OVERKILL EP. 5 — BEYONCE MEETS HELEN OF TROY
[sounds of a storm]
[door opens, closes]
Helen: Oh! It’s raining cows and Clydesdales out there. And Mr. Flowers said it would be sunny all—
Um. This is Helen, from Mother’s Against Aliens and Ghosts, and there’s a cloud in here.
Well, not a cloud— a fog? It’s hard to tell, it’s so thick. Like the cotton balls Sophie used in her water cycle diorama. It’s—
Ah! Lightning! Inside lightning! It lit the room up like a Christmas tree—
Oh! It’s somebody! There’s somebody here— I can see their face in the light, only it’s not a face, not really. The cloud is covering it like a Scream mask, but the mouth’s not a hole, it’s— it’s like a tornado, sucking the mist in, and—
[HELEN SCREAMS] [THUNDER] [HELEN RUNS]
[DOOR OPENS, SHUTS.] [STATIC]
Aya: Well, that’s one way for us to talk. I was thinking more like a phone call or something, but— Oh, Vicky, you made it! [PANICKED FIZZ SOUNDS]
I’m explaining, I promise, I’m explaining. This has just been a super weird day.
She didn’t attack me. I mean, it obviously didn’t feel good. It was like— like a giant spider sat on my chest and pried my mouth open with its massive pincers. [panicked static] Er— okay, you’re right, that’s too violent. She wasn’t doing anything sharp or scary. She was just a harmless worm, writhing its way into my ears and sqqqqquuuuezing my brain. Er—
[huff as demon is annoyed by Aya & takes over the story]
God, this girl is useless. How have you been listening to her for this long? Whatever. Let me start from the beginning.
There was this girl, and she was like, the most beautiful perfect everything. Like Beyoncé meets Helen of Troy meets that girl in your high school who was gorgeous but didn’t know it. She was poor, but she didn’t pity herself. She already knew she was special, meant for more than twirling on some dude’s arm. After all, she had more than looks— she had sight.
See, this woman, this Spectacular Psychic Stunner, she could see things that other people couldn’t. She saw dead people, mostly, but other stuff too, like auras. She wasn’t like Madison, just sitting around waiting for magic to find her. She knew she had powers, and she wanted to use them. Some jealous bitches called her a witch, but it’s not like the girl was making sacrifices or worshipping mythical Gods or anything. It was just a little floating here, a little vanishing there. Somewhere on the magical women spectrum, sure, but not a witch!
Of course, most people were too dumb to pick up on her gifts. Men fell for her because of her face, and she avoided them because they were gross and stupid. Mostly it worked, and they left her alone. Except this one guy.
His name was Chadwick Fitzwilliam Harding the Third, but he went by Chad. Chad was nice, and handsome, and always nice to our heroine. But there was something about his aura that set her teeth on edge. It was green, which would normally be nice, but on him it just looked pukey. She wasn’t into it. Whenever he came to the house where she worked, she’d duck into spare rooms or lock herself in the bathroom and pretend to scrub the toilets.
Whenever his eyes were on her, she felt like a sausage roasting on the spit. And he looked at her a LOT. Enough for him to notice how she stared at things that didn’t stare back. How the meals she made for herself always looked better than the ones she made for her masters, even when she cooked them in the same pot. Once, he watched her wipe a stain off her apron just by touching her hand to the fabric.
It drove him crazy, watching her delve into an absence he didn’t understand, a presence she found infinitely more interesting than him. He was obsessed with, and this obsession, it was about more than her looks. Chad didn’t even want to be with her anymore. He knew he wouldn’t be satisfied with holding her, not when she’d always avoid looking into his eyes. He wanted to conquer her. To take all the things that made her better than him and make them his own.
People always act like human sacrifice is some ancient, out-of-date thing. They associate it with so-called-savage societies and pat themselves on the back for being so evolved. But sacrifice isn’t over — it’s just harder to see. Girls are sacrificed every day in the name of some asshole’s greater good. For war, for sex, for money. In sweatshops and at weddings. In the old days, they might’ve had some sort of ritual or built a temple or something. Now they just stick our names on page four of the newspaper and move on. It’s not special. It’s not new. It just is. And this girl — The Best and Most Beautiful Girl Who Ever Was or Will Be — she was sacrificed too.
Chad thought he would gain her sight and lose only her life, but he never did understand much. She was so much stronger than him. And when she was scared, she was stronger still. He succeeded in knocking her out. He dragged her unconscious body to a shed in the middle of his family’s land. But when she woke, she broke hell open. She screamed, and the windows shattered. She pulled against her binds, and the wood peeled off the walls. The door swung open and slammed shut, but no one was around to hear its thudding.
Chad was scared. He’d never done the ritual before, and he didn’t have her natural talent for magic. He spoke too fast. He didn’t let his mouth wrap around each sacred syllable. When he stabbed her, her blood did run, but he didn’t stick around to finish the job. He ran off before she was dead, scared of the thunder and the way she made branches slam against the cabin’s roof.
Without his chanting, she could focus. Her last breaths seeped into the forest, hiding in the folds of each leaf. Her blood dripped onto the dirt floor and into the soil, spreading through the complex root system. She took refuge in the land, in all that lived there, and when the ritual finally did kill her, it wasn’t her end.
That was Chad’s mistake. He assumed burning a witch would turn her to ash. He didn’t ask where the flames came from. He got his ritual sacrifice, but with a few notable catches. His powers would only be a pale shadow of hers, and while he could now see magic in the world around him, he couldn’t control it. He wasn’t so much a conqueror as a whiny child suckling on her mystical teat. He could live forever — as long as he kept advancing her power. As long as he kept sacrificing magic girls.
At first, Her Holy Hotness was furious. Even in death he’d found a way to torture her, and she wished she could end herself so he would end too. But nothing was that simple. It wasn’t just the plants of Harding that gave her life. She could draw energy from anyone on the land, feeding on the souls that dwelled there without their knowledge. She began with the Hardings — Chad was gone, but his father and mother still lived on the land they’d forcibly claimed for the British. The two weren’t enough to sustain her for long, and the oldest Hardings died weak and covered in their own vomit.
The land moved down the family line, and she kept feeding. Bitter, fading, a shadow. It took her years to realize she could use her power for more than devouring people. She could save them, too, if she wanted. Protect girls. Girls like you, Vicky.
It was when you died that she realized what she could do. She saw you sneak into the Harding’s stable and guide a horse out the back door. She saw that horse buck and watched as your head slammed onto the grass. When she felt your spirit fading, she recognized a life never really lived, and she pulled you back. She held you in her great, glorious mist, and she saved you just like she saved herself.
I mean, she’s also been feeding on your soul for centuries, but net good, right? The Sublime Spirit doesn’t need to explain her meteoric rise to power. No one’s hands are clean.
Sure, she didn't save everyone, but you can't blame her. She did what she had to do. She let Chad come back once a decade, his face still ageless, his hands still spilling blood onto the soil. She didn’t— she—
[Aya’s voice breaks through the possession]
You didn’t save me. You didn’t save any of us. The girls with sight, the ones he wanted— you—
[Aya starts to slip back but fights it]
[tape recorder gives low battery warning]
It was guilt. The Majestic— the woman, she never forgave the man who killed her, the leech sucking on her magic underbelly, but—[Aya speaks confidently] you couldn’t face him. Not again. Not for us.
She showed me, Vicky. How I died. Chad brought me to the park in the trunk of his car. He was taking me here, to this shed, this hovel. My head ached. My armpits sweat. I had the oddest sense of Deja Vu, this pinching nausea deep in my stomach. But I knew I had to do something, or I was going to— I would die. I tried to push the trunk open, but it wouldn’t budge. I squeezed my eyes shut and focused. My hands pressed against the truck, soft, and somehow, miraculously, it popped open. I rolled out the car and ran. Up through the foothills, towards the dead end that is Dead Man’s Slope. I stopped running, my toes hovering over the Slope’s crumbling edge. He caught me. And he brought me back here, to this shed, to this place I’ve been haunting. And then he killed me.
My body was found in the river, sans-stab wounds. My flight must’ve given him the idea for the cover-up. Suicide is such a good excuse for the death of a teenager. Everyone cries, and no one takes her seriously.
I saw what he looked like, afterwards. That woman, or demon, or whatever she is — she showed me. His wide, toothy grin. The power sparking in his eyes.
The Nike socks and sandals on his feet.
It was the counselor. Madison’s camp counselor. Vicky, Madison is special. She’s like the lady in the Mist. She’s like me. And Chad— I think he knows. I think he saw me, last night, in the park, and I think he saw her seeing me. Which means he knows what she can do.
Vicky, he’s going to kill Madison. He’s going to tie her up and hurt her and—
He’s not going to get away with it. Madison called me for a reason, he killed me for a reason, and I’m going to show everyone why. I’m going to stop him, Vicky, I—
[tape recorder dies]