“Well, there’s your problem…”
The teenager in the varsity letterman’s jacket looked at him dumbly; mouth agape, eyes vacant, no sign of two brain cells rubbing together.
“You’re low on gas, packed into an RV with your friends, headed to the deserted campgrounds where tons of camp counselors and horny teenagers have been slaughtered on this exact date…”
The jock’s friends stood behind him. They all visibly reacted to this statement with poorly hidden eye rolls and quiet snickers.
For years, every Friday the 13th, a bunch of pretty teenage archetypes rolled up in their Daddy’s luxury vehicle, looking for some gas and some snacks for a planned weekend of debauchery. He tried to warn them. They wrote him off as some dumb country bumpkin, choosing to ignore the degrees he had hung behind the cash register.
He had worked his ass off to earn a dual Master’s degrees in Film Theory and Cultural Anthropology, but had given up the backstabbing of academia to open a country convenience store and gas station and live in a cabin in the woods. And since all of his money was tied up in the place, he couldn’t escape the very horror movie tropes he had studied for years. He had become the harbinger at the gas station without even knowing it.
Early on, he was passionate about saving all the nameless teenagers. He would scream and yell and show them the newspaper clippings and beg them to listen to him. He would run after their cars, even as they peeled out of the parking lot, leaving him in a cloud of dust and gravel. He didn’t care that they called him crazy or sometimes didn’t bother paying for the gas and snacks and beer.
But, like clockwork, every Saturday the 14th, he’d hear the sirens and know that those same naive teenagers were being hauled away in body bags.
One time, he was so drunk, he walked 3 miles to the town butcher, and as customers ordered raw steaks, he insisted on naming them after all the teenagers who’d been slaughtered. He did so wearing a hockey mask until he was dragged out by the police. When he had woken up in a jail cell, there wasn’t much to do, so he read the provided Bible aloud to pass the time.
He was summarily banned from the butcher and had earned the reputation as the crazy town drunk who had found Jesus, with some of the town gossips spreading the rumor that maybe he was responsible for all the killings. Elias never felt the need to argue. He was old, fat and out of shape. He couldn’t walk up a hill without almost having a coronary, so the idea he could dispatch an entire college track team with various (heavy) garden tools over the course of 12 hours was ridiculous.
So, when the teens did show up, looking to fill up for their wild weekend of booze, weed, and premarital sex, his reputation preceded him, making it even harder to convince them he was trying to save them from certain death. And, in recent years, with the proliferation of message boards, Netflix murder documentaries and parody social media accounts (@CrazyDrunkEliaz), it was damn near impossible.
Sure, they’d ask about the campground murders, only half-paying attention, because they asked to distract him so someone in their group could shoplift some Fritos and Bud Lights. He would act the part and answer, but at this point, it was rote.
“Kid drowned, blah blah blah. Mom took revenge, blah blah blah. Camp counselor lopped her head off, blah blah blah. Now he gets off on killing kids like you every Friday the 13th. Oh? You don’t believe me. Okay. That’s $30 for the gas. It’s your funeral, etc…etc…etc…”
Elias knew the inevitable outcome. Even when the plain-looking, bookish girl tried to convince her friends maybe the camping trip wasn’t a good idea, he didn’t bother aligning with her. Elias just looked at her, shrugged his shoulders, mouthed an “I’m sorry,” and headed back to the convenience store.
According to the Hollywood formula, she had the best chance of survival anyway, and more times than not, while her friends were being brought into town in the coroner’s van, she was being brought to the hospital for observation in the back of the cop car. Each time the macabre parade passed the gas station, Elias saw her, covered in blood and dirt, sometimes silent and still, other times screaming and frantic, handcuffed to the vehicle’s safety gate.
And here he was again, pumping gas into a luxury RV, the normal cast of characters ambling around the property. Based on their conversations, Elias had gleaned the following:
The letterman’s name was Trav.
He’s going to convince Tits McGee to sleep with him in a deserted cabin. He goes to toss the condom (if he even bothered with one) and gets a hatchet through the chest when he goes to examine the strange noise in the shower stall.
The cheerleader was, unsurprisingly, named Nikki.
It’s always Nikki or Rikki or Vikki or something totally ridiculous like Chikki.
She wasn’t wearing much. A bikini top and short shorts.
It’s not even practical. Not even considering the masked serial murderer—but mosquitoes, poison ivy, and it gets really cold at night because of the lake effect wind. You look cute now, but when you discover the lunkhead over there with a hatchet wound, you’ll run to the car to escape, forgetting the car keys are in his jacket, which is laying on the cabin floor. Little Miss Slut Slut—or at least says the Hollywood myth writers—doesn’t stand a chance. Or, if she ends up deciding to maintain her virtue (ha ha), she’s still going to go skinny dipping and find herself with a canoe oar down her throat or fishing wire wrapped around her neck.
Elias took stock of the rest.
He was surprised to see a tall, athletic Indian guy among the group.
I’ve done this long enough to know there’s always one ethnic minority, but it’s usually a Black guy or a hot, tough Latina chick. This is a new one for me.
He looks like he can run fast and is pretty strong, but odds are he’ll still be the first to go. Tokenism… gets ‘em every time.
He’ll go for a jog around the lake and end up caught in a bear trap. They won’t even realize he’s missing until the final girl stumbles across him when she goes to “turn in early” because everyone else is drunk and high.
Then there was the pothead.
The nerd with tortoise shell glasses… and was that a rainbow iPhone watch band?
He’s doubly fucked.
And the plain looking, bookish girl. Her name was Nancy.
There’s always one.
“Well, kids…I should warn you. No one has ever come back from the camp… and on this weekend of all weekends…” He continued his narrative until they all shifted nervously on their feet and didn’t make eye contact.
Trav spoke first. “Wait, really?”
Elias nodded. “So, you may want to go somewhere else for your weekend of sex, drugs, and rock and roll…”
Trav whispered discreetly to the gas station attendant, “Don’t say anything about sex in front of Nikki over there. She’s saving herself for marriage. And honestly, none of us have ever done a weed. We were maybe going to enjoy some light beers and wine coolers, but that’s about it.”
Elias was dumbfounded. “But what about Pigpen over there?” pointing to who he thought was the token stoner.
“Me?” He said, taking his hand out of a bag of Cheet-Os and pointing at himself. “Nah, I just eat like shit and always look this tired. I work three jobs to help my parents pay their mortgage and medical bills for my disabled sister.”
Elias was dumbfounded. “What the fuck is going on here?”
The nerd and Indian guy both piped up simultaneously, “Watch your language.”
He almost slapped himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.
Trav rejoined the conversation. “Alright everyone, let’s take a vote. I think we listen to him. Turn right around. And I’ll be able to study a little more. I really want another semester on the Dean’s List.”
Nikki crossed herself. “I’d be able to make it to Sunday mass.”
The three other guys in the group all raised their hand in an affirmative vote.
Elias looked at the plain-looking, bookish girl, who up to this point, had been incredibly silent. This was typical. Her friends always ignored her, to their detriment. She was the one who had the mental fortitude and surprising strength to end it all with a machete to the killer’s chest.
She looked up, moved the bangs away from her face, and spoke very quietly, making it almost impossible for Elias to hear.
“Well…Trav. Nikki. Rohan. Shelley. Josh. I didn’t lie to my parents to get the RV for the weekend just for us to turn around because some creepy fuck at a gas station tells us some bullshit story about a guy in a hockey mask.”
“And plus, Graham is already there, and he promised he was going to bone my brains out, so we’re either all going, or I’m driving up the road to have sex with my boyfriend, while you all can hang out with this guy as he drinks moonshine behind his outhouse.”
“Well, Nancy, no need to be rude,” Rohan stated.
“Oh please. Look at him. Probably walks around camp, peeking in the windows while we undress. I’m leaving. Let’s go,” Nancy snarled. Then she shot daggers at Elias with her eyes.
“Listen, creep. If I see you step foot on those campgrounds, I won’t even bother calling the police. I’ll kill you myself.
Nancy’s friends were red-faced with embarrassment and couldn’t meet Elias’s eyes. They all started to shuffle towards the vehicle.
As Nancy pulled away, she shot him a middle finger through the open driver’s window.
Elias mumbled quietly, “It’s your funeral.”