, but whoever she Called must have had some kind of creepy clown fetish. Either way, we found her back at the cabin, propped up in front of the barricade dressed in this weird Raggedy Ann get-up, with giant buttons sewn in where her eyes used to be.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot – also, she was pantsless. Completely nude from the waist down, like Winnie the Pooh. It was kind of hard to tell if the whole pants deal was a sex thing or a clown thing or both, but the lewd hand gesture They’d posed her making was definitely a sex thing. I thought it was pretty disrespectful, to be honest – from what I’ve seen of her and Mike on sex night, it wasn’t the kind of thing she would’ve been into while she was alive (although just between you and me, journal, I could see giving it a try under the right circumstances – if it was Amy that was offering, for instance).
Anyways, we spent a lot of time arguing about it, but even though we all agreed she’d clearly Called one with some kind of weird fetish, we couldn’t come to a consensus on exactly what it was. But, arguing about it gave us all something to do while we buried her, so that was nice. Mike seems pretty broken up about the whole thing. But hey, silver lining – looks like I’m not the only single guy in the pod anymore!
Well, They got Mike last night, so it looks like my respite from being the solo single guy in the group turned out to be pretty short-lived.
Mike, if you can read this wherever you are now, I’m sorry man! I know we’re supposed to treat everyone in the pod equally, but I always liked you best. Not that Karen’s death wasn’t tragic, or whatever, but I was actually looking forward to spending some time being ‘single buds’ together. I wish you’d chosen to work out your grief differently, like asking us all to form a Sadness Circle so you could have a nice, muffled scream-cry, or scheduling a little time in the masturbation corner, or even reaching out to confide in your new ‘single bud.’ Honestly, pretty much anything other than chugging your secret bottle of berry schnapps and stumbling out to pick up that clearly-haunted baby rattle that’s been sitting next to the backyard swing set would have been an improvement. I also wish I hadn’t caught the last couple seconds of what that demonic lizard-baby thing did to you after.
But I guess it’s like mom always said – there’s no use crying over spilled blood. Rest easy, pal.
Sex night was a bit awkward this week, what with everything that went down with Mike and Karen and all. I was kind of curious to see if anyone might try the move from Karen’s hand gesture, but it ended up being pretty routine – some heavy breathing, some quiet moaning, the occasional stifled sob – ‘same old, same old,’ as they say.
One thing that I did find a little surprising was that Dan ended up being the biggest crier of the bunch. Marissa got a little weepy, as usual, but then she always takes the deaths the hardest – I swear, sometimes I think she’d start blubbering over anyone in the pod being murdered. It’s like, I’m not saying that her grief is, you know, performative, and she’s exaggerating it for attention, or whatever, BUT…come on, Marissa. Let’s be real here: are you really that sad EVERY time one of us gets murdered? What are you going to do, just go around being sad all the time? People get murdered every day Marissa – get over it already!
Dan and Mike were always pretty close though, so that I get – even if it did seem to get on Gretchen’s nerves a little bit. I heard a lot of exasperated whispering coming from their side of the sex circle, and I think they both might have faked their climaxes. Ok, maybe I should rephrase – I’m pretty sure he faked his climax, but I guess hers could have been real?
At least I finally got a chance to masturbate after the rest of them were done, so that was nice. I didn’t want to mention it at the time, because I was still getting used to this whole ‘journaling’ thing, but last week my turn got skipped. I brought it up once everyone else had finished up, but surprise, surprise, guess who was all, ‘Sorry bud, but we’re all really pooped after all the lovemaking we just had, and you know how awkward it is for the rest of us to have to turn around and wait while you finish up. Can you take one for the team tonight, and we’ll make sure you get your chance tomorrow?’
Screw you, Frank – we both knew that ‘tomorrow’ was always a lie! I’m just gonna say it: I’m glad They finally got you. Stupid jerk.
Anyways. So, I finally got my chance to catch up, even if it did come a week late. Of course, even then, it was still touch and go for a couple of minutes there. Marissa tried to pull the whole, ‘Are you SURE you REALLY need to? We’re all so broken up about Mike and Karen, would you even be able to given how sad it is, blah blah blah’ thing. What are you, Marissa, the new Frank? Seriously! I noticed you weren’t ‘too sad’ to have your own weekly roll in the sex circle with Nguyen…
I was all ready to be like, ‘Hey, you all got to have your sex night, where was all this talk about Mike and Karen then?’ But Amy cut in before I could say anything, and she was like, ‘Come on, guys – he missed his chance last week because Frank got hung with his own entrails, remember? It wouldn’t be fair to make him miss two weeks in a row.’ And then everybody was like, ‘Ohhhh, riiiiggghhhttt, that whole Frank thing, we forgot about that.’ And then Gretchen said, ‘Amy’s right – just because he’s a single doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t get his sex night, too!’ And for a second, I think we were all worried that might hurt Amy’s feelings, because of the whole ‘total purity’ thing, but she just played it off. She was like, ‘Exactly! We can wait for him, can’t we? After all, we’re all in this pod together.’ And it’s not like Marissa could say boo to that, so everyone turned around and let me do my thing. How do you like me now Marissa – or ‘New Frank,’ as you apparently prefer to be called?
It really was super-nice of Amy to stand up for me like that, especially given her whole situation and all. At least that’s one nice thing about being a guy – as far as we know, none of Them have ever killed a dude for masturbating. As long as it’s not pre-marital sex, They don’t seem to care WHAT we do with our naughty bits. It’s not like any of us have it easy, exactly, but it must suck extra-hard being a girl.
Guess what? It looks like our little pod is about to get a bit bigger…it’s sure not every day that I get to say that! Gretchen spotted the three of them stumbling through the woods while we were checking the traps this morning – there’s Damon and Julio, who are coupled up together, and also Rosa. We think she lost her partner when things went south with their pod, but it’s a little hard to tell since she doesn’t seem like much of a talker. She did sort of nod when I asked if she was a single, but mostly she just cried – for like, a REALLY long time – so I’m guessing that was a yes. If she did lose someone, at least she hasn’t tried to Call anyone yet, so she can’t be doing that bad, right?
I know it’d be a HUGE Rules violation to say so out loud, but I’ve got some pre-tty big hopes for these three. It sounds like their pod had actually been doing really well up until a few days ago – Damon mentioned that they’d only lost five people(!) in the last few months. Not too shabby, right? But then they took in a new guy last week, and we can all see how that turned out. It sounds like a miracle the dude survived as long as he did – it’s like, I don’t care if you’ve never lived somewhere with a basement before, bro, if you’re hearing strange voices calling out to you from another room, why on earth would you run TOWARDS them?! Plus, what would your dead parents be doing in some basement they’d never been to before anyways – what kind of sense does that make?
The jerk must have snuck down there while he was supposed to be on watch. Damon said he woke the pod up when he came walking up the basement stairs, holding some kind of puzzle box that was pulsating with a weird green light and chanting in another language – Damon thought it might have been Latin, but Julio insisted it was Esperanto. Anyways, yadda-yadda-yadda, those three were the closest to the windows when the spectral razor-bats started pouring out of the box, so they made it out, along with another couple who got picked off by some sort of hillbilly cannibal thing the next day. And the three of them had been wandering through the woods ever since, right up until Gretchen spotted them practically on our doorstep.
I know their story is so wild it’s almost impossible to believe. I mean, surviving MULTIPLE NIGHTS out in the open? I haven’t heard anything that wild since that time Dan kept insisting his father made it almost to 25 before They got him! But if Damon and Julio’s story is even half true, they could wind up being a real asset to the pod…
Ugh – if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a liar. And there’s just no way that anyone who really survived more than one night out in the open would just ‘decide’ to go investigate a suspicious noise all by themselves…OR insist on going out to ‘check’ after their suspicious-noise-loving partner failed to come back. ‘We’ve been making our way through the woods for days’ my pale white butt!
I really wanted to like those guys, too. Oh well, though – live and learn. At least Rosa’s still here. She’s still not much of a talker – so far, I would say she’s more of a ‘rock back and forth in the corner plucking out eyebrow hairs and eating them..er. (Is there a shorter term for that?) But she definitely shrugged her shoulders and mumbled something when I asked her if she wanted a second helping of possum at dinner tonight, so, y’know…there might just be a liii-ttle chemistry starting to brew between us. Fingers crossed!
Alas, it looks like has Rosa ghosted me – we’re not sure exactly what got her, but we found her clothes folded neatly in front of the bathtub this morning, and her spirit definitely appears to be bound there. That’s what we’re assuming, at least, since it just keeps pounding at the air right in front of the shower curtains and screaming silently, like it’s trapped in some kind of invisible box or something. I’m trying not to let it bother me, but I really thought we shared a ‘moment’ together when we were flirting over possum last night. I’ll just try to focus on the positives, though, and hope that having a phantasm trapped in the bathroom will make it harder for the next single girl to try to Call one of them by showering. Like mom used to say – there’s no storm cloud so dark that you can’t find a silver lining in it somewhere!
Boy, was today ever a corker! Rosa’s ghost kept the pod up all night (she may not be able to emit sounds or leave the confines of the bathtub, but she sure can slam the bathroom door around pretty good!), so everyone was a bit on the grouchy side this morning.
Dan kept insisting that we’d have to move now that we had a ghost haunting the bathroom, because it would ‘open the spectral floodgates’ or something, but Gretchen was like, ‘And go where? So what if there’s a ghost, we’re never gonna find a better set-up than this.’ And then he was all, ‘It’s better to risk leaving than to stick around a surefire death trap,’ and she was all, ‘No, leaving a fortified position to wander off who-knows-where, THAT’S the guaranteed death sentence,’ and from there it didn’t take too long to devolve into a lot of ‘Who always thinks they know better’ and ‘Who never supports me in front of the pod’ and ‘Who’s just upset because they have a tiny penis.’ It was a whole thing.
Personally, I thought it was kind of a silly thing to be arguing about to begin with – I mean, it’s pretty clear the ghost can’t leave the bathtub or else she would have done so already, so how much harm could she possibly do?
But then Marissa (of COURSE it was Marissa) started sticking up for Dan and going on about how she’d never liked the cabin, and how we’d all have more room if we set up in the old sanitarium at the other side of the lake, and all that. And she kept kind of elbowing Nguyen in the ribs until he agreed that maybe it would be nice to have a little more living space. And then THAT just led to a whole new round of arguing about who’d always been jealous of whom, and who just lay there like a pile of old muumuus on sex night, and so on.
After a while I couldn’t take it anymore, so I was like, ‘Guys, guys, can everybody stop shouting at each other for like two seconds! Why don’t we just board up the bathroom? It’s not like we go in there that much anyways. I’ll bet that once she can’t slam the door anymore’ (I forgot to mention that the ghost had kept banging the door open and shut like, the entire time everybody was arguing) ‘we’ll forget we even have a ghost in there. This is probably all that it wanted in the first place – to make us fight amongst ourselves.’
Pretty impressive, right? I could barely believe I said that myself! And Gretchen was just like, ‘THANK you! It’s nice to know there’s at least one person in this pod that has their head screwed on straight.’ Other than Dan and Marissa (and I suppose Nguyen), I don’t think anybody else really wanted to move out of the cabin to begin with, since they were all like, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea, we’ll just board up the bathroom!’ Dan and Marissa were kind of sulky about it, but it’s not like they had much of a leg to stand on at that point, so we spent the rest of the day nailing boards up. And I think that did the trick! At first, it seemed like Rosa’s ghost got extra-excited to have our attention, because she kept vomiting blood (do ghosts have blood? It was pretty dark, so I guess it could’ve been ectoplasm) and making the bathroom lights flick on and off – which was actually pretty cool, since we never keep the generator running during the day. But we just did our best to ignore her, and once she figured out what we were doing, she actually seemed pretty bummed. I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for her – it must suck to be trapped in there, all by your lonesome.
But hey, no sense dwelling on the negative – I totally had my first big leadership moment in like, ever. How cool is that?
Not much excitement today, which was actually pretty nice for a change. We haven’t heard one peep out of Rosa’s ghost since we boarded up the bathroom. If you walk right by there, you can see the bathroom lights start flicking on and off underneath the door, but other than that I think the ghost kinda gave up. Everybody in the pod made a big deal about what a great idea I’d had to nail the bathroom door shut (well, almost everybody), and Gretchen even gave me a kiss on the cheek! I thought Dan might have gotten angry about it, but I don’t even think he noticed – he spent most of the day clustered around Marissa and Nguyen, and I kind of got the sense that Gretchen and Dan were trying to avoid each other. Which is tricky, y’know, seeing as the whole point of a pod is that everybody stays in the pod, all the time. Gretchen did invite him to go foraging with her when we went out to check the traps, but Dan was all, ‘That’s alright, you go ahead – I’d probably just do it wrong.’ Awwwkkwwaarrrdd, right?
They’ll get over it though. Pod life may not be perfect, but one of the nicer things about it is that it does kind of force everybody to resolve their disputes pretty quickly. After all, who wants to keep fighting with someone that they’re literally stuck in the same room with, 24 hours a day, forever? I mean, not for-ever forever, but, y’know – until They pick one of you off. They’ll get it worked out – I’m sure everything will be right as rain by next sex night.
I can barely believe it…I’M FINALLY GETTING COUPLED!!!!!! You spend so long thinking that it’s never going to happen for you and trying to come to terms with being a single for the rest of your life. And then out of the blue, it’s like the whole universe just…I don’t know…aligns, and all of a sudden, everything’s going your way!
Of course, the world being what it is, even the sunniest day still has its cloud or two – Dan, Nguyen, and Marissa are all gone. But their deaths (or Dan’s, at least), are also why I finally found my partner, so if that isn’t the shiniest of all silver linings, I don’t know what is!
Apparently, the three of them tried to run away last night while Dan was on watch. (I know, right? It’s like, if you want to leave, just say so, but don’t sneak off when you’re supposed to be guarding our backs). I honestly never thought Dan would ever do something like that, even if he was pissed about the whole ghost thing. Still, mom always said it’s best not to speak ill of the dead, so I’ll just say I’m really disappointed in him and leave it at that.
They must’ve been loaded when it happened, because Gretchen woke up while they were getting ready to leave and she said she could smell the fumes from Dan’s secret berry schnapps wafting off them from across the room. She even found some leftover mushrooms hidden in one of Marissa’s spare muumuus while we were cleaning up their stuff this morning. Can you believe that? Drinking AND getting high? Those are only, like, the biggest Rules violations there are…what on earth were they THINKING?
Gretchen said that she tried to talk them out of it, but Dan just flipped her off and said the three of them were going to go form their own pod down at the old sanitarium. I don’t know how they thought they’d make it all the way down to the lake with booze and shrooms ringing Their dinner bell every step of the way. But I guess when you combine desperation with drugs, it’s bound to end in tragedy.
Anyways, none of us saw it happen, but they woke the rest of us up when they slammed the door on their way out, so we sure heard our fair share. Poor bastards didn’t even make it off the porch. The funny thing is, they must have changed their minds pretty quickly, because right before all the screaming started, they kept pounding on the front barricade and yelling for Gretchen to let them back in. Like it was somehow Gretchen’s fault that they only started getting cold feet after they decided to get drunk and storm out. I guess ‘funny’ isn’t really the right word for that – ironic, maybe? Some people just won’t take responsibility for anything, I suppose.
Anyways, by the time daylight broke there wasn’t much left to clean up, so that was a stroke of good luck. I went to check in on Gretchen after, and that’s when it just…happened. She started talking about how she and Dan had been drifting apart for a long time, and how even though a part of her would always care for him, she couldn’t just sit around mourning him forever, and we have to live for today because life is precious, but it’s also short, and all that. And how she always felt like we’d had some kind of unspoken connection, even when she was with Dan (which, to be totally honest, was news to me, because up until the last few days, I’d always thought that Gretchen barely knew I was alive. How clueless was I, right?)
And then, out of the blue, there it was – she popped the big question, just like that. It was just like I’d always dreamed! I mean, maybe not just like I’d always dreamed, since usually I imagined that Amy would be the one asking me to couple up. And occasionally Melanie. (And I suppose I should also add Dave onto the list – but that was only that one week, and I’m pretty sure I was just feeling a little confused, so I don’t know if that really counts.)
In any case, that’s all in the past now. I asked Gretchen if she wanted to wait a bit before we went ‘pod official’ with the big news – you know, to give her time to properly grieve Dan, or whatever – but she was like, ‘No, Dan would want me to move on with my life. Plus, we wouldn’t want to miss sex night tomorrow,’ so that pretty much sealed it. Can you believe it? I’m finally going to lose my virginity! No more teasing about the ‘old man’ of the pod still being a sixteen-year-old virgin for me!
It sure will be different being coupled up, but I’m excited to finally leave my life as a single behind. Y’know, it’s funny – sometimes people act like it’s some big unbearable burden, living life the way we do. But if you just follow The Rules and stick by your pod, it’s really not so bad. Sure, most of us won’t live to see twenty. But it’s like mom always said – it’s not about how many years you live before one of Them finally gets you, but how much living you do along the way!
About the author: Matthew Ross is a writer, editor, and English professor living in Los Angeles, CA. His nonfiction work has previously appeared in a variety of places, including the Journal of American Culture, Stephen Crane Studies, Southern Cultures, Warscapes, Eclectica, and CBR.com. He is also the co-author of The Book on Velour Tracksuits. Find him online @matthewrossphd
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