"Smile pretty for me."
That’s the last thing you hear before everything goes black. They’ll find you in the morning, a parent or a sibling, cut from ear to ear. Some of them are found with their stomachs cut open and gutted like a fish. The cuts are sometimes clean, like from a blade, but sometimes they’re ragged and messy, as if a hungry animal got it’s claws in you. But don’t worry. You’ll still be smiling, after all. Smiling pretty. Just like her.
Chelsea had always been awkward. Growing up, it wasn’t too bad. The other kids mostly left her alone, and she liked it that way. Sometimes they called her weird and gave her dirty looks. It wasn’t all that bad. But that all changed when she got into High School. Things were bearable at first. She had two friends, a pair of brothers that were new to her town. But the friendship didn’t last long. With them gone, it made it harder to deal with everything.
It started with weird looks and people whispering about her as she walked passed. It was still bearable, but it progressively got worse as time went on. The name calling and verbal abuse went on for a while. She tried to keep telling herself it wasn’t that bad, but one day, after years of putting up with it, she just snapped.
“Where do you think you’re going you fucking freak?”
Chelsea felt herself being shoved against the wall of the empty hallway roughly. She remained silent, her head cast down so that the bangs of her dark hair cast a shadow over her eyes. She was used to this by now. She got shoved often, so this wasn’t anything new. They usually just left her alone when she ignored them. But… this wasn’t one of those times.
“Did you not hear me?”
Chelsea felt a hand roughly grab her chin and jerk her head up, so that she was now forced to look at the trio of boys that had targeted her. She knew them. They were all juniors like her. She even had a few classes with each of them. The leader of the group, the one holding Chelsea by the face, was named Hayden. He was what would be considered popular. Athletic, good looking. His two lackeys were also popular, but only because they hung around him. They would do anything he said just because they were so desperate to be his friend. They were pretty average, and one, known as Jason, was thicker than the other two.
“She’s probably retarded.”
Chelsea glared at the third, Thomas, her blue eyes stormy with hatred. She grit her teeth as Hayden’s fingers dug into her flesh, jerking her head to the side so that he had her attention once more.
“I wouldn’t doubt it.” Hayden replied with a smirk, his green eyes glinting dangerously. “She’s probably an easy whore, too.”
Chelsea’s already fair skin paled even further as she felt his hand roughly groping at her chest. She instantly felt sick, bile stinging at the back of her throat. She could take the whispering and the stares, even the name calling and shoving. But this… this was too far.
“Don’t touch me.”
Her voice was quiet, and dripping with hatred. She held Hayden’s gaze, her eyes cold as she pushed his hand away from her. Hayden raised a brow, Jason and Thomas looking at each other in surprise.
“Are you seriously challenging me, whore?”
Chelsea didn’t respond. She just continued to hold Hayden’s gaze. Her lack of speech only pissed him off even further.
“I fucking asked you a question!” Hayden snapped, his hand moving to grip Chelsea’s wrist tightly. It hurt, but she didn’t let it show. She wasn’t going to back down. She was tired of taking everyone’s shit.
Hayden was growing impatient, the anger inside him building. Breathing heavily like an irate bull, he shoved his hand up her shirt. That’s when something inside Chelsea snapped. Before Hayden’s hand could move passed her stomach, the girl brought up her leg and kneed him sharply in the stomach.
“W-What the hell?” Thomas cried out as Hayden stumbled back into the two boys that stood behind him. Hayden clutched his stomach while bent over slightly in pain, groaning.
“You’ll pay for that, you stupid bitch!” Hayden snarled as he straightened up. He moved towards Chelsea, but adrenaline was coursing through her. Her vision was slightly hazy and she felt somewhat dizzy. Something felt off. But she didn’t care. All she knew was that she felt the need to hurt these boys that had hurt her countless times. She wasn’t even thinking about what she was doing. It just… happened.
It was like she had blacked out, except every now and then she was aware of what was happening. Aware of the feeling of Thomas’s nose shattering as her fist connected with it, warm blood spraying all over her clenched hand. Aware of the feeling of her fist slamming into Jason’s eye, the skin of his eyebrow pulling tight over the bone upon impact, causing it to split. Aware of the feeling of her fist cracking Hayden in the jaw. The next thing she knew she was thrashing as a pair of strong hands restrained her.
“Go get help!”
Chelsea blinked as the rage inside of her died down. She knew that voice. It was the voice of her homeroom teacher. She looked around. When had the hall filled with other students? She looked down before her to see the trio of boys lying on the ground, whimpering and surrounded by blood splatter. She winced as her fist suddenly started to throb, and looked down at her split open knuckles that were bruised and bleeding.
“I don’t know exactly what happened here, but you’re all suspended.”
Chelsea kept her eyes downcast as she was escorted to the principal’s office with the three boys by the teacher. What had gotten into her? No matter how much Chelsea thought about it as she sat in the office waiting for her mom to pick her up, she had no idea. She had never experienced anything like that before. She had never been even remotely violent. The silence ate away at her during the drive home. She knew her mother was disappointed in her. She didn’t speak a word even as they entered the house. Chelsea didn’t mind, though. She stayed in her room for the rest of the night, not even going down for dinner.
The next day, Chelsea awoke from the strangest dream. She had dreamt about her old friend visiting her. She couldn't remember much of it, but for some reason he seemed panicked and kept asking her not to go. Which didn't make sense, because he was the one that moved away and left her behind. It had felt so real, and that feeling was a little unsettling. But still, it was just a dream. She simply shook her head and climbed out of bed, going about her routine to get ready for the day. She may have been suspended, but that didn’t mean she was going to sit at home all day. Her parents were at work, and she had never done anything to get in trouble before so she had never been grounded. Her parents weren’t sure how to react about the news of her beating up three boys. It was so unlike her. So, they hadn’t even grounded her for the incident. What would have been the point? It’s not like she had any friends anymore, and they didn’t want her being cooped up in her room, miserable and with nothing to do. Wouldn’t that just make whatever was wrong with her worse?
Chelsea sighed as she pulled on her shoes and pocketed her house keys before exiting her home. She had decided she would spend her ‘time off’ at the book store. She had always loved reading. Maybe this would make her feel better. It’s not that she felt guilty about what had happened. Far from it. Those boys had deserved it. But she still felt shitty about what was done to her.
The book store wasn’t far from her home, and before she knew it night had fallen. She had been so engrossed with reading that she hadn’t realized it when the sky outside had darkened. She sighed and stood, placing the book she had been reading back on the shelf and made her way out of the store, waving at some of the workers that knew her, seeing as she was a regular. A quick glance at the wall clock before leaving the building told her it was nearly eight. Well, that wasn’t too bad. That gave her plenty of time to get home before her parents would start to worry.
The street and sidewalk were completely void of people. There was not a soul in sight. Still… Chelsea had the unsettling feeling in her stomach that someone was following her, but when she stopped to look behind herself, there was no one there. She was probably just freaking herself out over nothing. Shaking her head, Chelsea turned her gaze back forward and began making her way home once more. She let out a cry that was almost instantly cut off as a hand was placed over her mouth, another hand pulling her into a dark alleyway. She felt herself being shoved to the ground, and as she looked up to see who had assaulted her, her stomach sunk.
Before her stood three very pissed off boys. One with a black eye and cut eyebrow, one with a bandaged nose, and the third with a bruised jaw and split lip. Chelsea wasn’t so sure she’d be able to take on all three again. Her knuckles were still cut up and swollen, and before she had caught them off guard. But now… Now they’d be prepared for any retaliation, and the three could easily overpower her.
“I must admit, that was quite impressive.” Hayden said with a smirk as he crouched down to Chelsea’s eye level. “But you see, I don’t take kindly to people hitting me, especially when they’re a scrawny little bitch like you.”
Jason huffed and took a step forward, but Hayden held a hand up, causing the boy to stop in his tracks and back down. “Don’t worry, she’ll get what’s coming to her.” He told his friend, glancing over his shoulder at his two friends. He turned his attention back to Chelsea, chuckling softly as his hand moved to his shoe, pulling something out of his sock. Chelsea heard a click and a soft swishing sound coming from whatever object Hayden had just retrieved, her eyes widening as the blade glinted in the moonlight.
“I told you you’d pay.” Hayden said, moving closer to her. Chelsea scurried backwards, attempting to stand up, but let out a cry as Hayden whistled and his two lackeys descended upon her, holding her down. She looked up, fear filling her as Hayden towered over her, tormentingly moving the switchblade back and forth slowly in front of her.
“Scream and I’ll cut your tongue out.” Hayden warned. Chelsea knew he meant it, so she decided against screaming. That didn’t stop her from glaring at him and giving him dirty looks, though. Hayden frowned at her. “Do you ever smile?” he asked, then grinned widely as something dark flashed in his eyes. “Hey, I’ve got an idea, how about we give you a pretty smile?”
Thomas glanced at Hayden, his brow furrowing. “How ya gonna do that?” he asked. Hayden merely chuckled.
“Just watch. We’ll make her smile pretty.” The boy replied. “Just hold her down.”
Thomas and Jason glanced at each other, but didn’t argue. They kept a tight grip on Chelsea as they kept her pinned to the ground, Hayden leaning over her. He let out a sick laugh and what he did next shocked both Thomas and Jason.
“What the fuck are you doing, man!?” Jason gasped as he released Chelsea and stepped back. He stared down in horror as Hayden held the blade to Chelsea’s mouth.
“I said to hold her down!” Hayden snapped as Chelsea attempted to break free. “Do it or I’ll fucking cut your fingers off.”
Jason felt sick, but Hayden was the one in control of the situation, and he was too afraid to go against him. Trembling, he nodded and moved back to holding Chelsea down. Thomas and Jason had no idea what Hayden had planned to do, but they were too afraid to stop it. Jason shut his eyes, while Thomas mouthed ‘I’m sorry’ to Chelsea as Hayden placed the edge of the blade at the corner of the girl’s mouth and cut.
“Stop being such pussies!” Hayden snarled at his friends’ whimpering as Chelsea began to thrash. She had started to scream, but that had caused the cut to rip open even further. It was hard, but she fought against it, not wanting to tear open her mouth any further. She clenched her jaw, cries of pain emitting from her throat as Hayden did the same to the other side, but he wasn’t satisfied. He stood up, dropping the blade on the ground.
“I said you were going to smile, so smile pretty, bitch.” Hayden demanded as he kicked her hard in the ribs, but she didn’t dare scream. Her lack of vocals only fueled Hayden more, and he continued to kick her. His kicking got harder and harder, and eventually Chelsea could feel her ribs crack as his shoe connected. That did it in for her. She couldn’t help herself as she opened her mouth to cry out in pain. Jason let go of her and fell back, scrambling onto his hands and knees as the contents of his stomach emptied out at the sight.
When Chelsea had screamed, it had caused the cuts to tear open, ripping her mouth open across her cheeks from ear to ear. The sight of blood and ragged flesh was too much for both of the boys. Thomas, noting that Hayden had dropped his weapon, took his chance to flee, while Jason continued to puke out his guts. Chelsea sobbed, her hands placed over her wounds as blood seeped through her fingers into a puddle around her.
“Teach you to fuck with me.” Hayden spat, grabbing Jason by the elbow and pulling the shaken boy to his feet. “Let’s get out of here. Leave this bitch to bleed out.”
Jason didn’t say anything. He was in shock. He just let Hayden lead him away, leaving Chelsea alone on the cold and dirty ground of the alley.
The three boys glanced at each other after the PA went silent. The principal had just announced that Chelsea had gone missing. Not a single trace left behind. She had been seen last leaving the bookstore, and disappeared at some point on her way home. When the bell rang to signal the end of the day, the boys met up outside.
“What the fuck, dude?” Thomas was in a panic, pacing the school parking lot as the other students flooded around them, either going to the buses or getting in cars.
“Just shut up. Shut up!” Hayden snapped, clenching his fists at his sides.
Jason shook his head, clutching it with one hand. “But didn’t you hear? There was no sight of her, even after the town had been scoured. Nothing was found. Nothing!”
“I said shut up! I heard the fucking announcement, I’ve seen the news!” Hayden replied. He was unsettled by this too. “We have to go back.”
“No way, man! We can’t!” Thomas said.
“We have to look! There has to be something there! Something!” Hayden replied, “There’s nothing to be afraid of. She’s fucking dead.”
Thomas and Jason glanced at each other, but like always, they gave in. The trio made their way to the alley, and Jason let out a choking noise.
“There’s nothing here! Not even the smallest drop of blood!” he said, starting to freak out.
“Snap out of it! Someone had to have come by here. There’s no way she’s alive. She would have gone to the hospital, and if that were the case, we’d all be in fucking jail!”
Thomas and Jason fell silent, looking at Hayden. “What do you mean ‘we’?” Thomas asked quietly, Jason nodding. “This was all your doing!”
“You’re just as guilty as me.” Hayden replied, “Or did you forget that you were the two holding her down!? Think about it. You didn’t have to stay, but you did. You helped. You’re both fucking accessories to this!”
Thomas shook his head. “Fuck you, man.” He said, turning the leave. Jason quickly followed after him, too afraid to be alone with Hayden.
“Fuck!” Hayden cursed, kicking at a piece of trash on the ground. He wasn’t going home until he had completely checked out the alley. There had to be something left of her. Anything.
Night had fallen and still he didn’t find anything. He was on his hands and knees, scanning the ground for any hint of blood, but it was no use. He sighed and was about to stand, when suddenly someone’s hand was being held out to him.
Ice filled his veins at the sound of the voice. Her voice. Slowly, Hayden looked up, his voice catching in his throat as he looked up at the girl he had killed the night before.
Her name was barely a whisper on his lips. He continued to look up at her, his confusion growing. She looked just as she did the day before. Before he had attacked her. There was no blood on her, and her face was perfectly normal.
Chelsea frowned, her hand still held out to him, but Hayden didn’t dare take it. This couldn’t be happening. There was no way. How could she be alive? How could she be perfectly fine? It didn’t make sense! Then, something glinting in the light caught his eye. The switchblade he had dropped. It was now held in Chelsea’s other hand.
“What are you going to do?” Hayden asked, looking back up at Chelsea’s face. Slowly, the girl smiled. Hayden’s stomach churned as her flesh began to pull apart, her smile spreading on each side until it left a ragged smile from ear to ear. The one he had given her the night before.
“Smile pretty for me.”
“A tragic event has occurred locally. Three high school boys – Hayden Miller, Jason Curro, and Thomas Freelin – were found dead today. All three of them had their mouths cut in similar ways, but only Hayden’s body had been desecrated even more. He was the only one of the three to be eviscerated. Also, there is still no information on the whereabouts of Chelsea Murray. If you have any information pertaining to these cases, please call the number below.”
“Lindsay, you should probably get to bed.”
The blonde teenager looked back at her mother and scoffed. “Yeah, yeah. Whatever.” She grumbled, turning off the TV and making her way upstairs to her bedroom. Little did her mother know, she’d still be up late texting her boyfriend and her friends like she did every other night. She got ready for bed and flipped off the light switch before plopping onto her bed, her fingers already sliding over the buttons of her cellphone quickly.
‘Did you see what Hayley wore today? Talk about FREAK.’
Lindsay laughed quietly at her friend’s text, her fingers rapidly clicking the keys in reply.
‘I know right? She’s so weird. Do you think she’ll show up at the Homecoming dance? We should totally pull a Carrie on her.’
As soon as she hit send, her phone screen flickered and went black. “What the hell?” she murmured, pressing down the power button in an attempt to turn her phone back on, but it was no use. Did it die? That didn’t seem right. She could’ve sworn her battery was full. At half at least. But it didn’t hurt to try plugging it into the charger, which…. didn’t work either.
“Stupid piece of junk.” Lindsay grumbled, tossing her phone onto the nightstand and sighing. She rolled over, her heart skipping as her eyes rested on a dark figure at the foot of her bed. She squinted in the darkness and slowly her eyes adjusted. Lindsay gasped, sitting up in her bed. “Y-You’re that girl from the news. The girl from the next town over that went missing. W-What are you doing here?”
Chelsea remained silent for a moment. “You really should have been nicer to that girl. Bad things tend to happen when people like you are mean to others.” She said, her voice sending a chill down Lindsay’s spine. “You might end up having an… accident.”
Lindsay didn’t like the way she had said ‘accident’. “What do you want from me?” Lindsay squeaked, trembling. Chelsea smiled, but to Lindsay’s horror it wasn’t a normal smile. It kept growing and growing, spreading across her cheeks, her skin ripping. Lindsay’s stomach lurched at the sight of ragged flesh and Chelsea’s now sharp and pointed teeth.
“What I want from you is simple.” Chelsea replied, her teeth glistening as she held up a switchblade.
“Smile pretty for me.”