“There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.”
– Terminator 2: Judgment Day
NIGHTMARE: THE SIREN’S WHISPER
By Matthew Hoemke
He lay with his back against the couch, all feeling lost at the sight of the Valkyrie before him. Angela, the woman of his rich desire and greatest inspiration, knelt beside him at the couch allowing him to gaze into her profoundly green eyes. As all other feeling seemed to ebb away, Jake felt deep love and incredible happiness as she brushed his hair back and planted a gentle kiss on his lips; a kiss that would last forever….
THREE DAYS EARLIER
You have to take a stand, thundered through his thoughts all morning. The dream, which had felt so real, carried him through the day. Jake was determined to not let Stan get the better of him anymore. By the time Ms. Mayer’s class had begun, Jake was ready to take that stand if he must, but Stan appeared to be ignoring him. He was too engaged with a text conversation that seemed to be bothering him to even pay Jake any mind. It was soon after Stan took his seat that the bell rang, which signaled to Ms. Mayer to address the class.
“Alright,” Ms. Mayer began, “Last class, I gave you people an assignment. Let’s see what you came up with.”
She scanned the class looking for someone to pick on, and Stan was an easy target as he was obviously texting under his desk.
“Mr. Harris,” she said, to which Stan jolted to attention. “What do you have for us?”
“I don’t know,” Stan said truthfully, “I wasn’t here for the assignment.”
“Oh, that’s right,” Ms. Mayer said pseudo-apologetically, “Talk to me after class and we’ll get you caught up. For now, though; phone away. Um, Reynalds, how about you?”
“Who here actually did the assignment?” Ms. Mayer asked with mild frustration.
Several hands shot into the air, but it was Jake’s she called on.
“Thank you, Jake,” Ms. Mayer said, “What did you find?”
“Um, well…” Jake stammered, unsure where to start, “Uh, I found a few different accounts of what happened. I even found a website where you could post your own version of the story. But, the one that seemed the most reliable came right out of the local newspaper. It said that Joseph Matthews was the father of a slain boy.
“Apparently, his son had been involved in a fight at school where his son accidently got stabbed to death. The student that actually did the stabbing got expelled for carrying a weapon and apprehended by police, but the other three boys that had been picking on his son didn’t get more than a suspension.
“Joseph Matthews didn’t only blame the boy who stabbed his son, but the others as well. Apparently, their bullying of his boy had been going on for some time. On December 11th of 1973, he went to the school, where his son had attended, chained the doors shut and hunted down the other three boys. He found one in the lobby and killed him and a school counselor on the spot. He found another of the three in the library and tried to kill him, but the boy got away. Two other kids were killed in the crossfire. He never found the third boy.
“When the police arrived they ordered him to drop his gun. He didn’t, but made an aggressive motion towards the officers and was shot on site. He was taken by ambulance, but died in transit. One site I found said that he is buried in a family plot in Maryland, but another said he is buried with his son in eastern Wisconsin.”
Ms. Mayer looked pleased at how thorough Jake had been with his research.
“A truly excellent job,” she said to Jake, “It’s crazy how different this story is compared with the ones you were all recounting yesterday, right? There was no axe. It was a gun. No masks. In fact, some might even feel a touch of sympathy for Joseph Matthews upon hearing what led to his spree shooting. His boy had died; murdered at the hands of people that had been bullying him for years.
“How this story became the legend we are all familiar with, I am not sure. One person changes even one detail, like, say, the weapon and the story evolves. Then another person drops the pretext, and another interjects a mask to conceal his identity. All this, probably happened around the time that slasher films rose to popularity in the late 70’s and it became a snowball effect upon every retelling. The story changes, it becomes bigger, grander. Joseph Matthews no longer has a justification for his anger, but becomes more of a monster. The more mythic the story became, the more entertaining it did also.
“I have a group project for you all. I’ve split you into groups where you will put together a skit or presentation relating to the topic and each individual will be required to write a five page paper on the findings of your group. Your groups have been written on the board.”
Ms. Mayer had the projector screen pulled down, covering the board. She tugged on it and it rolled back up, revealing the groups.
“If you don’t have any questions,” Ms. Mayer said, “then discover your group and hash out your plans for this project. It can be very open ended. I’m inviting you to get creative with it.”
Jake took a look at the board and saw that he was grouped up with Mike, Alicia, and Will. He glanced at Julia, who was sitting next to him, and saw a look of disappointment cross her face, presumably because they had not been paired together. Jake found Will and joined Alicia and Mike in the back of the room.
“Oh, yeah,” Ms. Mayer said, “I forgot to mention that the first person listed in each group is the group leader. Group leaders are responsible for coming up with the plan of action for the group and organizing your approach to the assignment.”
Mike looked at the board, noticing his name was at the top of his group’s list. He gave the board a brief look of hatred.
“Alright,” Mike said scornfully, “I guess that’s me. What do you guys think we should do? Skit or presentation?”
“I was thinking we could maybe do a short film,” Will said after a slight pause, “You know, do our own version of the legend.”
“That’s actually a really good idea,” Mike said.
“I like it,” Alicia said excitedly, “How’d you come up with that in, like, five seconds?”
“It’s a gift,” Will said, smiling smugly.
“So, we’re all cool with the movie idea?” Mike asked.
“Yeah, it’s great,” Jake said, “But the Joseph Matthews guy has to be wearing a Bill Clinton mask.”
Mike and Will broke out laughing.
“Genius,” Mike said as he took out a notebook and started taking down notes.
“Wait,” Alicia said, “Where can we even get one of those?”
“I actually have one,” Jake said, “It is kinda creepy, too.”
“Right on,” Mike said, “Who’s up for writing a script for it?”
“Oh!” Alicia exclaimed with excitement, “Me! Mine!”
“Shouldn’t we all write the script?” Will asked.
“I’m more for the behind the scenes stuff,” Jake said.
“Yeah,” Mike said. “I’ll act, but I’m not really into writing it. But that’s cool. You two can write it together. Jake and I will do the research for the papers. Sounds like Jake has most of it anyway. Oh, shit, does anyone have a camera to film this?”
“I do,” Alicia said, “It’s not a great one, but it will be fine. It’s meant to upload things straight to Youtube.”
“Awesome,” Mike said.
“You guys wanna wrap it up?” Ms. Mayer said from her desk, eyeing the clock. “We get let out in two minutes. Stan, could I see you please?”
Stan moseyed on over to her desk, with his backpack slung over his shoulder.
“Ok,” Mike said, “We’re probably gonna want to meet up outside of school to work on this. Is there a time everyone is available?”
Together, the group debated on a time and place. The whole time, Jake couldn’t help but feel elated. He couldn’t remember the last time a day had gone so well.
“Alright,” Mike reiterated, “So, 8PM on Thursday at my place. Sounds fun. I’ll order pizza or something.”