Why has no one turned up to Toni's slumber party apart from her and her very close friends? The thing is, someone else is about the make an entrance ...


Gory Graduation: Chapter 21
  (by Ross Horsley)

'Some party this is!' moaned Lupe, lying back on the bed and blowing a giant Hubba Bubba bubble, before popping it unceremoniously with a pink-nailed finger. 'Just you, me and Joyce... I told you everyone else would be at Mike's tonight.'

Toni had to admit her friend had a point. She looked mournfully at the invitation, on which she'd printed: 'THE LAST SLUMBER PARTY! Come and get smashed at the final fling of the school year! Meet after graduation at Toni's house! Skimpy nightwear essential! BYOB!'

Perhaps she'd used too many exclamation points. Or perhaps the stranglehold of popularity she'd held over the senior year of St. Hamilton's High was starting to wane now that classes were over for good. Where was everyone? Even that geek, Trish, was a no-show, and Toni had only invited her for... well, reasons that would soon become clear if all went to plan.

Her paranoid thoughts were interrupted by another round of Lupe's increasingly irritating whining: 'Jeez Toni, I need some wine coolers. We're almost out of this J&B stuff we found in your dad's study. Where's Sherri? I haven't seen her since she went to meet Sam earlier. And wasn't Terri supposed to be coming?'

'I don't think Sherri and Terri are on the best terms right now,' Toni replied. 'Remember prom night?'

'How could I forget? Ten straight minutes of Terri and Brad's dancefloor-hogging star-jumps as that awful song droned on... Mondo boredom! And then that heinous prank that ended up with Terri... well, fuck the flashback. We all know what happened that night.'

'I was kinda hoping she and Sherri might be able to patch things up if I invited them both here tonight,' Toni went on. 'Y'know, before Sherri heads off to Tenkiller for the summer... Hey, do you think maybe she left early or something?'

'Yeah, I'm sure you're right,' agreed Lupe thoughtfully. 'That would certainly explain her otherwise sinister and uncharacteristic disappearance.'

'Girls! Girls!' cried a voice. It was Joyce bursting into the bedroom.

The others jumped in terror at the false scare. 'Oh Joyce, what is it?' asked Toni. 'Did you find some more beer?'

'Even better...' Joyce paused for effect before lunging suddenly at Lupe. 'PANTY RAID!'

'Argh!' screamed Lupe, struggling as Joyce pawed at her silk undies. 'Get off me, you big queer!'

'Yeah, leave her alone,' said Toni. 'And put your top back on. I've seen your tits more times than Linnea Quigley's.'

'Spoilsports,' sulked Joyce, buttoning up her pyjamas. 'Anyone for a naked pillow fight?'

But Toni had wondered over to the window and was staring out into the darkness. 'Hey, you guys...' she said slowly, 'I think there's someone outside.'

'Where?' asked Lupe, joining her at the window. 'I don't see anyone.'

'There... in the shadows by Mr Tucker's porch.'

Joyce rushed over. 'Mr Tucker the drama teacher? He lives across thestreet? Like, oh my god, Toni. Can he see in? Shall we moon him? Come on, Lupe, let's flash him your perfect ass!'

'Joyce!' Toni was serious. 'Will you just bag your face for one moment? There's really someone out there, and I don't think it's Mr Tucker. He only loiters outside Brad's house two doors down.'

Silently, the three girls peered out into the gloom. Somewhere a cat yowled in the night – an eerie, almost human sound, low and strangely tender like a whispered warning.

'He's gone, whoever it was,' said Toni finally. She turned back from the window and began to draw the curtains, shutting out the darkness. 'The weirdest thing though... I could swear he was wearing a graduation gown... And possibly roller skates, although they never really did catch on as a fashion item despite the commercial success of Roller Boogie.'

'Great, now I'm really disturbed,' Joyce said. 'And not just by the mention of Roller Boogie. You know what I have to do when I get scared? I take a nice relaxing bath. Naked. With my nipples showing and everything. Care to join me, Lupe?'

'Oh what the hell, it's been a long day,' Lupe said, stripping off to expose a pair of deliciously rounded, underage breasts, which glowed almost fluorescent white against the rest of her tanned body.

'Wow!' gulped Joyce. 'Look at those white pointers! I wish I could keep my bikini on long enough to get bitchin' tan lines like yours, Lupe.'

'Now it's my turn to be disturbed,' said Toni. 'Please don't spend too long in there, girls. You promised we could order pizza and make prank calls later.'

'We won't!' Joyce giggled as she bundled Lupe into the bathroom and slammed the door behind them. A few moments later, Toni heard a loud click and the sound of something electric starting to whir. That must be Daddy's shaver, she thought; I guess Joyce must want to shave her legs – which would, at least, make a nice change.

She considered going back to the window to see if Mr Peepers had returned but decided against it. She was already creeped out enough for one night and craved something to put her mind at ease. The best solution would be to crack out the ouija board, flick on a disturbing horror movie on TV, and wander off to some remote part of the house where no one would hear her if for any reason she screamed.

And she very nearly did scream when, at that very moment, a crashing bang filled the air. 'What the hell was that?' she asked herself. The house was supposed to be empty. 'Lupe? Joyce?' she called through the bathroom door. 'I'm just going downstairs alone to investigate a strange noise.'

'Blmmmppf... okay!' was the muffled, bubbly reply. Toni couldn't tell which of her friends' voices it was, but had her suspicions. She picked up a mean-looking hairbrush from the dresser and padded to the top of the stairs, the weapon clutched in her right hand, ready to kill – or at least do some serious back-combing.

Downstairs lay in darkness, except for a small pool of pale moonlight at the foot of the stairs. And in it stood a tall black shape wearing graduation robes and a mortarboard.

Toni gasped. The hairbrush fell from her hand and bounced uselessly down the steps, coming to rest at the figure's feet.

Except there were no feet. The sinister shape was nothing but the newel post at the bottom of the banister, where Toni had hastily hung her own graduation gown and left her cap sitting jauntily on top.

She let out a sigh of relief. But her sigh mingled with another, similar sound. The sound of wind. Wind gusting in through the open front door.

'Oh, just great,' Toni mumbled as she descended the stairs. How had the door come open? At least it explained the loud bang, anyway. As she arrived at the bottom step, a wicked draft of chilly air curled around her exposed ankle like a wet tentacle. It sure was cold for July.

'Ouch!' She'd stepped right on the damn hairbrush with her bare foot. Its sharp bristles gouged like needles into the soft skin of her sole. Stupid fucking pointless suspense... Now she was actually bleeding. That was gonna need a Band-Aid and –

There was someone standing in the doorway.

'Hello?' said Toni. She could distinguish little about her visitor through the darkness, other than the long black cape that hung almost to the doorstep. A mortarboard cap cast enough shadow to completely blot out the face beneath.

A sudden throbbing in her injured foot told Toni that she'd taken an instinctive step back. 'Terri? Is that you?' she asked nervously.

There was no answer. No verbal response, at least. But the way the silent figure brought a hand slowly out from behind its back seemed to carry the weight of a reply. And much of that weight was due to the large, steel-headed axe it was holding.

Toni turned and fled up the stairs, wincing in pain every time her right foot made contact with the carpet and leaving a red footprint on each alternate step. 'Lupe!' she screamed, rattling uselessly at the handle of the still locked bathroom door. 'Let me in!'

'Jeez Toni!' Lupe called back. 'We'll be out in a minute. Keep your panties on!'

'Or off!' added Joyce with a manic giggle.

But Toni could already see the mortarboard-capped shape rising up the stairway to her left and ran frantically into her bedroom. As she turned to slam the door behind her, she realised she'd underestimated the speed of her pursuer's approach. The blunt side of the axe slammed into her right temple and sent her spinning onto the bed.

She tried to stand but found herself oddly unable to move. Questions raced through her mind: Why had she run up the stairs instead of out the back door to the safety of the police station next door? Why was the maniac after her when there were two naked lesbians sharing a bathtub in the next room? And, worst of all, why the fuck had no one shown up at her motherfucking party? It was nearly eleven, for

As she watched the black-robed assailant glide misogynistically towards her, Toni had the strange sensation that her right eye no longer seemed to be looking entirely forwards, but off to one side somehow. A glance in a mirror would have confirmed the grisly reason for this, but Toni was afforded no such luxury. Instead, everything seemed to take on a misty sheen, and she became aware of a sickly smell in the air – something that reminded her, bizarrely, of a childhood visit to a pig farm. And then the axe slammed into her head again. And the memory of the squealing piglets was her final thought.

Toni's killer picked up the blood-splattered party invitation from the bedspread beside her body and tossed it into the gaping purple fissure that had once been her face. Mushy brown blood seeped like gruesome gravy into the paper until the only words that remained legible were:'get smashed at the final fling'.

'Okay!' came Joyce's voice over the sound of the bathroom door unlocking. 'We're coming out now...'