Casseroles and Serial Killings

Submitted into Contest #117 in response to: Start your story with the words “Everything was ready for the ritual.”... view prompt


Fiction High School Horror

TW: Blood

Everything was ready for the ritual. The civic center’s basement was swept, the dark robes were ironed, and the potluck had gone off without the hitch. The residents of Shady Grove had begun to recognize perceived threats to their way of life, and thanks to the diligent organizing by PTA president Jaclyn Crosby, the ritual was prepared. People in dark robes and khakis milled about the room, making small talk about the high school’s football team, their kids’ college searches, and whatever else distracted them from the unconscious teen girl in the middle of the floor. As conversation transitioned to awkward silence, Mrs. Crosby beckoned everyone to surround the girl, and after a few nervous glances, the lawyers, doctors, salesmen, and managers began to chant.

Veronica Smith had begun dreaming about killing people. Vivid dreams that seemed separate from the absurd nightmares that had previously haunted the girl. Before Halloween, Veronica’s dreams were less realistic, but now it felt as if she were actually in her dreams, gouging out the eyes of the homeless person she sometimes saw soliciting by the 7-eleven. For Veronica, these dreams were yet another source of stress in her life. A rather self-conscious teen, Veronica was brought up always making sure to stay in line with her classmates and the town. When the dreams began, she was heavily concerned with what they meant for her psyche. She remembered her psychology teacher, a tattooed former punk named Ms. Fervor, once mentioned how dreams are often reflective of a person’s deepest desires. But, Veronica did not think she wanted to kill people. She had far too much school work to bother. 

By December, these murderous dreams were happening more often. At night, Veronica would dream about slaughtering various strangers about town. In the morning, she would go to school and try to forget. But, the dreams did not seem to want her to be able to forget. After Veronica dreamed about Ms. Fervor last week, she had been replaced by an aging long-term substitute named Mr. Doyle. As the holiday break approached and more missing persons were reported, Veronica’s stress mounted at the same pace as her denial. This denial was easy. After all, the police had not come around asking any questions. Further, the stress of the dreams was not all too troublesome in comparison to everything else. They pushed the girl’s sanity to the limit, but, for Veronica, this was the case for most things. The disappearances were not even mentioned on the nightly news. Of course, when Veronica woke up mid-murder, it was much harder to deny the connections.

On December 16th, Veronica dreamed of a silent ranch house on the North side of town. In her dream state, she entered the dusty ranch-style house. Clutching her school pencil case, she searched the rooms before finding an old man asleep on a recliner in front of a static TV. His face was long and divided by wrinkles, his frown lines noticeably deeper than the rest. She remembered him from the school board meetings her mom took her to, an angry old man railing about the school’s curriculum. Grabbing a pencil from the case, she stabbed the man in the eye. His face crumpled, and his breathing stopped in a dying cough. But still, Veronica grabbed more pencils from the case, impaling the poor man’s face to the point where he resembled a pin-cushion. And then, in a transition perhaps too easy, Veronica woke up. She gasped at the corpse in the chair, at the blood on her pajamas, at the final realization that she could no longer deny her actions.

Veronica rushed home, grabbing one of the old man’s sweaters to cover the blood on her pajamas. The night was silent, but the streets were not empty. Veronica could feel the eyes of the neighborhood on her. From behind drapes and bushes, her neighbors silently watched her return. She thought about what they would tell the police the next day. She pictured Mr. Jones asking the police how someone so evil could be raised by such good parents or Mrs. Harris wondering whether Veronica’s actions were a result of her early exposure to youtube. When Veronica arrived at her darkened home, she could hear her parents quickly quiet upstairs. Upon entering her room, she fell onto her bed and prayed she would not fall asleep.

Veronica waited in school the next week for her inevitable incarceration, but no police ever came. That Friday, she was fairly sure she saw her principal wink at her during lunch. Over time, the killings would cease to really bother Veronica. From what she could tell, all the people who would have mourned the dead were also dead. The weeks passed and in the absence of consequences, Veronica was not sure that she was even really all that stressed anymore. Finals were coming up and college applications were due soon. There was no way she would let a few murders get in the way of her future. 

And, as the new year came, Veronica’s dreams stopped. On January 12nd, the civic center was once again rented out. Minivans and gleaming-white trucks filled the parking lot, and middle-aged homeowners made their way to the building’s basement. There was a near-universal sense of relief. They had done it. They had saved their community from moral degradation. Sure, they had just killed dozens of their neighbors, but the potential butterfly effect from the potential deviance could have caused much greater harm. As the residents shuffled in, they placed Tupperware on folding tables and covered their heads in pristine black robes. Mrs. Smith, the girl’s mother, beamed in the dim light of repurposed, sandalwood candles. After all, her own daughter became the vessel the town so desperately needed. Jaclyn Crosby once again commanded the attention of the room, standing over where Veronica lay unconscious just three months before. She thanked those assembled for their help on that Halloween night. Without them, none of this could have been possible.

October 26, 2021 04:54

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21:29 Nov 03, 2021

Your style is really enjoyable, with sudden punches of downplayed irony that are both surprising and funny: But, Veronica did not think she wanted to kill people. She had far too much school work to bother. The line about the too-easy transition is hilarious. And this: beamed in the dim light of repurposed, sandalwood candles. Some pithy, ironic dialog would have broken up the longer chunks of narrative nicely, and you could play around with present tense for the dream, which would put us right into the moment. Eg In her dream state, she ...


Ben Pierce
21:37 Nov 03, 2021

Thank you so much for the feedback! I'm just getting into creative writing again so its nice to hear something. Your suggestion about the dream state is very helpful. I was unsure about how to incorporate the dream sequence, but I never thought of varying tenses to emphasize the distinction. I have to get to class now, but I loved your story and look forward to commenting.


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