The Life of the Party


By: Catherine Olaso

 
I parked my Mazda in front of Jamie’s house, noting both the rock music blaring from the doorway and the precarious weather, flashing silent lightening in the east. 
 
Rain smattered onto me, threatening to soak my French maid costume if I didn’t hurry inside.

“Elise!  You’re here!”  Jamie crushed me into a one armed hug.  Her other arm cradled bags of unopened chips. “Where’s Derrek?”

“Work,” I said, eyeing her Egyptian outfit.  “I’m stag.”

She smiled and shooed me toward the family room crowded with gyrating bodies and dangling spider webs.  I didn’t know anyone.  “Drink… mingle…I’ll catch up later.”
 
I gave her a, ‘you better look’, and pushed my way through the gaudy costumes. 

The punch was good.  I sipped it in the corner while listening to a couple of guys in togas talk about over-pricing at the Ford dealership.

“Hey, everyone!” Jamie turned off the music.  “Let’s get some more life into this party!”  Her brown eyes settled on me.  “I’ve got a friend here who can tell what you do for a living just by touching your hand.”

I felt my face flush.  It was a weird gift…a fluke.  Something I didn’t like people to know.  I didn’t need to be everyone’s favorite freak.

“Oh, come on, Elise.”  Jamie read my irritation.  “Just do it a couple of times.  Please?”

People started chanting my name, the pitch vibrating louder until I finally relented.  “Give me your hand,” I said to the vampiress beside me.  She giggled and complied. 

“Dental hygienist.”  I dropped her hand.

“Yeah.” The girl looked stunned.  “I don’t believe it.”

“I’m next.” A guy in a Batman costume pushed his way over to me. 

“Mechanic.”

“That’s amazing!” 

Hands flew at me from every direction.  “Bank teller, chef, veterinarian.”  In the flurry of hands I reached for one that pulled back.

A whirlwind of brutal images gripped me.  I gasped and flung the hand away.  It was too late.  In the instant that his eyes met mine, we both understood exactly what he was. 

A serial killer.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” he whispered.

“I gotta go,” I told Jamie, elbowing people to make a bee-line for the door.

“You just got here.”  Jamie chased after me. 

“Who is he?”  I pointed with my eyes to the disturbing stranger disappearing in the crowd.

Jamie shrugged.  “Johnny something or other.  He came with Dylan.”

“Be careful,” I told her. 

“What?  Elise… what did Johnny do to you?”

My heart still hammered in my chest.  “I’ll call you.”  I rushed past her, not slowing until I’d locked myself inside my car. 

Once home, the farmhouse seemed more secluded from civilization then ever.  I threw my keys on the counter and dialed Derrek’s number.  Maybe he could get out of the night shift and come home early.  I groaned when his voice mail clicked on.  “Derrek… call me, okay?” 

Several cups of tea calmed me enough that I could relax for bed.  Tomorrow I’d call the police and tell them what I knew…not that they’d believe me.

Beethoven’s 5th woke me from a sound sleep.  I moaned in protest and turned over, fumbling for my cell phone on the nightstand.
It was probably Derrek, calling me back.  I noted the glowing green numbers on the alarm clock while simultaneously picking up the phone.  2:37 a.m.

“Hello, Elise.”  A cold, ominous voice snapped my eyes wide open.  My muscles locked.

I knew that voice.

“You’re alone.  I wish you hadn’t changed into that blue nightgown.  I liked your French maid costume a lot better.”

Waves of shivers washed over me.  My body shook as my eyes darted to the window. I left the curtain open!
I dropped the phone and bolted off the bed, my hands scrambling to jerk the curtains closed.  Johnny laughed through the phone.
I spun from the window, my breath a fast, shallow pant and my pulse loud in my ears.

911…911… I lunged for the phone half hidden beneath my comforter, the glow of the neon numbers guiding my hand.
Johnny was still laughing when I hung up on him.  Seconds later, I listened for the open line, but heard Johnny's hard voice instead.  “That was rude.  Why do you want to make me angry?”  His voice turned softer, haunting.  “I’ve jammed the signal.  It’s just you and me.  Do you like nursery rhymes?”

“Leave me alone!”  Rage momentarily alleviated the terror throbbing in my veins.

Johnny’s voice broke into the tune of, Three Blind Mice.  “One scared girl.  One scared girl.  See how she runs.  See how she runs.  She compromised Johnny’s life, he cut off her head with a carving knife.  Did you ever see such a sight in your life as one dead girl?  One dead girl.”

He was sick.

I raced from the room, my feet pounding down the stairs, my skin crawling with the thought of him watching me.

Johnny’s taunting voice from the patio cinched the breath in my chest.  “Wee Elise Wilkey runs through the town.  Upstairs, downstairs, in her night gown.  Rapping at the windows, crying at the locks.  ‘Someone please help me… this guy’s off his clock.’”

The patio doors rattled and glass shattered.  “Elise… Elise…”

The gun in Derrek’s sock drawer!  I sprinted back upstairs.

Rough, callused hands grabbed my ankles, tripping me.  “Jack and Jill…”

I clawed and screamed, kicking Johnny away.

Ten seconds ahead of him, I clutched the gun and sank into the corner.  My turn for nursery rhymes.
“Little Miss Muffet slept on her tuffet, losing cares that weigh.  Along came a spider, who threatened to bite her, so she blew his guts away!”

I grit my teeth and pulled the trigger.