The Angel of Indian Lake

The Angel of Indian Lake

by Stephen Graham Jones
The Angel of Indian Lake

The Angel of Indian Lake

by Stephen Graham Jones


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Notes From Your Bookseller

Stephen Graham Jones ties a grisly bow on the storied horror series that began with My Heart is a Chainsaw. Jade returns to her hometown at last, but the generational horrors won't get rid of themselves.

A National Bestseller

The final installment in the most lauded trilogy in the history of horror novels picks up four years after Don’t Fear the Reaper as Jade returns to Proofrock, Idaho, to build a life after the years of sacrifice—only to find the Lake Witch is waiting for her in New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones’s finale.

It’s been four years in prison since Jade Daniels last saw her hometown of Proofrock, Idaho, the day she took the fall, protecting her friend Letha and her family from incrimination. Since then, her reputation, and the town, have changed dramatically. There’s a lot of unfinished business in Proofrock, from serial killer cultists to the rich trying to buy Western authenticity. But there’s one aspect of Proofrock no one wants to confront...until Jade comes back to town. The curse of the Lake Witch is waiting, and now is the time for the final stand.

New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones has crafted an epic horror trilogy of generational trauma from the Indigenous to the townies rooted in the mountains of Idaho. It is a story of the American west written in blood.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781668011669
Publisher: S&S/Saga Press
Publication date: 03/26/2024
Series: Indian Lake Trilogy , #3
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 10,782
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.90(d)

About the Author

About The Author
Stephen Graham Jones is the New York Times bestselling author of The Only Good Indians. He has been an NEA fellowship recipient and a recipient of several awards including the Ray Bradbury Award from the Los Angeles Times, the Bram Stoker Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, the Jesse Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, and the Alex Award from American Library Association. He is the Ivena Baldwin Professor of English at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Read an Excerpt

1. Scary Movie

This isn’t Freddy’s high school hallway, this isn’t Freddy’s high school hallway.

If it were, Tina would be twenty feet ahead in her foggy plastic bodybag, being dragged around the corner on a smear of her own blood.

Instead—again, but it always feels like the first time—I’m the one in that bodybag.

I’m helpless on my back, there’s no air in here, my feet are travois handles to pull me with, and the lockers and doorways and educational posters and homecoming banners to either side are blurry, are in a Henderson High I’m not part of anymore.

Not since Freddy got his claws into me.

I want to scream but know that if I open my mouth, what’s coming out is a sheep’s dying bleat. I clap my scream in with my palm, try to clamp my throat shut, tamp the panic down, but my elbow scraping on the plastic wall of this bodybag rasps louder than it should, and—

He looks back.

His face is scarred and cratered, and there’s a glint of humor in his eyes like he’s getting away with something here, a glint that spreads to his lips, one side of his twisted mouth sharpening into a grin right before his head Pez-dispensers back because his neck’s been chopped open, and what comes up from that bloody stump is the grimy hand of a little dead girl fighting her way back into the world, and—

And it doesn’t have to be this way, according to Sharona.

She’s my twice-a-month therapist, courtesy of her champion and main benefactor, Letha Mondragon.

It’s only a movie, it’s only a movie, Sharona’s taught me to repeat in my head.

To fight my way through panic attacks, I’m supposed to think of my life as playing on a drive-in screen. Not that I’ve ever been to a drive-in. But evidently, late in their evolution, there would be six or eight or ten drive-in screens all in this big-ass Stonehenge circle, each with their own parking lot. If you didn’t like what was playing on one screen, you could take your popcorn, cruise over for the next movie, and the next, until you found one that worked for you, that helped you through this night instead of trapping you in it.

“You’re the consumer here,” Sharona told me so, so earnestly our first session. “And what you’re paying with is anxiety and dread and panic, see?”

The first part of me being the one carrying the popcorn, it’s supposed to be buying into this being all a movie, all a movie. Like that was ever enough to keep the horror in The Last House on the Left from touching you where it counts.

Sharona doesn’t know horror, though. Just feelings, regrets, strategies, and how to see through my own rationalizations and paranoia, my bad history and worse family shit.

I say quid pro quo to her a lot, but I don’t think she ever really gets it like I mean it.

The way she explains what I’m feeling in moments like this—“feeling” being clinical-speak for “consumed by”—is that my anxiety is a straitjacket constricting me: at first it feels like a hug, like something I should nestle into, but then... then it doesn’t know when to stop, does it, Jade?

StraitJacket of course being a 1964 proto slasher, post-Psycho but very much providing a model for Psycho II nearly twenty years later. Thank you, Robert Bloch.

Sharona has it wrong about straitjackets, though. In a straitjacket, you can breathe. I know this from experience. You don’t open your wrist out on the lake and then get trusted with your own fingernails and teeth, I mean.

Where you can’t breathe, though?

In a bodybag.

When Proofrock and all what I’ve done and not done and should have done if I were smarter and better and faster and louder are collapsing in on me and there’s no air at all, then a knife finger materializes blurry and real through the foggy plastic cocooning me, it materializes and then it loops through a delicate metal tab, to zip me right in.

Sorry, Sharona.

One bullshit tool you’ve given me to work that zipper down from the backside is to write letters to someone I respect or care for, who could and would offer me a helping hand, to clamber up out of this.

Which is just a reminder that everyone I love is dead, thanks.

Sheriff Hardy. Mr. Holmes. Shooting Glasses.

I don’t know if my mom’s in that group or not.

I know my dad isn’t.

Pamela Voorhees, she’s who I should write to, isn’t she? Or maybe Ellen Ripley. Put her in a dark hallway like this one in my head and she would lock and load, call her nerves a bitch, and tell them to get away from her.

I’m no Ripley.

Instead of locking and loading, what I do for about the thousandth time since the semester started is stumble on these stupid heels and lurch to the left, ramming my shoulder into a locker.

Just when you thought it was safe to walk like an adult.

Clear the beaches, mayor, Jade’s coming through again.


Letha’s right about me: I’m always hiding in the video store, wearing all my movies like armor. Never mind that Proofrock’s video store’s been closed for three years now, is pretty much a memorial for all the kids who got skinned in there, are probably still haunting it.

That’s just playing on one screen, though.

Keep moving, Jade, keep moving.

On one of the other screens, though, are the two sleepless nights the weekend of the thirteenth, when Proofrock was in a panic over Jan Jansson going missing. But then word came in that his dad, who had split, had also rented a red Mustang convertible the day before. One fast enough to drive back from Nevada or whatever state he was hiding in, one alluring enough for his only son to want to take a ride in. So all the flyers were peeled off the windows of the bank, of Dot’s, of the drugstore, and a certain ex-con was finally able to sleep again.

They’ll find him, everybody is assuring themselves. He’s just with his dad, having an adventure—top down, hair in the wind, not a single drive-through window being missed.

Either that or he’s a kid-shaped bargaining chip in an escalating divorce.

There’s no blades looming, though, that’s the important thing. There’s no shadows lurking, no heavy breathing, no drunk shapes suddenly standing in the doorway at two o’clock in the stupid-ass morning.

I right myself from the locker I’ve crashed into—I think it was Lee Scanlon’s, once upon a time—blink my eyes fast like trying to get the lights to come back up in this hallway, but... okay, seriously now: Where in the living hell is everybody?

It’s Monday, not Friday, meaning no pep rally for football. Nobody pulled the fire alarm. It’s not senior skip day, and Banner hasn’t instituted some curfew to keep everyone safe—there’s no reason to. Ghostface isn’t out there slicing and dicing. Cinnamon Baker doesn’t live here anymore. There’s no once-in-a-century blizzard spooling up: been there, done that, we’re good for ninety-six more years, thanks.

A shooter drill, maybe? We are eight thousand feet up the mountain, meaning even the guns have guns, but... no.

There’s a lot wrong with Proofrock, but not that, anyway.

So far.

Could it be that seventh period just started? Is that what emptied the halls out? All the students dove into their classrooms and fought for seats because they really-really wanted to learn?

Dream on, slasher girl.

A fluorescent tube of light flickers in the ceiling a body length ahead, then sputters out again. It’s not for lack of money—Letha’s bankrolling the whole district, could put her name above the front doors if she wanted.

“Excuse me?” I say up to the light, holding my books to my chest.

The light buzzes back on, holds steady.

Fuckin A...” I mutter to it, and keep moving, my clacking footsteps sounding all around me, and, passing a fire extinguisher I become one hundred percent certain that Rexall’s just caught me on candid camera “engaging in profanity on school grounds,” is going to turn it in to Principal Harrison, just moved up from Golding Elementary.

He’s already not fond of my full-sleeve tats. My hair’s okay in principle, I think—long now, to my waist, and silky as everliving shit—but it’s not all black, either.


And I don’t wear my spider bites or my bull ring or my eyebrow stud to school anymore. Though there may be a piercing or two that are none of a principal’s business.

Sharona says I’m still trying to armor up, can’t I see that?

I tell her back that she just likes the way I was before, which is sort of a line from Return of the Living Dead III, featuring the queen of all piercing junkies—she’s no slouch with the eyeliner, either.

Well, okay, maybe I don’t say it exactly like that. But I think the hell out of it.

What I also don’t say out loud: that you just slipped, My Sharona. That bit about armoring up is pure Letha, which means the two of you talk about me and my progress, which... isn’t exactly the key to get me to be forthcoming?

What I did say out loud in reply to that armor line, though? Sort of on accident, sort of not?

“Jealous much?”

Where Sharona went after her high school beauty queen days, after she won the big Blonder Than Thou contest? That adult daycare called college. Where I went, twice? That finishing school for criminals called the clink, the slam, the stir. That old greybar hotel waiting at the end of every road my kind slouches down.

If you don’t armor up in there, Sharona, you never get out.

But, like you, I’ve also geared up with books, thanks. They all had to be paperback, because hardcovers can brain a girl, or get sharpened to a one-use point, but they finally added up enough to get me a degree. It’s correspondence, sure, but it was enough for Letha to strong-arm the school district she now owns into... this.

It’s strictly trial basis, nobody expects it to actually last, but... I’m trying?

And the school’s not actually dim, I can see that now. That’s just my idiot eyes, dialing the hallway down to a tunnel. The kind with a nightmare boiler room way down at the end, rushing up all around me with the first blink.

I’m still in Tina’s bodybag, I mean.

In spite of the three cigarettes I just trainsmoked back by woodshop, lighting the next off the last, praying against all hope that the nicotine would open my capillaries up enough to keep this clench from happening in my chest, in my head.

Things do not happen, I say inside. Things are made to happen.

This from John F. Kennedy, in a book I had to read twice to get it to stick enough for the test.

What JFK’s saying is that I’m doing this to myself. I didn’t walk into another panic attack. It wasn’t lying in wait for me. No, I made it happen, by allowing the bad thoughts to spool up, loop me into their spin cycle of death, my hand stabbing up like on the VHS cover of Mortuary. Once your thinking starts swirling around that chrome grate of the shower drain, good luck stopping it without cutting yourself.

Which is another thing I don’t do anymore. Or, can’t start doing again, anyway.

I can still slice into this bodybag, though.

Not with a razor, but with something almost as sharp: pharmaceuticals. After checking to be sure I’m alone, I peel two warm tablets up from the elastic waistband of the boy shorts under my long black poodle skirt, crush them between the pads of my thumb and index finger, and snort them deep into my head fast, before I can think about what I’m doing.

My theory on mood stabilizers and beta blockers and the rest of the usual suspects I’ve cycled through is that it’s stupid they have to go all the way down to the stomach only to slowly percolate back up to the brain. So I do it more direct, save them some travel time, get more bang for my buck.

And, I can take four at once and still be mostly myself, as far as anybody knows, but I already took one on my cigarette break, so.

As for what they’re supposed to dial back, make less unmanageable? Oh, I don’t know. A yachtful of one-percenters who were also parents, and I think sort of actually maybe wanted to be good members of the community, in spite of their rich asses? A lakeful of people I’ve known since before I could walk, none of whose insides I ever expected to have to see, and swim through? A video store of kids who didn’t ask to be skinned for Christmas? My mom, standing up to the scarfaced predator about to attack me, even though it was hopeless, and years too late? Mr. Holmes, sinking under the surface of the water, his fingers finally slipping from mine in a way I know I’ll never forget? Sheriff Hardy, and the way he looked back at me and nodded once before stepping into the water with his daughter?

And so many more, among and between.

I like to think that each particle of every tablet I take is just enough to cover up the memory of one of those dead people, at least for an afternoon.

Meaning they swim back up at night, yeah. Surprise.

But that’s hours later.

This is now.

With the cold heat of these last two tablets sizzling through my mucous membranes, I have to reach out for the wall on the right side to keep steady until the post-nasal drip starts like the slowest pendulum, swinging back and forth so steadily that, if I let it, if I just exercise a little mental discipline, it can even me out, it can quiet the splashing, the screams, it can let me step between these gusts of blowing snow, into a little pocket of safety.

I push off the wall with my fingertips and it’s like standing in a canoe, not a hallway, and I know I can spill over into the deep dark water at any moment, but—this in Principal Harrison’s judgmental tone—I’m already late enough as-is, don’t have time to wallow in my feelings.

So I don’t.

Sharona would never understand, but the way I finally step ahead, out of this tattered bodybag, is that I age Freddy ahead fourteen years, until he’s the snarky prof at the front of that grand classroom in Urban Legend, teaching about the babysitter and the man upstairs, about Pop Rocks and soda.

He’s completely in control up there, isn’t he?

He is.

So am I, so am I.

At least until I hear footsteps running up behind me.

In Nancy’s nightmare of a daydream, the admonishment she receives is that there’s no running in the hallway.

But there is, isn’t there?

I turn, am suddenly in a different hallway—one from 1996: a Ghostface is coming fast down the hall, slaloming from side to side with pitch-perfect goofiness, doing boogedy-boogedy hands left and right.

At first I retract into myself, clutching my books tight. It’s the day before Halloween, and even if Halloween’s functionally illegal in Proofrock, still, the rules have to sort of be off, don’t they?

But you used to walk these halls too, Jade, imagining them Slaughter High.

And these footsteps coming at you, they aren’t from 1996.

This Ghostface wasn’t even born, then.

When he makes to blast past me all anonymous, I step forward, make a fast fist around the long tail of this pull-on mask. I know how these masks work, I mean. It’s like a nun’s wimple. Just, for slasher church.

This would-be Ghostface’s head whips back, his arms even more Muppet now, but when he falls to his knees, starts sliding and leaning back, that Munch of a pale face finally comes off with a harsh snap, the mask wrapping once around my wrist and then just hanging there.

Dwight,” I say down to this junior on his knees.

He probably thinks it’s a Dewey reference, but I’m really calling him Brad Pitt from Cutting Class. Because that’s what he’s doing.

“Um, Trent, ma’am,” he stammers, trying to peel out of the glittery Father Death robe he’s now tangled in.

Like I don’t who he is: Trent Morrison, of the Morrisons who came here with Tobias Golding and Glen Henderson, to pan Indian Creek. This great-great-whatever-grandson of miners has made it through two massacres to get this far in his academic career. And that’s after his grandparents made it through the Fire of ’64 and Camp Blood. After his parents knew better than to ever get into a car with my dad, because he was bound to go cartwheeling off the road sooner or later, trashing his face forevermore.

“And what is this?” I ask, about the mask.

“It’s—it’s Halloween,” he says, whines really, and I look away like casting around for a reason not to punt him to Harrison’s office.

What I see down the long hallway in my head is a punk girl with a sour expression and a goth heart, dull orange hair so dry it crunches, and a gloved hand curled around the plastic knife fingers she’s wishing real, so she can slice through all these stupid years, carve her way to whatever’s next. She’s glaring at me, is a hurt animal under the porch, is going to snap at whoever tries to come close. Here in a few minutes, her shirt’s going to get her sent home from school, and she’s going to come back, try to Carrie blood down onto the big dance. Some days, instead of going to class, she’s going to ruin her eyeliner crying in the band closet, and I just want to take her hand, lead her up from that, tell her there’s more, there’s more, just wait, just hold on—this is next, if you can make it through.

“Get the fuck out of here, Trent,” I say, and when you’re a teacher deploying profanity on school grounds, you don’t have to repeat yourself.

On the way gone, Trent jogs backwards, says, “You’re coming, right?”

Go,” I tell him, pointing ahead of both of us, and he scampers off, only looking back once.

The spike of adrenaline he jolted up my spine has, by my reckoning, canceled out at least one of the circular white fingerholds I have on the day.

Knowing I shouldn’t, I work another dose up from my waistband, pinch it to dust, slam it into the dark cavern behind my eyes. Somewhere in there, the Pamela Voorhees head at the end of the second installment opens her eyes like she was originally meant to, and all the candles Jason’s arranged around her flicker alive.

Yes. Yes yes yes.

Jade Daniels, reporting for duty.

I stand outside the classroom with my back to the wall for maybe twenty seconds, my books clutched to my chest like a shield, my lips moving around the shape of words, to be sure I can still make that connection, that I’m not going to slur and drool and try to grin it off as fallout from having faced down two killers, and come out on my feet.

Not that my feet are exactly whole, mind. Not all the little piggies made it through the frostbite. Not all of my face either, if we’re being technical. Three of the fingers on my right hand won’t curl into a fist, even, and still show toothmarks. But they don’t get cold, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

At least my jaw’s still connected, right? Unlike certain people I know. Some of whom I visit on and off, at the cemetery. One of whom I have coffee with once a week—our standing date. Which is still, what, Saturday, if she’s back by then?

Maybe I can text her for emergency coffee, though.

We can sit at our usual table at Dot’s, under the huge, mounted bear the hunters went out for so long ago, for killing Deacon Samuels over in front of Camp Blood—what they’re calling “Deacon Point” now.

Except some unnamed crusader keeps sneaking over there in the small hours, pulling that sign up just for the joy of slinging it out into the lake.

The first few were metal, just sunk, but lately they’ve been wooden, so they float back in.

I’m stalling, though. One thing Sharona’s taught me that’s actually good is how to identify my own bullshit: the little defense mechanisms I kicked up once upon an adolescence, to get through the day.

“You’re not seventeen anymore,” she tells me very supportively, very therapeutically.

Some sessions, I even sort of believe her.

At least until I try to wrap the fingers of my right hand around a pencil. Until, applying the old eyeliner in the morning, I want to just keep going, keep going, darker and darker, daring Harrison to have a reason to send me home, not renew my contract.

I should tell him about one of his predecessors, paddling along the Pier in an invisible canoe like the best joke ever. And how that dead principal’s son was gutted under our big neon Indian, last time around.

No, not last time “around”—last time ever.

Jaws might have gotten a stack of sequels, but one was enough for Proofrock.

And all I’m doing, I know, is trying to step back down into that bodybag, zip it up over myself.

I’ve got to be better.

Inside, whiling away the days, the years, doing my time, I could mull and dwell in my cell or the yard all I wanted—sad Jade, Jade the victim.

This is the world, though. Out here, you have to participate. People have expectations—there’s duties, there’s responsibilities. Anyway, I tell myself, you’ve been doing this since August already, right? After nearly nine weeks, I can just flick autopilot on, coast through the next fifty minutes.

Except I owe them better than that.

Two of their own have been absent-without-excuse for two weeks—two weeks and one day, counting today. Any other town, when two kids go missing, then they probably ran off together, are seeing how far they can get.

In Proofrock, if somebody’s late by ten minutes, then you’re casing the shadows, the windows, the doorways, because this might mean it’s all starting up again.

Except it can’t be. I won’t let it.

In spite of the murmuring in the hall, in the lounge, at Dot’s, and who cares what actual day they went missing, it’s just a day, doesn’t mean anything, Hettie and Paul have to have gone after Jan, Hettie’s little brother, right? They got word of the dad cruising the hug-n-go lane, and were gone so fast their pencils were still standing up on their desks. Or? Or they took advantage of that weekend’s panic to run away to Boise like they were always saying, or to Seattle, to Los Angeles, to Salt Lake City, to Denver. When you’re seventeen in Proofrock, the glittering lights of the big cities call to you, don’t they?

And my feelings aren’t hurt that she didn’t tell me.

The last thing you need on the way out is for your older model to hold onto you and hug and hug, and slip fifty dollars into your pocket.

You’re supposed to ride away broke on that sputtering motorcycle, wearing your boyfriend’s jacket. Broke, not broken, which is how you end up if you stay here too long. Case in point: my sessions with Sharona. “Continuity of counseling” is part of my parole, meaning, I guess, that the powers that be think I’m about to become Tommy Jarvis at the end of The Final Chapter, and go all Mandy Lane and Cinnamon Baker on the student body.

What they don’t know is that I’m really Nancy from Dream Warriors.

I made it through, and now I’m back, and in fucking heels, thank you.

In the lake eight years ago, yeah, I saw all the names and dates of Idaho’s history spill out into the water. But I found them in the prison library, and I ate those pages like Francis Dolarhyde, and now all those names and dates are in me, sir.

I inherited your old tests and quizzes, too, can you feel that from up in the sky? Can you even hear me over the buzz of your ultralight’s little engine? All your notes are still in your precise handwriting, even, with little ticks and additions from you updating them through the years. It’s not like history changes, right? No, all of it went down just like you told us it did. Some afternoons I even lean back against the desk after the day’s quiz and look into the distant past and tell class about all the sparks that used to populate the darkness across the valley, which were either dreamers trying to dig their future up from the mountain or killers trying to hide their killees. Some days I even lower my voice to “campfire” and tell them about the nameless boy left behind by his family when the lake was rising, and how an old tradition around here is making paper boats for him to play with, and sailing them out into the day’s brightness. I tell them about the Shoshone coming in on their painted ponies to behold this new lake on their old land, and how they just watched and watched, and how that was like a metaphor in action, right? And when we have enough time, I even tell them again about the giant sturgeon or catfish supposedly down there in Drown Town, its eyes glassy and knowing, and how a raft of young pirates in the sixties saw it cruising through the shallows one magic afternoon, and their hearts grew three sizes in their chests that day, and none of them could ever move away from Proofrock after that, because once you’ve felt the magic of a place, then that place, it’s got you.

And, yeah, I let them write extra-credit papers for me, when they need to.

It’s sort of a promise I’ve made, sir.

My lips might be numb from the drugs now, my fingers might be trembling with panic, but I’ll read those papers however deep into the night they need me to. And if I hold these books tight enough, then you can’t even see my nerves, can you?

Just—breathe in deep, hold it, hold it, and... release.


You’re already late enough, can’t stall any longer, girl.

I pivot on my heel, come about in the open doorway with my lips firm, eyes properly grim, and I walk into seventh-period history like annoyed with whatever held me up, made me late.

Just like the old days, I still smell like smoke.

But I’m going to quit. That’s another promise.

I clap my books down onto the desk and case the room, finally nod, and, like every time, I sneak a look out the window as well, for Michael Myers standing there by his stolen station wagon, waiting for me.

But I make myself be here again, in this classroom.

Only here, not 1978.

Dear Mr. Holmes, I say inside, in secret. I’m not the misfit slouching in the back of your classroom anymore.

Now I’m at the front.

In my day, a presentation in history—in any class—was you up by the teacher’s desk monotoning your way through your stack of index cards, one hundred percent certain that everyone can hear the tremor in your voice, and how you’re probably about to cry.

Now how it works is the students have slideshows and videos stashed online. Because I was warned not to let them log in on my computer—their fingers are a blur, can do so much with just a few keystrokes—most of them bring their own laptops, or tablets, or phones. I’m waiting for the day when one of them uses their watch to connect to the projector.

Anyway, another thing that’s different nowadays is that, used to, the blinds didn’t get drawn, the lights didn’t get lowered—no reason to. So you couldn’t hide, were just stranded up there in everyone’s bored headlights, knowing full well that your course grade depends on your performance, but also, in the moment anyway, completely willing to cash your whole transcript in if this can just please be over.

Which is to say, you think it’s so, so important, that your whole life and social standing and reputation and future happiness depend on not messing this up too badly.

Really, though?

It’s a blip, it’s nothing.

You can get jeered at, sure, you can fumble a fact, get your slides in the wrong order, but most of the class, they’re not really even listening, are going through their own index cards in their head, running through it just like they did for their mom or dad at breakfast.

All of which I explained to class last week.

“Did you practice like that, over breakfast?” Ellie Jennings asked in her usual timid way, though, kind of messing things up.

Her question was so earnest, too, so honest, so innocent. It was the perfect opportunity for me to bond with everyone. This was where I could have shown them I had been just like them, once upon a troubled Proofrock coming-of-age.

Just, most of them know my history: breakfast in the Daniels household wasn’t nearly so Leave It to Beaver. More like “Leave it to the Reject,” which usually meant scrapping together a bologna sandwich, flipping my dad off through the wall, flipping my mom off from across town, then trudging to school, my finger in the air the whole way, to save myself the effort of lifting my hand again and again.

Such is high school.

“Practice is important,” I answered Ellie, which wasn’t an answer at all. Then, very solemnly, like we were still all in this together, I asked for volunteers for our first day of presentations—“Just anyone who wants to get it over with?”

In my other classes, this is usually a who’s-gonna-be-the-first-penguin-off-the-ice-floe kind of thing, but that’s just because Christy Christy isn’t in any of those classes.

Her hand shot up immediately, and the way she was squirming in her seat, I sort of thought she might be about to pee.

What she was raising her hand for was today, seventh period.

After taking attendance and passing back quizzes and peeling up the Post-it notes stuck to Hettie and Paul’s seats—“Casey” and “Steve” respectively, fourth time in two weeks—we finally dial the lights down, JT lowers the blinds for us, and Christy sashays up to the front of the classroom, plugs into the hub that feeds the projector, turns around to all of us and blinks twice like clearing her mind for this.

Standing against the six inches of wall between the two windows, the painted brick so cool and stable, I nod for her to go ahead, go ahead, and... another good thing about this murky darkness we’re all stranded in?

Teach’s pupils aren’t on display.

My head’s still working, mostly, good enough for seventh period, but my face has that kind of numbness that means I maybe took a bit too much again.

When I filled that sterile cup for the mandatory drug test Letha assured the board I would pass with flying colors—that color being “yellow,” I guess?—I made sure to bring my clutch of prescriptions in, since they were likely going to ring some certain bells in the lab.


When you’re trauma girl, when you’re just out of lockup, trying to find your feet in a world without guards, where you’re sort of nervous in open spaces now, then people expect it’s going to take a pharmacopeia to level you out, get you through the day.

I passed, I’m saying.

There was a conference with the new Doc Wilson, about saturation and long-term impacts and mixing this and that, what the liver can and can’t tolerate, how the kidneys do and don’t work, but that was just for my own good, didn’t have any real bearing on the results Letha proudly passed on to the board.

And, I should say, this—me up here teaching, being the new and completely fake Mr. Holmes—it’s more Letha’s redemption arc for me than anything I ever had planned. When I processed out with my manila envelope and my nothing-check, my dim plan was to maybe hire on to wash coffee cups and saucers at Dot’s, knowing full well that the only things I really had waiting were my old custodian coveralls and a to-do list written in Rexall’s cramped hand, where he doesn’t dot the i’s but never fails to center-dot any two o’s that wind up beside each other.

I was going to be that janitor working a mop in Scream, waiting for Principal Himbry to surprise me.

Well, in my dreams, I was.


I was going to be Dorian, the Die Hard 2 janitor from Disturbing Behavior, who’s himself not exactly undisturbed.

Dorian didn’t have my prescriptions, though. They’re the spoonful of sugar that lets Christy Christy’s presentation go down.

The “history” she’s chosen is, technically, town history: Glen Henderson kills Tobias Golding with a pickaxe, which he then coats in gold and drops in the creek. The gold is melted down from his wife’s jewelry, which was a small fortune. Well, a huge one, back then.

Fast-forward to the creek getting dammed into the lake, and that golden pickaxe is forever buried in silt and washing machines and Christmas trees.

Unless it isn’t?

Christy Christy’s theory leans on rumor instead of fact, which you would probably wince about, Mr. Holmes, but it’s not like I can call her out on it. She testified against me in my trial, I mean. But maybe that’s why her presentation is so polished, right? A failing grade could be construed as me coming for her, her then having to defend herself, re-hurl certain accusations concerning her mom, and... better to be civil, right?

When Harrison was arguing against me at the big school board meeting, that was one of his main points: I’d done my time, but had I ever really been cleared? What if my father’s corpse bobs up some fine day, and he has a waterproof camera around his neck, happened to document me swinging that machete at him?

Okay, he didn’t say that, that’s me.

But still: what if, right?

Letha’s comeback to this was that I’d never been convicted of a moral crime—really, I’d only been sent up on a technicality, for destruction of state property. Which had really been in service of Proofrock.

Not exactly what I was thinking in the moment, but sure.

And, while I can maybe never be trusted with a notary public seal or hold office, I can be trusted with twenty-five students at a time. Provisionally. Until I mess up.

The school board’s sort of holding their breath, yeah.

Me too.

So? So I don’t call Christy Christy out on leaning on rumor instead of fact.

As for that rumor, it’s that Mrs. Glen Henderson knew where her husband had deposited that golden pickaxe, and, wanting her jewelry back, since tickets to the world aren’t free, she stepped out into the waters of that creek one night, felt around until she came up with the guilty thing.

What did she do with it then, though—“That’s the question,” Christy Christy ends with.

Her emphasis is supposed to be a mic-drop if not an actual conclusion, and her still-raised eyebrows are probably supposed to be what makes her case.

I lead class in polite applause, write “F” in my notebook, then bubble the two horizontal lines into a “P,” for pass, and let that letter get pregnant, its belly pooching out into a reluctant “B,” for—you guessed it—blackmail.

But so be it.

Like I told them, it’s only one presentation in a whole high school career of them. Just a blip.

Next up is supposed to be Hettie, according to my list, showing a clip from her documentary, but Marisa Scanlon is the one plugging in. Lee’s littlest sister.

“Thank you, Marisa,” I say.

I should have already dealt with their two absent classmates and our presentation order, I mean.

Absent, not “missing.”

“I’ve got the sequel, don’t I?” Marisa says, and the good thing about your face being numb is that you can wear it like a mask.

“Go, go,” I tell her, ushering her on.

Where Christy’s slides were all cameos of Glen Henderson and Tobias Golding and Mrs. Henderson, daguerreotypes and tintypes of Henderson-Golding before it became Drown Town, Marisa’s first slide has been scavenged from... Banner’s dad’s social media? Yep, looks like. MySpace, maybe? The dinosaur age of the internet. It’s Mr. Tompkins from twenty or thirty years ago, posed behind the mighty rack of a bull elk he’s brought down—one for the record books. That and his walrus stache both, good grief.

In the photo, Banner’s dad is beaming. His rifle has been laid across the forks of the top tines, which seems more than a bit gamey, gun worship being not so cool anymore. But nobody calls it out, so I let it slide—calling attention would only make it worse, probably?

Tell yourself that, Jade. Give yourself every out you can.

“The year was 1995,” Marisa recites, like sad for the elk. “The year OJ Simpson was found not guilty. Rwanda’s still reeling from genocide. Toy Story premieres. Michael Jordan comes back to basketball. But that’s all down the mountain. Up here, as Rocky here could tell you, rifle season was extended eight days, because the snow came late.”

Yeah,” some male student in the darkness says.

Nobody shushes him.

“Go on,” I tell Marisa.

“Wasn’t Rocky the squirrel?” JT asks, though.

Aside from being a whiz with the miniblinds, he’s also the pop-cult fiend of the senior class—maybe studying the seventies and eighties is where he learned how to work those impossible strings, even.

Marisa’s eyes dart left and right.

“This elk was a fighter, though, right, Marisa?” I prompt, getting my dukes up like a boxer. “Aren’t most trophies like that, hard to get?”

“That’s... why they’re trophies,” Marisa manages.

“And let’s let her continue without interruption?” I say.

It’s not a question.

JT slumps lower in his seat and crosses his arms, stares intently at the screen.

I’m not unsympathetic. In my day, if someone at the front of the classroom had put Michael Myers at Crystal Lake, then no force in the world could have shut me up.

You don’t walk into my house and tell me what’s what.

JT’s either, I think.

But we’ve got one more presentation after this, too.

“Marisa,” I say, giving her the room again.

“Okay, okay,” she says, warming back up, swallowing loud somehow. “We all know Rocky, this fighting elk, was donated to Henderson High when Sheriff Tompkins’ dad’s new house in Pend Oreille didn’t have room for the mount, right? Right.”

No, I say inside, to Marisa. Please, no.

“And, we all know what happened in 2019,” Marisa says anyway, rolling Jensen Jones’s senior photo up.

I’m the only one in the room who actually saw Jensen Jones speared on the brow tines of this massive, disinterested elk. But it’s town legend, now. You no longer have to have been there to have seen it.

And no, Marisa doesn’t know to put Linnea Quigley up as Jensen-surrogate, from when she got speared on an elk rack in Silent Night, Deadly Night.

“1984, Alex,” I want to say in my head, to center myself, not fall howling back to that forever afternoon in the snow, except the weird thing about seventh-period history is that there’s an Alex in the second row.

Marisa actually does that tracing-the-cross thing across her chest and face, about Jensen. I’m guessing she knows it from mob movies.

“Marisa, I don’t think—” I start, but she’s already clicking past Jensen Jones’s senior photo.

“You said this could be, like, a photographic essay, right?” she asks.

On-screen now is the wall where that bull elk used to hang. I walk by it probably twenty times a day, five days a week. On the same nail the elk used to be, there’s now a long plaque of the names of all the students the world still thinks Dark Mill South killed—that Cinnamon Baker’s really responsible for. There used to be a short bookshelf under the plaque, but stuffed animals and roses and beer bottles and condoms and resin-stained alligator clips kept showing up, so Rexall was told to cart it off, please and thank you.

“Did I say that?” I ask kind of generally, my voice ramping up like I hate, so I won’t sound so confrontational, which Letha’s warned me about.

“‘Pictures can do all the work of words,’” Alex of all people quotes back at me without turning his head, and, yeah, I do have a dim memory of having said something along those lines. Just, I was talking about the opening of Halloween, which isn’t exactly about talking—twenty-four words across four minutes, four of which are “Michael.”

I kind of doubt Marisa Scanlon’s slideshow is going to be up to John Carpenter standards, though.

“They can, they can,” I say about words over pictures, knowing full well that for the next few days, I can now expect nothing but “video essays”—so much easier to drag and drop images than to write a sentence.

Next year I’ll do it better, I promise, Mr. Holmes.

I won’t say whatever the class wants to hear, I’ll tell them what they need to hear.

“Go,” I tell Marisa again, flicking my eyes to the door, for the chance that Harrison’s stationed there, for another impromptu observation.

Marisa clicks on, taking us with her.

After the plaque, it’s a snapshot of the Proofrock Standard, an article I’d missed. The headline is “School Vandalism Goes Unpunished.”

I don’t need to read the blurry print to know what the article’s about, though: Jensen’s dad breaking into the school, wrenching Banner’s dad’s trophy elk off the wall, and walking right down Main with it, throwing it off the Pier, into the lake, as you do with things that have killed your son.

Marisa’s slideshow transitions into a series of grainy snapshots then, each slow-dissolving into the next.

That elk head, bobbing in the water by Devil’s Creek.

Some tines just breaking the surface, framing Camp Blood.

Close on a marble eye, somehow reflecting Terra Nova.

“What does it see out there, do you think?” Marisa reverently intones.

“Photoshop...” JT grumbles.

He’s not wrong.


That head is still out there, always showing up when you least expect. Supposedly a bear drowned, even, trying to swim out to it for an easy meal.

“It’s got a foam core,” Alex informs us all. “Foam doesn’t sink.”

“Neither do ghosts,” someone says back.

“Why didn’t you haul it in if you were so close?” JT asks. “Sheriff could give it back to his dad.”

“It’s nobody’s elk,” Marisa says back, ready to fight.

“Not even Jensen’s?” a deep voice from the back of the room says.

“Okay, okay,” I say. “Thank you, Marisa. Very informative. Next?”

“But—” Marisa says, and clicks one slide deeper.

It’s a re-do of the “tines breaking the surface of Indian Lake” shot, just, at an angle, like Marisa had lost the handle on the camera or phone for a moment.

“Why’s it so blurry?” Jen asks, not in a mean way.

“In Night of the Living Dead, Romero used cheesecloth over the lens to make the closing credits look like documentary footage,” JT declares, like dropping the most boring fact bomb on all of us and not even slowing to see the explosion.

“Well, I’m sure Marisa—” I start, trying to keep Marisa from crying like she’s done before, but then: “It’s her!” Alex says, standing, his desk rising with him.

“Oh, shit,” someone else adds on.

“What?” I ask, stepping forward.

“There, right there,” Ellie says, stepping up to the screen to touch her finger to a V between two of this elk’s briny tines.

“The Angel,” someone intones.

I close my eyes, open them back to be sure this is really happening.

Lately there’s been word of “the Angel of Indian Lake” moving along the shore, picking through the trees like looking for a lost earring. Or, in light of Christy Christy’s presentation, Mrs. Henderson, not looking for an earring, but a golden pickaxe head.

It’s just wishful thinking, though.

“Photoshop...” JT says again. “Shouldn’t she have a shadow?”

“No, I don’t even—I didn’t see her until—” Marisa says, tears welling in her eyes.

“Believe it if you want,” JT says to the rest of us.

I step closer, to see better, and JT’s right. Something about this Angel is wrong, like Marisa or her big sister copied this from some La Llorona page online, smudged it into the background of this elk bobbing in the lake.

“Thank you, Marisa,” I say, ending this. “Next?”

That deep voice from the back of the room says, “Me, ma’am.”

This is followed by a gulp or two of silence, in case there’s more coming. Class is nervous—understandably. Nobody’s sure about Lemmy Singleton yet. Including me. Like, that ma’am he always uses for me: mockery or respect?

Lemmy Singleton is a question mark wrapped in a sphinx, in a very dark room.

But he’s also a student in my seventh-period history.

I flourish my arm like rolling the red carpet out, giving him the floor, which is maybe a bit showier than absolutely necessary, but four tablets in ten minutes doesn’t exactly do anything great to your inhibitions.

Lemmy stands, stands, and then stands some more.

Last time I saw him before the semester started was... my graduation? He was a kid then, barely ten, and after the massacre, Lana Singleton spirited him the hell out of this charnel house.

But he’s back, and’s probably six-five at least, and just as shaggy and biker as his namesake. I’ve seen him lurking in the parking lot after school, just leaned back on a fender, a cigarette loose in his fingers, and when he’s wearing that curl-brimmed black cowboy hat with the dull pewter conches on the hatband—I know Lewellyn and Lana just named him what they named him because they’d been listening to “Ace of Spades” for their first kiss or something, but Lemmy, he’s leaned into it, he owns it. Motörhead would be proud.

As for why he’s back, word is he got kicked out of every high-dollar school Lana enrolled him in, so he finally made a deal with her: if he could come back here, finish where he’d sort of started, then he would finish.

Lana Singleton bought the spindly house way up Conifer that Donna Pangborne had built. Or, she got it anyway. With the Terra Novans, maybe they just give each other stuff like houses, I don’t know.

The house is just for the physical address the school needs, though. Her and Lemmy don’t live there. There’s a yacht on the lake again, I mean. A 235-footer, if talk at Dot’s is accurate, which is like overkill’s big brother. But money’s gonna do what money’s gonna do. This time it’s not moored, or anchored, or whatever you do to keep something that big in place. It’s all over the lake, is working back and forth from shore to shore like a spider, crafting a web.

It and Rocky both.

I wonder what Hardy and Melanie think about it, out there above them like a bloated zeppelin. But I don’t wonder too much, because it always lands me at the bench by the lake, smoking another thousand cigarettes.

I’m the one who keeps that bench clean now, yeah.

Who’d have ever thought.

“Jen?” I say, when Lemmy’s just snarling at the connection hub.

She’s our unofficial tech support.

She scuttles in under Lemmy’s broad shoulders, isn’t at all intimidated by his looming presence—Clarice Starling in that sausage party elevator.

“Good?” I ask her.

She’s already backing away.

“Thanks,” Lemmy says, even his quiet voice booming, which I try to convince myself must be a terrible burden to carry.

Who he reminds me of even more than his namesake? Rob Zombie’s Michael Myers. All Lemmy’ll have to do to give Teach a heart attack is wear a paper-plate mask to class tomorrow, for Halloween.

I wouldn’t put it past him, really. I don’t think the things he thinks are funny are what other people generally find amusing, which may be the cause of his multiple expulsions.

But—yes: his presentation flickers alive on the screen pulled down over the chalkboard. Unlike Christy Christy and Marisa Scanlon, this isn’t a slideshow. It’s a recording. A video.

“Drone...” Benji or Alex calls out, identifying it.

Just because Lemmy’s got that outlaw mustache doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his mother’s credit card. His footage is so high-res I don’t doubt that it’s military, somehow.

“The lake,” I hear myself say.

Jen’s the only one who hears me. She sneaks a polite look over, then flicks her eyes back to the front of the classroom.

Of course it’s the lake. There some other giant body of water around here, for Lemmy to fly one of his drones over?

Most of the students maintain a sort of patter while their visual aid is on-screen.

Not Lemmy.

He’s turned around, his hands clasping each other in front, just watching with the rest of us, and the way his drone’s rocketing across Indian Lake, I can almost hear your ultralight buzzing, Mr. Holmes.

But I’m always hearing it, I guess.

“Here,” he finally says, right before it happens: the image flickers into another mode—thermal imaging.

Predator eyes. Wolfen eyes.

The surface of the lake is cool, featureless, but... of course he’s going to Terra Nova.


“Lemmy?” I say.

He looks over to me like the bother I am, then back to the screen.

Well then.

I guess we’re doing this, aren’t we?

When the drone crosses the threshold of the dock over there—it’s the same one Tiara Mondragon died on—the playback slows down. Which I think means Lemmy was shooting at some impossibly fast speed or rate, high enough that he can slow it down here, to pump the drama up.

It’s not just me feeling it either. Jen, the closest student to me, is sitting higher up in her desk as well, now.

Because the lead house, what used to be Letha’s, doesn’t quite have brick on it yet, Lemmy’s drone can see right through it, to the construction workers in there doing their thing.

My heart jumps a bit, seeing these grunts hammering trim, hanging drywall, plumbing bathtubs.

“Lemmy, what’s the educational value of this?” I ask, and cringe to hear it.

I am the girl who wrote all her papers on slashers, I mean.

But still.

He looks over enough that I can see his grin, but he doesn’t say anything.

His drone banks high over Terra Nova, taking all the new houses in, and the playback switches to normal, no more heat-vision stuff, the speed accelerating all at once, which makes a body or two out there in the dimness of the classroom lean forward on accident.

Lemmy chuckles.

In the distance on the left, looking back to Proofrock, there’s the new island everybody hates, that you would have found a way to sink, Mr. Holmes, but Lemmy... isn’t going there?

He’s skimming the water again, is slamming faster and faster to... to himself, standing on the spine of the dam, tablet in-hand as joystick, that trademark smirk on his face.

The drone is going to hit him, is going to hit him, knock him off the back of the dam, until—at the last moment, timing it perfectly, Lemmy steps to the side like a bullfighter, all his weight on one wore-down boot heel.

The drone plunges off that sudden concrete cliff and a few people in class gasp, which makes some others laugh. Two clap.

“Shh, shh,” I tell them, because I’m stupidly thinking Lemmy needs concentration to keep this mad dive from flaming out.

The drone spirals down and down, down some more, to the big clearing around the creek, then jars left from that, following the overgrown rut-road.

“Lemmy, we only have—” I try, but then stumble a step ahead myself when the playback slams into torturous slow motion again, like the moment’s straining to burst through, explode.

What’s on-screen now, in high enough resolution that we can nearly smell it, is a paint horse. It’s flicking its tail, looking up at the drone with ancient eyes. Its saddle has rolled around to under its belly, and there’s frost on its haunches, and coating its long eyelashes.

“Oh, we should—” I say, like I’m the only one seeing this animal in need.

The drone’s at about head-height now. Normal-person head-height.

“Wait...” Lemmy grumbles, leaning to the side a bit as if still directing the drone.

Around the horse, not close enough to scare the horse...

D, F, I’m telling myself inside. Lana Singleton’s going to have to come in, talk to me about this. History? Where’s the history, here? And, Mr. Holmes? I’m not giving Lana any slack, any special treatment.

But then Christy Christy, who’s understandably sensitive to this kind of stuff, stands from her desk, her thermos and laptop shaking onto the floor.

No!” she gets out through her hands.

It’s Rex Allen’s white Bronco, after all this time.

In the snow in front of it, and up on the root of a fallen-down tree, is Hettie Jansson, her head at a very wrong angle, blood all around her, even on her blocky camera in the snow beside her, and—

I step back into the blinds, my own hands steepled over my mouth, light splashing in all around me.

Is her jaw gone?

“Lemmy, Lemmy, did you—” I start to say, but now Paul Demming is on-screen, speared through the neck on the root pan of a giant tree.

Paul who asked to sit by the window because he was claustrophobic. Hettie who always smelled like smoke, and wore her eyeliner so goddamn thick.

And off to the side, another dead kid, his insides very much on the outside. I don’t recognize him at first, then: “Wayne Sellars,” Ellie Jennings says, for us all.

“Lemmy, Lemmy—” I’m saying, pleading, and then... I’m the last one in the room to cue in that we have a visitor.

Standing in the doorway, squinting in this darkness, is Principal Harrison, in one of his five suits.

“Ms. Daniels?” he’s saying, maybe for the second time.

“We’ve got to call—we need to—” I’m sputtering, but he hasn’t clocked what’s on-screen yet, is already doing his stepping-aside thing, to present—


His eyes flick to me then back down the hall he’s standing in. Like he’s watching his six, and his ten, his two—the whole clock.

My heart drops in my chest.

I shake my head no to him, just the slightest, almost imperceptible movement, but for people who have been through the fire together, it’s enough.

In return, Banner shrugs one shoulder maybe a sixteenth of an inch.

Lately he’s taken to wearing the stiff brown cowboy hat that goes with that uniform shirt that hasn’t been updated since 1962. He’s holding the hat by the brim now, out of what feels like respect for these, um, hallowed halls of learning.

“No,” I say to him, my eyes instantly hot. “This isn’t—it can’t be...”

“Um,” he says, kind of hooking his head for me to follow him, so we can do this in a less public forum. Because, I’m sure he’s thinking, it’s not just someone we know this time, but probably even someone within hearing.

It can’t be, though.

I try to picture Jen cranking Hettie’s head around until it clicks over. JT, slinging Paul hard enough to impale on that dull root. Lemmy standing up on the dam before or after, and flicking a butt down the dry side, turning away while it’s still falling.

“Do you like scary movies?” someone behind me says, not with a voice-changer but with that same kind of murderous chuckle that promises the game’s only beginning, here.

“No, we’re not done, we still have—” I say, trying to peer through the darkness for the clock on the wall, because if I have to be in here doing this, if I can just make it last and last, then... then I don’t have to face what Banner’s here for.

Whatever’s starting again.

What Lemmy’s drone already found.

“I’ve got it, Ms. Daniels,” Harrison says, and when he makes to step to the front of the classroom, Lemmy doesn’t step aside for him.

Hey,” Banner says to Lemmy, like a warning. A reminder of who’s the high school senior, who’s the sheriff.

Lemmy doesn’t care about the law, though. He does look around to me, though.

I nod that this is okay, this is fine, this is... this is Proofrock, don’t you know? Didn’t your mom hide you in the diving-gear closet on the first version of the yacht, and then tag Rex Allen with a speargun when he opened the door, because anybody who wanted her precious boy, they were going to have to come through all five-foot-two of her?

You don’t measure moms in height, though. You measure them in ferocity.

Lemmy steps to the side, lets Harrison take my class from me.

Walking across to the door, I look back to class like saying goodbye to them, like apologizing to them, like snapping one last picture of them that can be worth all the words, and the light from the projector sears this image of Hettie and Paul into my retinas.

I bring my hand up to shield my eyes and—

I’m still holding those two Post-it notes I peeled up from Hettie and Paul’s chairs.

“What?” Banner says, the fingers of his right hand opening for the pistol he thinks he might need, because Jade, the girl always crying slasher, is alerting on some threat.

I shake my head no, nothing, and crumple the Post-its, trail them into the brown trashcan.

One says Casey, one says Steve.

Casey who was gutted and hung from her childhood swing, Steve who was tied to a chair in his letterman jacket and gutted just the same.

“Now where were we?” Harrison asks class, behind me.

Proofrock, I tell him, Mr. Holmes.

Proofrock, the day before Halloween.

When the monsters come out to play.

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