The selfie-stick had been a good investment, in Natalie’s opinion. Not that she understood much about investments. Nor how to turn a profit. Regardless, she loved it. Wether it be to show off her OOTD (Outfit Of The Day) or take group selfies (itself an irony that was beyond her reach) or just to make sure her actual selfies were “on fleek”, it had been worth the price.
And tonight was going to be an amazing night for selfies, indeed: Halloween! She was nominally dressed as a butterfly this year. At least, she was wearing multicolored wings. The rest of her costume consisted of a black tank top, with a strategic tear in the top center of the shirt, allowing her to show off what little cleavage she had; she wore black stockings on her arms (you know, to keep warm) and a black skirt that would hardly qualify as one any other day of the year. The heels she wore, she borrowed from her older sister, and took 3 days practice to be able to walk in without looking like a complete fool. More practice probably would have helped, but teenagers have no patience for that sort of thing these days. The black stockings on her legs rose to about mid-thigh, which was still nowhere near the hem of her skirt.
Her friends were all similarly costumed; Bethany was a lioness, proofed by the tail hanging from the back of her mini-skirt, Yasmin was a rabbit, or least she was wearing bunny ears, and Zara was a cat, complete with…well she had drawn whiskers on her face, anyway.
The 4 of them met at Zara’s house, since her parents would be away at an office Halloween party, and they wouldn’t have to deal with multiple parents clucking their tongues over how the girls chose to dress this year. Each of them had already had to hear from their mothers that they were growing up too fast, that just last year they were so adorable in their princess/pirate/mouse/ghost costumes. Their father’s had lectured them on the dangers of talking to strangers, and how they should never enter anyone’s house. Yasmin’s father had refused to let her leave the house, but her mother helped to smooth things over long enough for her to make a run for it.
They stood in the foyer of Zara’s parents’ brownstone and gushed over each other’s costumes. Natalie loved Zara’s whiskers, Zara just adored Bethany’s skirt, Bethany was jealous of Yasmin’s over-developed (read: stuffed) bust, and Yasmin thought Natalie was the most beautiful butterfly she’d ever seen. None of them knew it, but Yasmin was a burgeoning young lesbian.
As the Sun set behind the row of trees that marked the border between the nice neighborhoods and the not-so-nice neighborhoods, the girls set out with their matching canvas bags. They were ready for a night of fun, and of collecting candy that most of them never had any intention of actually eating (Bethany would eat it all, but it would just be coming back up her throat right after anyway).
They swept through Zara’s street quickly, then stopped for some selfies. It was riotous good time, with the girls joking and horsing around. Natalie lifted her skirt in one selfie, revealing a pair of underwear with a monarch butterfly pattern. Yasmin made a mental record of this, instantly overcoming a lifelong fear of butterflies. In another they all stuck out their tongues and flipped the bird at the phone. They didn’t stop to review their photographic efforts; if they had, they would have seen a strange figure hanging out in the background. One they hadn’t been able to see with their naked eyes.
The trek to Natalie’s street was short, but by the time they had reached it, Zara was not with them. They noticed, but didn’t give it much thought. Perhaps she had to run home to grab her phone. They didn’t think for a second that she could be hanging from a nearby tree, swinging from a noose made of her own entrails. But, who would think of such a thing?
On Natalie’s street they filled their bags to the half-way point. This was the street where everyone gave out full-sized candy bars. Bethany’s stomach grumbled, and she snuck a few (6) candy bars while her friend’s weren’t looking. At the end of the street, she bent over a bush in front of a house that had no lights on, and emptied the contents of her stomach. At 15 she already so well-practiced she didn’t need to stick her fingers down her throat.
Natalie and Yasmin waited across the street and pretended not to know what Bethany was doing. They stopped for another set of selfies, and this time Yasmin got bold. While re-positioning herself she “accidentally” copped a feel of Natalie’s chest. The word “gay” was thrown around as an insult, and Yasmin laughed it off. Each of the selfie’s taken at this street corner captured her scratching at the patchwork of scars that covered her upper thighs. Again, the figure loomed, but none of the girls saw it.
Bethany’s street was mostly dark, only 4 houses had their lights on, and only two girls dressed as animals walked down the sidewalk. Bethany was back on Natalie’s street, bleeding out from the wounds on her throat and wrists. The figure who had loomed in their pictures fed off her fading life force.
Yasmin’s heart raced, and her scars throbbed. She had fantasized about this very situation many times. Her, alone on a dark street with Natalie. She could feel her cheeks flush as she began to swing her arm gently, hoping to catch Natalie’s hand in her own. Their fingers made contact, but Natalie pulled her hand away, grunting her disgust. She didn’t notice that Bethany was no longer trailing behind them. But someone was.
They didn’t stop at any of these houses, Bethany lived on a very “cheap” street. The goodies here would be hardly worth it.
They didn’t stop for selfies at this corner, either. Natalie was getting annoyed with Yasmin, and Yasmin’s make-up was running along with her tears. She didn’t want her picture taken like this.
She also didn’t want to be snatched up by her hair and carried onto the roof of a house. She definitely did not want to have her body torn open, and her insides feasted upon. But then, we don’t always get what we want.
Alone, and aware that the trouble-makers from school were beginning to appear on the sidewalks, Natalie turned and headed for home. Had she not stopped to take a selfie outside her front door, she may have made it. The sudden pulling feeling from below, as the sidewalk seemed to open up and swallow her, caused her to drop her selfie stick, leaving behind clues to the girls’ disappearances that would only deepen the mystery in the years to come.