laurel (sailorhathor) wrote in spectral_eye,
laurel
sailorhathor
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"Certain Rules," Scream, Rated R

Title: Certain Rules
Fandom: Scream
Rating: Rated R
Word Count: 9,050
Summary: The first time Martha Meeks heard her dead brother's voice speaking to her from the grave, she was in her third year of college. The second time, Randy asked her to return to Stu Macher's house to uncover Billy and Stu's last secret.
Warnings: Violence, graphic murder, language.
Author's Notes: Written for yuletide 2010.

The first time Martha Meeks heard her dead brother's voice, she was in her third year of college, and was home for the weekend. Sleeping in her own room across from the one Randy used to occupy usually didn't spook her much, but then again, she didn't often wake up hearing his disembodied voice speaking to her from the grave.

In their childhood, they had a little wake-up game. There was an old vaudeville routine about a man with a wife named Martha, and when he found out she had left him for another man, it drove him over the edge. Whenever someone would say her name, the man would go crazy.

"I don't repeat her name anymore, but it's the same as George Washington's wife," the routine would go.

And the other man in the act would innocently ask, "Martha?"

The unstable character would then cry, "Martha!" and pivot to face him, saying, "SLOOOOOOWLY I turn... step by step, inch by inch..." He would begin beating the other player in the routine with a stuffed sock, then throw a pie in his face, and finally squirt him with seltzer water. That was the joke.

Martha and Randy had their own version. Often, in the mornings before school, their mother would tell him, "Make sure Martha's up," and Randy would sneak down the hall and stand in her open doorway.

"Martha!" he would bellow, and creep toward her bed. "SLOOOOOWLY I turn... step by step, inch by inch..." Then Randy would pounce on her bed and tickle her until she awakened, squealing and giving him little punches in the ribs.

"Unhand me, Randolph!" she would always cry in an overdramatic tone. It just seemed like a funny thing to say.

It had been years since Martha last heard her brother recite that routine. Now, as she drifted on the edges of sleep on a Saturday morning, Randy's voice spoke to her from the doorway of her room.

"Martha! SLOOOOOWLY I turn... step by step, inch by inch..."

With a smile, Martha curled her hand into the covers and pulled them up to her chin. "Unhand me, Randolph," she said absently, and giggled. A few seconds later, her eyes popped open in shock.

She had really heard that voice. Martha knew she had. It was clear as day, and although she'd been on the edge of sleep, she knew it was real.

The girl jumped out of bed and began to look around the house. What she expected to find, not even Martha knew, but she thought at least her parents would be home. That wouldn't explain what she heard. However, it would take some of the edge off her fear.

No one else was home. A note on the kitchen counter explained where they'd gone.

Martha, Getting a Xmas tree. Be back before dinner. Love, Mom.

It was her parents' yearly ritual, driving two hours to their favorite Christmas tree farm and getting a bushy monstrosity that would barely fit through the front door. Martha was alone in the house. Alone with the phantom voice of her dead brother.

Behind her, the little TV in the kitchen came on by itself.

Martha whirled around to face it with a curt squeal of surprise. Oh great, alone in the house and now televisions were switching on without anyone touching them.

On the screen was Gale Weathers, Martha's absolute favorite tabloid journalist (yeah, right), standing in front of the house where Stu Macher once lived. "In one week, serial killer Stuart Macher's house at 261 Turner Lane will be torn down to make way for a crisis center for victims of violent crime. This day will be the anniversary of the bloodbath perpetrated here by Macher and his partner in crime, Billy Loomis, where several innocent teenagers lost their lives. Macher's parents have chosen to sell after years of trying to go on living in the house and continue with their lives, which were shattered by their son's callous decision to act out the finale of his and Loomis's sick little game in their home. The couple is hoping the destruction and rebirth of this house will bring final closure to themselves and the families of the victims who died within its walls."

While she spoke, pictures of Stu and then Billy were broadcast on the screen, as well as photos of the house in the hours after the murders had been committed there, surrounded by police cars. Martha remembered that day well. Her parents, frantic and distraught after receiving a phone call about their son having been shot. Shot? This wasn't south central Los Angeles, it was suburban Woodsboro, California, and teenagers did not get shot here. None of the parents who were contacted that day, one by one, could have anticipated just how twisted the whole story would be when they found out what had happened to their children, or what their children had done.

Randy was one of the lucky ones. He was taken to the hospital on a stretcher, not in a bodybag.

At least, not that day.

On the screen, Gale was interviewing the Machers. "We tried, but there are just too many horrible memories here," Mr. Macher said. Martha couldn't help but feel sorry for the man; he looked so sad and pathetic. "People were killed in our house, including our son, and we can't deal with that anymore. Especially not with the screaming and the blood running down the walls - "

"Bob!" his wife scolded, trying to shut him up.

"Blood running down the walls?" Gale asked.

Bob did not listen to his wife. He went on, an overwrought, shaken man. "The house is haunted, haunted! Almost every night, we hear people screaming and racing through the halls, and the walls run with blood. I hear my son crying out in pain! Gunshots, and that evil boy's maniacal laughter. He convinced my Stuart to do this."

"Billy Loomis?" questioned Gale.

"Yes! Stu never would have helped with such a horrible thing if it hadn't been for Billy twisting our son into a wholly different person. It's all Loomis's fault. Well we won't live here anymore!"

"Is that why you made the decision to sell the property to the city?"

"Yes, it is." Mr. Macher took a deep breath and tried to regain his composure. "I can only hope that tearing down the house will finally set its ghosts free. My son deserves his peace just as much as anyone else."

The show cut away from the taped footage to Gale back in the studio. "It's understandable that Bob Macher would feel that way about his child, but I can't say that most people would agree with him. We'll be at the house, live, when it is brought to the ground."

Martha turned off the television. Her hand was shaking a little.

Martha's eyes went to the EMF meter sitting on the counter where she'd left it, by the toaster. For the first time that week, she wondered if Randy was trying to send her a message. It wasn't such a stretch. Her brother knew about the little hobby she'd developed years ago. Amateur ghost hunting wasn't as strange a thing to do as it used to be, not with all the shows and documentaries on TV these days about people wandering through abandoned haunted houses with cameras and women with the ability to contact the dead. Mtv had even developed a program that could almost be called a game show, where "contestants" completed frightening dares for money within the walls of old mental hospitals and closed prisons just slopping over with ghosts.

The idea caused Martha to wonder just what Randy had been trying to say. Did he want her to see that news report? Was it his aim to get her to go on one of her ghost hunts in the Macher house before it was torn down?

She didn't even know if it was something she'd be allowed to do. But for the rest of the day, Martha couldn't get Mr. Macher's words out of her head.

The house is haunted, haunted! Almost every night, we hear people screaming and racing through the halls, and the walls run with blood.

Martha wondered what she'd see if she did conduct a ghost hunt in that house. The thought scared her too much to seriously consider it.

*****

The second time Martha Meeks heard her dead brother's voice, it was Sunday night, and she was dozing in her room with the television on.

Randy's voice, again, came from the doorway. "Hey Martha, wake up! Wanna watch my latest vlog? Hasn't even been uploaded yet; you get the exclusive first view!"

Martha came awake with a start, snorting loudly. She looked around the room.

Had she really just heard that?

Her hands were already beginning to shake as she scooted off the bed and went into the hall to check things out. Martha walked into the living room where her mother was sitting on the couch, knitting a red sweater.

"Mom, did you just call me?" she asked.

Her mother shook her head. "No, dear."

"Oh." She fidgeted nervously, glancing around the room. "Are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure." Mrs. Meeks looked up at her daughter. "Are you alright, honey? You're as white as a ghost."

What a thing to say... "Yeah, Mom. I'm, uh... I'm fine." She went into the kitchen to get something.

Mrs. Meeks looked after her, brow furrowed. "What is that girl up to?" she wondered to herself.

Martha took the EMF meter to her brother's unoccupied room and stood in the doorway. Most of his things were packed up, but his parents hadn't yet been able to bring themselves to get rid of them, although it had been years since Billy's mother had gotten "a little knife happy" and stabbed Randy to death. Only his clothes had been given away to charity. Everything else was still there, collecting dust.

Martha turned on the light and stepped cautiously into the room. Switching on the EMF meter, she began to sweep the rod attached to the little box back and forth to see if there'd be any sort of reaction. The mechanism beeped slowly as it always did when there was nothing to report. She went around the bed, held the rod up to each corner of the window, but the EMF gave her little so far.

"Come on, Randy... is there something you want me to know?" Martha asked out loud.

When she ran the EMF meter over a box of her brother's videotapes, it began to whine. Martha's heart jumped in her chest. She did it again, and the meter whined even louder and more steadily.

Next thing she knew, one of the tapes had flipped up over the side of the box and fallen to the floor at her feet. Martha let out a little yelp and scurried out the door into the hallway.

She came back rather quickly, peeking around the doorjamb. The tape lay there, now unmoving, but she was still afraid to touch it. Martha's hand shook as she picked up the tape and ran back out of Randy's room without turning off the light.

She took the tape back to her own room, closing the door behind her. The tape was labeled with a date that was about two months before Randy was killed. One of his video log tapes. He had so loved to do those video diary entries; he'd done them at least once a week for a few years before his death. Obviously, Randy wanted her to see this one. Martha instantly put the tape into the VCR and pushed the play button.

As soon as Randy started talking, all bouncy and full of energy, she began to cry. Martha couldn't help it. Seeing him like that, it made her miss him all over again. Once the initial shock had worn off, she could pay more attention to what he was saying - there was something on this tape he wanted her to hear.

For a while, Randy chatted on about his theories concerning where socks went when they disappeared from the dryer, how Blade Runner was a cautionary tale on what could happen if we let those vacuuming robots get too much control, and how the characters of Terminator 2: Judgment Day effectively wiped out the existence of John Conner by stopping the war before it could happen. Martha tried to pay a great deal of attention to all this, but she had heard this stuff before.

Eventually, though, Randy brought up something that seemed important. He picked up a flyer and showed it to the camera. "Now, I want you guys to take a good look at this picture. This is Courtney Mason. She was a friend of mine in high school. We dated for a while. But she's been missing for a year, and I want everyone watching this to take a good, long look at her photo, 'cause we gotta find her, okay? Courtney Mason. See? Pretty face, brown hair, green eyes. If you know where she is, you can call the number here on the flyer, or call me. That's me, Randy Meeks; I'm in the student directory. I can hook you up with the police. We're going to find her."

Martha wrote down the information on the flyer and tried to make a mental note of how the girl looked. She remembered meeting her a few years ago, but only a couple of times. Randy might've brought her to dinner once.

There were more video logs about movies and video games and just anything Randy felt like discussing. Near the end of the tape, he got on the subject of ghost hunting. At that time, Martha had just started doing it on an amateur level (not that she'd progressed since then), and had spoken to her brother about some of the things she'd seen in a closed wing of a local hospital that was being renovated. The hospital had allowed it from the perspective that it was a school project.

"If any house is going to be totally up the ass haunted, it's Stu Macher's house on Turner Lane," Randy said. "A bunch of people died there, and Dewey was stabbed, and I was shot, and I just bet you Billy's ghost is still there, walking the halls of that house with that stupid mask on, looking for someone to kill. 'Cause you know, houses have histories. They retain the energy of stuff that's happened there. I read all about it after my sister Martha told me she saw a ghost in a wing of the hospital they're not using right now, an honest to God ghost. Don't you think that Stu's house would be retaining a buttload of energy after what happened there? Kinda like how a girl retains water when she's about to get her monthly curse?"

Martha had to laugh; he was such a goof.

"Well, if any house is feeling bloated, it's that house. Martha, if you ever get the chance to ghost hunt in that bitch, you get up in there, girl. If you asked me hey, Randy, should I take my little EMF and my camera and bust some ghosts in Stu's old house, my answer would be yes, Martha, that's exactly what you should do. Billy and Stu, they can't hurt you now, 'cause they're dead. I saw them die myself. Billy, BANG!" Randy poked himself in the forehead. "Stu, gaaaaah!" He crossed his arms over his face like he was protecting it from a falling object. "Go in there and see what you can see. I don't think we found out everything. Those two had more secrets, you know? So you find out what you can." Punctuating the last three words by poking the camera lens, Randy finished with, "I'll go with you if you want me to. We be Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd. Who ya gonna call? The Meeks, that's who."

Were the things Randy said about houses and their histories true? Hadn't she read something about that in one of her books about hauntings? Martha thought about the Macher home, and how it was going to be torn down in a matter of days.

"Is that what you want me to do, Randy?" she asked the open air. "You want me to perform a ghost hunt in Stu's old house?"

The tape in the VCR began to rewind itself. As she hadn't even touched the remote control, Martha sat up with a start, a chill moving down her spine.

The tape stopped rewinding, and began to play again. "...yes, Martha, that's exactly what you should do," Randy repeated.

Stunned, Martha jumped up, running over to the VCR, and slapped the Eject button. Before the tape was out of the VCR, she was already shaking and panting a little, and she wasn't even entirely sure why. It was just Randy, her goofy, harmless brother. But how often did one's dead sibling speak to her through an old videotape?

A ghost hunt in Stu Macher's house. Martha wasn't even sure if she could get permission for such a thing.

Before it got too late, she called up a college friend, someone she met in the one parapsychology class she'd managed to take. A girl named Gwen.

"Is it true that houses can record the energy of stuff that happens there? What did Professor Spencer say about...?"

"Oh, yeah, haunted houses," Gwen chimed in. "The theory is that the magnetic field surrounding a house can record traumatic events that take place there. So that's why people see ghosts in the house - a lot of the time, it's not even a real dead guy. It's a traumatic event, being played back."

"Did he say that houses can have actual ghosts, though? Like, if people died there?"

"Yeah, that does happen too."

"Do you think it's safe for someone to do a ghost hunt in a house where people were murdered?" Martha asked.

The question obviously caught Gwen off guard; she let out a scoffing sound. "Wow, we're talkin' big leagues here. An actual house where people were murdered? Well, if horror movies are any indication, it's hella dangerous. You'll come out with your head hanging on by a ligament."

"But what about in real life?"

"I dunno, you'd probably see some scary shit, but dangerous?" There was a shrug in Gwen's tone. "Nah. Ghosts don't hurt anybody in real life."

"Okay... because I'm probably going to see if I can do one in the Macher house," Martha announced.

Gwen was silent for a few long seconds. "Oh." Now her tone had become guarded, like she was walking on egg shells. "Stu Macher, the guy who helped Billy Loomis kill all those people?"

"Yeah. They're going to tear the house down, so I'm running out of time if I want to find out anything there." Her voice a little shaky, Martha sighed and finished, "I think I'm going to head on down tomorrow and see if they'll let me in."

"Holy shit," Gwen exclaimed. "You're really going to do a hunt in the house where those two psychos died?"

"I sure am," Martha replied, trying to put some courage into her tone.

"What are you hoping to find out?"

She gave it some thought. "I'm not sure. But I think there's something undiscovered in that house."

"Wow."

Martha paused before asking, "You want to come with me?"

Gwen burst out laughing. "Uh, no, Martha. A house where two stab-happy psychos died? I don't think so."

"It was worth a try," she said with a giggle.

Gwen added, "But thanks for thinking of me," and they both had a good laugh.

"Do you remember if Professor Spencer gave us any techniques to help us see ghosts better? Like, wasn't there some sort of crystal clock thing?" As she was speaking, Martha held the phone between her shoulder and her ear and looked through the bookshelf for her old notes from the parapsychology class.

"Uh, yeah... it was called the crystal countdown."

"Crystal countdown..." Martha found the raggedy folder and pulled it out, opening it up.

"It involved picturing a screen with the number seven on it, with a violet background. Then you slowly count down to one, imagining that each number's background is a color of the rainbow, in order, going backward through the colors as well. Remember, we all did it in class?"

"Yeah..." Martha came upon the instructions for doing the crystal countdown as the professor had given them to the class. "It's supposed to put you in a deeper state of consciousness."

"Right. Like, we could still be awake, but be in the alpha state of consciousness, where our minds were more open to receiving communication from, you know... wherever. Out there."

Martha began to giggle. "Remember how that one guy fell asleep while we were doing it in class?"

"Yeah... Professor Spencer said that might happen."

They both laughed again. It was nice to catch up.

Martha was going to do this. It didn't matter how scared she was. Her brother was trying to send her a message, and she would find out what it was in that house.

*****

The Machers were surprisingly accommodating on letting Martha do her ghost hunt in their home. They said some things that indicated that they hoped Stu would have something to say to them, some message of regret and love, before they left this house forever.

Martha wasn't sure they'd really get it, but she would try, for their sake. She felt sorry for the sad old couple; their only child, and what he'd done...

They left her alone in the house, which was half empty already. Soon, all of their belongings would be gone, and it would just be a lonely shell, ready for demolition. Martha stood among the boxes in the front entryway, closed her eyes, and imagined that screen, with its violet background and big number seven. Martha went back through the numbers and the colors until she could feel her consciousness visibly change. More open, ready to receive whatever may come to her in this anguished space. Indigo, six... blue, five... green, four... yellow, three...

Orange, two... red, one.

The television in the living room came on. Static. Martha swept the rod of the EMF meter back and forth as she approached it. The meter started to whine, the needle to jump. The sound got louder when she pointed the rod right at the screen. An image rolled and jumped through the static until Martha could see her brother Randy, sitting there as if he was doing one of his video logs.

"Hi everybody. Tonight, I've got a special one for you. This is the first time I ever really talked to Courtney Mason. She made me kinda nervous, so I brought my friends along with me."

Martha stared in shock at the TV screen. This wasn't a real video, but a message, sent straight from the other side.

Now the TV screen showed Randy, Stu, and Billy walking into a grocery store and going up to the express line, where Courtney acted as the checker. They were all chuckling. "Hey Courtney," Randy said. "How are you?"

Martha watched the three boys talking and flirting with the girl, Courtney flirting back, for a minute or so. Then Billy leaned on the belt where people usually put their ten items or less and gave her a smirky grin. "Courtney, you wanna play a little joke for us?"

The teen pushed some of her brown hair behind her ear. "A joke?"

"Yeah." Billy looked around to make sure the manager of the store wasn't standing behind him, ready to bust them all. "You can page people with that microphone there, right?"

Courtney looked at the silver microphone, then back at Billy. Stu and Randy snickered. "Yeah, I can."

"Would you page Mike Hunt for us?"

Now Stu and Randy laughed rather loudly, covering their mouths.

Rolling her eyes, Courtney got it. "I can't do that; I'll get in trouble."

Billy could be very charming when he wanted to, Martha noticed. But wasn't that the entire reason he had gotten away with so much for so long?

"You can tell your boss that you didn't know what we were really asking you to do. Some people don't get it."

Courtney looked from one boy to the other. Randy grinned at her, and she grinned back. "It would be kind of funny..." she remarked.

"She's gonna do it!" Stu cried. "Niiiice!"

The boys stood by as Courtney, trying not to laugh herself, took hold of the microphone and put her mouth to it, pressing a red button on the side. "Mike Hunt, paging Mike Hunt. If anyone has seen Mike Hunt, would you please come to register one? These three boys here would like to see Mike Hunt."

Billy, Stu, and Randy burst out in snickery giggles, hands over their mouths, almost bent over with laughter the further she went with the joke.

Courtney continued. "And that boy there needs Amanda Huginkiss." She pointed to Stu. Billy and Randy lost it laughing at her while Stu stood up straight, looking offended. "Amanda Huginkiss? Paging Amanda Huginkiss. Oh please, why can't he find Amanda Huginkiss?"

The manager marched over to her register and snatched the microphone out of Courtney's hand. There was no way she could feign innocence now, not after going further with the joke. "Courtney, what the hell are you doing?" he snapped.

The scene switched. It was now night outside the grocery store. Randy waited near the front door until Courtney came out, her hands in her pockets.

"Hey Courtney. What'd he do to you?" Randy asked.

"Hey. Uh, he didn't fire me, but I'm on probation for six months," she said, smiling at him a little.

"Oh, I'm sorry we got you in trouble."

"It's alright, Randy." With a big grin, Courtney added, "I've always wanted to do that."

They walked off together, continuing their talk. The scene switched again, back to Randy doing his video log.

"That's how it started, how Courtney and I became friends. You heard it here first, folks. But now, I think we should retire to Stu's bedroom, where even more titillating facts await us." With that, the TV screen went black.

Martha looked down. The television wasn't even plugged in. But then, it didn't need to be, did it?

She left the living room and headed back into the entryway, looking up at the stairs. A chill swept through her. A part of Martha didn't want to go up there, but she knew she had to. To Stu Macher's room.

It was completely empty, stripped of furniture. Either Stu's parents weren't as sentimental as her own, or this was one of the first rooms packed away for moving. Martha had only been up here a couple of times, always with Randy, when he came over for a visit and had been forced to take his pesky little sister along. Martha remembered the little TV, the heavy down comforter, the masculine colors of the room. It all faded back into view for her now.

Stu was sitting on his bed, playing a handheld video game. At the window, Billy stood and looked out, eyes far away, plotting something. He finally spoke. "So how was it?"

"How was what?" Stu was too focused on the video game.

Billy turned to him and said, "Killing Casey." He came closer, trying to catch Stu's eye. "We had to book it out of there so quick to establish our alibis, we never got to talk about it." Billy's eyes were gleaming. "How did it feel?"

The subject seemed to make Stu a little uncomfortable. At first, he tried to keep playing the game, but wound up putting it down. "You should know. You're the one who got to off Steve."

Martha gasped. They were talking about the murders of Casey Becker and Steven Orth.

"Yeah, but I didn't have any beef with him. It must've felt really good, to stab a bitch who dumped you for someone else." Billy seemed positively electrified. Excited. "What did it feel like?"

Finally, Stu just gave in to his baser feelings, leaning forward. "It felt... so good. I stuck that knife in her, and she bled, and she bled, and to hear her cry out in pain... it was like a good orgasm, you know? I was totally in the zone."

"Felt good to get even, huh?"

Stu's eyes were only half open now as he fantasized about it. "Yeah. The best part was, Casey knew it was me who did that to her. She pulled off my mask, and she saw my face, and she never got to tell anybody who stuck that knife in her. Her intestines hanging out of her gut after we hung her from that tree... I swear, I got hard, man." Suddenly, Stu seemed to come back to himself, cringing. "Is that sick?"

Billy snickered. "You're asking me?"

A sound came from behind Martha, making her turn. There was nothing there. When she looked back, the room was empty again.

Martha made her way back down the hall, sweeping the EMF meter from side to side. It began to react as she neared the parents' bedroom. The room was only partially empty, the bed still there. The further Martha stepped into it, the more that came into focus.

Sidney Prescott sat on the bed, brushing her hair. She and Billy were talking. He started to get up, leaned on the bed, and said to her, "What do I have to do to prove to you that I'm not a killer?" His tone was completely menacing, with just a tinge of hurt. Martha could see, again, how he got away with so much before this was all over.

Then Stu came into the room, wearing the Ghost Face costume. Martha had the advantage of knowing what had really happened here, but the Sidney of the past did not. As Stu and Billy played out their little murder game, Sidney bought it, believing that the killer was really stabbing Billy to death. She even reached out for him when he extended his bloody hand to her, crying out, "Sid... ney..." and collapsing on the bed.

Once Sidney had run from the room with the killer in hot pursuit, Billy jumped up from the bed, his shirt covered in fake blood. Even though Martha knew it would happen, she still gasped in surprise. To hear that two teenage boys had pulled off such a ruse was one thing, to actually see it played out was another. Billy quickly went into a closet and came out wearing another Ghost Face costume. He ran from the room, taking a different route, and cut Sidney off when she tried to make a getaway down the stairs. Her face looked so surprised. Martha wondered if the boys were satisfied with themselves, seeing such an expression of shock on Sidney's face; at the time, the girl had no idea she was dealing with two killers. It must've really stunned her when Ghost Face was able to cut her off, after she had just locked him in another room.

Martha wanted to beat the crap out of them both. The anger came upon her quite suddenly, watching these two work. The little shits.

Following them, Martha watched as Sidney finally managed to get away by climbing out a window. Billy came out of the attic/laundry room and took off his mask. Stu met him at the door.

"Goddamn it," Billy cussed, putting a hand to his jaw and working it. "Bitch hit me with the door. It really hurt."

Stu pulled the costume off over his head. "I can't believe Sidney finally gave it up to you! On tonight of all nights." He pumped a fist in triumph. "Yes! No longer a virgin, now just a regular horror movie slut. What a perfect ending to our movie."

"Put your costume back on. We gotta go get 'er."

"What about Randy? He's still downstairs." Stu grinned impishly. "Did you see his face when you grabbed him in the video store? He nearly shit himself."

Martha scowled at the spectres before her.

"Yeah. He's too smart for us." Billy held up the knife in his hand. "We better take care of him now."

Martha wondered how Randy had gotten out of that one; he'd never mentioned them trying to kill him beyond Billy shooting him with the gun. She knew, though, that Randy would have liked hearing that he was "too smart" for them.

When Martha turned back, the boys were gone.

Music came from downstairs. Phantom, echoing music that was not really there, not in this time period. Martha followed it down, listening to the reactions from the EMF meter. In a back hallway, she found Stu opening the door into the garage. Someone in a Ghost Face costume was standing there.

"Did you get 'er?" Stu asked.

The boy in the costume gestured to the garage door. Stu stepped out into the garage, and Martha just barely squeezed through the door before Stu closed it.

Tatum Riley was stuck in the cat door, hanging there, dead. She had tried to climb through it to escape the Ghost Face killer, and he had raised the garage door while she was still stuck halfway through. Those things were usually made to stop when something went wrong, like a person jutting through them, but this time, it had malfunctioned and gone all the way up until Tatum's head had been crushed between the door and the outer edge of the garage. Her legs were still swinging just a little, the movement causing the door to creak lightly.

Stu looked up at her, mesmerized by her dangling, blood-streaked hand. He reached up to touch it while Billy pushed the mask up on his head. "Did she give you a hard time?" Stu asked.

Martha had to turn away for a moment, from the sight of Tatum's twisted body.

Billy scoffed. "I'll say. Bitch threw beer bottles at me. Damn, that hurt."

"I'm not surprised." Stu didn't seem to be able to tear his eyes away from his girlfriend's dead body. "I knew she'd fight."

"Tell me again why you wanted her dead?" Brushing off his costume, Billy added, "She is your girlfriend. Or, was."

"Because this is a horror movie. Our horror movie. If we left her alive, she'd only cause shit for us. You saw how she fought you. You think she's going to voluntarily leave without Sidney?" Stu turned back to Billy. "Everybody dies but us. Remember?"

"Yeah." Billy rubbed his head. "That's unless one of these assholes kills me first."

His eyes going back to Tatum, Stu tilted his head to the same angle as the hanging girl's, just staring at what he could see of her face. "Besides, she was such a nag. If I had to listen to Tatum rag on me one more time..."

Someone tapped Martha on the shoulder. There was no one else in the house. She whirled around with a gasp and then let out a scream at the sight of Tatum's ghost standing there, head twisted unnaturally to the side, blood running down her arm and the front of her shirt.

"I don't get to be in the sequel?" Tatum asked her, bewildered, lost. "Why does my neck hurt so much?"

Backing away, Martha headed for the door that led back into the house. "I don't know how to help you, Tatum. You must be stuck here." It was the first time any of the ghosts had addressed her directly, besides Randy. "If you see a light, a bright light, go toward it, okay?"

"Like Poltergeist?" Tatum asked.

"Yeah... like in Poltergeist."

She scurried back into the house then, closing the door behind her. Martha's body shook all over.

Voices came from a nearby room. It sounded like Billy and Stu's voices. After what she had just seen in the garage, Martha wasn't sure she wanted to follow this hunt any further along in its frightening narrative. But there was something here Randy wanted her to see. Martha pushed the door open and saw a flight of stairs leading down into a basement.

Oh, she remembered now. Stu's family had a game room down there, with a couple pinball machines and a pool table, among other things. Martha headed down the stairs.

Billy and Stu were there. Stu was playing one of the noisy pinball machines while Billy sat on top of the other one, his dangling legs swinging like a little boy's. "I'm bored," Billy complained.

"Suck it up," Stu replied. "I've got almost 10,000 points." The game kept dinging and thumping as Stu worked the paddles on the side, knocking the little balls around.

"You know what we should do?" Billy thought it over, a smirky grin coming to his face. "We should make another movie."

Although Stu's eyes shifted momentarily to Billy, he kept playing his game. "Another movie?"

"Yeah. Like we made last year, with that slut."

"Mrs. Prescott?" Stu questioned.

"Yeah." Billy smiled wider. The expression was disturbing; it made Martha's skin crawl. "We should plan our own movie this time, without Bridger's help."

The pinball machine suddenly let out several loud whoops, with lights going off and the display of 10,000 points blinking merrily. "Yes!" Stu cried, and finally gave Billy his full attention. "What do you mean?"

Billy seemed as animated as the pinball machine. His eyes gleamed. "What if this time, we kill more than just one whore? We could plan the whole thing out, and kill several people, like a spree of some kind. Everybody dies but us."

Stu walked the room slowly, thinking it over. "We'd never get away with it."

"We got away with it the first time. And if we plan it all out very carefully..."

Martha's head reeled with what she was hearing. They were so casual about it. Is this really how they began planning such a violent murder spree? Like it was a game?

She was seeing the events out of order. This was how they planned it, long before everyone was killed.

Picking up a little ball, Stu began bouncing it against the wall and catching it. "I don't know..."

"What are you afraid of?" Billy asked in an almost mocking tone.

Troubled by that comment, Stu turned to him. "I'm not scared. It's just..."

"What?"

"Well... when we killed the Prescott bitch, I only held her down. You did all the bloody work." Sheepish, Stu looked down. "I don't know if I could really... stab a person."

Billy now crossed the room to a large rectangular planter that took up an entire wall. The decorative planter teemed with rose bushes and ivy that had grown over the sides, along with a small herb garden on one end. Billy yanked a few leaves of ivy off the plant and began tearing them into smaller pieces. "I could teach you," he said. "It's not that hard. After the first time the knife goes in, it just gets easier and easier."

"Well... how are you going to do that?"

That feral grin came back to Billy's face. "We'll get someone for practice."

Heavy footsteps came from above Martha's head. Someone was coming toward the basement. As soon as she heard the sound, her head whipped up, looking at the ceiling. When she looked back down, the basement was empty and dark.

Three people made their way down the stairs, and the lights came on. It was Billy, Stu, and the girl, Courtney. Martha's stomach sank like a stone.

We'll get someone for practice.

Courtney looked around. "I thought you said Randy would be waiting for me down here."

"Oh, did I?" Grinning, Stu leaned against one of the pinball machines. "I meant that he'd be here soon."

Billy held his position near the stairs.

"Oh." Courtney looked around, obviously feeling a bit uneasy about being down here alone with two boys. "Your parents aren't home."

"No, they're not."

Not even Martha liked the snickery tone in which he'd spoken those words. What she was seeing was in the past, but she still wanted to run back up the stairs and escape from the basement. The room suddenly felt extremely claustrophobic.

"Huh. Well, uh... I think I'd rather wait upstairs." Courtney turned, seeing Billy blocking her way. The girl's eyes widened.

"Aw, come on, Courtney." Stu patted the top of the pinball machine. "You don't wanna play The Accused?"

A beat of silence went by and Courtney tried to dart past Billy and up the stairs. He grabbed her around the waist, dragging her toward the middle of the room. The girl began to scream. Martha covered her mouth, near tears. She didn't want to watch this. Courtney fought, scratching, kicking, wrestling with Billy, but she was smaller and weaker than him.

Looking down, Martha saw that they had covered the floor with a big tarp. They really meant to do this, didn't they?

When Courtney got in a good shot, stomping on Billy's foot, he whipped her around and slammed her head into the wall. The sound was tremendously loud. The girl hung limp, groaning, stunned but still conscious, her hair hanging in her face.

Billy held her up, pinning her arms behind her back and sticking her chest out to Stu. "Do it," he commanded. Courtney's legs worked fruitlessly, her heels digging at the tarp. She groaned. "Stab her, Stu."

"No," Martha said. It didn't matter that they couldn't hear her. She wished there was something she could do to stop this.

Stu pulled a hunting knife from his back pocket. He stood before Courtney, breathing hard. Her head came up and a stream of blood ran from her forehead.

"Do it!" Billy cried.

Now Courtney moaned, "No! What are you doing?"

"Are you ready?!" yelled Billy.

"Yeah!" Stu bellowed back. "I'm ready, baby!"

"No, stop!" Courtney screamed. Her face ran with terror.

"Kill the bitch!" Billy demanded.

With a howl of triumph, Stu plunged the hunting knife into Courtney's chest, right under her ribs. The girl screamed. He pulled the knife out and put it in her again, into her stomach. Blood began to stain her shirt. Courtney went on screaming and begging for her life.

"Please, stop! Don't do this!" the girl screamed. "Why are you doing this?"

Stu stabbed her again.

"Yeah, kill 'er! Stab that whore!" Billy yelled in encouragement.

Taking the knife in both hands, Stu plunged the knife between her breasts with another victorious cry. Courtney's eyes went wide with pain and she let out a loud groan before her body went slack in Billy's arms, head falling forward. The girl made no more sounds of protest. Stu had stabbed her in the heart.

The fact that she was dead did nothing to satisfy his bloodlust.

Stu put the knife in her so many more times that Martha lost count. He stabbed her chest, her breasts, and her stomach until the blood had run down her legs and splattered all over the front of his shirt. Billy's arms got tired and he eventually dropped her. Courtney sprawled out on the tarp, lifeless. The only sound in the room for a full minute was Billy and Stu's heavy breathing as they surveyed the kill.

Finally, Stu growled out, "I'm ready now, Billy."

Billy shook his head. "That was good, that was real good. But now, I want you to gut 'er."

"Gut her?"

"Yeah. Like I did to Maureen Prescott." Billy put a hand on Stu's shoulder. "That will prove you're really ready."

Stu would not be shown up by Billy. He nodded. "Okay. I can do it."

Martha couldn't watch that. She turned away and waited for the sounds to stop, the wet, gurgly sounds of Stu cutting into Courtney's body. She cringed and shut her eyes when Billy said, "I don't want you to stop until her guts are strewn all over this tarp. I want intestines over here, stomach over there..."

"Sure, Billy."

The noises stopped soon after that, but Martha did not look. Instead, she listened.

"Good job, Stu. Good job," Billy said, like he was talking to a child who had just completed an art project. "You have proven that you're ready."

"Who should we kill next?"

"That's what I like to hear. So eager," Billy chuckled. "I don't know, who would you like to kill?"

Stu thought it over. "Casey Becker. That bitch."

"Hm. Works for me."

Stu moved, like he was looking around the room. "What are we going to do with Courtney?"

Martha finally opened her eyes. The basement was now dim and empty, lit by only one small remaining bulb. What she saw before her was the planter. The dying, neglected planter.

Stu's parents had been ignoring the plants for quite some time now. The bushes no longer bore flowers, the ivy had wilted, and the herbs lay there like the skeletal remains of a miniature, dead forest.

Skeletal remains...

Putting down the EMF meter, Martha was like a woman possessed as she climbed into the planter and plunged her hands into the dirt, pushing and pulling aside the remains of the plants. She did not stop digging until her clothes were covered with soil and the dirt was under every fingernail.

Martha's hands eventually hit something hard and smooth. When she pulled it out, she realized it was a human skull.

*****

She did not unearth all of Courtney Mason's bones; that would be something the police would want to do. Going upstairs, Martha now stood in the entryway, covered in dirt, aware that there was a body in the basement below her feet. A human body. This is what Randy sent her here to find. Soon, she would call the police and have the complete skeletal remains of Courtney brought up, but first, she had to process what she had seen here.

No one knew that Billy and Stu had killed that girl. They probably would have gotten away with it if Martha hadn't come.

The television that wasn't plugged in came on again.

She saw Randy, doing another video log. "Hey sis. I'm sorry I had to do this to you. I know it was hard to see all that, but she had to be found. The construction crew, they were just going to wall in the planter. Weren't even planning to unearth it. Courtney never would have been found if it hadn't been for you. So I thank you, Martha. I'm real proud of how brave you were to do this."

"I love you, Randy," Martha said to the TV. "Miss you."

"I love you too, sis," he said, and the television went dark.

Martha turned around. There she saw Stu Macher, his face burned and cut. He had a frightened look in his eyes. "You found the last one," he said. "We have no hold here anymore."

The house seemed to grow darker, all of a sudden. From the shadows came a whooshing, growling, sucking sound, and hands of night moved along the floor.

"No!" Stu cried, terrified. He tried to escape the shadows, but they were all around him. Long, searching fingers closed around his ankles. "No, no! I won't go, I won't go!"

A pool of darkness opened up beneath him, and more hands than Martha could count dragged Stu down into the shadows. The boy clawed at the floor, grabbed for anything he could get his hands on, and screamed, screamed, raw and horrified. But there was no escape. Stu Macher disappeared into an inky black hole in the floor, and was gone.

"I'm not going."

Martha turned and saw Billy Loomis now. Blood ran down his face from the bullethole in his forehead. He grinned at her. "Hello Martha."

She said nothing.

Billy went on smiling. "I'm a lot stronger than Stu was. I'm going to stay on here forever." He snickered. "It'll be sort of fun. This will be a, a what? An outreach center for victims of violent crime? Won't they enjoy having me around." He laughed even louder then, evil and arrogant.

"I guess Randy and I will just have to figure out a way to exorcise you from this space, then," Martha replied, and grinned herself. "We'll make sure Tatum is freed of the house too, and Courtney, if her spirit is still here."

Billy scoffed at that, as if to tell her to take her best shot. "Hey Martha... what's your favorite scary movie?"

"I don't really watch them," she said.

"That's a shame." Billy sized her up with his eyes. "You know, we could make our own scary movie."

Martha closed her eyes. She wouldn't listen to Billy Loomis anymore. As she imagined the screen with the red background, a number one in its center, she began to count out loud. "Red, one... orange, two..."

Billy's twisted, dark spectre stood only inches from her. "Oh come on, Martha. It'd be so cool. There's gotta be someone you'd like to kill. Everyone has at least one person in their life that they'd like to see dead. And no one would ever suspect that a girl was the killer. Especially a mousy, harmless-looking little thing like you."

"Yellow, three... green, four..."

"It would be so epic."

"Blue, five... indigo, six..."

"Martha, no, don't go!" Was it possible that he sounded lonely?

"Violet, seven."

The count finished, Martha opened her eyes.

Billy Loomis was gone.

*****

Still filthy from the planter, Martha sat outside on the porch while the police did their work. The red and blue lights turning on top of one of the cars projected over her face in alternating patterns. A cop with a notepad in his hand was asking her questions.

"And how did you know that the body was down there?" he asked.

"The ghosts showed me," Martha replied.

The policeman stopped writing, and looked at her, confused. "The ghosts?"

"The ghosts of Billy Loomis and Stuart Macher. They showed me how they stabbed her to death."

The man paused for a long time before he spoke again. "Oh."

Martha took his silence as a cue to continue. "They were discussing what to do with her body and I saw the planter. It was big, big enough to hold a human body. So I started digging." Looking up at the policeman with her dirty face, she added, "I just started digging."

He cleared his throat, unsure what to say. "I'm not doubting that those two boys could have done this, because we all know they were killers, but... it's a very unusual story."

Martha nodded.

"I may have some more questions for you later," the policeman said, and headed back into the house.

Mr. and Mrs. Macher came up to her, sitting on their porch. "Martha? What happened? What happened with that body in our basement?" Bob Macher asked.

She looked up at them and opened her mouth, ready to tell them the whole horrible story of what their son had done, but there was something in their eyes, the desperation in their eyes, that made her feel sorry for the Machers. "She was a friend of my brother's," Martha began. "A girl named Courtney Mason. Billy wanted to repeat what they'd done to Maureen Prescott, he wanted to make his own horror movie, only without the cameras. He wanted Stu to help him plot it out. But Stu said he'd never stabbed anyone before, because Billy did all the work with Mrs. Prescott, and he wasn't sure he could do it."

"You see?" Mr. Macher said to his wife. "I knew it."

Swallowing hard, Martha went on. "Billy said they could get someone to use for practice, so Stu would be able to handle it, and that's why they lured Courtney here. She was... Stu's practice kill."

Mrs. Macher's face crumpled; she began to cry.

"But Billy put him up to it," Bob Macher stated, as if that made everything better.

"Yeah," Martha replied. "Stu went along with it, but it was all Billy's idea at first."

"Did he... did our son have anything to say to us?" Mrs. Macher asked.

Again, Martha told the truth, but softened it up for the broken couple. She truly felt like these people didn't deserve the pain their son had caused them. "He said he didn't want to go, but there was nothing holding him here anymore." Then she lied. "And he said good-bye."

Mrs. Macher cried into her husband's chest. He hugged her to him. "Thank you," Mr. Macher said, grateful and satisfied. "Thank you." They walked back into the house.

Martha, her EMF meter on her lap, just sat on the porch in silence until her parents came to get her.

*****

The third time Martha Meeks heard her dead brother's voice, she was taking a nap on the couch, a few days before Christmas. Years ago, their mother had sat them down with a Martha Stewart crafts book and had them make silver and gold ornaments out of paper and decoupage glue. Randy acted like he didn't want to at the time, but within minutes, they had both been laughing and nudging each other playfully as they cut out the star shapes.

When Mom had put the book in front of them, Randy read the name of the author and cried out, "Martha! SLOOOOWLY I turn..."

These were the words she heard again as Martha Meeks was just coming out of sleep. She blinked, smiled, and leaned up on her elbow to admire the paper ornaments on the Christmas tree. Martha thought she would probably always miss her brother, but at least she had wonderful memories like these to make her smile. It was more peace than the Machers and Billy's father would ever have.

"Hey Randy," she whispered. "Merry Christmas, you goof."
Tags: certain rules - final, scream, yuletide
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