The Stuff (short story)
7 minute read
By Larissa Thomas, © 2019
Helena, pronounced Helaina but known online as “_ɐuǝlǝH_”, carefully applied liquid liner to her eternally greasy eyelids. She had seen another girl in her feed using the same brand. Yes, it was a brand from an anti-vaxxer, but Helena was willing to put her murky values on hold for the perfect cat-eye. She was confident this would make her just as pretty—if not prettier—than the girl whose feed she saw it featured on. Helena wasn’t vain, she’d just happened to notice the guy who was on his way over for their first date liked a lot of the horror model’s selfies. And Helena knew she could pull it off, too.
Helena was tittering with excitement, on a physical and emotional level, for her rendez-vous with Michael Adam. He’d made a short film about a warthog from a Hell dimension on Jupiter that Helena fucking loved. Michael Adam looked as you’d expect. Every single T-shirt he owned was black and had a movie or TV reference of some kind on it. He wore relaxed fit jeans and dressy casual shoes. Was always on time. Introverted. Sometimes forgot to put on deodorant. Michael Adam was very comfortable being Michael Adam.
Helena, however, was slowly being existentially crushed and enveloped under the expectations of the Miss Nostalgia Porn sash she’d constructed out of old R.L. Stines and B movie covers.
She was a cherry slushie thirst trap for horror and nostalgia dweebs, but if they had ever sucked their way to the bottom of her Jurassic Park collector’s cup, they would realize they were actually sipping their own psychic guts through a fat, plastic spoon-straw. Luckily for Helena, she’d only been found out once, before horror became her thing. She’d tried on philosophy and psychology for size, but it was way too draining having to remember all those dumb facts. She’d had to move cities when her liberal arts student boyfriend realized half her collection of Nietzsche was actually first editions she’d stolen from his apartment, and sloppily scrawled her name in.
Helena had a personality deficit. A mental bulimia. Hoovering up culture, spewing it back out. The problem was that she was never full. There would never be enough action figures, obscure cartoon references, or ironic 80s movies to fill the constantly hungry tardigrade floating in the void that is her soul.
For tonight, Helena had shaped her pubic hair into a pentagram, but it resembled more of a deconstructed pizza. Either way, she felt that it would be pleasing to Michael Adam. She knew he liked pizza from scrolling through six years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles memes on his Instagram feed.
She wondered if he’d scrolled through her feed yet. He must have.
Helena’s apartment was like a well-organized hoarder’s play chest. Ebay wins. Thrift store finds. Retro reboots from Urban Outfitters that guys were too stupid to know were vetted by a large corporation vs discovered via a genuine childhood affection. So far Helena had spent over $43, 000 on her curated personality. If you asked Helena about the books on her bookshelf, she could tell you a powerpoint of base facts, but if you asked her anything more, she’d change the subject. Of course Helena didn’t have time to read all of those books or watch all of those movies or listen to all of those records she claimed to love. Bitch had to sleep.
After she finished shelacking her face and teasing out her hair, she fastidiously spread the ‘Final Girl’ lotion endorsed by her favourite gore-whore insta-star all over her pale body. Helena wasn’t sure that it smelled so great, but she’d been told it captured the empowered essence of Laurie Strode. To basics it was more like Creature from the Patchouli Lagoon. But they were basics.
Glancing at her Tetris watch, she realized she only had a few minutes left to finish getting ready. She knocked back a minithin with two shots of vodka, and did one last dusting off of her 80s tchotchkes, lighting and relighting the living room with candles and lamps. She positioned each VHS cover and board game so their titles were clear and ready to become talking points, depending on what Michael Adam was into, assuming the interests he shared online were genuine and not just lures for nerdgirls.
Helena was ready. She took a deep breath and waited on the vintage velour couch in her living room. She adjusted her Evil Dead bodysuit. Her floppy tits barely contained in the fabric clearly sized for someone much smaller, possibly even a child. And as she smoothed out her black, pleated skirt she noticed her signed Linnea Quigley horror work-out tape on the top shelf of her book case wasn’t visible enough. She knew Michael Adam would be impressed by it because he loved Night of the Demons. The top of her book shelf was a good six and a half feet, but anxiety spread throughout Helena’s innards. What if this was the dealbreaker? What if he wouldn’t realize she was his soulmate?
She stacked a couple of Rubbermaids (for the books she actually read - Kelly Armstrong’s Bitten series and Lilly Singh’s How to Be a Bawse) and teetered upward. She strained against the weight of her ironic baubles and jewelry—
And she pulled—
And the VHS fell—
Its corner jabbing her right in the fucking eye—
She blindly grabbed for something to hold onto…
And brought the entire bookshelf, filled with her endless trinkets, on top of herself… The Switchblade Sisters DVD that Quentin had re-issued, and her Star Wars light saber, and her Stranger Things pin-up demogorgon—
As the hoards of shit fell on top of her, pulverizing her knick knack knockers, bric-a-brac breasts. Squishing her Pinhead pinhead. Crushing her Elvira red painted toes. Splattering her insides, her IUD puncturing her stomach from the propulsive force of the bookshelf landing on her belly.
As she lay on the floor, staring upward, she wondered why she hadn’t thought to decorate her ceiling.
And then there was a knock at the door.
She tried to call for help. But all she could muster was a wet cough.
Michael Adam didn’t much of an attention span, so after about five seconds, he let himself into Helena’s apartment, holding the cheapest bottle of whisky you can buy. Not J&B like Helena had been fantasizing about.
“Woah, cool,” he exclaimed as he took in the tragic museum of Helena’s desperate need to be adored.
He didn’t even notice the gasping, dying young woman on the Spaceballs John Candy ring spun rug. She tried to call out for help, the Lite Brite magical shining light dimming in her eyes as she internally bled to death. Her insides like an elevator in her favourite Kubrick film.
A single tear rolled down her cheek, ruining her flawless cat-eye. Her maroon-lined lips parted as she exhaled her final breath.
Michael Adam put down the whisky, still oblivious, and began fingering all of Helena’s acquisitions as if they could become his, should they pair. He uttered a few more “woah”s and snapped photos for his Instagram. He giggled at her pizza-shaped landline phone. He really did love pizza.
He finally spotted Helena. The quiet, paralyzing horror he immediately felt gave way to delight as he began stuffing her most hard-to-finds into his He-Man backpack. After he’d picked out his faves, he nonchalantly attempted called 911 on her landline, but of course it wasn’t hooked up to an actual connection. So he stuffed the pizza phone in his bag.
He left her apartment before an anxiety attack set in, he’d have to call from outside on his cell phone. Not many people knew this, but Michael Adam had a fear of real death and gore.