By Leila Toba

Autumn leaves scuttled upon the driveway, in a helpless battle between the gusty winds and the excited crowd of women that crunched their expensive heels on the concrete. It was the most exciting night of the week, or, at least the most exciting night of the week since everyone’s ungrateful offspring scattered into whatever universities could be bought. Now that the days of pretending to take care of various sports and sneaking wine had come to a close, these lonely, overdressed bitches could finally brine themselves in booze in peace. Tonight, was the third weekly “Book Babes” meeting, and in honor of Halloween, they were reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a classic, and somehow three weeks later, had never finished reading the story. Imagine that. Mostly, the weekly gatherings constituted of elegant activities such as dismissing the poor, gossiping about their neighbors, and complaining about how unfair their wildly privileged lives were. “Vodka thirty!” screeched Marcy, who somehow never learned to delineate the difference between her sorority life and reality. A condition kept firmly in place by never worrying about money, and maintaining the same steady stream of liquor since the age of 14. The gaggle of women giggled and cheered loudly to this as they made their way up to the outrageously long staircase that that led to Gillian’s doorway. One, however, a certain Cassandra, hurriedly pushed through the joyful band, and stomped angrily up the steps. Cassandra was so woefully bland, both in character and in gifts, that a bad day or good gossip were about the only reasons to endure her. She huffed, loudly in a lame attempt to be noticed, but everyone was too happy, or probably pre-gamed, to care. As everyone made their way into the lavishly decorated foyer, Gillian awaited them, accompanied by stoic staff with trays of champagne, “Welcome, witches!” She happily greeted them, to which they all started woo girling and snatching champagne flutes. Gillian was stunning, perhaps too interesting to be among these washed up hags, but as is famously said, war makes for strange bedfellows, and if there’s one thing these flakes understand, it’s how to follow others to survive. She glided towards the study, ethereal in her haze of xanax and bourbon. The doors of the study spread open with ease, and Gillian picked up a dramatic candelabra, as the women beheld a room immersed in candlelight. “I thought we could try things a little differently tonight”, she announced majestically, as the obnoxious group entered the room. “I’ve been thinking to myself a lot lately, and you’re lying if you say that you haven’t thought the same at some point,” she circled the group almost accusingly. “We’ve all wondered, what is the one thing in the world that I truly want, that I can’t buy?” “And if you say some dumb bullshit like, love, or real friends, you haven’t really thought about it enough.”The aged schoolgirls murmured indiscernible mutterings amongst themselves, half pondering the suggestion, half saying anything to escape the discomfort of this harsh truth. “I actually read the book, I read it many years ago, and I finished it two weeks ago again. It’s my favorite novel. And do you know what it made me think of, while allowing myself to explore the existential hell that is wealth? Immortality. Or if we do die, coming back from the dead, and no, not as some ashen, quilted flesh with hardly the faculty to walk, much less speak, but restoring our lives to our prime. And even more importantly, returning to us those whom we love the most, and being able to gift them with the quality of life deprived of them at the time of their deaths. That’s why, tonight, I have a special surprise for you all.” Fire roared to life, almost clawing its way out of the fireplace, as a petite woman appeared in the corner of the room. The Book Babes shrieked and fell into laughter at the shock and drama. Some idiots clapped even. Gillian always knew how to through one helluva party. The woman folded her hands into one another, and nervously returned their gaze. Gillian glanced over at her and smiled proudly. “Roisin here is going to help us answer those questions tonight.” The women studied Roisin closely, giggled nervously as they chugged their libations. Marcy playfully tinked her glass and yelled, “Garcon!” to which a bug eyed servant of the house quickly answered by refilling all of their glasses. Gillian slowly turned her head to Marcy and smiled thoughtfully through a glassy stare. “Marcy, why don’t you go first?” Marcy looked at the other women, as if expecting them to say something, then met Gillian’s look with defiance, and slammed down the rest of her champagne. “Why not?” Marcy replied, her eyes never leaving Gillian’s. “So what do I have to do?” Marcy asked lazily, the booze kicked in. “Enough with the antics,” a Cassandra who must’ve finished the now empty bottle of champagne in her hand chimed in. “I’m already bored to death.” She slumped into a large armchair and drooped her legs over the side. Gillian calmly walked over to her and violently snatched her up by the arm until she was standing upright and slapped her. The women gasped and some started laughing. Gillian only put up with Cassandra, because Gillian had married her brother, but the truth was that Gillian hated Cassandra and regularly begged God for Cassandra to end in some horribly disfiguring accident, so that even in death she wouldn’t have to look at her anymore. Cassandra gaped at Gillian in her entitled shock, but knew she wouldn’t do anything. If not for Gillian, she would have no friends, and if Gillian sent her away this evening, the best prospects of the night were to wake up hungover and tangled in her own rose bushes. Despite her envy of Gillian, Cassandra was always desperate to please Gillian, and hoped that one day she would grow to love her. Cassandra’s husband had died three years ago, and this was the only family she had. Her children hated her, and Gillian and her brother John were the only ones left who tolerated her. Still, to see Gillian so enflamed and hostile was deeply unusual. “Snap out of it”, Gillian said, as though nothing had happened. “And don’t drink too much. You’ll ruin the surprise.” Gillian patted Cassandra lightly on the cheek and sauntered away. “You’ll notice on the mantle that there is a dish full of silver coins. I’ll ask you all to lie down on the floor, and place the silver coins on your eyes.” The excited chatter ceased. Cassandra dolefully obeyed the instructions, not wanting to incense Gillian any further. Marcy watched the other women follow suit, and decided to go along. Pretty soon the whole bunch, save for Gillian, laid on the ground, donning silver coins on their eyes. Roisin hadn’t moved a centimeter, stood silently with her hands folded into one another. Marcy had started to jab at Bianca, who had been all but silent at this point, mostly just making quips about how silly the whole spectacle was. Bianca hissed a shhh at Marcy, and kicked Marcy in the ankle. Marcy laughed wildly but quieted herself quickly after. The room went ice cold. Through the tiny cracks of closed eyes, it was evident that the light had completely gone out. There were a few gasps, Marcy’s uneasy giggle, and suddenly, a childlike whimper. Everyone in the room went silent as the whimpering grew louder, and with the start of a stutter, and suddenly, the sound fell into gentle sobs. The women, not understanding where this sound was coming from, quickly became anxious, whatever fragments of their booze addled maternity remained, were overcome with intense guilt. “Mm Mm?” Bianca murmured out, frightfully called for Marcy, as she realized she had become completely paralyzed. Tears started streaming down Bianca’s face as she soon understood that she could no longer even move her vocal folds. Heavy breathing could be heard all around the room, sniffling, as someone walked up to touch Bianca’s face with something she couldn’t quite make out. “I’ll need this for later” a voice she didn’t recognize stated as they held something to Bianca’s cheek. Bianca could hear the footsteps moving softly around her, but no one spoke after that. Bianca’s sanity spiraling out of reason, she had finally come to the conclusion that Gillian had drugged everyone and this must be some prank of hers, like the time they had all gone to Vegas, and she had slipped everyone acid. Bianca tried regulating her breathing, convincing herself that everything would be fine, and this would all be over soon, as she heard a huge plop of what must be sludge, glob itself onto the floor next to her, goo splattering her face. Bianca’s heart slammed fearfully in her chest, begging to be let out and she desperately tried to pull all of the air she could to scream when suddenly, “I’m so sorry, Mark. I’m so so sorry.”Bianca could hear Cassandra openly weeping, as she continued to beg for her dead husband’s forgiveness. Screams and weeping filled the room, as Bianca struggled internally to get something out. She could feel life returning to her stiff lips, as the air travelled from her lungs and up her throat as she yelled, “I’m so sorry, Gillian!” The entire debacle fell silent as Bianca, shocked at her own words, heard footsteps walking towards her. She started to tremble, grateful for the ability to move, but still terrified of what might come next. The goo on her face was congealing, slipping one of the coins off her eye, her vision blurry, as a dark figure knelt down next to her and started stroking her hair. “How long?” Gillian’s husky voice asked gently. Bianca, committed to saying nothing, pressed her lips tightly together, but involuntarily blurted out, “The night your son Landis was born! John wasn’t on a business trip, he had been staying with me the whole week!” Bianca couldn’t believe her uncontrolled confession as tears started splashing out of her eyes, drizzling over the congealed goo. She looked helplessly at the shadowy Gillian, seeking some deliverance from this chaos, but Gillian appeared to look away, and very quietly said, “This one.” “I’m so sorry, Gillian!” Bianca’s voice screamed frantically, as another shadowy figure appear to glide up next to Gillian, sit on her legs, hands folded in lap. The other figure gently removed both of the silver pieces from Bianca’s eyes, the dark fingers playing along Bianca’s face, suddenly plunged deeply into Bianca’s eye sockets, and deftly yanked out the two gummy occupants. Bianca wanted to scream, but her voice was stolen again, her movement lost, writhing in her own blind internal ring of hell. All was black, save for the sucking and slurping that could be heard, the sounds of her own eyes being consumed. Bianca lay there like a dull rock, the room filled with heartbroken guilt and cries of confession, slipping away into nothingness. Marcy, laid next to Bianca, hearing everything was completely outside of her mind. Also completely paralyzed, her internal organs electrified with terror, Marcy’s wrung out brain uselessly tried to divine a way to escape. She felt her nose itch and reached up to scratch it. She could move! She quickly put her left arm back down by her side before anyone could notice. Just as she realized she could wiggle the fingers on her right hand, Cassandra howled loudly in pain. Marcy couldn’t see a fucking thing and wanted to scream, but kept her cool. She heard light footsteps make their way to the noise as Cassandra started bawling, “It’s all my fault he was such a good man he put up with everything I did! If I wasn’t such a horrible wife he would have loved me forever! He met me for dinner, and I got him wasted and kept reminding him to take his blood pressure meds. I wasn’t even sure if it would work. It wasn’t an accident. He knows what I did. He looked right in my eyes, he knows what I did!” She wailed as if every word leaving her face scalded her. Marcy felt bad for her, tears started falling down her face. “I’m so sorry, Mark! I’m so sorry!” There was one final moan of tears, and then Cassandra fell silent. Marcy felt a warm liquid gather around the base of her spine. Blood? With the fingers of her left hand, she felt for it, realizing it was her own piss. Sloppy, wet chomping seemed to fill the room, as Marcy could feel motion collect around her soaked legs. She heaved her body from the waist, flipping over on her belly. She slowly placed her hands beneath her body, slipping precariously on the various fluids on the floor, desperately trying not to fall or make too much noise. Marcy had no idea how long they would be munching down Cassandra, so she had to make the most of it. Her stockinged feet slapped around on the floor as she pawed her way into an upright position and started running. She ran smack into a wall and nearly knocked herself unconscious. She leaned against the wall, listening for any clues that she had been discovered. The goey meal continued as though nothing had happened. She felt her way along the surface, hoping to silently make it to the door that would reassure her escape. The lights shot on so quickly, that Marcy became dizzy, but still clung to the wall. Her blurry eyes slowly began to recognize Gillian, standing alongside Roisin, completely still, making no effort to pursue her. As her vision cleared, her eyes travelled along the floor, seeing her only friends, of many long years, strewn about like squeezed out rags, covered in the afterbirth of this deathly shindig. “Some matters of horror are better disclosed in the light,” Gillian said gravely. “And what would you like to confess, my brave blonde friend?” Marcy felt a gnawing within that clamped on the contents of her stomach, causing her to throw up. “You didn’t actually think that you were above this, did you? It’s the very reason you’re here.” Marcy felt a force grasp her neck tightly and force her to the ground, as Gillian and Roisin made their way towards her. “I’m so sorry, Billy, I’m so sorry.” Marcy weakly cried as Gillian held a glass vial to her face to collect her tears. Roisin, sat beside her, sitting on her feet, hands folded in her lap. “I drowned my own son! I didn’t want him to grow up and become as horrible as his father! I was done being a mother! I was exhausted and I am terrible to my children!” Marcy released an ear shattering wail that seized the house with pain. Gillian gently stroked Marcy’s hair, “You are free now, my friend. You are free.” Marcy, trembling, looked over to Roisin, sitting unmoved, as shadowy tentacles creeped out of her shoulders and removed her own head. The countless limbs moved towards Marcy, who was slowly being overcome by peace, morphing into the shapes of fingers that crawled across Marcy’s cheeks towards her eyes. There was warmth to this embrace, a feeling of being needed, accepted, and wanted. The fingers swiftly removed her eyes, and total relief washed over Marcy, to the song of Roisin’s meal. She let go, and happily felt herself leave the world. Roisin, whose head was now a black hole, suctioned deeply, removing all of the fluids from the room. She used her delicate hands to return her head. Roisin finally spoke, “I will return.” And slowly got up and walked out of the room. Gillian glanced around the room, watching her beautiful friends spring back to life, as though nothing had happened. “Gillian?” Marcy blinked softly and looked up to her. Gillian swept Marcy in her arms, and kissed her passionately. “Carlos, I’ve missed you more than life.” Carlos, understanding his soul’s new home, feeling along Marcy’s former body, burst out laughing and kissed Gillian back even harder. They happily laughed as Cassandra, now filled with Gillian’s Meemaw, and Bianca, Gillian’s mother, raced to embrace Gillian tenderly. A knock came at the door. “I hope I’m not interrupting girl’s night”, John entered the sliding doors to find the women laughing and hugging on the floor. John looking as though he had walked into the wrong house said, “Cassandra, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so happy. It looks good on you, kiddo.” John’s gaze found Bianca, who smiled coyly, and he looked down, avoiding eye contact. He looked back up at Gillian, and lost his breath. “Gillian, whatever you’re doing”, he stopped himself midsentence to smile and shake his head in disbelief. “You’ve never looked more beautiful, darling.” He left the room shaking his head, as the four exploded into joyful raucous.

About Leila

Leila Toba is an actor residing in Los Angeles, California. Their recent work includes The Garcias on HBO Max. They recently completed their training in the Meisner Technique at The Baron Brown Studio, and currently pursuing their studies at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. A rich history of observing the absurdities of life, surviving its many horrors, Leila is honored to be able to share this brief tale with you. They would like to dedicate this publication to George Robert Bailey, Machelle Coats, Bobby Gonzalez, and Phillip Rivera, for nurturing their love of horror through humor, love, and friendship.

Find out more about Leila on her IMDB page and her website.