‘A Killer Show’ is a short horror story by Elena Childers. Illustrations also by @elunachilders
“Sick set,” she says in the damp basement while she watches with a wide grin as the blood drips from the edge of her knife. The darkness down there is all consuming with a single red beam of light occasionally swirling around. Only the whites of her eyes are visible and every now and then she appeared demonic when the red beam hit her face.
A reflection in one of the crimson droplets catches her eye and she walks over the lifeless body to an unattended amp. The sticker sloppily placed across the side reads, “The Death Tolls.” “Fuck,” she thinks. “Of course they borrowed this amp.” She sticks the still-sopping knife under the back of her waistband, almost carelessly nicking herself in the process. She can feel the warmth of the stranger’s blood drip down the back of her legs as she steps over two more bodies on her way up the steps.
“Another Punk Rock Massacre,” Julia Robertson writes. “The infamous serial killer targeting the punk rock community local known as the “punk rock psycho killer” has struck again. This weekend another ten dead bodies were found brutally stabbed in the basement of a popular DIY venue. The victims were musicians in three of the scene’s most popular and promising bands, one of which, The Death Tolls, had recently landed a record deal,” Julia stops typing.
This is the third time in a month that one of these incidents has happened. Being a music journalist she’s worried she could or maybe already has encountered this murderer. All three of those bands are on her must-see list. In fact, she was supposed to go to that Death Tolls’ show, but she had drunk too much at the pre-game and blacked out, so she missed it. She’s been binge drinking a lot lately, but that tends to happen during the fall for her and her approaching seasonal depression. And honestly, she was thankful she drank too much too early that night or she might’ve ended up on the end of that dagger herself.
“Everyone was excited to see what the future of music had in store for The Death Tolls. Julia continues typing. “Who could this punk rock psycho killer be? And how can we stop these tragic killings?”
Julia finishes the article and it leaves her with just enough time to transcribe an interview before leaving the office for the day. But just because she leaves the office doesn’t mean she’s done working. On the subway ride home she checks the list of shows she has to cover before the weekend.
“Only one show tonight, so it’ll be nice to get home early,” she thinks excitedly to herself. An early night for her means getting home at around 2 or 3 a.m—a late night is never actually going home and heading straight to the office at 9 a.m. She’s spent many a days throwing up in the office bathroom and strolling in an hour late donning the same outfit. But her editor actually encourages that—the crazier the night, the better her writing.
That night Julia dreamt of herself standing under a spotlight covered in blood. She could feel her pores tingling while it oozed down her body.
She wakes up to what she thinks is an ear-piercing scream, but opens her eyes to see it’s her alarm going off. “What the actual fuck,” Julia thinks about her dream, desperately trying to grasp onto the details in hopes she’ll figure it all out before her brain decides to dump the memory of it. “This punk rock psycho killer shit is really starting to get to me,” she thinks “and—I should probably stop drinking so much.” Her head throbbed from last night’s tequila shots.
When she sits down at her desk to write up the show she covered last night she has trouble remembering what she wanted to say about it. Usually she’ll remember a quote that stood out from one of the singers on stage or at least how she was feeling while the bands played. “Tequila is gonna be the death of me, I know it,” she bites her lip as she realizes she’s saying this out loud, but luckily her co-workers choose to ignore the comment.
Her editor comes rushing in; ruffling some papers off the desks as he whirls passed them. “Julia, why aren’t you answering your phone?” he screams from halfway across the room while he b-lines for her desk. She looks down at her phone, but there are no missed calls or unread texts. “I’m sorry sir, but they didn’t come through.”
“There’s been another attack, I need you to write it up ASAP. I’ll email you the brief.”
She’s dreading this already, feeling shivers run down her spine as she remembers her dream. “Maybe someone else can write it today? I still have to write the show coverage from last night.”
“Fuck the show coverage, this is more important and you’ve been writing it up since the beginning, I can’t just pull you off it—you know it the best.” He’s already in his office sending the email all the while shouting this through his open door.
Julia is too hungover to fight him so she opens the email.
“Who: Every member from the bands Las Lips, The Dead Babies, Lunatics
What: All found murdered—brutally stabbed
When: Last night between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Where: 99 Wilson Ave.
She feels nauseous—not only from the burning brightness of her laptop, but also because that was the show she was at last night. She tried to remember what time she had left, but things got blurry halfway through the headliner’s set, plus her head was splitting. The last text she sent was around 2 a.m. and read, “send me the show pics ASAP tomorrow morn pleaseeeee.” She felt relieved because she only sends that text to her photographer when she’s pulling an Irish-goodbye. “Ok, so I must’ve left around 2 a.m., I wonder if I saw the killer. What if the killer is someone I know?” Her face starts to become visibly sweaty as she nervously thinks about everyone she spoke to last night. Her hangover was still in full-throttle, but the adrenaline currently pumping through her veins was substituting as a pain reliever.
It’s already almost noon and her deadline for everything is in an hour. She’d forgotten she rolled in a good two hours late to work today since she knew her editor was at a meeting until 11:45 a.m. “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” she’s starting to get lightheaded. “Why haven’t I gotten those show photos yet? I was supposed to get those like two hours ago.”
It’s not unusual for the photographer to send photos in late, but Julia’s never had to worry if it’s because the photographer is dead or alive or worse, like they’re on the run from doing something illegal like, gee I don’t know, murder?
She remembers she once had the photographer’s WeTransfer login information and decides to try and see if anything has been uploaded yet. She was able to get in, but there were no new photos.
After some deep breathing, four Ibuprofens, a coffee and at least three bottles worth of water, Julia finishes the write up on the murders. “Hey, I just sent you the punk rock psycho killer write up. It’s getting so fucked,” she says to her editor. She asks if she can push the show coverage a day because the photos haven’t come in yet.
“That’s fine, the murders should be enough for today,” her editor says and Julia gets chills at the thought of death being the hit “content” for the day. “What show did you go to last night anyways?”
“Jesus, let’s not start this,” she thinks to herself. “Just some new indie band, I can’t even remember their name right now,” she quickly responds. “Hey, is it cool if I go home early? I don’t feel so well.”
With the okay from her editor, she packs up and leaves the office. However, she doesn’t go home. Two train transfers later and a ten-minute walk she’s standing outside her photographer’s apartment building. She keeps calling them, but no answer. She’s trying to keep her shit together, but the large rings of sweat around her armpits say it’s proving difficult.
She decides to break in.
She starts to slide her credit card through the crack between the door and it’s frame and notices some dark red smudges on the handle. “This is an artist community, that could totally be paint. Red is a popular color. So cool your shit you fucking crazy person,” Julia thinks to herself, she kind of mouths the words as the thoughts stream through her head. “But you both were at a show where ten people got fucking stabbed last night…”
The door pops open before she can decide if this is a good idea or not. She runs up to apartment 2B and with one heavy and frantic knock the door creaks open.
“Are you fucking kidding me? What am I, the fucking dumbass in a horror flick?” she says out loud to herself in full volume, secretly hoping someone hears her and will come out of their apartment to tell her not to go inside.
Stepping in she yells at the top of her lungs, “Hello?!” No response. Peering around the apartment in a panic, nothing looked out of the ordinary, and the photographer does have a day job, so they’re probably there. “Why didn’t I just go to their office first?” Before she could answer that thought she spies the camera the photographer was using last night.
Not thinking twice she grabs it and clicks it on. The screen stays dark. “Maybe it’s dead? Maybe the lens cap is still on,” she turns to look at the front of the camera and it’s covered in, what Julia doesn’t instantly think of, but knows deep down, is dry blood.
She gulps and takes a deep breath before she turns it back around and clicks the view images button. All the photos seem like normal show photos—there’s even one of herself crowd surfing. However, the last three are indistinctive. They were all mostly black, but when you squint your eyes you could kind of start to make out an image.
The first one just seems to be everyone’s feet. The second is maybe a few blurry faces, but it’s hard to tell since it seems like the camera was in motion when it was taken. And the last one is everyone’s feet again, but this time it looks like the camera was on the floor. “What the fuck is that?” Julia spots a weird dark puddle in the last photo and zooms in. “Is that… blood?” Though it’s hard to tell since the photo is so dark and blurry, it looks like a few converses and the edge of a bloody puddle freshly starting to ripple into the frame.
She drops the camera and hears a crack. If this was any other time she would’ve worried she broke something, but instead she just stares at the potentially broken camera by her feet. She was silenced with shock and trembling with terror as she notices her converse have a crusty splat of red on the toe.
Julia rushes to the bathroom as she tries to hold back the breakfast making its way back up her esophagus. But when she opens the bathroom door and sees what’s inside she ends up swallowing the vomit back down.
The photographer is standing there, covered in blood with a knife in their right hand. The knife came rushing swiftly towards Julia’s abdomen, but misses and gets stuck in the wall next to her. Without thinking Julia grabs the knife and gabs it back towards the murderer, all happening in the blink of an eye.
As the photographer falls to their knees with a knife sticking out of their side, Julia screams, “WHY?!” with tears streaming down her cheeks. The photographer looks dead in Julia’s eyes and says, “you don’t remember?” before she takes one last breath and hits the ground.
It only takes a moment after the blood from the dead body starts to stream out onto Julia’s already stained converse.
“The Death Tolls? What a dumb name, I love it! I love your sound! I’m your biggest fan! No, I’m your only fan,” she remembers saying before thrusting a dagger into ten different bodies.
The memories are all flooding back into her head now like water from a broken dam.
She sees herself standing over the frontwoman of Las Lips, front and center stage, covered in blood with a devilish smile standing in a spotlight saying, “you guys are the coolest underground band! So underground! Never sellout! Hahaha! I’ll be the only one who knows your music! I must be the only one who knows your music.” Then, with both hands, Julia sees herself slam the knife down while the helpless musician lets out an ear-piercing scream.
Julia stands in the photographer’s bathroom for what feels like years looking at her reflection in the fresh blood slowly covering the entire bathroom floor. Her feet are completely surrounded by blood now, like an island, and there are still streams of salty tears coming down her creepily serene face.
“Oh yeah,” she whispers. “I remember now.” Her eyes are open so wide that the whites of her eyes appear to be taking over her irises. “That’s right. I’ve got the best music taste alive.”
Julia slowly pulls the dagger out of the photographer, savoring the reflex twitch from the dead body and watches as each drop of blood make ripples in the pool below them.
She sticks the sharp end in the back of her waistband and begins to walk out. She pauses at the photographer’s show calendar hanging on the wall.
“Wow, a lot of shows this month. I haven’t even heard of some of these bands,” she says with her eyes still wide and menacing. She takes it down and rolls it up into her back pocket next to the outline of the knife barely appearing through her jeans. “Wouldn’t want to miss a killer show.”