Halloween night, last year
Mark Evans was practically cradling the chain saw. You’d think it was his baby. “I don’t know, Chloe; that doesn’t seem safe.”
“It won’t even have a chain,” Chloe pointed out. “A chain saw can’t hurt anyone if there’s no chain.”
“It’s still heavy. And loud. And what about all that . . . what’s it called? Exhaust? You can inhale it and stuff.”
Chloe closed her eyes for a moment, frustration building inside her. Mark was the biggest guy on the track team. Maybe even the biggest guy in their year. Since when was he such
To be fair, she hadn’t chosen him because he was brave or whatever. She’d chosen him because of his shoulders. Mark had the greatest shoulders at Omaha East, all broad and muscular. She figured they’d look seriously sick holding a chain saw, like the guy in that freaky chain saw movie, Jason, or whatever his name was.
“Can’t we just, like, play a recording of chain saw noises?” Mark asked. “Or I could make the noise with my mouth, like this.” He demonstrated how he might make chain saw noises by blowing air through his lips and kind of clicking his tongue.
Chloe was at a loss for words. What were you supposed to say when a guy made chain saw noises at you?
Chloe had known, from the moment she convinced her parents to let her rent out Lacy Farms for her Halloween party, that she wanted scary chain saw guys chasing people through the corn maze. Otherwise it was just a pathetic party in a cornfield. Why could no one else see her vision?
“Mark,” Chloe said very carefully. “Listen to me. You’re going to turn the chain saw on, and you’re going to chase people through the maze, and you’re going to be fucking scary
while you do it, or else I’ll have to tell everyone about that thing you do when you kiss.”
Mark had swirled his tongue around in her mouth when they made out at Kylie Mack’s birthday last year, like his tongue was a weird, wet helicopter propeller. It was seriously disgusting.
Mark paled, then swallowed. “Yeah, okay.” Thank God
, Chloe thought as headlights swept through the corn, alerting her to the arrival of her first guests. She loved this part, the beginning--of--the--party part. Absolutely anything could happen now. She checked her phone screen just in time to watch the numbers switch from 6:59 to 7:00.
The genius of her party was this: people had to go through the scary corn maze and get chased by chain saw dudes before they were rewarded with booze and music at the center of the field. Chloe was pretty proud of it. She knew everything was set up, but she still double--checked that the camping lanterns were all lit, that the keg was ready, that the band was getting its gear together. She greeted her first guests, did a shot, and then did a bonus shot (what the hell, it was her
party), and that’s when she overheard someone talking about how the corn maze wasn’t even scary, because Mark Evans hadn’t turned his chain saw on; he was just making the chain saw noise by blowing air through his lips.
She felt her jaw clench. You’ve got to be kidding me.
The sun had fully set by this point, and the only light came from the camping lanterns circling the edges of the clearing behind her, gaslit flames flickering like fireflies. Chloe beelined for the maze but hesitated when she reached the entrance. It was darker than she’d expected it to be, a lot darker than it’d been when she was talking to Mark twenty minutes ago. The entrance was a gaping black mouth. She imagined it snapping closed around her the moment she stepped inside.
She swallowed. “Mark?” she whisper--shouted, taking a single step forward. Fallen cornstalks cracked beneath her feet, and it struck her that the sound was brittle, like bones breaking. She felt a flicker of fear and quickly pushed the thought away. It was the exact same maze she’d been through a million times in the daylight. There was no reason to get all freaked out. She said, louder now, “Mark, get out here.”
He was going to make her come find him, wasn’t he? Well, fine, if he wanted to do it that way. She turned a corner, and then another, and then—- There.
A figure in the shadows, holding a chain saw.
Chloe exhaled. “I thought we’d agreed you were going to turn the chain saw on
,” she said, searching for Mark’s giant arms in the sha-d-ows. “If you just make the noises with your mouth, it’s seriously—-”
The moon slid out from behind a cloud, its soft silver light glinting off the chain saw’s chain. Chloe stopped talking. Wait.
It was old and a little rusty--looking, and even from a few feet away, Chloe could see the jagged metal teeth, so sharp.
That chain definitely wasn’t supposed to be there.
Chloe blinked, twice, trying to make sense of what she was seeing. “What are you—-”
The chain saw revved to life, those jagged teeth spinning into a metallic blur. Chloe parted her lips, but she couldn’t scream. Her voice had shriveled up somewhere inside her throat. Her mouth flapped open and closed, wordless, her hands flying up instinctively to protect her face.
The scream wouldn’t have helped her, anyway. It was much, much too late for that. The chain saw flew closer, whirring and grinding, the sound it made an electric howl—-
Until it hit bone.
Copyright © 2022 by Danielle Valentine. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.