Sondra had been sitting in the parking lot outside the Genetti Hotel for twenty minutes just watching the people climb out of their cars, shuffle along the sidewalk and enter into the building. She hadn’t recognized anyone yet, but she had no idea who was already inside.
She turned the rearview mirror toward her face and stretched her neck to examine the black vein that disappeared into her hair and crawled up the back of her neck. She had done everything she could to cover it up with makeup, and for the most part it was barely visible unless one was looking for it, but she could see it, and that was all that mattered.
“God, I feel so stupid,” she pushed the mirror away and jammed her spine against the seat behind her with a self-defeated huff. “I should have stayed home.”
Her mind raced over every humiliating scenario it could muster, from walking right into the middle of a point and laugh ceremony to being completely ignored when she entered. She squeezed her eyes tightly closed, but the sting of tears darted along the edges of her lashes. It wasn’t fair that no matter what she did, she couldn’t shake her own pathetic label.
Destroy them. A tiny voice inside her spoke up. The only way to show them what you’re made of is to destroy them all.
Sondra sat upright and reached for the mirror again. She drew it toward her face and leaned forward to inspect her reflection. “I should destroy them,” she told herself, her watery blue eyes darkening with vengeance.
Yes, the voice inside hissed. Tear them all apart.
“I’ll tear them all apart.”
And eat their brains.
“Yes,” she nodded. “I’ll tear them all apart and eat their brains.”
Sondra reached for the door handle and opened the car door. She stepped out onto the sidewalk, the July humidity wafting up from the ground steamed her. Her carefully styled hair fell flat almost instantly, but for the first time since she’d gotten the invitation to the reunion, Sondra didn’t care about what she looked like. She only wanted to destroy them and devour their brains.
Her squared heels clonked against the sidewalk as she neared the door, which opened up and spewed out a giggling drunk woman in a bright red halter dress. Steadied by a well-dressed Ken doll of a man, his only flaw was a pair of black, square-framed glasses. Even the glasses accentuated his handsomeness, and the inner-Sondra recognized him right away.
Evan Monaghan. He had been master of the pirate’s salute, and even with ten years of age under his belt, she could clearly recall the distorted wretchedness of his face as he called out, “Ahoy! Matey!” as she walked down the hall.
Monaghan barely noticed her as they pressed and shuffled through the door, blocking Sondra’s entrance. Sondra was half his size, petite in build, but that something inside her seemed to have snapped and as she toddled on her heels, she staggered around to watch him and his trashy Barbie doll lean into one another and saunter along the walkway. Sondra drew in a breath through flared nostrils, and then she charged.
Evan Monaghan never knew what hit him, as Sondra’s small frame tackled him onto the sidewalk. Face first into the concrete with the force of her anger, Monaghan’s skull cracked inside like an egg on the edge of a glass mixing bowl. His drunken date backed into the wall of the hotel, her screams clawing at the dusk while Sondra bared down on the back of Evan’s head like a rabid beast. She was surprised at how strong her teeth were, how easily they penetrated the rubbery consistency of his flesh. She tore away the skin, the rush of his blood flooding her mouth before she spit his flesh into a pile on the sidewalk beside them.
Ragged horror gagged his date, who doubled over to vomit into a puddle on the cement. Sondra barely noticed, her teeth gnawing through flesh and bone to unearth the soft, chewy brain matter underneath. It was like uncooked pork sausage inside her teeth, but the taste was unlike anything she had every known. Lightly salty with the dry blood taste often found in liver, Sondra did not care that she had never liked liver. She only wanted to devour until there was nothing left inside the bowl of his skull. Beneath her, his body twitched in violent reaction.
She dove back into finish him off, and then lifted her blood-smeared face toward the sobbing woman who slid down the side of the building, her face dripping in black mascara and strings of orange-tainted vomit. Sondra moved toward her, barely noticed the baring of half-lifted forearms to try and ward her off. Sondra grasped her by the hair and bashed her head into the stone wall behind them with such force that the brain candy inside spilled out easily and she stuffed it greedily into her mouth.
There was no thought about what she’d just done, no doubt or guilt. She simply stood up, straightened her gore smeared dress and walked toward the entrance again. She threw open the door and looked inside. The Genetti ballroom was decorated in white with gold trim, but when Sondra blinked, she saw it painted red with the blood of her enemies.
A waiter dressed in black and white passed across her vision, but when he parted, she noted that the room was nearly empty. Five or six couples sat alone at the table while tinny 1990’s hits spewed forth from the sound system. A small group sat together at the far end of the ballroom, and they were the first to notice that she had come in. Wide-eyed, they studied her disheveled appearance, the blood on her dress suit and two of them rose to come toward her.
“Oh my goodness, look at you,” her voice was tainted honey, the vinegar of phoniness lilted just beneath the surface as she rushed out to meet Sondra.
Alexa Noviak. Sondra vaguely recalled Alexa Noviak and Evan Monaghan dating in high school, Alexa curling her arm around Evan’s and leaning in to cackle as he called out, “Ahoy! Matey!”
Michelle Detweiler, another of the busty cheerleaders who had once taunted and laughed at Sondra’s boyish figure. “Did you have an accident?”
Sondra felt her head nod in response, even though she’d barely processed their words. She mouthed vacantly over the words, “An accident, yeah.”
“Are you all right?”
“Let’s get you cleaned up.”
“Was anyone else hurt?”
“No,” Sondra looked between the two of them. “Where’s the restroom.”
“Come on, honey,” Alexa looped her arm through Sondra’s and began to steer her into the ballroom.
Michelle asked, “Should I call an ambulance? The police?”
Sondra shook her head, “No, I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?”
Michelle followed them into a darkened hallway that led to the bathroom. The door opened up into a sitting room decorated in palm plants and Monet paintings. Sondra barely noticed as the two women led her into the washroom, Alexa turning on the sink while Michelle began pulling paper towels from the dispenser.
“Was it a car accident?”
Michelle dunked a handful of towels beneath the streams of running water and then squeezed out the excess before lifting it to dab at Sondra’s face. “What happened to you? Are you sure we shouldn’t call the police?”
“I’m sure,” Sondra said.
“You’re uh…” Alexa scanned her face, then looked down at the heaving bosom hidden beneath the tightly drawn buttons of Sondra’s blood stained shirt. “I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.”
“No?” She wasn’t surprised, but angry that they couldn’t even remember her name. Had they ever known it?
“Your face is familiar,” Michelle chimed in. “God, I feel old. My brain just isn’t what it used to be.”
Sondra reached up and curled her fingers around Michelle’s wrist, a gentle gesture at first. “I’m sure your brain tastes just fine.” She moved quickly, grabbing Michelle’s face and slamming it into the porcelain basin behind her. Blood rushed pinkish into the running water, which carried it down the drain until there was so red that not even the water could dilute the color.
“Jesus!” Alexa gasped. “Jesus! What the hell are you doing?”
Something inside Sondra compelled her to react. She hadn’t finished with Michelle, had barely even gotten to the sweet part of her brain, but knew she had to stop the other woman from running out and alerting the others. Sondra let the fabric of Michelle’s torn blouse drop from her fingers and lunged at Alexa. As their bodies collided with the blue and white tiled wall, there was a moment of clarity and disgust in Sondra’s mind. She should have felt the pain of that impact… she should have felt a lot of things, but her mind was a blank canvas the voice inside her painted in strokes of slow rage.
Sondra should have been amazed at her own strength, at how easily she had broken Alexa Noviak’s neck. With anxious teeth she tore through hair and scalp, ignored the bitter tang of hairspray on her taste buds and spit out jagged shards of bone. She sniffed and closed her eyes, a soft moan of delight escaping her before she lowered her face to devour the seeping glial matter from Alexa’s broken skull.
After she finished them both off, she piled their bodies in the handicap stall and locked the door, sliding out from underneath and walking to the sink. Water still running, she briskly rubbed her fingers beneath the spout and turned her face to study her haggard reflection in the mirror. She had carefully styled her hair and applied makeup to hide the black vein crawling into her hairline, but it was clearly visible and pulsing as nourishment flowed through it. Her face was a sticky mess of blood with pink bits of flesh and hair plastered to her cheeks. She dipped her head into the sink and began to splash away the gore.
The squeak of the door on its hinges followed by the steady click of high heels alerted her, and Sondra reached for a handful of paper towels to dry her face. Lifting her head, water blurred her eyes, but then she blinked and behind her a familiar red-haired woman stood gawping at the slaughterhouse splatter painting the walls and tile.
Erica Stephens… Flashes of memory throbbed in Sondra’s mind. A circle of girls in the locker room, scrutinizing fingers pointed toward the center, toward Sondra who stood half-naked with arms wrapped tight against her chest. High-pitched squeals of laughter ate away at her soul like a school of piranhas.
“Ahoy, Matey! I think someone’s in the wrong locker room,” Erica said. “The boys’ locker room is two doors down.”
“Arrgh!” Michelle Detweiler scowled like a pirate, then snorted laughter when Alexa Noviak called out, “Ahoy, Matey!”
Back in the moment, Sondra’s mind ticked down the long list of crimes against her, swallowing slowly as a wide grin parted her lips. Vengeance had never tasted sweeter than what she was about to devour in greedy gulps.
Beneath the command of strange disease that had leaked into her bloodstream, Sondra knew a part of her should be horrified by what she was about to do, what she had already done, but standing there in Erica’s presence she felt justified and hungry.
“Ahoy, Matey!” Sondra’s voice quivered excitedly, and then she charged.