The therapist wishes me a good morning, and seats herself on a squeaky plastic chair near my bed.“My name is Doctor Walcott. This is just an informal chat to gather some pertinent information for our files. Do you remember how you got here?”
“You staggered in through the doors last night, covered in mud and bleeding from several defensive wounds.”
We both look down at my body, clothed in a blue hospital gown. I am noticeably uninjured. Not a scratch on me.
“On your intake chart, you’ve left the name section blank. Why is that?”
“I have no name.”
The therapist leans back. “Uh huh. And how long have you felt that way?”
“Well, the problem is that I haven’t been born yet. At least, not for you.”
She glances at her already-empty coffee cup, evidently wishing it wasn’t, and takes a deep breath. “Do you know your date of birth?”
I calculate. “Well, the next one should be about thirty minutes from now.”
She glances at the empty cup again, and crosses her ankles. “Okay, let’s just start at the beginning. In your own words, could you tell me a short history of your life?”
I sigh and slump back against my surprisingly comfortable pillows. “I told you, I haven’t been born yet. I’m born at the moment the final girl fights back.”
“The final girl?”
“I am a thousand swords pried off the wall. I am a thousand ancient ceremonial daggers lifted from smashed display cases. I am at least one stake, twirled ably around dextrous fingers.”
She mouths the words dextrous fingers as she writes them down on her notepad. “So you feel you’ve been used as a weapon by those around you? Manipulated emotionally and physically?”
I rolled my eyes. “I am a thousand axes hefted in the palm of a small hand as the music swells, all screeching guitars and banging bass and whispered lyrics of once-familiar old songs now seen through new eyes, slow-mo eyes, what a wicked game we play and me and the devil walking side by side and heads will roll on the floor.”
“Uh huh.” The pen continues scratching.
“Usually the camera closes in. Tight shots. Focused on her eyes and lips and tongue, because a final girl is, above all, a sexual being. Generally her purity—or at least, her innocence—has been the thing that kept her safe so far. The moment she decides to fight back, she transforms.”
“I see.” Her head is tilted, displaying one stud earring. Practical, but pretty. That’ll help her in the hours to come.
“A final girl needs to change, you see. The change has been wrought by men, by pressure, and now she’s ready to cast off that maidenhood and assume the mantle of the warrior. I’m just there to showcase the moment. My life is short and glorious. I die at the credits while you breath a long, popcorn-scented sigh, and stretch your cold limbs. I die while you brush kernels from your shirt collar or the dip of your bra or the crease of your jeans and lean over to your friends or your lover and say—”
“So, you feel at home in the cinema?” she persists.
“Wait,” I snapped. “This isn’t over. It’s never over.”
“My apologies. Please continue.”
“You see, I’m often revived in the post credits with a sudden jolt. Perhaps in an interview or a domestic scene, where the final girl seems to have moved on with her life. She has a new haircut. Her smile is more open. She has scars, sure, but they’ve faded. The scene is bathed in sunshine. She might even have a child, a partner, a home to call her own. Then it happens. A sequel teaser.”
“What happens?” she prompts.
“A phone call. A knock at the door in two sharp, sonorous raps. The same low bars of music thrumming underneath her skin.”
She leans forward, pen pausing on the notepad. “And then?”
I shrug. “Or, it might be the opposite. A sudden flash of violence. A purple storm, whipping through the streets of Unnamed Small Town America. A dark figure, wielding a knife. A body left behind. Everything left behind, again, while she runs and runs and runs.”
“I see. Do you often feel these bouts of loneliness? Is there anyone in your life with whom you have a positive emotional connectio—”
The overhead light blinks once, twice, and vanish. Emergency lights come on, lighting the room in dull orange. I shake my head. Amber is the get-ready, on-your-marks colour, and she’s still sitting on her chair thinking about coffee. Along the corridor, screams echo and are abruptly cut off. The sound of feet stampeding slows to a gurgling trickle. A river, damned at the mouth.
She rises to her feet, notepad landing askew. The pen rolls away under the bed. Shame, she could have used that. “What’s going on?”
“I told you. I’ll be born soon. You don’t have anything to worry about. Just be yourself.”
Doctor Walcott approaches the the door, which swings open. No one is outside. She backs away. Her breathing is ragged. She smells like lavender and clean cotton and fear.
I rise from the bed. “Told you so.”
“Am I—” she hesitates, swallows. “Am I the final girl?”
I grin. “Only one way to find out.”
Lindz McLeod is a queer Scottish writer who dabbles in the surreal. She is a member of the SFWA and is represented by Headwater Literary Management. Her favourite monster is the one inside herself.